A/N I wasn't sure what to call this episode, I'm sort of running out of favorite TV shows to name them after. We just discovered Haven on Netflix and my youngest daughter suggested I use that. I'm not planning to use the storyline of Haven, just the name. But you never know, stranger things have happened.
"Are you safe?"
"It's not your fault, Colonel."
"It won't come off!"
"What is wrong with Sarah Walker?"
Moscow, just a few hours ago…
"I must say, you've looked better," said Alexei, his voice an avalanche. He touched the growing bruise on her cheek, gentle as a butterfly settling.
He pulled his hand back, as she expected.
"I've been better too," she said, her voice slightly off-center. "If it hadn't been for Miss Babkin–you will remember to give her that bonus…?"
"Of course," said Alexei, "And more. If not for her Miss Walker might have taken you from me–"
Vivian chose that moment to insert herself into the charming reunion. "Now do you see why I wanted her taken care of, Father? She's simply too dangerous."
"I agree," said Volkoff, happily. That's what made chess played with live pieces so much more exciting than ordinary chess.
Vivian struck while her iron was hot. "Then shall I order her termination?"
Volkoff turned to Frost. "What say you, Frost? It is you who have borne the whips and scorns of time tonight."
Frost gave every outward appearance of thinking it over. "Agent Walker has always been dangerous, Alexei," said Frost. "She's still the same grenade she always was, but something happened last night that made her explode closer to hand than we expected."
Frost shook her head. Once. "No, we caught signals that he was dead in his club. Apparently it looked like a war zone, but she's made many of those before."
Volkoff went behind his desk, and activated his largest monitor, calling up footage from the plane. "Two in one night?" He hit rewind, and they watched as the clock moved backward, undoing the destruction. Frost remembered some of it, dimly. Alexei hummed along as his plane rebuilt itself, stopping as Sarah leapt backward into the aft section. "So you finally found someone as formidable as you." He moved it forward again, watching as Sarah said something before she leaped at Frost. "What did she say?"
Frost knew better than to lie to the Boss. "It won't come off."
Alexei paid people to ponder riddles like that. "What is 'it', and why won't it come off?"
"I have no idea," she said, with complete honesty. But I'm going to find out. "I propose we keep Miss Walker contained here, until I can find out what happened. We have any number of uses for a hand grenade, we can throw her away at any time. We just have to duck faster."
"And if she comes back to us again?" asked Vivian.
Frost shrugged. Once. "Then we keep on throwing her until she doesn't."
Alexei restarted the video, for the third time. Apparently this was a Yes.
Frost knew every second, inside and out. She had no desire to see it again, or the open hunger in Alexei's eyes as he did. "May I be excused, Sir?"
Alexei waved a hand negligently, absorbed. "Carry on, Frost."
Vivian didn't bother to excuse herself, not that her father would have noticed anyway. "Frost," she said, stopping the older woman in her tracks.
Frost turned. "Yes, ma'am?" she asked, ever mindful of her honorifics.
Vivian quite liked being a 'Ma'am', rather than a 'Miss'. She strode up close, kept her voice low, intimate, just in case there were any microphones. "Something must be done about that woman, for both our sakes."
Delicately put. "I understand."
Vivian smiled. "Make it happen."
"Yes, ma'am," said Frost to her back.
Washington DC, in a certain familiar CIA holding facility…
"Chuck, I want you to know up front that you are in no way a prisoner here. You're free to go, if you like," said Doctor Dreyfus.
Chuck looked at the door, standing open. "You mean that?"
"Of course I do," said Leo. "The therapy is mandatory, as is the time out of the field, but something tells me you won't be all that upset if you never go back into it again."
Chuck looked at his hands. I have the power. I have the responsibility. "Sarah's out there, Doc."
Hands, wrote Leo. What is in his hands, or on them? "She'll come back to you, Chuck."
"Then why didn't she?"
