A/N:STOP! (In the name of love. No, not really. Just had a vision of Diana Ross holding up her hand.) If you've read this piece before you probably won't want to read this slight redo of the first piece of Fanfiction I wrote.
After much good advice from michaelfmx on another story, I've gone back and tried to correct the many, many grammatical errors I found in my original. However, just so you know, he didn't actually beta this, (even though I know he would have been willing) so any remaining errors are my own.
As well I've tried to make it less choppy. Hopefully, I've gotten rid of most of the clumsy sentences as well. Also, corrected some flashback verb tenses.
I've also gone the accepted route of having first person thoughts in italics, rather than using the what can be the clumsy he or she thought such and such. One added little scene as well.
And here's the big change. CHAPTERS!
A number of readers have commented it's easier to read that way, so I hope the thousands (Hundreds? Maybe dozens? At least one, please!) of people who wanted to read this, but were put off by the length, will do so now.
All the chapters will be released at once, so no waiting around for the thrills and Charah to come.
I'm quite fond of this story as it is literally (and I do mean just that) the first bit of fiction that I'd actually written down for a very, very long time. (Last time I did write I believe it may have been using a stone tablet and chisel.):) Stuff had bounced around my head but somehow never made it out.
Not expecting a lot of reviews here. Just wanted a better version to be out there, although I'll leave the old one up. This just blends better into the "vs. the Fork" follow up.
Took some lines out added a few others, modified a fair number. Don't worry, I haven't made any major changes. The biggest one is probably the last line in the story.(And even that's fairly minor.) Seemed a little stronger this way. I'm curious to see how you readers feel about the change.
Thanks to all you all kind readers and reviewers.
Any resemblance to real persons in the story is purely coincidental.
I don't own Chuck, et al. Did this just for fun.
CHUCK VERSUS THE CROSSWALK
"Very good job, team. The operation went off without a hitch. The information you recovered will greatly help us in our battle against illegal arms trafficking. Well done."
General Beckman's tone of voice confirms her words as to how pleased she is with last night's mission. As she conducts the morning briefing, Chuck even thinks he sees the beginnings of a smile on her normally less than cheerful countenance.
A chorus of "Thank you, General," is the team's response to her praise.
Chuck, for a change, is feeling good about his part in the mission. Who's he kidding? He's pumped!
Sarah had used her charms to distract the party's host along with his security chief, thus allowing her teammates to gain access to the office upstairs. While Casey watched his back, Chuck had flashed on the alarm system, bypassed it and gained entry to the mark's sanctum. He'd then only needed a few minutes to break into the non-networked computer and download the contained info on clients and pending deals.
Chuck was careful to leave no trace of his hacking activities, so none should be the wiser. Forty-five minutes later the team extricated themselves from the party and headed back to Castle.
Best of all, he hadn't stuck either of his feet in his mouth before, during or after the mission. Or actually stumbled over them for that matter. Quite a change from normal. No need this time for Sarah and/or Casey to ride to his rescue. For one of the first times, he felt like a truly effective part of the team.
And even when he saw Sarah, gorgeous Sarah, overtly flirting with the mark, he hadn't caused any problems by letting his emotions get the better of him. In fact, he was sure he had successfully hidden his strong reaction to the part she was required to play.
No. No visible anger because of seeing Sarah having to demean herself once again. No display of the envy he felt because the mark was on the receiving end of her affections, not himself. Unreasonably envious, since he knew those affections weren't real. But she was so convincing that he couldn't help but be a bit jealous.
No. "She's just doing her job," is what he kept telling himself, over and over again.
A grunt from across the table brings his mind back. He believes it is a quiet #8 (Satisfaction). He catches what might may have been a small smile on Casey's face, albeit just for a fraction of a second.
It seems as if everyone is in a good mood over their success, but as Chuck glances to his left he sees he is mistaken. Sarah is saying all the right words and displaying the correct facial expressions to show her agreement with Beckman and the team. However, he senses something isn't right with her.
