A/N 5/7/15 - This (along with a lot of other unfinished CHUCK fics) has been sitting on my hard drive for quite a while.
I've had a lot of PM's from CHUCK friends lately requesting something more from Lost Years. This story came from a prompt from a friend over a year ago after a brief Twitter discussion about the photo that inspired it. A part of the Lost Years 'verse, the tale takes place a couple of months after the ending of Lost Years, and also during the summer between seasons one and two.
I don't own CHUCK
Chuck Versus the Skins Game
The look on Cole's face was priceless when she opened the front door. The red door. Chuck saw the SIS agent's mouth hanging wide open as he was pulling his golf bag from the trunk of his colleague's vintage Corvette convertible, and his own mouth fell wide open when he turned to see what had gotten his friend's attention. He almost fell over the white picket fence.
WOW. It was rather obvious that all she was wearing was Chuck's well worn, cardinal red Stanford golf cardigan. Sarah's sharply pointed four-month, pregnancy-enhanced chest and baby bump made that perfectly clear. They could be seen all the way to the curb. The big sweater barely covered the most provocative parts. And it was the perfect way to greet her husband after his monthly boys-day-at-the-links golf outing with his office cohorts.
Chuck and Cole had been out sandbagging 'marks' again, playing 'skins' to separate their hapless victims from the money in their wallets; cash they would later use for wagering at the Thursday afternoon Bridge rubber at the club. Cole sometimes used the Intersect to make a skin winning shot; yes, the game of golf was in the Iv4 skillset. Chuck, however, didn't have to. Though, he sure could have used a little of Cole's cool aplomb given the pressure she was currently placing upon him in her current attire.
Chuck was very uncharacteristically speechless. But his pride in who was waiting for him at the front door brightly showed.
Sarah grinned broadly when she raised her hand to wave, barely holding the hem of the sweater down with her other hand, and Cole slapped his hand over his enlarged eyes. "Well, someone's certainly on the pull," he exclaimed, firing up the big 427 V-8.
"Yeah," Chuck barely managed to squeak.
Cole encouragingly laughed. "At the risk of sounding superfluous, enjoy the rest of the weekend, Chuck! See you at the office tomorrow, if you can still walk!" he shouted over a screech of rubber as his Vette shot away from the curb and he drove off shaking his head with his hand still over his eyes.
Only a stunt driver or trained agent could get away with something like that. Don't try it at home.
Sarah didn't think it could be possible, but Chuck's mouth fell open even further when his eyes fixed on her as he stumbled up the sidewalk to their porch. She'd almost worn his similarly red sweater-vest with the tree and block 'S' over the breast, instead. It was probably wise that she didn't. Sarah remembered the first time she'd worn that one for Chuck. She'd had to hold the hem down with both her hands to cover herself. That wouldn't have worked too well when she raised her hand to wave unless she wanted to show Cole Barker much, much more. She didn't want to tease Cole that much, and more importantly, she didn't want to embarrass her Chuck that much either.
But, wow, she was sure Chuck's reaction was even more eye-popping than the first time she'd done this to him, when she'd worn that other sweater and finally dragged him inside the house to pull it off over her head. He'd been alone that time, of course. She wasn't that big of an exhibitionist. Although, with the top buttons undone his cardigan was open much lower. If anyone had confided to her that pregnancy would have this effect on her...
There was just something about pregnant and ferally hormonal Sarah that even she could see when she looked in the mirror these days. Just over four month pregnant Sarah Bartowski looked (and felt) dangerously sexy. And she was constantly 'on fire'. Wearing only a half-buttoned, red cardigan sweater at the open (red) front door just made her look more so... smoking hot. She'd wear that sweater vest again too, exclusively, someday soon.
Memories could be a funny thing. Sarah loved wearing Chuck's clothes. Finding this sweater again was a bellwether. When she was digging through the cedar chest to find it — to add to her collection of his garments that made her feel like she was constantly touching him — she'd also found the picture, and began to connect the dots. Uploading Intersect version four had done some amazing things to her recovered memories, made them Technicolor vivid and very orderly. She saw things now that she'd never seen before. That could be both good, and bad.
The picture she'd found in the chest was one she had absconded from the house after their mission posing as a married couple in the suburbs, the only picture she wanted. They'd been trying to infiltrate and roll-up a Fulcrum Intersect research cell. That photo, one of the two of them sitting in a golf cart among all the others in the entry to 'their' home was the only one that was real. It had been ironically taken of them by Chuck's very beautiful caddy on a mission only months before... in Hawaii.
