A/N: Thanks for reading, reviewing, etc. Keep it coming. It is...much needed.

Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck and I'm not making money from writing this story.


The weather was, to put it simply, perfect. Not a cloud in the sky. The sun beaming at his back still, beginning to slip from casting yellow light upon everything it touched to reds and oranges.

The slight breeze ruffled at his hair and made the humidity less apparent, and he had to admit, the way the water moved beneath the board Alexei would murder him over if he let something happen to it was incredibly comforting. Reassuring. Like it was promising him he'd be fine. It'd take care of him.

He let his limbs go loose, shut his eyes, and he just let himself feel the satisfying bobbing and wafting.

"Nice, huh?"

Chuck blinked his eyes open and looked over at Sarah. She'd been watching him for who knew how long. Minutes? How long had he let himself drift off into bobbing ocean dreamland? "It's kind of amazing, honestly," he said.

She looked pleased at that. "I try to get out here as often as I can. Get some space from all that." She waved towards the shore. "Gotta admit, it's nice to have company for once."

"What about that guy you surfed with a few months ago? The one you threw out of your house when he was almost full nakies?"

She laughed so hard she had to prop her hands on the board, her head and shoulders slumping forward. "Yeah, well, after that I only came out here alone. I didn't want a repeat of that bullshit," she said after the laughter subsided. "Nakies, though? Did you just say nakies to me?"

"Yes, I did." He chuckled and shrugged. "Wait, so are you breaking your own rule for me?"

"Nope. This is different. You're paying me." She gave his shoulder a teasing shove, just an easy one that made him rock uncomfortably but he didn't fall off of his board. He glared and reached over to push her, but she dodged him and he almost plopped face-first into the water between them because his momentum didn't meet with any resistance.

"Okay, that's not cool!" he laughed, righting himself as she cackled.

"I like being with a newbie."

He scoffed, a flirtatious tilt to his mouth. "Yeah, I'm sure. Makes you look way better when you're surfing next to a dumbass."

She cracked up. "That's not what I meant and you know it." She paused as he grinned at her. "I like teaching you things. You're a pretty good student."

"Always eager to learn," he said with a cheesy grin. "But don't say that until we're done with this. Standing up on land is different from standing up out here and on an actual wave instead of sand that, like, stays put."

"Nobody is perfect on their first outing, Chuck. I wasn't."

"Suuuuure you weren't…"

She laughed and splashed him. He chuckled as she pretended to be annoyed with him. "I really wasn't. I learned in Argentina. Took me a long time to actually ride a wave bigger than three inches."

"Long time being five minutes?"

Sarah tilted her head back and cried out, "Oh my Godddd!" in frustration, even as she grinned. Chuck laughed as she shook her head. "At least two weeks. So if you can't stand up today, don't be discouraged, is the point I'm trying to make."

"Noted." He nodded once.

She turned to look over her shoulder. "Here…there's a good one coming."

"Uhhhh, you take it."

"I already know how to do this, Chuck. You take it."

"It looks kinda big."

"Yeah, it's way back there. It'll be smaller when it gets here. Lay down, damn it!" She reached over and slapped his shoulder. "Come on!"

He whimpered and slid onto his stomach, taking deep breaths, glancing over his shoulder. That wave did not look small. Especially not from down here.

But he braced himself anyway.

"You got this, Chuck! Paddle! Paddle paddle paddle!"

He started paddling furiously, digging his hands in deep and pushing himself forward, and he felt the wave start to pick him up, pushing the board, the back of it lifting up. And he panicked. The board shouldn't be lifting like that, right? It needed his weight. So he jumped up to his feet and slammed them onto the board.

It tipped as soon as his feet hit the hard surface and he pitched head first into the water. The water picked him up and turned him around so that he didn't know what was up and what was down for a second.

Flashbacks flooded his brain. Dark water engulfing him, rushing into his nose, flooding his ears. He had no idea where he was, or if he could make it to the surface. Where was the surface?

By some miracle, he got ahold of himself and reached up, his feet thumping against the sea floor, and he shoved himself up towards the surface, exploding out of the water with a gasp of air and sputtering as he blindly grasped for the board.

He saw the next wave crashing just in time and took a deep breath, diving under it, and when he came up on the other side, he saw his board floating a few feet away. He swam to it and slung both arms over it, still panting for breath.

"Chuck! Hey! You okay?"

He looked up to see Sarah paddling frantically towards him, concern in her face as she pulled to a stop next to his board and immediately sat up to reach over and put a hand on his arm. She curled her fingers around him and held on tight, some extra reassurance.

"You okay?" she asked again. "You didn't come up for a while."

