Fic Title: What Fates Impose
Author: Frea O'Scanlin
Link(s): FFnet, ebook formats
Rating/Warning(s): PG-13, S1 spoilers
Genre: AU, Action/Adventure, Romance, Spy Thriller
WIP?: In progress
Why This Must Be Read: As a show, I've always felt that Chuck held a lot of promise, but that the writers fell down a lot on execution. This fic takes the things I had problems with and reworks them awesomely. As it stands right now, it's a 50+ chapter epic AU that's like Chuck rewritten as several really excellent novels with forthcoming sequels. It follows through on the darkness that canon only ever implied or handled badly, including things like an approach to Chuck's first kill that is so satisfying after the epic fail of Chuck vs. The Other Guy and the total lack of subsequent fallout. It gives Sarah and Ellie the narrative time and respect they deserve as characters, refusing to keep Ellie in the dark past the point where someone as smart as she would have realized something's going on. It adds nuance to Chuck and Sarah's dynamic. It's epic white knight!woman/damsel in distress!man stuff, but with the full acknowledgement that there are many ways to be brave and heroic, and that physically taking out a room full of guys is just one of those ways. Frea's Chuck is brave and heroic in his own way, through his resilience, loyalty, compassion, and one or two believable combat skills. It's freaking fantastic. She's not in a hurry to move past the inner conflict Sarah faces over being Chuck's protector while falling in love with him, and the problems of Chuck needing to rely on Sarah so much and how that pushes them together but also keeps them apart is well handled. The story kicks ass in concept, plot, characterization, dialogue, plotting, prose... basically, ass is kicked all across the page.
You can read the main story in either web or ebook form at the links above. It's Chuck POV, but the author does Sarah POV side-stories. The one I'd most highly recommend is the prequel. I jumped straight into the main story before reading it, and that way works pretty damn well, but if you want more background it would be good to start with the prequel, I suppose. There's another fic that's meant to be read after certain chapters of the main fic here. There are others as well, the chronology of which you can see explained in her FFnet profile.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!