AN: Hello friends. As usual, apologies for the lateness of this chapter. I've recently moved from Australia to the United Kingdom and between that and general laziness, I kinda dragged my feet on this one. But I haven't been completely slack either. I don't know if anyone if aware of the Porn Battle, but I wrote two short stories for the one just gone. One is another Chuck/Sarah/Ellie smut story call 'Contrast' and the other is for those who have requested I do a smut story about Sarah and another guy, in this case, Lon Kirk. So feel free to read those stories and let me know what you think.
And in other news, having moved to a new country and starting a new job, it means I will have less time to write. I'd like to say that I'll be writing at least 2 stories or chapters per month, but I'm realistic enough to realise that may be a bit ambitious. But rest assured, even if I update rarely, I haven't decided to retire just yet from the writing game. I got more Bartowski at Large ideas, plus more smutty one shots, not to mention I've been flirting with the idea of a non-smut, comic book super hero style longer story. So yeah, I'm not gonna quit yet, not while there are people interested in my work.
The idea for this story came from a suggestion given to me by uplink2 and while it isn't smut, it is rated M for vague descriptions of disturbing scenes just to be on the safe side.
And now with that out of the way, I hope you enjoy story and as always, feedback is appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck.
It was with great reluctance that Sarah opened her bleary eyes to glare at the red numbers on the clock that occupied her bedside table. Through her tiredness, she saw that it was four in the morning and angrily realised that it had been less than an hour since she last checked the clock. It was just one more thing that wasn't going her way. She turned over to her side, glaring at the back of the dark haired man currently sharing her bed and who was the source of her current frustration. She did however note the large gap between their positions on the bed, glad that he had at least learned his lesson from earlier during the night.
The reason why she was so angry at this man had more to do with who he wasn't rather than anything he had done. True there certainly were other reasons to be annoyed with him that related directly to his character; flirting with her when he was supposed to be professional, ignoring her refusals of his advances as if her opinion didn't matter, and being a smug jackass with an arrogant smirk. But ultimately for Sarah, the worst thing about this man was that he wasn't her Chuck.
Chuck, her much loved boyfriend of three years, was currently back in their apartment in DC, while she was on a mission in San Francisco, hunting down an operative working for the international spy ring, unimaginatively named 'The Ring'. Her mission was to attend a fancy party being held in some rich diplomat's house that evening to located and apprehend the Ring spy and assassin, Javier Cruz. Her cover for the party was a fairly standard affair, play the role of a devoted and loving wife to her partner, which she had naturally assumed would be Chuck.
It was at this stage during her briefing that Graham had sprung some bad news on her; Chuck would not be accompanying her on this mission. When asked why, the director of the CIA explained that it was the Ring that had hired Chuck almost three years ago to retrieve the heroin trade routes of an Afghani warlord, which was what led to their initial meeting and that the CIA couldn't be sure if the Ring was still after him. Part of the agreement Chuck had made with the CIA was his protection from that group, so sending him into their claws would be counter-productive.
Sarah quickly realised that this mission would require her to have a male partner, and now that Chuck was out of the equation, she almost dreaded that Graham's pick would be his golden boy and her ex-boyfriend, Bryce Larkin. Fortunately, something went right for her this time, with Graham summoning a different agent to his office and introduced him as the CIA's resident Ring expert, Daniel Shaw. She, like most agents in the CIA, was familiar with Shaw's reputation of dedication and professionalism and had high hopes for a stress-less mission, both in terms of difficultly and lack of being hit on by her partner.
Those hopes were dashed pretty quickly. The moment they were alone Shaw had made a suggestive comment about going back to his place to develop their 'teamwork'. His demeanour suggested that he thought he was being charming, but it came across as awkward and stiff. Still, she did have to work with this man, so she politely turned down his offer before heading back to her apartment in order to get ready for her mission, which mostly involved spending time with Chuck as a final feast before a famine.
Unfortunately, Shaw didn't seem to pick up on the message that she wasn't interested. On the flight over he had casually suggested that they join the mile high club, to which Sarah replied icily that she had just recently renewed her membership with her boyfriend, placing great emphasis on the word boyfriend. Yet Shaw persisted, his supposed charm coming across as obnoxious and quickly getting on her nerves.
The final straw had been earlier that night, their first night in their hotel. As their cover was husband and wife they were required to share a single hotel room and by extension, a bed. Sarah had grumbled a bit to herself once she realised that there would be someone who wasn't Chuck sharing her bed, but as long as Shaw kept to his side of the bed then all would be ok… or as ok as it could possibly be without Chuck sleeping beside her. She always had trouble sleeping without Chuck and due to that lack of proximity to her boyfriend, it didn't take much to disturb her sleep.
She had woken up around midnight because she felt something hard rubbing against her rear, something that in itself was not unusual, considering how… healthy, their sex life was. It was when she drowsily thought that the bulge pressing into her was nowhere near as big as it was supposed be that she realised where she was and who was pressed against her. With a viciousness she usually saved for enemy spies and Bryce Larkin, she brutally drove her elbow into Shaw's rib cage, causing the unsuspecting spy to wake with a start.
