Chapter 14

Shipping Yard

Helsinki, Finland

November 19, 2007

2300 hours

Daavid Hiltunen cursed as he and his partner Aabel Pentti watch the crane lift the large shipping container onto the Container Ship Aila. Helsinki was suffering from one of the coldest Novembers on record and he really didn't want to be out here tonight. But his boss had called earlier that day and assigned him and Aabel to oversee the transfer of a high value shipment headed for Los Angeles. Daavid knew better than to ask what the shipment was; if his boss had wanted him to know, he would have told him.

"If this shipment is so important and time sensitive, why the hell are they sending it via container ship?" Aabel asked, watching the scene.

"Don't ask me, Aabel." Daavid replied. "And frankly, I don't want to know."

Lou's Deli

Burbank, CA

November 20, 2007

1300 hours

"So, Chuck, Morgan tells me you guys have been friends since kindergarten." Lou Palone said, pouring him another cup of coffee. He and Sarah were sitting on one side of a four-person table, with Morgan and Lou on the other side. Morgan and Lou had been dating for several weeks and he had been pestering Chuck to meet Lou.

"Yep." Chuck said. "We met on the first day of school. Been friends ever since."

"Yeah, Chuck and I have been through a lot over the years." Morgan said. "He watched out for me in school, tried to protect me from bullies and he was there when my mom and dad split up."

"And Morgan was there for me and my sister when first our mom took off, then our dad." Chuck continued.

Sarah smiled as she sat listening to the two friends rehash their experiences together. In the previous timeline, it had taken her a while to warm up to Chuck's best friend and hetero life-partner. Partly that was because in that timeline she had never had the experience of having close friends or people who cared for her until she met Chuck and his family and friends. And part of it was snobbishness on her part; the Morgan Grimes of that timeline was an unapologetic slacker and she could not see past that persona for a long time. In time she had come to see Morgan's good qualities and to appreciate the unwavering loyalty he had for Chuck.

Though if she was forced to admit it to herself, she was somewhat surprised at how the Morgan Grimes of this timeline was compared to the previous timeline. Though he maintained a lot of the same personality in terms of his nerdiness, humor, caring, etc, he was also more mature then the old Morgan. For some reason she hadn't considered the fact that by changing Chuck's life, that she might also have a secondary effect on Morgan. But it appeared that as Chuck matured, Morgan did too. He was already the Assistant Manager at the Buy More, a position he didn't hold in the other timeline for a few more years yet. And from what Sarah had heard and observed, he took his job seriously. Then of course there was the fact that he was dating Lou.

"That's great. I had a best friend like that once." Lou said. "Unfortunately she was killed in a car accident two years ago. I still miss her every day." The table was quiet for a few moments, nobody being sure what to say, before Lou cleared her throat and changed the subject. "So Sarah, I hear you moved out here from DC?"

"Yes. The company I work for was looking to open an office here in LA, and I'd been getting tired of the East Coast winters, so I volunteered." Sarah said, giving the cover story they had agreed on. "Turns out it was the best decision I'd ever made." She smiled at Chuck and leaned over and gave him a quick kiss.

"And you guys work together?" Lou asked.

"Yeah. Chuck's name was at the top of a very short list of computer security experts so my bosses sent me to check him out." Sarah said.

"Yeah, and she did a good deal of 'checking me out'" Chuck teased. "When she first walked into my office I thought she was going to start salivating right then and there."

"Ha! You should talk!" Sarah teased back. "He barely kept his jaw off the floor when I walked in." Chuckles rang around the table and Chuck shrugged, acknowledging the truth of Sarah's observations.

"I still can't believe you two had been cyber friends for years and didn't even know who each other was." Morgan said. "Talk about crazy coincidences."

"So Chuck, Sarah. Morgan and I got an invitation to the opening of a club an old friend of mine owns. We were wondering if you'd join us." Lou said.

"What's it called?" Sarah asked.

"You know, I can't remember the name. Hang on, I have the invitation around here somewhere." Lou replied, then got up and left the table. Meanwhile, Morgan looked at his watch.

"Damn. My breaks over. I've better get back to the store. No telling what Jeff and Lester will get up to if I'm not there." Morgan said, standing up. A moment later, Lou returned to the table with an invitation and handed to Sarah. After looking at it she handed it to Chuck, who immediately flashed, as Sarah knew he would. Luckily Lou and Morgan were engrossed in saying goodbye to each other and didn't notice.

