A/N BigDaddyDL did a great version of Chuck's return from Thailand, called Somewhere Over the Pacific.
"I'm different without Chuck, and I don't like it."
"Let's go save her from herself."
"Doctors Without Borders?"
"Miss Walker. Welcome to Volkoff Industries."
Casey stood guard. He didn't have to, but he did it anyway.
They'd evacuated Chuck from Thailand the quick and dirty way, taking the boat upriver and leaving the owner to wake up on his own. Mueller wasn't too much of a problem, although they'd hoped for the Belgian. At least they had proof of death, on that front, along with all the portable intel they could gather. The rest burned.
The river took them to the road and the road took them to the border. Once in a more friendly country they got onto a transport that had absolutely nothing to do with them, and off they went, leaving lots of helpful civilians thanking their gods and counting their money.
In Japan the two patients (Ellie's utter exhaustion having finally caught up with her) and their medical team transshipped to a faster and far more comfortable plane. Leaving Carina to direct the corpsman carrying Chuck and Ellie (and God help them if they so much as stubbed a toe under her watchful gaze), Casey went forward to check in.
"Yes, ma'am, We have the Doctor and her patient, although both of them look like patients at the moment."
The General had already consulted with Dr. Dreyfus. "Let them both sleep as much as possible. Did you find…anyone else?"
"Traces of her, ma'am," said Casey. "The scene had been reduced before we got there. The Belgian is dead, and we recovered one of Telescope's knives from the body."
"How do you know it was hers?" Not that Beckman was in any way doubting the description, but it was a detail someone would bring up, if this case ever came to light.
"Because–" The air in the plane must have been pretty dry, Casey's voice caught for a second. "Because we found her ring in the patient's pocket, ma'am."
Sarah only wore one ring. "Oh dear."
"Yes, ma'am." He listened to Beckman think for a few seconds.
"I'll contact Surgeon, and keep him apprised of the situation."
'Surgeon' had to be Devon, but a General, doing her aide's job? "Ma'am?"
"It was his sacrifice that got this whole ball rolling, Colonel, and I am honoring that sacrifice."
No way Ellie would risk herself without Devon's agreement. Fortunately Devon also realized that rocks are afraid of getting between Ellie and a hard place. "Yes, ma'am."
"Get some rest, Colonel," said Beckman. "You'll be in the air a while, and I expect your reports before you land. As long as I have Hannah here, I may as well give her something to do. She's still a bit skittish after her encounter with Volkoff. Helping Sarah in any way might be just the thing. Dismissed."
Casey and Carina drew straws, and Casey won, getting to watch and wait as Ellie and Chuck slept side-by-side, Ellie clutching Chuck's hand like a lifeline. Carina sat somewhere else, brooding over Mueller and what she'd like to do to him. Casey decided to get some shut-eye. Ellie'd worn herself to a shadow, she'd keep. He'd have to relieve Carina before she got bored. They needed the lab geek alive.
It would be a long flight.
"Miss Walker, do you mind if I ask you a question?" said Vivian.
Sarah looked at Alexei, but he kept his casual pose, leaning against his desk, seeming intrigued by his daughter's move to the center stage. "Feel free," said Sarah.
Vivian did feel free, thank you very much. "Do you really think my father's an idiot?"
Sarah considered the question as she blinked slowly, twice. "I've heard people describe Alexei Volkoff in many ways," she said at last. "That's not one of them."
"Yet here you are," said Vivian. "When father told me you'd come into his orbit I had to see it for myself, but seeing isn't believing. You're no traitor."
"I have a debt to pay."
Vivian snorted, in her lady-like fashion. "You? Indebted to Alexei Volkoff?"
"Agent Charles was captured. CIA couldn't move in time."
Chuck in danger? No! Vivian slapped Sarah, her arm moving before she even noticed. "And you let it happen!" Nothing could get to Mr. Charles without going through her, Vivian knew that much.
Sarah's hand came up to her cheek, stinging and bloody.
Alexei stood up, taking over the room by that one movement. "I think this concludes the interview," said Volkoff. "Frost?"
