The Detective and the Tech Guy
Author: Steampunk . Chuckster
Summary: A case of mistaken identity and murder brings Sarah Walker, Pinkerton agent, to sunny California. Protecting the heir to the Bartowski Electronics Corporation should be just business - but Chuck Bartowski fills out a suit nicely and makes a mean martini. Chuck lobbied to hire the Pinkerton Agency, but had no idea the detective they'd send would be as alluring, intelligent and fascinating as Sarah Walker. Will the detective and the tech guy solve the mystery, distracted by the riddle in their own hearts? An homage to The Thin Man movies.
Disclaimer: No money is being made from this story. I don't own Chuck or The Thin Man series.
Author's Note: This is the end of this particular arc. I hope everyone enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing. And I have to be totally honest with y'all, and completely drop any pretenses of modesty for a second... This is probably one of the best chapters of anything I've ever written. And I'm pretty proud of it. Enjoy.
The Detective and the Tech Guy Versus the ExoBand, Part 6
The second they climbed out of Chuck's car, he had his phone at his ear. "Hey, Jamie! It's Chuck. Wassup, brother?"
Sarah gave him a bit of a look over the roof of his car and smirked to herself, listening to his side of the conversation as she turned to step over to her car that was parked next to his. She unlocked it and got inside. She figured she should try to turn the car on again while he was on the phone with the mechanic. And when it made the same sound it had been making all day, she swung herself back out and shook her head at him.
By the time he hung up with an appointment for the next morning, they were in his apartment.
"Sorry he couldn't squeeze you in today, Sarah," he said, shrugging his jacket off and draping it over the back of his couch. She just watched him, noticing how he seemed to be moving fast, like he was filled with adrenaline or something.
He was yanking his shoes off and.
Before she could comment on it, he continued.
"But the good news is I can get down to business."
Sarah just stood there, setting her briefcase down and peeling her jacket off slowly. "Get down to business? What…are you doing?"
Chuck was unbuttoning his cuffs and rolling his sleeves up, one by one. "Okay, so…Here's what I'm gonna need…"
"For what?!" she asked, half laughing, half exasperated.
"Oh!" He actually seemed to look at her this time. "Oh, right. You're new to this. I haven't done this in a long time."
Sarah just gaped as he finished rolling his sleeves and unbuttoned another button of his shirt, pulling it out of his pants and letting it hang there loose past his hips. "The hell are you talking about, Chuck?"
She was so confused as he seemed to ignore her again, walking over to the framed Tron poster on his living room wall near the large window that looked down over downtown LA. He quickly but carefully pulled it off of its hook and set it on the floor leaning against the wall and…
There was a safe. An actual wall safe that was maybe sixteen inches by twelve.
"I think I have a bottle of chardonnay chilling in the fridge, Sarah. Would you mind grabbing it?"
"You've had a safe hidden behind your Tron poster for the last two years and I had no idea?!" she exclaimed, her jaw dropping as he put in the combination and popped it open. He wasn't answering, instead reaching in. "Excuse me? Chuck? Hello? That might've been something I would've liked to have known about when I was a Pinkerton agent working your dad's case, trying to keep you two from being murdered, don't you think? A secret safe with secret things in it?" She shook her head. "Not to mention the fact that I've been your girlfriend for, like, a year and a half and I had no idea that was there."
"Whaaaaat? Sarah. Baby. C'mon. What else would I have behind my Tron poster?" he asked, making a face over his shoulder as he pulled what looked like a laptop in a hard case out of the safe.
"Um, nothing? The wall? Like any normal person has behind a framed picture they hang in their living room?" She shrugged dramatically.
Chuck scoffed. "Spoken like someone who's never watched spy movies from the nineteen-sixties."
Her eyes practically rolled right out of her head. "What is that, anyway? And why do you have it locked in a hidden safe?"
Chuck wiggled the case as he swung the safe door shut. "This glorious baby?" he asked, grinning toothily. But then he didn't answer because that was apparently his thing tonight. He set it down on the table by the window and grabbed a cushion from the couch, setting it meticulously against the chair back. "You mind grabbing that chardonnay? The bottle that's got about a third of it gone, if you could…"
Because she was curious, even if she hadn't given up on getting answers out of him, she huffed and walked around into his kitchen, watching him set up the area around the laptop case he'd put on the table for a moment—even seeing him shut the drapes over the window—before going into the fridge and grabbing the chilled chardonnay bottle. She went to the cupboard to grab a glass, and she heard his voice come from the living room.
"No, no. Bottle's fine. I don't need a glass. Frankly, it just slows me down."
She came out of the kitchen with the bottle in hand, her face looking like she'd just seen a horse with a chicken's head walk past her. "Slows you down doing what?"
As she set the bottle down on the table, he finally turned to look at her and smiled, moving to plant a kiss on her cheek, humming. "Thank you, Sarah. You're the best."
"The fact that I haven't given you a dead arm for not answering my questions yet is a testament to that."
"Hm?" He looked up, distracted as he put the combination in on the case and popped it open. "Oh. Right. So. Um. This might not…sound great. To you. Considering you're kind of, like, this super law abiding, law enforcing, badass P.I., and before that you worked for Pinkerton…"
"What might not sound great?" she asked as he delicately lifted a laptop out of the case. He gestured to the case with a tilt of his head and she helpfully pushed the case out of the way so that he could set the laptop down again. "What is all of this? And why the hell won't you answer my questions that seem pretty freaking simple?"
"You know the thing Detective Rizzo and I were talking about at the station? The emulator?"
"Yeah, the thing that clones programs onto another system and makes them think they're…er, something else." That was the best way she knew how to explain what she'd come to understand from that whole conversation.
