A/N: So, I've been gone forever and I thoroughly apologize for that. In my defense (aka, I'm making an excuse), there is a six month gap between the end of the last chapter (I.E. the end(ish) of season 2 and the beginning of this one, the start of season 3. Lame excuse, but hey, it sort of works! Nothing ground breaking in this chapter, but I'd rather just post it and try to end my slump, as I a finally approaching the point of this story that I have been envisioning from day one. Really excited to finish, and to be back and again, I am very sorry for being gone so long!

Without further ado, enjoy :)

Chapter 14

Chuck vs. the Party

January 6, 2010

Prague, Czech Republic

2307 Central European Time

Chuck wrinkled his nose at the smell of his own sweat and blood. He blinked and tried to see anything that he could through the black hood that currently shrouded his vision and apparently had the lovely added benefit of magnifying his stench. Chuck thought about Sarah and how much he wished they could just spend some time together in a beautiful European city without getting kidnapped by the local mob, but that did not appear to be their luck. He thought back to their vacation in France six months ago, how even that vacation was ruined by their knack for attracting bad guys.

His thoughts were interrupted as he was forced roughly into a chair and his hood was quickly torn off of his head. He quickly took stock of his surroundings, some type of polygonal-shaped stone room with a large table in the middle. Beside him stood a single goon with a scraggly beard that Chuck aptly named 'Beard' in his head. Across the table stood two more goons, neither of which seemed particularly muscled so he prepared himself for a defense against weapons rather than fists. Chuck quickly labeled them as 'Case' and 'Ponytail', and began to form his plan on how to get the case away from its namesake. Ponytail looked to be the most professional of all the hired help, despite his poor choice in hair style, so Chuck focused his attention on him.

With the unknowns in the room located and tagged in his mind, Chuck shifted his attention to his Russian contact, Yuri, as the man whistled at him.

"Agent Carmichael," Yuri said with a leer.

"Call me Charles," Chuck said as Yuri chuckled. "You have something that belongs to me, Yuri."

"Filthy stinking commies. Can't quit picking fights with us and can't chose any names for their kids besides Yuri or Boris." Casey said in Chuck's ear.

"The case, Yuri. I would like for you to give it to me…please."

"Ha, you show up with no gun and your pleases and what? I quiver in fear?" Yuri said as he stood and walked around the table to him.

"We have a lock on the case, Chuck, that's the one we're after." Sarah said over the comms.

Chuck leaned forward and let out a slow breath, resigning himself to the hard way.

"Hand over the case…or you really won't enjoy the alternative."

"Alternative? What alternative, we shoot you, leave you for dead and go for some Pierogi?" Yuri asked as he spun and pulled a gun on him.

Chuck slowly looked up at him and barely resisted rolling his eyes.

"No, I was thinking something more like this." Chuck stood quickly and used his speed advantage to force Yuri's pistol up into the light above the table. Yuri grunted in pain and Chuck easily stripped his gun away and aimed it at his captors.

"Everyone calm down before this room gets unnecessarily messy!" Chuck shouted. "Now Yuri, hand me that case and after that it's Pierogi time." Chuck said quickly.

"No," Yuri said. "If you want that case, you'll have to shoot me."

Chuck smirked. "Have it your way." He raised the gun and fired a single shot into the light, showering the room in sparks. As he expected, ponytail reacted first so Chuck quickly charged in his direction. He flipped the gun in his hands, holding it by the barrel as Ponytail launched a low kick at his abdomen. Chuck used the handle of the pistol to catch Ponytail's shin and quickly followed the painful block with an elbow to the man's face, effectively putting him out of the fight for the time it would take Chuck to finish up.

Case and Beard attacked at the same time, and Chuck didn't waste a second. Case launched a kick at Chuck's face which he quickly ducked, kicking his former chair in Beard's direction, buying him enough time to block Case's incoming right hook and disable him with two quick jabs to the face. Beard had recovered from the chair incident and came back up with his gun leveled at Chuck's nose. Chuck quickly fired off a roundhouse, knocking the gun from his hand but before he could finish the goon off, Yuri knocked Chuck's breath from his lungs with a dead-on punch to the face, followed by a kick to the abdomen by Beard. Chuck reeled backwards into an alcove and quickly caught his breath. He spotted a sturdy pipe running across the opening of the alcove and he jumped up, grabbing hold. Using his forward momentum, one of his feet connected with both Yuri and Beard's faces, knocking them out cold.

"Sleepy time for the bad guys," Chuck informed his team.

"Good work, Chuck. Now grab the case and get the hell out of there." Casey shouted.

Chuck wasted no time, grabbing the case and sprinting down the stairs that he found behind the door. He ran down to the street and looked around, unsure of which way to go.

"Sarah, where's my exit?" He said into his watch.

"They're closing in on you Chuck, they had reinforcements. Get to a roof, I'm on my way with your exfil."

Chuck turned and ran, taking the first staircase he saw. He made it to an upper floor of an apartment complex and he quickly jumped, grabbing a hold of the roof and hauling himself up.

