A/N I've been pretty sick the last few days, wrote most of this just yesterday. I hope it sounds as coherent to you as it does to me.
"Could always find a third country."
"I accept your challenge."
"Better luck next time."
"Agent Charles is famous for going back over his own tracks."
Six days ago…
"Good afternoon, Miss Volkoff. My name is Riley, I'm your father's attorney. What can I do for you?"
For a second she hesitated, feeling like a child on the edge of a cliff. She hardly knew what she wanted, much less what to ask for, especially from a total stranger.
"Yes, Mr. Riley," she said quickly. "I…have request that may sound a little odd."
Riley chuckled in a friendly manner. "I've been your father's attorney for more than two decades, miss. I doubt there's any request you could make that he hasn't done one better."
She took courage from his tone. "Well, about ten days ago, there was an…altercation here at the manor."
"More than that, according to the reports that crossed my desk."
Of course he would know, he was responsible for the house, that's how she'd found him. Chuck's map was admirably thorough. "Yes, exactly. I'm afraid I was in a bit of shock at the time, and I fear I was less effusive in my praise than I should have been." Surely he could hear her face turning red over the phone. "I was hoping it would be possible to contact the leader of the team that assisted me, so that I may…express my gratitude… more fully?" God, she was trembling!
Riley didn't seem to hear it. "What is this team leader's name?"
"It was an American team, led by a Mr. Charles."
He hummed into the phone. "The name doesn't sound familiar," he said, as if he kept track of foreign agency personnel as a matter of course. Perhaps he did. "Do you have any other names I can use?"
Ergh. "There was a Miss Sarah Walker involved," she muttered.
"Ah," said Riley. "Now that's a name I know very well. You just leave everything to me, Miss Volkoff, and I'll get your message through to Mr. Charles myself."
"Excellent work, team," said General Beckman. "The chip is recovered, the details of our Black Op sites in Europe are secure, but the mission isn't over. You have provided us with an opportunity."
Uh-oh, General-being-clever alert! "What opportunity would that be, General?" asked Chuck, pulling at his tie.
"Pierre Melville has not yet left California, he appears to be suffering from some kind of food poisoning."
"Wine poisoning, more like," said Casey, smugly.
"Be that as it may, Colonel," said Beckman, "The point is, he is still in the area, and he still wants the chip. Fortunately for him, one of our own has turned traitor, and has contacted Mr. Melville through back channels to make a deal."
"We have to go back?" said Casey.
"Not you, Colonel. Judging from your report, I think it safe to say that Melville wouldn't buy water from you if his head was on fire. While not a member of the team, Mr. Rye has agreed to be our traitor. Not only was he in a position to make a second switch, Mr. Melville hasn't seen his face."
Chuck raised his hand. "I…would hope that, instead of the chip, Agent Rye will be selling him a different chip, or maybe even a long-range homing beacon, so we can track him to whatever hole he's hiding in and root out his entire network."
Beckman gave Chuck an approving smile. "Spot on, Mr. Charles. You took the words right out of my mouth. Manoosh should be finished making the false chip soon. Agent Rye, you will leave immediately after that. Agent Charles will be your backup. Good luck, team." The screen went black.
Rye turned to give Chuck a devil-may-care grin. "You ready to rumble, Chuck?"
"Chuck's not an agent, Mr. Rye," said Sarah. "I'm your backup tonight."
Later, in DC...
Beckman's phone buzzed. "Yes, Mr. Clark?"
"Doctor on line one, ma'am."
"Thank you," she said and hung up, leaving Mr. Clark confused. The General never said thank you.
"Ellie," said Beckman, before realizing that her mouth was faster than her hand. She pressed the button. "Ellie."
The face that popped up on the monitor looked awful, in spite of everyone's attempts to make Ellie take a few more naps, but her smile was genuine. "Good news, General."
The last time Ellie had called with good news, the news had been very good. "You have an antitoxin?"
"Correct. How soon can they get back here?"
Beckman checked the time, even though she knew it was too late to stop the ball she'd already set in motion. "Certainly not today, they're backstopping another agent on an assignment."
"They're what? General, they aren't supposed to be leaving Castle for any reason. Send Carina if it's that important."
"Agent Miller is currently tied up on another assignment…"
At that moment, somewhere in LA…
Carina dangled from the ceiling, clutching on to the rope to keep the cuffs from digging into her wrists. Her captors had been steadily removing books from under her feet in an attempt (a pathetic attempt, but an attempt) to get her to talk, and they were down to the last one, a thick copy of War and Peace. "I'll tell you what," she said. "You let me go now and I'll let you live."
Back in DC…
"…but Agent Rye is more than capable of handling this drop. I only sent Agent Bartowski as support because the rules require it, and she was the…least unqualified."
She tried to be amused, but she was too tired. "What did Casey do this time?" said Ellie through a yawn.