"Yep. Good enough. You get it. I, uuuuhhhh, just so happen to have one. Weeeeeell, a few. Weeeeeell, more than a few. I kind of invented my own?" He winced. "It kind of isn't…the most legal thing I've ever done? Ummmm…also not the most…illegal thing I've done?" Sarah felt her eyes widen, her mouth fall open. "Am I in super big trouble?"
When she got a hold of herself, she shook her head and held up a hand. "Hold on. Illegal?"
"Yeeeeeees." He clamped his teeth together and gave a weak smile. "The important thing is that I have an emulator that will work on this Tuck guy's Play store. I mean, I can recreate it. And access it on this." He patted the laptop, its shiny cobalt blue case glinting in the sliver of sunlight coming in through the slit in the drapes.
Sarah pressed her fingers to her temples. "Chuck? The hell is going on?"
"Uuuuuuuum…I'll tell you after?"
"I feel like I want you to tell me now, though. Because you just revealed a wall safe you've had hidden behind your Tron poster for the past two years since I met you without me knowing about it, you pulled some laptop out of it that's kept in a case with its own combination lock, you just drew the drapes shut over your window before you accessed this laptop… These are all super criminal-y actions, bud, just so you know. Like it's all pretty damn suspicious. I feel like explaining later shouldn't be an option. I feel like you should be telling me now." When he just winced at her, she leaned in close. "Like right now."
"Can I do both at the same time?"
"Great. Thanks." He clapped his hands once, loudly, and sat down on the chair, squirming against the pillow to get comfortable, rolling his head on his shoulders, cracking his knuckles. And then he grabbed the bottle of chardonnay and tugged the cork out with his teeth, spitting it off to the side to bounce on his nice floor, before taking a big swig out of it.
Sarah gestured to the cork as it rolled to a stop by her feet, then looked back up at him with the most what the fuck look she could muster. "Who are you?"
"Piranha," Chuck said, opening the laptop, turning it on, blowing on the tips of his fingers, and typing in a long password to log onto the computer. "But you can't tell any of your cop friends."
Sarah blinked at him as he attacked the laptop's keyboard with his fingers going a mile a minute. The screen went dark, and that was when the symbols appeared. "What…the…?"
Chuck paused with one hand just for a moment, long enough to grab the chardonnay and take a swig, his eyes still on the screen as the other hand typed and hopped around on the keyboard. Then he set the bottle down again and attacked it. He was mumbling things she couldn't decipher, talking to himself, and then he laughed loudly, throwing his head back. He looked up at her, grinning. "Oh my God, it's like stealing candy from a baby. What's this guy's first name? You have a home address?"
"Uh…" She pushed aside the utterly mind-blowing confusion and shock and went into her briefcase, popping it open and grabbing the file. "Y-Yeah, it's here. Why?"
"He has no outside or inside protection, no firewall to speak of. I mean, for someone planning on committing a crime this is some novice shit." He laughed again and took another swig of chardonnay, before going back to it.
"Chuck, are you…?" She couldn't figure out what in the hell was going on with his laptop, but she'd seen enough movies and had worked enough cases to know what incredibly advanced coding looked like. Or…rather… "Hacking," she breathed. "Holy shit. You're a hacker."
He made a high-pitched sound of doubt in his nose and tilted his head, eyes narrowed. "I prefer to think of myself as a sort of…" He paused, holding his hand up with his fingers steepled as he thought. "…an ethical hacker. A white hat, if you will." He let out an evil little laugh. "Most of the time."
"What does that even mean? That's a criminal offense, Chuck. Did you crash people's computers? Tech warfare? Did you steal?"
"What?" He laughed. "No. Come on, Sarah. It's me. I just…had a little fun, that's all." His tongue poked out between his lips as he concentrated. "Like this…" he muttered. "Right now."
"What the hell are you doing anyway? You know, I shouldn't even be giving you this guy's name, especially not his home address."
"That steak guy revealed that the other murderer's name is Tuck, I just put the rest together. It's exactly what Detective Grumps-A-Lot and I thought, isn't it? Strangers on a Train? Except they used their ExoBand app and used the private texting feature to plan to…exchange murders, or whatever. That's what happened, right?"
Sarah stared for a long moment. "It's the chardonnay, isn't it? It's…giving you some…magic brain power?"
"It's my brain juice," he said, grabbing it and drinking more of it. "My BrooBrooJoo."
She was going to say something, but just waved it off with her hand. "Whatever. What are you doing?"
"You want access to his ExoBand app, right?"
"Well…yeah…" Things suddenly started to click. "Hold on. Chuck! You can't do this! You're not a police officer! You're a civilian! You can't get access to someone's private information like this! You'll be arrested!"
"Naaaah, they won't even know!"
"Oh, come on. I may not be a hacker or some tech genius, but I know there are ways to track down a device that does this kind of shady breaking and entering shit, Chuck."
He just shook his head. "This laptop is encrypted. I don't care how much money you have or what kind of crazy-ass brainiac hacking virtuoso you got in your back pocket. They aren't gonna track me down. Trust me. I've been doin' this since I was eight."
Sarah gaped. "What? You were doing illegal hacking at eight?"
"It…what? No. What?" He stopped and gulped up at her. "I mean, it wasn't…illegal then. Just…making Harrison Brewster's computer say 'Harrison smells like poops' during our fourth grade computer hour. He kicked dirt in my face; he deserved it." He shrugged.
"Holy shit, Chuck." She shook her head and chuckled in disbelief. "This…I'm…" What was she? She didn't know. She was gobsmacked. She was…a little shaky. She was filled with adrenaline, watching him type in…God, it was almost like an alien language or something, wasn't it? Some language sent into his brain from space. If only Chuck knew what she was thinking…It would break his brain.