"I, uh…Yeah, I'm fine. Totally good. It's easy to get lost down there is all." He pushed his hair out of his face and let out a "phew" for her benefit, though he was admittedly a little bit shaken.

She smiled and slid her hand down to grasp his, squeezing before sitting back again. "That wasn't bad for your first wave," she said. He gave her a dubious look and she held up her hands in defense. "No, seriously. You were up for, like, a split second. Practice makes perfect."

He huffed in amusement. "Right. Practice."

"Hey, you were really good on your form with the paddling, and you stood up at the right time. You just overcorrected a bit and looked like you freaked out once you got up. Then you fell." She winced.

"I definitely fell."

There was a long pause then as Chuck laid his cheek against the board and let himself rest for a few seconds.

"You know what would be…pretty hot?"

Chuck's ears perked up and he lifted his chin. "What?"

She looked amused by his almost immediate response and he tried not to begrudge her that.

"If you took that licking, learned from it, climbed up onto your board, and paddled back out there with me to try again."

He stared at her for a second. He knew the game she was playing. Using his apparent attraction to her as persuasion…

Well, it worked.

And he didn't entirely mind that it worked as he smirked and grabbed his board, swinging himself back onto his stomach on top of it and paddling further out. "You coming?" he called over his shoulder, and he didn't miss the look on her face that very clearly said she meant to go through with her persuasion tactic.

That was, if he managed not to die out here first.

Though, he had to admit, the thought of what might come later was a pretty good reason to make sure he lived.

He turned to face the shore again and was happy to note she still wore the same face as she slid up beside him, turning to face the shore and pushing up to straddle her board again.

And for the next forty minutes or so, he tried wave after wave as she watched, paddling over to make sure he was okay at the end of each fall. Not once did he manage to stand up, but never did Sarah seem like she was growing tired or frustrated, even though he was absolutely growing tired and frustrated himself.

"When is this going to happen?" he whined later as they paddled back out, misery on his face after he fell yet again.

"It's going to happen. I promise. You look really good. You're gonna get it. Just remember the foot placement I taught you, yeah?"

He huffed and nodded, annoyed with himself.

"We'll both go this time. It's getting dark faster than I thought it would, so we can just ride this one in together."

Chuck glanced over his shoulder. The sun had set and the colors along the horizon, though stunning, were desaturating fast. "Deal. Are we racing?"

She giggled. "We're gonna be on the same wave, soooo…"

"Oh. Good point." He chuckled and pointed behind them. "Wave on the way! This a good one?"

She looked at it and grinned a little wildly. It lit a flame in his chest, filled him with adrenaline. This was it. This was his wave, damn it.

"It's a smaller one, but we can make do. Ready?" she asked.

"Hell yeah." He swiftly moved back to lie on top of his board and prepared himself, seeing Sarah do the same a few feet away.

"Paddle!" she called out to him, and he did, keeping his eyes forward, but watching Sarah in his peripheral. "And up!"

She gracefully pushed up to her feet and sliced her board a few feet further away from his as he pushed up to his feet.

"Whoaaaa!" He waved his arms, just barely keeping his balance as he threatened to fall backwards. He could hear Sarah cheering somewhere beside him but he didn't dare look, instead crouching a little to keep from tipping either way.

He couldn't help it. He felt the need to celebrate. The adrenaline was coursing through him. He was sure the water was much shallower here, so he leapt off of the board with a whoop and crashed into the water, popping right back up and yelling.

"Sarah! I stood! I STOOOOOOD!"

Chuck scanned the shore for her as she bobbed up from behind a wave and stood to her full height, the grin on her face so big and vibrant it nearly knocked him backwards.

"HA HAAAA!" He pumped both fists up over his head. "Take that, Blue Crush!" He felt like he was flying as she crashed through the water towards him, her arms up in celebration.

He was ready to catch her should she leap into his arms, the pride in his chest made all the more powerful when he saw pride glowing in her face.

"That was awesome!" she cried out.

"I conquered Calypso!"

And then something brushed against his shin, and he felt a sharp and sudden pain there. He pulled his leg back with a hiss. "Ah! Ow…Oww…Wait. OW!"

It burned. It burned like a cattle prod had been shoved into his leg and left there. He hunched forward just as Sarah got to him. And instead of catching her as she lept into his arms like he'd pictured in his mind, he reached out for her desperately and clung to her forearms.

"Owwww!"

"D'you step on something?" she asked in deep concern, her hands dropping on his shoulders. "What is it?!" she snapped in worried frustration as he yelled another loud, "OOOWWWWWW!"

But then her eyes fastened on something off to the side.

"Oh. Shit! Jellyfish," she breathed. She was quick to action, pulling him towards the shore. "Come on. Get out. Out. Hold onto me. I've got you."