Operations Office

Carmichael Security Services (aka Castle)

Los Angeles, CA

November 20, 2007

1400 hours

"Geez Chuckles, can't you give a girl a chance to get settled in before making her work?" Carina Miller asked, taking a seat at the conference table. "For crying out loud I haven't even had a chance W establish my cover with lover-boy over there yet." A grunt of disgust emanated from the other side of the table where Casey was sitting. Carina had arrived to join the team about a week ago and had been fully read into the situation regarding Chuck and the Intersect. To say she had been shocked was an understatement. She had suspected from her previous mission working with the team that there was more to Chuck than an asset/analyst, especially after Sarah had told her that she had begun a sanctioned relationship with Chuck, and the rather severe warnings General Beckman had given her about being on her best behavior while assigned to the team, but she hadn't expected anything like this.

"Sorry Carina." Chuck said, flashing her a grin. "I can't control the flashes I get."

"Carina, what did we talk about?" Sarah said in a warning tone. Carina looked down, abashed.

"Yeah, I remember. No teasing Casey or Chuck." She said. "Sorry guys. Old habits are hard to kick."

"As much as I hate to agree with Miller," Casey said, "she does have a point. We're going to need to get moving on our cover soon. Until we do, it's going to be hard to explain her presence outside of the office to Ellie, Devon, and Grimes."

"Then you'll both be happy with tonight's operation." General Beckman said, appearing on the screen. "We've managed to secure an additional invitation to the party at Club Ares, so you and Agent Miller will be going together using your cover."

"Yes General." Casey and Carina responded.

"Now, thanks to Chuck's flash, we know that the owner of the club, Stavros Dimetros is a member of the Dimetros crime family. Latest intelligence has informed us that the organization is smuggling a package into the Los Angeles area sometime within the next seventy-two hours, though what that package is and how it's coming into the country are still unknown." Beckman said. "But given their past history and the groups they've dealt with in the past, it's likely not going to be something we want getting loose. It's imperative that we find out what's going on."

"You can count on us, General." Chuck said. "Though, I'm still concerned about Morgan and his girlfriend being in the middle of this operation."

"I understand, Chuck." Beckman replied. "Unfortunately, there's not helping it. I promise you'll we'll do our best to keep them safe. That's part of the reason we're sending Agent Casey and Agent Miller in with you instead of leaving them on the outside. I also have a Tactical Response Team on standby if needed."

"Don't worry Chuck." Carina said, seriously for once. "We'll make sure they stay safe."

Port of Los Angles

Los Angeles, CA

November 22, 2007

1900 hours

Sarah cursed under her breath as she ducked behind a crate, narrowing getting out of the way in time before a bullet passed through the space she had been standing a second ago. Though parts of the mission the last two days had gone much better than last time around – Chuck hadn't been dating Lou, they hadn't been caught bugging Stavros and his father's meeting, etc – all was not roses, as evidenced by their current situation. Apparently Stavros's father finding the bug last time had only been confirmation of his suspicious nature, because just like last time, the first dock they raided the night before had turned up empty save a security camera. And just like last time, the video footage led the bad guys straight to her and Chuck – not to mention Morgan and Lou. Luckily with the addition of Carina and Sarah's knowledge of what was coming (though of course, the rest of the team didn't know that Sarah knew), they were able to prevent Stavros's men from doing any damage and were able to capture several.

Between the information Casey had been able to get out of the captives during interrogation, and another flash by Chuck (something that hadn't happened the last time) the team was able to find the location of the container. Unfortunately, just like last time, Stavros's father had the place heavily guarded. And now she and Chuck were temporarily pinned down, and Casey and Carina had been separated from them earlier. Worse, she was the only one who knew that the container did not contain a bomb or other nefarious object, instead containing the revived body of Bryce Larkin.

Sarah had tried to figure a way to tip the team off ahead of time, but nothing she came up with seemed to have a chance of working, at least not without her having to come clean about everything – something her Guardian angel had warned her against as having the potential to cause to many bad alternatives. And so she had been forced to act like the others, and just prayed that none of them would get killed.

Sarah Walker's Hotel Room

Maison23

Lost Angeles, CA

November 22, 2007

2300 hours

"This has been some day." Chuck said, after he and Sarah walked into her hotel room. After the smuggled device had turned out not to be a bomb, Beckman had dispatched a team to move the device to a secure facility near Los Angeles to try and get in it. Casey and Carina had volunteered to go with the device, allowing her and Chuck to head back to her hotel.

