[A/N: This short one-shot was originally written in February of 2009, after ‘Chuck vs. the Third Dimension’ but before ‘Chuck vs. the Suburbs’. Chuck still had Intersect 1.0, he and Sarah were still doing their on-again, off again dance and life for the two of them was… complicated. I wrote this based on the premise that someday soon, the mission could end, leaving the two of them with precious little time to decide if they would try to go on together or not. I tried to give Chuck his best shot – but only you can decide if it’s enough, or if anything could be enough.
Originally, I wasn’t really happy with the results and put it in my pile of unfinished work. But recently I started unearthing old pieces for the Google Group forum and someone (cough) CJ (cough) convinced me I should post it on FF.net. What followed was a small frenzy of rework culminating in the story below. I think it’s much better, predominantly because Course Jester offered to “tweak it” for me (I think that’s like beta reviewing for people in denial about their lack of available time). I took as many of his suggestions as I could, which was just about all of them. If you like this, don’t forget to thank him.]
Both halves of the casement window were already swung part way out, and Sarah paused to listen for any telltale sounds that would indicate who might be in Chuck’s bedroom. She had learned to be cautious when using the Morgan door. While Chuck was casually accepting of his window being used for clandestine reasons, Ellie seemed to belong to the more conventional school that believed access to a girl’s boyfriend should come via a door. And considering the tenuousness of the cover relationship in Ellie’s eyes, Sarah felt it unwise to risk poking the hornet’s nest over such a minor issue.
While she waited, ears perked, a breeze moved through the house, pushing a warm current of air out of the window and over her. She grinned as she caught the familiar aroma, part freshly laundered bedspread , part crushed cheese balls in the carpet and the rest, well, the rest just stirred pleasant feelings in her which, despite herself, she couldn’t repress. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, enjoying the way the late afternoon sun competed with the flush rising in her cheeks to warm her face. After a few seconds, she let the breath out in a slow, controlled sigh. She’d miss this.
That unbidden thought spurred memories of the two of them over the last few weeks, and her smile faded. The recollections weren’t pleasant. They were vivid examples of frustration and misunderstanding, of two people unable to say what should be the most obvious things; one because he didn’t know where he stood and was afraid, with good reason, that he’d be crushed. Again. The other because she knew where things would go if she told the truth, if she were somehow able to break through the wall holding back her most damning secrets and tell him how she felt. Instead, they spoke obliquely, and the one most important thing that needed to be said never was.
Hearing nothing but her own pulse beating in her ears, Sarah pulled the window further open and stealthily slipped inside. The room was empty, and her first thought was how odd that was since she was only here at Chuck’s request. He’d asked her to stop by a full two hours before the mission briefing, pleading for one last chance to talk in private before the final page turned and this chapter in their lives was over. Puzzled, she looked around the room for a note, maybe “be right back” scribbled hastily on a notebook page on the bed or the desk.
That was when she saw the envelope.
It was taped to the desk lamp, her name written on the front in Chuck’s messy scrawl. Carefully, she pulled it free and took it to the bed She perched delicately on the edge, her hands beginning to shake as she lifted the flap and extracted the multiple pages.
I’m writing you this letter because our last attempts to talk haven’t gone so great. They start out okay, but somehow we always wind up getting into an argument and everything gets messed up. I’m so tired of fighting with you. We should be making better use of our time together, there’s so little of it left.
I want you to know I don’t blame you. I know how difficult it is for you to talk about stuff like this. And I haven’t done any better. I’ve said a lot of words but none of them have been the right ones. It’s just that when I look at you and realize how important you are to me, how important it is to get everything just right, my tongue gets all tangled up and I end up saying something stupid. I know, hard to believe, right?
If this were any other time, I’d take a few days to sort things out and try again. But we don’t have a lot of days left, Sarah, and I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting even one more. So, yesterday, I came up with the idea to put it all down on paper. Maybe this way I can get everything to come out right, and you can think about what I’m saying without worrying about how to react in front of me.
So here goes.
Sarah, you can’t leave. Not now. Not after I’ve come this far.
