summary: Exhausted from the events with her mother, the baby, and Ryker, Sarah takes a break and turns down Graham's next assignment. With her not there to intervene, Casey's Intersect plan is realized- Chuck is thrown into a bunker. When she learns the truth through a twist of fate, Sarah realizes all she missed out on in taking that mission, and the gift she never got to know.

note: So, here's a new story. Saying it now just to be upfront: this fic isn't finished yet. I've got a good couple chapters done, but finding time to write is a struggle right now. I'm doing a lotta stuff, all the time. That aside, I like this story, and what I've got so far, so I decided to finally be like most other authors here and just post as I write stuff, rather than forcing myself to finish a whole story just to post it. I know where this fic is going to end up, but don't know when, so hey, that'll be a surprise for all of us. If I get other inspiration, maybe I'll post other things while this is going, maybe not. It's all up on the air, woo! Please leave a review if you liked this anyway- we all say it, but they really keep us going. Thanks.

disclaimer: I don't own Chuck, numbered rooms, retina scans, or utter surprise.

"Filling in the blanks and gaps... I need you to pencil in the rest."

She sighs as she looks down at the file in her hands, the photo of this man, a small smile upon his lips, just a hint of self-deprecation within the little turn-up at the sides of his mouth. She can tell from this photo that he's in some sort of uniform, shirt, tie- a regular civilian job, she supposes. His eyes are warm and brown, his hair in tangled curls upon his head, a little childish, maybe, yet oddly endearing. He looks... sweet. Genuine. Real.

Because Chuck Bartowski is real. He is probably genuine.

She's the one who isn't- at least, that's how it feels, lately.

With just a quick scan of his information, Sarah gets a handle on who he is pretty quickly. He lives with his sister, calls her more often than most of his friends, excepting one, who the file notes he's had regular contact with for over 20 years. He lives in Echo Park, and he hasn't moved for five years. He indeed works at a Buy More, which explains the uniform. There's a note about Stanford and being expelled, but it's the only blip in the file. Other than that, he seems like a regular, stand-up citizen. He's stationary and settled. He's a civilian. But he's also a person of interest- a potential asset. Depending on what he knows, what the CIA are after him for, his life is probably about to change in the wildest ways.

And Sarah's supposed to be his handler. She's supposed to be part of that change. She'll have to meet him, find a way into his life, which probably means seduction. Meeting him casually, wrangling a date somehow, spending time with him to glean information. She'll likely have to lie a ton, mislead him, hurt him, at least a little. All to figure out whatever it is the CIA needs from him, whatever knowledge they think he possesses, if any, that warrants his being handled.

These are common methods with an asset, ways to meet them, find out what they know, bring them in, handle them.

And yet she's so tired of that. So tired of this, the jobs that touch and hurt real people. People like the baby now secretly safe in her mother's arms. God, the pain is still so fresh, the tears almost still stinging her cheeks from where they fell, as she stood by the porch so very recently, talking about prom and a life barely lived. Her own.

She's not sure she can hurt someone else, so soon.

So she swallows, looks up at her boss, and something in his expression tells her he already knows what she's about to say.

"Sir, I'd like to request this assignment go to someone else. After Bryce disappearing, and everything with Ryker as my handler, I'm... I'm not so sure I'm the best agent to be a handler right now. There are other agents qualified and trained in this, handling assets. I'm..."

"You're still dealing with the Ryker situation," Graham concludes, and she nods tightly. Admitting weakness is rare, turning down assignments even more so, but she's Graham's best, and she's long since known that that gives her liberties and abilities other agents often just don't get. She can say no. This is just the first time she's felt brave enough to do so. Graham nods. "Very well. I'd wanted the CIA's best on this, but I'm sure another of our agents will do fine, too."

With a deep breath, she nods again in relief, acceptance.

"Thank you, Sir. I- I am ready for another mission, though," she says without hesitation; she'd just told Graham he isn't going to lose her, after all. This is her job, it's all she knows. She can't walk away. Even if she perhaps wants to. "But, maybe something more by the book."

He smirks, reaches to another folder on the desk and offering it to her.

"A simple in-and-out extraction," he explains, and immediately relief fills her. "A man we've been monitoring has stolen a weapon, you're to get it back."

"Yes, sir," she says happily, taking the folder from him, opening and scanning its contents. They're familiar to her- a trip to Spain, a simple attack. It's exactly what she needs, right now, to get her head on straight, to clear her thoughts and confusion about this job.

This, she can do. She's sure Chuck Bartowski will be fine.

Someone brushes into her side, arm bumping solidly against Sarah's, and she holds back a wince at the pain as she walks down the hallway. The other agent continues, blissfully unaware. And so Sarah keeps going, too, breathing through the ache like a good spy should. Never show weakness, never show anything is getting to you- even a gunshot wound. Rolling her eyes at such expectations, she grumbles to herself as she walks through the base, spine straight, expression steeled.

In the almost two months after the baby incident, Graham had spared no missions her way, giving her everything she could take. Extractions, meetings, shadowing, running around the globe, she did it all. By herself, rather than with her partner; with her so often busy, she'd had to hear of Bryce's fate just through the spy grapevine. Rumors. It all escalated so fast. When she'd been sent to Ryker, Bryce had been missing. After that, he apparently went fully rogue and blew up some part of the DNI after stealing something highly confidential. He'd died in the process.

After the hit of Ryker and his betrayal, knowing what Bryce had done felt far too much like a one-two punch for Sarah. And so she tried to ignore every whisper about Bryce Larkin, every confused angry sad feeling even just his name sent through her, and tried to focus on herself, her missions, her work instead. And despite herself, she got more reckless from place to place.

