A/N The Seduction Impossible, part 2. The final confrontation, in a small space with relatively little physical movement. And a very small Easter Egg.
One of my regular reviewers, Molotov, maintained that Frost having any opinion on Chuck's abilities was ridiculous, considering how long she's been away, and I agreed with him.
And once again my scene break lines are vanishing.
"What am I remembering?"
"I doubt he's ready for war."
"You came prepared."
"You're talking to the wrong wife."
Frost stared at her son in surprise. Her own plans ruined, he was her only hope to retrieve something from this fiasco that didn't involve high explosives and a high body count. Not the way she wanted her career in the CIA to end. She was a taker, not a breaker.
Somehow Chuck had remained concealed when all the gun-toting thugs had pushed them up against the walls, but now he'd thrown away that slight tactical advantage, a level of subtlety she'd never have expected from him. As good as he was with his dart gun, he could have taken out all the goons in seconds, but lost the real chance. Alexei would simply go on the defensive, and they needed him to remain open. Safe behind his men, secure in his control of the situation, he was at his most vulnerable.
How odd that Chuck saw that and was ready to exploit it. The nine-year-old she remembered so well had never been much of a planner, but that was twenty years ago. What did she know about him now? Not as much as she ought to have, obviously. What she'd said to Alexei weeks ago was true, but not in the way she thought. Her son was her weakness, a gap in her knowledge. The man she'd met in the playground hadn't seemed so different from the boy she'd left behind. Butting into that meeting with Wainwright was exactly the sort of thing the son she knew would do, and she butted him out again as harshly as she dared.
Then Ellie, solid, trustworthy Ellie, told her Chuck really was Mr. Charles, and she realized how much Mother Mary had made a hash of Agent Frost's plans. Fortunately, and through no plan of her own, since then she'd spent more time with his team than with him. They spoke as eloquently about the man as the man himself did, and in more manageable amounts.
Sarah. A wife that frightened a cadre of armed guards that she herself had trained. Terrorizing most of Thailand was also pretty good. She would die for Chuck. She would kill for Chuck. Most important she lived for Chuck, and really, what more could any mother-in-law ask for?
Casey and Miller. Clearly breakers, the pair of them. A team that thought 'Chuck has a plan' was equivalent to 'we're gonna kick ass and take names', and they would ride that plan even if it was a roller-coaster ride through Hell itself. They'd make whatever mess Chuck wanted them to make.
He'd graduated spy school as a Special Agent, a level of autonomy and authority that most agents never achieve. Oh my god, he outranks me!
At nine he'd been a breaker himself, but somewhere along the line he'd learned to be an even better fixer, rarer than rare. She could only wait, be prepared, and hope he could fix this.
Vivian peeked shyly over her father's shoulder. He was here. He was here! And didn't he look wonderful in that form-fitting…ooh.
Would he remember her?
Vivian took a step to the right, out of Agent Charles' direct line of sight but his eyes didn't move. Of course he was staring at her father, everyone always did. Unless she tried to make herself even the slightest bit presentable, then she'd get the world's attention, but who'd want it?
Her hair needed fixing, her clothes were all wrong. The one time she looked decent, she'd had a mask on! Why me?
"Agent Charles," said Alexei, sounding pleased. His men were less pleased, shifting aim and positions to cover the new arrangement of targets. "Come for the missus?" He burst out laughing. "You didn't need to go to all this trouble, you know," he said, his jovial tone sliding into menace. "I'd have mailed her back to you with just a phone call."
Chuck said nothing, his face unrevealing of his thoughts.
"That's the problem with your generation," said Alexei, suddenly. "No panache! There's no style, no verbal sparring, the give and take that makes villainy worth engaging in. Orion would have given me a bit of what-for, before we got down to brass tacks."
"Orion grew up and moved on," said Chuck. "He left you to me, as a sort of…graduation exercise." Which was kind of insulting to everyone else on his team but they would know he had to keep Volkoff's attention focused on him right now.
"A touch!" Volkoff clapped a hand to his chest melodramatically. "A touch, I do confess it! Still, you have some shoes to fill, I'm sure you're aware. I assume you have a plan."
"I'm sorry, Alexei," said Chuck. "Are you asking me to make the classic villain mistake of explaining my dastardly plot?" Suddenly he smiled. "You know what, I'd love to." He stepped forward, leaving the safety of his position between the servers. "Once Agent Walker revealed the nature of Hydra to us–in Rio, just in case you missed that turn–I have to admit we had no real idea where to go looking for your little bolt hole here. I decided to let you lead us to it. So, on behalf of the CIA, and the NSA, I'd like to say…I really hope you got a good deal on this crappy old tub, considering what it cost you."
