Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Timeline: Takes place in 2015, the twins are two.
Summary: They figured it would happen sometime. There was no way they figured it would happen like this…
Nicholas James Grayson - Neil's older brother, born 1979; Stanford University, Class of 2001.
NOTE: This has come to my attention for the last few chapters, and I thought it worth mentioning, but if you haven't noticed, many elements of Parenthood have diverged from the "canon" set in Sensory Perception. I don't know if I have mentioned this previously, but I've decided to start incorporating themes that have been . Therefore, things like Jack Burton, Graham recruiting Sarah, and Jill's story arc and escape, the Awesomes, Stephen Bartowski, etc. are going to make their way (if they haven't already) into the Parenthood universe. Just to avoid confusion...
Background on Neil Grayson
Born: Neil Patrick Grayson, July 2, 1985 in Bangor, Maine, raised in Huntington Beach, California.
Parents: Patrick and Nicolette Grayson
Siblings: Nicholas James Grayson
Education: Archbishop Paulson Academy (fictional), Class of 2001, and Yale University, Class of 2005.
Oh, goodness! I am so so so so SO sorry about the extreme lateness of this chapter. There are a few reasons not to be of any excuse whatsoever: 1) planning my wedding is honestly going crazy! Who knew there was so much to do?! 2) I wrestled with actually going through with this chapter as I wasn't sure if it was where I wanted to go with it, and 3) It's so frigging long! But enough of my apologies! Here is the chapter centered around our lovely Agent Grayson. And, as promised, the entrance of a love interest so that Neil doesn't get left out. Like I mentioned before, I do have to admit I was extremely hesitant in choosing this particular character just for the fairly controversial nature that she presents. I'm not gonna disillusion myself in thinking that every single reader is going to be particularly receptive to this pairing, but hopefully I've written it in a manner that is firstly believable and secondly tolerable at least. I know that this character is definitely gonna bring out the gamut in opinions, but hopefully you all like it.
Oh, and I apologize how massive this is. I didn't think it would turn out to be like a mini-movie, but it kind of did. Therefore, I'll be posting this in three parts.
Chuck vs. the Redemption, Part I
Chuck vs. the "Trendy, Yet Discreet"
There were times that Neil Grayson stopped to take a step back and wonder how he got to this point. When he was a kid, he had been mesmerized by art in its many forms. He wanted to be the next Mozart, composing pieces that made people cry with joy and their hearts soar with elation, or a less eclectic version of Walt Whitman, extolling the beauties of a harmonious relationship with nature. He had taken the obligatory music classes, becoming proficient in the piano, guitar, and slightly versed in the violin and taken as many English classes as he could, only to commit to the CIA after high school. How eclectic artisan gave way to superspy...that was a different story altogether. He wasn't sure that he was meant for this life of espionage, but in some odd way, it fit. It seemed like a short while ago that he was pushing papers at Langley, scooping up the occasional assignment that required his talents concerning languages and speech and keeping an eye out for a big break that would give him the more adventurous assignments. Then Chuck Bartowski came along, saving the one person that meant the world to Neil. The director had been generous enough to keep him informed with the mission, and when he heard that Chuck had been successful, undergoing almost two days of torture in the process, Neil had his bargaining chip. That and an intense desire to payback the man who had saved his sanity combined with a rather potent talent with linguistics gave him a one-way ticket to Team Chuck. Who knew even Director Graham was as susceptible to pretty words as the next Joe Schmoe?
Since Sarah Walker had not been seen around Langley for a good while, people had started talking, wondering what assignment had taken their stud agent away for so long. The details of the nature of Team Chuck had long been classified from the rest of the agency, the specifics were on a strictly need to know basis. But the murmurs around the Company noted the presence of star agent Sarah Walker as well as NSA wrecking ball John Casey. The third member of the team was also earning a name for himself in their circles. He was often referred by different aliases, but one that seemed to be used the most often was Charles Carmichael. To have two top agents from different agencies on the same team provided enough speculation to conclude that whatever their assignment entailed, it was surely a huge deal. Being on this team certainly would be a career-maker. Neil wasn't quite sure he knew what he was getting into when he browbeat Graham into assigning him to Team Chuck, but if there was one thing he had learned from his time with them, no day was ever uneventful. He looked at the picture frame just to the right of his computer, boasting the extended Bartowski family photo. When he had first taken the job, he had expected a Bryce Larkin clone: coiffed, suave, elegant. What he got was six-feet, three-inches of curly-haired Nerd Herd. It wasn't until he had gone on a mission with the team that he saw what all the fuss was about. Nerd Herd had skills, and when Neil stepped in to help translate the demands of an Afghani, successfully stalling the man until Casey had a chance to crack him over the skull, he realized he had found his place among Team Chuck. And even better, he found himself a second family.
