Posted July 24, 2022
A/N: When we left them, Chuck and Sarah had a "first date" interrupted…again. The first time they were interrupted on this third first date, people died. Anything less might not have stopped a determined Sarah Walker.
The second time, they were interrupted by the same person who stopped the first date, Casey. This time, Sarah didn't take too kindly to it. The first time, she pointed a gun at Chuck as a ruse, then pointed a gun at Casey. She didn't shoot anyone. This time, it wasn't a ruse, so she did shoot Casey.
Chuck had been gone less than a minute, and Sarah already missed him. Last fall, Devon joked that they were attached at the hip, but unfortunately that was not true. She didn't want to think about what might have happened if she came to the date later. One thing she knew was if Casey had killed Chuck, she wouldn't have stopped knocking him unconscious. She would have killed the NSA agent.
She Chuck and Sarah had been running around without shirts on, so Sarah had reluctantly let Chuck go back from Casey's apartment to his own to get them. Putting clothes on was the opposite of what she wanted, but Chuck was her asset again, so there were rules. Things were simpler a couple years ago when she could simply "burn off steam" with her partner. She couldn't do that with Chuck, though, because he was her asset, not her partner.
Maybe she could get permission for Chuck to be attached to her hip for his protection. That would be easier. A mental image popped into her head of a short rope tied between their waists. That was a little funny, but she wasn't a funny person, and it wouldn't be allowed anyway.
She just had to wait. Chuck would be safe going twenty yards across the courtyard. Casey said he had been ordered to kill Chuck, which meant the order had to come from Beckman. The general had no reason to send backup for Casey. Casey's reason for being in LA was very highly classified. Any backup might find out about an illegal assassination order on American soil…of an American. Sending backup would also mean that Beckman didn't trust Casey. Sarah wasn't sure she believed Casey's assertion, but he was supposed to have a perfect record, so he wouldn't stand for anyone questioning whether he could follow through with an order.
Sarah had to take care of the unconscious man in the room, before she could focus on Chuck. She couldn't focus on him the same way as the beginning of their date, but any way would be have to be good enough. She placed a call to her emergency mission number. Considering the ongoing crisis in DC, she didn't know who would get it..
"Agent Walker?" It was Assistant Director Johansen again. "I told you to keep doing what you're doing. We're busy here."
"There's been a development that is strongly related to your situation."
"That's welcome news, because we're at a loss to how something like this could happen. What did you and Agent Casey discover?"
Sarah had never met Johansen in person. After Budapest, she barely trusted her now dead mentor. She wasn't about to trust someone new who might not have full authority. "I don't know you, and while you might have Director Graham's responsibility tomorrow morning, at the moment, you don't have high enough clearance."
"Agent Walker, if you have information about what happened here—"
"I'm standing over the unconscious body of the last person to handle the Cipher before transport to DC." If Johansen had a brain, he'd figure out who that was and what kind of inter-agency fight this had become. "You need to call your boss."
"It's late here."
"With what happened, he'd be up. I'll call back in ten minutes. If he's not available, I'm calling his boss or his boss's boss, who we both know doesn't have a boss." After implying that Sarah didn't talk to the Director of the CIA, she would call the Director of National Intelligence or the President, she hung up. If Johansen knew what was good for him and wanted to remain "Acting" or even "Assistant,: he would make the call.
A few seconds later, there was a knock at the door. On the security video screen, Sarah saw it was shirtless Chuck. She let him in and resigned herself to the fact that with her renewed job as his handler, she wasn't going to get to see her asset like that again anytime soon.
Sarah and Chuck put on their shirts. Fortunately, Chuck had also brought her shoes, which was a good idea considering all the broken glass all over the floor. Casey still wasn't moving. They'd have to treat his hand sometime, but at the moment, she couldn't make herself care if the sniper's hand never healed properly.
She said, "I need to make a call in eight minutes to Graham's boss. I called while you were gone and got Graham's acting replacement. He knows I have a mission in the US and who I'm working with, but he doesn't have clearance to know you have the Intersect."
Chuck didn't seem to be processing what she said. He was looking at her the same way he did when she was standing in her bra. Looking into Chuck's eyes, she knew the feeling. It was hard before. In a way, the Lon Kirk misunderstanding made it easier after the docks. The "reset" after the Bryce Bomb no longer mattered because they had fresh memories of tasting the forbidden fruit. This time... Chuck blinked a couple times and shook out his head. "Do you want me to set up a video call from here?"
"It could be compromised."
"Why would Casey's system be compromised? Do you think Casey was working for Fulcrum?"