Spain went smoothly enough, in, out, signed, sealed and delivered. Tangiers was a little dicey; she'd had to shoot her way past her targets, but she still recovered the stolen cash as required. Dubai was messier still- the rogue agent she'd been tasked to find had gotten the better of her, until she'd managed to find him and immediately had to kill him before he killed her. Then there was Chile. She'd been captured, tortured a bit, but she'd gotten the information she needed and then managed an escape. But her captors caught up to her just before the CIA rendezvous, and they'd spared no mercies. Most of their bullets had missed, but not all. She took a shot to the shoulder, needing backup to bundle her into the helo while agony engulfed her. Although the bullet luckily missed the most vital bones and joints and things, it did enough damage: she's out of commission for at least a month while she recovers.

And so here she finds herself. In a secret D.C. base not far from the DNI headquarters, surrounded by fellow agents, laboratories, holding and interrogation cells, all underground. The place runs deep, filled with secrets. And Sarah, is stuck doing paperwork for at least another three weeks.

She's often mused she should've just taken that handler assignment Graham offered her those months ago. But that would've led to the same thing, she's sure: being stuck in one place, still doubting her place in this life, at this agency.

Because all those missions, all those places, they did nothing, they didn't help her clear her head one little bit. In fact, they all made it even more hazy. She used to think she was doing good, here, saving people, ensuring national and international security. But now, risking lives just for some stolen CIA cash, having to kill agents who have gone rogue but otherwise endangered nobody...

She still thinks about that baby she'd saved. How, if the CIA had had their way, the little girl would've been taken into agency custody, and ended up god knows where with god knows who. How very dangerous it all could've been.

Sighing, she stretches out her aching shoulder once more, shifting the folders in her hands as she continues walking through the underground base, on her way to deliver these files to the right agent.

All the hallways look the same here, she's begun to think. Just long endless grey walls, corner after corner. The stairways are that plain painted iron of every government building she's known, important entrances are guarded by armed men. There are doors and doors, all marked with security and sequential numbers. A158, A159, A160, A161, and so on and so on- and then a blank door. She pauses, looks at that one, tilting her head as she tries to spot the difference between it and the others. A161, this strange unmarked door, and A162.

The door itself looks identical to all the others, light grey within the wall, no different in shape or size. But there's no number printed upon it, and, she notes, the lock is different. There's still the hand scanner, same as all the others, but there's a retinal device, too, plus a slot beneath the hand pad that she presumes holds something else.

It's odd. To have such a different door within this same, boring base, for the CIA to give it extra protection within an already secret and well-protected location. It's important, significant, clearly. But, having dealt with all the paperwork for this base, knowing its dull, monotonous day-to-day, having been here a while already- that there is something specifically in need of extra protection here is news to Sarah.

She thought she knew about it all.

And now she's curious.

Looking around, seeing surveillance, obviously, but no other agents around to directly stop her, she shifts the files in her arms and frees her good, right arm, reaching out to the scanner. She's sure it won't work, if there's this much security, but it's worth a shot anyway. Setting her palm down, she waits the customary second or two, expecting it to buzz in that negative way all devices do when access is restricted. She can't help but jolt in confusion, then, when it beeps clearly and the retinal scanner lights up, ready for her. With a frown, she leans in, and the laser shines out and scans her eye. After another second, something slides out from that slot, and she once more frowns at the screen she's now seeing, displaying: Identify.

"Um... Agent Sarah Walker?" she asks, seeing the screen track the waves of her voice, but yet again, it simply accepts her.

And then the screen flashes 'Identity Confirmed', and to Sarah's complete surprise, the door slides open.

She has access. To a room and location she never even knew existed.

Gaping, she looks at the space now before her. It's a simple light white hallway, with two closed doors on either side, left and right. That's it. Instinctively, she steps forward, and she jumps as the door rushes closed behind her. Shuts her in.

"Hello?" a voice says, and she tenses, clutching the files in her arm closer while reaching to the small of her back and curling her free hand around the gun there, just in case. This is a CIA base, and these rooms seem to be an especially well-protected section of that base, but she still needs to be prepared. Because she doesn't know what she's about to meet here, but they'll probably be armed, too. Maybe it's a mass-murderer. A global terrorist the agency are questioning. Perhaps it's an interrogation room filled with torture devices.

Swallowing, she steps forward, eyeing the light coming out from below both closed doors. She has no idea what this is, what she's accidentally stumbled upon but has also been allowed access to, and she feels her pulse race a little, a mix of nerves and anticipation.

A shadow finally passes by the door on her right, and she tenses, spins toward it.

"Hello?" The voice asks again, much louder and so much closer this time, and she steels herself. The man talking is behind that door, probably about to open it and likely greet her with a weapon of some kind, demand her name and rank and why she's here, but the answer to that last one is simply, she doesn't know. With a click, the door swings open. "Major Casey is that- Oh."

She blinks at the person standing in the doorway. Behind him sits an office, well if artificially lit, generic artwork hung on the walls, a large computer and desk set up there, too. But that's not what she's interested in.

Because she recognizes this man. The curly hair, the lips that had turned into that self-deprecating smile. He looks paler, now, a little thinner, too, his eyes more tired. And yet, she sees as he brings up a smile, so open and honest.

"Hi." he greets, and she blinks.

"Chuck?" she asks, stunned.

The very asset she'd turned down handling, is here, in this base, locked up in secret, hiding from the world. And she has no idea how or why.

note: Annnd, there's our summary! Yes, this is my take on a bunker fic; more of that kinda info in the next chapter, probs. Again, see y'all in a bit, don't know when! Please review!