Wanting to scream at him and tear his head off, Sarah had to settle for whispering venomously at him, telling him that she wouldn't put up with his sexual harassment and that unless he wanted several knives instead of her elbow, he would stay on his side of the bed. To ensure there was no confusion, Sarah got up and grabbed one of the extra pillows, placing it between her and Shaw. The other spy just rolled his eyes, saying that the pillow was juvenile. Sarah's response was that if Shaw was going to act like a twelve year old boy discovering his hormones, then she was going to treat him like one.
That was three hours ago and Sarah still hadn't been able to get some proper sleep. It reminded her far too much of her time before Chuck when she was incapable of letting her guard down and relaxing. Her life had done a complete one eighty after meeting Chuck and she wouldn't have it any other way. Throwing one last icy glare towards Shaw's sleeping form, Sarah then closed her eyes and attempted to get some more sleep, knowing that she needed to be at the top of her game if she wanted to see Chuck again.
It was with great reluctance that Chuck opened his sleepy eyes, before squeezing them shut as he was bombarded by the early morning sunlight. Turning away from the bedroom window he looked at the clock on his bedside table, seeing that it was seven in the morning. Grumpily, he pulled the blanket over his head, as if trying to shield himself from the reality that he was actually awake at seven in the morning.
He allowed his mind to wander, wondering what his girlfriend was doing on the other side of the country. Given that it was four and she hated mornings more than he did, he imagined she was sleeping, but then again, she always had trouble sleeping without him. Sarah had told him he helped keep the nightmares away. While he had far fewer demons than Sarah and by extension, fewer nightmares, he still hated sleeping without her.
For the umpteenth time since Sarah departed, Chuck cursed Graham's decision to have her fly solo on this mission. No, not solo, just without him. Chuck had never heard of this Shaw guy, but he wasn't exactly over the moon about his girlfriend pretending to be married to another guy. That didn't make him insecure or jealous, just normal.
Ok, so maybe he was a little insecure and jealous. While he had had several one-night stands and flings after Stanford and before Sarah, when it came to serious relationships, his track record hadn't been great. Jill had been his first serious girlfriend and she had cheated on him with his best friend. It's kind of hard to not be scarred by that. And while Chuck trusted Sarah completely, he would be lying if he was comfortable with the idea of some arrogant douchebag acting like a devoted husband with his girlfriend. Admittedly, he also lamented not being able to see his kickass ninja spy girlfriend beat on any of the aforementioned arrogant douchebags who hit on her. That was always good for a laugh.
There was also a niggling little feeling in his spine that Graham was up to something. Sure it was the Ring who had hired him to steal those trade routes all those years ago, and it was more than likely that they still held a grudge over it, even if they weren't actively pursuing him. But even so, wasn't the possible reward worth the risk? He was one of the best hackers in the world, a claim backed by MI6, and three years of on the job learning experience had made him into a talented spy. Surely his presence in a mission was worth whatever risk it brought. It had been many times before.
Perhaps Graham was trying to split them up professionally, having Sarah start working with other spies instead of him. She was a deep cover operative and one of the best, but because of the arrangement he had with the CIA, she hadn't been able to do any of those kinds of missions. Combined with that fact that she now refused to seduce and sleep with marks, something Chuck had the impression that she was quite skilled at, Graham must feel that he was losing one of his best agents and all he was getting in return was a talented hacker with a fondness of getting into trouble when he was bored. Probably not a fair trade in the director's eyes.
But then again, Chuck thought to himself, he could just be paranoid. He had a tendency to go through bouts of paranoia when it involved his colleges at the CIA, something that Sarah enjoyed teasing him about. Besides, Langston Graham was the director of the CIA, it was his job to be up to something and it'd probably be unusual if he wasn't. So whatever Graham's agenda was for sending Sarah with Shaw this time, whether it actually more sinister than it seemed, would simply remind a mystery to the hacker for the time being.
He released a heavy sigh as he reluctantly threw the covers off himself and got up to begin his day earlier than he'd like, once again wishing that he was with Sarah and that the world was right again.
Normally when Sarah got dressed up to go somewhere fancy, whether it was for work or pleasure, she usually enjoyed it. She enjoyed coordinating the colours of her make-up, clothes and accessories for the greatest effect, styling her hair to maximise her appeal, twirling in front of the mirror to see the final product, and of course, the high heels. But most of all, she enjoyed the look on Chuck's face when he saw her new look for the first time, the stunned deer in the headlights look like she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
But without Chuck the whole process had lost its appeal. Sarah knew she needed to dress herself up but with Chuck on the other side of the country, it was more of a chore than anything else. Instead of having fun wondering what colours of make-up and clothes would her boyfriend like, or picturing the look on his face when he first saw how she filled out her dress, she was looking into the mirror in their hotel room, automatically putting on lipstick that was some nameless shade of red she hadn't cared to remember. She found she really couldn't give a rat's ass if Shaw or anyone else thought she looked good. At least the colour of her dress was red. Chuck always thought she looked beautiful no matter what she wore, but she always noticed that he seemed less stunned when she wore red, so Chuck wouldn't be missing out on that much.