Earlier, Sarah had said that to Casey, but it was no possible. Casey would never disobey orders. She explained her thinking. "He said he was following orders. That means Beckman ordered you to be killed. You're an American citizen and have Constitutionally protected rights. As someone who has carried out assassination orders, I know that no one, not even the President, has the right to order the assassination of an American citizen without a trial. If you were in the middle of committing a crime, that's different. We can do what we have to to protect innocents, but you weren't an active threat. I know because I was on top of you, and we were, you know…" Chuck turned red. She always liked him in red. Pointing over at Casey's workspace, she said, "This system is what Casey used to talk to Beckman."
She thought for a couple seconds and realized the flaw in her reasoning, "Actually… If this betrayal goes all the way to the top, then it doesn't matter. I'll run with you to keep you safe."
Chuck didn't understand what she was saying. "What do you mean 'run?'"
"I mean if I suspect anything during this call, we get into my car and disappear. I told you at the end of our first date that you couldn't run from 'us,' but we can run from the NSA. Before joining the CIA, I spent my life running. I've learned even more since the CIA found me." That would be a conversation for later. She just needed Chuck to trust her.
"Ellie and Devon and Morgan… They're family."
"Family is the people you always want to keep safe. If you have to, you stay away from family to keep them safe."
Chuck was processing the implication. "I always want you safe. You keep me safe. Are you saying we're family?"
He was getting it. Her dad was in prison, about to be paroled, but he was safe where he was. She wasn't sure if she wanted to see him, but she wanted him safe. Sarah couldn't see her mom or the baby ever again, for their safety. Chuck was safest with her. She wanted to surround Chuck all the time to make sure he was safe. That was the only way she would feel safe. With a woman and a man… There was a conventional name for that, a marriage, but when the woman was a CIA spy and the man was her asset, they weren't conventional.
She didn't deserve conventional, so she would take whatever she and Chuck could have. She simply answered, "Yes, but we don't have time to talk about it right now." Chuck was more concerned about leaving the family he already had, so she added, "It won't come to that. Set up the call."
Chuck did his computer thing. He said it was easy because Casey's computer was already considered part of the "secure NSA network," so it could call the head of the CIA from within the NSA network. Sarah didn't ask Chuck how he got past Casey's password. It's not like she hadn't hacked a computer or twelve since becoming an agent. She didn't know that Chuck could do that, but considering he was a computer genius, she wasn't too surprised.
While Chuck was doing his thing, she slid Casey's dead weight up onto his solitary chair. She knew where Casey's supplies were, so she tied him up with rope and zip ties, and she injected him with a tranquilizer dart to keep him unconscious. His right trigger finger was broken from how the gun twisted out of his hand when she shot it. She stopped the bleeding, but she didn't worry about splinting his hand.
Chuck connected the video call to CIA Director Hayden in his office. Surprised, Hayden said, "Agent Walker? Johansen informed me you would be calling. I thought you'd call from your cell, so I didn't expect a video call. This says you are calling from an NSA terminal. I know you are working with the NSA. Is that him?" he asked, meaning Chuck, who was standing at her side.
As Sarah had suspected, Graham's boss, the Directory of the entire CIA, knew why the CIA had a mission in the United States. She wasn't a bit surprised because before being appointed to his current position, he was a four-star general, Director of the NSA, and then Principal Deputy Director of the DNI.
"No. This is Chuck Bartowski."
Hayden whistled. "I heard about you, Mr. Bartowski. I can barely believe there's an actual human Intersect."
Sarah couldn't help but gush about the person who was her asset and was almost something else. "It's sometimes hard to believe he's real, but he is. Chuck downloaded the first Intersect when it was destroyed. The Beta Intersect was supposed to be downloaded into agents tonight."
"Makes sense. They're trained."
"They wouldn't be as effective," she said. "In one year: prevented a bomb from killing General Stanfield and bringing down a hotel high-rise in LA, uncovered an NSA scientist who sold secrets to the North Korea, identified an elusive international arms dealer MI6 couldn't capture, seized a diamond that was going to be used by terrorists, got China's top spy to defect, stopped a bomb at Santa Monica Pier, and recovered stolen nuclear codes. Also, I'm sure you heard about Lon Kirk. Those are just the highlights."
"I've seen your reports and mission logs. All very impressive. You and NSA Agent John Casey are extremely prolific. A small part of me thought your reports were embellished to justify your continued presence in the US. It's hard to believe one team is that effective."