And…well, she didn't want to break his brain right now. He was using it and she was afraid if she broke it while it was being used for this, she'd permanently break it or something.
"I can't be letting you do this," she said under her breath. "This isn't…right."
"You're gonna catch some murderers."
"Chuck, the police can't use…this…" But they could, couldn't they? She felt ill-behaved, but…if the detectives received an anonymous tip with some information…Well, it wasn't like they dug into Adam Tuck's private device, was it?
"Yes, they can," he chirped.
"And-And anyway, you need his email address…his password."
Chuck held up a finger for her to wait, went back to pounding on the keys for about thirty more seconds, and then he pulled his hands up and clapped with an adrenalized, "Woooo!"
It was the most sports-fan thing she'd ever seen from a man who tended not to care about watching sports.
Grinning like a madman, he let out a rough breath, a cocky look on his face as he clicked something and gestured to the screen, turning it for her to see better. "Got 'im," he drawled, crossing his arms at his chest.
Sarah furrowed her brow and leaned in to look. "What's—Oh my God. Is that…that's the Play store log-in page."
"Mhm. And it's a good thing Not-Friar Tuck has his passwords all saved on Chrome because…" He let out an evil chuckle and highlighted the little stars that appeared in the password box. He hit a couple of keys on his laptop and the stars turned into the actual letters and symbols. "Will you grab some scrap paper and a—Oh, you're on top of it," Chuck said as she scrambled for her briefcase without waiting for him to ask, yanking a blank paper out of a side pocket and a pen, slapping it down on the table next to Chuck's laptop, and scribbling the email address and password onto it. "At least he didn't make it 'AdamTuck123'," he said.
"How the hell did you even get access like this, Chuck? You're…I mean, you don't even have his phone. You don't have any of his devices. He lives in Pasadena. He's all the way over in Pasadena. How are you even accessing any of this?"
"Trick of the trade," he said with a big toothy grin. "It was too easy, though. I mean, he hasn't protected himself at all. It's almost embarrassing." He scoffed with a smug shrug. "This was easy." Sarah bit the inside of her cheek as he took another drink from the bottle of chardonnay and let out a long, "ahhhhh". Then he rolled his eyes. "This guy's stupid and cocky, thinks he's impenetrable and doesn't have to do two-step authentication." He snorted and reaching up to put his hands behind his head, leaning back cockily to smirk up at her. "Seems like the type of guy who also doesn't wear condoms 'cause it 'feels better without 'em'," he mocked. "Jackass."
Sarah's jaw dropped. "Charles Irving Bartowski, you are pretty fuckin' cheeky right now. Wooowww…"
He leaned forward and gestured excitedly to the laptop. "It's this. It's a rush. It makes me all confident and giddy." He rubbed his hands up and down his pants and giggled.
She bit her lip. "That's pretty cute."
"I have to be careful, though. I get too plugged in and go overboard with the BrooBrooJoo. It was worse when I was a teenager and hadn't built up a martini tolerance yet."
Sarah giggled because she couldn't help it. "How did you keep this from me for so long?"
Chuck shrugged and wrinkled his nose. "I mean, I…I just…This is kind of something from the past, ya know? I stopped playing around with this for the most part. For all the hacking community knows, Piranha is dead and gone. But sometimes I just…jump in…test the waters. For old time's sake."
"Also, when we started dating I was a Pinkerton agent who…kind of eats guys like you for breakfast," she said, playing with one of the curls on top of his head.
He sent her a doubtful look. "You never would'a caught me. Please. They tried. They couldn't ever catch Piranha."
"Wow. You are really cocky."
"It's for a reason. I'm really fuckin' gooood at this," he drawled, smoldering up at her. Then he reached over to his keyboard and hit enter.
"No! Chuck! God! There's no going back from that! You're—I mean, this isn't…" She huffed. "I was going to say this isn't right but I'm eighty-five percent sure in my gut that this piece of shit murdered Greta Olsen and had Brian Vinton murder Leonard Van Sant. So fuck his right to privacy."
"That's my woman!" Chuck exclaimed, and they both leaned in, Sarah leaning over Chuck's shoulder to get a better look at the screen. "Oh, look. Here's his ExoBand—Wait, he has a Tinder account." She knew exactly what was coming even as he spun to look at her with wide eyes. "Sarah…Sarah, can I—?"
"No, Chuck! We don't want him to know anyone was on his device, remotely or otherwise."
"I can't even change the details in his dating profile? Saraaaah, you're no fuuuuun," he whined.
"Hey. You're basically a criminal, bub, and you're dating a private investigator. You better play it real cool or you might find yourself being arrested by your girlfriend someday." She leaned down further and teased the rim of his ear with her lips. She felt him shiver against her. "We're gonna have to talk about this seriously, though. Later." She squeezed his shoulder as he nodded, at least looking a little contrite. "But for now, open up the ExoBand app and let's see if his messages are in there still."
"Considering how cake it was to hack his passwords, I'm just gonna assume he wasn't thinking anybody would look at his ExoBand texts. Five bucks and a massage says he didn't delete 'em."
"You're on, except I find it funny that a billionaire just unironically bet me five bucks."
"And a massage. Some things money can't buy. A Sarah Walker massage is one of 'em. I'm expecting full-body."
"Horndog," she chuckled, ruffling his hair. "Just look for the texts."