"No, no, no. I have to get Alexei's board. Although if he murders me, this will stop hurting SO BAD. Oh my Goddddd this hurts!"

"Leave the board. It's already washed in. I'll grab it. Let's get you out first, okay?" She wrapped her arm around his torso and helped him hobble out as he hissed. He'd never felt anything like this in his life.

"Fuck, this hurts," he whimpered. "Oh my God."

"I know. I know, it's okay. Let's just get you out…"

He let her do most of the work because he was so focused on just how terribly his leg was burning. "Oh my Godddddd!" he moaned. "This feels so bad!"

"I know," she breathed, and he distantly felt her hand rub his arm as they finally staggered far enough out of the waves that he could plop down on the damp sand, wincing and whimpering.

"Jesus Christ, this feels awful. Why were jellyfish even created?!"

He hissed through his teeth and tilted to the side, resting his cheek on the sand, trying to control his breathing through the pain.

"They're crucial to our ecosystem," she answered. He lifted his cheek just enough to send her a pained what the fuck look and she shrugged. "It's true. Sorry. I know it hurts." She squeezed his shoulder. "I'm so sorry."

A sudden thought occurred to Chuck then as he writhed in pain, and he sat up and looked at Sarah in terror. "Oh God! Don't do the pee thing! NOT THE PEE!"

Sarah recoiled in horror, and then she lifted one eyebrow, looking at him like he was crazy. "I'm not peeing on you, Chuck. Some salt water…vinegar…at the most, an ointment if I can find some."

He blinked. "Oh. Right. That makes sensesaaaaahhhhhh this hurts oh my God, what the fuck!"

Sarah moved closer and gently put her cool hand on his leg, careful not to touch where he was stung. It felt so good on his skin, having her hand there, and he sighed, even as he grit his teeth in pain.

He sat up just enough to see vicious-looking bumps rise on his leg. His heart seized. "WHAT IS THAT?!"

"That's the sting," she explained patiently. "It's not gonna look great, but you'll be okay."

"No, I'm dying!"

"I know it feels that way right now, Chuck, but you aren't dying. You're going to be fine." She scurried over to where they left their things and grabbed the bottle of water she'd filled at the Scuba Shack before they headed off to the beach. And then she rushed back to him, opening the bottle, carefully pouring the water over the sting.

He cried out and clamped his hand down on her thigh, squeezing tightly. "Shit!"

"I'm so sorry, Chuck," she said, genuinely sympathetic as she put her hand on the side of his neck comfortingly. "I know it hurts really bad."

"Satan is breathing fire onto my leg," he panted, growling in pain, pulling his lips between his teeth.

She leaned in close to catch his eye. "Okay, Chuck. Just…breathe for a second. Okay? Deep breaths. I know it hurts but you have to keep breathing. Focus on that for me, Chuck. Deep breaths. It'll distract you." He nodded, just barely keeping tears at bay. This truly felt like someone had clamped his leg in a waffle iron and it was getting hotter by the second. And God, the sting looked ghastly. Like someone had taken a cat o' nine tails and cracked it over his shin as hard as they could. That someone was possibly the Incredible Hulk.

"We have two options," she was saying then, as he tried to focus on breathing. "We're not on my boat. I've got everything necessary for jellyfish stings in my first aid kit on the boat."

"Oh? This happen that often?" he asked, trying hard not to whine when he talked, but failing miserably.

"No, but…it does happen. You'd be surprised by how stupid people can be."

"Hey!"

"I don't mean you!" she said, stroking his cheek with her thumb. "It wasn't like you could even see this thing. I've had people swim up to the jellyfish even though we tell them not to."

"Oh…I guess that's pretty stupid. Shit, it really hurts though. Oh my God."

He was trying so hard to distract himself from the pain by focusing on breathing, focusing on literally anything else, trying to listen to what she was saying, but it just felt so horrible. He'd broken bones before and it wasn't anything this bad. People had told him how bad jellyfish stings were and it still hadn't prepared him for this.

"I know," she said, stroking his hair back from his face as she poured more water on the sting, wincing when he hissed. "I've been stung before. Argentina. That was a really bad first swim to have in Buenos Aires."

"Oh God," he gasped out. "You had a lot of firsts in Argentina."

She giggled and set her hand on his knee again. "I didn't know anyone there, either, so I was on my own. It was a lot worse than this sting, too. Looks like it only got you with two tentacles…"

"Or the same tentacle twice."

That made her smile and squeeze his leg above his knee. "Or that. I'm not trying to minimize the pain you're feeling because I know it burns really, really bad." He nodded vigorously. "My point is, Chuck, that you're gonna be fine. It just feels like fire is being poured over your leg right now, but I'm here and I'm gonna take care of it."

