A/N After a couple of years of reading some of the excellent stories on this site, I decided to contribute one of my own. There was no beta, so any mistakes and/or credit are my own. Italics indicates the thoughts of the character. While this story is primarily about Chuck and Sarah, it is an action based story. Any constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. Updates are planned on being weekly. Any italics indicate the thoughts of the character. I do not own Chuck and/or NBC.
Chapter 1: Chuck versus Barbie Part One
Sarah Walker, accomplished CIA agent, glanced from the tandem kayaks over to the solo kayaks, trying to make her decision. Deciding that kayaking with Chuck would be far more enjoyable than kayaking beside him, she turned her back on the solo kayak to focus on the tandems. Making sure that Chuck didn't wander too far off, although he should be reasonably safe in a sporting goods store, Sarah fought back a grin as she watched him trying on life preservers in front of a mirror.
"Be honest with me," Chuck said as he slowly spun from side to side while looking over at Sarah through his eyelashes. "Does this color make my eyes pop?"
Sarah tapped into her skills at schooling her expression, knowing full well that he was trying to get a laugh out of her, and that doing so would only encourage him to try for more. Whenever he did manage to get a laugh out of her, Chuck would get this contented grin on his face. It was as though making her happy was the highlight of his day. This made Sarah want to give in and laugh more often, but conversely that would ruin the game, so she made sure to make Chuck earn every possible laugh. It made the ones that slipped out all the more special to him, and to her.
This time, however, her spy skills failed her as giggling broke through her defenses at the sight of a technically (in terms of age, not maturity) grown man standing in the middle of a high end outdoors retailer with his arms spread wide while wearing a bubblegum pink Princess Barbie lifejacket. Even for the infamous Ice Queen it was too much ridiculousness to keep her laughter bottled up.
"Well," she finally got out, "it is quite the fashion statement. Are you sure you can pull it off?"
"I could wear one as I am so fashion forward…And you could wear a matching one so you could be a life-sized Spy Barbie!"
A nearly subsonic growl caught Chuck's attention, and he looked around to make sure that Casey hadn't snuck up on them. Realizing that this time it had been Sarah to make that intimidating sound, he decided to ease up on the taunting of the elite assassin.
"Hmm, think I'll pass," Sarah responded, her voice colder than she intended. "I still can't believe that Beckman gave us the green light on a weekend rafting trip with Ellie and Devon," Sarah ended with a sigh that seemed to make its way all the way up her body from her toes.
"C'mon, we've been grinding away for weeks. Just 'cause she doesn't take a day off…or sleep for that matter, doesn't mean that we don't need to recharge the old batteries."
"Careful who you are calling old, Chuck. Just because we are in public doesn't mean that I'm not armed, and trained in over 200 ways to kill," Sarah responded with an arched eyebrow.
"God you are sexy and intimidating as hell. I'm just as impressed that you managed to sell her on us needing to go on a kayak excursion this weekend with Ellie and Awesome," Chuck said as admiration shone from his eyes.
"Well," Sarah replied with a glint in her eye, "it is our anniversary, so it was easy to convince Beckman that a real couple would be expected to do something special to celebrate."
As she had anticipated, the grin on Chuck's face disappeared and was replaced with his patented "Oh, crap" look, which then shifted to confusion.
"But, this weekend isn't our anniversary…er, fake anniversary," Chuck replied.
"It is too," Sarah replied, giving him that special smile that lit up her eyes. It was a smile that was reserved only for Chuck, as he was the only person capable of bringing it to her face. "It is the thirty month anniversary of the first time I spent the night at your place."
"Wait, Beckman fell for that? That doesn't sound like an anniversary she would accept as real."
Okay, Chuck doesn't need to know all of the details, like how I asked Beckman about Ellie's "insistence" that we celebrate such a nonsensical anniversary, pretending that (a) Ellie had ever made such a suggestion, and (b) that Beckman knew more about real world dating than I did. I was counting on the fact that the General had as little insight into civilian dating norms as I did. And after all, Ellie had given me the idea for the ploy when she told me the story about once tormenting Devon with a fictional anniversary just to keep him on his toes.
"Well, I may have gone easy on the details as far as exactly what anniversary it was, and heavier on the 'Ellie Bartowski would expect us to do something special for this anniversary so we need to sell the cover.' Speaking of selling the cover, if you were to show up wearing that abomination on the rafting trip, Devon might not think that you were taking his couples adventure excursion seriously."