He clicked through a few things, then pulled up the messages. There were a lot of people Adam Tuck had talked to, a chatterbox apparently, whereas Vinton had deleted any of the text conversations he'd had. Chuck clicked through a few of them, some of them were flirtatious with women, others were about basketball, golf…
"There. There, there!" She pointed at his screen without actually touching it. She'd learned early on in their romance that he hated when people pointed to things on a computer screen and actually touched it. She'd trained herself out of it when he gave her the flattest look ever. It had been that honeymoon-ish phase when they only saw each other here and there for a few days and the tentativeness was still there, that inner desire to impress him, to do the right thing, not make any mistakes or do anything he didn't like, for fear he'd decide she wasn't worth all of that long-distance yearning and the difficulties that went with it.
"This?" He highlighted the name. "VinnieBri78?"
"That's his username. That's Vinton." Adrenaline coursed through her, her fingers and toes tingling. God, this was it. That sensation she got when she had the case solved. "I'm pretty sure you're going to be getting a full-body massage."
"And five bucks," Chuck added in a distracted mutter, earning a half-amused look from her as he pulled up the messages. He shifted back from the table and moved his leg towards her in cute, silent invitation and she sat on his lap. He wrapped his arms around her so that he could slowly scroll as they read, his chin propped on her shoulder.
There was a lot of feeling one another out between Tuck and Vinton, for about four days…and then it began to break down and get a little more heated. There was a lot of agreeing about the merits of vigilante justice when the law didn't come through for "guys like them", which made her roll her eyes. As if they didn't belong to the most privileged group on the planet. And that was when she saw Adam Tuck's "I could kill the fucker for what he did to Berenice."
"Keep scrolling," Sarah whispered and Chuck kept going, a little faster this time, as if he was just as excited as she was. She devoured the conversation, as psychotic as it was, as horrific as it got the more they spoke. There was a three day break with no conversation, and then they dove back in again and…there it was.
"Holy…shit. They're really doing it," Chuck whispered. "They're planning murders."
"Okay, fuck this. We can't let these guys get away with this just because we don't have a police warrant to seize this asshole's phone," she groused, climbing up off of Chuck's lap and starting to pace. "I could just…I could go in with all of this and just say it was some anonymous tip emailed to me. We could set that up, like it was an email. I take it to the others, they check it all over, they arrest the guys for murder."
But Chuck was nibbling on his lip thoughtfully. "Mmm. No. No, no, that'd be suspect, don't you think?" She shrugged. How else were they going to get this evidence of tag team double murder to the LAPD?
"I'll do it."
"What?! Like hell you will!" she snapped. She put her hands on her hips and looked at him like he was crazy. "Let the LAPD know you're Piranha or whatever, some big time hacker they'd love to toss in prison? No fucking way I'm letting that happen."
Chuck gulped, blinking up at her. "Yeeeah, I wasn't thinking prison. I don't think I'd do too well in there." He cleared his throat and squirmed in discomfort. "I don't mean I'm gonna just be like, 'Hey, y'all, look what I did over the weekend! Cool, huh?' I can send an anonymous email to 'em from this encrypted laptop, use an untraceable email address, ping the signal off a few far away wifi towers, and they'll have everything they need without knowing who sent it. Or where they sent it from."
"Is that really gonna work?" she asked, still worried.
"Ha! Haha! Is that gonna work?" he muttered sarcastically. "O, ye of little faith, Sarah. Ye of little faith." He cleared his throat at the flat look she gave him. "Yep, it'll work."
"The ease with which this is all, like, suddenly occurring to you is a little suspicious, I gotta tell ya, Chuck." She leaned against the table, facing him, and tilted her head, narrowing her eyes. "Almost like you've given cops anonymous tips like this before."
Chuck pursed his lips and widened his eyes. "Hm? Noooo."
She narrowed her eyes even more. "Chuck… Have you…?"
"Honestly, the second things started clicking in my head at the station and I put the pieces together with the little tiny bits of information you were all super careful not to give me, I was thinking about doing this."
She recognized that he was purposely diverting attention back to this particular situation instead of answering her question about whether or not he'd tipped police off by doing some hacking work of his own. She was fifty/fifty. He seemed like he was more than capable, but…holy shit, it was a crazy thing to wrap her head around. All of this was pretty insane. She'd let him have this, though. They could revisit the conversation later. And oh, she had every intention of doing just that.
"And you just happen to have Detective Casey's email lying around?" she asked.
He shook his head. "I'll get it to them. You'll see."
"I'll see?" Sarah asked, crossing her arms. He was doing something on his laptop then, tapping away, clicking, typing some more, his fingers a blur. "What are you planning on doing?"
"Nothing now, because it's done." He clapped his hands together and stood up, stretching his arms over his head. He groaned a bit as she stared at him, gaping again. She didn't think she'd ever been knocked on her ass so often in such a short span of time before ever in her life. And she'd seen some shit in her twenty eight years.
"It's…done? What did you do?"
"I used a heavily encrypted email address—a different one than what I used to use to pass info around, I don't necessarily want them connecting this with Piranha after he's been absent for so many years—and I sent them a tip."
"What?" She stood up straight and turned to look down at his laptop as he shut it and pulled the case over to put it away again. "Chuck, I have been working with police officers my whole…career." She paused, realizing how easily she'd almost slipped. She pushed away the mess of nerves and regrets and other things. "That's eight whole years, or more really if you count the partial law school education I got. You don't think maybe I'd be a good person to run your vigilante hacking by before you send it? Like, how to phrase it so they can't parse through it and figure out that maybe the tech genius they just had standing in the room with them two hours ago, the same guy who explained needing an email and password, who told them about emulators and how easy it would be to get access to Tuck's Play store using them, is the guy who most likely sent them that hint?"