Neil leaned back in his desk chair, clothed in his work-week usual of a dress shirt and tie combination beneath a v-neck sweater. It had been a fairly slow day with Chuck taking care of his important appointments in the beginning of the week, leaving the latter portion open for more casual administrative things. Neil grasped the bridge of his square-framed glasses, nudging them further up his nose. He didn't need them really, but they suited his purposes of blending into the background. He returned his attention to Chuck's datebook, penciling in a meeting with the latest development team for the new TI product, a 3D video game system, subsequently entering it into his BlackBerry before rolling his chair back from the desk to stretch out his legs.
His eyes drifted back to the door of his office where, just to his right, Erin Downey, part of TI's media team, was saying goodbye to her boyfriend. The touching farewell did nothing to Neil but remind him just how lonely his own social life was. Apart from Chuck, Sarah, Casey, Ellie, Devon, Morgan, and Anna, he really didn't have that many other friends. He had kept in sparse contact from his few close friends from high school and college, but so many things revolved around, well, work both with TI and Team Chuck. His last girlfriend was sophomore year of college, and he had gone on few dates since. Ellie had tried to set him up with a few of her colleagues, but that turned out as well as Chuck's experience did. All of the women were beautiful and obviously intelligent, but it just didn't fit. Something was missing. It was weird, though. It seemed as though every single doctor, nurse, whatever, on staff at the hospital where Ellie and Devon worked was attractive. He idly wondered if was one of the things considered in the hiring process or it was just general byproduct of LA. But that was an irrelevant thought.
Neil smiled at the sight of Chuck's secretary hovering in the doorway. "Hey, Joyce."
She held out a small stack, entering his office. "You have some mail."
Neil flipped through the envelopes, setting aside the bills when he saw the familiar envelope from New Haven. Smiling to himself, he remembered that his ten-year reunion was a couple days away in Connecticut. He had received the invitation a while in advance and responded fairly quickly, reserving his spot as well as another two, knowing at least one would be for Casey as security detail. He slit open the envelope and pulled out a stack of papers, one of which held the itinerary for the weekend's events, starting on Thursday. Knowing he was probably going to miss most of the extraneous events, he scrolled down to Saturday where the class dinner was scheduled. His eyes settled on the list of speakers, focusing on the keynote that was etched to the bottom.
Dr. Helena Graves.
Neil cocked his head. That name sounded familiar, tickling something within his innate spy sense that urged him to explore this. Going off his gut instinct, he pulled up a window on his computer, typing in the name in the search engine. The results brought back nothing too suspicious, just some general accomplishments - and there were quite a few - that painted her as the usual philanthropic brilliant scientist. Neil scratched the scruff and stubble decorating his face. That feeling still nagged him, and he had to follow up with it. Pulling up another window, this one connecting to the CIA database, he entered the name into the search engine. The results garnered were much more...appropriate to his feeling. Printing out the findings, he rushed over to Chuck's office where he was in a deep discussion with Sarah, the twins playing in their spot in the corner.
Neil leaned in the doorway, knocking on the opened door. "Chuck, man, sorry to interrupt - Hey, Sarah - but we have a problem."
Chuck frowned, knowing those words never turned out well for them. "What kind of problem?"
"I have something that might interest you." He held out his findings. "You know I'm going to my reunion this weekend. I was going through my mail when I received the itinerary of events. I noticed this." Neil pointed at the name embossed at the end of the itinerary.
"Dr. Helena Graves," Chuck read, eyebrows lifting as the name registered.
