A/N: Thanks for sticking with this one, sending me PMs and still reviewing it even months later after my last post. As always, this story continues to be a comfort for me. And I hope it brings y'all a bit of comfort too.

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


The giggling was the first sign.

It was a little disconcerting, because she was completely normal, the way she always was, and then out of nowhere, there'd be a tinkling sound that would bubble up from her chest. And it kept happening.

And as it increased in frequency, Chuck was able to see past his own buzz to realize that Scuba Sarah was becoming Tipsy Sarah.

They enjoyed their drinks lounging in her bed and watching a TV show on her laptop, a foreign period piece he let her pick out this time. And then they left the bed after two hours of that, heading into the kitchen to pour refills.

They ended up at her table, talking, enjoying, continuing to pour.

And then back to the kitchen they went to gorge on Oreos while sitting on her countertop.

He even tried to twist one in half to share with her, but the cookie crumbled in his hand instead. And he'd done his best Luke Skywalker impersonation, yelling, "Nnnnoooooooooooo!" as Sarah laughed so hard she nearly fell off of the counter altogether.

Finally, after hours of moving around her house, losing track of time, and frankly, losing track of who was pouring what, they made it out onto her back patio.

"What are you doing?" she asked, amusement in her tone.

Chuck had flattened the lounge chair he was splayed out on so that he was lying at a one hundred and eighty degree angle. Actually, he thought it was more like one-ninety, considering how his back was arched more than was entirely comfortable.

"This is the only way to really see the stars. I don't hafta crane my neck or anything. Literally. Just look at 'em!" He gestured wildly at the sky above them, at the beautiful smattering of stars dotting the dark night sky.

Sarah was laughing, her chair still properly upright, her drink clutched between her fingers. "You're so fuggin' weird, Chuck. Oh my God."

"You're just jealous because you din't come up with it."

"Know what I came up with instead? Sitting like this, I can still take a drink…" She sipped her gin. "Like so. And if I wanna see the stars? I just tilt my head back." She did so. "Oh, wow, so many stars. That was so easy."

"Booorrrinnnggggggg," he groused, turning onto his side and waggling a hand at her. She just laughed. But then as he shifted to try to grab his drink from where he set it on the small side table, his injured leg protested, the sting area brushing up against the cushion. "Yeowch! Ah!"

Sarah sat up more in concern and hissed, her pretty brow furrowed. "Careful. You okay? The sting?"

"Yeah, m'fine though. Not so bad. Just wasn't paying attention."

For what it was worth, the pain had dulled in his leg significantly, and he wasn't sure if that was just what happened when jellyfish stings were properly taken care of, or if the alcohol was pushing the pain out of his mind.

Either way, it was a gift.

And he was accepting the gift with open arms.

Also a gift?

Sarah Walker, scuba instructor extraordinaire, picking up the bottle of gin and pouring more into his glass. "Here you are, good sir," she said with much fanfare. And then she set the bottle down and giggled. "Oh shit, I need some too. Duh." She picked it up again and poured, squinting and hunching forward so that her face was close to the glass. Chuck hummed the typical circus theme as she attempted to pour right up to the brim of her glass, and when it dribbled over, they both let out yells of dismay. "I was so close!" she announced into the night.

"A centimeter!" he agreed, trying to be as supportive as possible. "A millimeter even!"

"A millimeter!" she repeated.

Chuck Bartowski found himself getting caught up in this moment, and how good it felt. How good all of these moments had felt. Maybe minus the jellyfish running its tentacles along his leg. That particular moment had been harrowing and awful. But the rest of the moments were so incredible he didn't even know how to handle it. How to handle any of this. It was too good. And he thought maybe this trip to Kauai might be the trip to end all trips. The vacation to end all vacations. And Sarah Walker, scuba diving instructor and sometime surfing instructor, was to blame for it.

He sat up then and carefully turned to face her. "Hey."

"That's for horses."

Chuck giggled with her and shook his head. Sure, he was feeling a little buzzed, his lips were tingling, and his leg where he was stung was tingling too, which he guessed was better than outright burning. But Sarah really was incredibly loose and tipsy, her eyes a little unfocused, a lazy and beautiful smile draped over her lips. "And apples."

"True."

"But that's not my point."

"What's your point, hot stuff?"

He blinked at her and shook himself a little. "D'you know, something just occurred to me?"

"I didn't know that."

"It's true!"