"Direction Sarah?" Chuck asked.

"She's flying south towards you Bartowski. Start running north."

"Copy that, Casey." Chuck replied to his watch as he began running. He quickly saw his next hurtle as he began to run out of roof. Ahead to his left he noticed an electrical pole with wires running across the street. His eyes rolled into his head as angles and force trajectories ran through his head. His eyes rolled back, and thankfully he didn't even stumble thanks to his training. He stripped off his jacket as he ran, looping one sleeve through the handle of the case and then wrapping one sleeve around his left hand. When he reached the cable, he threw his jacket over and caught it, wrapping the other sleeve around his right hand. He didn't have time to think as he leapt from the building and let gravity do the rest. Almost immediately gunfire erupted below him but miraculously nothing hit him. He reached the end of the cable and hit the ground running, throwing his jacket over his shoulder and grabbing a hold of the case once more. He ran blindly north and could just make out the sound of helicopter blades in the distance – followed by the sounds of more gunshots.

"Sarah, I don't mean to rush you but I could really use that exit, rapidly!"

"Copy that, Chuck. I have you on satellite…do you trust me?" She asked, voice full of uncertainty.

"What? Of course, Sarah, what kind of question is that?"

"Ok. Keep running straight. Do not deviate and no matter what, do not slow down." Sarah whispered.

He did as he was told and quickly saw why Sarah was whispering. Up ahead the rooftops ended and Chuck could see nothing but open ocean ahead.

"Sarah?" Chuck frantically asked.

"Trust me Chuck!" Sarah yelled.

"Always," Chuck ran even faster, his panic beginning to set in as the final rooftop drew closer and closer and the gunfire continued behind him, metallic pings popping around him as their accuracy improved.

"Ok, Chuck, get ready. Keep running…and…JUMP!"

Chuck didn't hesitate but instead put every ounce of trust he had in the woman he loved and he jumped as high and as far as he could. Chuck had a brief feeling of weightlessness as he soared through the open air before a large military helicopter – CH-46 to be exact – loomed out of the darkness in front of him. The rear loading ramp was dropped down and he spotted a familiar flowing mane of blonde hair like a beacon in the night. He realized he was going to come up short just as Sarah began to stretch her hand out to him. Chuck extended his own hand and caught her – or more accurately, she caught him. She audibly gasped as his weight pulled her down but she had a firm grip on the handle inside the aircraft and Chuck's momentum was suddenly and roughly halted. The helicopter's crew chief rushed forward and helped her pull him up.

Once inside the aircraft, Chuck collapsed against Sarah in a heap. She quickly enveloped him in a bone-crushing hug that would make his sister proud as he attempted to catch his breath. Before he could say anything, however, Sarah began repeatedly punching him in the arm.

"Don't. You. Ever. Do. That. Again. Chuck. Bartowski!" Sarah yelled, punctuating each word with another punch.

"Ow! Sarah, what the hell?" Chuck yelled.

"Don't you ever jump off a roof like that again!" She shot back, but thankfully withheld the punches.

"Sarah, are you serious? You told me to jump!"

"That doesn't mean you listen! If I told you to jump of a bridge, would you do it?"

"Yes! Yes I would, just like I did this time because I trust you!" Chuck answered quickly.

"Trust me all you want Chuck, it doesn't mean you have to listen to me!" She said hotly as she stood up.

"Sarah, that makes zero sense." He pointed out.

"I'm a woman, I don't have to make sense, but I'm still right." She declared, helping him to his feet.

"Well, I can't argue with that." He grumbled, rubbing his aching body.

"Smart man, Bartowski. Never argue with a woman, you'll have more luck bringing a knife to a gun fight. Also, glad you made it."

"Thanks, Casey. See you back at Castle." Chuck answered, killing the comms.

"If you make it that far," Sarah huffed under her breath as she threw herself into one of the bulkhead-mounted seats.

He caught the eye of the dumbfounded crew chief who silently pleaded for Chuck to explain. Chuck simply shrugged and mouthed women before quietly sitting next to his fiancé who immediately laid her head on his shoulder and fell promptly asleep.

Chuck closed his eyes as well as he reflected on the last few months. They had been going non-stop, completing mission after mission as they received Intel from Matt to try and bring down the Ring. That task was, unfortunately, much easier said than done. No matter how many Ring cells they took down, it seemed they never put a dent in the Ring's overall operations. Worse than that was even the non-ring related missions almost immediately became Ring related. Anything delicate or important enough to require the services of Team Bartowski was also important enough to catch the Ring's eye and they were never far behind. In fact, more often than not as of late they were actually ahead of Team Bartowski.

Matt had been absolutely invaluable. In addition to the already high danger he was in just by informing on the Ring, he had been slowly developing a network of agents on the inside. People he trusted who, like him, thought they had been working for the good guys all along. That was where the good news ended, however. Much to the entire team's frustration, the Ring was very smart. They had split their operations up into cells, with no cell having any knowledge of the others. Using this method, they were able to maintain complete operational security, and none of their raids on Ring cells ever resulted in the discovery of beneficial Intel.