Yes, Iv4 had a way of connecting the dots. The first one had been that fateful evening in Chuck and Ellie's apartment the very first day of her mission in Burbank. Sarah remembered that look in Chuck's semi-conscious eyes after she'd kicked him into a wall and snatched a golf putter from Morgan's hands.
He was obviously concerned for his computer that she was trying to steal. But not because there was anything nefarious hidden on it. The biggest reason was that it was so hard to replace on his low Buy More wages. And at the time, she thought that the fear she saw was for himself and his friend; a friend who had incidentally been no help to Chuck that night, far from it. She now realized that some of that raw emotion was for the vintage Acushnet putter she - Sarah Walker the CIA ninja spy - was swinging around like a martial arts weapon.
That golf putter was his dad's, and it held extremely deep, sentimental value to him. Fortunately, she hadn't damaged it when she'd clobbered Chuck's pal with it, rendering their bearded friend instantly unconscious from a precisely aimed blow to a pressure point on his neck with the tip of the club head.
The blow could have easily put Morgan into cardiac arrest and killed him if she'd delivered it with too much force. However, Sarah found over the years she'd remained surprisingly guilt-free about it, primarily because of the way Chuck's 'little buddy' had carelessly smashed a turquoise vase on Chuck's head only seconds before. Yes, the memory was so vivid she remembered the exact color, and that Chuck had gotten to her that fast. Once the truth came out she felt worse about his PC.
Then another dot. Sarah's first year with Chuck had been one of the most extraordinary years of her life. She'd been trying to cope with her budding feelings for Chuck the entire time, while all the while trying to protect him, and trying to give him some semblance of a normal life between conscripted and sometimes very dangerous missions for the combined CIA/NSA task force formed around him.
On one of those memorable missions, Chuck had rescued defector Mei-Ling Cho and her and Casey, as well, from Triad mobsters. Only one in a remarkable list of heroic acts her Buy More nerd asset had done. As a result, Ms. Mei-Ling provided a lot of intel about Chinese organized crime and some of its intimate links with the Chinese military. Months later her intel led to another enormous payoff, and once again Chuck was the reason it was so huge.
They were going to go to Comic-Con that summer. It had been a long spring, filled with missions and increasing emotional compromise on her part after almost losing Chuck to life in a bunker that January. Sarah had finally arranged for them to get some time off from it all; give him (and her, as well) some normal. If you could call spending a long weekend with a giant mob of costume bedecked nerds normal. Chuck went to this event with his friends every year, and now that she could count herself as one of them, Sarah wasn't going to let him miss it.
Then General Beckman threw a huge monkey wrench into their carefully planned long weekend.
At first he'd been very disappointed. Very disappointed. Like his world had been destroyed by the Death Star disappointed. It made her feel terrible for Chuck, missing something that was like a religious pilgrimage for him every year, and admittedly one she was looking forward to herself. Then came the briefing for the mission that had dashed their plans and, curiously, everything changed. Chuck was very sullen until Beckman got in to the meat of the briefing — which was characteristically quick — and Chuck's demeanor changed in a flash.
The mission was in Hawaii, and the General had decided to use their Comic-Con weekend as a cover for them to make the trip 'unnoticed.' It was still a logistical nightmare, being as Morgan Grimes was always a part of Chuck's Comic-Con nerd entourage. But somehow they'd made it work with the usual CIA subterfuge and efficiency.
Chuck was predictably crushed when Sarah had to leave town for a 'family emergency'. Morgan never figured out that the stand-in for a depressed Chuck — who refused to remove the helmet of his Boba Fett costume the entire time — was a CIA officer and analyst. And as it turned out, that analyst had an astoundingly good time with Morgan that weekend.
The mission. It was an unusual one; and another big couple of dots in the puzzle that was Chuck. They were supposed to steal an encryption key that would allow free access to the mark's computers. In addition to completing the mission, Sarah learned two very key things about Chuck that weekend.
Sarah knew Chuck was skillful with computers, but that weekend he really proved it. There were also other things in Chuck's dossier that Sarah had surprisingly not given much thought to. But Diane Beckman did. The diminutive Air Force general never seemed to miss a thing, and Diane's mission orders for Chuck had stunned both her and Casey.