As Sarah finished applying her lipstick and moved on to her mascara, the door to the hotel's bathroom opened and a towel wearing Daniel Shaw exited. He cleared his throat to get her attention, and when she turned her gaze upon her partner, he stood there smirking and leaning against the wall and casually dropped the towel, exposing himself completely to Sarah. "We have some time before we have to leave," he said at another attempt at his awkward charm, raising an eyebrow suggestively. "I think we should make the most of it. Preferably on the bed but I'm not picky."
Sarah simply snorted in derision at the man, unimpressed with the sight before her. "Sorry to break it to you Shaw but I prefer my lovers to be a little more impressive," she said snidely, smirking as Shaw's face scrunched up in embarrassment when he caught her meaning. "Besides I've had plenty of experience with your type and you're nothing special. Now for Christ's sake cover yourself up."
As Shaw picked his towel up and wrapped it around himself again, he looked at her curiously. "My type?"
Turning back to the mirror to continue applying her make-up, she answered his question. "Yes, your type. You're a handsome man Shaw and you use those looks to get women, but that's only half the battle. You have no qualities that would keep any woman interested."
Shaw frowned at her assessment of him, refusing to believe that he wasn't god's gift to women. "And just what does that loser you're dating have that I don't?"
Once again Sarah turned from her task to look at her partner, but this time she stared at him with a frosty glare. "Giving you the complete list would take us the rest of the night, and because we have a job to do I'll just give you the cliff notes," she said acidly. "Chuck is the warmest, kindest, most caring and in general the most wonderful person a person could ever hope to be or be with. And for most women, that would be enough, but take into account that he is both a gifted and considerate lover, and then I'm pretty sure that there isn't a woman alive that would pick you over Chuck."
No sooner as those words had left her mouth did she notice something in Shaw's features, a look of longing and regret. It was very slight and if Sarah hadn't been such a good spy, she probably would have missed it but her words seemed to have some effect on him. But no sooner had she made that observation did Shaw's face twist again back into his usual smug smirk. "Oh please," Shaw scoffed at her claims. "There is no way that dork Carmichael is a better lover than me," he said before adding with what he thought was seductive charm. "And I'd be more than happy to prove it to you."
Sarah simply rolled her eyes again. "Not happening, Shaw," she said irritably. "There is absolutely nothing in this world that would get me to cheat on Chuck, especially with a creep like you. Beside, you've heard of my former spy team right?"
"The CAT squad?" Shaw queries, unsure of direction their conversation was going. "What about them?"
"About a year ago we all got together for a girls night out and Chuck ended up having to pick us up in the middle of the night. We were all drunk and pretty amorous and naturally, one thing led to another and without giving you all the details, by the time the sun rose each of us had screamed Chuck's name at least twice."
The disbelief in Shaw's eyes was expected, probably more from an inflated ego than anything else. "There is absolutely no way a nerd like Carmichael would please one woman, let alone four worldly spies."
Picking up her phone from the dress, Sarah aggressively threw it at her partner, who managed to catch it after a bit of a fumble. "Ring Carina or Zondra if you don't believe me, although it doesn't really matter, they won't tell you anything different. They'd pick Chuck over you any day."
For a moment, Shaw looked like he was going to ring one of her former teammates to see if what she had been saying was true. But when his vaunted professionalism came to head and realised that he shouldn't be making personal calls this close to a mission. Sarah also theorised that his precious male ego couldn't handle it if a nymphomaniac like Carina confirmed what she said. "It doesn't matter," Shaw said, gathering his clothes and taking them back into the bathroom. "The party is in a few fours and we need to get ready."
With that her partner for the evening went into the bathroom and closed the door behind him. Pleased that the presence of Daniel Shaw was now out of sight, she returned to the continuously dull task of making herself look beautiful for everyone except the one person who would actually appreciate it.
Chuck had mixed feelings when he saw Graham ringing his phone. On one hand, he didn't particularly like his boss, who he felt played to fast with the rules and more importantly, people's lives. He was the kind of man who would happily kill a thousand people if it meant saving a million and for Chuck that kind of cold logic was unacceptable. And if he was ringing, then it meant he actually wanted Chuck for something, something that Chuck doubted would be very pleasant.
On the other hand though, Chuck was dead bored. He had spent most of the day watching the rather impressive collection of Disney movies that had grown rather quickly when during Sarah's pop cultural education they discovered that she greatly enjoyed and became a little obsessed with the much loved cartoon musicals. However, it was now eight o'clock at night and Chuck was a little bit sick of cartoon animals singing songs about family and love for the time being. So answering Graham's call would help ease that boredom… hopefully.
Deciding that boredom would be more torturous than dealing with his boss, Chuck quickly picked up the phone before it went to voice mail. "Carmichael here."
"Ah Carmichael, good to see you're not getting into trouble without Walker to babysit you," Graham's snide remarked came through the phone.
"Not yet anyway," Chuck retorted. "But give it five minutes and I'll see what I can do."