"What just occurred to you?"

"I think…Sarah Walker…that you have effectively ruined, like, every single vacation I take after this one for-for the rest of my life. I really think so."

She frowned and swung her legs around to flatten her bare feet against the cement. "Well, that's not cool."

He pushed himself to sit up too, stretching his hand out. "No, wait! I didn't mean it like…bad! I meant—I meant it in a good way. Like, this has been so fucking amazing, better than I ever could've imagined, this vacation, and I feel like you've been the reason why, like the biggest reason, and now when I take vacations after this, none of 'em will ever add up to this one. Not even close. I swear."

"Oh!" She paused, blinking, and then it must've all sunk in and she smiled at him, looking a bit more sober as she watched him, her eyes clearer, warmth in her face. "Oh. That's very sweet. But I hope you don't, like, hate all of your vacations now. That'd be so sad."

"Well, if you can manage to magically appear at all of my future vacations, I'm positive I wouldn't hate them. I'd enjoy them as much as this one, I'm sure." And then he realized how that might've sounded, and she was very quiet. He felt like a big mouth, because how he'd said it was exactly how he'd meant it. He felt like a big mouth because he was a big mouth. Damn it.

"That was the alcohol," he rushed out. "The alcohol just made that all spill out, so we can just pretend I didn't say that and go back to what I said before it. That sounds like a good plan," he said, clearing his throat and looking out towards the water. The gin had been the problem in the first place, destroying whatever filter he had left, and yet, he took another long drink of it and winced as it went down.

She was silent for a bit. And then she haltingly uttered, "Uh. Okay."

That didn't exactly make him feel better.

But then she started off on one of her giggle fits. He smirked and watched her as she giggled so hard she slumped forward, propping her elbow on her knee, and dropping her chin into her palm. She looked so young and so adorable, her bun messy, hair falling into her face. She looked so comfortable and safe and he wanted to just crawl into her chair with her and bury himself in her, cling to her, get lost in her arms.

He was losing his damn mind and the gin wasn't helping. So he took another sip.

"What?" he chuckled.

"I was just thinking about what-what Gina said to me the other day, and how if you were there to hear it, you probably would've gotten the best look on your face." She giggled some more, just beaming as she looked up at him.

Chuck felt a little more sober and alert as he raised his eyebrows. "I'm interested…"

"Oh, I'm sure you are," she flirted. "But I don't think I'll say it. Not now."

He widened his eyes. "Why? I mean why not? You can't do that."

"I can. 'Cause I'm doin' it," she sang, tilting her head with a cheeky grin.

"That's so not fair, Scuba Sarah. You tell me she said something that would make me make a certain face and then you don't tell me what the something is? That's just cruel. It's cruel."

She was giggling hard now, her head fully on its side, propped up by her palm against her temple. "You're so adorable all puffed up and entitled."

"Entitled? Wooowwwwww… No, that—I maybe deserved that," he chuckled, giving her a crooked smile as she snorted.

"I'm just teasing you." She pushed herself to sit up straight again, and he watched to see if she swayed. She didn't. At least, not yet. But she kept sipping that drink so he imagined the swaying would come eventually. "She said that…" Her eyes darted to the side and lost focus for a few moments, long enough that he almost reached over to wave his hand in front of her face to check and make sure she was okay, but then she snapped right to it before he could move. "Um, she said that you haven't just romanced me, you've romanced the whole Scuba Shack." Chuck sat up a bit straighter and just watched her quietly as she continued. "Zeki wants to visit you in Hollywood, Gina called you one of the few tolerable straights she's ever met—her exact words—Alexei already gave you an overprotective 'talk'," she said in a deep accent that sounded like Alexei's, using air quotes with her free hand. "Which I realized, because Gina told me, is something he only really does when he feels like he has to. This is actually…the part that your face would've done the thing to."

She let out a quiet hiccup and excused herself for it, taking a moment before continuing. Chuck felt like he was waiting with baited breath. He wasn't as far gone as she was, not even a little bit, and he wondered if she would ever tell him any of this if she hadn't felt comfortable enough with him to drink as much as she was drinking.