"She's gonna be the keynote speaker for the night at the class dinner," Neil explained. "The name sounded familiar in a more significant context than something offhand so I Googled it. Nothing crazy, just your normal philanthropic scientist. But then I had one of those tickling gut feelings and ran the name through the system, and that's when I found some irregularities."
Chuck's brow furrowed as the flash finished. "No wonder this sounds familiar," he remarked. "She's been suspected of working with North Korea for years, siphoning formulas and whatnot for weapons. And, according to our intel, she's been suspected of developing new kinds of biochemical weapons for a long time. Something tells me they aren't quite for the US."
"And the Intersect data is definitely backing that," Sarah remarked.
Neil huffed a suffering sigh. "How is it that we have this innate ability to make the most mundane things into the next mission?" Neil bemoaned. "Why can't these incidences be purely coincidental?"
Sarah smirked. "You should know by now nothing is completely coincidental when it comes to us."
"Hey, man, look on the bright side, at least there's no way yours will be as traumatic as Sarah's…ow!" He shot a dirty look at his wife who countered with an equally scathing one, shaking his head.
"Yeah, well, considering our odds, I'd say it's more than likely I'll be getting the same amount of action," Neil responded.
A knock sounded as Casey stuck his head in the doorway, bearing an expression of slight fear that was more than slightly out of place on his normally visage. His three teammates knew that only the brass could possibly elicit that sort of reaction, and Casey confirmed that suspicion with his next statement.
"Briefing. Beckman and Graham are freaking out."
Chuck swallowed hard as Casey came in, closing the door and flicking the switch right by the lights before taking his place to the left of Chuck Neil stood to Chuck's left with Sarah rounding out the rest of the team. Immediately, a set of screens covered the windows beside the door, barring the inside of Chuck's office from view. The twins barely flinched as they were encased in a soundproof, clear booth where their parents were able to keep an eye on them. A similar set of screens lowered over the bay windows behind Chuck's desk before flickering slightly. The team unconsciously straightened as the familiar sight of Beckman seated with Graham hovering over her shoulder.
Without so much as a salutation, Beckman launched into their briefing, the harried tone belying her always poised appearance. "Lucy Diamond is back in the states."
Chuck's eyes narrowed as the flash registered. "Wait, the woman the newspapers have been dubbing the modern-day Robin Hood?"
"Precisely." Team Chuck's attention was drawn to a profile showing a list of vitals about one of the world's most notorious criminals.
"Lucy Diamond," Graham introduced with little fanfare. "Real name, unknown. She popped up about five years ago before moving her operations steadily eastward and is characterized by her call sign: a single, flawlessly-cut diamond. Not much is known about her; we are not even able to provide you with visual evidence as she takes great pains to ensure that she is never seen. Any information we have is anecdotal at best, but what we do know is that she tends to be very specific in whom she targets."
"Modern-day Robin Hood is correct," Beckman continued. "Lucy Diamond dabbles in a bit of everything, specializing in theft. However, the institutions she hits always share a common characteristic. They are companies or corporations working beneath the guise of a legitimate front. She keeps the profit of her theft, allotting a bit to various charities, but the responsible parties are turned in to the authorities with evidence for convictions."
"Really robbing from the rich to give to the poor, then," Chuck mused with an air of slight amusement. "I seriously hope that she doesn't target TI anytime soon."
Sarah huffed out a laugh. "Considering we are a completely legitimate and respectable company, I don't think you have to worry about that, babe."
A throat clearing brought the pair back to the matter at hand, not escaping a Casey snort.
"So why is she such a high-priority case?" Neil ventured. "From the looks of it, she's doing more help than harm."
"For as much as her dealings have benefited the United States, Lucy Diamond still leads operations in gun-running and smuggling as well as gambling rings all over the country," Beckman answered. "As of 2012, she moved her operations to largely overseas. Because of this shift to a more international market, she is now wanted in over ten countries."
Graham took over, gesturing to a screen. "Our intel suggests that Miss Diamond is back in town to meet this man," a different profile flashed onto the screen showing a fairly attractive blonde man, his expression fierce in appearance, "Vladislav Mikhailov. Ex-KGB, now freelance assassin. Their meet is supposedly at Les Deux Amours tonight."
"The trendy yet discreet restaurant," Sarah commented. She turned to her husband. "Why haven't you taken me there?"