Beckman had been hinting lately about a Ring expert that was supposed to be joining the fight, but until then Team Bartowski was on their own. This particular mission had been handed to them by Matt, who stumbled into a Ring Op that his cell was running with a different cell. This was the first Op in months where two Ring Cells would be interacting with each other, and they had been determined to finally get a leg up on the Ring. The case held documents destined for a courier exchange that would take place in none other than Burbank, California. Naturally, the fact that the exchange was being made in their home town put them on high alert. Their plan was to retrieve the case, steal the documents and replace them with false Intel that would hopefully travel throughout different Ring Cells, the implanted tracker and false information hopefully leading to the take-down of more Ring Cells. So far, the mission was going according to plan, and Chuck allowed himself a mental self-five to celebrate. Sarah stirred on his shoulder and he began stroking her hair, lulling her back to sleep as he himself closed his eyes and drifted off as well.

January 8, 2010


2142 Pacific Time

"Team, excellent work in Prague, as always. Please pass on my compliments to the asset." Beckman said over the video screen. Chuck was still getting used to hearing someone else referred to as 'the asset' but they had long ago decided to never use Matt's name anywhere that could be intercepted.

"The 'exchange' will happen tonight," Beckman continued, utilizing air quotes at the word exchange. "Unfortunately, the Intel we gained from the Prague mission revealed that this wasn't an exchange at all, but an assassination attempt. The Ring believes that the target, Santiago Gilles, is the mole that we've had inside. We are unsure of the appearance or methods of the assassin; he is one of the Ring's best. His name, is Javier Cruz."

Chuck's eyes immediately began to roll as multiple pictures of Javier Cruz's handy work scrolled through his brain. He shuddered out of the flash and was met with the expectant glances of his team.

"Sorry guys, not very much in there at all," Chuck said, pointing at his head. "Just a few images of his past murders."

"That's what I was afraid of, we've never been able to find much on this man. That leads me to your newest mission. Tomorrow night at 1900 is the scheduled time for the exchange, which will take place at El Bucho in Burbank. You will infiltrate the restaurant however you see fit, and observe the target. You are to prevent any threat to his life, and take him into custody before he leaves. Cruz is expendable, but take him alive if possible. Unless there are any questions, go get some rest. Goodnight, Team."

The general's screen went to black and the Team stood, gathering their things as they headed up the stairs and through the freezer of the Orange Orange. They said goodnight to Casey and climbed into Sarah's Porsche before beginning the journey home, discussing the best cover roles for the mission tomorrow night. When they arrived home, they entered the empty house and walked into the kitchen to prepare a quick snack before bed.

"When does Morgan get back?" Sarah asked.

"Should be the end of next week, I think." Chuck answered, scratching his chin thoughtfully as he tried to remember. Morgan had been at the Farm for the last several months, undergoing training as a field agent. Chuck had absolutely no intention of putting his best friend in the field, but if Beckman continued to insist on including him on missions, then he would be damned if he let Morgan tag along without any means to protect himself.

"He'll be alright Chuck; we will all look out for him just like we did for you." Sarah said, sensing his nervousness.

"Thanks, honey." Chuck said, kissing her on the cheek before she grabbed his hand and led him to the bedroom.

The next morning was a rapid blur as Chuck, Sarah and Casey reported to Castle before the sun was up, working on getting their cover identities established. Casey was pleased to find out he would be making a departure from his semi-traditional role of bartender. That is, until he found out Sarah decided to do this by putting his newly discovered talents as a choir-boy to use.

"Walker, I was in a church choir, not a band. This is a horrible idea; it's going to blow our covers."

"Relax, Casey. You're just one of the singers, not the lead or anything. We're going to cover the back of the restaurant while you watch from the front. It's hardly the most complicated cover you've ever done."

Sarah's words did little to quell the Colonel's irritation as he grumbled for the entire ride over to the club for their initial recon. He finally stopped when they arrived, once there was finally work to be done.

"We're going to need at least four additional teams, one each for Santiago Gilles and his contact, one for Cruz and a back-up would be nice." Chuck said.

"Agreed," Casey Said. "I have a buddy in the FBI's Critical Incident Response Group, the section that oversees the HRT. I'll give him a call and see if we can borrow one of their tactical teams from the LA office. Wouldn't hurt to have a sniper on that balcony up there either."

"I'll talk to the owner and have him close off the upper level for the night." Sarah said as she walked off towards the office.

Chuck continued to walk around the club, observing the angles of the club's CCTV system and planting additional cameras where he deemed necessary. Finally satisfied, he met back up with Sarah and Casey, who had both succeeded in their tasks.

"FBI will be sending a single ten-man team, so we'll have a four-man back up. They're being briefed as we speak so we can go report in to Beckman." Casey said.