"Yeah. Tell me about it." Sarah said, grinning inside. Much like last time, her and Chuck had managed to reach the container and just like last time Chuck didn't flash. And so, thinking that they were about to die – something that Sarah of course knew was not the case – Chuck had engulfed her in a goodbye kiss, just like last time. Unlike last time however, there was none of the awkwardness after the device failed to explode and Sarah had no intention of pulling away. In fact, it was all part of her plan. Tonight would be the night that she got to experience Chuck's other talents for the first time, again. "I really thought we were in trouble there for a little while."

"Sarah, about that." Chuck said. "Tonight we came really close to losing one another. And it made me realize that life is short. Especially given the line of work that we're in."

"What are you saying Chuck?" Sarah asked, though on the inside she was dancing; she was pretty sure she knew where this was going.

"You already know how I feel about you. And I know we've been taking things slowly for a lot of reasons." Chuck replied. "But tonight made me realize how fast we could lose one another. I understand if you still think we should go slow and I'm not suggesting we stop being discreet, throw caution to the wind and run off and get married, but I want you to know I'm ready to go all in, heart, mind, soul and body. Hell, it takes every ounce of willpower I have to cut our make out sessions short; or to simply leave her after dropping you off after one of our dates."

"Yes!" Sarah cheered to herself. This was what she wanted. Without saying a word she flung herself into his arms and began kissing him. A second later his arms enveloped her and he began kissing her back just as fiercely. The two partners stood there locked like this for several moments before separating. "I'm ready to, Chuck." Sarah said huskily. "How about we get out of these clothes and I show you just how ready I've been for weeks." She nearly chuckled at the look of shock that briefly crossed his face before he recovered.

Without another word, they embraced again, kissing more frantically this time, while their hands roamed each other's bodies and began pulling off pieces of clothing from each other. It was the work of only three or four minutes before they were both disrobed and had fallen back onto the bed.

"Are you sure?" Chuck asked, breaking off from another kiss and looking her deep in her eyes.

"Yes, Chuck. I'm sure." Sarah replied. "Make love to me." Chuck grinned and leaned down to kiss her again, his hands beginning to roam up and down her body once more. Within minutes, the two partners, best friends, boyfriend/girlfriend and now, lovers, had become completely enthralled in passion and all thoughts of the rest of the world were put on hold and forgotten for the rest of the night.

CIA/NSA Black Research Facility

Outside Los Angeles, CA

November 23, 2007

0800 hours

Casey stifled a yawn as he watched the CIA/NSA research team continue their efforts open the device the team had recovered the previous night. It had been a long night, made all the more difficult because of the turmoil going on inside his mind from the events of the previous night.

It had been a near-run thing, the operation to secure the device that Stavros had been smuggling. He and Miller had been separated from Bartowski and Walker, and for several tense minutes he was unsure if the duo was alive or dead given the fierce gunfire and opposition from Stavros' men they were facing. Luckily he and Miller had managed to locate them, though that in and of itself was tense enough as well. They had reached the container just as the timer was counting down from 20 seconds, just in time to hear Bartowski say that he wasn't flashing on anything. For the next several seconds, all four had lived with the certain knowledge that they were about to die. Except they hadn't. When the timer went to zero, there was no explosion nor a release of a biological or chemical agent.

Casey grinned as he thought about the reaction of this two partners during that brief timeframe – they had latched onto each other like drowning victims reaching for a life ring and engaged in one of the most passionate kisses he had ever witness, which was saying a lot since the two of them were nauseatingly affectionate towards each other ever since they got the green light to engage in a real relationship. But if Casey was honest with himself, a part of him was jealous of the pair. He hadn't ever regretted his decision to give up a chance at a normal life and family, not really, but at that moment, standing there in front of the device waiting to die, a small part of him had regretted that he didn't have someone hold like his two other partners had held each other.

"That was some kiss Bartowski and Walker shared." Carina said, startling him out of his thoughts as she walked up beside him.

"Yeah." Casey grunted.

"I've been meaning to ask you, John." Carina began, startling him with the use of his first name, "You seem pretty okay with the fact that Bartowski and Walker are engaged in a relationship. I wouldn't have expected that. I'd have thought you'd be railing against the unprofessionalism of it."