"Do you want me to flash on every other criminal in LA?" Chuck deadpanned. "There is a reason for that description, you know."
Sarah inclined her head. "Good point."
"We need your team to run surveillance on the meet," Graham rumbled out. "Find out what Lucy Diamond is up to."
"Be careful," Beckman cautioned. "Three attempts have been made already to apprehend her. All have failed. No person has faced her and lived to tell about it. We do not know what she is capable of."
With that lovely piece of encouraging information, Graham and Beckman signed off, leaving all three members of Team Chuck to stare at the blank screen.
Chuck frowned at his three companions. "So what would an elusive criminal mastermind want with a Russian-trained killer?"
Casey huffed out another snort. "If we have to tell you that, Bartowski, you're dumber than we thought."
- - -
Neil leaned against the railing high above the dining floor of Les Deux Amours, his espionage ensemble of a black, long-sleeved shirt and black slacks allowing him to blend into the shadows as the rest of Team Chuck found themselves scattered throughout the restaurant. Casey worked the floor as a bartender with Chuck and Sarah stationed in the van.
Neil glanced down at his watch, noting the time on the square face with interest. Intel suggested that Diamond was set to meet Mikhailov at 1800 hours. As of that moment, she was almost twenty minutes late. Neil recoiled back as a sudden presence dropped down beside him, and he found himself looking into the eyes of Special Agent Rob Matthau of the FBI.
"Dude, what are you doing here?"
Matthau adjusted himself in his harness, cocking an eyebrow. "Aw, c'mon, man, you think you're the only ones after Lucy Diamond?"
Matthau gestured to the area around them, and Neil rolled his eyes at the sight of the FBI and Homeland Security littering the high rise of the restaurant. Even a team from that new start-up agency that consisted of plaid-clad women was stationed on a weird swing-like contraption a bit to his right.
"C'mon, Matthau, we called dibs a long time ago!"
Matthau shook his head. "Hey, man, you guys are already responsible for half of maximum security in most of the federal joints. Give us a shot at the glory, why don't you?"
Neil smirked. "How about you actually do your job and earn the glory yourself?"
"It ain't fair," Matthau whined petulantly. "You have the three best agents in the intelligence community."
"Hmm..." Neil feigned consideration. "A whole agency against a team of four. Yeah, real sucky odds."
"Whatever," Matthau dismissed. "This one's ours. But, dude, don't worry. We'll give you a shout-out when we nab Diamond."
Neil rolled his eyes as Matthau winked and retracted himself back up to wherever he came from, returning his attention to the floor. Mikhailov was still seated alone, perusing the menu as he idly stroked the goatee decorating his chin.
"Do you think she's not gonna show?"
Chuck's stuttering laugh sounded through the comm. "She made her way all the way across the ocean to meet this guy. She'll show."
"What do you think?" Neil speculated. "Job?"
"I'll give you two guesses," Casey rumbled as he rotated away from the bar, passing a pair of martinis to a waiter.
There was a rustling as Chuck and Sarah registered something from the van, and Sarah's voice rang through their frequency. "Alright, guys, showtime. We have an unidentified female making her way to Mikhailov."
Sarah paused as their program ran a scan over Lucy Diamond. "We're looking around five feet, seven inches with dark hair. That's all I have. The view's kind of obscured."
Neil ran a precursory eye over their target, seeing nothing that they hadn't already established. "Nope, nothing besides that. I'm not getting an angle on her face."
"Negative on my end," came the grumble. "The giant at table three's blocking my view."
Diamond had her back to Neil, her posture screaming discomfort as she eased herself into the chair across from the assassin. The murmurings of their conversation were too quiet for him to pick up so he appealed to the couple in the van. "Chuck, Sarah, what are they talking about?"
"It's pretty bad," Chuck breathed out. "They're talking about killing. Who to kill. How to kill."
"Geeze," Neil winced. "And this is just the small talk?"
There was some more rustling as Chuck moved within the van. "Here, let me adjust a few things so you can pick up more."
Neil listened carefully as a slight static sounded before the conversation below became clear. "Nice, Chuckles. Good stuff."
"Hey, man, quick question."