The rumble of jet engines somewhere above their heads, above the ship itself, penetrated the insulation of the room. Chuck dusted off his hands. "Hydra captured, something I can check off my to-do list."
Volkoff shook his head sadly. "Charles, Charles, you've made an elementary error. There's a big difference between contained and captured. Allow me to demonstrate." At his gesture, men stuck guns into Chuck's face. "I may be contained, temporarily, but you are captured. Do you see your mistake now?" Volkoff dusted off his hands. "A lesson for you, Agent Charles. Real professionals know what they're about."
Chuck's voice went up an octave. "That's not really relevant, is it? As long as it's on this boat Hydra isn't going anywhere but a CIA computer."
Volkoff looked down at the screen where Frost had been working. "Since you were already planning to transmit Hydra to your computer, I see no reason why I can't transmit it to mine." He moved screens around with swift and certain flicks of his fingers, entering new destination codes. "The downside to mere containment. Much easier to escape than capture."
"Voice identification required," said the computer.
Volkoff leaned close to the speaker, but he stared at Chuck the entire time. "'Death is the solution to all problems.'"
"Voice identification accepted," said the computer's speaker in a pleasant female monotone. "Welcome to the Hydra Mainframe Interface . How may I help you?"
Frost pressed her lips together. Oh Chuck, you didn't…
Volkoff frowned down at the screen. "What?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Please identify yourself for access."
He leaned close to the speaker and enunciated very clearly. "I am Alexei Volkoff."
"I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Did you say 'nine pallets of oilcloth'?"
Carina covered her mouth with one hand, while Casey coughed into his fist.
Alexei Volkoff found himself with a passionate desire to throw something on the floor, but he had an image to uphold. He drew a finger across the screen, glaring daggers at his nemesis. "What have you done, Charles?"
"I'm sorry," said the computer, "I didn't get that…"
Volkoff looked down, slashing at the screen again, but it didn't clear. "Blast."
"Did you say 'flashed'?" asked the computer helpfully.
Alexei took off his coat, folded it up, and placed the wad of cloth over the speaker.
"You did say it would no longer accept electronic inputs," said Chuck, his voice low and calm once again. "I needed your voiceprint to really, you know–" he dusted his hands together slightly "–capture it, so, thank you for that."
Frost watched Volkoff's face go white, then red. He took a deep breath, and all the henchmen readied their weapons. Suddenly Volkoff burst out laughing, applauding his foe. "Well done, Charles, well done. It's true what they say, there's no fool like an old fool." He sighed. "Except a new fool. You do realize there's a step down from 'captured', don't you?"
Chuck shrugged. "Yes, but so what?" he said in Russian. "Those machine guns are good for show, but you can't use those things in here, unless you plan to kill Hydra too. You can't kill us, Alexei."
The guards look around hesitantly, suddenly aware that they were effectively unarmed.
Volkoff pulled his pistol. "But I can use this in here and I can kill you, Agent Charles!"
Oh God, that was just his opening move…?
Of course it was, it had to be. The HMI was a good ploy, but it was just a ploy. It could be defeated with time, so Chuck had to deny Volkoff the time. Stripping away his 'protection' was a good move, but so very dangerous.
Frost tensed, well aware that an armed Vivian stood behind her. She'd been trained to use the gun properly, but no amount of training could make her use it, and Frost had no idea which way she'd jump.
Chuck made a casual gesture and she settled back, taking her cue from him. She only had one card to play in this game and she had to play it right.
Chuck smiled, not even looking at the guns. "So I guess this would be a good time to tell you that I'm not Agent Charles?"
"Another one of your tricks?" sneered Volkoff.
"No trick, Alexei," said Chuck calmly. "If I've learned one thing about the spy world, all right, two things, it's that the best place to hide something from a spy is in plain sight. Agent Charles was an alias, an illusion. You didn't penetrate it, so I decided to make it easy for you. He's already dead, I killed him last night."
"I suppose next you're going to tell me that Agent Walker really is your wife."
Chuck raised his hand, and held out a gold ring. "You learn quickly, Alexei. I'm impressed." He knelt down amongst friends and enemies alike, holding the ring out to Sarah between thumb and forefinger. "Please?"
Sarah stepped forward and held out her left hand. Chuck slid the ring into its proper place.