"Tangled in cables, hanging from a skylight?" asked Dreyfus, deliberately misunderstanding Chuck's question. "Given the scenario, she had to know that anything that was going to happen would happen before she could free herself."
"So she just left?"
"What would have happened if she hadn't?" Dreyfus chuckled as his client turned red and started to fidget in his embarrassment. "Now you see her problem."
Chuck felt her problem, in every ache of his bones. So long, they'd been apart. He had his training to take his mind off it. What did she have? "Must be one hell of a mission."
"Alexei Volkoff and your mother? I'd say so." Dreyfus turned the page on Sarah Bartowski, both literally and figuratively. "So, I think we can safely say you have a good reason to want to get back into the field, Chuck. Now let's try to get you there."
Frost sat up in her bed. She'd promised Alexei that she would take some painkillers and get some rest, and she had, if 'one' counts as 'some'. As for the rest, well, she never rested, why start now? She'd rest when she was dead, and Sarah had just reminded her in vivid purplish detail how easily that could happen.
If there was one thing Frost had learned in thirty years it was how to roll with the punches, and Agent Bartowski had thrown quite a few her way. Before she could roll, though, she needed to learn the lay of the land.
She got out of bed and logged on to her computer. If the issue ever came up, she would say she was investigating Agent Walker's strange behavior, and it would even be true. From the tower on her desk, she took out an old CD of balalaika music, a taste she'd cultivated years ago. She plopped the CD in the drive, upside-down.
A special, one-time-only program started. Her web cam and mike activated, not that anyone could have seen it from the outside. Even if they had, no one would have recognized it as a video-conference. Her screen erupted in purple pixels, rendering an unfamiliar silhouette. "Hello, Diane."
The silhouette jerked in surprise. Her husband's code bypassed the General's alerts, Frost recalled, just to tweak her tail. "Good morning, Orion," said General Beckman, surprisingly civil. "Back to your usual purple pixels, I see."
Frost made her point as clearly as she could in as few words as necessary. "You're wasting my time."
"Who are you?" asked Beckman, taking the hint.
Frost answered the question in her usual oblique fashion. "What is wrong with Sarah Walker?"
General Beckman's office, on the other end of this call...
Frost? For a moment sheer surprise drove every thought from Beckman's head, but her long career in coded double-speak came to her rescue. "We haven't managed to convince her, that your wagon-maker's work isn't as good as she thinks it is." If this communication ended now let that one message make it through. Frost could unpack it at leisure.
The response came back surprisingly quickly. "Understood. Send me an upgrade via Archer's Shipping. They know my taste in music."
Music? "Very good," said Beckman. "Her husband just joined your club, you know. At least one of his friends is very glad he did."
The screen went black.
Washington DC, John Casey's residence…
He knelt in his living room, seeking what little peace was available to him. One of his teachers had long ago sabotaged his life, telling him to seek a calm center that simply didn't exist. Under Chuck's 'tutelage' Casey had found his center, not calm but angry, the eye of a great and perpetual storm. His bonsai tree had since grown to become a frightening thing.
His TV trilled at him, a request, rather than a command. His curiosity aroused, he answered his commander's call.
The General had doffed her uniform jacket, technically out of uniform. "Colonel Casey, I apologize for interrupting your meditations."
He deliberately placed his implements in their tray, and set it all to one side. "Accepted but not required, ma'am."
"Thank you. I find I need something from you that I have never asked for before. I trust that you will keep this between us."
"Yes, ma'am. Whatever you require…Diane."
"Thank you, Colonel…John. I need…your faith."
"Faith in who?" Casey thought about his safe and the package inside. "I have no doubts about Agent Bartowski, if that's what you're asking–"
"It's not Chuck but his mother that I'm worried about. You once expressed strong belief in her loyalty, sight unseen. Do you still have that faith?"
She'd brought them the poison, betrayed them to Volkoff, and stolen Chuck's wife away. "More than ever, General."