Graham simply snorted at the hacker's remark. "And exactly what kind of trouble could you get up to by watching cartoons and reading comic books, hmm?"
Chuck twitched at the hidden meaning of his boss's words. "Are you watching me," he asked warily, looking around the lounge room to see any cameras or bugs.
"Your home isn't bugged if that's what you're suggesting," the director explained patronisingly. "We're just monitoring your computer and television activity and electricity usage. You are after all a very skilled hacker. I'd be remiss if I didn't do something to monitor your activities."
Chuck sighed in frustration. "See this is why no one likes the CIA."
He was pretty sure Graham was rolling his eyes on the other end. "I did not call to discuss your opinion on the CIA's popularity," the director grunted. "Something's come up and I require your assistance."
"And this something is," Chuck asked, hoping to hide how excited he was at the prospect of something to do.
"Earlier today we raided a Ring safe house and recovered an encrypted thumb drive," Graham explained. "While safe houses aren't usually used for storing vital intelligence, it was encrypted for a reason, so I would rather know for sure that it contains nothing than sitting on possibly actionable intelligence."
"Makes sense," the hacker said. "But why bring this to me? Don't you have a whole zoo of caged nerds at your disposal?"
"Normally yes I wouldn't bring this to a mercenary such as yourself, but I'd rather keep this under wraps, just in case it is something we can use against the Ring," said Graham, explaining his plan. "Some of my 'caged nerds' as you call them, may be feeding information to the Ring and therefore cannot be trusted. You on the other hand are well known for your dislike for spy organisations, both legitimate and otherwise but in particular your aversion to groups like the Ring."
"And that's what makes you trust me?" Chuck queried incredulously.
"It means I can rely on your feelings towards spies for you to not pass anything on to the Ring," the other man said gruffly. "A courier will deliver the thumb drive shortly. Give me a status update later tonight before you retire."
With his curt command, he hung up, leaving Chuck rolling his eyes at his boss's behaviour. Still at least now he had something to do.
It took less than fifteen minutes for the courier to arrive with the package and Chuck had to hold himself back from jumping at joy for something to do. The interaction with the courier was brief, just a knock on the door, exchanging the package for a CIA approved false signature and then closing the door. He was almost tempted to ask the courier if he wanted a drink, but then that would take him away from his task, and the courier would probably turn down the offer anyway.
Plugging the thumb drive in to his computer, Chuck began scanning for viruses and analysing the encryptions. While there was nothing nasty hiding on the drive, the encryption was a joke, with Chuck's professional pride thinking they may as well not gone to the effort of encrypting it in the first place. If he had to guess, he would say that the CIA raid caught them by surprise and hastily tried to encrypt what data they could. But it was too little too late.
After Chuck tore apart the encrypt like tissue paper he discovered that there were video files on the drive, each labelled with the name of a city and a sequence of numbers that he assumed was a date. Unsure if Graham actually wanted him to view the contents of the drive, the hacker decided to go ahead and watch some anyway, rationalising that if his boss really didn't want him it, then he wouldn't have even learnt about the drive. Selecting the one titled 'Milan 140900' he opened it up.
At first he thought it was porn, given that there were at least five young women in various states of undress, although none of them were completely naked. However instead of the women engaging in various sexual activity, one of them, a pretty women with shoulder length black hair, brought a dining cart to the view of the camera, and removing the lid revealed an assortment of, Chuck assumed, illegal drugs in various forms. Towards the end of the video all of the women began injecting, snorting and taking whatever drugs they could grab.
While Chuck didn't particularly enjoy watching those women destroy themselves, he was still confused as to why the Ring would bother with these kinds of videos, unless they were switching from international espionage to pornography, which he doubted. He opened up the next one titled 'Bangkok 270303' and then wished he hadn't.
On the screen was a tall Caucasian man in a rather seedy looking room, wearing a suit that didn't belong with fifty miles of that building. Then a Thai girl, who appeared to be around twelve, appeared on the screen, wearing a dress that no twelve year old had any business wearing. When Chuck saw the predatory smirk on the man's face did he realise what he was watching, and quickly moved to shut down the video before he was exposed to any more. All he accomplished with that video was to further his confusion and made himself sick in the process.
Wanting to find out what the Ring was doing with these videos, Chuck opened up another one, this time titled 'Boston 050208'. Compared to the last two, it was very tame, involving nothing more than a naked man and a naked woman having sex in a very nice hotel room. However, when Chuck took a good look at the man's face, he was hit with a sense of familiarity as if he had seen the man before. When he ran that face through the CIA's facial recognition software, he began to see why the Ring had these videos.
The man's name was Marcus Cutler, and he was an agent for the CIA as Chuck realised he had seen him in passing during his visits to Langley. Running the woman's face through the same software, Chuck discovered her identity to be Penelope Georges, who was not an agent but rather married to Rhys Georges, a US Senator. Running the faces from the other videos, he found out that the black haired woman in Milan, Jessica Orson, was also an agent, as was Derek Lang, the man in Bangkok.
"So the Ring must be planning on using these videos as blackmail," Chuck summarised to himself.