Neil jumped, nearly falling to the ground as Rob Matthau dropped down beside him again. "Matthau!" He poked an emphatic finger towards the proceedings on the dining room floor. "Dude, not the time."
Matthau waved a negligent hand. "Aw, c'mon, they're just talking."
"Yeah. Just talking about something that could be pertinent," Neil shot back.
Matthau fished in the pocket of his uniform for a moment, holding out a small object. "Look, it's really quick. Can you use your superspy skills or whatever and tell me what this is?"
Neil pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out a heavy breath before allowing his eyes to flick over to the tiny gadget and recognized it almost immediately. "EM-50 listening device best suited for short-range transmissions."
There was a slight squeak from the harness as Matthau started in surprise. "Are you sure?"
Neil sighed and nodded absently, still trying to pick out anything that could be important in the conversation between the two career criminals. "It's one of Casey's favorites."
Matthau scratched his head in confusion. "Uh, you barely looked at it."
"I'm sure," Neil retorted tightly.
Neil bit out a scathing retort, choosing instead to point out the obvious. "The little numbers on the side?"
Matthau paused, his eyes alternating from the listening device to Neil, the other man still observing the dining pair beneath them intently. "Really?"
Neil nodded shortly. "Yeah."
Matthau frowned, turning over the device in his palm. In his haste to confirm Neil's assessment, he mishandled the tiny gadget, the listening device tumbling from his grasp. With a hissed growl, Neil lunged forward, the small gadget just escaping his reaching fingers. Neil's eyes followed its traitorous descent with growing, increasing dread as it plummeted down, down, down until it plopped right onto Lucy Diamond's plate. He rested his head against the railing, observing Diamond's understandably suspicious confusion. It was quite possible she had never dined at Les Duex Amours, but he was pretty certain she was aware little listening devices didn't come as an accoutrement with the house salad.
Sure enough, she traced the path of the gadget's descent back over her shoulder up to where Neil stood with Matthau hanging at his side. Both criminals reached for hidden weapons. Instinctively, Neil drew his Springfield XDM, vaguely recognizing Matthau do the same. They seemed to be locked in a strange standoff, with neither making a move for fear of taking the first shot. Neil gripped his weapon tighter, the two-tone color of black and silver contrasting against his skin, finger flirting with the trigger. Beside him, Matthau seemed to be trembling slightly, his finger anxiously curling against his own trigger. Neil's eyes narrowed as both Mikhailov and Diamond tensed but made no further move to draw. They seemed to be waiting just as anxiously. From his perch by the bar, Casey watched the exchange, unable to do anything from where he was.
Despite the obvious action, the rest of the restaurant continued on their business, oblivious to the happenings in the middle of the room. At table seven, a champagne cork popped, the sound resonating like a gunshot and spooking Matthau, who squeezed off a reflexive shot that crashed harmlessly into the wine glass in front of Lucy Diamond. The shot was the catalyst that sparked the melee. Mikahilov returned fire, bolting back from the table and over to some cover amidst the fleeing patrons. Matthau, eager to get into the mess he had caused, released his harness, sending him down onto the dining room floor, shooting the entire way. From his cover, Neil cursed the turn of events before poking his head over the railing. On the restaurant floor, a gun battle raged as the team of Diamond and Mikhailov held off the barrage of fire from the various government agents getting into the action. With a silent prayer up to the higher powers thanking them for the invention of parkour, he braced his hands on the railing and hopped over. He landed atop of an archway decorating the restaurant, steadying himself for the barest of moments before backflipping onto the second floor of the dining level. Running across the railing, he cut a path parallel to the action below before cartwheeling down to the ground level, rolling to a crouch right behind an overturned table.
The teaming of the two criminals had obviously dissolved as Mikhailov sprinted towards the entrance amidst the rush of patrons. Diamond, however, had snatched up a tray cover, the solid metal fending off stray bullets as she disappeared out a side door.
"I'll go after her," Neil hissed as Casey poked his head up from behind the bar, gun at the ready. "You clean up here."
Casey gave his assent with a curt nod. "Grayson!" Neil rotated slightly, still moving back in the direction Diamond had taken. "Don't get killed!"
Neil only cocked his weapon, a smirk highlighting his features. "I'll try."