Frost came forward, and took a look at Sarah's cheek. "You're bleeding. She's got sharp nails, even if she can't cut ropes with them." She took Sarah's arm and pulled gently. "Let's get that taken care of."
"You don't have to," said Sarah, allowing herself to be directed.
"I know," said Frost, making sure the door was shut behind them. "You could have stopped her, but you didn't."
"I deserved it," said Sarah.
"I was there too."
So? "You're not his wife."
Carina sat in the back by Chuck, flipping through her various notes. She was pretty sure they'd followed one of her plans, back in Thailand, but if they hadn't she'd better write it up pretty quick. Casey was down front, chatting with the lab geek about war crimes and atrocities, for some reason. Not the sort of thing she'd want to talk about with a helpless prisoner, but it takes all kinds.
Chuck sat up, howling in rage and terror. Ellie sat up, crying out in fear and sudden pain, her fingers trapped in Chuck's clenched hand.
"Whaaa!" shrieked Carina, papers flying everywhere as she exploded, tension releasing in every direction at once. Tranq darts flew, and the yelling stopped. Chuck slumped, but Ellie went back down and pulled her brother over.
Casey sidled up the aisle as papers drifted down, keeping Mueller in sight at all times. He risked a glance at the unconscious pair. "Good shooting."
A stack of index cards cascaded over her head, as Carina scraped her notes back into a pile. She kept her head down. "Thank you."
Volkoff came to them in the infirmary as Frost was applying the last bit of sealant. "And here I'd hoped you and my daughter could be friends."
Sarah touched her cheek delicately, so as not to disturb any of Frost's ministrations. She wanted no scars, nothing to remind anyone in years to come about this insane adventure. "You're only as good as your last heroic rescue, I guess."
He reached out and touched her chin, moving her head so he could see the damage. "To hear her tell it, you fell off her horse and had to be rescued yourself."
She moved her head sharply, pulling her chin from his fingers. "I was the bait for the trap."
He nodded. "That sounds better on your resume, at least."
"Believe me I'm not applying." Sarah hopped off the table. "I have a debt to pay and a husband to get back to, so let's get on with it."
"You Americans, so abrupt," said Volkoff. "That particular quality will not be a virtue for what we have in mind."
"'We'?" asked Frost. Alexei hadn't discussed anything with her.
"Vivian and I," he clarified. "She had a few…suggestions, and I decided on a plan to implement them."
"We'll send her to retrieve Yuri for us."
Frost was more than a little familiar with the requirements of that operation. "That's a suicide mission."
Volkoff nodded, grinning. "That was Vivian's part. Chip off the old block, that girl."
"Alexei, a word, in private?" She practically pulled him from the room, setting a ticker on the door to distort their words. "She's going to betray you."
"If she's as big a chip as you think, maybe, but I was talking about Agent Walker."
He smiled. "Well, that all depends on what you mean by 'betrayal', doesn't it? I mean, if you expect it, allow for it, plan for it, then not betraying me would be the real betrayal, wouldn't it? You know how much I love bending people to my will."
"You're not angry with me, are you, Frost?"
"Not angry, no, but…a chance to provide some input would have been nice," said Frost, ever the good subordinate. "That was my suicide mission, after all."
His face crumpled in remorse. "My deepest apologies," said Alexei, stroking her hair. "Maybe next time."
"Good afternoon, General."
Beckman scrutinized her image carefully. "Ellie, are you sure you should be up? What happened to your hand?"
Ellie flexed her taped fingers experimentally, not that they'd gotten any better in the last quarter hour. "Chuck did. It's kind of a long story."
"He hurt you?"
"Not exactly. According to Carina he sat up and started screaming while she was working on her report, took her by surprise."
"That's not wise, she has excellent reflexes," said the General. "What was he screaming about?"
"No idea, she tranqed him. And me."
"But you're pregnant."
"I was yelling too, and like you said, she has good reflexes." She hastened to respond to the question on Beckman's face before she could get around to asking it. "Not only did he start howling in my ear while I was sound asleep, but he was holding my hand. Or I was holding his hand. Anyway, between the pain in my finger, the tranq antagonist they stuck into me once they remembered I was pregnant, and my need to go to the bathroom, I got up early."