"Not that I owe you an explanation, Miller." Casey began gruffly, then stopped. Truth be told, he probably did owe her one, considering she was a full member of the team. "Ok, maybe I do. All be honest, I'm not 100% comfortable with it, for a lot of reasons. I mean, the kid was an asset until a few weeks ago. Then suddenly he's being upgraded to a field analyst and he and Walker are told they can pursue a real relationship? Unusual doesn't even begin to describe the situation. Add to that I've never been a believer in intra-team relationships – too much can go wrong, people can get distracted and then disaster happens. But I'm a good Marine. I obey orders. No matter how I feel about it, the decision has been made, by the President of the United States no less. So all I can do is my job. And hope it doesn't end up blowing up in everyone's face."

"Is that all?" Carina asked. "Just following orders? I've seen some of the looks you've given him when you didn't think anyone was watching. You like him, respect him, don't you?" Casey sighed, he really didn't like talking about his feelings like this.

"Yeah, Miller, I do." Casey said. "I don't how much of the kid's file you've read – I know you're aware of how he got the Intersect and his past relationship to Larkin – but he's had a rough go of it since he was a kid. And despite all that happened, between his parents leaving and the mess with Larkin in college, he's managed to make something of himself, even before Larkin sent him the Intersect. And he's done nothing but continue to surprise me since this all started. I figured he'd be just another computer geek; someone we'd have to hand hold and watch over like a child, even though I'd read about his martial arts training in his file. But he wasn't. The kid's got balls and talent. He may not be up to full agent standards, but for someone who was a civilian until recently, he's impressed me. Besides, even if I didn't respect him, I respect Walker. And she believes in him."

"Wow Casey, you better watch out – that's more lady feelings then I think I've ever heard from you." Carina teased. "What's next, you going to start watching Oprah and the view?" She laughed at the frown that appeared on his face at her teasing. "So what do you think our esteemed partners are up to now? Based on that kiss, I'd be willing to bet somebody got lucky tonight."

"We've got it!" One of the technicians shouted, interrupting Casey before he could respond. He and Carina moved towards the device as the technicians lifted the lid off the device. As they got closer, Carian let out a gasp as they spied the figure laying in the device and then a second one as the figure's eyes opened and let out a gasp of breath.

"What the fuck?!" Casey exclaimed as he looked Bryce Larking, alive and breathing.

Sarah Walker's Hotel Room

Maison23

Lost Angeles, CA

November 23, 2007

0830 hours

Sarah groaned when she heard her cell phone ring. Disentangling herself from where she had fallen asleep, her arms around Chuck and one of her legs wrapped around him as well. She smiled as she thought back to what had transpired after she and Chuck had returned to her hotel room last night. She had been waiting much too long to make love to Chuck again but it had been worth it. Chuck had always been a great lover in the previous timeline, but he was even better in this one. True when it came to his tenderness and emotions he was much the same, but the added confidence that had been instilled in him, not to mention the many years of physical development, development that hadn't happened to nearly the same extent in the previous timeline, had only improved on what Sarah remembered.

Sarah grabbed her phone from the night stand and looked at the caller ID, then answered it.

"This better be good Casey." Sarah said.

"Walker, you better get over to the black site. And collect Bartowski while you're at it. We've got a situation here." Casey said, then hung up.

"What's up?" Chuck asked, sitting up in bed, running his hands through his hair.

"Not sure. Casey wants us at the black side ASAP." Sarah replied, although of course she already knew why Casey wanted them there.

"I guess it was too much to hope for a day off to spend in bed, huh?" Chuck said with a grin.

"Unfortunately not, no matter how much we want it." Sarah replied. The two partners exchanged a brief kiss and then got out of bed and began getting ready.

Fifteen minutes later they were dressed and heading to Sarah's car to begin the thirty minute drive to the black site.

CIA/NSA Black Research Facility

Outside Los Angeles, CA

November 23, 2007

0900 hours

"Ok Casey, Carina, what's the big emergency?" Sarah demanded as her and Chuck walked up to their other partners. "Chuck and I had plans today that didn't include driving all the way out here."

"And what plans might those have been?" Carina asked with a smirk. "Although I can probably guess from the blush on Chuck's face and the glow you're giving off, Walker." Next to her Casey grunted in slight disgust.

"Ugh. So you two finally decided to start dipping your chocolate and peanut butter." Casey said.