She felt a cold sweat starting to break out. He was trying to help her, help the case, and he'd potentially just fucked himself over. She still didn't know how deep Chuck's foray was into the hacking world, how much of it was criminal, how much of it would get him tossed in prison if they could prove he was involved in any of it. She was completely in the dark about this incredibly brilliant man who was suddenly way more of a mystery to her than she ever thought before. There were secrets she didn't know, secrets he seemed like he might not tell her. He'd purposefully skirted over some things and she wondered, if she pointedly asked him about them, if he'd answer…
And for some reason, she didn't feel at all offended or hurt by that. Instead, in spite of the danger of all of this, the danger of whatever it was that he did in his past…she found the whole of this revelation about her boyfriend's life, his skill sets, captivating. Even arousing.
What kind of terrible detective was she for being turned on by a man who could have potentially engaged in criminal activity? She couldn't even excuse herself for it by insisting the whole white hat ethical thing made it better. He'd most likely broken a lot of laws, and as early as in his pre-teens. Like a little…mischievous mastermind. A virtuoso.
Chuck slid his hand around her waist and moved in close. "I read people, Sarah. Maybe not as well as you do. I think you're a lot better than I am, but I'm better than the average person. I make a point of paying attention. And…I've done what I need to do to cover my bases. Our bases. The most important thing is that two men will be arrested and tried for the murders of innocent people."
"You're not going to tell me, are you?"
He glanced to the side and nibbled his lip. "It isn't that I don't trust you, Sarah. I just think my way will be, uh…a little more fun."
The way he said that, his voice low and quiet, his brownish gold eyes flashing with mischief… She'd had enough of this. They could talk more about his internet criminal enterprise later. They could talk about protecting themselves from potential curious minds at the station later.
Sarah cupped his face and pulled him down for a searing kiss, making sure he felt how much she wanted him. He whimpered quietly when she pushed her hand under his shirt and grabbed his belt buckle, and then he pulled back from the kiss, pressing his forehead to hers and grinning.
"Wait, wait…Hold on…" She bit her lip and looked up into his eyes as he continued breathlessly, awe and a tinge of cockiness in his handsome face. "Are you turned on by what I just did?" he asked.
"What do you think?" she asked, unbuckling his belt oh so slowly as she met his gaze.
"I think that Sarah Walker, P.I. is a big ol' do-gooder who has a secret kink for vigilante hackers. You should be ashamed of yourself." He grinned happily and it sent heat through her. She bit her lip harder to keep from grinning back.
"Not yet, but check back with me in a few hours."
The grin dropped from his face and his eyes widened. She dropped his belt behind her with a loud thunk and he let out a slow breath, a low whistle emitting from his lips. "You really do have a thing for vigilante hackers. Wow. If Pinkerton could see you now…"
"Just one vigilante hacker, and he'd better take me up to his room right damn now before I shove him onto the floor right here." He made a thoughtful face then. "What?" she prompted.
"I'm trying to figure out if that would be a bad thing or not."
She twisted her lips to the side and fought back the giggle. He dove in to kiss her hard then, his arms wrapping her up in a strong hug, pulling her in tight, and she let all of her weight fall against him.
When he finally pulled back, she could feel the intense desire she was feeling being reciprocated, she could see it in his flashing eyes, the way he clenched his jaw. "Is this the part where my girlfriend arrests me?"
"Shut up," she laughed, grabbing onto his shoulders and jumping up into his arms, wrapping her legs around his hips. She kissed him again as he held her up, one hand cupping her backside, the other around the small of her back, and she felt him moving towards the stairs. Apparently he'd made his decision, and she was glad he'd chosen the bed.
He distantly felt and heard her rummaging at the foot of the bed. He felt that good ache in his limbs, mostly in his legs, and there was a low ringing in his ears that was slowly clearing, a buzzing in his fingers and toes, and a residual pleasure in his midsection still throbbing, making itself known. But the swish of the sheets and duvet of his bed being moved cut through the noise and buzz, and then he felt it all settle on top of his limbs that were bare and chilled by the cool air in his condo, pulled up over his chest to his shoulders…
And then there was the warm, incredible weight of a magnificent woman draping half of her body over his, wrapping her arms around him and pushing her face into the crevice under his chin. She let out a long breath and he shivered at the feeling of it against his skin. His lips stretched into a slow, satisfied smile.
Sarah hummed, her voice crackling deliciously. "What are you smiling about?"
And yet he could hear her own smile in her voice. It made him smile harder.
"I've just never seen you like that before, that's all."
She pushed herself up just enough to be able to furrow her brow down at him. "Like what?" she asked, a bit of an upwards tilt to the corner of her mouth.
"You were…kinda wild, there, P.I…. I mean, we didn't break anything this time, but it was on par with Paris. No…" He shook his head, gazing up at her with a mixture of awe and smugness. He couldn't help it after the last hour and a half. "This was something else entirely…It was like I was being…" He wracked his brain. "There has to be a better word out there for it, but I can't think of it because you've momentarily killed my brain functions, but you attacked me. In-In a good way. You've never done that before." She blushed vibrantly and glanced away, biting her lip. "Don't get me wrong. Like, more of that, yes please. I loved every last second of it. It's just I've never seen you like that."
The look on her face was almost shy then as she rolled her eyes and bit the inside of her cheek. "Okay. Well…" She swallowed audibly. "A woman can't take control every so often?"
"Oh. Sarah." He chuckled. "After two years, you should know by now that I have no problem with you being in the driver's seat. By all means, take whatever the hell you want," he said, gesturing with a swipe of his hand to his whole body. "I'm all the way for it. Vehemently for it." That made her snort and blush again, shaking her head as she tucked some of her wild hair back behind her ear. "I just think that there's an element to that, uh, role play that we engage in somewhat rarely that's a little more, ahem, real now that you know about Piranha. And you wilded out on me because of that."
Sarah's eyes widened as she gaped down at him. "Wow, Chuck. Wowww."