"Gina said that Kai even likes you and he's, you know, a super serious sort and hard to read all the time pretty much. Wors'n me even. But that's what got Alexei to a point where he felt like he needed to corner you and pull that overprotective dad shtick. Like, if Kai is onboard? Damn." She blinked rapidly, her eyes wide, and Chuck leaned in, hoping she might keep going. "No, but thiz is the part that you would'a made a face at." She held up her finger. "Gina told me that Alexei never did that with anybody until she'd been dating Liz for over a year. I mean, the whole cornering thing." She pushed some hair out of her face, her blue eyes drifting off to the side thoughtfully. "He hazn' even done it with Zeki's girlfriend. Or the people Kai'z dated. He just got super intense with you."

Chuck didn't quite know how to take that, and he just sat there, gaping.

Sarah giggled and pointed at him. "Tha's the look I was expecting. I know your looks pretty well now after only like two and a half weeks. I should get a medal or something."

"I'll have one drawn up for ya," he chuckled, trying to control the emotions and thoughts that were buzzing through his chest, through his head. "But he-he did that after only meeting me, like, a handful of times. Am I…threatening?"

"Yeah," she drawled, propping her chin in her palm and leaning forward with her elbow landing on her knee again. She nearly missed and he was ready to dive across the few feet of space to catch her if he needed to. "You're…extremely threatening. But not in the way you think. You know the, um, they haven't ever met anybody before. I mean, that I went out with." She waved her hand through the air and wrinkled her nose. "They were dalliances. Unimportant. Fun. Sex. Wha'ever."

She drank more gin and smacked her lips. It was cute. It was very cute. She was getting…pretty drunk. And he wondered if she'd be pissed at him tomorrow for letting her drink enough that it loosened her lips this much. Was he being a jerk, just letting her go like this? Was he being selfish? Maybe a little. He just wanted to know what was in that brain of hers. This was a prime opportunity to hear at least a little of what she was thinking when it came to him.

"Makes sense," he said quietly, smiling at her.

She continued as if she hadn't even heard him. "I's weird. I's a weird thing. But you're a super good…person. A good guy. And you feel good. I mean, good to be around. Be with. You know what I mean," she waved her hand dismissively and looked at him again, her eyes a bit clearer just for a moment. "I don't let people in, Chuck. Not even them. Not even my Shack family. Not…really. And I think I might've not realized that I did that with how I've handled…you. With them. Duzzatt make sense? Am I making sense?"

Chuck wasn't sure he really understood what she was saying at all, but he nodded anyway. "Yes. Keep going."

"Right. Um, so I guess I'm jus'…I did something there, an unprecedented thin', I mean with you, that got Alexei triggered. So that's basically the thin' that, um, Gina was saying. And I just pictured your face and I pegged it. You got, like, this cute…scared face."

Chuck shook his head vehemently. "I'm not scared."

"But don't be scared, Curls, okay?" She swept forward and planted both of her hands on his knees. Sort of. She still held her drink in one hand and it was propped a bit precariously on his thigh now. "I'm not as intense as Alexei. I'm very lowtense." She giggled, her eyes bright, her smile so beautiful and hazy. "Do you like that? I jus' made that word up right now. I think it's my new favorite word."

"It's a good word," he said warmly, setting his drink down and wrapping his fingers around her wrists to give her a bit of stability, squeezing affectionately. His heart was fit to burst.

"Yeah, I'm lowtense. So don't be afraid of me. Or Alexei. He's just…protective."

And apparently Chuck, or more likely Sarah's particular handling of Chuck, had made Alexei feel the need to step in with that whole What are your intentions with my daughter? vibe straight out of a romantic comedy. It was the fact that Sarah had been the one to make him feel like it was necessary that had Chuck reeling.

It wasn't just that Chuck was hanging around flashing love eyes at Sarah, it was Sarah's response to Chuck, her actions related to Chuck.

Which was apparently very different from what any of the Scuba Shack folks had seen with her before.

And Sarah had just spoon fed him that whole thing because she'd had too much gin to drink. He wondered what she thought about all of it when she didn't have so much gin in her system. She was obviously aware of it, especially considering Gina had apparently spelled it all out for her. Was she scared? Did he scare her?

Because Chuck Bartowski was very intense, and not lowtense at all. And he knew it.

But then Sarah propped her forehead on his knee.

"You okay?" he asked, stroking her hair. "Want some water?"

"I mean, water's a good idea, but m'fine. I been worse'n this." She sighed. "Your leg is just really comfy. Like a bony pillow."

"Uh…" He chuckled, still running his hand over her hair. He let her feel his cool fingers against the back of her neck and she moaned quietly. "A bony pillow doesn't sound too comfortable, Sarah."