"Shut it Casey." Sarah warned. "What Chuck and I do off duty is none of your concern. Now what's going on?

"The techs finally got the device opened around 0800." Carina said.

"And?" Sarah asked. "What was Stavros smuggling in it?"

"Not a what, Walker." Carina replied, "More of a who, to be completely accurate." She then motioned for Sarah and Chuck to follow her. They walked down a corridor and approached what looked like a medical infirmary. Off to one side was a secure isolation room. The four agents approached the viewing window a moment later. Sarah steeled herself for what was coming next.

"Oh my God, Bryce?!" Chuck exclaimed, then turned to Sarah and Casey in turn. "I thought you said he was dead?!

"He was." Sarah replied, feigning her own shock. "At least that's what Graham told me. Casey killed him during his attempt to steal the Intersect."

"I put three bullets into him center mass." Casey said. "I personally checked his pulse; he was dead. I don't know why he didn't stay that way. The cleanup team arrive within minutes and loaded him into the van for transport and disposal."

"What the hell is going on here?" Chuck asked.

CIA/NSA Black Research Facility

Outside Los Angeles, CA

November 23, 2007

1030 hours

"As far as our technicians can determine, the device that Larkin was in was some kind of life support pod." Beckman said from the video screen. "According to Doctor Mulvie, there's evidence of massive invasive life-saving surgery. I dispatched a team to the Greenview Cemetery to exhume his grave. The coffin was empty. All tests indicate that it is Agent Larkin, as unbelievable as it seems."

"What the hell was Stavros doing with him?" Casey asked.

"Unknown. But the intelligence gathered from the prisoners you took seems to indicate that Stavros was merely transporting him as a contract job and was unaware of the contents." Beckman replied.

"This doesn't make any sense." Carina said. "Has he said anything?"

"No." Beckman said, frowning. "He refuses to talk to anyone but Chuck."

"Why me?" Chuck said. "I'd think I'd be the last person he wants to talk to, all things considered."

"I don't know." Beckman said, "But I don't think we have a choice. I'd like for you to speak with him."

"General, I'm not sure that's a good idea." Sarah said. She of course knew why Bryce wanted to talk to Chuck, and that he would be ok, but she had to keep up appearances. "We still don't know what Bryce was thinking stealing the Intersect and sending it to Chuck. I'm not sure we should put Chuck or the Intersect in close proximity to him."

"As I said, Agent Walker, we don't have a choice." Beckman replied. "We have to find out why Larkin did what he did, and any other information we can about what happened to him. We will take every precaution to ensure Chuck's safety. I want all three of you in the room as well. If Larkin is rogue, and he tries anything, I have complete faith that you'll be able to stop him." A moment later the screen went dark as Beckman cut the connection.

"Doesn't she every say goodbye?" Chuck asked.

"She's a general, Bartowski, she doesn't need to be polite." Casey responded.

CIA/NSA Black Research Facility

Outside Los Angeles, CA

November 23, 2007

1400 hours

"Chuck? Is that really you?" Bryce Larkin asked from the hospital bed he was strapped to. His eyes flicked over his former college roommate and friend for a moment, before continuing. "How do I know it's really you?"

"crap, pe' Bryce. qaSpu'Dl' nuq tlhaQ DaqaSmoH DeSDu' Stanford, vaj glad naDev[1]." Chuck replied. Bryce looked slightly abashed for a moment, then chuckled.

"You're Klingon is a little rusty." He said. Then noticed Casey, Sarah and Carina in the room and frowned. "What are they doing here? I said I wanted to speak with you alone." Chuck snorted and rolled his eyes.

"Really Bryce? After everything that's gone on, that's your first question?" Chuck said. "Not an apology for almost ruining my life by framing me for cheating at Stanford? Or making decisions about MY life path without the slightest thought that maybe I should be involved? No? How about explaining why, after you went all that trouble to get me kicked out of Stanford so I wouldn't get recruited by the CIA you decided to send me the damned Intersect?"

"You know about that?" Bryce asked, somewhat shocked, both at the revelation and the anger in Chuck's voice.