She took a deep breath, as if inhaling his support from her screen. "I hope you're right, John. I very much hope you're right."
Dreyfus watched Chuck with great interest. His hands were everywhere. When the subject was Amy or Gaez, they were under his arms. When he talked about Agent Rizzo they were clasped together. While talking about Casey he leaned back on them, but sometimes they were tucked between his knees. Sometimes, not often, he stared at them.
Right now he was sitting on them. "So what are you saying, Doc, that sometimes it's right to kill?"
"No, Chuck, you misunderstood my point. I would never say that killing is right," said Dreyfus. "I would say that killing can sometimes be 'least wrong', although that's really a discussion for another time." 'Least' implied options, and 'not killing' was not an option, last night, just who would be killed. "You had to choose, under foul conditions, conditions that prevented a less fatal course of action, and you chose Agent Rizzo's life over Mr. Gaez. I can't say that it was the, or even a, right action, but I will say that it was the right choice."
"That part was easy," said Chuck. It hadn't seemed at all like a choice, at the time. "I'm glad I didn't have time to overthink it like I usually do, or I might not have done it. Choosing is easy but acting is hard."
"The action was the choice, Chuck. Without action everything else is just words." Dreyfus' phone rang. After he took the short call, he said, "Well, I believe that's all the time we have for today. Your Colonel Casey is at the gate."
Chuck got off his hands, and put on his jacket. "When do you want me back?" he asked, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
"As you–or your sister–think you need it. Ask her, if you don't trust yourself."
"What's up Casey?" asked Chuck, as he got into Casey's classic battle-wagon.
Casey didn't answer until they were off the grounds. "The General needs us."
"So nothing's changed, then?"
Everything's changed, idiot. "You have a good talk with the Doc?"
"I think so."
"He had a very interesting perspective–"
Casey'd already had more than enough. He squeezed the steering wheel so hard the horn went off, and Chuck shut up in surprise. Casey stepped into the silence. "Look, Bartowski, my family is full of soldiers. The only perspective I ever needed came from them, and it's real simple. If you aren't prepared to fight, then you're ready to get beat. You didn't get beat, and I want to say I'm proud of you for that." He took his glare off the road, and turned it in Chuck. "And also that next time maybe you'll listen to your handler and puke in training, where you're supposed to."
Chuck snickered as Casey got back to his driving.
"What?" snarled the big man.
"Doc said you'd say that. He also said 'The middle of a firefight's no time to set up a blue ribbon commission full of people with perspectives.'"
Casey grunted his approval. "What can I say, the Doc's a smart man."
"He also told me about this great science fiction novel I think you'd like–"
That wasn't fair. Casey couldn't wince or roll his eyes, he was driving. "Bartowski…"
Meanwhile, back in Russia…
Only her iron control kept Frost in her room, circling endlessly, rather than out on the grounds, circling endlessly. The last thing she wanted was for Alexei, and now Vivian as well, to have any reason to doubt her. She wanted to scream, she wanted to cry, or maybe sing the praises of whatever power in the Universe caused her connection to Beckman to end at just that moment.
What had Chuck done now?
Her husband, Sarah's husband, had joined her club. What club? The spy club? Why would Chuck be in the spy club, he was her baby, he was a harmless bunny rabbit. Now if Ellie had turned out to–Stop. Chuck. Club. Spy club.
'Won't', Sarah had said, not 'doesn't'. She should have known Sarah wasn't talking about herself.
Frost circled the room, like water afraid to go down that drain. Alice, afraid to go down that rabbit hole, knowing where it led. Not a land of wonders. For hours she twisted in silence, until her over worked body put her to bed. She'd be up soon enough, but hopefully by then she could interview Agent Walker without seeming too eager about it.