"Oh but it is. If the bone is connected to a certain nerdy, super tall man, it's very comfy," she said, matter-of-factly.

"Well, I hope you're not talking about some other nerdy, super tall man, because I will feel pretty put-out if you are."

She giggled and lifted her head, propping her chin on his knee so that she could beam up at him. "I've never met any other very tall nerds, so I guess you're it, bucko."

"Bucko?" He laughed and shook his head. "I dunno if that's better or worse than Curls."

"Oh, shut up, you love Curls." She used his thighs to push herself up again, giving him a critical look through half-lidded eyes. "I'm pretty fond of 'em too."

"What?"

"Your curls. They're so multipurpose."

He laughed. She was a cute and funny drunk. "Well, thanks. Never thought of 'em that way before."

"Well, you wouldn't 'cause 'ey're attached to your head. But as a…second party…" She lifted her finger, then she stuck up the other one so she had two fingers up, before she turned back to him. "As a second party, I can say…from here…that there are many purpizziz to those deliciously soft curls."

"Maybe at some point before I leave you could draw me up a list or somethin'. That'd be cool," he said good-naturedly.

She just snorted and took another drink, before she leaned over and set the glass down. "Okay, enough!"

He blinked at her, feeling the buzz increasing in him. He thought with how drunk she was getting, he'd cut himself off now. Just in case. He didn't want her accidentally rolling off of her property and down the hill or anything. "What? Enough what?"

"The cutesy shit. I'm a…serious woman. I'm not a cutesy woman. And you won't make me one, Chuck Bart—hicowski."

"I'm…not trying to make you cutesy. You're kinda doin' that on your own right now. It's very effective, too, I must say."

"How dare you? I am…hic... not. I'm a mystery. Nobody knows what I'm thinki'g. Ever. Or how I'm feeli'g. I'm like a…cactus. A porcupine. Prickly and…unapproachable." She swallowed thickly. "Or a blowfish. You eat me and I unleash deadly toxins into your bloodstream."

Chuck widened his eyes, raising his eyebrows. "I…haven't had that experience with you."

"Yeah, well… jus' wait. It happens eventually." She swung up to her feet then, and this time she swayed a little bit, but he was there to steady her, one hand on her waist, watching her face. "We should play something. A game. Let's play a game." And just like that, she swung away from the oddly serious tack she'd taken.

"Okay. Let's play a game. What game?"

"I only thought…far enough…to come up with the game idea. I don't know the actual game, Chuck. Come on." She reached up to drape her arms around his shoulders and pulled him in close, tilting her head back and giggling up at the sky.

Chuck giggled. "Oh, sorry. My mistake. So you need me to come up with the game?"

"Yes." She looked at him then and leaned in to kiss his chin, making him grin. "You have your own tech company, Charles Bartowski. Out of the two of us, you're the creative one. Don' you, like, make gamez er wha'ever? Izzn' 'at what your company does?"

He narrowed his eyes and pressed his lips together, rubbing his hands from her hips around to the small of her back. "Ummm…somewhat. BarTech kind of, uh, runs the gamut. We do…everything."

"Ev'n better. So what game are we playin'?"

"Um, you're kinda putting me on the spot here, Sarah." And he was still reeling from earlier when she'd told him about Alexei, namely what Gina had said about Alexei's actions towards him. And what that meant.

"I'z what I do, Chuck. I put you on the spot. I'm a stinker like that," she growled, winking. He knew he had to be careful with Drunk Sarah. She seemed a bit more gutsy, mischievous, and he wondered if she became wild too. If she was a wild drunk, he was gonna have his hands full tonight. Because she just growled at him, and he felt like such a mess because it heated his blood so damn fast. And there was no God damn way he was doing that when she was drunk. He needed to watch his step here.

Gulping, he cleared his throat. "I know you are. Okay, um…a game."

"We can play a sezzy game," she offered, raising her eyebrow. "Like strip poker."

And there it was. Jesus, he had to keep his wits about him.

"Uhhhh…not that one. I can't play poker," he lied. "Never learned. Too many rules. In fact, I'm not a big card guy. I'm not great at cards."

"Hmm… Not gonna lie, tha'z a bit of a strike againzz you, nerd, but you have so many non-strikes that i'z kinda cancelled out." She blinked. "Or something. Okay, fine. No cards. Strip chess?"

