Sarah had listened intently while Chuck told her their story and they'd both laughed. She enjoyed his company, which surprised her, considering she hardly remembered anything from the last five years. He was incredibly sweet and attractive, but hearing their story was like watching a movie of someone else's life. Even though she believed it was true, it wasn't the same as remembering.
So when Chuck told her the corny 'solution' Morgan had suggested, she wasn't reluctant to try it. She wanted Morgan to be right. What did she have to lose? She savored the kiss and returned it with as much feeling as she could muster—more passion than she would put into a kiss for a mark. Whatever else she thought of Chuck, of their past, she had seen him take a bullet for her. Granted, he was wearing a vest, but he had stepped in front of Quinn's gun reflexively, without thinking.
Besides, it appeared she had married a good kisser.
When he finally broke the kiss and stared deeply into her eyes, she felt rotten to have to disappoint him. Those beautiful brown eyes, brimming with tears and such pure love—that hope-filled gaze didn't deserve the disappointment she was about to bestow. Deserve. The word touched a chord in her mind—a memory.
She drew a deep breath and shook her head slowly. "Chuck, I'm sorry. I wish Morgan had been right. I wanted to be that magical princess for you." She didn't normally think of herself in such girly terms, but he said she'd used the word 'princess' when she found her wedding dress.
Disappointment clouded his countenance and he tried to produce a smile. "I guess I'm not Prince Charming."
It bothered her that he kept putting himself down. "I know it's unbelievable that a girl like you could fall for a guy like me." Why was it so unbelievable? From everything she could see, he was the catch. He was handsome and caring and utterly selfless. If anything was true at all, then that girl she couldn't remember, she was the lucky one.
"I didn't marry Prince Charming. I married you."
"You remember?" Hope bounded back. She could see why she fell for that adorable face.
"No, not very much, but I remembered my wedding vow, or some of it, at least. I said, 'every day I will show you that you're a gift that I deserve.'"
He nodded. "That's right," he whispered as another tear slipped down his cheek. A cautious smile started to form.
She didn't give him time to form a full smile, because it would only hurt more when she had to dash his hopes again. "See, that's the problem, Chuck. I don't remember me. The me I remember was not a person who deserved you. If Ellie hadn't head-on crashed her car, I would have killed you. I would have pulled the trigger and been proud of myself for accomplishing my mission. Why can I remember being a cold-hearted assassin, but I can't remember who I was after I met you?"
He opened his mouth to answer, but she placed her index finger over his lips to preclude it. She needed to get this out before she lost the thoughts or the nerve to say it.
"I don't need time to decide if I care about you. I do. Please believe me. But I don't trust myself. I don't want to hurt you again. I have to find myself and make sure I am that person who deserves you."
"No, no, no, no, no. Honey, you do deserve me. I always thought I was the luckiest man on Earth to be with you."
She frowned. "Why do you keep talking that? Did I act like I was superior to you?"
He looked taken-aback. "What? You didn't need to act. You just were. I was the underachieving loser while you were the best in the world at what you do."
"But isn't 'what I do' something bad? You said I loved you because you wouldn't kill anyone. Isn't that hypocritical? I was going to dump you after your red test for doing exactly what I do all the time."
"You only kill when you have to, Sarah. You kill bad people in order to save good people—lots of good people."
"Chuck, I almost killed you. And Morgan and Casey too! Their only crime was trying to help me, to help us."
"You were being manipulated and lied-to, Sarah. It's not your fault. All is forgiven. No one blames you."
"I blame me. I need to figure out who I am so I can be sure I won't ever be controlled like that ever again."
He paused and moved a stray hair from her face. "Okay, how do you plan to do that?"
"What do you know about my past? Who am I, really?" His face scrunched up and she suppressed the smile that wanted to form as a reaction.
He schooled his face into something less weird and then started talking like he was a teacher or something. "You have passports in dozens of names. You went to high school down in San Diego as Jenny Burton. You once told Shaw your real name was Sam. I was eavesdropping for a mission and I heard, but you never told me personally or confirmed it. I spent a little time with your dad..."
She raised an eyebrow. Jack Burton was not the social type, unless he was conning someone. That much she did remember.
"He didn't call you Sam and neither did your mother."
"You've met my mother?" She had promised herself no one would ever, ever know who her mother was, or where she lived.