"Are you a witch? Please say yes. Any other time, I'd be a little unsettled by the revelation, but right now I'd be super happy because you could make this go awaaay…" he whimpered.

She laughed and then shook her head. "Sorry to disappoint you, Chuck, but I'm not a witch. I do have things at home that will make it feel a lot better. Option one, I help you back to my car, we go to my house, and I take care of you there. Option two, you wait here, I race home and grab what I need, and then I come back here to help you."

He had his leg grasped in two hands, and he was staring down at how awful the sting looked. "I don't want to stay here by myself." He realized how pitiful and childish that sounded and decided he needed to toughen the hell up. "I-I mean, I'll…I can just go with you. S'okay."

She stroked his hair back again, her eyes tender as she smiled a little at him. "Okay. You think you can get to my car if I help you? It's going to hurt worse to put weight on your leg, just warning you."

"I can do it," he said determinedly, nodding. "I got it. I got this." Another wave of horrifying pain tore through his shin and he squeezed his eyes shut tight, trying not to whimper. He blinked to keep tears at bay. "Phew, okay…wow. This is a bitch."

Sarah chuckled quietly, standing up and brushing off her knees. "Okay, just stay here for a sec. Keep pouring that water on it, slowly. I'm gonna pack up the boards and get all our things to my car and then I'll come back for you. Deal?"

"Yeah, save the board. Save the Alexei board." He flopped onto his back and let out a rough breath, blinking up at the purplish pink sky. He decided that death by murder probably wouldn't be better than this jellyfish sting. Probably. At least with the sting, he still had Sarah here trying to take care of him. If he was dead, he was on his own. No Sarah.

He didn't know how long it was but Sarah reappeared above him probably two minutes later, standing beside him, looking down at him with an apologetic look on her face. "Hi," he breathed. "Am I dead? Do all the angels in Heaven look like Scuba Sarah?"

She sniffed in amusement and shook her head, kneeling down to help him sit up. He hissed at the burning sensation in his leg. "Let's get you to the car, Cutie."

Grabbing his arm, she slung it over her shoulders and helped him stand. He was careful not to put much weight on his leg.

"Okay?" she asked.

"Alive. I'm alive."

"Good boy. Come on."

But then they started walking and he had to shove his fist that wasn't attached to the arm slung over her shoulder into his mouth so he could bite down on it. The burning went all the way up his leg. "Oh my God, I'm gonna have PTSD every time I go into those dark rooms in the aquariums now."

She cracked up and he half-glared. "I'm sorry," she chuckled, pushing her face into his shoulder apologetically. "You're just really funny. I know it hurts really, really bad, and I'm so sorry this happened to you. I mean it."

"I know you mean it," he said, smiling in spite of the pain.

Her car wasn't too far away, thankfully, and she got him to the passenger side.

"Wait, I'm still pretty wet and sandy. I shouldn't get—"

"Chuck, are you in pain or not? I don't give a fuck about my seat. Or sand or water. This is Hawaii. Come on, get in."

She pulled the door open and helped him climb in. He groaned, grabbing his leg with both hands and lifting it into the car. That felt awful. His eyes crossed with the pain while she rushed around to the trunk. He heard her rummaging for a few seconds, and then the car jolted as she shut the trunk.

She reappeared on the driver's side of the car and got in, cracked what she held, and handed it to him. "There. I keep instant cold packs in my trunk for moments like this. It's going to get really cold pretty quick so be careful, but hold that on the sting," she said, already pulling onto the road beside the beach. "It should ease the stinging a bit. At least for now."

He reached back, snagged his shirt, and quickly shrugged it on to at least minimize some of the damage her seat would take thanks to all the water and sand on him, then he pressed the ice carefully to the sting. "HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THAT'S EVIL!"

Sarah winced. "Sorry."

"Will you have to amputate, Doctor?" he whimpered, making her laugh. "I know. I know I'm being super melodramatic. I just never knew it could hurt this bad. Jellyfish are fucking evil."

"I mean, you are putting on quite the show, but I've been stung before and it is really surprising just how terrible it feels, so I promise you, it's not bothering me." She reached over to press a cool hand against his cheek. "Just lean back and take your mind off of it as best you can. Fifteen minutes and we'll be at my house."

Chuck nodded. "Thanks."

And then he leaned back against the seat and looked up at the sky, focusing on the wind beating at his face, trying to ignore the blazing heat of his shin.

}o{

"Hhhhhh'aaaaaaaaaaatchamamma!"

Chuck held onto the edge of Sarah's tub as she poured vinegar on the jellyfish sting.