Lord help him.

"Um, well…?"

"Wait, I don' e'en have a chess board. Tha'z stupid."

Thank God.

"We can play frizzbee golf in the houz," she said, a lightbulb going off over her head, her features lighting up. "Strip frizzbee golf. Lozer of the round takes off all their clothes."

"All of their clothes?" he asked, squinting at her.

"Mmm mhmmm…" She gave him a wide, satisfied smile. "The end goal here is sex. You're picking up what I'm throwin' down, right, Curls?"

God, he really, really was. But not tonight. Not unless she was sober enough. It was wrong with them being on two different levels of inebriated. In that, he was only buzzed, and she was absolutely drunk. There was no question this woman was under the table.

"Uh, I totally get what you mean, but maybe throwing a frisbee in your house might…not be the best idea? Only thinking of the things that might get broken. And then tomorrow when we wake up, sober again, and we find broken glass all over the floor, we'll probably be really pissed at ourselves, you know?"

She groaned. "Party pooperrrrrr."

He had a voice in his head that was saying the same thing. It was taunting him, telling him how easy it would be to just sweep Sarah up in his arms, carry her to bed, and do with her what they'd been doing nearly every day since the day he met her on that boat of hers. They'd wake up in the morning and she most likely wouldn't be upset with him, even if she didn't remember it.

But he extinguished that voice before it could really get going.

He knew what respect looked like and felt like, both giving it and receiving it. Everyone deserved that respect. And he'd never met anyone who deserved as much respect as the woman who was currently in his arms, humming thoughtfully as she tried to come up with yet another strip game most likely, a way to get him in her bed eventually.

Maybe she wouldn't get it now, maybe she wouldn't even get it in the morning when she was sober again.

But he wasn't letting her down like this. He wasn't letting himself down.

"Sarah?"

"Hm." She smiled up at him, tightening her arms around him and rubbing her front against his, even going so far as to bump him with her hips suggestively. Wow. Okay.

He took a deep breath.

"I think the game we play should be…one where we keep our clothes on. Like, um, what if—You know what?" he chirped, getting an idea. "How about you teach me how to play poker? That sounds fun. I'd love to learn. And you've proven to be a very good teacher, Sarah Walker." He gave her a warm smile.

She melted a bit in his arms. "That sounds kinda boring, but if you want to learn poker, I can teach you. I guess." She rolled her eyes teasingly.

"I'd love for you to teach me."

Stepping back, her arms sliding from his shoulders, she clapped her hands together, a serious look on her face. "Okay! We're teaching the video game nerd a card game! Old school! Let's do thiz. The…um…I think…I have a deck of cards in—th-there's a drawer…under the TV. Top drawer? I think. There'z an old deck there. Grab it, soldier. I will set up the poker table."

Chuck made a face, making his way inside of her house, her hand clutched in his, subtly guiding her back inside. She let go of his hand and smacked both of hers on his hips, squeezing affectionately as she moved past him. "You have a poker tab—? Oh." She was pushing stuff off of the coffee table in front of the couch, onto the floor, apparently not caring about the books and magazines enough to put them away, leaving them in a pile there. "Poker table. Got it."

"Get the cardz. You wanna learn, don' you?"

Chuckling, he nodded, wide-eyed, and hurried to get the deck from where she'd told him it would be.

}o{

"Okay, you're not great at thiz."

"Hey!" he chuckled, not offended in the least. He was actually great at it. Better than most. But for the purpose of his goal tonight, he was pretending to be terrible at it. "Look, this is very hard, okay? There's a lot of stuff to remember."

"Don't you do that coding shit with the numberz flitting acrozz the screen?" she asked, kneeling down next to where he knelt on her living room floor and leaning her weight into his side.

"Yeah, but that's—I mean, I've been doing that since I was a kid."

"And you can't figure out poker? You're so weird, Chuck. I'm glad I've found a dent in your Perfect Guy armor, though. It makes you more real." She leaned in and pressed a slow kiss to his cheek.

"Was I not real before?"

She blinked, a thoughtful look coming over her face. She looked tired. They'd been sitting here across from one another at her coffee table as she taught him poker for about an hour, they were getting into the morning hours, and he thought he just had to keep this going for a little while longer until she got so tired he could just tuck her into bed to sleep and miraculously sidestep having to blatantly turn her down. He didn't want to hurt her feelings. That would be excruciating.