The three of them traveled to Castle and after reporting in they gathered their equipment then ran home to change. Chuck changed into one of his favorite suits and was in the living room preparing his and Sarah's weapons when she finally joined him, and as usual Chuck's breath hitched.

He walked over to her as she looked him up and down, looking absolutely beautiful in a tight violet dress with a single frilly shoulder. Her hands moved automatically to his tie as they always did, carefully adjusting it. Finally satisfied, she kissed him briefly and held him close.

"Ready to go to work, Mr. Carmichael?"

"Ready when you are, Mrs. Carmichael…or close enough to Mrs., anyway." Sarah laughed lightly as they walked from the apartment, hand-in-hand, to Sarah's Porsche. Casey would be riding separately with the band.

They got to the club and so nothing of suspicion outside. Getting settled, they ordered some food and prepared to play their part and enjoy each other's company while they waited.

"This place is nice. Reminds me of a fancier version of our first date." Chuck said.

"Our first-first date, yeah." Sarah replied with a mischievous smirk.

Chuck smiled with her and linked their hands as he looked to the entrance and saw Gilles enter the club.

"Tango Bravo just entered. Eagle-eye, confirm?" Chuck said into his radio as he looked lovingly into Sarah's eyes.

"Eagle-eye confirms, Tango Bravo eyes on. Proceeding to table…" there was a short pause and Chuck assumed the sniper/observation team was double checking the seating chart. "Table 37. All teams stand-by."

They waited as Casey and the band entered, standing to clap with everyone else as they took their places. The band immediately struck up a tune, and couples flooded the dance floor, including Chuck and Sarah.

Thirty minutes later, they still had not seen any other target enter the club, and Gilles was still sitting alone at his booth.

"Casey, are you seeing anything on your side?"

There was a pause while they waited for a pause in the signing so Casey could answer.

"Negative." Was the single answer.

"Understood. Eagle-eye, we're going to move to the other side of the dance floor, see if we find anything." Sarah said.

"Understood; tracking."

They began dancing around the other couples, moving around the bar to Casey's side of the club. After several rotations of the dance floor, they still hadn't seen anything. They paused their dancing to clap as the band finished a song. One of the band members announced that the next song would be a guitar feature, and the guitarist moved to center stage. As he raised a hand in thanks to the applause, Chuck saw a scar on his hand and that was when he slipped into the flash. He came out of it to see Sarah looking at him intensely.

"The guitarist, he's Target Alpha." Chuck said.

"Eagle-eye copies, guitarist is Target Alpha. Team one and Team two move into position near the stage and prepare to initiate take down." Eagle-eye said.

"Belay that," Sarah whispered. "Move into position but do nothing until we have an actual threat. Let's give it a little longer and see if Target Charlie shows. Teams three and four move into position near Target Bravo but standby for my mark."

They continued to dance until the song ended, with no new developments. The band announced they were taking a break and the DJ took over. Chuck and Sarah stayed on the dance floor and watched Javier. As the band began filtering off the stage, they noticed Javier taking a very long time in his guitar case.

"All teams standby, I think we're going to have to make our move." Chuck said quickly. Before he could give any other instructions, he heard Casey's deep voice bellow "Gun!" and the sound of screaming rent the air before all hell broke loose.

"All teams execute! Take down all targets!" Eagle-eye shouted.

Chuck and Sarah immediately pulled their guns as they saw Casey tackling Cruz to the ground off the stage. The two teams near the stage swarmed onto the dog pile and helped him out. Sarah rushed over to ensure their partner didn't accidentally get killed as Chuck moved to Target Bravo who had quickly been surprised and overwhelmed by teams three and four. Both targets were quickly in custody and all the agents holstered their weapons as police sirens were heard outside.

Chuck, Sarah and Casey walked up to each other and exchange glances.

"That actually went…according to plan. When's the last time that happened?" Chuck asked.

"Not since before we've been working together Bartowski, thanks to you not knowing how to stay in the car." Casey answered.

"You know what, I'd like to point out that I saved your ass multiple times, before I was even trained thank you very much."

Chuck and Casey bickered good-naturedly all the way out to their cars, stopping only when Sarah tugged him to her Porsche, bidding Casey goodnight and a promise to see him in the morning for the debriefing.

They rode home in good spirits, discussing mundane things that were completely non-spy related and Sarah marveled in the absolute normalcy of it all. She never thought she would experience an enjoyable car ride with her boyfriend – fiancé, she corrected herself – discussing what they wanted to do for lunch the next day and what movies were coming out that they wanted to see. When they got home, she parked the Porsche and walked through the courtyard, arm-in-arm with Chuck. They opened the door and a black blur suddenly came flying at them with a high pitched screech.

Chuck quickly moved his left foot back and prepared to throw his attacker over his shoulder until the assailant's words penetrated through his defensive fog – Morgan was home. Sarah, however, had not powered down her defensive mode as quickly. She grabbed Morgan by the shoulders and yanked him backwards, throwing him flat on his back and pulling a knife from God knows where, holding it to his throat. Her eyes widen as she saw his face and she realized her mistake.