"Yes." He gave her a reassuring smile. "Oh, don't worry. Ryker's dead. Your mom and Molly are safe."
He waited for her to get over that shocker before he drew a deep breath and continued. "You asked me to call you Sarah, so I figured that was who you wanted to be. That's what I've always called you. That's the name on our marriage license. Morgan called me 'Mr. Sarah Walker' and..." He took her hand, caressed it slowly with his thumb. "Sarah, I embraced it. I know it's kind of weird and turned-around. But you've always been the strong one and I've always been the emotional one. I always ascribe good intentions to people, even when it's totally unrealistic. But you see right through the lies and know when someone shouldn't be trusted. We complete each other, Sarah." He shook his head. "Or whatever name you want to go by. If knowing your real name is important to you, we'll talk to your mother. Maybe we could find your dad, too."
"Actually, I remember my childhood pretty well. I was thinking more of the time I spent with the CATS and Bryce. How did Quinn control what got erased from my mind? Why didn't I lose all my spy training?"
Chuck's eyes lit up. "What did you just say?"
"I said, 'Why didn't I lose my spy training?'"
"No, the part about Quinn. You think he controlled your memory loss somehow?"
She shrugged. "He was controlling everything else. I wouldn't have been able to get the Intersect glasses and get so close to killing you if he wasn't extremely precise in what he made me forget and what he made sure I remembered. Six months difference either way and he couldn't have fooled me."
"You're right. Oh, Sarah, this is good!" He grinned so big she thought his mouth might break. "Maybe this can help Ellie figure this out, you know, to find you a cure."
"I thought she and Devon moved to Chicago."
"They did, but she's not giving up on you. None of us are."
"Casey did." There was no resentment in her tone. It was just a fact. After five years of supposedly being 'the best damn partner he ever had', when she was lost and vulnerable, he dropped off a DVD of her mission logs, told her to take care of herself, and skipped town. Actually, his behavior seemed the most familiar of all. Having people who cared was much more foreign and odd. She didn't know what to think of it all.
Chuck rushed to stick up for him: "He probably doesn't see it that way. We had plans to shift Carmichael Industries into a counter-cyberterrorism company and leave all the cloak and dagger stuff behind so you and I could star—" He cut off his words and bit his lips, maybe sensing her growing discomfort with where the sentence seemed to be headed. "I don't think Casey was ready to hang up his sniper rifles and machine guns." Chuck smirked, but she wasn't sure if it was just part of his quirky personality or if he was trying to make her laugh. She couldn't indulge him this time, not after the kiss had failed to produce the miracle.
"So what was I supposed to do for this anti-cyberterrorism company?"
"Stay home and make babies." She couldn't help making it sound degrading, but she didn't take it back. That was her whole point. She didn't know how to do anything else but be a spy.
Chuck swallowed hard. "Honey, you were disappointed when you took a pregnancy test and it was negative. But we didn't plan to have children right away. I was ready to rejoin the CIA and use the signing bonus to buy our dream home. You talked me out of it."
That stretched his credibility thinner than anything else he had said all day and she could see in his eyes that he knew how unbelievable it sounded, but he didn't try to amend it.
He cleared his throat. "You said you would use your experience in 'international bad-guy-ery'. I admit, I wasn't sure exactly what you meant, but the whole thing was your idea. You said I was going to use computers and I knew I could do that, so I didn't argue."
"International bad guy-ery? What does that even mean?"
His face became a mixture of hell-if-I-know and guilty puppy. "You found us office space. Above ground. Once used by Ronald Reagan, although if that didn't win Casey over to the idea, nothing probably would, so we don't have to go with that one if you... don't..." He let the sentence drop and studied her face. He was so disarming in how he looked at her. "This isn't helping, is it?"
"No, not really." The sun had disappeared into the Pacific and it was getting chilly on the beach. She scooted next to Chuck and nuzzled her head in under his chin.
He wrapped his long arm around her. "It's going to be all right, Sarah. We're going to fix your memory. Somehow, we'll make this all right."
She didn't answer. She nodded, but not so much in agreement as an acknowledgment she'd heard him. They'd had enough drama for one day and she needed to talk to Beckman. Right now, Chuck felt warm and safe and the beach was peaceful and undemanding. Bad news could wait.