Title: The Good
Summary: Casey is uncharacteristically shaken after a near-death experience. He'll never admit that it helps having the Bartowskis as his neighbors. Casey-centric, one-shot, angst-ridden, friendship fic.
Word Count: 2248 (4 pages at 12 pt)
Notes: x-posted at livejournal
Warnings: Mentions of torture that doesn't happen and doesn't get explicitly described, but guard your heart.
Casey would never tell Chuck how close to excruciating torture and brutal death they'd come that night. Chuck was freaked out enough thinking it was their normal level of near-death-experience. The three of them were in a small room with drab brown walls and no furniture. Casey had one arm braced around Chuck's chest and a hand clamped over Chuck's mouth, dragging Chuck bodily while he and Sarah circled the room looking for bugs or a way out. They couldn't risk Chuck making a sound, even if only telling him to shut up. They needed to figure a way to keep the enemy from knowing that of the three of them, Chuck was the one with the most secrets. So far, Chuck came across as an unlucky civilian bystander and Casey figured they wouldn't torture him for government secrets until they'd grown bored of other things. He prayed his call for help had made it through before they'd been stripped of any accessory and tossed in here. They didn't even have coats, and from the feel of it, the building heat did not extend to this room. Casey could feel Chuck shivering against him and he told himself it was the cold not the fear that did this.
Sarah was taken first and Casey ten minutes later. They took him to another room designed specifically for torture. He inhaled the thick, musty air, closed his eyes, and prepared himself for what came next. If he were to survive this, he no longer had the luxury to be concerned about Sarah, Chuck, or the eventual arrival of the NSA. He knew he was lucky when the last occurred before any serious physical damage could be done to him. They wrapped a brown blanket around his shoulders and directed him out of the room. He saw Sarah on a stretcher with an oxygen mask over her face. She pulled it away just long enough to whisper Chuck's name and he nodded in understanding. He found his way back to the room where they'd been held prisoner.
Chuck sat on the floor, hugging his knees, whispering to himself. He didn't dare look up when Casey entered, so Casey crossed the room, nudged Chuck with his bare foot, and said snidely, "Do I need to carry you out of here?"
Chuck laughed with glee on seeing Casey alive, well, and wrapped in a blanket that made him look like a Jedi. Casey was glad when Chuck jumped to his feet, because Casey was more hurt than he let on, more stripped down than he wanted to be, and he'd lost his favorite pair of shoes to a demonstration on melting. The burn on his thigh was starting to blister.
Casey would never tell Chuck what had awaited him on the other side of the door. Chuck had faced a lot, but the kind of torture they were equipped for here would've had him spilling every government secret he knew and begging for death as a miserable, guilty wreck. Casey made sure to keep Chuck's face turned away from as much as possible until they were outside. He sat Chuck in the back seat of a car, ordered him to stay put, then went in search of some shoes because it was 40 degrees out and his feet were freezing.
Sarah had recovered enough by the end of the first evening to at least call Chuck and give him reassurances that she wasn't dead. From his eavesdropping, Casey could tell that Chuck was more affected than he'd let on when he was at work that day. Hell, Casey was more affected than he'd ever admit. The third night after their rescue, Casey still felt too queasy to eat. It felt like his insides were quivering, the way they did when the adrenaline surge died down after a high-speed chase or when a roller coaster jerked you around just a little too much. Only the feeling never went away.
Casey could still hear the threats in his head. When he closed his eyes, he could feel the overbearing heat of the room and see the light glisten off of polished instruments. His hands shook as he held his eavesdropping headphones half-heartedly to one ear. It was almost impossible to hear over the deafening noise of the memory.
Chuck hadn't been sleeping either. He'd started one of his games as soon as his shift had ended at the BuyMore and hadn't stopped for dinner. It didn't make sense to Casey, because all Chuck had seen was the inside of that drab, brown room. He'd handled the prisoner side of things before. He hadn't even seen –
No! Casey refused to follow this circle of logic yet again. It only made things worse for himself. With a heavy breath, he slipped on his shoes and headed out for the court yard, hoping the cool night air would freeze his thoughts and break him free of the memory. The metal of his gun chilled instantly, pressing cold and confident against the small of his back. He was armed and on familiar ground. He was in control. Except for that intruder climbing into Chuck's room!
Adrenaline surging, Casey leapt onto the trellis, chasing after his target. He listened outside of Chuck's window so he could get bearing on the situation. No sounds of struggle. In fact, the only sound was the music and sound effects from the game Chuck was playing. A minute later, there were footsteps.
"Man, you gotta eat."
Morgan! Of course! He always came through Chuck's window. Casey hung from the trellis listening. Chuck didn't speak.
"You look terrible. What did you and Casey get up to after you ran off the other day?"
Chuck paused the game and Casey realized they hadn't come up with a cover story just yet because neither he nor Sarah had gotten Chuck to talk about that day.
"Casey heard about this Polish restaurant and he wanted to try it out," Chuck answered tiredly.
"Yuck," Morgan grunted. "I hate Polish food."
"I do too right now," Chuck agreed weakly. "About an hour after we got the check…"
Chuck trailed off and Casey smiled at the cleverness of the cover. Chuck had definitely been learning over the past few months.
"That explains why Casey's been looking more dour than usual," Morgan joked and Chuck laughed. Casey winced at the thought that it was so apparent to Morgan that he'd been off his game.
"I told Casey he should come by here," Chuck said quietly. "Ellie has the good drugs."
"He is so weird," Morgan commented. "Sometimes he's all cheerful and pleasant. Other times he's as social as a doorknob."
