A/N My gratitude to all the new and continuing Chuck readers and writers out there. I'm very glad to see all the new stories about my favorite show.
Edit 1/26/14: This chapter has been modified slightly, to make the timeline clear. All the events are the same.
"What have you done?"
"What the hell is wrong with you people?"
"She's more of a mom than my mom ever was."
"I don't want to be alone just now."
"Are you alone, Frost?"
The sound of her voice was welcome, the only part of her he was going to get tonight. "Yes, Alexei. They carted Wheelwright off to his padded cell a few hours ago."
Where he belonged. For a second Volkoff mourned the idea of the billions that toxin was worth, except that everyone would destroy whoever had it. Some ideas were just too big. "And our payment?"
"Will be delivered as soon as they can figure out which account to deduct it from. 'Payoff to foreign arms merchant' isn't a recognized GAO category."
"It isn't a payoff, it's a bounty, they should have a category for that. We delivered an international terrorist to their doorstep, with his weapon." Better than nothing.
She sounded mildly surprised at the idea. "I'll suggest it to them."
"Make it fast, Frost. I want you home as quickly as can be." He heard the sound of a keyboard in the background.
"Email sent, now I have to leave. Arrangements have already been made for transport. Soon I'll be home."
That news was very welcome to his ears. Not so welcome was the news, when it came, that she never made the flight.
Chuck pulled up to his house, but didn't pull into his driveway immediately. Something was in the way, a panel wagon with the logo of a fictitious carpet cleaning firm on the side. "What are they doing here?"
Sarah went for the door. "Believe me, I intend to find out!"
"Stop, stop," said Chuck, grabbing her shoulder. "Let's do it right. Grab your wig, I'll get the boxes." He pulled on his hat, brushing his hair up under it to hide the curls. When he stepped out of his car he stood a bit shorter than his usual height, and went to the back of the car for the boxes.
Sarah put on low shoes, slouching a bit as she grabbed some bags. Together they walked up to the door of their own house and rang the bell.
A man's voice called out, "Who is it?"
"Special order from Sabado's," said Sarah, with an accent of no obvious origin.
A man opened the door, tall and curly-haired. "Excellent. Right on time, come on in."
Chuck and Sarah walked in, wondering what a CIA cleaner crew was doing in their house. "Oh thank God," said Chuck, standing tall as the door closed behind him. "That really kills my thighs." He put down the boxes and took off his hat, handing it to the tall man.
Sarah handed the wig to the blonde woman standing by, but the other woman just smiled and took off her own wig instead. "You guys want to tell us what you're doing in our house?"
"Sorry, Agent Bartowski, " said the woman, in a nasal voice, "That's above our pay grade. You'll have to talk to Agent Miller, she's the one who called. Where do you want us to leave your car?" she asked, pulling on Sarah's coat.
"Carina?" asked Chuck, signing off on the repairs. "Why?"
"Don't know, don't wanna know," said the tall man, shrugging. He and the woman took the empty boxes, and Chuck's keys, and left in Chuck's car.
"Kind of a waste of time, talking to them, Mister B," said the crew chief. "They're just doubles. Agent Miller had a real knock-down drag-out with some other agent. Good thing we had specs on most of your possessions. We managed to save your albums, too, but I'm sorry about the computer. We'll have to get you another one of them later, it ain't standard."
"Yeah." The chief turned, snapping his fingers, and one of his men handed him a flat black piece of plastic with a knife sticking through it.
Chuck held the laptop as Sarah pulled out the knife, but the holographic projector had seen better days. "You won't find another one like this, chief," said Chuck, running his fingers across the lid of a computer he'd last seen going into his mother's bag. "She's one of a kind."
Casey sat in his darkened living room, a bottle of Black at his side. One hand held a glass and the other one held a gun. One of them was shaking.
Only a fool is never afraid, and John Casey wasn't a fool. He knew his fears, kept them close, as close as any other enemy. He knew them all, intimately. He thought he did, anyway, but now he knew he had a few more chinks in his armor. He had to close them up, had to deal with them somehow.
He had to get away, before he killed Morgan Grimes. Not that Grimes had done anything to deserve it. He'd been nothing but a gentleman around Alex. Sure it was easy to say that was only because of fear, but the fact that Morgan knew how to be a gentleman was the important part.