"Morgan, what the hell?" She shouted. "You just got back from training at the Farm, you should know better than to do that!"

"Wow, that was intense!" Morgan shouted as Chuck pulled him to his feet. "They talk about how good you two are at the farm all the time but there's nothing like seeing it firsthand. Sorry guys, I just missed you is all." He finished, a bit sheepishly.

"It's okay buddy, we missed you too." Chuck said as he looked at his best friend. His weeks at the farm forced him to put on a bit of muscle, but not an excessive amount. To someone who didn't spend as much time with Morgan as Chuck had, he probably didn't look any different but Chuck knew better.

"Wow, the Farm was pretty good to you. You going to come running with us in the mornings now?" Chuck asked as he snaked his arm around him, leading him to the kitchen.

"Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, thanks Chuck. Have you guys been busy while I've been gone?"

The three of them were shortly joined by Casey for a celebratory drink after their successful mission, and the four of them spent some time enjoying each other's company – and a fair amount of time ribbing Casey for his last cover identity. Close to eleven pm, Devon stopped by when he saw the lights on and invited them to dinner at the end of the week.

"So is this what a debrief looks like?" Awesome asked in awe.

"No Devon, this is just drinks with friends. Not everything we do is always spy related." Chuck replied with a laugh.

"I guess not bro, but it's still awesome." Devon stayed for a little while longer before the mini-party broke up and everyone went their separate ways. Chuck and Morgan offered to clean up the apartment while Sarah got ready for bed.

"So look dude," Morgan started awkwardly. "With you two being engaged now, and me having an extra income with this whole spy deal…I think it's time I start looking for my own place."

Chuck spilled the glass that he had been picking up out of surprise. "What? But Morgan, you know we love having you here! You can't move out, that's ridiculous!"

"Chuck, it's fine, I promise. You and Sarah are getting married, you need your own place. You don't need me hanging around like you're weird, over-grown child."

"But where would you go buddy?" Chuck asked, defeated.

"Well…I've actually been talking to Casey about taking his extra room. He was against it at first, but I think I finally got under his skin. Although, he says it's just so he can keep on eye on me and make sure that my training was sufficient. Something about the CIA not knowing how to train real agents."

Chuck laughed lightly. "Yeah, that sounds about right."

They stood awkwardly and looked at each other. Before they could say anymore though, they heard a shout and the sound of something heavy being thrown against a wall coming from down the hall. The two spies took off running, pulling weapons as they went. Chuck kicked in the door to his bedroom and took in the scene at a glance. The desk was knocked over and papers were all over the floor. Sarah was on the ground with a black-clad attacker on top of her, holding a knife to her throat.

Chuck wasted no time, pressing the advantage of their surprise he charged at the assailant and tackled them, pinning them to the wall by the throat. Morgan followed quickly behind and placed the muzzle of his Sig 1911 under the attacker's chin.

"Stop!" Sarah shouted.

Chuck paused mid-snarl and inclined his head towards her, not taking his eyes off the masked assailant.

"Stop, Chuck. It's Carina." Sarah said.

Chuck ripped the mask off her head to reveal the fiery red hair and fierce gray eyes of Carina Miller.

"Carina? What the hell?" Chuck shouted.

"Carina," Morgan said, mouth slightly open.

"Chuck…Martin," Carina replied with a predatory smile. "Did you miss me?"

January 11, 2010


1928 Pacific Time

"Hello Team," Beckman began in her usual greeting. "Carina Miller has been playing the girlfriend of suspected arms smuggler, Karl Stromberg. Through her efforts we have learned that ten million dollars was recently wired into Stromberg's account."

"We're unsure what type of weapon this is, but someone is obviously willing to pay a lot of money for it." Carina said. "My 'engagement' party is today at Karl's house. Sarah and Chuck will enter as my best friend and her boyfriend – "

"Fiancé!" Sarah corrected sharply.

"And Casey will pose as my father." Carina finished up as though she hadn't been interrupted.

"Uhh, check your math sister. I'll play your brother." Casey said, agitated.

"That's a bit of a stretch, Colonel."

"Yeah, Casey, I'm pretty sure you have dungarees that are older than Carina." Chuck said.

"Colonel you will assume the identity of Agent Miller's Uncle." Beckman said, ending the argument.

"Carina's father's much younger brother." Casey said under his breath.

"Karl's storing the weapon in a gold case inside a vault room attached to his bedroom. During his toast, Sarah and Chuck will slip out, break in and apprehend it. He keeps the access card to the secured area in his pants which I can easily access." Carina summarized.

"Ha, I'll bet you can." Casey sarcastically muttered. Carina quickly glared at him but then continued without a word.

"Karl also recently installed a state-of-the-art security system in the vault room itself, so hopefully the two of you can handle anything you find there." She finished, inclining her head towards Chuck and Sarah.