He craned his neck a little to look up at her better, shrugging. "What? That's just what it felt like to me. That's all I'm saying. I was teasing about you having a law breaker kink, but the sex we just had sort of confirmed it."
"You're being pretty presumptuous I think, tech guy." And even though she smirked a little, he thought maybe he'd upset her, or maybe the thought of that being the truth upset her. And he thought he probably shouldn't have crossed that line. Maybe he should've kept that in his head.
"Wait, hold on." He pushed himself up to prop his back against the pillows. "I was just teasing you. I don't actually think you have a kink for bad guys or something. It was—I'm just flirting."
Sarah snorted and shook her head, laying her hand on his chest. "I know. I know, Chuck. And yeah, admittedly, it is kind of a turn on, so I guess what you're saying might be, erm, a little right. I maybe did sort of, erm, attack you." She winced.
He had to fight to keep that from going to his head. "You bit me."
She went bright red and pursed her lips. "Yes. I did. Sorry."
"Oh God, do not apologize. Never apologize for that!"
Sarah giggled quietly and shook her head. "Okay. Look, it's just…you. It's not some fetish I have for criminals or something. It's…" She huffed. "I need to just get to the bottom of this, though. We were so caught up in you getting that information from Adam Tuck's phone and making sure the anonymous tip got to the LAPD, and then, uh, everything that followed after… But I need some specifics, even if I'm…pretty sure I know the answer. I hope I don't offend you by asking. But the hacking that you did, it-it was…law-breaking. Wasn't it? You broke laws."
Chuck knew she'd ask questions eventually. He'd weighed his options even while they were still at the station. Because he'd hidden that aspect of his life from everyone for two decades. And the first person he'd be telling was someone who had spent her whole life upholding the law, whose entire career was about putting law-breakers behind bars. He was opening himself to injury in a big way, exposing himself, making himself vulnerable to some pretty bad outcomes.
He'd thought hard about it as the LAPD detectives explained their quandary to him, looking for some sort of way to get that information without breaking the rules of their own profession and opening themselves up to a lawsuit, or a judge throwing a case out because of their methods to obtain information for the prosecution. If he let Sarah in on the fact that he'd been a hacker for a good chunk of his life, someone who had regularly broken the law, done things he could be arrested for if they'd known where to find him, he would be breaking a promise he'd made to himself a long time ago. He'd promised he'd never tell anyone. It was the only way to keep himself safe.
But he'd gone behind his Tron poster, opened his safe no one knew about, pulled out his encrypted laptop no one knew about, and he'd gone right back to hacking. He'd done it all in front of his private investigator girlfriend. His ex-Pinkerton detective girlfriend. He'd done it all, fully aware of the potential consequences.
And it had been terrifying. But he'd done it anyway.
That day she'd walked into that office with her recorder and stack of folders, all business and seriousness, he couldn't have known then that this woman would be the first person he told about Piranha. God, that was so crazy.
And instead of being in prison, he was tucked into his bed with her after over an hour of the best sex he'd had in his entire twenty eight years of life. His existence was so blessed it was out of control. But he also knew he would have to answer a lot of questions. He didn't begrudge her those questions. It would be unfair of him. So he just nodded quietly, steeling himself.
"Yeah. Full disclosure, a lot of them. I broke a lot of laws."
Sarah lifted her eyebrows and sighed, her blue eyes looking off to the side. "Thank you for being honest with me about it."
"I'd never be dishonest with you about it. With literally everyone else? Probably. Definitely. But not with you."
She smiled just a little. "That feels big."
"It's pretty big, yeah. I hope you're okay with that." He said that slowly, looking up at her through his eyelashes, gauging her reaction.
She nodded, looking a bit shy. But he saw sincerity there too, resolve. Thank God.
"What…sorts of things did you do, though? Just-Just so that I can…have an idea, uh, the gist of it, you know, in my mind."
"You want me to set your mind at ease that you're not dating a bad person…" he filled in.
But she shook her head. "No, Chuck. That isn't in question. There's no doubt in my mind you're the best person I've ever met. I know you. I'm not worried like that. I know you aren't the kind of hacker who sends phishing emails and holds people's information hostage for money. That isn't you. Not even a small part of me doubts you on that count."
He tried not to let her see the relief he felt at how seriously she'd just said that, how much she so obviously believed he'd never do anything like that, things that hurt innocent people to make money off of them. But she saw it. He could feel it in the way she looked at him. And she apparently felt the need to lean in and kiss him warmly, reassuringly.
"You're still expecting me to answer that question, though, aren't you?" he asked when she gently pulled back. She gave him an amused smile and wrinkled her nose with a nod. "Yeeah, I thought so." He chuckled and squirmed a bit in discomfort. "I mostly just got into things to, uh, get into them. Exposing cracks in security systems, revealing flaws in programs. I never did anything once I got in. I didn't steal even though I could have. Easily," he admitted. "I was sort of tempted once. It was when my dad was struggling, when the family was struggling and things were so tense and just felt bad. It could've…well, the money would've been good and it would've been enough to help get Bartowski Electronics what it needed to have a platform to start from. I didn't do it, though. And I'm pretty glad I didn't."
"Me, too," she said, raising an eyebrow.
"Piranha became legend status because I could get in where nobody else could. And I think they had a proper amount of fear and respect, but also, I was not appreciated by government officials at all. I never did anything to harm them. But the fact that I could if I wanted to probably freaked them out. They could never track me down, though. I was too good." He shrugged. "And anyway, government coders plugged up the holes I found so nobody else could exploit them. So you could say I helped."
She shook her head slowly, eyes wide. "Holy shit. Y-You just said…government, like, twice."
Chuck wrinkled his nose and clenched his teeth, wincing. "Uhhh. Yeah. Yeah, I did."