"NO!" shrieked Vivian, drawing her gun.
Frost and Alexei reacted instinctively, pulling back from her line of fire, exposing yet more of the tableau to Vivian's horrified eyes. Charles, kneeling. Walker, grinning fiendishly, casting the room into darkness as she pulsed with a hideous, blood-red light.
Chuck looked up at the sound and saw a gun pointing at Sarah. He rose to stand between them.
Defending that…trollop! Every worthwhile thing in Vivian's life was done because of him, and now what? Vivian's thoughts ran ever faster, as splinters and shards of emotion attached to words sheared off in all directions. Wife! Married.
Tricked. Used. He'd been making a fool of her all along! The gun followed her rage to its new target.
Frost grabbed the gun in proper fashion, pushing the barrel up and away, twisting the body to either make Vivian let go or break her fingers. The move took Vivian by surprise, and she came out of it with fingers intact. Frost stepped around Vivian as Alexei raised his own weapon, keeping her neck in a choke hold, and pressed the gun against the back of her head.
Vivian froze, reminded forcibly that Frost was a very practiced and efficient killer.
"You really shouldn't have done that, Vivian," Frost said fiercely. "I have no quarrel with you, but you pointed a gun at my son and I can't allow that."
Alexei's gun fell out of line. "Your son. Really?"
"Yes, Alexei," said Mary Bartowski. "Agent Charles is my son."
"That's Bartowski, Mom," said Chuck. "Special Agent, you know what, never mind."
Volkoff looked at Chuck. "Really?"
Really her son or really a Special Agent? Same answer either way, but one was more insulting. "Really."
Alexei lowered the gun, and turned to look at Chuck, then back at Frost. "I should have known. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Back to Chuck. "So you were working with Orion all along?"
"Uh, well, no," said Chuck. "Otherwise we wouldn't have stepped on mom's plan like that. Heh." He made a show trying to see his mother behind Vivian. "Sorry, Mom."
"It's okay, dear," said Frost. "These things happen."
"Very true," said Volkoff sympathetically. "Your mother was a genius at finding little pinch points like that, Charles. Such stories I could tell you…" He held the gun up to his shoulder. "Well, this is a tangle, I must say." He looked over at Frost/Vivian. "I've got your son, but I don't dare threaten him–"
"I would end you," said Frost.
Volkoff turned to Chuck, grinning, shaking his fist excitedly. "And she would, too, even if it doomed us all. Not one for empty threats, your mother." Then he looked back at Frost/Vivian. "Of course, I feel the same way about my daughter, so we're all equal there. My men are aware of the danger they're truly in–and thank you for that little revelation, Charles–so it's really just a matter of time before one of them does something stupid, sparking off a chain of events that would likely result in all our deaths. We appear to be in a degenerating stalemate."
"I accept your surrender," said Chuck.
Volkoff got a good laugh at that, and put his gun away. "I did say 'appear', didn't I, Charles? As Frost just reminded me, these things happen. Hydra makes a new restore point every twelve hours, which is tied to my retina scan. No voice input required."
Armand took the hint and activated the scanning station.
"Ah," said Chuck weakly, "How clever of you."
"Oh, don't be too hard on yourself, Charles," said Volkoff, oozing sincerity. "You played a good game for a beginner, but you trumped your own ace. That's no way to win. Better luck next time." Armand went to stand directly in front of Chuck as Alexei took his position in front of the scanner. Sarah pushed Chuck further back, taking a position in front of Armand.
Chuck watched over both their shoulders as Alexei looked into the cowl, as light bloomed on the skin around his eyes. As Alexei Volkoff slid away from the console and fell on the floor in a heap.
Frost loosened her grip in surprise, but Vivian was a daughter, not a fighter. "Father!" she cried, pushing out of Frost's grasp to run to her father's side.
Armand turned at the terror in her voice, his last mistake.
Carina dropped her coat and struck a pose. The henchmen ogled, their last mistake.
"Put your coat back on," said Casey as they gathered weapons and secured the former bearers.
"Don't be jealous." Still, she put her coat on. Wouldn't do to distract the poor boy.
Chuck and Sarah ran to Volkoff's side. "You murderer!" screamed Vivian. She attacked him, but Frost got to her before Sarah could.
"I better not be," said Chuck, feeling for a pulse. There it was, good and strong. "There we go," he said in relief.
Sarah knelt by her husband's side, relieved at his relief. Her husband was a good man. The best man.
"Chuck, what did you do?" asked Frost.