Pleased with himself for a job well done, Chuck decided to watch a few more videos, just to ensure he was right before writing a report for Graham. Opening up the video titled 'Paris 180405' he saw two women walking past one another on a dark street before the blonde turned around, shot and assumedly killed the brunette. At first Chuck was glad that he found something that wasn't sex related and backed up his theory of blackmail, but that joy quickly turned to dread as the blonde women turned to face the camera and revealed the face of the love of his life, Sarah Walker.
Sarah never realised how much she hated these kinds of parties until this moment. It was another thing Chuck had spoiled her for. She had arrived there with Shaw and they had done what was necessary to convince any wandering eyes that they were indeed a married couple; socialise with others at the party, danced a little, even showed restrained, at least on her part, gestures of affection. However as they were going through the motions Sarah realised something. The only thing that separated her and Shaw from the other 'married' couples at this party was that the two spies weren't there to socialise.
Observing the different couples around the room, Sarah realised that their relationships, their so-called marriages, were just as fake and non-existent as the one between her and Shaw. Of course this was the first time she had been to one of these parties without Chuck, so she didn't have him providing a much desired distraction and therefore was able to observe the people not just professionally, but also on how they interacted with their significant other and how she witness none of the warmth and love that was present in her own interactions with her boyfriend. It made her miss Chuck all the more.
As if her thoughts of longing were magic, her phone began ringing, and Sarah couldn't help but smile when she saw who it was ringing. Without a second thought, she answered, knowing perfectly well she shouldn't be taking a personal call during a mission. "Hey Chuck, you really shouldn't be calling me while I'm working," she said into the phone, her stern words not matching the warmth in her voice.
Whatever she expected to come as a reply from her boyfriend, Sarah wasn't prepared for the sheer panic she heard coming from the other end of the phone. "Sarah, thank god! Are you OK," Chuck said hurriedly, the fear obvious in his voice.
Sarah was taken aback by how panicked he sounded. She had seen Chuck face down cold-hearted murders, gun totting extremists and John Casey after the hacker had called the larger man 'Sugar Bear' and each time he faced them with a cool confidence and mischievous grin. Chuck rarely got frightened like this. "Chuck what's wrong?"
"Sarah please listen to me; you can't trust Shaw."
Sarah pulled away for a moment to look at her phone incredulously. Don't trust Shaw? Sure Chuck hadn't been that thrilled about her going on this kind of mission with another man, but then she imagined there'd be very few boyfriends who'd be cool with that. "Chuck what are you talking about," she queried, bringing the phone back to her ear.
"I can't say much over the phone, don't know whose listening, but I found something out about Shaw and if he knows what I know then you're in a lot of trouble."
"Chuck please calm down," she said to him quietly, trying to hide her own desperation that had grown at the sound of her panicking boyfriend. She would have found it disconcerting at how much strength she drew from Chuck, but now wasn't the time to be worrying about that. "Whatever's wrong, it'll be fine. We'll be finished soon and if everything goes according to plan, I'll be back in DC before you wake up tomorrow morning."
She could hear Chuck's rapid breathing slowing down, and found herself calming down as a result. "Ok yeah, you're… uh… right, I-I'll calm down," he murmured a bit sheepishly. "Uhh… sorry about ringing you during a mission."
Despite the fact that she should be annoyed with him, Sarah couldn't help but smile. "It's ok, Chuck."
The other end of the line was silent for a minute, as if contemplating what to say next, before Chuck finally spoke. "Look I was serious before Sarah; don't trust Shaw. I… I found something out about him and if he does know what I know, then… I'm afraid he might kill you."
Sarah blinked hard. "Kill me," she repeated, almost disbelievingly if it weren't for the trusted source telling her this. "Chuck why would Shaw kill me? He's spent the entire time trying to sleep with me, at this rate I'm more likely to kill him."
Chuck gave a short little chuckle, but it was clear he was still a bit worked up. "Look I don't want to say anything else, don't know who's listening, but I'll show you when you get back," he informed her. "Just please… don't let your guard down around Shaw."
"I promise," Sarah vowed, doing whatever she had to do to reassure her boyfriend. When she noticed the man in question walking towards her, she quickly said her farewell. "Sorry Chuck but I've got to go, Shaw's heading towards me. Don't worry, I'll be home soon." She paused for a moment before adding "I love you."
She could hear the smile in his voice, despite the fear he was feeling. "I love you too Sarah," he whispered in a way that made her miss him more.
Knowing if she didn't hang up now she'd never be able to do it, she hit the 'End Call' button on her phone. As Shaw approached her she couldn't help but consider Chuck's words. Shaw had been annoying in how he viewed her as some kind of prize to be won, or some kind of treasure to be stolen, but truthfully, it wasn't anything that she hadn't encountered before with men in her professional. But clearly Chuck had discovered something that had him worried, and she wouldn't be much of a girlfriend if she didn't trust her boyfriend.
Still, it wouldn't do to alert Shaw that something was amiss, so she schooled her features as he came up to her and offered her his hand. "Let's dance," he simply said, a stern look upon his face.