"Yes Bryce, I know. To bring you up to speed, you're little plan of getting me out of Stanford to avoid the CIA only partially worked. See, pretty quickly I figured out that something was up – after all, I HADN'T cheated. So I decided to appeal the expulsion. And Stanford's review committee agreed that I was improperly expelled. And since they couldn't track to down the witness to my supposed cheating, namely one Bryce Larkin, they had no choice but expunge my record." Chuck said. "So I got my degree. Granted, by that time the CIA had moved on, not that I knew anything about that. But then you sent me the Intersect and it downloaded into my brain. What, you thought the CIA/NSA wasn't going to trace who the e-mail went to? Thank God Sarah was the one to find me. She at least had the decency to try and figure out what the connection between you and I was and what had happened. I shudder to think what would have happened if someone else got to me first. They probably would have put a bullet in me."

"So she told you about Stanford? How? Nobody but Fleming and I-" Bryce trailed off.

"No Sarah didn't known." Chuck said. Behind him, Sarah kept her features schooled, not wanting to let the feeling of shame show over the fact that she did in fact know but hadn't told him. "I found out a few weeks ago, when Fulcrum went after Professor Fleming. Luckily we were able to save him."

"We?"

"Yeah Larkin, we." Casey said, speaking for the first time. "See once we figured out what had happened to the Intersect, Walker and I were assigned to protect Chuck and be his handlers. Except it didn't stay that way. Pretty quickly we, and our bosses, figured out that Bartowski is pretty damn competent. So it didn't take long before he was more of a partner. He's now a Field Analyst."

"No, no, no. Chuck listen to me, this life isn't for you-" Bryce began.

"Shut it Bryce." Chuck responded harshly. "That's not your decision to make, never was. And for your information, I'm pretty good at this. I doubt I can ever be an agent like Sarah, or John, or Carina, but as a Field Analyst, I can do the job. Even without the Intersect. But frankly, it doesn't matter. You sending me the Intersect pretty much guaranteed I'd get pulled into this life. At least as a Field Analyst instead of an asset I have some control over my life."

"I don't know Chuckles." Carina said. "Granted I've only been on the team for a few weeks, but I think you might be selling yourself short. You'd probably make an ok agent." Chuck nodded in thanks to her.

"So that explains Sarah and Casey. What about the walking brothel over there?" Bryce said. There was silence for few seconds after Bryce's words, the three other occupants at a loss for how to respond at first. That silence ended shortly thereafter when Chuck spoke.

"What did you call her?" he asked, his voice suddenly going cold in a passable imitation of either Sarah or Casey when they were pissed off. Without giving Bryce a chance to respond, he continued. "Look Bryce, understand something, and understand it good. These three behind me are my partners. They've had my back since this started and I've NEVER had to question whether or not they were looking out for my best interest. Not something I can say about YOU. On top of that, I respect the work they've done and their skills. So don't ever FUCKING insult one of them like that again! If you do, you and I are going to have a problem. I don't care that you're Bryce Larkin super-spy. I'll knock you on your ass so hard you won't be able to sit down for weeks!"

"Get real Chuck." Bryce said. "I know you've been studying martial arts for a few years but you can't seriously think you can go up against a trained agent." Sarah let out a laugh.

"Larkin, let me tell you something." She said, deliberately using his last name. Bryce's reaction was almost like being slapped in the face. "Chuck's done more than study martial arts the last few years. He's a black belt in Taekwondo, Akido, and Karate. And he's taken up several other disciplines. So yeah, I'd put my money on him over you. Especially since Casey, Carina and I have been giving him tradecraft training as well the last couple of months."

"Alright Bryce, let's cut the crap." Chuck said. "You wanted to see me. So here I am. Start talking. Why'd you steal the Intersect? Why'd you send it to me? And how are you still alive? Everyone thought you were dead."

"I was. But THEY brought me back. They wanted the Intersect." Bryce said.

"You mean Fulcrum." Sarah stated. Bryce nodded.

"How?" Chuck asked. Bryce started coughing. After a few seconds he stopped.

"Sorry. All this talking." He apologized. "Can you come closer so I don't have to strain my voice?"

"Bartowski, don't." Casey said.

"Relax big guy, I got this." Chuck said, moving closer. Sarah had to force herself from reacting, knowing what was about to happen. Though the lead-up conversation was different from last time around, she could see the calculation in Bryce's eyes and knew that he was going to try the same thing he did in the last time line. Luckily, this time around, she felt confident that Chuck could handle it and Bryce wouldn't be able to get out of the facility. In fact, prior to showing up her, she and Chuck had discussed several contingencies.

