A/N The show never tried to deal with the fallout from Chuck's actions in any way. Wait, I said that before. Okay, here we go, then...
"Buenos noches, compadres."
"I've always been honest with you, Sarah."
"Why'd you do it, Amy?"
"What is it with you and girls, anyway?"
In the VIP room of a nightclub in Rio…
Sarah scrambled up the twisted cords to her chute, her mind reeling. Why wasn't Chuck home safe, where he belonged? What was he doing in the field? He had no business out here!
The last time she'd heard him speak he'd been saying her name, so weak. Now she heard it again, his wonderful voice, calling Zondra's nickname, so naturally. She saw him toss the blade so his partner could free herself, just as she herself would have done. In her spinning she'd caught glimpses of the whole short fight, the skill, the teamwork, even on opposite sides of the room. And then he'd left his own wife behind, not knowing who she was, calling Zondra's name as he followed her into danger.
Sarah frowned. Chuck should have been following her into danger.
No! He should have been home, safe in his sister's lab.
Once back on the roof she couldn't get the buckles undone fast enough. She'd heard the gunfire, the shattering of glass. Her idiot husband had taken two knives to a gunfight. If Gaez didn't kill him she would.
I didn't mean that, Chuck, I'm sorry!
She had to save him. How? She couldn't think! Couldn't breathe with this idiot hood on! She clawed it off her head, looking around. She had to get into the main room now! The roof had nothing but vents and pipes, bits of metal sticking up all over. Under the roof was a space for people, to work on the lights and such. Alternate entry plan three, but ripping the hatch covers off would take too long.
Plan two, but without the harness. Cable to strut, cable to belt. This would hurt even if she did it right, but she had no choice. At least she knew where the windows were without having to look. The cable had been measured out accordingly.
She ran to the edge of the roof and dove off, arcing through the air at the end of her tether, eyes on the prize as she twisted and maneuvered to punch through the Ow!
Shatterproof glass. That's new.
The lights went out, inside. Where was Chuck? The bar still had some lights, bits of neon that weren't part of the room's main circuit, and fragments of mirror that were catching something from the other side of the room. There was Chuck, scrambling around in the debris behind the bar. He was safe.
"There she is!" Amy's voice.
Chuck stood up, and Sarah slammed the glass in frustration. No!
He threw something, and Amy cursed in the darkness. Two more throwing motions, and he dropped back down out of sight.
"I see her!" Amy's voice again, and this time Sarah looked for the source. She heard gunshots but saw no muzzle-flash. Dammit!
Movement. By the doors, and some shattered chandeliers with a few lights still glowing. Someone hiding by the pillars. A man, had to be Gaez. He raised his pistol.
One shot, then a second, pinned Gaez against the pillar, his nice white shirt erupting in red. Right in the pump. A third shot slammed the head against the pillar. Unnecessary, but that's Zondra for you, never take two shots when three will do. Chuck was safe! She looked back to the bar.
Her heart squeezed cold negation like blood.
Chuck held a gun in his hand.
Sarah saw nothing, heard nothing but Doom. Doom, pulsing through her veins.
Her Chuck had just killed a man. He brought his other hand up, staring at dark smears, staring at…blood. He had blood on his hands too.
Lights flared and she recoiled from the scene, the window, the building. When she reached the far end of the arc and her body inevitably swung back, she fumbled with the cable's emergency release. The second spool started to unwind, dropping her below the level of the windows but still the building came closer, closer. Release, release!
She grabbed a knife and sliced the cable like a throat, dropping the last ten feet into the alley, slamming into a dumpster.
Sarah Bartowski ran like all the demons of Hell were on her heels, because they were.
Zondra Rizzo dropped the cloth that she'd used to cover her white dress and went to the door. She closed her eyes and hit the lights, the room exploding against her eyelids. The first thing she saw when she opened them was the crumpled body of Augusto Gaez, and a red smear against the pillar like an arrow pointing down.
They had to move fast, before the police responded to whatever calls they were going to get. She wiped the prints from her gun, and switched weapons with the dead man. Let the ballistics show that Gaez killed Amy.
Something thumped, and she raised her new weapon, but it was only Chuck, collapsing to the floor in a kneeling position. He still held the gun out but gravity was taking its toll.
She ran across the room. "Chuck. Chuck!" No response. "Agent Charles!"