"All of that was possible because of Chuck." Sarah thought she might be signing Chuck praises too much, but it was true. "Agent Casey and I were assigned for protection."
Hayden cut to the point of the call. "You said Johansen didn't have clearance. What's this call about?"
Sarah could tell when someone high up the chain wasn't buying it was all Chuck. How many more miracles did Chuck have to pull off? However, convincing a non-believer wasn't the point of the call. "The Beta Intersect downloads were supposed to make it so Chuck would no longer have to work with us. Chuck recovered the Cipher twice to help achieve that end. Agent Casey and I rescued him both times, but without him, we wouldn't have found it. The first time, Agent Casey lost the Cipher back to the original people that stole it. Afterwards, I asked him if Chuck had anything to worry about from him, and he said no. After Chuck recovered it again, Agent Casey was again in charge of transporting it to the Beta Intersect."
"Are you implying John Casey had something to do with the Intersect explosion?"
"I don't know. Before tonight, I would have assumed Fulcrum—Do you know what Fulcrum is?"
"As much as anyone. I see what you're saying. Since they have infiltrated multiple agencies, he could be Fulcrum. You said you didn't think so before tonight. What changed?"
"Chuck and I were having dinner together because my time on this mission was coming to an end." They were supposed to have dinner. The fact they didn't make it past the couch was not pertinent. "Presuming the Beta Intersect downloads were going to work, General Beckman of the NSA ordered Major Casey to assassinate Chuck. I was at Chuck's home, and my primary mission is still to protect Chuck at all costs, so I stopped Agent Casey from murdering Chuck."
During the call, Sarah thought Chuck had been good, staying quiet. He continued being helpful by turning the camera next to the TV to show Casey unconscious on the sofa.
Hadyen asked, "Is he dead?"
"No, Sir. I broke a finger in his hand when I shot his weapon out of it. Currently, he's tranquilized and zip-tied."
Since Sarah shot Casey, every second she had either been thinking about Chuck or working out how to explain shooting her partner. She didn't know how Casey's actions could be justified or how hers couldn't be. She continued her debrief. "Before I knocked him out, Agent Casey said he had orders. Knowing how meticulous he is, I'm sure he has a recording of the orders. We're standing in his apartment, speaking from his workstation, so we have access to any recordings of the orders. I was present when Director Graham said to Chuck, I quote, 'Enjoy the rest of your life.' I am well aware of the fact that the Director was no choir boy. Even if he changed his mind about Chuck or meant a short life, he had no authority to make orders to an NSA agent or Marine major.
She explained more, "Whenever the source of the order, the order itself was illegal. Chuck is an American citizen. Not even you, Sir, or your boss's boss has the Constitutional authority to order the assassination of an American citizen without a trial. Trying to do that to a hero makes me question whether Casey or maybe his superior, General Diane Beckman, is Fulcrum. I never thought that before tonight, but they could have been turned very recently, so I'd have no reason to suspect."
Hayden said, "Diane used to report to me. She's quite a piece of work. While I wouldn't have thought she would do something like this, thinking about it…it doesn't surprise me. She wanted to be 'in charge' of everything."
Chuck had remained quiet, but he didn't stay that way. "Sarah, your orders about me hadn't changed, had they?"
Why did he have to point out that they shouldn't have been going on dates, kissing, and a second from doing a lot more before her mission had officially concluded? She only took Chuck up on his invites to the second and third first dates because she thought the end of her mission was certain, meaning no rules would remain. Fate insisted on putting up another barrier.
Sarah started to send Chuck a look to shut up, but then she realized something. Chuck wasn't comfortable talking about that stuff, and in this instance, he wasn't blushing. That meant he wasn't talking about the same thing she was thinking. She trusted him and said, "No. My orders are to protect you with my life. They weren't rescinded." She smiled. That's what he meant. "I was following my standing orders when I stopped an illegal assassination attempt on your life."
Chuck nodded. That was the answer he was looking for. "That could mean Graham didn't know what Casey was going to do. Or it could mean Graham didn't have a high opinion of your ability to protect me. I personally would never think that because I've witnessed you in action many times. A third option is Beckman ordered Casey to his death to be killed by you, tying up loose ends. You messed up her plans by not actually killing him."
"I understand your dilemma now," Hayden said. "We don't know whether General Beckman and Major Casey are Fulcrum, but even if they aren't, they can't be trusted. I'm ordering General Beckman to be arrested in DC and a team to collect Major Casey where you are. We'll need to secure that location."
Sarah said, "As his partner, I have full access to his apartment."
Chuck volunteered, "I can help with the computer things."
