Chuck vs the Lost Memories

Burbank Restaurant

Sarah dressed comfortably for dinner. She didn't want Chuck to think she was trying to manipulate him with her body. It sounded like she'd already done plenty of that in the past. She'd been so good at it, Chuck didn't even realize it. From her mission logs, it appeared her motives had been genuine. At some point, she stopped trying to play him or use him like an asset. She fell for him. He became a goal she wanted and therefore used all her skills to acquire.

To be fair, she really did not know how to win a man without psy-ops training, seduction school moves, or feminine wiles. Chuck didn't seem shallow enough to have married her for looks alone, but besides her spy skills, what else did she really have to offer? Absolutely nothing. This handsome, amazing man was in love with her even after she tried to kill him, and she simply could not fathom why. Clearly, he was in love with that other girl she used to be, but Sarah didn't know her, didn't know how to be her.

Chuck was funny, warm, incredibly sweet, and so patient it was almost painful. But as much as she felt genuine affection toward him, she couldn't call it love. He was a friend rather than a stranger, but it was dishonest to make the jump to wife or even girlfriend. That was for that other girl, the one who said "I do", not the present Sarah Walker, the one who was broken and confused and lost.

She'd been furious when that stuck-up old spinster of a general ordered her to go see a psychiatrist in order to get back to what felt familiar and normal. Langston Graham would never have sent her off to a shrink. He had recognized her talents and utilized them to the maximum possible. If he were still alive, Sarah would be halfway to some important mission by now. But he was dead, just like Bryce.

So she'd dutifully reported to Dr. Leo Dreyfus. He proceeded to unravel her further by recounting an incident he'd had with her from the missing five years. At least she hadn't been the patient. Chuck had been the patient and she'd been a good partner, not discounting his intuition just because the Intersect was making him look insane. Dreyfus told her she'd had issues with telling Chuck her feelings. Well, she was going to tell him her feelings tonight and probably earn a divorce, but she'd never let some shrink tell her she didn't know how to keep her personal life properly compartmentalized. She was a consummate professional.

"Is this okay?" she asked Chuck, holding her arms out so he could see her choice of clothes was on the casual side.

"Sure, honey. You look great. I made reservations at Vinny's, but we can always go someplace else if you want."

Damn. What was she supposed to remember about Vinny's? Was it too fancy for yoga pants and a t-shirt? Did they celebrate some milestone of their relationship there once? Had she once seduced the headwaiter into giving them the best table? "I'm sorry, Chuck. I don't remember it at all. Is it a special place for us?"

"Actually, no. I didn't want to put any pressure on you tonight. We've only ever picked up take-out from them. It's usually pretty quiet though. I think we need to talk."

"I agree. Thank you for not taking me someplace where I'd just disappoint you for not remembering it."

"Hey, I occasionally do things right." It sounded like a joke. He didn't seem like a bumbler, so she smiled.

They had to take her car because Chuck didn't have one. He had always walked to work, or taken one of the Nerd Herders. One of his funny stories about the past was how he and Morgan lost a $900 clunker to a repo man. Chuck had been more interested in a Chinese dumpling menu they left in the car, than the car itself. She drove, but Chuck had to tell her where to go. It ended up being close to Maison 23, which was hard to believe hadn't been her home for several years now.

Vinny's was a homey little mom-and-pop Italian place decorated in red, white, and green, with a giant map of Italy and Sicily painted on one of the walls. The tables had red and white checkered cloths and tea light candles in those cheesy green globe things on top. Mandolin music played softly in the background, but at least she wasn't under-dressed.

Chuck ordered a medium vegetarian-no-olives pizza and two glasses of wine before they sat down. "Oh, wait. Sarah, is that all right? Did you want to look at the menu?"

"No. You already read my mind." Why was it so unsettling that he knew what kind of pizza or wine she liked? They'd been married, for goodness sake.

The waiter left and Chuck beamed a smile at her. "So, what had you in such a hurry this morning at the Buy More?"

She drew a deep breath. "I went to see Dr. Dreyfus. He said you've met."

He laughed. "Yeah, you could say that. He had me committed."

"You don't like him? He spoke very highly of you."

"Did he? Well, he's just being nice then. And yeah, I like him. I was going a little cuckoo before my dad made me a Governor. He had good advice and I wish I had listened to him." He took her hand. "But I was in the CIA then. Why did you go to a CIA doctor?"

"My memory loss came from the Intersect and he knows about it. How many civilian doctors can say that?"

"Ellie can. You know she wants to help you. My dad gave her all his research. She probably knows more than Dreyfus at this point."

"Yeah, well, Ellie isn't here, is she?" It came out harsher than she'd intended. Ellie didn't owe her a damned thing. Sarah had kidnapped her at gunpoint and threatened to put a bullet between her eyes. Ellie had crashed her car to protect Chuck. She'd said she forgave Sarah, but it was probably just out of deference to her brother.