You see, something’s been happening to me, something so big that it took my whole view of the world and turned it upside down. Something that changed me forever.
It began when I downloaded the Intersect.
And with the Intersect came the government and Beckman and Fulcrum and a nonstop parade of dangerous people and organizations bent on endangering my life and the lives of everyone I care about. In the last year I’ve seen things I still can’t believe, done things I didn’t know I could do, and survived situations I had no right surviving. And even though those feats were accomplished with a healthy dose of cowering and girlish screaming on my part, our team always seemed to come through. Whether it was stopping a bomb from exploding or taking down some criminal organization or even just helping a desperate agent reunite with her brother, we weren’t just complaining about how screwed up the world was. We did something about it.
That’s when I started to get it, I think. When I finally began to understand what you and Casey meant about choosing to serve the greater good. It’s about leaving the ranks of those that feel helpless when the world changes for the worse. And pledging your life in the fight to make it better.
When this finally sunk in, I started to see things differently. This new life I was forced into, the one I’ve been frantically trying to escape for the last year – I’m beginning to think that maybe this is the way I’m supposed to do great things, that maybe this is the life that I was meant to have. I was just trying so hard to run away from it that I couldn’t see it. The Intersect wasn’t a curse, it was an opportunity. Maybe not the one I expected, but an opportunity nonetheless. It gave me the chance to make something of my life right now. No waiting to learn how, no making up for lost time, no five-year plans. Every day I’m the Intersect, I help keep millions of people safe. People I don’t even know and will probably never meet.
I know that this is the opposite of what I said before. I’ve been whining for months about having a normal life, and I’ve even put everyone’s lives at risk chasing it. Please believe me when I say how sorry I am about the things I did before. I hurt everyone I cared about, especially you. When Jill showed up, she caught me at the perfect time; I was lonely and depressed about my life, and she gave me something that felt so familiar, so comforting and safe. She showed me exactly what I wanted to see, and I bought it hook, line, and sinker. But when she turned that gun on you, and I thought for an instant that I might lose you, I realized immediately what a huge mistake I’d made. I couldn’t let her kill you. I’d be lost without you.
Which brings me to the whole purpose of this letter.
The Intersect did something else incredibly important, Sarah – it brought you to me. This is a blessing that I’ve been thinking about more and more every day. Because of you I’m not locked away in a bunker, trying to flash on an endless stream of data every day until the second I found some clever way to end my miserable life. Because of you I’ve been able to hold onto my family, my friends and some semblance of a normal existence. I can go out for pizza with Ellie and Devon, play video games with Morgan, even eat giant pretzels on the boardwalk with a pretty blonde agent on my arm.
Because of you, my life didn’t end the day after my twenty-sixth birthday.
You’ve fought for me ever since that very first night together, Sarah. You always told me it was just the best way you could think of to safeguard the Intersect, but I want to believe that even then you were trying to protect me. Not the Intersect, but me. I can’t imagine what I ever did to deserve this fortune. All I know is that it’s like all those other times in my life when fate brought me a guardian angel, someone I could trust who would watch over me, despite the cost to themselves. In the past, it was Ellie and Morgan. This time, that angel is you.
The government says you’re my girlfriend. They say it’s just a cover, but it’s gone way beyond that and we both know it. You’ve been my best friend and confidante for awhile now, and I’ve trusted you with my life for as long as I’ve known you. Now, I have to trust you with something else. My heart.
There’s only one future I see for myself, Sarah, and that’s the one with you in it. I look ahead at the life we could have together, and it’s incredible. Perfect.
You know, I’m pretty sure there are no rewards at the end of our lives for placing second or third, or for choosing the path of least resistance. I don’t want to place or show anymore, I want to win. I finally see the point of choosing the more difficult path and I can’t let go of it. I won’t let go of it. I won’t let go of you.
We’ve been letting Beckman keep us apart for too long. From now on, whatever challenges we face, we need to face them together. We need to grab this illusion of life the government pushed on us and find a way to make it real. To stop living like someone is going to take everything away from us at any moment, and start living like every moment together is a treasure they can never take away from us. We need to live like we can have it all, and dare them to prove us wrong.