Maybe he was going too far with the honesty? But it was too late to retract it, too late to retrace his steps. He just had to move forward now and hope…
"I…maybe broke into a few, um, intelligence…agency…databases. Just-Just to look at stuff!"
Sarah pushed herself to sit up properly, the sheet falling to her hips as she looked at him, properly shocked. "Are you just messing with me? Because if you're just messing with me, I take back all the nice things I yelled in the last hour."
He knew it wasn't probably the most appropriate timing, but he couldn't help but laugh anyway. Just a small laugh. But she gave him a certain look in response, and he clammed up really quick, clearing his throat. "Uh, sorry. No, I'm-I'm not messing with you, Sarah."
He knew she could probably see how uncomfortable he was admitting this, and how completely vulnerable he'd just made himself.
"You broke into intelligence agency databases?" She turned away from him and pulled her legs into her chest, wrapping her arms around them. "Oh my God, Chuck. If they knew, you could…I mean, that's…years, Chuck. Years in prison. That's insane! You're insane!"
"Yeah, I…know it probably wasn't…advised. Yes, I do realize that's an understatement," he amended as she gave him a flat look. "I just…I'm good at it. And I'm even better at covering my tracks. I was already long gone by the time they even realized there'd been a breach. And like I said, I helped them, technically! Because…their engineers strengthened… Am I in a lot of trouble? Are you about to call NSA on me? I haven't actually gone into DHS or NSA or any of those other guys' systems since I slipped into my position at the corporation. I didn't have the time and-and I knew that fucking around with that stuff could ruin more than just my life if I continued doing it while I held such a high position in the family's company."
He could feel himself spiraling as he sat up and leaned to the side a bit to look her in the face. She just kept staring straight ahead, looking…stricken almost.
And then she blinked and let out a long breath. "I can't believe this," she mumbled. "I'm in love with a man who's successfully hacked into government intelligence databases on more than one occasion without being caught."
Chuck shrugged. "I'm not super proud of it."
"Oh, come on. Yes, you are. That's stupid levels of impressive, even if it is insanely illegal and even more dangerous." She sent him a look. "I'm just…in awe. Both because I can't even fathom having that kind of…skill," she said, shaking her head, "but also because that is some serious cockiness, breaking into something with top level government security and thinking, 'Oh but I'm good at this, they won't catch me'. I mean, the absolute gall…"
He cleared his throat. "I do get…sort of…cocky. But I'm just…that good. I mean, I'm not saying I'm the best in the world but…some have said that." He shrugged and tilted his head.
"You're a complete and total mindfuck, Chuck Bartowski. Do you know that? I mean, this…all of this…" She waved her hand around, gesturing to his body. "It's a total mindfuck. I think I have you figured out and you reveal that you're some kind of…Jonny Lee Miller, except, like, the super hot and rich version."
"If you're referencing Hackers, Jonny Lee Miller gets caught. That's, like, the whole starting premise of the…movie. Right, that's beside the point. Sorry." He cleared his throat, then leaned in and slid his hand over hers. She turned her hand over to thread their fingers together and sighed. "I know this is probably really crazy for you to hear, what with you being a Pinkerton agent for so long and now a private investigator who sometimes works with the LAPD."
"Chuck, this is crazy for me to hear as a person. A human being. It's just plain crazy."
He nodded. "Yeah. Good point. I-I just want to know if this…er, revelation has, I guess, changed your perception of me. If it's made you… How do I say this?" His mouth wasn't really formulating the right words. Or was it his brain? A combination of the two? "If it's made you rethink…things. Or, um, us."
She giggled quietly, which confused him. And then she pouted a little and slipped her hand over the back of his neck, rubbing him there in that way that automatically made everything feel okay. "Chuck. You dummy. Of course I'm not rethinking things. Or us. I just watched you hack into a man's exercise app thingy and anonymously send the tip to the LAPD in less than half an hour annnnnd then I dragged you to bed where I proceeded to properly devour you." Chuck felt the blush on his own cheeks this time. She really had devoured him. Properly. But he felt like he'd devoured back. "Am I totally shocked and a little freaked out that you have pulled some really serious hacking shit in your past? Yeah, definitely. That's out of control crazy, Chuck. And I'm not gonna get over that anytime soon. But hell no is that affecting this. Us." She crawled closer to him and settled beside him with her knees folded under her, leaning in to wrap her arms around his neck and hugging him tight, her face pressed into his hair. He held her back and nuzzled her ear with his nose, shutting his eyes.
"So we're okay, is what you're saying," he murmured, squeezing her.
"Of course we are," she said immediately, leaving no doubt in his mind. He was so relieved he almost felt dizzy. "I'm not going to run away from you anytime I learn something new about you. We're more than that."
"I love you," he said, pulling her gently so that she was on top of him and lying back against the pillows again, taking her with him and hugging her tighter. He pressed his lips to her forehead. "You have no idea just how much."
"I love you, too, Chuck."
And they stayed there for a while, neither of them speaking, both of them trapped in their thoughts. Both of them wondering just what the other was thinking.
Sarah was sitting on the other side of Casey's desk the next morning, waiting for him to show up, when it happened.
He'd rushed into the room out of one of the side hallways with Rizzo and Cutlet in tow, all three of them with harried looks on their faces. Well, their individual versions of harried looks.
"Walker. There you are. In here." Casey gestured to the same room they'd been ducking into for some of their case discussions and she hurried to her feet to follow them inside, shutting the door behind her.