"I know it hurts, but don't move so much, please. I'm wasting vinegar."

He nodded and let out a rough breath. "Sorry. Sorry, sorry. It's just…sudden horrific pain. I'll try to be less of a wimp."

She made a face at him from where she knelt beside the tub and it brought him back to five days earlier, when he woke up in this same bathtub, half of his body asleep. The half she'd fallen asleep on top of.

She'd taken care of him then, harboring him from the storm so that he didn't have to spend it alone. Not that he'd really given her much of a choice.

She was taking care of him again, reaching into the tub where he was sitting to gently wrap her hand around his leg, careful not to touch the still horribly red, afflicted area of his shin. "You're not a wimp. Here, prop it up a little so that I can see these little buggers to take them out."

He sat up a little, his eyes widening. "What? Take…what out? You have to take something out?"

"Yeah, of course." She shrugged. "Sometimes the tentacle gets stuck. I can see parts of it from here. That's why it still hurts so bad; it's still stinging you."

"It's still stinging me?!" He squinted at the wound. "What the hell?! It's not even attached to the jellyfish anymore and it's still stinging me. What horrific creatures."

She turned on the faucet then, just enough for a steady stream of water to come out. "I saw the jellyfish, and I'm pretty sure it's a box, so I did the vinegar, but maybe if I run hot water over your leg, it'll just rinse the remainder off."

Chuck let her move his leg under the water that was slowly getting warmer, until it actually felt hot. "Is it supposed to be this hot?" he asked, wincing at the pain from the sting.

Sarah felt the water for herself. "Well, I'm not gonna scald you if that's what you're asking. But hot water might help." She angled her hand so that the water spilled over the awful looking pattern along his shin.

After a few moments, she pulled his leg away from the water and squinted at his wound.

"They gone?" he asked through gritted teeth.

"Nope."

"Didn't think so; it still hurts really bad."

She sighed and put his leg back under the water, standing up and drying her hands on the nearby towel. "Well, then. Tweezers it is."

Chuck's jaw fell open as she pulled open one of the drawers under her sink and rummaged through it, before she pulled out a pair of tweezers. She clicked them a few times, then blew on them, before she came back over to the tub and ran them under the hot water.

After she dried them off, she pulled his leg out of the stream of water and held it close. Then she oh so carefully got to work.

He decided he didn't want to see what she was doing; he already felt it acutely enough. But it was hard for him to keep his gaze from her determined, concentrating features. She would sit back for a moment to carefully splash some of the water over the wound, to rinse it he imagined, before hunching over again and painstakingly picking the offending bits of tentacle out of his skin.

Finally, she thrust his leg back under the water which felt even hotter now, and she pursed her lips. "Looks like I got all of 'em. Now you just keep that under the water for a bit, okay? I'm getting you something for the pain."

She slid her damp hand over his arm and squeezed comfortingly as he sank back against the cool porcelain of her tub and let out a long, calming breath. And then he let his eyes drift shut. It already felt better, and now he knew why. The tentacles had still been buried in his damn leg all this time, still stinging him even though the jellyfish had moved on to ruin the life of some other creature, the little see-through bastard.

Now that they were gone, while he could still feel the burning pain in his shin, it didn't feel like death anymore.

He opened his eyes a little and watched as Sarah opened her cabinet and skimmed the shelves. She grabbed a pill bottle and came back to him, smiling as she knelt next to him again, this time closer to his head.

"Need something to wash it down?"

He shook his head and let her put the pills in his palm, then he threw them both in his mouth and swallowed, sighing. "Please God work fast, little magic pills."

She laughed and shook her head, folding her arms on the edge of the tub and propping her chin on them. He just smiled a bit woozily at her.

"Feeling okay?" she asked, reaching up to stroke his hair.

He sighed again. "Much better without those tentacles stuck in me. And fast action by my nurse. I'm telling Ellie what you did for me today, Scuba Sarah."

Sarah preened a bit. "I had to look up what to do on the Internet when I was stung in Buenos Aires. Took the tentacles out of my own thigh. It was pretty terrible. So I should be able to handle this situation."

He lifted his hand from where it was draped over his midsection and curled his fingers around her forearm, squeezing. "Thank you, Sarah."

Her smile made him feel that much better. "You're welcome."

"And thanks for letting me flail around and whine and freak out and think I was dying without judging me too hard. At least outwardly. If you were judging me a lot inwardly, thanks for not showing it."

She giggled and pressed her lips against his knuckles where he still held onto her arm propped on the edge of the tub. "I wasn't judging you. I know how badly it hurts. It's surprising how bad it is."

"I know people who've been through it and they've told me but you just can't imagine it feeling that bad until you feel it for yourself."