I can’t imagine anything I could want more than that. And I won’t accept anything less than that.
But I can’t do it without you.
Don’t you see, Sarah? It’s supposed to be us. It won’t work with anyone else. Everything that’s happened – the Intersect, Fulcrum, Bryce, Jill – it’s all been there to lead us to each other. I’m starting to believe that all of the obstacles in front of us were put there so we’d have to work harder to be together, to make us feel every painful sacrifice and appreciate every tiny victory that brings us closer to each other. So that one day, when we’ve conquered every obstacle and are finally together, there will be no force in heaven or earth that can tear us apart again.
I love you, Sarah Walker. I have from the moment I first saw you. And there will never be another woman who will mean as much to me as you do.
I hope that you want this too. I hope that you want it enough to help me fight for it.
Sarah put the letter back in its envelope, gently folding it along its original lines and aligning the corners so they wouldn’t crinkle. She folded the flap back and stared at her name on the front, scribbled in Chuck’s wobbly hand. The tears were starting to ebb now, one last remnant trickling down her right cheek. She dabbed it away.
With the envelope in both hands, she circled her thumbs idly over its surface as she stared past it, breathing in a steady, quiet rhythm. At some point she noticed that her moistened thumbs had begun to smear the ink of her name and she immediately stopped. With great delicacy, she folded the envelope in half and tucked it into her back pocket.
She smiled then, a sad smile, as she put the heels of both of her palms on her cheeks and wiped the tears sideways off her face. Her eyes rolled skywards and she let out a soft laugh. “Chuck…” she whispered to herself, nodding her head slightly side to side. You don’t understand what we’re up against. You never really have.
But there was no escaping this. Had she ever really had a choice? She thought back to that first day, to a man with a kind smile and the will to rescue a tiny ballerina. She wasn’t at all sure.
Sarah sniffled. She didn’t believe in destiny or fate, but the way she felt right now put those convictions in doubt. Whatever she believed, she was too weary to fight it anymore. In her mind, images evoked by Chuck’s letter appeared in rapid succession: She and Chuck on their wedding day; their first place together; their first child. Shared vacations and holidays with Ellie’s family. Lazy Sunday mornings in bed. The images brought a bemused smile to her lips and a soft snort. For some reason she couldn’t fathom he seemed to want all of this – with her.
Given her poisoned past, she was sure it would all end in disaster. But try as she might, she couldn’t silence the one truth bubbling up from deep within her, the one truth she’d kept hidden deepest of all.
She wanted all of it too.
Sarah got up from the bed and headed for the window, pausing as she passed the mirror. She examined her face, cleaning away the last vestiges of her tears, then checked her makeup. Not too much damage. She adjusted her blouse on her shoulders, running her hands along her sides to smooth and straighten. Looking back in her own eyes, she took another deep breath and let it out again. Here we go.
Sarah climbed out of Chuck’s window and made her way back to her car. She knew where Chuck would be, although she couldn’t explain how. He’d be at the pier, sitting in the sand, his arms propping him up from behind as he watched the gulls fly in lazy circles overhead. He’d be waiting for her at their spot.
She smiled at the picture in her head and quickened her pace.
As she got in the car, something didn’t feel right and she reached behind her, extracting the envelope from her back pocket and tossing it onto the passenger seat. But her eyes wouldn’t seem to leave the image of it sitting there, and she felt a pang of anxiety. Impulsively, she snatched it back and held it in front of her, staring at her slightly smudged name. After a long moment, she tucked the envelope into her blouse, under her bra.
Pulling away from the curb, she accelerated up the street. Unconsciously, her hand drifted back to her chest, over the envelope, pressing it to her heart. She would need this letter again when things got hard. She would need it when her willpower faltered and her mind filled with doubts. When she asked herself how she had ever been foolish enough to believe in such an improbable dream.
The Carrera’s engine roared and she sped towards the beach, towards Chuck. The trouble they were about to unleash for themselves was going to put her career and both of their lives at risk. They were going to ride the whirlwind, without any clear likelihood of success. But they’d do it together, hand in hand, fighting the same obstacles instead of each other.