"You remember that panel in our basement?" Chuck asked, and Frost nodded. "El–Doctor perfected the code. I'm sorry I trumped your ace, Mom, but I had to make sure he looked into the retina scan." He reached up and grabbed Hartley's coat from where he'd covered the speaker, putting it under his head as a pillow.
"Oh, thank God," said Frost, closing here eyes and resting her head against the nearest surface, which happened to be Vivian's shoulder.
"What does that mean?" said Vivian angrily. "What did you do to him?"
"I, uh…hmm. Not really sure how to explain it."
"I'm sorry, I didn't get that…"
"Agent Bartowski zero-zero-one."
"Hibernation mode activated."
Frost raised her head and sniffed. "Your father's real name is Hartley Winterbottom," she said to Vivian. "His cover identity was Alexei Volkoff. He…developed a form of amnesia, and came to believe his cover identity was his real identity."
Frost sighed. "No, not really, but it's the only version of the truth I can give you." She let the younger woman go. "The details are extremely classified."
Vivian held on to Frost's arm, the strongest support around. "So when he wakes up, he'll be this Hartley person? Will he remember me?"
"I don't know, Vivian. I hope he does, but that's all I hope he remembers. Hartley was a kind and gentle man. The memories of what he did as Volkoff can do nothing but hurt him."
Carina and Casey came up just then, laden with stolen gear. "We need to get a move on, Chuck," said Casey. "Those jets don't exactly hover, you know."
Chuck looked up at Carina, saw her lips looking a little purplish, and not from bruising. "You and Carina, take Vivian with you. With Volkoff down, she's the closest thing to an authority on the ship." He looked up at the former Miss Volkoff, not sure what she was now. "Vivian, we need your help. The ship and Hydra will be taken into custody, but I don't want any blood spilled doing that. Can you help us, get your men to stand down?"
She nodded. "All right."
Once they left Chuck contacted General Beckman.
"Agent Bartowski, what is your status?"
Grinning, Chuck gave his mother the go-ahead. "General Beckman, this is Agent Mary Bartowski, code named Frost, reporting the successful completion of Project Isis." She was shivering, and it had nothing to do with the cold. How long she'd waited to say that!
"Congratulations, Agent Frost."
Tears were leaking from Frost's eyes, but her voice was steady. "Not me. It was all Chuck's doing."
Sarah took his hand.
"No agent succeeds alone, Mary, but I'm sure you know that. The Hydra database is secured?" asked Beckman.
Frost nodded, and smiled nostalgically, not that Beckman would see either. "With a toy program my husband developed as a joke." Now her voice started to go.
Sarah's thumb rubbed Chuck's wedding ring, tracing the circle around his finger. Round and round.
"And Alexei Volkoff?" asked Beckman, less certainly.
"Checking now, General," said Chuck, unzipping his suit. He pulled out a slim cylinder and slammed it against Hartley's leg.
Hartley's breathing sped up, and Chuck leaned his head down close. "What is your name?" After a few seconds, he said again, "What is your name?"
Frost saw Hartley's chest rise and fall, but the sounds of the room masked anything else.
Chuck looked up. "He said 'Hartley'!"
Sarah's fingers hurt, and she looked down. She was squeezing her husband's ring. Her ring, on his finger, eternal and endless.
Frost smiled, happier than she could remember. "And he saved Hartley."
"Excellent work, Agents Bartowski. Together you have hindered the development of Volkoff's criminal empire, captured his entire operation at one stroke, depleted the population of criminal elements throughout Europe, and saved the life of an innocent man. The President will hear of this." It wasn't often she got to be the bearer of glad tidings, so she took every opportunity she could get.
Sarah took her hand away from Chuck's. "Look at that," she said, her voice a tad rusty. "I win again."
Chuck forgot everything else. "Sarah?"
"I love you," said Sarah, pressing her lips to his, and for them the world became a very small place, just big enough for two.
"I'm sorry," said Beckman. "I didn't get that."
"Nothing, General," said Frost, drinking it in. "When can we expect support?"
"The Royal Navy is sending a prize crew. After our incursion on their soil, we had to give them a piece of the action. You'll be extracted by chopper and fast-tracked back home."
"No rush, General," said Frost. Home is where the heart is. "We'll be here."
A/N2 A typical Chuck relationship. They were married before they had a wedding, and had a wedding before he proposed. The proposal plot was such a large (and unnecessary) part of season four I decided to at least give it an homage here.
Beckman telling the President is a borrow from another great story, "What Would You Like?" by stars90.