Just how he knows, he is not sure. But he does know. Maybe he just understands her much better than he consciously realizes. After all, it is a rare day that passes without them spending a significant part of that day with each other. Between the missions, fake dates and nights with Ellie and Devon, there is no one with whom his time and emotions are more fully invested.
Or maybe she is, perhaps unconsciously, letting down some of her walls. Letting him see, even just a little bit, of the person she is inside.
Or maybe the reason is really much simpler. When you love a person so deeply, so profoundly, so desperately, as he loves Sarah, you always know when something isn't right. You just know.
With Ellie, he had always known when she was hurting. Even with the brave front she would put on, he could always tell when her responsibilities as a parent/sister were almost too much to handle.
With Morgan, he could always see through the jokes and wisecracks. He knew when his friend was using them to cover the rejections and bullying that had hurt him to the core.
Now that Sarah has become one of the most important people in his life, he can also tell. But as to what it is that is weighing her down, he can only guess.
Over the past months, the enigma known as Sarah Walker has continued to puzzle and intrigue him. He knows virtually nothing personal about her, yet in some fundamental way, he feels he knows her.
After the events of her high school reunion, she had offered to answer one question about her past, a seemingly golden opportunity. An offer that stood in stark contrast to the exasperation and anger she expressed in reaction to his constant badgering of the previous few days. He'd thought (or maybe hoped) that she had wanted to open up but couldn't for reasons that extended beyond "the rules". If true, he'd understood that his insistent, insensitive prying into her life would then be even more annoying to her.
He'd heard the saying somewhere that it is better to give than receive, and Chuck usually is the kind of person who does give freely to others. However, with Sarah he came to realize that he had often become selfish, over and over again asking her to give more and more of herself to him. He understood that this was now the time to change that pattern.
So he said no to her offer. Her shy smile and look of gratitude she gave him in response were enough to drive home the truth of what he had heard.
In his heart, he knew then that he didn't need to know everything about her past, her likes and dislikes. Just knowing he could make her happy was enough for now. When she was happy, he was as well. Chuck had even gone so far that, in a moment of nerdiness, he'd actually jotted down an equation that described how he felt:
(S+H)=(C+H) Where S=Sarah, C=Chuck, H=Happiness.
He hesitated to call it an equation because while her happiness was sure to make him feel the same, he couldn't be sure (but certainly did hope) that she feels happy when he does.
In fact, he is usually so very uncertain how Sarah really feels about him. Sometimes he's sure he sees a look in her eyes, a look that gives him hope. A look that seems to see him as something beyond an asset, the Intersect.
At those moments, he truly believes he can see the future in those eyes. A future with the two of them together. Sometimes he believes he sees it in her infrequent but gentle touches. When she gets just a little bit closer on the couch then the cover requires. In a kind word when everything he is doing weighs so heavily on him. When she gives him one of those small smiles after she has forgiven him his latest stupidity.
But so often, in the very next moment, the walls would be back up, and she would be the Agent again, curt, professional, apparently unfeeling. It confuses, even angers him at times. But as long as that future remains even as a remote possibility, he won't give up on it.
Regardless of how she actually feels about him, he does know how deeply he cares for her. How much he wants her to find some degree of happiness and contentment. Well, at least as much as her profession allows.
Which leads him back to now. He wants to see that glorious, radiant, true smile, not just the facade she puts on for politeness. Her "Agent Face", as he called it, may fool others but not him.
Chuck feels a nudge on his foot and looks to his left. Sarah is gesturing with her eyes towards the monitor. He realizes he's drifted off and that she's trying to get his attention back to the briefing. Straightening up in his chair, he brings his mind back to current matters.
"So, that's it for today. No missions at present," Beckman says. However, just as she reaches over to break the connection, from outside the camera's field of view, a note is handed to her. She reads it over for a minute while the three of them wait patiently. Chuck can tell she is more than a little annoyed with the contents of the page in front of her.
"It appears that a situation has arisen. Please return for a briefing in 15 minutes. Beckman out."
With that, the image changes back to the DNI seal.
Chuck wonders out loud, "What was that all about?"