She was more nervous than she was letting on, and she hadn't slept a wink last night in spite of how reassuring and comforting sleeping with her arms around her boyfriend usually was. He typically set her at ease enough that she fell right to sleep. Not last night. Because what Chuck had told her about himself had caught up to her. There was no sex to distract her, no long talk… She'd been forced to come to terms with the fact that if Chuck was just a little less skilled at hacking, he'd probably still be in prison for one of his numerous offenses. He'd be a legitimate criminal. She probably never would have met him. And her life wouldn't be…well, this. It made her incredibly unhappy to think of a Sarah in some alternate universe who was living a Chuck-less life.
He'd promised that he'd sent the tip about Adam Tuck's play store password and email to the LAPD anonymously, but she wondered if they'd found out it was him anyway. It wouldn't take much to put the context together. But had he covered his tracks enough that the evidence just wouldn't be there?
Had they brought her in here to tell her they were arresting Chuck for illegal hacking?
She was on the verge of breaking out into a cold sweat. She would lose everything for it, all of this, but she'd fight tooth and nail to protect him from whatever they tried to throw at him.
"We got everything we need to bring them both in. Vinton and Tuck. For murder. We have enough evidence that they both had enough time in the midst of their alibis to slip away and strangle both Greta Olsen and Leonard Van Sant."
Casey sat fully on the conference table and crossed his arms as the others fell in next to him. It felt like they were all facing her. An intervention. A reckoning. It increased her unease.
"That's good! But didn't you need access to Tuck's ExoBand app for that? I thought we couldn't get into it. At least…not legally," she reasoned as if she had no idea how anyone would be able to do it legally, as if she hadn't literally sat there and watched Chuck do it the day before.
"We got access," Cutlet said with a shrug. And then he smirked.
"Wait, you did? How?"
Rizzo spoke up this time. "Someone sent me an anonymous tip that opened the door, so to speak. I didn't actively do it myself, so we're free to dig through the bastard's messages to our hearts' content. And we got a load of messages between Tuck and Vinton planning their murders, grisly little fuckers."
Sarah pulled back a little and crossed her arms. "An…anonymous tip. Like…somebody just…?"
"She won't tell us who it is, if she even knows," Casey groused, sending his detective a look. "Which is her prerogative, but I'm still gonna be pissed about it."
"Hey, you don't reveal your informants, and I don't reveal mine." She turned and looked right at Sarah then. "An anonymous tip. Somebody sent me an email and password."
"They sent it…to you?"
"That's…" They exchanged a look neither of the men picked up on and Sarah felt warmth pooling in her midsection. "Weird," she said, smiling just a little at the other woman.
"Sometimes detective work is utterly bizarre, Walker, and we just have to roll with it."
She knew. Detective Zondra Rizzo had gotten that 'anonymous' tip and she'd put together that it was Chuck. Probably. Most likely. They'd had something of a techy mind meld the day before in this same room, an understanding that had gone over everyone else's head.
And now she was protecting her source. She was protecting Chuck. Was it for him, or was it for Sarah? The P.I. couldn't help but wonder what with the smidgeon of respect that had been growing between the two of them. Or did Rizzo respect and appreciate what Chuck had done for the case, and the way he'd successfully used a loophole in the system to make sure the evidence wouldn't be inadmissible in court, and now she was thanking him for it by not turning him in?
No matter what her reasoning, Sarah was so grateful she could hug the woman. Holy crap, she really could.
"Well…I suppose congratulations are in order," she said with a nod. "Good work team?"
"I hate having this solved by a friggin' anonymous tip, but whatever. Catching murderers is good," Casey said with a shrug. "Either way, we're moving out now to make the arrests. We have the warrants."
"I'll stay back and get this place ready for the guests of honor," Rizzo said with a smirk.
The other two men nodded and split, but not before Casey turned at the doorway. "Thanks for the help, Walker. I'll see that you get paid by the end of the week."
"Thank you." She nodded and watched as they left, and then she slowly turned to face Detective Rizzo. Would she bring it up? Should Sarah? Or should she just leave?
"That guy of yours is insane," Rizzo muttered quietly, shaking her head and lifting an eyebrow.
Shit. She didn't even know the half of it. But Sarah wasn't about to say that out loud. "Yes, I…know. For the record, he just…did it. I didn't tell him to."
"Figured as much."
"And yet he sent it to you. Not to Casey or Cutlet. To you." Sarah paused, crossing her arms and narrowing her eyes thoughtfully. "Why?"
Rizzo smirked. "He knew I'd know what to do with it. Nobody else on this team even knew what an emulator was. All I needed was what he provided me with and from there it was pretty easy to make the rest happen. It was enough to get me my warrant and I'm about ninety-eight percent sure it'll hold up in court. I'd say thank you, but I'm not supposed to know who that anonymous tipster is." She narrowed her eyes. "He some kind o' hacking wiz?"
"He's just really into coding," Sarah said, keeping her features neutral.
"I'm just going to accept that and not dig any deeper. So long as he never gets in my way. Deal?" She stuck her hand out.
Sarah met her smirk with a warm and genuine smile, then shook hands with the other woman. "Deal. And…um…thank you. His safety means more to me than anything."
Rizzo snorted and started for the door. "You've got a whole lot on your hands, kid. The guy's a powder keg. Saw it the second he walked in here. If you're planning on him being it, the rest of your life is gonna be a lot of you reeling him in."
Sarah smirked at the woman's retreating form, and because nobody could see her, she felt the smirk spread into a grin. "I know," she said to no one in particular, and she grabbed her phone to call her powder keg and give him the news.
A/N: Oh she knows. Does she EVER. Of course there's more Detective and the Tech Guy to come. Seeing hits on this fic, seeing how many people are reading it, and reading reviews definitely helps me find the wherewithal to sit down and write what's in my head. Thanks to everyone reading and reviewing so far. Hope everyone is wearing masks and socially distancing still. Be safe. Please.