He spoke with some measure of disapproval, although Sarah found her usual irritation at the other spy accompanied by a good amount of wariness. Still she had a cover to protect, so she took his hand and allowed him to lead her onto the dance floor. As they began dancing amongst the other couples, Shaw used the opportunity to talk. "Was that a personal call?" he questioned, again rather strictly.
Seeing no point in lying, Sarah confirmed it, although lied about the content of the call. "Yes, it was Chuck. He was just wishing me a goodnight before he went to bed."
Shaw frowned as they twirled around the dance floor. "You shouldn't have done that, what if someone saw you?" he questioned stiffly. "Remember we're here as husband and wife."
Sarah gave a small shrug of her shoulders. "If anyone asks I'll just tell them he's my lover."
Shaw's frowned deepened, although Sarah figured it had more to do with his ego than his professionalism. "And you somehow think that'd people would buy that?"
"Sure they would," she replied succinctly. "Anyone who talks to you for more than five minutes wouldn't be surprised that your wife is cheating on you. Hell if anything, my infidelity would make our cover stronger. I mean I'm pretty sure most people at this party are cheating on their spouse in one form or another."
"But still," Shaw pressed on, unwilling to let it go. "I don't think people would believe that a beautiful woman like you is cheating on a handsome guy like me with a nerd like Chuck."
Sarah simply rolled her eyes. "I thought I explained this already," she scoffed. "Anyone who knows you and Chuck, wouldn't be surprised be I'd rather be with him than you. If you want, I'll just tell them Chuck has a really big cock and is a lot bigger than you," she said with a condescending smirk before adding. "It'll help our cover and it's not even a lie."
The look on Shaw's face said he wanted to keep going about how there was no way someone like Chuck could ever beat someone like him, in anything, but once again his famed professionalism kicked in as he saw their mark. Nodding in his direction, Shaw led Sarah off the dance floor and began observing Cruz more carefully. Sarah simply followed his lead, observing from their table across the room, all the while however, Chuck's words rang inside her mind, and so while she kept one eye on Javier Cruz, she was going to keep another on Daniel Shaw.
Early the next morning back in DC, a little after sun up, Sarah tiredly made her way to the door of their apartment. It hadn't been long after Chuck's phone call that Cruz had tried to make a break for it and she and Shaw chased after him. He didn't get very far before they caught up to him, and after the ensuing gun fight, she had managed to wing him, which provided Shaw with the distraction he needed to apprehend the Ring agent. After they secured Cruz, Sarah was on the next flight to DC, ignoring Shaw's attempts to get her to stay and 'celebrate'. She had just delivered her report to Graham and now just wanted to see Chuck.
After Chuck's phone call she always made sure she knew where Shaw was. She knew that she was taking Chuck's worries a little too seriously, given that he hadn't really given any proof or anything, but he was clearly concerned about her safety and she trusted him implicitly, so if he thought Shaw was going to try and kill her, then Shaw was going to try and kill her.
Fishing her keys out of her handbag, she slid them into the keyhole and opened the door, her plan being to sneak inside her apartment, dump her bags at the door and strip down and slip into bed with her boyfriend. Of course the thing this plan didn't take into account was said boyfriend lightly snoring with his head on the kitchen table. The laptop in front of him and the several empty coffee cups telling her one thing. "Chuck," Sarah said loudly, moving over to her boyfriend to shake him awake. "Wake up Chuck."
Groggily, Chuck opened a bleary eye to stare at the person who was shaking him. For almost a full minute he blankly gazed at her until it finally clicked as to who was waking him up. "SARAH," Chuck exclaimed, jumping out of his seat like someone gave him a shock and wrapping his arms tightly around her.
At first Chuck sudden shift from unresponsive to active caught her by surprise, but it didn't take long for Sarah to return the hug, relishing the feeling of his arms wrapped around her, or the feeling of him in her own arms. "I guess someone missed me huh," she teased as she nuzzled his chest.
"You have no idea," Chuck replied with no sense of joviality. "I was afraid I'd never see you again."
At his desperate words, Sarah had to know what was wrong, what had shaken her boyfriend so badly. "Chuck, what happened while I was away?"
Chuck reluctantly unravelled his arms and sat back down at his chair, pulling down another chair for Sarah and gesturing her to do the same. He booted up his laptop as she sat herself down next to him. "While you were away, Graham wanted me to decrypt a thumb drive they found from a raided Ring safe house. He didn't think it was anything, but he still wanted to make sure, and he didn't fully trust his own pet nerds, so he tasked me to do it instead."
As he spoke, the laptop quickly loaded up and Chuck opened up the thumb drive and Sarah could see all the different video files, titled with the name of a city and a series of numbers. "What I found was these videos which I think the Ring were planning to use to blackmail intelligence agents. I matched the first few with CIA agents I located in the CIA's database, but given the range of locations and accents I've heard, and the fact that I only have ready access to the CIA's database, I think they've got eyes on every agency in the world. And in every video, someone is doing something blackmail worthy."
"Ok that makes sense," Sarah acknowledged. "But why has this got you so worked up?"