By now, it really shouldn't have surprised them.
As a non-agent, Chuck had proven his mettle over and over during the course of the last several months. Beckman assigned them to be husband and wife for this mission. No, the home in the suburbs wasn't the first time, and that look they'd exchanged when Casey had given them the rings for the suburb mission had been one more of deja vu and nostalgia, and less about surprise. But that wasn't even the real shocker about this assignment. Chuck was posing as a young software tycoon, and she was going to be much more than his arm-candy wife. The plan was for her and Chuck to play a skins game at a very posh golf resort in order to gain access to the mark's mansion.
Their mark was a very well connected Chinese mobster; by the name of Wing "Sam" Lam. Chuck almost fell out of his chair when he flashed on the good looking man's picture. If Sarah only had a quarter for how many times Chuck said, "That's a VERY bad man (or woman)" after he flashed. With compounded interest it would have made a very good start on their daughter's college fund.
Human intelligence connected to Ms. Mei-Ling's debriefing had tipped the CIA to the fact that the supposedly legitimate Chinese shipping magnate was smuggling PRA military arms and Heroin into Long Beach harbor on his container ships. Now Team Bartowski was going to help get the proof that linked Wing to the crimes.
The cover and the timing of the mission required that they take an Agency Gulfstream Five to the Island of Maui. The flight had been a pleasant one. Chuck was very excited, and admittedly, so was she. It was like a mini vacation on their own private jet. Her own curiosity about Chuck's first major role in the mission — one that he seemed to be more excited to play than the one at Comic-Con, to her surprise — was piqued even more when he showed up at the plane. He was carrying an unauthorized clothing bag and a golf club travel bag with the TaylorMade logo on the side. It was the type of bag that was almost exclusively given to touring pros by the company but at the time she hadn't known it.
Unfortunately, the mission itself got off to a rocky start, because Sarah had to play the part of the magnet, using her feminine wiles at the resort pool to get her and Chuck invited into a golf foursome with Wing and one of his lieutenants. It hadn't been at all fair to Chuck on many levels, having not only his cover 'wife' use a seduction routine on another man (for the second time), but to have a man who she knew by this point loved her - and for whom she recognized she had very conflicted feelings of her own - watch her do it with such ease. It was the first time she realized how unprepared she was for the battle duty and emotion were playing with her psyche.
That afternoon was very reminiscent of the mission where she'd seduced Lon Kirk. However, ever since the night on a rooftop helipad when Chuck had almost found himself sent to a bunker things had changed. Seducing Wing had troubled her greatly, but she'd forced herself to bury the regret and taken advantage of Chuck's now predictably negative reaction to close the deal with Wing. They were now in, with a tee-time the following morning on The Bay Course at Kapalua. From that point on, both she and Chuck were on an emotional roller-coaster.
Even though watching her play the part of the unfaithful wife in a barely-there gold bikini had distressed Chuck enormously, leading to all sorts of less than helpful ribbing from Casey through their earbuds, he'd somehow managed to recover quickly. Chuck knew his own role, knew he was supposed to be a powerful man who'd made his mark on the world with his brains. So, he'd blown the whole thing off with aplomb, causing her a little distress of her own with his cavalier attitude about her behavior, like she was predictable and easily replaceable. Chuck was obviously taking a different tact than he'd done with Kirk, unwilling to play the jealous husband after she excoriated him for the way he'd handled the Kirk affair. And with Casey's snarky help he'd made a point of that the very next day.
Sarah remembered how it started, how her jaw dropped when Chuck answered the door to the room he and Casey were sharing in their villa at the Residences at Kapalua Bay. Oh, my word. At first she'd thought he looked like a clown, and she and Casey had shared a disbelieving roll of the eyes when she saw Chuck.
He was dressed in green knickers and red, green, and white argyle socks, and also sporting his cardinal red, Stanford University Golf Team golf shirt and a red ivy cap. Yes, Chuck had been a member of the team. Bryce never once mentioned it to her, and Sarah only gave it a passing reference when she'd studied his dossier before 'Mission Bartowski' began. Being a lanky and sometimes klutzy nerd, she thought he'd only been a golf team member because all of the students were encouraged to take part in some sort of sporting activity at Stanford. Sarah completely overlooked the fact that his full-ride scholarship was partly for golf.