Chuck whispered something.
"What?" She held her ear close to his lips.
"Are you safe?" he whispered.
"Yes," she said instantly. You got him. No, that's not what he wanted to hear. "I'm fine. You saved me, Chuck."
He sighed out "Good" and fell silent. His arm dropped, the gun thumping against the floor.
She pulled it from his grip, wiped it off, and put it back where it belonged. Let the ballistics show that Amy killed Gaez. "Chuck, we have to move."
"Good." He didn't move.
"Great." If Casey wasn't moving either, she'd have to abandon them both. She ran back to the VIP room, but the bigger man was already in the hall, bracing himself against the wall. "Are you okay?"
Casey spat on the floor. "Fortunately I'd just rinsed out my mouth with a glass of good Scotch. Stopped her poison cold." And the poison that got past that, ran headlong into the Janitor's Brew he drank every day. "What's going on? Where's Chuck?"
"He's on the floor in the club."
Casey brought his head up, fixing her with a fierce look. "Wounded?"
"I don't think so. I shot Amy, he got Gaez. Right now he's just kneeling on the floor, but he doesn't look injured."
"Goddammit!" He pushed away from the wall, staggering toward the club.
"We have to get out of here," said Amy.
Casey turned and snarled, "I'm not leaving any of my team behind, got me?" He gestured at the room he'd just left. "Clean up in there!" He stumbled forward, stronger with every step, and knelt down next to his partner. "Chuck?"
"She's safe," whispered Chuck. "She's safe."
Casey lifted Chuck up as gently as any newborn. "Yeah, she's safe, and so am I, thanks to you. Good work, partner."
Chuck still whispered, but the words changed. "They're safe. They're safe…"
Casey grunted. At least he's not totally catatonic. He turned to Zondra as she came toward them. "Get us out of here."
"What's the matter with him, Colonel?" asked Zondra as she drove through the backstreets of Rio to the evac site.
Casey looked in the back seat, where Chuck had mercifully fallen asleep. "He's got a conscience, Rizzo."
Talk about a liability in the field. "He doesn't wimp out like this every time he shoots someone, does he?"
Casey wished Carina were here. She may not shut up either, but at least she'd talk about something else. "So far."
What did that mean, 'so far'? This guy had a history and they didn't tell her? "How many men has he killed?"
Casey gave her that look.
A virgin? "No way!" As good as he was, a rep like he had? She waited for Casey to tell her it was a joke, and then waited some more. Finally she sighed. "Great."
Yeah, that's what I said. "Just shut up and drive, Rizzo."
One quickly changed flight plan later…
When they were airborne to DC, Casey left Zondra to watch over Chuck while he went to the conference room to check in. At least he and the General were in the same time zone this time. "Good Evening, General."
"Colonel Casey, where's the rest of your team?"
No, he didn't think that one would slide by her. "They're safe on board, ma'am," he said quickly, and first. "Amy Johnson revealed herself as the traitor, letting Agents Bartowski and Rizzo walk into a trap, and then she tried to poison me."
"I gather that events didn't work out in their favor, in spite of these advantages."
"No, ma'am, although my report for most of the rest would be hearsay. You'll have to interview Agent Rizzo for that."
"What happened to Chuck?"
Casey looked unhappy. "The long and short of it is…According to Agent Rizzo…that is, in order to save her life…" Casey took a deep breath, and tried again. "To save the life of Agent Rizzo, Special Agent Charles Bartowski shot and killed Augusto Gaez in the line of duty. Ma'am."
General Beckman digested that in silence. "I see," she said at last. "And where were you?"
"I was in the back of the club, trying to get over the poison, and aid my team. I turned the lights out in the main room, knowing that in any circumstances where everyone was equal, Chuck would always be a little equaller. That's where Agent Rizzo found me, after. She cleaned the site while I extracted Agent Bartowski. He was…" Casey chose an Ellie-word. "Responsive, but not very."
"It's not your fault, Colonel."
"I'm his handler, General, I should have forced the issue weeks ago."
"You did, John," said Beckman, getting his attention as no amount of rank-pulling would have. "We just have to hope that he's as flexible about this as he was about not using guns, well, as guns, in the first place." She made the kind of grunt that only high-ranking officers like Casey could understand. "Send Agent Rizzo in, please. I'll need all the data I can get before I tell Ellie anything about this…this..."