- - -
Neil sprinted out the side door of the restaurant towards what seemed to be a storage unit. Taking a moment to psych himself up, he readied his gun, yanking open the door. He blinked as he found himself in a dimly lit room, stacked high with cardboard boxes filled with various amenities one would expect would be in a restaurant's storage space. Weapon brandished, he stalked through the area, careful to tread on the balls of his feet, boxed in on either side by various crates and bins. He turned the corner, seeing the stretch of concrete floor before him and just beyond that, a door marked clearly with a radiant exit sign. Deducing that was probably Lucy Diamond's destination, he sprinted down the length of the floor towards the door. Just as he eclipsed the weird valley of cardboard boxes, he collided with another solid object, certainly not a cardboard box but another moving person.
Thinking he had hit an unsuspecting employee, Neil apologized profusely, reaching for his gun. "Oh, wow, I'm so sorry."
"No, I'm really sorry," came the return.
Neil lofted his head to find a pair of gorgeous chocolate-colored eyes staring at him through the slit in her bangs that fell slightly haphazardly onto her forehead from a rather attractive tan face. It was a woman. An amazingly beautiful woman. Who, at the moment, looked very reminiscent to a deer in the headlights.
"Oh, shit." Standing quickly, she snatched up a gun he hadn't noticed was lying by her hand, straightening to whip the barrel towards him.
"Whoa!" On reflex, Neil grabbed his own gun, leveling it on the woman a bit shorter than he was, moving in a circle to match the woman's own orbit around him. "Easy, ma'am. No need for hostilities."
"Hostile, who's hostile?"
Neil only continued his stalking rotation. "Uh, the gun pointed at my chest could say otherwise."
They gradually slowed to a halt, weapons still trained on one another. "Looks like I'm in a similar situation."
"Good point." He trailed off as his eyes were drawn down to a sparkle on the ground. It was a single, flawlessly cut diamond. The call sign of one notorious supervillian known as Lucy Diamond.
He voiced the prerequisite answer to his own question. "You're Lucy Diamond."
"And you're obviously with the government," she countered. "Are you gonna start reading my rights or something?"
"That would be protocol," Neil agreed, slightly thrown at the conversational tone this standoff was taking. "But strangely redundant at this point." His eyes flicked from the firearm at his chest to the tanned face, back to the gun. "Not to mention slightly irreverent since you are neither disarmed nor detained in any manner."
He squeezed his eyes shut, visibly warring with himself before opening them again, meeting Diamond's expectant gaze. "Look, here's the thing..."
"Yeah?" she prompted.
"I'm really not up for getting shot today."
She cocked her head in concession. "Yeah, wasn't quite on my agenda, either."
"Nice to see you agree." He cocked his head towards the barrel. "So, uh, why don't you put your gun down?"
"I could ask you the same thing," Diamond spat back.
"Well, I'm a...fed. So, technically, I'm more trustworthy," he explained.
She only raised an eyebrow. "Trustworthy?"
"Not to shoot," he answered.
"And why would you think I'd shoot?"
Neil mirrored her expression, cocking his eyebrow. "Once again, the gun at my chest says otherwise."
"Yeah, well, I was just minding my own business on some stupid blind date when three different government agencies plus a group of women masquerading as naughty Catholic schoolgirls decided to rain shit all over me," she snarled back.
The absurdity of the situation gave him pause, and he lowered his gun slightly. "Hold on, you were on a blind date?"
"Whatever," she growled with a toss of her head. At his incredulous expression, she bristled with indignation. "What?"
"Nothing," Neil insisted. The words were barely out of his mouth before he reconsidered, tilting his head slightly. "It's just...who would have thought? A Russian-trained assassin asks a criminal mastermind out not for a job but on a blind date? I mean, yeah, it sounds super suspicious in a dossier, but kinda ridiculous when explained in the correct context."
Diamond seemed to disregard his tangent apart from one fact. "He was a Russian assassin?"
Neil's eyes danced from one side to another in confusion. "You didn't know that?"
"Would I be asking you if I did?" she posed. "I mean the accent was a pretty dead giveaway for the Russian part, and I knew he killed people, but I didn't know he exclusively killed people...Geeze. Last time Scud sets me up."
