Memories of Snow
Summary: Snowed-in after a mission, Sarah considers what snow has meant to her as she struggles to cope with her feelings for Chuck. Set post-finale.
Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: A little something for all of us coping with super-cold temperatures, snow, or post-finale feels!
Sarah watched from her place on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket, as Chuck stood shivering by the window. "Chuck, you're going to freeze," she said, hearing the note of worry in her voice but unable to stop it from coming through.
Glancing at her for a moment, Chuck threw her a quick, distracted smile. "It's not so bad," he said.
"I can see the goosebumps on your neck from here," she countered.
As she hoped, Chuck finally tore himself away from the window enough to face her. "Okay, it's really cold," he said. "But look at it, Sarah! Snow!" He threw his arm out, gesturing towards the large windows of the rustic cabin that they had taken shelter in. The windows that revealed the winter wonderland they had spent a half hour fighting their way through to get into this place.
Carmichael Industries had been tracking the theft of some specialized computer equipment from a lab in Geneva. They had flown into the Swiss city last night and quickly picked up the trail of the thief, following him through the Alps and into France. Luck had been on their side: they had managed to apprehend the thief and turn him over to the authorities, as well as recover the technology for their clients.
But that had been the extent of their good fortune, Sarah mused. Because the gentle snowstorm had turned into a blizzard within a half hour of their success. Unable to keep driving in the conditions, Chuck had found them a place to stay-a guest cabin at a small ski resort, one that was strangely deserted for winter in the Alps. But Sarah had been so cold-and so worried about Chuck-that she had pushed aside her thoughts and decided to not look the gift horse in the mouth quite yet. Neither of them had been prepared for the change in conditions, and not just in terms of their lack of cold-weather clothing.
Although she had returned to him a month earlier and they were working together, their relationship was still a work in progress. For the most part, Chuck was quiet and supportive. He understood she needed more time to be completely comfortable with him and he was giving it to her. Yet ironically enough, his consideration made her feel . . . well, resentful seemed to sum it up. Because how could anyone be so kind, so caring, so sympathetic, as Chuck? If she had searched the whole world, she wouldn't be able to find anyone who gave her as much as he did. It disconcerted her, it confused her, and it made her question herself in a million different ways.
"I see it, Chuck," she said, trying not to sound too grumpy. But she was cold, even with this blanket wrapped around herself. Their luggage was back in Geneva, leaving her in her skirt and jacket and the lightweight trenchcoat. Chuck was a bit better off than her, since his suit covered more of him. Which was a pity-
No. No, it wasn't a pity, because it kept his more-used-to-California body covered and warm.
His face fell slightly. "You don't like snow?"
"Do you?" she asked instead of answering his question. "I would think that you wouldn't . . ."
"With being from beautiful, sunny Burbank?" he said with a smile, sitting down next to her on the couch. "I'm not used to snow, that's true. But I think it makes it even more magical. I mean, who likes rain? Nobody, really. But when it gets cold enough, rain turns into snow and totally transforms the world."
The thing was, she agreed with Chuck. Even with all her experiences as a child, those times when she had been cold and wet and unhappy from the weather, she still preferred living in places that could get snow like Wisconsin over places like San Diego.
But did he know that already? Had the old Sarah, the one she had been before she lost her memories, told him that? Did he know about how she learned to drive on the snow at fourteen when her father needed her to help get out of Fargo, North Dakota? Had she told him about the time she built a fort and waged war on the neighborhood bully, the one who tormented all the smaller kids, during a winter in Vermont? Were those stories that she had told him, curled up beside him in their bed, his large feet warming her smaller, colder ones?
Sarah didn't know. And she wanted to know. She wanted this awkwardness, this second-guessing, to be gone. She wanted to know where she stood, she wanted to feel like she was really married instead of just living with the man who was legally her husband, she wanted . . .
Taking a breath, Sarah looked at him. Maybe if she was tired of both of them walking on eggshells, she just had to do something. Even though it was downright terrifying . . . it had to be better than this.
And if she had never told him those stories, then it was time for him to hear them. Because she couldn't think of anyone who deserved to know her secret memories more than Chuck.
"I spent a lot of time in snow, growing up," she said, her words a bit halting.
Chuck's reaction was instantaneous and incredibly encouraging. He turned to face her, his face rapt with attention. "You did?"
She nodded, shifting a little on the couch. "I did. Wisconsin, North Dakota, Vermont . . . all cold, all snowy. I learned how to take care of myself when the weather wasn't good." She managed a small smile. "I've gotten out of the habit with living in California so long. I can't remember the last time I had to wear layers to keep warm."