"Once again you demonstrate your notable gift for understatement, Colonel," said the General. "Watch over him, John."
Back in Rio, on the ground…
Frost sat in the cabin on the Volkoff corporate jet, working late as usual. On the subject of Sarah Walker, Alexei and Vivian Volkoff had far different perspectives and preferences, and it was one of her jobs to reconcile them as best she could. In her favor, the fruits of Agent Walker's success tended to be considerable, and even Vivian was willing to tolerate Miss Walker's existence as long as it was productive. Another of Frost's jobs was to capitalize on that productivity, manage it, make it work for them, and for her.
Frost had long since learned the secret of serving two masters. The real trick was serving three.
In the back of the plane a woman shrieked. The computer sailed across the plane into a comfy chair on the far side. Before it landed Frost was in the aft compartment, knife in one hand and a tranq pistol in the other. The, for lack of a better term, stewardess cringed in the corner. Frost barked out one word. "What?"
The woman pointed, at the compartment with the laundry equipment in it. Several different scenarios passed through Frost's mind and were immediately discarded as untenable. The gun went away, the knife went into her dominant hand, in case close-quarters work was called for.
Frost grabbed the handle to the compartment door and pulled it open as suddenly as she could, while stepping back out of range of any immediate attack.
Sarah Walker crouched in the back of the little closet, in the deepest shadows available, breathing with a panting, animal sound. "Agent Walker? What are you doing here?" She was supposed to go home, a trap within the CIA, just waiting for Alexei Volkoff to spring it.
Sarah said nothing, just stared.
"Agent Walker, did you accomplish your mission?" said Frost, in her command voice.
Sarah growled at her!
This wasn't working. Frost turned to the stewardess and said, "Tell the pilot to get us out of here, now."
The woman fled the room gratefully.
Frost put her weapon away and knelt, eye to eye. "What's the matter, Sarah?" she asked, mother to daughter. "What happened?"
Sarah flinched away from the comforting tone of her voice. "It won't come off."
Frost looked for Sarah's gun, but it had been used, lost, left behind. "You killed Gaez?"
Chuck brought his other hand up, staring at dark smears. "It won't come off!" She leapt out of the shadows, taking the other woman not entirely by surprise. "It won't come off!"
Frost would have rolled with it, but the narrow confines of the aft area brought her up against a wall, Sarah's hands at her throat. Frost went for her eyes, and Sarah jerked away. Frost kicked her back into the closet, and rolled for the door, to get some room to maneuver. She felt for her tranq pistol. It wasn't there. She looked in the doorway and saw it there on the floor.
Sarah blocked her view. "It won't come off!"
This was going to hurt. Good. Frost wanted it to hurt. She smiled, a smile that made normal people blanch, and threw away the knife. She reached to the collar of her blouse and pulled. Buttons popped, fabric tore, and the restrictive blouse gave way, revealing her much less restrictive body armor. "No!" she yelled, finally, freely, and in English, a language no one on board knew. "It doesn't come off!"
The right thing to say, if you wanted to start a war.
Sarah launched herself at Frost, but the older and more experienced agent saw the move coming and caught her hands, only to catch a kick to the ribs from Sarah's left foot. Even as she reeled from the force of the kick she held on to Sarah's wrists, dragging her off balance as well before letting go. By the time Sarah had regained her balance Frost had rolled, painfully, to open up some distance between them. Both of them adopted fighting postures.
Frost sneered at the woman with death in her eyes. "Do you think you can possibly hate me as much as I do right now?" She would welcome death, but it would have to beat her first. She still had work to do.
Sarah had nothing to say that her eyes weren't already saying. She never was very big on words.
Suddenly the floor moved sideways, and Sarah jumped. Frost lost track of things after that, the years of training and conditioning bypassing her mind entirely. She and Sarah were matching sets of reflexes now, full of rage, hatred, and bitter self-loathing.
They had so much in common.
At some point, Frost felt the table give way under her she fell on top of it, and Sarah jumped on her again, pinning her arms with her knees and going for the throat a second time. Frost tried to buck her off, or use her legs, but the fight had been taken out of her. She had no idea how long they'd been going at it, and her years betrayed her. Her head pounded and her sight grew dim, but she kept her eyes locked on Sarah's, staring her death in the face.