When Chuck was next to Bryce, the later broke out of his restraints in a flash, grabbing Chuck and a syringe at the same time, holding it to Chuck's neck. Casey, Carina and Sarah all immediately drew their weapons and pointed them at the pair.

"Put them down." Bryce commanded.

"Not a chance, Larkin." Casey responded.

"Oh, so you want to try again?" Bryce taunted. "It worked out so well for you last time."

"We're not lowering out weapons, Bryce." Sarah said. "And if you do anything to Chuck, I'll personally ensure you stay dead this time."

"Touching." Bryce said, looking at Sarah intently. "Why do I get the sense that your concern is more than just professional? Oh how the mighty haven fallen. Wait till Graham here's about this. His mighty Enforcer, smitten with an asset."

"I'm not an asset." Chuck said, coolly.

"Oh don't kid yourself, Chuck. Of course you are. No matter what they tell you." Byrce laughed. "I mean, come on, you let a hospital bed bound, injured agent take you hostage. No real spy would do that."

"Unless it was to do this." Chuck said. He then executed a perfect disarming technique, followed by a submission hold on Bryce. Casey came over and quickly moved the syringe away from the pair and produced a pair of hand cuffs and restrained Bryce.

"Well, I think that answers that question about whether or not Chuck could take you, Larkin." Carina said, grinning. All three partners shared a chuckle at the shocked expression that was on Bryce's face.

"Now, if you're done acting like a complete jackass," Chuck said. "Maybe you'd like to answer the question? Otherwise, I'd be more than ok with letting Casey have some fun." Bryce sighed, defeated.

"Fine. But we're not through talking about you joining the CIA." Bryce said. "About six months ago I was approached by someone purporting to be working on an off-the-books operation to ferret out traitors within the CIA. They didn't come out and say it directly, but intimated that they were operating under the direct orders of Graham. They knew my access codes, all of them, including the one that Graham gave me for when he needed to give me an order outside the normal chain. He claimed that he had information that Fulcrum operatives were going to make an attempt to steal the Intersect, with the help of the traitors. I was told that the information had been brought to the attention of the Director, the NSA, and the President, but that it wasn't believed. I was ordered to retrieve the Intersect data in order to draw out Fulcrum. But I guess something didn't sit right with me, though I couldn't put my finger on it. So I went along and tried to keep my eyes and ears open. It was when I infiltrated the NSA data center and downloaded the Intersect data that I finally got my first real indication that everything was not as it seemed. Security seemed to be much tighter than I was led to believe was the case. And then I recognized one of the agents who responded to the alarms as the driver of my contact."

Bryce stopped and looked at the foursome, staring into each of their eyes, as is willing them to believe him.

"That's when I realized I had been set up, though I still wasn't sure by whom. It could have been Fulcrum, or it could have been that Graham decided that I was a liability to him. If it was Fulcrum, I had to get the data away from me. I needed someone who wasn't connected with the CIA or NSA. That's when I remembered it was Chuck's birthday. So I sent it to him." Bryce said. "You know most of the next part of the story. I managed to get out of the main facility, but Casey caught up to me and shot me. You were right; I was dead. I clearly remember seeing the tunnel and bright light, all the stuff you hear about. Then the next thing I know I'm waking up in a clinic in Finland, and find out that I'm in the custody of Fulcrum. They wanted to know where the Intersect was. So I told them I had downloaded it into my head. Needless to say, they made sure to keep me alive after that. Then a few days ago they drugged me up and the last thing I remember was being loaded into a container. Then I woke up here."

"That's quite a tale, Larkin." Carina said. "But how do we know you're telling the truth? I mean, yeah, that parts of your story are certainly easy to verify. We know you stole the Intersect, sent it to Chuck, that Casey shot you and that we found you in that container. But how do we know the rest of it is true?"

"I don't know how to prove it to you." Bryce said. "I get it. If I was in your shoes, I'd be skeptical too. I can give you the name of the agent, but that alone won't necessarily prove anything."

"What's his name?" Sarah asked, knowing that in the last timeline, the agent who had been handling Bryce had been in the Intersect and cause Chuck to flash. If it was the same, and Chuck could flash now, they'd be able to apprehend him before things got any more complicated.

"Tommy Delgado." Bryce said, barely finishing the name before the telltale sign of an Intersect flash over took Chuck.


[1] "Cut the crap, Bryce. After what you pulled at Stanford, you should be glad I'm even here."