No, Chuck Junior wasn't the problem, Carina was the problem. She'd played him expertly back there, used his fears about Grimes and Alex to make him angry, angry enough to drive off the fear, restore his focus. He had to thank her for that.
Thanking Carina didn't make it onto his list of top 100 things to do, and he really wanted to kill somebody.
The phone rang, and his hand twitched, but he wasn't that far gone. Yet. The screen showed no caller ID. He took a sip and let the phone ring again. "Who is this and what do you want?"
"A girl doesn't like to be stood up, Colonel," said Director Bentley.
Ellie opened the door to her house the next morning, followed by Honey and her son Devon in the rear, carrying all the little presents for the baby when he or she finally arrived. A dictionary and an encyclopedia, and of course an atlas, because, as Honey put it, "National boundaries don't change overnight."
"I'm so glad you stayed, Honey," said Ellie through a fixed smile. Something else to thank her mother for, kidnapping her in plain sight yesterday. Now Honey would never leave, and of course she wanted to be close in this time of crisis. "Our guest bedroom is right through there."
"Thanks Ellie," said the older woman, her mentor and role model. She grabbed the bucket with her spray bottle, brush, gloves and paper towels. "I think I'll just go…freshen up a bit."
Ellie looked for her husband but of course he was nowhere to be seen. "Fine." As the maternal Woodcombe left, her son reappeared from the small room where they had all of the baby's stuff put away until the guest bedroom was empty again. Hopefully very, very soon. Ellie's smile faded. "Thanks, Devon."
"Hey, no problem, babe," he replied amiably. "Can't have the mother of my baby straining herself with those big heavy books."
She tapped the top of his head as he addressed her belly yet again. "Up here, daddy man. What's behind your back?"
"Oh, check this out." He showed her the little bear Honey had dismissed back at the store. "Good thing we didn't buy one, your brother came through in the clutch." He touched a little piece of paper on the collar, with Chuck's name. Grinning widely, Devon squeezed the bear's body again.
"Agent Miller," said General Beckman. "The documents you uncovered about Project Isis have been validated and are genuine. The project was shut down twenty years ago, when Agent Frost went rogue. You and Colonel Casey have my authorization to bring her in, if that should be possible at this late date, but you are team lead." Carina being the most objective and reliable member of the team in this situation. On paper.
"If it's all the same to you, General, can I have your forgiveness, rather than your permission?" Carina tapped a control, bringing up a window to cell A, her cell, and its current occupant.
If Carina was hoping for any expression to appear on Beckman's face other than the usual one (that of someone herding cats for a living), she was disappointed. Beckman was beyond surprise at most of this team's accomplishments, and the sight of Frost sitting shackled in a cell was no exception. "I would have thought, Agent Miller, that after last year you would have learned to be more…discreet. My forgiveness isn't what you should be hoping for."
Carina shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "It's not like I planned it," she said to the table. "I had a hunch, so I thought I'd kill time while I was waiting for your decision."
Beckman noticed the décor of the wall behind her, part of the CIA secure wing. "You have a second cell already picked out, I presume?"
Carina cleared her throat. "I don't think I'm in any danger there, ma'am. I may find my password getting changed twenty times a day, but Chuck really isn't the violent type." She'd almost rather he was. The last time he had a boom to lower, he let it hang six months before dropping it.
"Well, we'll find out, won't we?" The phone rang at Beckman's elbow. "I wonder who that could be." A tap on the controls and another window popped up, wide enough for two, if they were cozy. Chuck and Sarah had no problem with the space. "Good evening, Chuck, Sarah."
"General," said Chuck politely. "Carina."
Carina blurted out, "Casey was supposed to tell you!"
"Tell us what?" asked Sarah. "That you were going to go behind our backs, or that he already had?"
None of that. "On my orders, Agent Bartowski," said Beckman. "This sort of operation threatens team cohesion, so it can only be required at the highest level." Take it up with me, if you dare. "Colonel Casey and Agent Miller weren't going behind your backs, they had your backs. Otherwise the capture would have been accomplished by a black ops team and you'd never have known anything happened, and Chuck would never see his mother again."
"So I can see her?"
"Absolutely not, Mr. Bartowski, and that is a direct order from me. Tomorrow she goes to a black site for debriefing and that will be the end of Project Isis."