"It won't be a problem. Chuck will be able to handle any security system we find there." Sarah said with a hint of pride.

"He'd better be." Carina said, mirroring Sarah's pride with an equal amount of doubt and derision.

"This mission rides on you, Chuck. Do what you do best." Beckman finished, taking Carina aback by the amount confidence infused in the notorious General's tone. "Are there any questions?"

"General," Chuck began, waiting to continue until his superior acknowledged him. "Once we've secured the case, what are our extraction options?"

"The case is the priority here, however we would like to leave Agent Miller's cover intact if possible. We have an agent inserted in the catering staff, who will be waiting at the bottom of the south stairs. Leave the area in that direction and leave the case with him before returning to the party. Challenge phrase is 'what time is dessert?' and authentication phrase is 'apparently five minutes ago.'" Beckman said as Casey sniggered.

"What, Casey? Couldn't convince her to make it about mixing chocolate and peanut butter?" Chuck asked.

"This is obviously the best case scenario," Beckman continued with a hint of annoyance. "If this option is unavailable then Mr. Stromberg and all of his guests are expendable. I will have a tactical team in place less than five minutes away but please try and avoid this option for once. Yes, Colonel, I am speaking to you."

Casey looked vaguely hurt as the general asked if anyone else had questions. When no one spoke up, the line went dead and the four spies began preparing their equipment, checking out various items from the armory as they deemed them necessary. Chuck began laughing hysterically and Sarah had to put her foot down as Casey tried to sign out his beloved M134 mini-gun.

"I'll leave it in the car!" Casey said defensively.

"Casey, we are not going to get into that serious of a firefight and if we do then I will wash the vic for a week." Sarah said sarcastically.

"Sarah, what's wrong with you? Are you trying to jinx us?" Chuck asked, aghast.

"What?" Sarah wrinkled her brow in confusion.

"You can't go around saying things like that! Now we're almost definitely going to get in some crazy shootout!" Chuck exclaimed, shaking his head at her naivety.

"Chuck that's ridiculous," Sarah said, laughing. "We're going to be fine, don't worry."

Chuck continued packing his gear as he grumbled under his breath about no mission with Carina being fine. Sarah ignored him as she checked for any follow-up messages from Beckman on their mainframe.

"Any additional?" Casey asked, entering the room silently.

"Nothing from Beckman. Matt sent us any data the Ring had on Stromberg but it's nothing new from what Carina had. Oh, new message from Bryce." Sarah clicked the flashing icon as they received the new message. "Oh you've got to be kidding me."

"What? What's the CIA pretty boy up to now?" Casey asked.

"He's tracking down a Ring cell in the U.K. and he ran into Cole Barker. Somehow we came up in conversation and now they're the best of friends. Well, at least we have additional resources that are read in on the Ring and the Intersect if things go sideways. What is it Casey?" Sarah asked sharply, frowning at the Colonel as he had been smirking at her for the duration of the conversation.

"Who exactly came up in conversation? 'We' as in the team, or 'we' as in an attractive blonde agent who both of them have tried and failed to get with?" Casey laughed as Sarah threw a nearby pen at him. "For what it's worth, Walker, you picked the right guy on this one." Casey finished, walking off without another word and leaving Sarah stunned with her mouth slightly open. Casey had never been one to talk about personal feelings and that was about the most personal conversation they had ever had. And the whole thing had lasted less than ten seconds. Sarah shook off her surprise and signed off the mainframe, picking up her bag and holding out her hand for Chuck to take as they walked out of Castle.

January 12, 2010

Stromberg Villa

0930 Pacific Time

"Congratulations, you two are going to have the most amazing life together." Sarah said with a magnificent smile.

"You are a very lucky man Karl, we couldn't hope for a better match for Carina."

"Thanks Chuck, I'm sure you're going to be next up the altar." Carl said, punching Chuck in the shoulder.

"We are, actually." Sarah quickly responded, still smiling as she held up her left hand and showed off the ring Chuck had given her.

"Sarah! When were you planning on telling me?" Carina asked, real frustration painted on her face. Sarah angrily pulled her aside in a huff and remind her that she had told her at least three times already, but Carina had promptly brushed this aside as part of the cover, pointing out that the lack of a ring sold out her lie. Was it Sarah's fault she didn't like to wear the ring at work? She didn't want to risk losing the beautiful symbol of their love and promise of more to come while in some water-logged sewer in Barcelona. She was spared further argument as Casey wandered nearby in full disguise.

"Ah, sweetheart, I want to introduce you to my Uncle Johnny!" Carina said, giving Sarah one last scathing look that clearly stated the conversation was not over. As Karl embraced Casey, Chuck and Sarah quietly slipped away towards the stairs. They eyed Carina for a while, sipping at their champagne until they saw the couple separate and Karl headed up to his office. Chuck and Sarah quietly followed, observing as Carina soon joined her "fiancé." After watching them converse Carina gave a signal and they walked into the study, surreptitiously grabbing Karl's access card as they went. They made their way to the banister and made a show of being a very loving, very visible couple to prevent suspicion.