Suddenly Sarah's grip loosened, and she leaned forward, closer, closer, fighting gravity every step of the way. Her eyes glazed over and finally closed, her head coming to rest gently against Frost's.
Frost freed her arms and rolled Sarah off her, gently. She looked up, to see the stewardess with the tranq gun shaking in her hands. Knowing better than to try to speak, Frost gave her a thumbs-up. You get a raise. Ow.
The next day…
Ellie came downstairs, third thing in the morning. The first two involved hitting the snooze button on her alarm clock. The fourth involved coffee. She sat at the kitchen table, head propped upon hand, drinking coffee as she watched the blinking light.
Eventually she wondered why the light was blinking. After a while it occurred to her to wonder what light it was.
She wasn't about to press a blinking button on her CIA-issued TV at coffee-o'clock in the morning. Somewhere around here they still had that instruction manual, probably filed under 'Instruction Manuals'.
The instructions were not written for the sleep-deprived, but they might have been written by them. Lights, blinking was not in the index.
Ah. Voice mail. She read some more. Self-destructing voice mail.
She got her phone, and called up its video function. If this worked she'd have to tell the boffins in R&D about it, since it probably wasn't supposed to.
Channel zero, as usual. With the TV centered in the screen, she said, "File item one."
The screen lit with General Beckman's face, against the backdrop of her office. "Ellie, call me as soon as you listen to this. Thank you." The screen faded to black, and the light went out.
Ellie sat back on her couch, folding her hands over the bulge in her tummy. Well. Kind of… anticlimactic. She checked the recording anyway. Pretty late, really. What kept a General up so late? Nothing good, she supposed, but apparently not important enough to get her out of bed.
Okay, let's get this over with. "General Beckman."
Devon Woodcombe bounced downstairs, fresh from his shower and ready to kick a few stars out of the sky. He checked the pot, sadly empty. "Hey, babe, didn't you make any coffee?"
"Yup," she said from the living room. "You might want to make more though. Make a lot."
"Uh, sure, El." Working from home today? He scooped out a lot more than usual. "Anything for breakfast?"
"Yes, please. Whatever you're making."
He went out to the living room, empty pot in hand. "No, babe, what I meant was–"
She didn't look up from the computer, sitting atop her belly. Tears lined her face. "Kind of busy here, hon."
General Beckman sat at her desk, working on her report. There were still those who thought the best use of Chuck as a resource was in the lab, and she had to figure out a way to tell them they were wrong , in spite of last night's events, and still make them like it. However horrific it may seem, last night was a molehill, not a mountain, and she was going to keep it that way.
If it was easy, anybody could do it.
"General?" asked Mr. Charles over the speaker. "Agent Miller on line 3."
Beckman checked her watch, and pressed the button. "That didn't take long."
Carina cut to the chase. "Is it true?"
"Yes, it's true."
"I was wounded. It wasn't my fault."
"I'll make sure Sarah knows that."
"She's gonna kill me," said Carina. "I should have been there."
"No, Carina," said Beckman. Today was a real first-name sort of day. She hated those. "It wasn't your fault. Your presence would not have helped, and might have made things worse." Beckman considered the matter. "If you insist on punishing yourself, though, I have an assignment for you."
"Someone needs to tell Mr. Grimes."
Waking was like falling into quicksand, not something he wanted to do but fighting it just made it worse. Chuck pulled the moment of Gaez' death out of his memory, not that he wanted to remember it. Forgetting it would be worse, though, not for Gaez' sake but for his own.
Something, someone, made a noise. Maybe if he kept his eyes closed…
"Good morning, Chuck."
Crap. Chuck opened his eyes. "Doc, we gotta stop meeting like this."
Aaand her day was complete, distorted voice and all. "Good morning, Orion," she said, attempting to be civil. However bad her day was, his day had to be worse. And he'd blame her for it, too, even though it was all Chuck's choice. "Back to your usual purple pixels, I see." She opened the drawer for her glasses.
"You're wasting my time."
The voice was firm, authoritative. The figure, that familiar silhouette, was still, with none of the old hacker's relentless twitching. "Who are you?" asked Beckman.
The distorted voice had no answers for her. "What is wrong with Sarah Walker?"
A/N2 It's a beginning.