Chuck vs. the Child

Author: valeriebean
Summary: Casey is on his way out of the grocery store when he sees his ghost of Christmas past ... and her child. Now he must choose between protecting the Intersect (aka Chuck) and protecting the child from those who are hunting them. Casey-centric genfic, action/adventure at points, character story at points.
Notes:
x-posted at valeriebean's livejournal.
Word Count:
For series, 25212 (overall 8 chapters, 48 pages at 12pt). Approx 6 pages/chapter.
Disclaimer: Story (plot line, select guest stars, and villains) are the intellectual property of Valerie Mikles. All Chuck characters and concepts are the property of producers Warner Bros. Television. No infringement is intended; no money is changing hands. It's all for love of Chuck!

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Chapter 1

Major John Casey, undercover NSA agent, protector of the human Intersect, had just finished one of the most mind-numbingly dull afternoons of his entire life, working the sales floor of the BuyMore. Mind. Numbing. Dull. He yearned for the days of working tough cases, deep cover, gun play, kill orders. His current assignment demanded a civilian body count of zero, and were it not for those specific rendered orders, that kid Morgan would be dead. To have an evening of eavesdropping to look forward to … Casey rubbed the bridge of his nose, milking from his memory all those days that made his job worth keeping. The day he'd bought his dream car was one… the day the Intersect had blown up his dream car was not.

Ten days until Christmas, he was coming out of the Fresh Market when he saw her – his ghost of Christmas past, Maya Garrett. That was her name back when he knew her. His former handler who'd seen him through five missions for the NSA. Her hair was different, but there was no mistaking those huge, hazel eyes, that seemed to glow superhumanly. He was so shocked to see her here in his Fresh Market, that he nearly dropped his bags. When he saw the little girl in the cart she was pushing, he did drop them.

The eggs smashed, drawing immediate attention that he did not want or need. Casey shooed off the clerk that offered to help him and dashed away before they could get him a replacement dozen. His mind reeled as he raced back to his apartment and set the door locks. Should he contact the NSA? Maya had gone deep under protective cover after the Ukraine job went south seven years ago. Having both her and the Intersect in the same town, running the same circles was less than ideal. And the child…

Forcing rationality and duty to the forefront, Casey ran his customary evening sweeps for bugs in his apartment, organized the remnants of his groceries, and prepared himself a turkey and swiss sandwich. Calmed by the routine, he settled into his favorite eavesdropping chair. No sense raising a red flag about a ghost in the grocery store. He'd report it to General Beckman at the morning briefing.

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Chuck Bartowski, human Intersect, master of the Nerd Herd gently tapped his screeching alarm clock, careful not to dislodge the bug he knew Casey had set in it. He'd dealt with the invasion of privacy in the only way he knew – tormenting the listener with long-winded, grotesque, and/or disturbing stories. This past week, he'd lacked creativity, so he'd been recounting the events of the last few seasons of Stargate: Atlantis. The way Casey had tensed up when a box-load of Season 4 arrived at the BuyMore the other day told Chuck that he was succeeding in some part of his mission to pay Casey back for all those taunts he whispered in Chuck's ear just to freak him out.

Yawning and stretching, Chuck rolled out of bed and started his morning routine, trying not to think of that dream he'd been having just before the clock jilted him awake. It was either him and Sarah, him and Lou, or him and both women. He couldn't have either of them when he was awake, and that was frustrating enough, but both of them at one point had shoved their tongues into his mouth and …

Chuck rubbed the sleep from his eyes, filled his travel mug with hazelnut coffee, and headed over to Casey's. They were working the same hours today and Ellie always got in a tizzy if Chuck didn't carpool. Apparently their trip to Stanford had made her all green-conscious, and she had this strange notion that Casey was a sweet neighbor. Chuck also had a suspicion that Casey had suggested this arrangement.

When Chuck knocked, Sarah answered the door, looking gorgeous in her frilly white shirt that was part of the Weinerlicious uniform. He'd seen a fair bit of what she hid beneath, but tried not to think about it, because it just didn't make sense. They needed to change their cover and just be friends. Chuck couldn't pull off the fake relationship now that he knew there was almost no chance of a real one.

"Hey, Chuck, we're just getting started," she greeted sweetly, leading Chuck to the dining room turned high-tech computer networking arena. Oh the gaming that could be done with this equipment!

Casey looked covetously at Chuck's coffee cup, and Chuck smirked to himself. Hazelnut was not his favorite, but he drank it when he carpooled with Casey, because it got this response.

"Want some," Chuck offered as he usually did, wondering if ever a day would come when Casey said yes.