In the lab, not at home…
Ellie looked up when she heard the noise, heart pounding. Footsteps sounded as someone walked past her door. A large man. A woman. And…
And someone didn't walk past her door at all. Someone stood right outside, waiting, perhaps working up the courage, perhaps turning to flee. Ellie stood up, ready to run to the door when it pushed open. Chuck stood there, as if unsure of the welcome he would receive.
For a genius he could be pretty stupid sometimes.
"Chuck." Ellie walked up to him and took her little brother in her arms.
He hugged her tightly. "Hey, sis." Neither of them was sure who was shaking more. "I'm sorry."
"Shh, shh," said Ellie gently. "I don't blame you, I blame him. He gave you no choice."
Not entirely true. He had other choices, but they were all worse. The feel of his sister as she held him, the sound of her voice, the smell of her hair, steadied him as nothing else could. "You remember all those stories you used to tell me about your time on the surgical unit?"
"Now I get it."
"Yeah." He pulled back. "But at least I took a monster off the streets."
Ellie frowned. "Don't forget he was also a man, Chuck."
"I won't forget, El. I can't. But it's like the Doc said, only men can be monsters."
Frost's room, much later than she expected…
She overslept. The one night she wanted to wake early was the one night the nightmares decided to make her stay.
As always, she made even that delay work for her. On her outer patrol, she looked both thoughtful and fierce. She noticed everything and forgave nothing. Her inner patrol was slightly better, since she got a chance to smile at Miss Babkin, starting her first shift in the mansion.
Finally she fetched up outside Sarah's door, and went in without knocking, like a jailer would. Agent Walker lay inside, still in her leathers, still strapped to the gurney they'd used to take her off the plane. She looked peaceful, angelic, a once-upon-a-time-blonde sleeping princess waiting for her kiss. "Agent Walker?"
Sarah opened her eyes, the only part of her that moved.
Frost decided to keep it short, if not sweet. "It won't come off, Sarah, but at least Chuck got something for his pains. I spoke with your boss, she said he saved his partner, I'm assuming that's Casey."
Frost paused, but Sarah made no sound, no motion, nothing to step into the deliberate conversational vacuum. A single tear slid from her eye down the side of her head, and Frost leaned in close to wipe it away. "I know."
Frost sat back, her fingers rubbing, smearing Sarah's tear all over themselves, the closest she'd been to real tears in a very long time. "What happened last night, Sarah? What did you see?"
Once Frost could have read whole mission reports from Sarah's face, but not now. Sarah's face was as smooth and unreadable as a mirror, telling Frost only the things that she told it first. "Agent Walker," she said gently, "Report."
Sarah opened her mouth, moved her lips…and spoke volumes of silence into the world.
A/N2 A bit of an interruption, but a necessary one. For all that the showrunners went on about Chuck being about the Hero's Journey, they never actually showed their Hero making that journey. He killed a man, and they said nothing about it. He got the fear toxin, with no apparent consequences. Or the Suppressor, or the Belgian's machines, or…A million opportunities to show Chuck becoming the man they wanted him to be, and every single one of them was wasted.
Perhaps that was where they were planning to go, in Season 3, and the profoundly negative reaction prevented the proper development of their Hero. Certainly a comic romp on the trains of Europe is not the proper response to the fact that Chuck just killed a man, much as it may have pleased the fans who didn't want the dramatic arc in the first place. (That may be why I dislike the Honeymooners episode so much.)
Given that they did have the dramatic arc, I would have preferred that they stuck to their guns and brought the show back to its lighter side while dealing with the dark stuff, and made Chuck the real Hero they wanted him to be. My version of S3 was much lighter than theirs, but my version of S4 is not nearly as light-hearted as theirs, although I'm trying to avoid the deep shadows.
8/17/14: I have seen problems in leaving reviews. Several reviewers have logged in and left reviews that never made it to the board, I don't know why but I sent them a message about it. If your comment doesn't appear just leave it as Guest, with a user name, and I'll PM you back, because I always respond to comments if I can.