"You're real, Chuck." She paused, putting a hand on his shoulder nearest her, then leaning her chin on top of it, a small smile on her face. "I'm sure of that now. It was touch and go for a bit there, though, I won't lie to you."

"Was it?" He gave her a dubious look. "I mean, the first time you met me I was cowering on your boat with a debilitating fear of the ocean. Honestly, the only reason I went down there was because I didn't want to let down the extremely beautiful scuba instructor. Purely about my pride. If you want more, I can give you more. I was fifteen years old the first time I chose a video game over a girl. Like, a living breathing human being. I was supposed to meet Carrie at this burger joint, but Morgan and I got wind of a surprise sale on this game I'd been waiting for to come out for, like, four years, so we went to the local Buy More and waited in line all day for this freakin' game, and I totally stood Carrie up. Her parents had driven her there and everything. She sat there for, like, thirty minutes waiting and finally called her parents for them to pick her back up."

"Wowwwwwwwwwww," she drawled, and then she laughed, her jaw falling open. "That'z pretty fucked up, Chuck."

"It's awful. I felt like a complete asshole, but not enough not to buy that game, so…" He shrugged. "But don't worry, the dating gods have cursed me for that day and I've been dealing with the repercussions ever since. My dating life has been a dismal failure for over a decade. Karma." He tilted his head. "See? I'm definitely a real guy."

"Wait, wait… I wanna hear more about teenager Chuck." She played with his hair.

"So is this a full house?" he asked, trying to distract her, aware that he'd dug himself a massive hole. Damn it.

"No. Chuck, tha'z two pairs. I've explained this to you, like, sizteen times. Why can't you get this?" She ruffled his hair with her fingers, smiling at him as if to let him know she wasn't actually upset. "If you had another jack, or another nine…"

"Oooohhh right right right, got it. I remember now."

He thought maybe he'd succeeded…but then…

"So Carrie, huh? I wanna hear more about the other onez."

"Um, there weren't really significant…other ones, Sarah. Hence the whole…dismal failure at dating thing that I just said."

"Oh, cahm ahhhhhn. You're a full package of cutenezz an' sweetnezz an' funninezz an' exceptional in bed-nezz." He gave her a wide-eyed look, trying not to let her get him with that almost predatory look in her eyes. That smirk. God, she was a menace. He was nuts about her. "Who hurt you?" she asked quietly then, her fingers stroking through his hair in a way that made him shiver.

He turned to look at her for a while. She'd asked him that seriously.

Ellie had warned him before about bringing this up. About talking to women he was dating about it. Especially because he'd been so stuck on it for so many years, stuck on her for so many years, drowning in the self-doubt and burning with rage, his chest stinging, still able to feel the ache of the moment when it all came crumbling down around his ears.

The shame. The agony. The depression.

It ruined everything whenever he brought it up, because he became a little boy practically, like dark magic or something, whenever he talked about it. A shell of himself. It sent dates running for the hills.

She'd been the relationship version of that storm off the shores of Seattle that fateful day. And it wasn't right or fair to compare a situation that had ended his friend's brother's life, and nearly ended his own, to a bad break-up. It wasn't fair to Victor's memory or his grieving family, to compare a college relationship's end to that.

And even though he knew that, a voice still compared the two. Jill had just wrecked him so badly.

"Uh, well…It hurt a lot when Blockbuster went bankrupt. That was painful."

She gave him a flat look. "Chuck."

"That didn't work, huh?"

"Nope."

"Okay, sorry." He cleared his throat. "As you might have already guessed, it…was a woman." He feigned a dramatic tone, raising his eyebrow and putting a hand to his chest, playing around, teasing, to cover up the rising embarrassment and shame he was feeling, the frustration that it still hurt.

But her fingers still combed through his hair as she just watched and waited. "I hate her already."

He laughed genuinely, then turned and leaned in to peck her on the lips, which seemed to please her greatly. "It wasn't that big of a deal, but you know, we're human. And humans can't really help the way things make them feel, you know?"

She kept stroking his hair, almost petting him, like his curls felt good against her fingers. He was perfectly fine with it because he found himself insanely comforted by the repeated gesture. "What happened?" she asked quietly.

"Ah, nothin' major. We dated for a few years in college, she broke up with me during finals week, last semester of senior year, and I took my finals under the dark cloud of a thoroughly broken heart." He blinked a few times and shrugged. "It wasn't her as much as it was the embarrassment, though, because she dumped me for someone else."