Tall and lanky Chuck looked a little ridiculous in classically traditional golf attire. Later, he'd explained to her why he wore it; how he'd always idolized the professional golfer, Payne Stewart, and how Payne's untimely death in an airplane crash when Chuck was a high school junior had influenced him. As a tribute to Payne, he'd started to dress like him when he played, especially when he competed on the high school team and then later on the Stanford team. Right now though, he looked more than a little comical, and in a big way that fit him. She was far from convinced. Casey wasn't convinced either. And Chuck was more than a little offended by their reaction. He refused to change clothes, vehemently.
Then they'd gone to the golf course to meet their mark and things became even more interesting and comical. 'Sam' Wing loved Chuck's outfit, and to Sarah's deep consternation so did Chuck's caddy. His club assigned caddy — in actuality, Casey's doing — was stunningly beautiful; a native Hawaiian who knew the game and the Kapalua courses like the back of her very pretty hand... and she was enamored with Chuck.
Their game had started off with a bucket of practice balls on the range. Sarah was no stranger to the game of golf. As a CIA officer, her training included many disciplines to fill the many roles she would be expected to play as a field operative. She'd learned everything from equestrian skills to the many different sports that, quote, 'the upper crust that many intelligence marks lived within were in the habit of playing' - from polo to golf. Like pretty much everything she dedicated herself to, she was very good at the game, and she'd surprised Chuck when she walked onto the driving range with her fitted Ping clubs that she'd had overnighted from her apartment in Washington.
Chuck; not an 'upper crust' intelligence mark like Sam Wing, but just a regular guy who happened to play golf. Or was he? What did Diane Beckman know that she didn't?
Like he'd first admiringly done with her, she quietly watched Chuck carefully as he practiced. He was playing with an older set of TaylorMade clubs that could hardly be called 'game improvement' clubs like hers. The forged club heads were small and solid backed, making for a very small sweet spot on the club face. But, in the hands of a skilled player, golf clubs like this could make a golf ball do magical things in flight and when it landed. There was something much more here than met the eye.
Chuck also had a very well grooved swing for someone who could so easily be taken for a klutz. It was big, and looping, and sometimes went over horizontal on the back-swing. But the club head moved through the air like it was on invisible rails. She looked on from behind him for a bit, while he hit the practice balls sky-high, line-drive low, and hooked and sliced them all over the place. To someone who wasn't really paying attention he looked like a disaster. However, the one thing she noticed right away was that he was hitting the ball startlingly long on every shot, easily a club longer than the best of most amateurs. His slow, easy swing was developing crazy-fast club head speed at the bottom and the connection with the ball was solid.
"We're doomed," Casey whispered into her ear from behind her.
She turned to him and grinned. He was holding her bag. Casey was going to be her caddy for this charade. "Don't be so sure. I haven't seen him duff or shank a shot yet. It may not look like it, but I think he's making the ball do exactly what he wants it to do," she whispered back. "It's Chuck. He's a gamer. He's playing us."
"I hope you're right Walker, otherwise we're sunk, and the only way we'll get into Wing's villa is by you really cheating on the nerd with a full-blown seduction."
Sarah's grin turned abruptly into a scowl at Casey's remark and all that he was suggesting by it. She suspected her NSA partner was wrong on every count except one that she would never allow herself to admit. She hoped he was wrong for all their sake. Casey was a hacker at best when it came to golf, and it was humorous to see him in the role of caddy. "I have a hundred bucks that says you're wrong, caddy."
"I'll take that bet," Casey said with a condescending grunt. "Easy money."
"I guess we'll see, won't we?"
As it turned out Wing was watching too; and the first thing he suggested when they got to the first tee was a skins game... ten thousand dollars a hole. It was the Chinese mobster's M.O. and they'd been expecting it. Everything except the size of the bet.
That was one-hundred and eighty-thousand dollars at stake over the eighteen holes; well over what Chuck had lost at Lon Kirk's party on one spin of the Roulette wheel. Even she swallowed heavily at the wager. To her surprise, Chuck just grinned, and offered his own suggestion that they play it as a scramble to make it more interesting and involve the entire foursome. Wing quickly agreed, thinking he and his associate were going to clean up since they were both very low handicap players.
Then Chuck did something even more unexpected. He suggested a wager for the final skins score. One-hundred thousand dollars.