Beckman wasn't above a little blackmail. "I'll send you the report when you've had a decent night's sleep."
"Fine, I'll sleep on the flight."
"The flight to LA." Ellie held up a little vial of a precious liquid. "If they can't come to me then I have to go to them."
Later that same day, California time…
"Hey, Chuck. Can I talk to you for a minute? I'm on my way out, and once the mission's over I probably won't be coming back, so this will likely be our last chance to talk together."
Chuck stood, noticing Casey rolling his eyes as he did. "Sure, Agent Rye."
"Come on, walk with me. And please, call me Jim. I think we can safely say that my part in your evaluation is over."
"Absolutely. You aren't motivated by pride, or deterred by pain, and really, your hands should be pretty sore from whacking them against my body–"
Chuck flexed his hands. "Pretty sore, yeah."
"That reminds me, let me get some Advil for the road." They stopped outside the first aid station and Rye ducked inside to grab a small bottle. "As for fear, well, my two ninja swords and Melville's large burly thugs should have gotten enough high-octane fear in you to lift three Intersect rocks."
Chuck struggled to find something clever to say, all the way up the stairs and ladders to ground level. "Um…yeah."
"So that's why I'm thinking it's not fear at all, although for the life of me I can't figure out what else it might be. You don't get angry, do you?"
Chuck gestured around them, taking in the whole ruined loading dock. "I worked in this Buy More for five years."
"I guess not." They stopped at Rye's car. "Well, so long, Chuck. Off I go to the land of wine and…hmm. Wine and romance. What do you think about romance, Chuck?"
Romance as a trigger? "Are we talking about the Intersect, or something else entirely?"
"No, not me, you goof," said Rye, waving his hands. "Although I am flattered. The thing is, I sent Agent Charles to scout the drop site a while ago." He gave Chuck a little man-to-man smirk. "Seems kind of a shame to let a balcony overlooking a vineyard under a full moon go to waste now."
For a moment Chuck's gaze went all soft and unfocused, visions of The Princess Bride playing in his head. "Yeah."
Rye opened the door and grabbed Chuck's arm, shoving him inside while his wits were on perfect kisses. "Well, what are we waiting for? I'm already behind schedule."
The slamming of the door brought Chuck back to his senses. "But…" He turned to point at the loading dock as Rye leapt into his car and floored it out of the No Parking zone. "Hey…" He fumbled his seat belt on as Rye raced to keep his appointment. His hand brushed against something hard in his pocket, and he pulled out his phone. "Casey…"
"Call him from the road, Chuck, we're on CIA time now."
Chuck started tapping. "Is that different from Pacific Standard…that's strange. I can't get through."
"Is your phone upgraded to the new security protocols that came through this morning?"
What new security protocols? "No."
"Well, too late now, I guess. Get that taken care of when you get back."
"Can I use your phone?"
"Chuck, I'm driving here," said Rye. "I haven't got attention to spare to enter my password. Or don't you obey the laws of this great nation?"
Chuck watched the traffic lights whizzing by, especially the red ones… "I do."
"Don't worry, Chuck, we'll get there in a couple of hours, you can call in then. This car has every anti-detection device known to man, it's practically invisible, so I can really open her up," said Rye. "You'd have to have a very determined driver and a very fast car to keep with this baby."
Back in Castle...
Sarah opened the door onto the Twilight Zone. Casey sat at the table, a cigar on one side, a glass of wine on the other, his feet up as he read the latest issue of Guns & Ammo magazine. She'd never seen him so…relaxed. "Where's Chuck?"
"Rye came by," said Casey, turning a page. "Said he wanted to chat, probably just wanted Chuck to keep the door from hitting him on the way out."
Sarah pulled up the monitors by reflex. By instinct. Rye's car was gone, but where was Chuck? She backtracked the recording. "The Hell!"
Casey swung into action immediately. "What's up, Bartowski?"
"Rye kidnapped Chuck!" She ran it back again. "Where's the audio?"
Casey checked the console, but it all looked normal. "It's the loading dock, audio was always buggy. Look, he shoves Chuck in but our boy isn't trying to get away."
"Rye must have said something." She pulled out her gun and checked the load.
Casey took over the rewind. "He's not showing his face to the cameras. Moving fast, like he knows he only has seconds." Casey grunted, and pressed a button.
"What?"said Sarah, as she put on her armor.
"The car must have sonic baffles. Watch him pull out. That much delta-V should have made a noise even the audio would pick up. Explains why I didn't hear anything suspicious at the time."
The screen lit up, but no one was looking at Beckman's face when it appeared. She caught on to the kicked-anthill atmosphere immediately. "What's going on, Colonel?"
Casey seconded the main screen to something local so he wouldn't have to turn around. "Agent Rye loaded Chuck into his car and took off at high speed. Chuck did not appear to be resisting." He put the playback on her monitor.