She wrinkled her nose. "Oh God, that does feel worz. I mean, I imagine it feelz worz, it never happened to me."

"Of course it didn't," he chuckled. "Typically, people who dump someone for another person do that because the other person is better, and there is no one, Sarah Walker, who's better than you."

She let her head fall to the side, her shoulders slumping, lips falling into a pout. "God, Chuck. You're so sweet."

He'd apparently earned her leaning in, her lips crashing against his shoulder sloppily, kissing him there. And it made him giggle. "Thanks. But I mean it. And she did find someone who was…obviously better than me. And I knew he was, which is why he always had some great girl hanging off his arm for…pretty much the whole time I knew him. But it still felt like a kick to the gut when I saw her with him at graduation. It just…felt to me like they'd been together before. I mean, they acted like a longtime couple, like they were together for a while, which I'm pretty sure meant they were together before she dumped me, ergo I was being cheated on for a while, probably."

"Oh, shit. God. Fuck." She hummed with pity. "Chuck, I'm sorry. She soundz horrible. She must've been so horrible."

"I didn't think she was, which ended up being a real issue for a while because I was still super stuck on her for some time afterwards. Anyway! I don't know why I told you all of that. I shouldn't have. Honestly, it's ridiculous that I did that, because I have managed to keep from talking about Jill this whole time and I almost made it! Almost! But I had to ruin it, just…blabbing about her to you right now. Gross." He shook his head at himself.

"I can't even believe it. I can't believe it!" she repeated a bit louder. "That she would—That people actually…do that shit. I'm sorry, but who the fuck 'z she think she is?"

"Well, um…" He cleared his throat. "I don't know who she thinks she is now, five years later, but then, she thought she was worth more than…I'm worth. Or, I guess, a better way to put it is that she found someone worth more than…me."

"No, she fucki'g didn't. Tha'z stupid. I'z a stupid thin' to say." Chuck blinked. "The fact that you still think that enough to say it now, yearz later, tellz me that she—she'z—she broke you or something, and that…pizzez me off, Chuck. She doezn't get to dictate…you…to yourself." She shook herself and tipped onto her ass. He had to reach out and steady her to make sure she didn't knock herself on the table. "Fuck, I suck at thiz when I'm sober, let alone…"

"Sarah, thank you. Really. It's incredibly sweet that you're trying to make me feel better, but it was in college, you know? And…stuff like that, it happens. If you saw the guy she ditched me for you'd probably understand her decision."

"Well tha' iz bullshit."

"I dunno. He was, um, popular…with women. GQ model and he had a bright super rich businessman future ahead of him."

But Sarah slipped a hand over his cheek furthest from her and gently turned his face towards her. "I'm…drunk. And you're the one who'z so good with wordz anyway, so thiz iz probably going to come out all wrong, but I'm trying anyway becauze I'm not okay with thiz thing tha'z happening with…um, what you're saying. About yourself. I hate thiz a lot. I mean, her. What she did. How it still meggz you say such mean thingz about yourself." She shook herself a little, and he watched as her blue eyes shifted to meet his gaze, and she pressed more of her weight against him.

"Chuck, she'z so completely irrevalent…irr..."

"Irrelevant?"

"That. To who you are…az a person. Az a man. She'z irrelevant to your succezz. I mean, the highly…succezzful…with yer company. She'z irrelevant to…to all the thingz I've read about BarTech in articlez I found online." Chuck gave her an interested look. She found articles online? "Yeah, ogay? Ogay, yeah, I'll admit it. When I found out the name of your company, I did some research. So…sue me." He wasn't going to sue her, he was going to adore her even more than he already had before.

"She'z irrelevant to how imprezzive BarTech iz, to how imprezzive you are." She began slurring a little. "She'z irrelevant to how…nize yer hair iz. And your eyez are so kind and…pretty…and safe. She'z irrelevant to…that. And she'z irrelevant to the way you meg people around you feel…" She took a deep breath, her face twisting up in thought and he wanted to hold onto her so tightly, it was so insanely endearing. "You meg me feel important. Not in a way, like, you can get stuff out of me, out of my existenze. Not like I'm a tool to get what you need." He frowned, not quite understanding what she was referring to with that specific point. "You make me feel lizzened to and rezpected and…worthy of…good thingz. She'z so…juzz…fucking irrelevant. To who you are. So fuck her and the…way what she did stuck to you. Yer worth a gazillion of…wha'z her fuggin' name again?"