Sarah remembered saying Chuck's name with total incredulity, to which he'd responded by grinning wider, with a meaningful and mischievous wink. It only took a few holes to see why. Sarah played her best game, however, it quickly became clear to her that Chuck was holding back. Wing, and his trusted lieutenant and enforcer, ironically named Wang Lo, were very good golfers. It looked like they could have easily won every hole, if not for the fact that Chuck managed to pull a rabbit out of his hat each time, leaving either him or her with a great opportunity to push the skin to the next hole with a tie.
The most interesting thing about it was how well she and Chuck complimented each other while they played as a team, like she was constantly discovering about most everything they did together. It seemed like every time they did something new together it only drew them closer.
She and Casey exchanged a wary look at the end of the seventh hole after they won the very large accumulated skin. She had chipped in from the fringe for the win, following up a remarkable, low hook of a save shot Chuck had made under and around a stand of trees. She'd watched, flabbergasted when his low-flying shot struck the green and backed up to the front fringe of the hard and fast putting surface. The Buy More nerd was obviously sandbagging their opponents very skillfully, up to that point.
They ran away with it from there. Chuck did it in a quiet, focused, and workman like way, engaging in what Sarah could only call cheerful and mildly taunting banter and subtle mind games as he played. One extraordinary shot after another, typified by his tee shot on the par four eleventh hole.
"How far to the end of those trees?" Chuck asked his gorgeous caddy, Leilani, pointing his driver to the stand of mixed conifer trees lining the dogleg on the right side of the fairway.
"Over two-hundred and seventy yards, Mr. Carmichael," Leilani said with a warning tone in her voice, "And they're over seventy feet tall... and don't forget the creek on the other side."
They all watched as Chuck confidently nodded and teed the ball remarkably high on an over-sized tee. And everyone's mouth fell agape when he crushed it, after a huge swing that sent the ball sailing over the tall pine trees cutting the dogleg. It sounded like a rifle-shot when the alloy face of his TaylorMade driver seemingly smashed the ball flat before it flew out of sight beyond the trees.
After Chuck and an excited Leilani exchanged a high-five and knowing grin, a totally stunned Sarah was somehow still able to take the safe shot, placing her ball squarely in the fairway two-hundred and sixty yards from the championship tees from which they were playing.
She thought they'd be playing her shot for sure, until they rounded the dogleg and she spotted Chuck's ball on the apron a mere sixty yards from the pin. He'd hit the ball blind over the trees and the creek! She couldn't believe it. His shot left her with an easy pitch that they played; a three foot tap-in birdie putt, winning another skin.
The whole time she'd had to strongly flirt with Wing to keep him from going apoplectic, and Sarah worried that her actions would throw Chuck off his game. But he only seemed to ignore it while playfully flirting with his caddy — who to her credit was trying very hard to keep Chuck distracted from what she was doing with Wing and focused on his game. Chuck's reaction — especially dismissing her — started to throw her own game off instead, despite the fact that he was playing that part of the larger game much less strongly than her.
But Chuck never duffed a stroke and carried them the rest of the way home, singlehandedly winning the eighteenth hole for them with an eagle on the straight-away par five hole after another crushing, straight-as-an-arrow drive of well over three hundred yards. He then added insult to injury with a twelve foot, sharply breaking eagle putt on the very fast green, pumping it into the hole using Payne Stewart's signature throw-down gesture with his leg raised behind him.
Wing was obviously pissed, but also a gracious loser... for the most part. It was hard for any of them to not be impressed by the way Chuck played the game. Wing's lieutenant, however, wanted to kill Chuck (literally), especially when Chuck insisted on payment in cash.
That was the plan all along, to force Wing to invite them to a cocktail party he was throwing that night so he could pay his gambling debt, and of course, possibly collect something himself from Charles Carmichael's philandering wife.
As Chuck Bartowksi walked off the eighteenth green that morning he dryly said to her and an utterly shocked Casey from the corner of his mouth, "That should more than make up for the hundred grand I lost on the roulette wheel at Lon Kirk's fundraiser." He then peeled what a appeared to be at least a couple of thousand dollars of his Carmichael persona stipend from a very fat billfold and gave it to his caddy. "Here, Leilani, I couldn't have done it without you," he said giving her a kiss on the cheek. "You're a damn fine caddy."
His delighted caddy then gave him a huge spinning hug and returned the kiss while congratulating him and thanking him for letting her be a part of it.
God, did that ever get to Sarah Walker. Somehow she'd still managed to hold her hand out, palm up, and wiggle her fingers. "Pay up, caddy," she said in a low teasing growl to Casey, skillfully covering her conflicted emotions.