Sarah widened her eyes and nodded in agreement. Then she moved back and turned off the water, helping him to stand up carefully and handing him a towel so that he could dry his leg off.

"I don't need to take you to the ER or anything, do I? Any trouble breathing? Chest pain? Can you swallow okay?"

"No, no. Nothing like that. I don't think I have an allergy. It just hurts." He oh so gently dabbed at the welt. It was a bright red jagged line and now that he was actually looking at it, it was alarming how much it looked like venom was raging through his veins or something. But the wound wasn't as long as it had felt. Like the jellyfish had merely grazed him with its tentacle.

He admittedly felt a little embarrassed about the way he'd carried on, but the pain really had felt like nothing he'd ever experienced before.

Sarah helped him step out of the tub onto her bathmat. And then she led him out of the bathroom towards her bedroom. "I'll get you something to drink. Ice water okay?"

"Perfect."

"Okay. Go rest on my bed for a little while. You've been through a crisis. Take it easy."

He shook his head. "No, Sarah. I-I can't do that. I'm all covered in saltwater. And I've only got my swim trunks and a shirt."

"Take a shower if you're that worried about it. Actually, that might make you feel better. You'll be able to relax."

"What do I wear? Look, you've used up most of your vinegar on me, you did professional first aid on this leg of mine, let me use your pain meds… I can take a ride share back to my hotel and—"

"Absolutely not. If you want to be at your hotel, if you'd be more comfortable there, I'll drive you back. But you need to just wash the day off of you and rest."

"I'm totally fine, now. This isn't a life threatening injury."

"Oh? It's not?" She raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms, popping her hip. "Because an hour ago, you were sure you were dying."

"Aaaaaand there's the judgment," he chuckled, good-naturedly.

She giggled and walked up to him, taking his hand. "Please just use my shower, wash up, get comfortable. I'm taking care of you, so deal with it." Then she moved up onto her tiptoes to kiss him lightly. "Or…would you feel like a little bit less of an imposition if I…" She tilted her head, slipping her hand under the waistband of his swim trunks. "…also took a shower?"

"It's your shower, I mean…Ow!" He laughed as she lightly knuckled him in the ribs for his teasing. "Are we talking…at…the same time…?"

"Yes, you idiot."

He cracked up. Somehow she'd made it sound like a term of endearment.

"What do I wear when I get out if I'm gonna be sent straight to bed to rest?" he asked, sincerely. He really only had his shoes, his swim trunks, and the T-shirt he put on earlier before they hopped into her convertible to head off on an adventure.

She pursed her lips thoughtfully, then a glint shone in her blue eyes, and he wondered if he should be worried.

}o{

She whistled low and he sent her a look over his shoulder. "Stop it," he warned.

"I'm just saying. You look good in my robe. That deep V-neck, the Hawaiian flower pattern, and the grey." She reached over, still wrapped only in a towel, and fixed the collar of the robe as he tied it shut.

"It's a good thing I'm so secure in my sexuality." Then he eyed himself in the mirror. "This is really soft though."

She giggled. "It is crazy how tall you are. That almost goes to the floor when I have it on and it's practically at your knees."

He rubbed at his curls with a towel to get as much water out of them as possible, then smoothed his hands through them to try to control them as best he could.

"Go lie down and shut your eyes. Let the pain meds work their magic, hydrate. I'll be out soon," she said, combing her long wet hair.

Chuck limped in close to her and wrapped his arm around her waist from behind, leaning forward to kiss the side of her face. He gave her an extra squeeze. "You're somethin' else, Sarah Walker."

"Something else from what?"

He narrowed his eyes, not sure how to answer that and she giggled, pushing him towards the door. "Go on. Get out. Rest."

"Okay, okay."

She was right about the robe, he thought to himself as he pattered into the bedroom and went straight for her bed. He had slim hips, but his shoulders barely fit in it. And it wasn't covering a whole lot of his legs, either. He carefully lay himself on the side he usually slept on when he stayed over, fluffed a pillow behind his head, and tried his best to pull the front of the robe over at least the necessary areas, before he shut his eyes and listened to the comforting sound of Sarah's hairdryer turning on.

He fell asleep mere minutes later.

}o{

The room was dim when he woke up, save for a small lamp on a dresser on the other side of the room, there wasn't much light. The sun was completely gone outside, he figured. He groaned a little bit and pushed himself up, hissing at the stinging pain he felt in his leg.

Chuck had nearly forgotten his encounter with what was apparently a box jellyfish.

At least it didn't hurt as horribly as it had before. He actually felt much better. And as he moved his leg to glance at his injury, he saw that it didn't look as inflamed or horrific. "Thanks, Nurse Sarah," he muttered to himself.