While her spy skills might have failed her when it came to containing her laughter, she was sly enough to use her cell phone to capture a picture of Chuck mid-pose and text it to Ellie. Aside from looking forward to a surveillance free white water rafting trip with her "cover" boyfriend, Sarah was really looking forward to having time for regular girl-talk with Ellie. Before Chuck, and by extension Ellie, the only girl talk that Sarah experienced was with Carina- and that usually was not only one sided, but far more graphic than Sarah necessarily wanted to hear. Girl talk was another 'normal' activity that Sarah hadn't thought herself capable of prior to her time in Burbank. She was surprisingly pleased to find out not only was she capable of it, she truly enjoyed the one on one time with Ellie.
When she wasn't working her cover job, or on missions with Chuck and Casey, or on dates…cover dates with Chuck, Sarah often found herself relaxing with Ellie. Whether it was sipping mimosas with Sunday brunch, or a trip to the spa for massages, Sarah felt as though she could let down the barriers with Ellie and just be a regular person for brief periods of time.
Just like her brother, Eleanor Bartowski had the ability to slip past all of her mental defenses and make Sarah want to be friends with her. The only thing was, her time with Ellie had been feeling less and less like time with a good friend and more and more like time with family. Sarah worked hard on not dwelling on just how special it made her feel to be welcomed into the Bartowski clan.
The minivan had parked near the Underpants, Etc. store at 8:30 that morning. As one of the only vehicles in the lot at the Buy More Plaza, it stood out. The sole occupant of the minivan knew that the analysts at the DNI would twig to it right away, but that would be well after the fact. Besides, the windows were heavily tinted and the license plate had been stolen from another minivan of the same make, model, year and color. The plan was solid, so the driver was not too concerned with after the fact discoveries.
A Ring communications device sat on the center console. For this mission, he could only receive communications, not transmit. It was operational security, designed to protect his identity. Even though Ring communication were scrambled, the man was well aware of the operational capabilities of the CIA/NSA team covertly operating out of a base hidden far underground beneath the Orange Orange frozen yogurt shop. Never underestimate your opponent was a timeless lesson immortalized in Sun Tzu's Art of War. It was an apt saying for a man who was about to declare war on the CIA.
Right on schedule a minibus pulled into the Buy More Plaza at 9:40am. Although the paint scheme on the minibus was designed to replicate a senior center not far away, the minibus (like the minivan) had windows tinted far darker than normal. The other major difference between this minibus and the actual senior center minibus was that instead of elderly passengers, this minibus was transporting sixteen passengers in their late 20s or early 30s. Plus, they all had combat experience and were all armed- - heavily armed.
Out of the sixteen member assault team, fourteen were carrying H&K assault rifles, as well as personal sidearms and an assortment of flash bangs, and fragmentation grenades. One of these men also had a recoilless rifle strapped to his back, and his teammate had his pack loaded with 84mm projectiles for the portable artillery. The remaining two men also had personal sidearms, but instead of assault rifles and grenades, they carried Squad Automatic Weapons (SAWs) and 1000 rounds of ammunition apiece. These men were the team machine gunners, capable of sustained bursts while holding the SAWs to their shoulders, or longer automatic fire while lying prone. Between the weight of the weapons, the belt fed ammunition on drop leg pouches strapped to their thighs, and more ammunition in their packs, the SAW operators were the largest men on the team.
Only a handful of the assault team were "true believers" in the Ring. Most were mercenaries, who had smelled the smoke in warfare, often as special warfare operators, but who decided to go for the greater pay or preferred to operate with fewer rules, structure or oversight than was offered in the military. They were getting paid to blow things (usually people) up. They were pumped up for this assignment. They knew that they had been hand-picked from the pool of personnel available for this assignment, and they were going in with highly detailed information about the layout of the base as well as the background on the three people who could possibly be present- although the plan was to hit the facility when it was empty. There was also the incentive of a larger than usual bonus when the mission was successfully concluded.
Although the raid was timed to hit the facility when empty, the squad had been provided highly detailed dossiers on the opposition force that operated out of the base. It seemed odd that there were so few personnel for a base of the significance of this one, but the squad were also familiar with the government doing things in ways that made sense to no one-including the personnel making the decisions in the first place. Of the three members of the opposition force, one was a non-threat. The descriptions of the other two agents-John Casey and Sarah Walker,
while highly detailed, sounded like boogey men (or woman in the case of Walker) told to naive children. The squad decided that they would take any opposition force seriously, but didn't believe the hype being sold to them on these two super-agents.