Chuck may as well have been a world class surfer after that too, because he was riding a tall wave the rest of the day and night. Most of the guests at the party were aware what he'd done that day on the links. Some of the women had also heard what she had done, and that Mrs. Carmichael was apparently less than faithful to her husband. Many single women - and a few who weren't - brazenly approached Chuck... while they were together!
Wow, did he ever even the score with her for her own role so far in the charade. And he wasn't even purposely trying! Up to that point, she'd never seen him so naturally confident and cocky, and the results spoke for themselves. He was Charles Carmichael, the young and powerful computer magnate he might have really been by now, if not for what Bryce had done to him at Stanford.
To be honest, his cockiness was more than a little off-putting; so much so that Sarah forgot it was (partially) an act. Only one other time had she been so annoyed with him. And it had happened after that mission, when Chuck cornered her into going to her class reunion when he'd discovered her Jenny Burton identity.
That night taught her a lot about how her actions affected Chuck when she seduced a mark. However, she didn't realize it right away. In fact, it took longer than it should have for it to completely sink in. And, purposely or not, what he'd done in reaction to her very overt flirtation with Wing had perfectly set up what she had to do to complete the mission.
Unfortunately, her anger was genuine when she approached Wing and suggested they go to his study to get away from "my elitist-asshole-misogynist husband".
She regretted every word the instant they came out of her mouth, when she looked up at her 'husband' and their eyes briefly met. To her stunned surprise, Casey supported Chuck with a disgusted grunt and a growl over the comms. An unmistakable #27: 'That was totally uncalled for, Walker'.
Deep down, Sarah also knew nothing could be further from the truth; that if her Chuck had really been able to achieve his college dreams, he would have still been the selfless and caring man she knew him to be. The sad truth was that the man with whom she'd been overtly flirting and seducing was the one who deserved her ire, not her asset. And the last thing she should have done was judge Chuck for finally showing some confidence in his own abilities after all he'd been through and after far too long.
She, Sarah Carmichael, was the one forcing him into this role. And the truth of the matter was, on close inspection, Chuck was fending off the advances of all the women coming on to him, admirably, while he teasingly led them on and then let them back down with his very subtle and nerdy, flirtatious banter.
Even as obviously unfaithful as his cover-wife was being, he was taking the high road with his half of this op, and the hurt of her words that he'd heard through his earwig was obvious in his eyes from clear across the room. The way he cared about her showed right through the cover. Perhaps it could be construed as a weakness, but it always did.
She felt awful. Nevertheless, there was still a point to what she was doing; to gain access to the encryption key, and hopefully the computer where Sam Wing stored his protected shipping manifests. After a (hopefully) short seduction, she planned to twilight tranq Wing and steal the key and the data that would 'sink his ships' while Casey watched over Chuck.
Chuck; the one she couldn't seem to stop hurting, whether by word or by action.
What she didn't count on was Wing having plans of his own that upped the ante... exponentially. Motioning his lieutenant over, he announced his intentions by saying, "Show Mr. Carmichael to the study and pay him my 'gambling debt' like you suggested, Lo… while I have some fun with his wife. And then," he said, looking with controlling and veiled, lustful menace at Sarah, "I think they'll both be staying the night as my guests."
Sarah now remembered the look on Chuck's face like it had only happened a moment before, when Wing pulled her close to him and dragged her arm forcefully behind her back as he aggressively sucked and bit her on her pulse point before whispering in her ear, "This way Mrs. Carmichael." With a tug on her arm she let him turn her around and march her down a long hallway. "I don't really think you'd be that interested in my den, Mrs. Carmichael," he uttered, taking one of her breasts roughly in his other hand. "I have a feeling you'll be much more interested in my special 'guest room' instead."
The memory of the way Wing took control of 'Sarah Carmichael' and the way she let him manhandle her 'for the greater good' sickened her. And a shocked Chuck saw it all. No, even a cocky Charles Carmichael was nothing like this. But there was nothing she could do... yet.
She stayed silent, and complied with a lusty and curious whimper, and let him lead her away. She had to wait, play the ugly game, and hope that Chuck and Casey could salvage it for another win.
Then she was going to rip this bastard's balls off and shove them down his throat.
"Casey, did you hear that?" she heard Chuck hoarsely whisper through her earbud while he watched a smirking Wang Lo approach.