He reached up to ruffle his hair, then leaned forward to glance at the clock she kept on her nightstand. No wonder he was hungry. It was after seven.

Stretching his arms over his head, he winced at the stinging sensation in his shin and scooted to the edge of the bed, swinging his legs over. The cold floor felt good on the bottom of his feet, weirdly enough.

It was also weird that his suitcase was sitting on the floor next to the bed.

Since he hadn't put it there.

And this wasn't his hotel room. It was Sarah's bedroom. In Sarah's house. Which was definitely not his hotel.

…What?

He heard the telltale creaking of the bedroom door being pushed open then and he turned to watch as Sarah peeked in. When she met his gaze from across the room, she smiled and swung the door open, taking a few steps into the room before stopping.

"Hi. How are you feeling?"

"Better. Much better." He pushed to his feet and winced a little. "Still stings," he admitted in a tight voice. "But not nearly as awful as it did. Thanks to you." Before she could respond, he pointed at the suitcase. "What, uh…? How'd…?"

"Oh." She hurried into the room and turned the main light on before making her way around the bed. "So, um…Crap. I kind of… I hope this is okay. It might not be and I apologize if it isn't…"

He looked at her and furrowed his brow in question.

"I thought—Well, you're sort of stuck here at my insistence, and with nothing but a dirty shirt, wet swim trunks covered in sand. And I realized that whenever I ended up taking you back to your hotel, you'd have to put that stuff back on again which would be super uncomfortable. And you were fast asleep, looking so cute in that robe that's way too small for you…"

He blushed then, realizing it was starting to come apart and he literally had nothing else underneath it. He fixed it quickly, blushing.

She bit her lip, then winced. "Uh, this is probably not…okay. But I thought I was being helpful. Taking care of you, I mean. I went in your pocket and got your room key, then I drove to your hotel and went in your room to get you a change of clothes." She winced harder, playing with her fingers in front of her shyly. "I thought it'd be a huge violation of privacy if I dug through your suitcase to grab stuff for you to wear, so I just took your whole suitcase with me. And…now you can pick what to wear and I haven't rifled through your personal belongings."

Chuck's jaw fell open and she shrugged her shoulders meekly. "You-You went to my hotel to get me things to wear?"

"You were sound asleep so I thought I had time and…as cute as you are in that robe, I thought making you continue to wear it all night was…messed up. I just want you to be comfortable." She pulled back into herself. "If this was the wrong thing to do, taking your key and letting myself in like that—"

He cut her off the moment he was able to actually get what she'd just done through his head. "No, no. Sarah. Sarah, no." He rushed closer to her and took her hands in his, a grin blasting onto his face. "You didn't have to go all the way over there to bring my suitcase back for me, oh my God."

Chuck really couldn't believe she'd done it.

"I wanted you to be comfortable here."

"God, you are incredibly sweet. I mean, that's just the nicest, most thoughtful…" He shook his head, then dove in to hug her tight. She hugged him back almost immediately. He really couldn't wrap his head around it. "You are way too nice to me, Scuba Sarah."

She giggled, and he heard relief there. "Yeah, well… Gotta take care of my man with his surfing battle wounds." He felt almost dizzy suddenly as she pulled back and looked in his face. Gotta take care of my man… "Which—by the way—don't think this run-in with a jellyfish and quick first aid action on my part made me forget that you stood up on Alexei's board and rode a wave all the way in on just your first day of surfing lessons. I did not forget."

He had forgotten.

And now that he remembered, he felt that much better. "Oh my God, I did! I did do that! I surfed!"

"You surfed!" She laughed, framing his face in her hands and moving up onto her tiptoes to kiss him. It wasn't quite the same as the kisses they'd shared in the shower a few hours earlier, before his much-needed nap. She'd been comforting him then.

Now, she was cradling him close, letting herself really taste him, tangling her fingers in his curls. There was a lot more heat in this one.

Sarah finally pulled back and hummed happily, nuzzling his nose. He opened his eyes and looked at her, the way she still stood with her eyes shut, as if taking in the moment. They fluttered open again and she met his brown eyes with her blue ones. The smile she gave him made him feel invincible.

Fuck that jellyfish anyway.

"I'm very proud of you. But I need to go to the kitchen to check on dinner because if I stay here, I'm going to want to give us both a reward for how well that surfing lesson went—uhh, before the jellyfish—and we can't do that because of your leg, so…" She stepped back from him, brushing his hands off of her almost a little desperately, a teasing look on her face.

"Wh-Why? I don't feel that bad. It's just the one spot. It just stings in that one spot, that's all. We can—We can do the—and not even-not even touch that part of my leg," he tried breathily.