"Well, I guess we'll find out when Beckman is good and ready to tell us. Keep your pants on, Bartowski," is Casey's sarcastic reply. As he walks out of the briefing room he says over his shoulder, "I'll be in the armory. See you in 15."
"What's his problem?" Chuck asks as he looks over at Sarah.
"He probably had plans for his day off," Sarah responds, as she shrugs her shoulders.
Disappointed, Chuck says, "I guess it looks like none of us will have the day off now."
"Most likely," is her somewhat terse reply. She opens the report of last night's mission and starts to read it again.
For the past week, Chuck has been looking forward to this day, a day off after a mission. So often they've had to plunge right back into their cover jobs the next day (well, real job for him, cover for them.) He'd been hoping that Sarah would be agreeable to spending the day together. However, it looks like his optimistic plans are about to be ruined.
Well, nothing ventured. He takes a breath, looks at her and says, "If it turns out there isn't a mission, would you like to spend the day at the beach? It's beautiful out there and I thought we could bring a picnic lunch and soak up some sun. Or something else if you would like. Maybe we could work on our fake dating skills?"
The words come tumbling out, simultaneously very fast and yet with that peculiar, hopeful hesitation that only Chuck can master.
Sarah looks at him with a thoughtful expression, searching his face. But then her eyes shift away from his and she replies, "No. Not today. There are reports that need work and I should spend some practice time on the shooting range."
"Oh! OK. Alright then. Perhaps another time." He knows he can't keep the dejection off his face, so he quickly turns away. He understands that he has just gotten the spy version of "Not tonight. I need to wash my hair."
"Perhaps," is her one-word reply.
Suddenly, the situation feels very uncomfortable. He knows now that he shouldn't have asked her. For the last week, she has been even more taciturn than normal. She obviously needs time to sort out whatever is bugging her, but instead here he is, pressuring her again.
Brilliant, Chuck. Just brilliant.
Abruptly he stands up. "I am going to use the facilities. See you in a bit."
As he walks out he glances over his shoulder and sees Sarah looking down at the table with a pensive expression on her face.
"Team, a time critical situation has arisen which is largely due to potentially important data being improperly flagged at our end," Beckman says as the briefing commences.
"For a number of months, we have requested that friendly intelligence services be on the lookout for specific information that we know could be connected to Fulcrum activities. While they don't know exactly why we want the information they have been very forthcoming in passing it along to us.
"Three days ago, our liaison at CSIS contacted us with intel that could relate to Fulcrum."
Chuck interjects, "Excuse me, General. See Sis?"
"C S I S," Beckman replies, pausing after each letter. "Canadian Security Intelligence Service."
"I didn't know Canada even had an intelligence service," is Chuck's somewhat disbelieving reply. There may have also been a small amount of derision in his tone as well.
"Mr. Bartowski, I will have you know the men and women of CSIS work hard to protect their country and by their cooperation help protect ours as well," Beckman curtly retorts.
Chuck quickly glances at his teammates, looking for even tacit support, but only sees agreement with Beckman in their expressions and body language. He understands it is time to man up and accept he has stepped over the line.
Suitably chagrined, Chuck apologetically says, "Sorry General. I didn't mean to sound disrespectful."
"Is that all Mr. Bartowski? Or may I continue with the briefing?" This is obviously a rhetorical question as she goes on without waiting for an answer.
A photo of a man pops up onto the monitor. He appears to be in his late forties. A cheerful face but one that somehow gives the impression that he wouldn't back down from a fight if needed.
"This man is Orland Kurtenbach," Beckman states. She pauses, expectantly, looking at Chuck.
Sure enough, Chuck flashes on the name and photo. A few seconds later the words come tumbling from his mouth in that way which shows it is the intersect speaking now.
"Orland Kurtenbach runs a small software development company in Vancouver. They specialize in designing custom programs that can mine apparently unrelated data from a variety of sources and turn it into a cohesive whole." He pauses for a second. "Hey, that's interesting. His gamer tag was in the file. I've played Call of Duty against him a few times. He's always been very polite whether he wins or loses." Seeing Beckman's look, Chuck sheepishly mumbles, "I guess that last part isn't really important."