"You know how easy it is to poison coffee beans," Casey responded with an evil leer. Chuck fell silent because when Casey said things like that, it never sounded like a joke. The three of them stood shoulder to shoulder so they could all see. Sarah put Chuck between them which boosted his ego a little, because then it seemed like she wanted him to protect her from Casey.

Casey tapped a few commands and the vid-window opened to that formal looking briefing room with the clean, crisp uniformed CIA and NSA contacts Director Graham and General Beckman. Chuck didn't like them because (a) they didn't ever think to train him for a mission; (b) they didn't ever pay him for services rendered; and (c) he was pretty sure they wanted him dead. He listened vaguely to the morning reports, paying more attention to Sarah's and Casey's responses being reflected in the blank monitors on the wall. There were 12 monitors total of various sizes, and sometimes Chuck wondered if Casey used them to watch TV. That would be awesome.

"There's word of increased activity in a Ukrainian group called the Sandomierz," General Beckman was saying. Chuck felt Casey bristle, but one of the words triggered a flash. The world disappeared briefly, replaced by a thousand images, sounds, records. Sandomierz.

"Ukrainian?" Sarah repeated. "Do they know about Chuck?"

"There's no reason to assume so," Director Graham answered.

General Beckman picked up. "Major Casey, we will forward you the profiles of the active participants."

"Do we need that Intersect?" Casey asked, apparently having noticed the flash.

"Sandomierz," Chuck said out loud, repeating the flash in dead-pan. "Led by brothers Oleksy and Taras Michalka, originated in Inyo county but migrated south after a territorial dispute with a Japanese rival. Implicated in a series of bank frauds in 2002, but the evidence was lost. Primary members are –"

"Guess not," Casey interrupted smugly. Chuck snapped out of his report, wondering for the millionth time how the information fell past his lips so easily.

"Mr. Bartowski, can you offer any explanation for their current surge in activity?" General Beckman asked.

Chuck looked at her blankly, waiting for an answer from the Intersect, but getting nothing. "I'm sorry… it … doesn't work that way."

"Send the files, General. Maybe the extra intel will trigger something," Sarah spoke up, giving Chuck an encouraging pat on the arm.

"We will keep you informed, should they become hostile," Director Graham said. How could he say casual things like that?! Hostile! Chuck sipped his coffee to hide the fact that he was freaking out at the thought of Ukrainian terrorists in his home town. Ignorance was bliss, but it was no longer Chuck's luxury.

"General, one more thing," Casey spoke up as the two directors seemed ready to sign off. With a look, Casey dismissed both Chuck and Sarah. Chuck was grateful to leave, but Sarah looked a little put out. After Casey shut them outside, Sarah paced irately, and Chuck leaned tiredly against his car trying not to think of the Sandomierz.

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Casey locked his door just to make sure Agent Walker didn't sneak back in and eavesdrop. She had that kind of stealth about her and could lie when she needed. Had she not slipped and called him her partner when under the influence of the truth serum, Casey wouldn't trust her half what he did now – and he still didn't trust her a whole hell of a lot since Bryce turned up undead.

"Alright, Major Casey, what is this about?" General Beckman asked, seeming annoyed at the private conversation being started so publicly. She'd dismissed Director Graham. This was NSA business, not Intersect business.

"I identified an NSA agent yesterday in this area," Casey reported, neglecting the fact that he'd dropped a carton of eggs on account of it. "We worked together in the Ukraine and she's been under protection since. It may be possible the increased activity is related to her presence in the area."

"Did you make contact?"

"No, ma'am. But if she is still under protection, it is not safe for her in the same city as the Intersect. Bartowski can identify her in a heartbeat."

"Does this agent have a name?"

"Never knew it myself," Casey confessed. "Her cover was Maya Garrett, but that intel's seven years old."

General Beckmann nodded emotionlessly. "Do not initiate contact. I will handle the situation."

Casey twitched. He'd expected that response, and he'd never admit to himself that he wanted different. Still, his protective instincts were kicking in. "General, if the Sandomierz are after her –"

"I am sure her handlers are aware of the increased Ukrainian activity, Major Casey," the General interrupted, signaling the conversation's end barring any additional information. "We'll send the Sandomierz files by secure uplink. Have Mr. Bartowski review them by the end of tomorrow."

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"Chuck, oh man!" Morgan Grimes called excitedly, approaching the Nerd Herd desk with a camera in hand. The new Aiptek High-Def Digital Camcorders were in and Chuck's best friend was having a field day with the floor model. Chuck smiled and waved dismissively, turning back to his customer and explaining for the umpteenth time that no, they did not have a secret Wii shipment for people who needed them desperately.