"We appreciate your continued patriotic assistance, Mr. Bartowski," Hayden started. "You've already gone above and beyond. While we greatly appreciate everything you've done, after something like tonight, we don't expect—"
Chuck interrupted the CIA Director. "It's no problem at all. I don't know why Casey would kill me and don't think he's Fulcrum, but I trust Sarah and will do whatever I can do to help her." Sarah doubted he would do whatever she told him to do. He'd do whatever he thought. Chuck was helpful, but would never stay in the car or the kitchen, even if she told him to stay.
Hayden smiled and said to Chuck, "I've watched all of Agent Walker's video mission logs. Good stuff. Without talking to you, I really didn't believe the logs weren't embellished because I wouldn't think one team could accomplish so much in such a short time." Sarah was very embarrassed. After her report about the docks, she was convinced that Graham wasn't watching them. She never imagined Graham's boss would find them entertaining. "I know the CIA disrupted your relationship a few months ago because Agent Walker has been posing as your girlfriend—"
Chuck cut him off. "Sarah and I are completely professional." He held up his hands and made quotes. "She's my 'beard.'"
"Oh. I didn't realize. With that deli shop owner, I assumed it ended because we interfered, but that explains why it didn't last long. The official policy in the service applies here: 'don't ask, don't tell.'"
"No. No. No," Chuck quickly said, "Not that kind of 'beard.' I just mean she's my… They call me her asset. She's my handler. We're a cover-couple."
Hayden was confused. "That makes about as much sense as trying to assassinate an American protected by a Federal agent who has worked with the secret service. We call foreign citizens who give us information 'assets.' They have to be cultivated so they are more loyal to us then their own country. That doesn't describe you. We also use the term 'asset' for disposable soldiers, weapons, and vehicles in the field. As the only successful human Intersect and as someone who has saved countless lives, you are by no means disposable, Mr. Bartowski. You've been nothing but an invaluable member of the LA team. A field analyst would be a more accurate label, but field analysts don't have as many accomplishments as you've had in their full careers. Whatever your situation, we've been an imposition on you by forcing Agent Walker into your life."
"You're not forcing."
Sarah was good enough at reading people that she could tell the instant Hayden jumped to another (unfortunately) incorrect conclusion. He said, "Oh. I didn't realize. You two?"
"No. We haven't." Chuck blushed this time. "Well…almost…earlier tonight, but then everything happened." Sarah couldn't believe that Chuck actually said all of that about them. Fortunately, nothing had happened or she would be reassigned away from Chuck. Because they stopped, she could remain his protector.
"I see. I don't know what Director Graham was thinking about Agent Walker's assignment and Mr. Bartowski's cooperation. He can't say anything about it anymore, and I outrank his replacement, so here's what I propose…" Hayden had a gentle smile, like he was about to give good news. Sarah wondered what that proposal would be. She hoped she could stay as Chuck's protector. She didn't trust anyone else to keep him safe. She'd have to take her own measures. She'd park in a car across the street if she had to.
Hayden said, "When AD Johansen officially takes Director Graham's position, I'll make sure he continues the operation in LA. General Beckman will be charged and imprisoned. Agent Walker, you obviously care about Mr. Bartowski's well-being, so if you agree, I suggest you protect him 24/7 until future arrangements can be made. Do whatever you think is best for your cover-relationship." Sarah couldn't believe what she was hearing. A couple seconds ago, she thought she was going to have to sleep in her car on the street to protect Chuck, regardless of CIA approval.
It got better. "The 'asset-handler' classification shouldn't have been used. It's more accurate to call it 'protector-protectee,' which I know has many of the same relationship restrictions. Asking for a long-term cover-relationship while forbidding a real one is foolish. However, I strongly believe in 'don't ask, don't tell' for all types of relationships. As long as you 'don't tell' about anything under the cover, I won't ask. Whatever happens could be for the cover or it could be under the cover. Don't tell anyone." Now, Sarah really didn't believe it. It was like she was dreaming.
"Most importantly, you two are adults who have proven your abilities and long record of working for this country. If it becomes too difficult for some reason, be an adult and tell Johansen so he can make alternative arrangements. Any problem with that?"
Sarah's voice was stuck in her throat as she restrained herself from jumping up and down in joy. Graham's boss, the Director of the CIA just said she could have everything she wanted. She managed to calmly say, "No problems, Sir." She looked at Chuck, and he stood there quiet and wide-eyed. "Chuck?" she prompted.
"No. Definitely. No problem at all. That sounds great."