Beckman nodded slowly. Not the sort of report she was used to receiving. "And how's your brother?"
Ellie sighed. "I can't really say until I get him under the scanner, General. He's alive. His vitals are good, but he's unresponsive."
Beckman looked at her hand. "And the screaming?"
Ellie started fiddling with something outside the camera's range. "I'm sending you a picture, General." She waited until Beckman's expression got more dour than usual. "This is the chair we found him in. You can see all the marks where those…probes were attached. Whatever they did to his mind, it must have been pretty traumatic. His episode may have been just a delayed response."
"I don't like it when my experts use words like 'may', Doctor. Given Chuck's demonstrated abilities, and the uncertainty of his mental state, you're leaving me no choice but to remand him to Dr. Dreyfus' care, for now. He will come to your lab under guard, or your lab can go to him, if your scanner is portable, but he will stay in a secure facility until you can convince Dreyfus that Chuck's in his right mind."
Ellie nodded. It's what she would have recommended for anyone else's brother. "Yes, General. I'll contact Manoosh and let him know, he can start–"
"Your assistant won't be there, Ellie," said Beckman, shaking her head slightly. "Agent Rye's vehicle is CIA property. I was going to have it shipped back here, but I decided to let Manoosh and Sam drive it back, a little reward for services rendered."
Ellie smiled. Do him some good to get out into the world. "Let's just hope there are no science fiction conventions along the way." Her eyes widened. "Oh, that reminds me…"
"If you're worried about your father's car, don't be. They've got both vehicles." Beckman's face looked a little grim. "I think they've got a bet, too."
Manoosh loose, racing cross-country in her father's souped-up muscle car? "I thought you didn't want me to worry," said Ellie.
Frost opened the door. "Getting settled?"
Sarah raised a brow. "I was pre-settled," she said. She gestured at the closet, stuffed with clothing both elegant and warm. "I didn't come here with this many clothes. I didn't come here with any clothes. I feel like I should be standing in the closet." Waiting for a mark.
Funny. "Agent Walker, like it or not, you are a contract employee of Volkoff Industries. We have standards to maintain, very high standards. If you survive, you may consider those clothes part of your fee."
Her fee was Chuck's life. "Is this Yuri that important to you?"
Frost regarded her coolly for a long moment, then said, "Get dressed, Agent Walker. Something warm."
Two women walked around the grounds of Alexei Volkoff's estate as the snow fell, completely at ease.
"The guards have received pictures of you, of course, so they'll know that you should be accepted in the common areas, for now. They won't challenge you, unless you give them a reason to…"
Sarah crossed her heart. "I am a meek little mouse."
"A meek little mouse that's memorizing their routines," said Frost. "Don't bother, we'll be changing them."
"It's not like I can help it."
"Oh, I know you can't." Frost slowed her steps as they approached a piece of ground that looked like it would be a garden, if the place it was in ever saw a Spring. "My favorite spot."
Sarah looked around, but nothing to recommend the spot to her. "What's so special about it?"
"It's the only place on the grounds not covered by any form of electronic surveillance," said Frost. "Here we can speak without any fear of being overheard."
"And I'm just supposed to take your word for that."
"Not if you want to live very long, no," said Frost readily. "There's only one person you can and should trust unconditionally and he's not here. Don't worry, I didn't bring you to this spot to talk, but to listen."
Sarah listened. "Okay."
"I don't know what kind of game Vivian may be playing, of even Alexei, but you must bring the Gobbler back here."
"Yuri. Yuri the Gobbler."
"Okay, now I have to ask–"
"He eats people."
"I don't have to ask. I have to say 'Ew' right now, because this place is free of all electronic surveillance."
"I won't tell," said Frost.
"Thank you. Does he, um…?"
"Not professionally, no," said Frost. She checked her watch, started speaking faster. "He's Volkoff's main bodyguard, and I'm pretty sure he has something to do with Hydra."
"Volkoff's computer network, his buyers, sellers. His entire infrastructure. His whole empire is virtual, and only Volkoff and maybe Yuri know where it is."