"If only this baby had arrived before the Holiday Party," Morgan gushed, leaning on the counter, ignoring the line of customers probably also waiting to ask if they get a Wii before Christmas. Ten shopping days left, don't these people plan?!

"Morgan, what are you doing?" Chuck asked, when the first customer stalked away in a huff.

"The BuyMore Morgan Tours. This is Chuck Bartowski," Morgan narrated to the camera. "The fearless leader of the;" (he panned the camera up) "Nerd Herd."

Morgan circled the counter, continuing his narration, and Chuck shrugged him off, motioning the next person in line to come forward. Game Cube versus Xbox. Chuck Could answer this question.

"Morgan," Chuck called, snapping his fingers then rolling his eyes. Anna had gotten a hold of him. Chuck rushed over and caught the camera before it fell to the ground from neglect.

"Sorry, Chuck, what was that?" Morgan asked nonchalantly, hugging Anna to his side. He was lucky Big Mike wasn't around because the man had been significantly less jolly since the Holiday Party. Not that he was jolly before.

"This lady needs an Xbox," Chuck said exasperatedly, handing off the customer.

"Duty calls, my sweet," Morgan said heroically, giving Anna one last peck on the lips, and then leading the customer away.

Chuck was about to wave the next in line forward when Casey snuck up behind him, pressing close enough to Chuck's ear that the humid breath made his skin tingle.

"Hey, sport!" Casey whispered and Chuck flinched despite himself. "Got a minute."

"Not really," Chuck answered, smiling to cover up the nervousness he always felt when Casey loomed over his shoulder.

Casey surveyed the line of customers and whispered, "They can wait. Sandomierz ring a bell."

With that, Casey disappeared. Chuck cursed the nervous sweat that threatened to show on his shirt if it kept up. Maybe he could run outside and cool off a bit. He smiled apologetically at the next customer, then looked over his shoulder as Casey disappeared into the home entertainment room. Ukrainian terrorists trump Christmas shoppers.

"Lester, time to work," Chuck said, kneeling down and pulling Lester out of the shelves where he was hiding, fending off the evil shoppers with a pencil and a universal remote. It wasn't Black Friday, but some mornings it just got too busy in here for the traditional nerd to handle. Chuck set Lester in place to take customers, then went to follow Casey.

"Close the door," Casey ordered when Chuck entered the darkened home entertainment room. It had transformed in that special way that only Casey knew how to do, but today, instead of utilizing all the big screens, Casey handed Chuck a tablet PC with Oleksy Michalka's picture and file already pulled up. Chuck sighed, hating that he recognized the face of a man he never met.

"Baby face," Chuck commented, skimming through the file. Casey grunted disapprovingly and started fiddling with things in the dark corner behind the couch. Chuck ignored the unsettling feeling in his gut that came with Casey's continued presence in the room and leafed through the intel, waiting for the Intersect in his brain to work its flashy magic. He was frustrated and bored twenty minutes later, and glad when he heard the door open behind him.

"Dark room, glow of a computer screen," Anna's teasing voice came in, and a moment later she was leaning over the couch. Chuck immediately pressed the tablet to his chest to hide what was no doubt classified information.

"And pictures you don't want me to see," Anna finished. "Porn?"

"An –Anna! No, this. Pshhh," Chuck stammered, standing quickly and trying to crowd her out of the room. He failed. Anna was not easily intimidated.

Anna raised an eyebrow at him. "I thought John was in here. A customer is asking for him."

Chuck cast a sideways glance at Casey who was barely visible in the darkness. "I'll let him know if I see him," Chuck stuttered quickly, ushering Anna out of the room before she could suspect something kinky about him and Casey. Chuck squinted at the brightness of the store and looked back to the desk where a flood of customers had crowded around, ignoring any suggestion of a line. Lester stood in the middle, eyes wide, with that deer-in-the-headlights look about him. Chuck froze too, not knowing how to get into the middle of that or even if he wanted to.

Casey emerged from the home entertainment room a minute later, stealing the tablet from Chuck and quickly securing the information. He did a swift scan of the store, saw something out of the ordinary almost immediately, and tried to cover his reaction by checking his phone. Chuck scanned the store too, looking for whatever Casey had seen.

"Back to work, Bartowski," Casey said, clapping Chuck on the back, then veering quickly toward large appliances. Cautiously, Chuck approached the swarm of customers around his sanctuary and tried to direct them into a line. A few minutes later, he noticed Casey ducking out the front door.

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