"Bedroom access is at your six o'clock. We'll move when the room is distracted by the toast." Sarah said.

"Sounds good, Sarah. Have I told you how amazing you look in that dress? Really brings out your eyes." Chuck said.

Sarah scoffed as she skeptically viewed Chuck through her eyelashes.

"Brings out my eyes?" She looked up, flipping her hair over her shoulder with a twitch of her head. "Are you sure that is the only reason?" She asked, pressing into Chuck's body as he held his arms open for her.

Chuck opened his mouth to reply but was interrupted by the clinking of a champagne glass as Karl prepared to give his speech.

"I guess you'll have to find out later, duty calls." Chuck said with a smile.

The two slipped off into the bedroom, unnoticed by the room at large. They snuck into the room and quickly found the vault just off the main room. Sarah slid the card through the slot and the door smoothly slid open, revealing a large room with roving lasers.

"Lasers, really? Bit James Bondy isn't it?" Chuck asked.

"Don't act like you don't like it. Can you make it through them?" She asked.

"Umm…that's a good question." He paused for a second and watched the lasers. Soon his vision blurred and he flashed on gymnastics and tumbling maneuvers. "Um, yes, I think so. Only one way to find out."

Sarah's jaw dropped as Chuck flipped, twisted and rolled through the moving lasers, using the room to his advantage as he avoided setting off the security system. She had seen Chuck in action a good many times, but this was something completely different, she had never seen anyone move like he did. In no time at all he had retrieved the gold-colored case from the other side of the room and made his way back. As he reached the threshold, a smile lit up Sarah's face but it was quickly wiped away as Chuck lost his balance and began to fall backwards. Sarah lunged forward and just barely grabbed his wrist, yanking him forward towards her. They collapsed in a heap on the floor and laughed quietly as Chuck quickly planted a kiss on Sarah's lips.

"Sarah, I love you." Chuck said with a hint of exhaustion. He dropped his head to the ground for a moment before pushing himself up and offering Sarah his hand off the floor. Chuck untucked his shirt and put the case up against his back before tucking his shirt back in while Sarah held the case in place. Putting his suit jacket back on, Sarah nodded in approval before they moved to the extraction point. Before they could make it to the south staircase, they heard approaching footsteps.

"Quick, in here!" Sarah whispered, opening a door and pushing Chuck inside. They quickly closed the door as they heard the sound of running feet move passed. "Okay, I think we're good." She said as she slowly slipped the door back open.

Chuck and Sarah darted outside and quickly but silently ran down the hallway, keeping an eye out for any other guards.

"Well, no alarms or shouts yet, I'm guessing they didn't find anything in the bedroom. So far, so good."

"Let's go," Chuck said, pulling Sarah along by the hand. They traveled down the hallway. Finally, they located the staircase and traveled down at a rapid pace. At the bottom, the stairs opened up into the kitchen where at least a dozen cooks and staff wandered around. No sooner had they stepped into the room than a familiar silhouette walked towards them.

"Sir, ma'am, how can I help you?" A wide smile split the man's bearded face has he practically bounced on the balls of his feet.

"Well, we were just wondering what time dessert was?" Sarah said quickly.

"Oh, it was apparently five minutes ago, but I'm sure we still have some left-over. Right this way," the man said as he led them down a back hallway and out an exterior door.

"Where are we going Morgan?" Chuck asked exasperatedly.

"Trust in the Grimes, my friend. Trust in the Grimes." Morgan said with a sly smile.

They walked for about 100 feet before a white panel van with the logo of the catering company splashed across the side pulled out from its parking space and slowly drove towards them. To everyone at the party, it looked just like the other four vans present but to Chuck's trained eye, he quickly picked up on the run-flat tires, armor reinforced paneling, and thick, Plexiglas windows. The three crossed in front of the van and noticed that the side door was already sitting open. They quickly began jogging at pace with the van and all three jumped up inside before closing the door. The van accelerated and in no time at all they were outside the compound walls and picking up speed as they approached the main highway.

"Well, that went fairly smoothly." Morgan said.

"Let's hold on until Casey makes it out of there before we start saying things like that." Chuck said quickly but with a smile. Despite the outward calm, Chuck was nervous. He was confident that Karl and his guards didn't immediately know about the Op or they wouldn't have been able to leave the premises, but that didn't mean that they hadn't figured it out by now. Until they heard otherwise, Chuck was preparing possible rescue scenarios for Casey and Carina if necessary. One look at Sarah told him that she was sharing the same concern. He reached out and squeezed her hand reassuringly.

They rode for ten more tense minutes before the radio finally crackled to life.

"Casey here, I'm in the clear and on the move to the rendezvous point. No signs that they were alerted to the Op, Carina will check in later tonight."