"Jill, but, uh, the more you talk, the less I'm…remembering…" he breathed, slipping his arms around her waist and pulling her in closer. His heart was absolutely raging against his ribcage, aching to burst out of his chest.

"Yer worth a gazillion Jillz. An infinite number of her would never amount to you, Curlz. An' that goez for the sack of shit she dumped you fer. I bet if they're still together now, they're super unhappy and mizzerable. And look at you." She smiled.

"Yeah," he muttered, a dreamy grin spreading over his face slowly as he looked at her. "Look at me."

"Yer…relevant. Yeah, I'll stick wi'that. Yer very relevant. Yer you and tha'z a very…good thing. Because yer good. The best, even. And juzz, you know, on a more…I dunno, shallow note. Yer in Hawaii on vacation with this super succezzful tech company in yer pocket, staying in a swanky eggzpenzive hotel."

"I was more thinking about right now, literally in this moment… sitting on a beautiful, badass, brilliant, talented, super kind surfer woman's floor, wrapped up in her arms as she teaches me how to play poker…"

"Yer very bad at poker."

"Mmm. Maybe. That's okay, though. I'll live."

"Like, really bad."

"I get it. Thanks." He nuzzled her nose with his.

"Don' ever let the memory of that crapfaze girl make you say or think a mean thing about yourself again. Don' let 'er control…the way you see who you are." She dragged her finger down his lips. "A good kizzer. An' good at saying thingz the right way to make people feel good. And people like…Jewel…What a stupid name, Jewel."

"Her name's Jill," he chuckled, smirking.

"Tha'z a stupid name too. Fuck her. But people like Jill are, like, all over the plaze. And they're toxic and bad for people like you to be around. So don' even…think about her, okay?"

She looked at him for long enough, and with abject expectance, and he finally realized she needed an answer. "Oh. Okay. Yes."

"Don' juzz say ogay to me, Chuck Bartowsgee. I need an ogay that you feel inside you. Like, like a loud and rezounding ogay. With passion that you feel…"

"Inside me?"

"Yes, don' make fun of me." She gave him a look of consternation and he winced.

"I'm not, I'm not. You're just… Thank you. And okay."

"D'you feel that one? With passion? Don' think about 'er, don' let 'er shit that she pulled affect thingz now. She'z…irrelevant, she dunnit matter any—hic—more." She hugged him tight and was quiet for half a minute, before she mumbled tiredly, "Yer real and wonderful and…you're mmmm…" She mumbled something he didn't hear.

"I'm what?" he chuckled. "I didn't quite catch that."

But he felt the telltale heaviness in her and knew she'd finally fallen asleep. Chuck sat there for a few moments, letting everything she'd said wash over him, feeling like he could potentially lift her entire house off of its foundation, he felt so damn good. And, like she'd said earlier, she'd just made him feel…worthy. Knowing he made her feel that way felt even better.

Grinning, he carefully peeled himself out of her embrace and gently leaned her back against the couch, her head slumping onto the cushion. He climbed to his feet and crouched down to hoist her up into his arms properly, shifting her so that her head lolled onto his chest, and he carried her limp body down the hallway and into the bedroom.

He didn't want to undress her, but he didn't think the shorts she was wearing would be comfortable to sleep in, being stiff jeans and all, so he winced as he took those off of her, leaving her in her underwear and the shirt she'd been wearing. The shirt, he imagined, would be fine.

And he gently tucked her in the covers, fluffing the pillow under her head.

He leaned in close, his elbows propped on the mattress on either side of her, and he tucked a bit of her hair away from where it had fallen over her face. He was about to leave her alone to tidy up her living room a bit and bring the glasses in from outside, when he heard her say, clearly even through a mumble, "you're mine".

Chuck stayed there for a while, just staring at her, his insides melting, aware of his own feelings, quite aware of how intense and serious and real they were, and how much trouble he was in because the days were running out.

"I am," he said quietly. "Completely."

He pressed a kiss to her forehead and flicked off the light, moving about her house to clean up after them as if he was floating, even as a heaviness was settling in his gut.


A/N: I enjoyed Drunk Sarah almost as much as Chuck did, honestly. What a joy. I just adore her with my whole soul.

Please review. Thanks!

-SC