Beckman simply ignores his last statement and continues, "CSIS has informed us a potential client, a Mr. Smith, will be meeting locally with Mr. Kurtenbach at 1200 hours today. It has been determined that the latest version of his companies' software may be of use in Fulcrum's plan to build their own intersect."
She lets that sink in for a moment before continuing, "Team, we need to know whether this client is actually representing Fulcrum or whether this is just an innocent business transaction.
"They will be meeting at this beachside restaurant." A series of photos and other data appears on the screen. "As you can see from the construction of this building, the only place we can surveil the interior is from the beach area in front of it. That being clear of any cover rules out all of our traditional methods.
"Our mission plan is this: Agent Walker and Mr. Bartowski will pose as a young couple enjoying a day at the beach."
Great. Just great. Seems the only way I can get her to go to the beach with me is on a mission.
Beckman continues, "You will position yourselves to be visible to the men inside. We feel that Agent Walker's," she pauses here as if looking for the right word, "assets will naturally attract their attention thus making sure the intersect will be able to flash on the client."
Chuck glances at Sarah and sees a very brief but intense look flash across her face. Disgust? Anger? He's not quite sure. He turns his attention back to Beckman who is still speaking.
"If it turns out this is nothing to do with Fulcrum the mission at that time will be terminated. If otherwise, our plan is twofold. Major Casey will be in charge of security oversight. We will have two teams in place. One will pick up Mr. Kurtenbach after their meeting. We will then persuade him not to sell the program to this particular client.
"Before you ask, Mr. Bartowski, we will simply buy it from him at a much better than fair price thus making sure Fulcrum will not have access."
Chuck lowers his hand to the table.
"The second team will endeavor to follow the Fulcrum operative once he leaves the restaurant. We will see if he will lead us to other operatives or one of their home bases. What we do with that intel will be determined at a later date.
"Agent Walker, Mr. Bartowski, concerning your further part in the operation, we will ask you to observe the interaction between the client and Mr. Kurtenbach. Then you will follow him back to his hotel. There is where our second team will take over." Beckman adds, "Since we have less than three hours before the meeting there will be no time for you to collect your own things for this operation. A room at a hotel near the restaurant has been obtained and all the needed items will be provided there. This is the same hotel where Mr. Kurtenbach will be staying.
"Before you ask, yes, Mr. Bartowski, we do know your sizes. It is in your file.
"Agent Walker. You and the Intersect will proceed in your own vehicle. The needed information will be sent to your phones. Major Casey will follow. We don't want to arouse any possible suspicion by all of you arriving together.
"Major Casey. The two teams will meet you in situ. All communication codes and other needed info will be provided en route. We will choose a surveillance position which will allow you to oversee the operation."
Beckman concludes. "Is everything clear?"
Nodding of heads and a series of "Yes, General," makes their assent obvious.
"Then let's get to it. Time is of the essence. Beckman out."
As soon as the screen goes back to the seal, Sarah slams back her chair and storms from the room.
Casey hisses from across the table, "What the hell did you do now, Bartowski? Walker's royally pissed."
Obviously, Chuck isn't now the only one who can see that Sarah is having a serious problem with something. Just as obviously, neither of the men knows what that problem is.
He hisses back, "Nothing as far as I know." For a moment, he wonders if he has forgotten something, but draws a blank. "Sarah isn't usually shy about telling me if I have screwed up."
Casey thinks about that for a moment, then nods his head in agreement. "Well, whatever is going on, you better watch yourself. She's ready to explode and I sure as hell wouldn't want to be on the receiving end when she does."
Casey, a man Chuck thought was afraid of nothing, visibly pales at the idea of Sarah unloading on him. If even Casey feels that way, he better make sure that he is doubly careful.
"Thanks for the advice," is Chuck's grateful reply.
—A/N: Have to agree with the boys. Wouldn't want to be on the receiving end either.