"Copy that Casey, see you soon." Chuck said. He smiled and let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding. They drove the rest of the way in a comfortable silence until they arrived at the Orange Orange. They all walked inside and placed the case on the center table as they waited for Casey to catch up. After stowing their gear, Casey appeared and walked down the stairs, right as the monitor beeped and announced Beckman's electronic arrival.

"Good job recovering the weapon," Beckman began without preamble. "I'm happy to see we avoided any major incidents this time."

"What is this thing, General?" Casey asked, inspecting thick, circular object inside the case. "I've never seen a weapon like it before."

"That information is above your paygrade, Colonel Casey. Agent Miller will return it to Langley on her way to her next assignment when she returns from the party. But as for you four, you never saw it." With that, the screen went black and the four spies were once again alone.

"Well, what do you got for us Chuck?" Casey asked expectantly.

Chuck's eyebrows knit together and he frowned as he looked inside the case.

"Nothing…whatever this is, it isn't in the Intersect."

Casey and Sarah looked equally concerned at this news while Morgan looked confused.

"Is that bad?" Morgan asked.

"Well, it's either nothing…or very bad, Morgan. Anything that isn't in the Intersect is either insignificant or bad enough that it is at the highest level of classified."

Morgan began to look concerned too, but he quickly smiled. "Eh, I'm sure it's nothing, guys. Even if it is something bad, we got it back now. Don't worry about it, we kicked ass, again!" Morgan performed a quick high kick as he said this, causing Casey to roll his eyes and growl as he walked towards the armory, complaining about amateurs.

Chuck just shook his head at their antics as the door opened and Carina walked down the stairs.

"What, done partying already?" He asked.

"Well, when I was left alone with a family full of weapons dealers the party kind of lost its luster. But, we're over now. I broke up with him after the party, told him my Uncle Johnny made me realize that married life just wasn't what I wanted. We left on…less than amicable terms but he'll get over it I'm sure."

"So you gonna tell us what's in the case?" Casey asked, walking back into the room while wiping his SIG Sauer with a rag.

"I don't know, they wouldn't tell me either. I was hoping you or Chuckles would know, but I guess not."

Casey looked pissed at this news and bared his teeth. "They never let me play with the fun explosives. One close call and they stop giving the good stuff…" Casey's grumbling followed him all the way upstairs until the door slammed. Everyone laughed lightly as they continued logging gear into the armory.

"Walker, we need to talk." Carina said seriously. Sarah looked up at her reluctantly.

Chuck looked between the two of them, then grabbed Morgan.

"Come on Morgan, we should make an appearance upstairs finally, we haven't been there all day." They walked up the stairs, giving Sarah and Carina some privacy.

Sarah continued cleaning her equipment, waiting for Carina to start.

Carina studied her closely with a slight frown on her face before starting in.

"What happened to you Walker? You go from one of the best agents I've ever worked with to a love-sick teenager. I hardly even recognize you anymore." She sounded almost disappointed and more than a little surprised.

"Was my performance substandard today?" Sarah asked with a chill in her voice, causing Carina to pause.

"Since when do you talk to me like I'm some DEA desk jockey?"

"Since when do you talk to me like I'm some CIA amateur?" Sarah shot back.

"Hmph. Well played, Walker. Seriously, what's the deal? You've changed quite a bit since the CAT squad days."

"Well, people change Carina, but that doesn't make it a bad thing. You've only met Chuck twice, get to know him a little bit and he'll have even you ready to settle down. Actually, no, don't do that. I don't need you getting any ideas." Sarah said with a half-smile.

Carina sighed and sat down next to her best friend. "Settling down is one thing…getting married is another thing entirely. Are you sure about this? About him?"

"I'm sure," Sarah answered without missing a beat.

"Yeah, I knew you were going to say that." She said with a smile. "I've known since the first time I worked with you guys, you were already gone, you just didn't know it yet."

"So then why all the questions?" She asked incredulously.

"Because I needed to know that you knew you were already done for. All kidding aside, I'm happy for you. Not the same choice I would make, but it's your life. I better get an invite to the wedding." Carina finished with a laugh.

Sarah chuckled. "Of course, you're going to be one of my bridesmaids." The two spies hugged, ending their disagreement.

"Jag kommer att sakna dig kompis." Carina whispered.

"Stesknie sie za toba tez." She answered.

The two walked up the stairs from Castle and quickly found Chuck and Morgan. The four of them walked outside together before Morgan offered to drive Carina to the airport. Chuck said goodbye to Carina and they went their separate ways.

"Well, nothing good is going to come of that car ride." Chuck said, shaking his head.

"No, probably not," Sarah answered, laughing.

"Anything earth-shattering you guys talked about?" Chuck tried to act nonchalant, but his unease was evident.

"No, she just wanted to see where my head was at. We're on the same page now though."

"Good, I'm glad." Chuck was curious but he decided to respect her privacy and let the issue drop.

"Me too," Sarah said with a smile, pulling Chuck's arm around her waist as she placed her hand in his back pocket before they arrived at Chuck's Camaro and they headed home.