Beckman waited until she'd seen what there was to see. "He kidnapped the Intersect?"
Another window opened. Ellie, looking like some flight attendant had just woken her up.
"He's not!" shouted Sarah. "He's just Chuck!"
Ellie's face lost its bleary-eyed expression. "Why are you carrying a rocket launcher?"
"Agent Rye just absconded with your brother," said Beckman.
"Agent Bartowski's going to get him back," said Casey.
"This is for the second person who gets in my way," said Sarah. The CIA Nerd Herder already had one missile built in.
"You need speed, not firepower," said Casey. "He's already on the Five, headed North."
"With Casey quarterbacking from Castle, you'll need backup as well. Agent Miller is in LA." Beckman pressed a button.
"We need you to come in to Castle, Microscope." Mr. Clark's voice.
"I'm working. These idiots are telling me everything."
"Monologuing ploy gets 'em every time," muttered Casey.
"Eagle-Eye has been kidnapped by one of ours."
A slight pause. "On my way."
Beckman cut the line over sounds of destruction as Carina rearranged her schedule. "There may be a slight delay."
"Would a '68 Ford Mustang help?" asked Ellie.
"Why, you have one?"
"No, but my father does. It's in Burbank somewhere."
"There's a lot of stuff in Burbank somewhere," said Sarah, all business. "I don't know how to contact Orion. And after all I've done, trying to hunt him down for what he tried to do to Chuck, how am I supposed to get him to tell me where it is, much less let me use it?"
Every screen in Castle went black. SAY PLEASE.
Travelling upstate, on the Five…
"You know, Chuck," said Rye suddenly. "You really had me fooled."
"How?" said Chuck. While he liked Ferris Wheels (or at least, he had liked Ferris Wheels, right up until that whole Jill debacle), he'd never been big on roller coasters, and Agent Rye's driving skills forcibly reminded him why. "How did I have you fooled?"
"About you being an agent."
"I'm not an agent."
"But are you sure about that? Because I've been watching you in action these last couple of days and I have to tell you, no one looks more like an agent than you do."
Chuck looked at his hands, clutching whatever part of the car was solidest. "Right now?"
"What, you're scared?"
"Spies get scared, Chuck."
"Sarah doesn't get scared."
"Agent Charles lives every moment of every day in stark terror of what might happen to you, Chuck, and like all spies, she's been trained to channel that fear, use it, to make sure that nothing ever will. She doesn't want you to have that training, to be the agent she knows you could be. It's why cops don't marry cops."
Chuck already knew what kind of agent he could be. "Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt."
"You don't really think it's that easy, do you?" asked Rye. "Nobody ever loses anything, Chuck, you least of all. They just forget it, but it's all there. Somewhere in your psyche are the rags and ashes of that T-shirt, waiting for you to put them on again."
Carlos Carmichael esta muerte. "Never again."
"You may not have a choice. You may not even know that you're doing it," said Rye. "But what you do have, Chuck, is the power, right now, to make yourself into the kind of man who wears his T-shirt, instead of a man whose T-shirt wears him."
"What does that even mean?"
"Don't ask me, it's your metaphor. Now here's the deal, Chuck. Somewhere up ahead of us is your wife, and a bunch of bad guys. When we get there, do you want her to see you die, or do you want her to see you save the day?"
"Those are my choices? What happened to romance?"
"Romance comes after, Chuck. You need to focus on right now."
If only the car made some noise. The green windshield, the thermal imaging and the computer control made it feel like he was in his Intersect Fortress of Solitude, even though Rye was there so technically it wasn't solitude, and the world outside was movie playing at the wrong speed. Anything but now. "Oh, okay, uh, save the day, I guess."
Rye shook his head. "You're gonna have to do better than that, Chuck. That 'I guess' has got to go. Now, I'm going to accelerate to attack speed, and go into a light meditative trance while I drive, so I don't get there too tired to do anything." The numbers on the car's speedometer started to climb, but Chuck couldn't feel it. "I encourage you to do the same, try to polish as much of that 'I guess' off of your spirit as you can before it catches on something."
Later, at an unnamed winery…
Sarah pulled up to the gate, grateful that someone had arranged to have new tires put on the Mustang. Orion had tinkered with just about everything else. Even if she hadn't heard one county after another put out a 'do not approach order' on her on the scanner, they couldn't have caught up to her anyway.
And besides, she still had the rocket launcher.
Rye's car was exactly where she expected it to be, under cover of darkness from the blindingly bright full moon, and wouldn't that make her life just that extra touch more difficult. Her phone's screen revealed nothing inside, except a plain briefcase with her name on it, and some GPS coordinates.
He wanted her to make the drop?
Sarah took the case, grateful that she'd left the rocket launcher in the car. She'd need it the next time she saw Rye.