"I heard. I'm on it, Bartowski. I'll be in Wing's study to back you up, PDQ."
"She's not the 'you-know-what', moron. Mrs. Carmichael will have to take care of herself."
"No." The word was thick with emotion when it passed Chuck's gritted teeth.
"YES. Keep your cool, Bartowski. She's the best. Show me some more of the cool-as-a-cucumber pro-hacker that was on that golf course today, or I'll personally wring your scrawny neck! Now, get access to that den so we can save this mission," Casey snarled over the comm circuit.
"Yes, I think you and Charles will be staying the night as my very special guests, before your charter boat has an unfortunate run-in with pirates on the way to Lanai tomorrow," Wing said in a low and menacing voice when he opened a heavy door at the end of the hall and shoved Sarah into the room.
She remembered looking around a semi-darkened, cut-stone walled room that made Christian Grey's controversial 'red room of pain' look like a preschool children's playroom. Sarah played it coy as she wagged her finger and backed into the room. "Just what are you into, Mr. Wing? Wouldn't you rather just enjoy what I was going to voluntarily give you anyway?"
"What would be the fun in that?" Lam asked with an evil smirk. "Yes, you'll gladly give me what I want... after I take it from you repeatedly. Then I'm going to sell you to the highest bidder. And you'll be anything he... or she asks of you. Because you'll know that if you don't, I'll make your husband's death a very slow and painful one... unless you think you'll enjoy the idea of what I'll do to the 'misogynist asshole'. Lo will bring him here soon, and we'll find out."
Even now she saw red from the burning anger, and felt the lump in her throat from the feelings that threat to Chuck brought forth. And her own careless words had been used to threaten him even more. Sarah now knew that in that moment, CIA agent Sarah Walker came to realize, without a shadow of a doubt, that she was compromised. She knew she would give her life to protect her... Dammit, he wasn't just her asset... he was her best friend... and she could now lay down her life for him for all the right reasons if it came down to it.
When Casey burst into Wing Lam's den, Wang Lo was lying unconscious on the floor in a fetal position, with a most extraordinary look of pain etched on his face and his hands tightly grasping his crotch. A bent putter was lying on the green carpet next to him, and Walker's boy-toy was typing furiously on the desktop computer keyboard.
"Carmichael?" Forget the encryption key. Casey could see that Bartowski was hacking directly into Wing's protected database without it.
"They're not just smuggling drugs and guns, Casey," Chuck said breathlessly. "They're also white-slavers. There's a whole list of names and pictures here of the people they've abducted and shipped to mainland China and other parts of Asia and the South Pacific... even the Middle East."
"Good work," Casey said absently, his incredulous stare shifting between Chuck's blurred fingers and the contorted body on the floor. "How?"
Chuck looked up at him a little sheepishly and cast his eyes at a hole in the green carpet near Wang's feet. "Practice green. The putter was leaning against the desk. If there's one thing I know how to do, besides this," he said, refocusing on what he was doing on the computer, "it's swing a golf club."
"Looks to me like you hit a hole-in-one," Casey muttered. "I don't think his wang is hanging lo anymore." By appearances, it looked like Chuck had driven Wang's balls right up his ass... with a golf putter. He shook his head. Damn, Bartowski. "Did you get the other data?"
"Yeah. It's all here. Almost done. Casey, he added Sarah and me to this list. And she's with that..."
"Douchebag," Casey finished. "Get all of it, and then let's get Wa— Mrs. Carmichael back."
Chuck looked back up at him, the worry obvious on his face, and yanked the flash drive from the USB port on the monitor. "Done," he said, throwing the drive to Casey. "Let's save my wife."
"Roger that. What's in the bag?" Casey asked, pointing to the small satchel tucked under Chuck's arm when they ran for the door.
"Our skin games winnings. Sarah and I won it, fair and square... and the government is getting the hundred grand I owe them from my share."
It was impossible to miss or mistake the admiration that slipped into Casey's grunt.
The admiration showed even more when he kicked the door open at the end of the hallway and they heard Sarah growl, "WHERE'S THE DEN, GODAMMIT?"
She was standing over a battered and supine Wing Lam with his necktie in her fist. Casey bit back a laugh. Wing was grasping his crotch too, his eyes bulging with pain.
The look on Sarah's face was priceless when she saw them... or rather Chuck, Casey noted.