A grin slowly grew over her face as he spiraled. "We can revisit that later, Chuck. But I've got pot pies in the oven and I need to make sure the crust doesn't get burnt."

He whined as she stepped back even further. "Fiiiine."

Giggling, she gestured to the suitcase. "I like you like this but you might want to get changed into something more comfortable for you."

He nodded, watching her leave the room.

Damn.

}o{

The stinging on his leg had gotten to a more tolerable level as the night wore on, but Chuck still felt like he was wincing and walking funny as he followed Sarah into her kitchen.

She turned to give him a frustrated look. "What are you doing? Go sit!"

"I'm helping!"

"You are not! I said I'd make the drinks."

"Yes, that's true. But neither of us mentioned what I would do in the meantime. So I'm gonna help you."

Sarah gave him a droll look and shook her head, smirking as she grabbed the fixings for their drinks. "Anybody ever tell you you'd make a good lawyer?" she asked, her head in the refrigerator.

He chuckled and leaned against her counter. "Nope. I don't have the right face for it. Jury'd see right through me in the opening statements."

She laughed, setting everything on the counter next to him and shutting the fridge door with her hip. "I can see that. You're a pretty transparent guy."

Chuck snorted. "That's true. I've got absolutely no mystery to me. What you see is what you get. I'm kind of boring that way," he joked.

But she turned on him and furrowed her brow. "Honesty isn't boring, Chuck. Sincerity isn't boring." She reached up to fix the lapel of the short-sleeve button up he tossed on a few hours earlier, before dinner. "You're the furthest thing from boring."

"Okay, that's sweet but I'm sure that's not true." He ducked his head and kissed her jaw. "You, on the other hand? You're a full-on enigma."

He watched her go quiet, her features dimming as she lowered her gaze, nibbling on the inside of her cheek. "I know I am," she said softly. And then she shrugged one shoulder.

"It's not a bad thing. For the record," he said, wondering if he'd said something wrong, if he'd hurt her feelings. "It's…exciting." She looked like she was on the verge of rolling her eyes at that. Crap. "What I mean is…erm…you're hard to peg, you're a mystery, in a lot of ways. And it's exciting. But that doesn't mean I haven't pegged you in at least one way, the most important way…" His face crumbled in embarrassment as she raised her eyebrows saucily. "Get your head out of the gutter, Scuba Sarah." She laughed and he gave her a blushing frown. "I was trying to say something nice, you horndog. I was trying—The important way that I meant is that you're a really good person. That's not a mystery. You're really nice and super cool and objectively the most gorgeous person I've ever seen in my entire life. And I'm absolutely positive that climbing onto that boat for a scuba lesson over two weeks ago was the best decision I've ever made in my—er, my vacation."

He'd been that close to saying "life"… that close.

She gave him a shy smile and turned to start slicing the lime, almost as if she was giving herself something to do to avoid looking at him. "Okay, Chuck. You've effectively talked yourself out of that hole."

"Oh, thank God."

That made her laugh.

"The point of all the stupid stuff I just said is that while you're a super hot mystery and really hard to read sometimes and I can't figure you out, like, seventy-five percent of the time… I know that I like being around you. I really like being around you. You're pretty wonderful. And that's not a mystery. Whatever fathomless depths you've got in there, all of the things I have yet to learn about you, I know for a fact that you're just…wonderful."

She grinned down at the lime as she expertly sliced it with a quick one-two flick of her wrist. And then she looked up at him. "That was a whole mess, Chuck Bartowski."

He laughed, his head falling back. "I knoooow," he groaned. "God, I was just trying to be nice and make you feel good, and I rambled and basically insulted you. I didn't mean to," he insisted, lowering his head again and giving her an apologetic look. "I don't mean any of that in a bad way. Of course you're a mystery. I've known you, what, like…seventeen days or something?"

Sarah bit her lip then and he thought she hadn't actually taken offense to any of what he'd said. He hoped. "You been counting?"

"Of course."

She raised her eyebrows at him.

"Every day, every hour, every minute…every moment. I've been counting."

Sarah just gave him a long look, and then pulled her lip back between her teeth, furrowing her brow. "Sometimes you just say things that hit me in just the right way." He wasn't sure what to say to that. "And that's exactly what I mean when I say you aren't boring. Out of nowhere, you accost me with these lines that make me turn to absolute goo, you nerd."

"Good. It's what you deserve."

Giggling, she shook her head, and he felt his insides leap at the very appreciative look she sent him before she snagged the gin from her counter and began to free pour.

He didn't comment on her neglect of a shot glass. He just let her go. After all, maybe it'd dull the pain in his leg.


A/N: Thanks! Please review. Tell your friends.

-SC