This just keeps getting better. "Why would Volkoff trust that kind of knowledge with a cannibal?"
"I don't know, but when Yuri went into Seabrook Alexei's communications with his network slowed to a crawl, and since Boris took out his lieutenants they've practically stopped. We and Alexei both need Yuri if we want to find that network. It's more important even than Alexei himself. I was supposed to get him back myself, but your team has kept me preoccupied."
"So that's why you helped Volkoff escape in LA."
Frost looked around. "One of the reasons, yes."
"And what you did to Chuck?" asked Sarah sharply.
Frost looked away. "No time to get into that now. The guards will be coming around again…" She stepped forward, out of the invisible safe zone. "And we have to finish your tour."
Sarah buried her anger, and smoothed her features. Agent Walker followed.
An ambulance met the plane and loaded Doctor and her patient on board. Casey and Carina took Mueller in to be formally arrested by someone with the legal authority to do so. Once free of that burden it was back to the lab, an empty and echoing place, without its usual occupants.
"Good afternoon, team," said General Beckman from the monitor in Ellie's office, the closest secure communications station. "I trust that everything has proceeded smoothly so far?"
"It has, General," said Casey.
"Neither Ellie nor Chuck is with you at this time, correct?"
Casey and Carina shared a glance. "That's correct, General."
"Good. We have received an urgent an unsettling communication. It's intended recipient is Mr. Bartowski, but under the circumstances I think it's best he never see it."
"Why is that, General?" asked Carina.
"You tell me, Agent Miller," said the General, pressing a button.
The screen lit up with a woman's face. Vivian MacArthur. "Mr. Charles," she said, "I hope you are doing well after your recent captivity. My father would like you to know that he was pleased to be of assistance to Miss Walker's heroic efforts on your behalf. That said, however, I fear I have discovered something truly disturbing."
An ugly picture of an ugly man replaced her calm visage. "This is Yuri Gobrienko, a/k/a Yuri the Gobbler, my father's main bodyguard. He's currently housed in your Seabrook Supermax Penitentiary. Here are some photos of his victims."
Several images replaced Yuri's.
"Yuck," said Carina. "That's not good."
"Impressive," said Casey.
The pictures vanished, and Vivian was back on the screen. "My father plans to break this monster out of prison, and he plans to use Miss Walker to do it."
Dr. Dreyfus and Ellie were conferring in his office, over his proposed evaluation plan and how she might best contribute to it. An attendant tapped on the door. "Doctor, the new patient is moving."
Leo and Ellie started moving themselves, to a special observation room next to the room where Chuck currently lay restrained, in the high security section.
"How is he moving?" asked Ellie.
"Look at his hands, Doctors," said the attendant.
Chuck's fingers were the only parts of him that so much as twitched. They were lightly, rhythmically, pressing themselves against his leg, one after the other.
"Excellent," said Dreyfus. "He's got some motor function, at least."
"That's not it, Doctor," said Ellie. She turned to the attendant. "Go in there and press your fingers like this–" she demonstrated the motion "–somewhere on his body, where he can feel it."
The attendant glanced at Dr. Dreyfus for his authorization, and Leo gave it. The two doctors watched through the one-way glass as the man entered the other room, walked up to Chuck, and put his hand on Chuck's leg, pressing 1-2-1-2.
Chuck grabbed his arm, and opened his eyes, looking around the room. He looked back up at the man, who stood waiting, not trying to pull away. "Where am I?"
"You're in a secure wing of a CIA Psychiatric Holding Facility," said the attendant.
Chuck released his arm. "Dreyfus again, huh?" He looked at the mirror again, then back at the man. "What's your name and clearance?"
His name was Juan. His clearance was high enough. Now that his patient was lucid and responsive, Juan lifted his clipboard, with its checklist of basic questions. "What's your name?" Hopefully this one wouldn't say 'Bond'.
The patient rested his head on the thin pillow. "My name is Bartowski. Special Agent Charles Bartowski." Then he smiled. "Call me Chuck."
A/N2 So it seems as if quite a few players have chosen sides.