"Where's Sarah?" asked Chuck, as they walked out onto the moonlit expanse of the balcony overlooking the majestic sweep of the vineyards. "Wow, this is beautiful."
"Yeah, sometimes the scenery makes me cry," said Rye. "It's great to be a spy."
"I wish Sarah was here. You know, really here. Like you said she'd be."
"No, I didn't, Chuck. I said this is where we'd find her." He handed Chuck a set of optics, with another for himself. "Right over there." He pointed.
Seven eyes watched from the shadows as the transaction went down. "Do we kill them now?"
"Let him go," said Frost."He'll get what's coming to him. The fool didn't even check what he was buying. You can kill the woman."
"Sarah!" shouted Chuck helplessly as the three armed men surrounded his wife.
"You need to flash, Chuck," shouted Rye. "Don't flash for yourself, flash for her, she needs you!"
Chuck felt…something, the usual sensation of a flash but not the same. "I felt–I felt something, Rye, but I don't know if it was a flash. How do I know?"
Down in the woods…
Three muffled shots pierced the darkness, and the three male figures. Sarah turned as they fell around her, to see a familiar woman step from the shadows. "Hello, dear."
"What are you doing?" She looked at the dead men but her eyes came back to the gun in Frost's hand.
"They planned to betray me," said Frost. "Sell Chuck, rather than kill him as I ordered."
Up on the balcony…
Men swarmed upon them from out of the Chateau, striking at Chuck and Rye alike. Rye fought heroically, Chuck fought...ably, side by side, but the low railing of the balcony that was hip high on Rye was not so high for Chuck, and at a sudden shove he tumbled over the edge, catching himself on the decorative stonework. "Rye! Help me!"
Frost tensed as Sarah's eyes went wide, but her daughter-in-law made no move to attack. She spun as Frost took a step back, seeing all the struggling men on the balcony. "Chuck?"
Frost pulled a scope from her pocket, trying to keep Sarah in view as she looked through the eyepiece. "Those aren't Melville's men."
Sarah ran. Frost followed.
Rye fought alone as Chuck hung helplessly. "Flash, Chuck," he shouted between punches. "If you fall you're dead. She's dead too!"
"I can't flash! I'm not the Intersect!"
"Don't be the Intersect," said Rye, down to one man and not much of him. "Be an agent. Can you do that?"
Chuck could do…something. The world went away, not a flash but something like it.
Chuck stood in his fortress, untouched by time. This was Now. He checked his readouts. The body was tense, so he relaxed it. The fingers were slipping. He loaded rock-climbing skills into an active register. So many skills. Why so many? The Now had no answers, so Chuck looked up at his monitors, his eyes on the world. Others who needed him, whatever he was. Rye fighting. Sarah surrounded by killers.
The world sped up again, his fingers securing their purchase as he hung, limp. Whatever he was. "I'm not sure I'm an agent, Rye," he shouted.
Rye stood over him, looking down as he dangled. "Not good enough, Chuck."
Chuck looked up. "But…I'm not sure I'm…not an agent, either."
Rye smiled. "Much better!" He clapped his hands together. "I can work with that."
A shot rang out, and Rye's chest erupted in gore.
"And so can I, agent," said the shooter, an elderly man.
"I–I've been shot?" asked Rye.
The old man gave him a gentle push, and Rye tumbled off the balcony. "How astute of you." He looked down at Chuck. "Take my hand or die, Agent Charles."
Under the circumstances, Chuck decided not to correct the man. He took the hand. The old guy was surprisingly strong, and pulled him up easily. Chuck was too weak to resist as he was cuffed. He barely noticed the injection, making his head spin. "You don't sound French."
"I am not French, Agent Charles. I am…Belgian."
When Sarah reached the balcony it was empty, except for Chuck's watch. The only man left was Rye, down below, a mess on the masonry.
Her phone rang. Chuck's caller ID, but almost certainly not Chuck. "Hello?"
"If you attempt to follow I will kill the Intersect," said the accented voice. "This is your only warning." The call ended, and most likely the phone ended too.
Sarah heard a footstep behind her. She turned, and there was Frost, sans gun. "Who was that?"
"Aldebert De Smet," said Frost. "The Belgian. My men made a mistake but I made a worse one."
"He knows Chuck is the Intersect."
Frost nodded. "He must. He'd never have revealed himself otherwise."
"I have to get back," said Sarah. "We have to get him back, we can't let De Smet get away."
"The Belgian is not in the habit of making idle threats," said Frost. "Any pursuit now will get Chuck killed. Come with me, if you want him to live."
A/N2 I don't know about you, but I think Sarah making a deal with Volkoff to save Chuck is a much better and more plausible scenario than Beckman's 'rogue agents' ploy. I always thought it made Volkoff look like a fool to take Sarah on the way he did in canon.