John Casey was putting the finishing touches on his report to General Beckman, working to get the report off before starting his shift at the cover job at the Buy More. Although Team Intersect (he refused-even in his own mind- to call it Team Bartowski despite all of the good work the Nerd had done) had done more to protect his beloved USA than any of his previous assignments, he despised the cover job that he was forced to endure as well as the cretins that made up the BuyMorons. As he uploaded the latest report to the NSA secure server at Ft. Meade, Casey groaned as he saw that he had only a few minutes before his opening shift at the Buy More was due to start.
Not only had he been working since 5am for his NSA job, but he had eight hours of mindless cover work ahead in retail (which he despised) with Buy Morons (whom he despised), while dealing with customers (who were just a different breed of morons). Adding insult to injury was the knowledge that no one went shopping for appliances until the evening or weekend, so he wouldn't even be productive at his fake job. At least the bearded buffoon Grimes wasn't scheduled to start work until 2:30pm, which meant that with his work avoidance skills, he likely wouldn't be in until at least 3pm.
The other upside was that Walker and Bartowski were not scheduled to work as they were preparing for a "cover" weekend away with Ellie and Devon. While Awesome (damn that Bartowski!) was annoyingly upbeat all of the time, he and Ellie Bartowski were proof that the sacrifices that people like Casey made of their personal lives were worth it. Ellie and Devon were smart, hard-working citizens who deserved to be able to live their lives in safety and security. Protecting them and other proud citizens like them was a duty that Casey took seriously. It was easier, however, to justify that self-sacrifice when thinking of the Ellies and Devons in the country, rather than the Patels and Barneses. Both sets of the parents of the latter had clearly been swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool when those miscreants were conceived-or hatched.
As for Walker, while she was by far the best partner he had ever teamed up with (which was saying something), Casey was well aware that the "cover relationship" was just a cover in itself. He also knew that she was deluding herself if she thought that she was hiding her feelings for the nerd. The two of them using the cover to tap dance around their feelings for each other was beyond annoying. He might have to lock them in a cell in Castle to force the issue someday soon. Then again, once they finally gave in, the lady feelings might be more than Casey could take. And that wasn't even factoring in how Walker would behave.
The three days they were to be gone was as good of a vacation as he could hope for, even though he was going to be working both his cover job and his NSA assignment the whole time. Walker was a little more discreet about her feelings towards Bartowski, but after two years of working together, he knew her well enough to know that she was thoroughly compromised. The thing was, with Walker that made her all the more zealous in protecting Chuck and thereby the Intersect. Despite never having worked with her in the past, Casey had been aware of her reputation and had read some of the reports on her missions prior to joining Team Intersect.
He had sacrificed a lot in his personal life in order to protect his nation, and didn't regret it…too much. But Walker was a good partner, a good agent and a good person- despite her issues with some of the tasks she had been called on to perform with the CIA. If she and Bartowski could keep their act together while still being efficient in the Team, it was none of the government's business if they mixed a little peanut butter and chocolate. Of course, he would still bust their chops, partly for fun but mainly to keep them from getting complacent.
The good news for Casey was that they were scheduled to be shopping most of the day and then would be gone with Ellie and Awesome for the entire weekend. Three days in a row to himself. He could hang out in Castle all day, smoking cigars, eating Hot Pockets and getting in some quality time at the range.
With Sarah being scheduled to be gone for three days, there was a sign on the front door of the OrangeOrange saying "Closed For Renovations". It didn't make much sense to Casey, given how recently the store had changed over from the old Weinerlicious, but it wasn't his call to make. As he had skipped breakfast in order to complete the report to Beckman on time, Casey decided to take advantage the absence of both his partner and any customers (usually teenage boys there to gawk at Walker before heading over to Buy More to drool over the latest mindless video game) and slip up to the OO and grab a little frozen yogurt to tide him over until his lunch break. A pastrami sandwich on rye at Lou's Deli was already calling his name, but lunch was still hours away.
He powered up the dispenser and loaded a container with his favorite, Mango Tango. Making sure to block the view of the surveillance cameras so that Bartowski wouldn't know Casey's dirty little secret, he reached over to the counter to load on some gummy bears (not exactly the makings of a square meal, but it would taste good). Grumbling that Walker hadn't restocked the spoon dispenser, Casey bent down to grab a box of spoons from the storage compartment under the front counter.