Chuck squeezed Sarah's hand so tightly under the table that she almost cried out in pain. Instead she squeezed back.
"So you and Carina take my mother away from me just when I get her back, and you want us to thank you for it? Ow!" He pulled his hand up, shaking his fingers.
"Chuck, clearly you weren't listening," said Beckman, teacher to pupil. "Agent Miller knew what had to be done and knew it would hurt you, but even then she didn't do it. I made the call to have your mother brought in. I made the call to take her away from you, that's what being a commander is all about. And no, I don't expect you to thank me." She looked regretful, or hopeful, or maybe both. "I don't expect you to feel grateful to Agent Miller either, but I do expect you to recognize the correctness of her actions, on your behalf, and respond appropriately. Is that clear?"
"Yes, General," said Chuck. He looked at Carina, and said, with some degree of stiff formality, "Thanks for having my back, Carina, but I can't really say I hope you were right."
Carina nodded. "I know, Chuck. We all do. It was just a hunch, anyway, I almost wish I had been wrong, about that at least."
"You had a hunch she'd be in our house?"
"It was reasonably safe and secure, and you weren't there. She'd been away twenty years, I can see her wanting the, the…the sense of you, if she couldn't have you."
Even Beckman looked surprised. "That's more insightful than I would have expected."
"It did sound good, didn't it?" said Carina with a grin. "I just imagined Sarah having to keep her distance from Chuck for twenty years and wondered where she'd go."
She'd go crazy. "Twenty years?" asked Sarah, appalled.
Beckman smiled. "Twenty days would be more than adequate."
"Twenty minutes," Carina corrected herself.
"I'm not that bad," protested Sarah. She stuck out her tongue at her friend.
"And on that note," said Beckman, "This meeting is adjourned."
John Casey did something he never thought he'd do in his life. He engaged the privacy screen on his TV communicator. Just in time, as the doorbell rang, once.
Of the three women outside his door, Director Bentley was by far the shortest, but she more than made up for it in confidence and authority. "May we come in?" she asked. Not a question.
He stood aside and watched the two unknowns as they passed. He could spot the makeup at this range, it looked like the blonde had taken a few hits recently. The black one was tall, and stood very straight, as straight as him. She seemed to approve of him already. He wasn't quite so ready.
Director Bentley made a quick turn, taking in the entire room. "You'll pardon me for asking this, Colonel, but are we secure?"
"Good. Allow me to introduce Captains Victoria Dunwoody–" the blonde saluted "–and Robin Noble." She also saluted.
"Captains," rumbled Casey, with a salute of his own.
Bentley approved. "They're your new team."
Chuck sat next to his wife, refusing to get his hopes up. "So why was my mother here, Sarah? It wasn't to get a 'sense of me', whatever that is. She didn't want to get to know me at the playground, why would that change?"
"Twenty years is a long time, Chuck. She spent a bit of time with Ellie, maybe that changed her mind." Sarah stood up, casting her eyes over her domain. "A mother, about to be a grandmother, I can understand it."
Chuck tapped the ruined laptop. "Probably wanted to check NORAD, see if the arming codes were still the same."
"Chuck, stop it. However painful it was for you, it had to be much worse for her. She had to actually do it." Sarah walked, away from the very idea, silently damning Carina for putting it in her mind. Toward something, anything, less painful to think about. Like…her favorite photo, reframed yet again, positioned not quite right on their new end table, so she changed the angle. She didn't want to bury it in a book, not that it would have been any safer there. Their photo albums. All on a high shelf, but still in harm's way.
She frowned. Not likely. Not there. That shelf was intact.
The chief said they'd been damaged, so they had to be out. If they were out, maybe she took them out, looking for something, maybe, or maybe just all the history she'd missed. Something else they had in co–"Sweetie?"
Mother? Mother who? "Yes, Sarah?" said Chuck, walking away from his own troubles to tend to whatever put that tone into her voice.
She turned, holding a small book full of stiff black pages. "Where did this come from?"
A/N2 I don't know about you, but it always bothered me that that little bear was just left in the street when Frost was apprehended. Chuck could have at least brought it back with him. Anyway, I decided to make a better use of the poor thing.
In canon, the male Greta's name was Richard Noble, but there doesn't appear to be a female version of the name Richard, so I used something else that started with R.