"Chuck! Are you OK?" she cried, dropping Wing's head to the stone floor with a dull thunk before she ran to him to 'check him over'.
Casey also noted with a subtle smirk that 'checking Chuck over' was more like a relieved hug after she ran her hands all over him.
"I'm fine, Sarah. What about you?" Chuck asked with concern in his eyes before he averted them to his feet.
Admittedly, she looked much worse than him. How could she ever think that he was anything less than a gentleman?
Her dress was gone, in tatters on the floor, and one of the cups of her bra was torn. She had small scrapes and abrasions all over her, and a bloody lip. Wing was very good at Wing Chun, but Sarah's mixed disciplines — along with a few very dirty Krav Maga blows — had won the day.
Unlike golf, only one rule applied in hand-to-hand combat: winning. Wing 'Sam' Lam looked much, much worse than her. She had to remind herself that Chuck had already beaten this man soundly by the rules of another game.
"I'm OK... I'll be fine," she said, looking down at herself with a little embarrassed smile.
"Let me get something for you to cover up and call this in," Casey hastily said, turning to leave them alone, "The both of you, stay put, and try not to attract any attention until the cavalry arrives."
Sarah snerked, and Casey teasingly grunted back while Chuck carefully examined a crack in the floor.
"Good work today, Ace," Casey said grudgingly, clapping Chuck on the shoulder before he walked out. "You behaved like way more than an asset... like a pro from Dover."
"Heh," Chuck nervously chuckled, still avoiding looking at her in only her torn bra and panties. "Imagine that; a M.A.S.H. reference from Casey."
She placed her hand on his cheek and looked him in the eyes, showing him what she hoped he saw as a heartfelt apology within her own. "He's right. You are more than an asset."
Yes, he was. And the man who her professionalism and pride wouldn't allow her to verbally apologize to that day was now the father of her unborn child.
That wasn't the first time she'd used a seduction routine on an op in front of Chuck, the man she loved, and it wasn't the last. The man who'd just dropped him off was also once one of those marks. She'd ended up in only her underwear that time too, and she'd been overcompensating for that fact ever since. And, God, it was fun teasing Cole Barker while she did it.
Now, with her memories back, her confusion about something Chuck had done at the end of that game with Wing finally made sense — when her ever-surprising nerd had waved the sub-par scorecard in her face with that adorable, toothy and lopsided grin, saying, "Another one for my collection! And you're on it!"
Because, shortly after they'd officially moved into their modest new home with the red door, Chuck presented her with her very own P.A.N.T.S.
Sarah's P.A.N.T.S.: Private Artifacts Never to Share (except with Chuck). It was printed right on the lid of the box. He'd added a similar annotation to his own P.A.N.T.S. box, of which he had then ceremoniously shown her the contents.
So many of the things in his PANTS box were about her; many with small notes explaining their significance written with a gold leaf pen. And on the top of a stack of golf scorecards in Chuck's box was that scorecard, with a note scribbled in gold: 'My first game with Sarah'.
That stack of cards was very revealing, placing not only her nerd's skill with a set of golf clubs on graphic display, but also how many places she had no idea he'd been until then. Chuck was more well-traveled than he'd ever let on, or she'd given him credit for. And as a collegiate golfer, he'd played on some very famous and prestigious golf courses.
Years later she was finally able to connect some of the last of those dots in the enigma that was Charles Irving Bartowski.
Sarah's mind came back to the present as she watched her adorable, red-faced husband walk quickly up the porch.
"Are you up for another skins game, Chuck?" she coyly asked, releasing the hem of the sweater so she could grasp the top button in a way that caused him to trip and stumble on the front step.
"Something tells me you are not talking about golf," Chuck excitedly reasoned, when she caught him, and he hustled her into the house and kicked the door shut. His hands had serendipitously fallen onto some very revealing places. "Nope. Good Lord, just like I suspected, nothing but skin under there... again."
Sarah giggled and glanced at the real photo of the two of them sitting in the golf cart from that mission to Maui, resting on the entry table by the door. That picture of an obviously happy Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael had been taken by Leilani the following day on the Kapalua links. A similar one was standing next to it; one from their honeymoon on the same island. "Nope. Nothing but skin," she mirthfully replied, giving him a kiss. "This skins game has to be played naked."
When it came to her heart, Chuck had long ago won the skin with a hole-in-one.
Thank you for reading - Mac