"Layers?" he asked, his forehead wrinkling in a way that was downright adorable.
Smiling easier, Sarah explained. "When it's really cold, you don't just wear a t-shirt and jeans under your coat. It's not enough. You wear tights or leggings under your jeans, maybe long underwear if it's really bad. And then you'll wear a short-sleeved shirt, and a long-sleeved shirt, and a sweater on top. And socks-socks are really important."
"I really can't see you in long underwear," Chuck said, grinning at her. "It's all thick and scratchy, right?"
"Not always," Sarah said. "There's silk or cashmere long underwear-very soft and very warm. I kind of wish I had some of it right now."
"Me, too," Chuck said with a small shiver.
When they had arrived in the cabin, Chuck had insisted she take the heavy quilt from the bed and wrap up in it. But she knew he was cold. And she knew he wouldn't ask for the blanket. It would put them too close and he wouldn't want her to feel like he was pushing her.
She knew all this. But none of it mattered. Because she wanted to take care of Chuck like he took care of her.
Moving around, Sarah unwrapped one end of the quilt and lifted it up. "C'mere."
"What? No, no, I'm fine. You're the one in a skirt," he said, pointing towards her quilt-covered legs. "I'm all covered up."
"But you're still cold," Sarah said, moving across the couch cushions as gracefully as she could when negotiating a large, heavy bedspread. She pressed herself up against his side, reaching over him to tuck the quilt over him and pull him into the cocoon.
They were very close now. Closer than they had been in a long time. And even though he was cold, his body heat made the air under the blanket feel infinitely warmer than it had when it was just her.
And she was tingling all over now.
Slowly, Sarah lifted her eyes to his, which were only inches away. Close enough for her to take in the myriad shades of brown that made up Chuck's eyes. Close enough to see his nerves, close enough to brush the tip of her nose oh-so-lightly against his. "Better?" she asked, her voice soft and quiet and full of hidden meaning.
Chuck swallowed and nodded. "Yes."
This would be the perfect moment to kiss him. To say how they should use body heat to stay warm. To get that suit off him and figure out if her hazy memories, the ones she had been too embarrassed to tell him about, were accurate.
But instead, she gazed at him and spoke at a level just above a whisper. "When I was nine, we lived in Vermont for a winter. And in the neighborhood, there was this boy. He was eleven and chunky and mean. He bullied all the kids. Not me, since I didn't let him bother me. But there was this little girl, who was maybe seven? And he picked on her a lot."
Something about this place, something about the snow falling quietly around this cabin, made her feel like this moment was one out of time. That she could be whoever she wanted right now-and that meant she could be a different Sarah. One who could open up about her childhood and share stories that would make her husband smile.
Or maybe it was just Chuck. And really, there was no maybe about it. He was the reason she felt safe enough to talk. He was the reason she wanted to talk in the first place.
"So I laid in wait for him," Sarah said, smiling at how Chuck was hanging on to her every word. "He was coming up the hill, yelling at Katie and telling her how stinky she was, how stupid, all the mean things that kids say to each other. And then I just let him have it. Six snowballs, each with a core of something sticky or smelly or both, and I got him with all six."
Chuck threw back his head and laughed. "You were already a protector, even then. Aww, man, I would have killed to see this."
She could feel her cheeks turn pink at his reaction. It had never really occurred to her that even at a young age, she was sticking up for the small, the defenseless, the unprotected. But maybe that was why she had taken Graham up on his recruitment offer, besides the practical reasons. Maybe deep down, the girl who was named Sarah Walker on that day knew she wanted to take care of people.
So lost in her thoughts, Sarah hadn't realized the hush that had fallen over the room. Coming back to herself, she realized that Chuck had been gazing at her, his eyes soft and full of awe. She felt her blush deepen.
"Thank you," he said softly. "For sharing that with me. I loved hearing that story."
Her eyes flicked down to his lips for a millisecond. "You're welcome."
There was still so much she could tell him. So much that she wanted to ask him about. But Sarah didn't want to talk anymore. She didn't want to hold back. And Chuck seemed to know what she was thinking and feeling, because as she lifted her lips to his, he leaned down enough to meet her halfway.
And yes, his lips were a little cool and he was definitely still a bit chilled from their time out in the snow. In the back of her mind, her logical side pointed out how stupid it was to strip him of his clothes if she was worried about him being cold. But the reality of Chuck's skin, of feeling it and seeing it and tasting it, trumped all her logic.
Besides, body heat.