Chuck's eyebrows slanted and his jaw dropped. He looked genuinely hurt and speechless.

"Sorry, that was uncalled-for."

"No, you're right. She moved because I told her it was okay. I thought her new job was important to her, but she is more interested in my dad's research. She asked Beckman for access to all the CIA data and for clearance to work with Dreyfus. If you want to see Ellie, we can be in Chicago by morning."

Sarah sighed. No, she didn't really want to see Ellie. She'd been trying to deflect the real reason she'd seen Dreyfus. She took a quick sip of the water, silently cursing the waiter for not bringing the wine yet. Her words came out in a torrent. "That's not the only reason. Beckman ordered me to see Dreyfus because I asked for my old job back." There. She'd said it.

"Honey, don't you think it's a little too soon? You still don't have your memory back."

"I can't just sit around here and wait for my memory to come back, Chuck. I'm not Sarah Bartowski anymore and it's time we admitted I might never be that person again. I can't pretend for you. You're a great guy and you deserve better than that. So I'm doing the only thing I know how to do. I'm a spy. That's all I know."

"No, it isn't, Sarah." He paused, eyes darting back and forth like he was searching for words. "You could be a cake decorator. You did an awesome job on styrofoam for a sting operation we pulled. You could do that on real cakes. Birthdays, weddings, graduations, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras..."

She didn't bother to hide her incredulous glare. "A cake decorator? Really? Maybe I could just work full time at Orange Orange for the rest of my life. Come on, Chuck. I couldn't stand the monotony." Not to mention the insignificance.

He couldn't argue with that, but he wasn't ready to give up either. "Okay, you want less monotony? How about a pilot? You flew a 747 over the middle of the Atlantic while you were here in Burbank. If you did it by remote control, you could do it in person. You could work for an airline."

"I'd probably be away from you even more than when I was a spy. Is that what you want, to get rid of me?" It was a cheap shot and she knew it, but she didn't know how to fend off his really good suggestion. She needed to win the argument.

"God no, Sarah. I love you. I want to be with you as much as I can. It's just that you didn't want this before the flakey Intersect. If you join the CIA now, you might be sorry when you get your memory back, that's all. Airline pilots can quit any time they want, but you know it's not that easy with the CIA."

The waiter came with their wine and Sarah didn't have a good comeback, so she feigned interest in the pizza.

"Another ten minutes," the waiter assured her. "We make them fresh to order."

"Oh, good. I'm so hungry. Aren't you hungry, Chuck?"

"Yeah, sure."

She realized she hadn't fooled him one damn bit. She had to hand it to him; he did know her well. Chuck lifted his wine glass to his lips and drank. He set it down and looked intently back at her. "So what did Dr. Dreyfus say? Did he clear you?"

"I don't know yet. He's going to talk to Beckman."

"If you get cleared, I'll rejoin with you. At least we can be together."

"No. Don't."

"No? What do you mean? I'm your partner!"

"I wouldn't know how to deal with a partner who only uses tranq guns. I asked to go solo. I need to go solo."

"Look, I know I was never a super-spy like you and Casey were, but I do have the Intersect again. We were a good team, Sarah. You, me, Casey. We were the best, the A-Team."

"But I don't remember that. This is as much for your protection as anything. We probably worked out all kinds of routines and nonverbal signals, but I won't know them and I could get you killed because of that. I can't be responsible for anyone else, least of all, you. I may not remember you well enough to love you, but I care about you. I don't want you to get hurt. I have to do this alone."

He sighed. His eyes looked sad and she hoped he wasn't going to cry again. Never had she seen a man's heart break with such raw emotion. She truly could not stand it. She plotted her escape route from the restaurant, just in case.

Chuck's voice was soft and timid when he spoke again. "Is there anything I can say to talk you out of this?"

"Not really. I wouldn't have gone to Beckman if I wasn't sure. I need to do what I'm good at, Chuck. I need to be get used to me, to feel comfortable in my own skin again, before I can even think about our relationship. For what it's worth, I'm sorry. I knew this would upset you and I didn't have the courage to tell you before I did it."

He sandwiched her hand between his warm and soft hands, touching her gently. "I've waited at home for you before, Sarah. I will support you in any way I can. If that means quarterbacking from Castle, I'll do it. If that means going home and staying out of your way, I'll do that. But please know you can call me for anything and I'll be there for you. Always."

"I know, Chuck. Thank you."

The pizza arrived, smelling heavenly and looking delicious. But before she could pull a slice onto her plate, both of their phones chimed a text alert. She checked hers and saw it was from Beckman: Video conference at Castle immediately.

Chuck sighed and then called across the room to the waiter, "Can we get a box for this, please?"

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