Wordlessly, Chuck opened up the video title 'Paris 180405' and at first Sarah was confused as she saw footage of a darkened alley way in some kind. However, when she was two women walking past each other she began feeling her stomach clench, and when the blonde turned and killed the brunette, her worst fears were confirmed. "My Red Test?" she gasped.
"Red Test?" Chuck asked, turning a worried eye towards her. "What's a Red Test?"
Sarah swallowed the lump in her throat as she struggled with what she was about to say. "The Red Test is like the final test before becoming a full-fledged spy. The only thing you have to do is…" she trailed off, staring into the video footage of that horrible night.
Chuck finished the sentence for her. "To kill," he said solemnly.
"Yeah," she confirmed, her eyes not leaving the image of her looking around in panic, remembering the turmoil she felt at the time. "It was the worst day of my life."
Chuck placed a comforting arm around Sarah's shoulders as she painful memories resurfaced. Finally after a moment of gathering herself and feeling grateful for his comfort, she turned back to the hacker. "I don't understand though," she queried. "That was a legitimate operation, how was the Ring going to use that to blackmail me."
"See I'm not sure it is you they were planning on using this on you," Chuck explained. "At first, I thought the same as you did, but I know you wouldn't do anything illegal, so I did some research on the other woman to find out who she was."
Sarah swallowed hard. "Who was she," she asked tentatively, unsure if she really wanted to know.
Chuck clicked his mouse and brought up another file, a CIA profile on the other woman in the video, preparing himself to deliver what would be a shocking revelation. "She was a CIA agent named Evelyn Harris, although that was just the name she used on missions. Legally, she was known as Evelyn Shaw, wife to Daniel Shaw."
"Ah Sarah, good to see you," Director Langston said in greeting his subordinate. "Please take a seat."
"Thank you sir," Sarah responded a bit warily. She still wasn't sure why her boss had requested her presence, especially when she had seen him earlier that day when she delivered her report from the San Francisco mission, but she knew that, given what else she had learned and discovered that day, she wasn't going to like it.
"Straight to business then," Graham announced as she sat down. "Your last mission went very well, we have Javier Cruz in custody and we'll begin extracting what information we can as soon as possible. You and Shaw did an excellent job."
"Thank you sir."
Graham paused for a moment, trying to gage Sarah's mood. "It's that excellent team work between you and Shaw that leads us to this meeting," he explained. "I want to assign you as Shaw's permanent partner."
Sarah remained passive, although internally she cringed at the thought. Still, Graham didn't notice any response, so he simply leaned back into his chair. "Thoughts?"
"Honestly?" she queried, and at his nod decided to let loose. "Agent Daniel Shaw, while professional for the most part, acts like a typical male agent with delusion of being some suave playboy yet with none of the actual charm. In addition, the almost constant sexual harassment I had to put with since I first met him was at best really annoying and at worst law suit worthy."
Graham frowned at her bluntness. "Sarah-" he began, trying to defend one of his best agents, but Sarah cut him off.
"Not to mention that I killed his wife!"
It wasn't often that Langston Graham was blindsided like that, but on occasion, it did happen, and so it happened when Sarah revealed that little piece of information. "How did find out," he asked, not even bothering to deny it.
Sarah pulled out a manila envelope from her handbag. "That thumb drive you gave Chuck," she clarified, handing the package which contained the hacker's report to her boss. "It contained a bunch of videos that we both think the Ring are planning on using to blackmail or turn agents in the CIA and other agencies. One of the videos was my Red Test. Chuck thought the Ring was going to use it against me at first, but he did some digging and found her identity and connection to Shaw."
She stopped for a moment, trying to get a read on her boss, but as usual, the dark skinned spymaster conveyed nothing. "So I find myself unable to work with a man who is a ticking time bomb whether permanently or temporally."
"Shaw is a very talented agent, Sarah, but more than that, he is the utmost professional. He would understand the need to eliminate a mole, regardless of who he or she is."
"I already made that point to Chuck earlier today. You know what he said?" Sarah responded to her boss's comments. "He pointed out that for the past five years Shaw has done nothing but pursue the organisation he believes killed his wife. It doesn't matter how 'professional' he seems, underneath all that will always be his need for revenge."
Graham rolled his eyes with the usual amount of disdain whenever Chuck was mentioned. "I like to think I know my own agents better than that pathetic criminal does."
For a moment Sarah forgot who the man in front of her was as she sent a pointed glare his way. "I trust Chuck with my life… no, my soul, my entire being," she said, zealously defending her boyfriend. "But even if they weren't the case, have you even told Shaw that you were the one who ordered her death and not the Ring? Or that I was the one who carried it out?"
Graham's impassive silence was the only answer she needed. "Thought so," Sarah said. "And if you're so sure of Shaw's professional detachment, then why haven't you told him?"
Again Graham remained silent, although his eyes narrowed to convey his annoyance at being talked to like this by a subordinate. Sarah was professional enough to maintain a straight face, but the light of victory easily shone from her sparkling blue eyes. "I know you don't necessary approve of Chuck, but I love him and more importantly, at least as far as you're concerned, I trust him completely and is easily the best partner I've ever had."