"He might come by later tonight."
Casey recognized the plea immediately and did not have to be asked twice. He hopped off the trellis, circled by his apartment for decent threads, then crossed over the Chuck's and knocked on the door.
Casey always felt that Chuck's room was cluttered and poorly arranged. It was certainly not designed for three men to huddle around a computer screen. Chuck hadn't said more than three words to him since he arrived, but Morgan talked enough for them both. Casey let the two of them play that game which looked like a non-violent skateboarding competition, despite the sound effects. It surprised Casey how much calmer he felt just having the Intersect in sight. His mission for now was easy and unthreatened. For all its flaws, this room felt incredibly safe.
Morgan left just after midnight, and Chuck offered the game controls to Casey. Casey shook his head, and Chuck returned to playing. He had zombie eyes and his body moved mechanically. His motions and expressions weren't animated like Morgan's had been. Chuck wasn't enjoying the game; he was just keeping himself occupied.
"Did something happen to you in there?" Casey ventured.
Chuck shook his head, then he nodded, and finally he paused the game and buried his face in his hands.
"Sarah's been limping ever since," he whined, his voice muffled by his hands. "And she keeps that one arm pressed against her ribs like they're broken. And all she has is that stupid lie that one of her shelves collapsed on her."
"Agent Walker can handle herself," Casey responded curtly.
"I don't even know what they did to you, but it's something because every day the circles under your eyes get darker, and you walk slower."
Casey stiffened, but immediately had to shift to keep the pressure off his burnt skin. Still, Chuck hadn't mentioned anything specific happening to him. Casey crossed the room and stood next to Chuck. He debated with himself, but deemed the next move necessary, so he placed a hand on Chuck's shoulder. Chuck's whole body shuddered in response.
"We got away alive and we got the bad guy. This is a win," Casey told him. It was a platitude, but it was all he had. When he removed his hand from Chuck's shoulder, Chuck looked back at him.
"Then how come you haven't smoked your victory cigar?"
"After every mission you always pull out a cigar and light up. If I don't see you do it, I always smell it. But this time you haven't, which means we didn't win yet. What's going on?"
Casey shrugged and took the seat that Morgan had been occupying earlier. "Must be that bad Polish food," he teased.
Chuck sighed at the dismissal and looked alternately at the controller in his hand, the computer keyboard, and the posters on the wall. "I can't sleep, but … can you stay here tonight?"
Casey gave his best 'you're pathetic' eye roll and watched Chuck continue the game. His presence here was helping the both of them, but that was another thing he'd never tell Chuck.
At the sound of a frightened yelp, Casey jerked to sitting and reached for his gun as he quickly scanned the room. It wasn't Chuck's scream, it was Ellie's, but damn if they didn't sound a lot alike.
"John! I didn't expect you here," Ellie said, recovering her breath. Casey quickly covered his weapon, glad she hadn't noticed it. Chuck was sprawled in the computer chair, his head hanging back, his mouth open. The computer screen was dark, having apparently decided to sleep as well.
"Sorry. Must have dozed off," Casey mumbled, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and straightening his clothes.
"Oh, no. He's not getting you addicted to these games too, is he?" Ellie griped, taking the controller from Chuck's hand and setting it on the desk. Casey didn't answer her.
"Are you okay? You look a little sick."
"I …" Casey paused, thinking about Chuck's Polish food excuse, but he decided against it since Ellie was a doctor and might try to give him drugs. He opted for that sweet, vulnerable neighbor act that always got him on Ellie's good side. "It's just something that happened at work the other day. One thing reminded me of another; and that took me back to something a long time ago that I really don't want to be remembering."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Ellie nodded, but her brow was furrowed in that manner that said she still wanted to help. "Will you stay for breakfast?"
Casey shook his head.
Ellie put her hands on her hips, crossing over from friendly neighbor to mother hen/doctor. "When was the last time you had a real meal?"
Casey shrugged. It had been a few days, but that was hardly something he wanted to share.
"This thing is still bothering you, isn't it?"
"Maybe a little," he confessed, but only because Chuck was sleeping and wouldn't be able to laugh at him later.
"Come here," she motioned, then led the way back to the kitchen. She puttered about, setting spent dishes by the sink, all the while questioning him about medicines, allergies, etc. After a few minutes of Casey's evasive answers, she opened the pantry and pulled a bag from the top shelf. Then she pulled out a needle and a vial of something. Despite himself, Casey flashed back to the torture and backed away.
"You're not afraid of needles are you?" she teased.
"No," Casey answered defiantly.
"Come on. This will help calm you down."
Reluctantly, he presented his arm and she turned it over in her cool, soft hands, cleaned it, and then injected him so smoothly he hardly felt a thing. It had been a long time since someone had given him drugs with the intent of helping.
"These last few months, Chuck has started freaking out for no reason – at least none that he'll tell me – so I started keeping this around," she explained. Casey bristled immediately, worried that some of Chuck's flashes may have been sedated into oblivion.
"Maybe it has to do with his new girlfriend."
"Sarah's good at talking him down. I wish he trusted me enough to say something, but I'm glad he's telling someone."
Casey grunted as Ellie cleaned up some more and set the coffee percolating. She was far too cheery to be uncaffeinated, and yet, it seemed natural on her. Ellie looked at him and smiled. "Feeling any better?"
Casey considered his current humor. His stomach had stopped twittering to the point where he could feel it grumbling in hunger. Chuck was right. Ellie did have the good drugs. And maybe he could pull out his victory cigar today.