"Good," Hayden said. "I know this has been an imposition, but your country thanks you. Now I have to arrest a general, and I'll order the LA office to collect your prisoner. Feel free to contact me again if you have any future concerns." He disconnected.
Sarah looked over at Casey, who was still out cold. She shyly looked at Chuck. Did he fully understand what this could mean for them? Instead of one last night of fun with Chuck before going to Jakarta, she could have fun nights with him as long as they both wanted it—as long as it didn't appear in her mission log.
Chuck tentatively asked, "Did I understand that right? You're not going anywhere, and I'm no longer your 'asset?'"
"You're my 'protectee.'" Chuck's face fell. "And you're anything else you want to be under the cover as long as we don't tell anyone who knows I'm a spy. As your 24/7 protector, I say we stay here until someone collects Casey. Then I make sure you are always protected, even when we sleep. We can continue where we left off before that evil phone call and never leave bed because that's the safest place."
Chuck looked back at her with an expression that she couldn't describe. She had to be misinterpreting. She didn't understand what would make anyone look at her like that. There was only one thing to do with a face like that. She put both hands on the side of his face and solidly kissed him. He kissed right back with everything he had. Earlier tonight they were making good use of a sofa, but this time, there was only a chair, and it was occupied by an unconscious traitor.
After a minute, Sarah put her hand on the middle of Chuck's chest to stop them. "We have to stop before Casey wakes up. We are getting back to this."
When Casey woke, Sarah pointed out three things to him: any order to kill an US citizen who had not committed a crime nor was in the act of committing a crime was illegal, Graham had no authority over him, and any attempt to kill Chuck before she was dead was a suicide mission. The NSA burn-out replied with a single grunt. She didn't know whether it was an acknowledgement that she was right or an indication he didn't care, but she found herself not caring what her former partner thought.
While waiting for Casey's jailers, Chuck and Sarah ate and enjoyed the chicken pepperoni, which he hadn't burned. The Mexican and the dumplings of the first two first dates were objectively better food because they were made by chefs who cooked for a living. The ambiance was a toss-up: Mariachi band, Colt's imposing team, or traitorous partner who tried to kill Chuck. The company was top notch every time. This third first date was better overall because the date was not going to end early.
Chuck and Sarah agreed that Casey was worse than Bryce. A year ago, Bryce killed a Federal security guard, but Casey tried to kill Chuck multiple times, and in Sarah's book, any attempt on Chuck's life was worse. Bryce had arrogant and misguided intentions, but he thought they were good. As a Marine, Casey should have known it was his duty to not follow an illegal order, and he shouldn't have tried to kill a hero. In Bryce's favor, his treason made it possible for Chuck and Sarah to meet.
After Casey was taken away, Chuck and Sarah got a lot further than they did before the fateful phone call. Sarah couldn't run around in a bra and bare feet again because she wasn't wearing anything. The idea of running out of the bed in which Chuck was naked was something she didn't want to contemplate. After the wonderful part of the date, Sarah's brain was too mushy to think about ever leaving Chuck's side.
Best date ever!
The next morning, Sarah was doing her job protecting him even while she was naked, with her arm and leg over the top of him. She could tell the instant Chuck woke. To Chuck's credit, he knew she was awake, so he asked "What's our cover now?"
"Under the cover, we repeat what we did last night. Without Casey living nearby, we need to protect you better. Orange Orange is a front, so it's easy to make my work schedule line up with yours. I don't live nearby, so we need to fix that. Do I need to ask you to move in with me, or should I move in with you? Either works for both above the cover and under it."
Sarah didn't get an answer in words, but she understood Chuck's answer well enough. They were naked in bed together, so his answer involved less talking and was more enjoyable. It was all the evidence she needed to stay in Chuck's bedroom with him as much as possible.
A/N: Hayden was actually the CIA Director in 2008 and had those previous positions. The show talked about the real President Obama, so consider Hayden in this chapter a fictional version of the person in that position (who had nothing to do with Snowden because that wasn't part of the show).
What now? Casey got a dark cell which was roomier than a wall in Costa Gravas. Beckman missed her regular rendezvous with Roan Montgomery, and he didn't care because he could deploy the Montgomery on flight attendants. Bryce didn't jeopardize his cover as the Intersect by going to a soiree where there's a Fulcrum agent. Instead, Sarah acted like a spy and simply stole the chip from Von Hayes. Jill didn't have a chance to get in the way of Chuck and Sarah's happiness. Sarah moved in with Chuck. She learned a lot about being a real girlfriend and guided him in the spy world. Charah remained very happy.