The break in Graham's stony features showed how little he thought about that piece of information Sarah shared. "I don't care about any of that Sarah," he scoffed. "You are a deep cover operative and one of the best that has ever passed through the CIA, not to mention one of the best seductresses I've ever known. To see you limiting yourself to protect the feelings of that… criminal… it's damaging your career and is detrimental to the goals of the CIA."
"My career isn't my only priority now, and besides, Chuck and I have an unparalleled success rate, better than most four man teams and certainly better than the success rate I had with Bryce or any other partner," Sarah said, once again defending her boyfriend and the choices she'd made, before her eyes widened in realisation. "That's why you're asking me instead of just reassigning me. Chuck and I are too good that you can't justify breaking up such an effective team."
This time, Graham didn't even bother hiding his annoyed frown at his motives being so easily identified. "As I said Sarah, you are a deep cover operative," he repeated sourly. "You are wasting your time babysitting an asset."
"Chuck isn't an asset though," Sarah shot back. "He is a paid employee of the CIA and he's proven his worth a hundred times. This doesn't seem to be anything more than you arranging things the way you want them."
"That's a part of my job Sarah," Graham spoke, before pausing for a moment. "You know I could just order you're reassignment."
"You could," Sarah agreed. "But then you'd have to explain why you broke up such an effective team. I'm sure Beckman would be most curious, seeing as she's had nothing but praise for us when we work with Colonel Casey. And if you did reassign me… well, then I may have to re-evaluate my position here at the agency."
Her threat did the trick as it completely caught Graham off-guard. "You would really choose Carmichael over the agency?"
Sarah's firm nod eliminated all doubt, from both Graham and herself. "I would," she said, hardly believing herself that the words were coming from her mouth. "He's the best thing that has ever happened to me."
"But what about your career?"
She shrugged at his question. "You're the only one who thinks my career is in trouble in the first place," she said. "Like I said before, Chuck is the best thing that has ever happened to me, both personally and professionally. We make a good team. You just don't like it because Chuck is something you can't control, who won't bow down to your status as the Director of the CIA. And the reason I won't go on under cover ops is because you won't let Chuck. I've worked with him for three years and I know that he can handle it."
Graham remained silent, unable to really say anything to counter his subordinate's arguments. "Are you sure you won't reconsider assignment," he asked, trying one last time to get what he wanted.
Sarah shook her head. "You may be willing to take the chance that Shaw will understand about his wife, but I'm not," she replied in full.
The director of the CIA nodded his consent, although his frown still showed his disappointment. "Very well then," Graham said unhappily. "If that is you're final answer then this meeting is over. You're dismissed."
Giving a curt nod of acknowledgement towards her boss, she stood up from her chair and walked out of the office, leaving Graham to his scheming. It was unlikely that he would let this go, given that he hated the fact that he couldn't control fifty percent of his best team and his control over the other fifty percent was lessening each day. But for the time being Sarah knew he'd leave it.
Her icy persona held firm as she walked through the halls of Langley, but once she got to her car, away from the prying eyes of the CIA, she allowed the tears flow down her cheeks as some of her worst fears were starting to be realised. Namely, her fear of being separated from Chuck. It had taken everything she had to not break down, or worse, go berserk at her boss.
When they first started dating, Sarah thought that if anything would separate them, it would be her inability to open up or her fear that when Chuck saw the real her he'd run for the hills. And while it had caused a few problems, Chuck had been patient, and when she had finally opened up, her bravery was rewarded with the love of the best person she had ever known. And once she had gotten past those fears, she was sure that she and Chuck would be together forever, cliché as it sounds.
But now Sarah had to worry about her control freak of a boss interfering with her relationship, something that was much further out of her control. True she had said that she would leave the agency if he would forcibly assign her, but she wasn't sure if she was face a world where she couldn't have both Chuck and her life as a spy. She would much rather not be put in that position in the first place.
And then there was Shaw, who was a different kind of threat all together. He didn't just threaten her relationship with Chuck or her lifestyle as a spy but her actual life, and possibly the life of Chuck as well. Sure he had a reputation as an utmost professional who always put duty ahead of personal pursuits, and he had proven that when he managed to keep his awkward attempts as seduction to himself when they were actually on their mission. But as Chuck said, how professional can a man be who has spent every moment since the death of his wife hunting the organisation who he believed killed her in the first place. And how can he be trusted to partner with the woman who actually pulled the trigger at all. It was possible that Shaw was professional enough to not hunt her down like he hunted the Ring, but it wasn't a chance Sarah was prepared to take, not now when everything in her life was right.
Taking a moment to gather herself, Sarah dried her eyes and put her key into the ignition. Right now all she wanted to do was to drive home and get into bed with her boyfriend, who would then proceed to hug her and love her and make everything right in the world. With Chuck in her life and at her side, she could take on any challenge, be it bosses desperate for control to the possible psychopath hiding behind the professional demeanour of Daniel Shaw.
She smiled as she left the parking garage, in spite of the turmoil inside. Yes, everything was going to be all right, with Chuck by her side.