Neil smirked. "Let me guess, you don't vet your dates."
She seemed to find the statement ridiculous. "And you do?"
Neil inclined his head slightly. "I'd have to have dates for that to apply."
Diamond's perpetual smirk seemed to widen. "And what occupies Mr. Fed's time when he isn't chasing after innocently dining criminals? EverQuest?"
Neil's brows drew together slightly. EverQuest. That sounded strangely familiar. A strange correlation materialized in his brain, one that seemed weirdly relevant to his current predicament. He remembered a story that mentioned EverQuest. One that Chuck had told him a while back. It had occurred his first year at Stanford when he had met who knew a girl who loved EverQuest. And her name was...
Neil's eyes snapped to the woman across from him, the realization beginning its descent to his brain. He pictured her slightly less tan with a pair of round-framed glasses perched on her nose.
"Wait a second." He looked closer, his eyes widening as recognition dawned on him. He huffed out an exasperated breath "Aw, c'mon! You're Jill Roberts, too? Geeze, you couldn't settle for being a singular person of interest for the government?"
Her eyes narrowed, gun wavering slightly. "And who wants to know?"
He lowered his own weapon. "Neil Grayson. I work with Chuck."
She stayed suspicious, keeping the firearm trained at his chest.
"Chuck? Chuck Bartowski? He's here?"
"Yeah." Neil bobbed his head from side to side, reconsidering that statement. "Well, about fifty feet from the restaurant in a black, unmarked van."
Neil nodded his affirmation. "Yeah."
"Well, we're quite at an impasse, aren't we?"
Again, Neil nodded shortly. "That we are."
Jill quirked a grin, seemingly amused at the rather bizarre turn of events. "What are you gonna do, Agent Grayson? Arrest me?"
He would give her this, Neil decided as he ruminated over his options, she was rather enchanting. Something told him she had duped quite a few men with that sly smirk coupled with those sparkling sepia eyes.
Neil shook himself from his reverie, forcing his focus back on the matter at hand. "You know, I should..." his eyes twinkled slightly as a thought came to him. "But something tells me you'd be much more useful not in handcuffs. You're still a biochemist, aren't you?"
"As if I could forget it all," she remarked with a smirk. "I might be a bit rusty though."
Neil returned the smirk. "Well, then, we just might have something for you, Dr. Roberts." He tilted his head in a slight challenge. "You up for dabbling in the legitimate side of things again?"
Jill only regarded him closely. "What's in it for me?"
Neil cocked an eyebrow. "Oh, c'mon, you can't expect me to work out all the logistics with a gun leveled at my chest, can you?"
"You would really suck in an interrogation," she mused.
Neil rolled his eyes. "I'm just saying the prospect of a bullet ejected into an extremely vital organ is kinda hindering the thought process at the moment."
Jill returned the eye roll, obligingly lowering her weapon. "Happy?"
Neil allowed his lazy smile to languidly stretch across his face. "Immensely."
Jill regarded him suspiciously. "So what exactly would you need my expertise for?"
Neil ran a hand through his hair. "Well, let's just say this isn't the most ideal venue for this sort of conversation, not to mention I need to corroborate it with my team, so why don't you just come with me?"
Jill's stare narrowed slightly as she gauged his intent. Apparently seeing something that appeased her, she nodded shortly. "Fine."
Neil, however, wasn't exactly so trusting despite his offer. "No tricks?"
Jill only gave him a look that he rolled his eyes at. "Right...criminal mastermind. There's always tricks."
Neil sighed. "Okay, so this goes against every federally-trained bone in my body, but I'm not going to put you in handcuffs or anything. We don't want to arouse suspicion, there's enough people after you as it is. I'm gonna trust you not to bolt on me. You think you can make it all the way to my car without turning this into a Fast and Furious-like chase?"
"I'll try my hardest," Jill deadpanned.
Neil out the exit, swiftly moving through the still-frantic patrons towards the black SUV inconspicuously parked on the sidewalk. He winced as the wig in his ear sounded with Chuck's concerned voice.
"Neil, you okay? We lost communication for awhile."
"Yeah, Chuck. I'm fine," Neil assured him. "I'll meet you back at the house. I have something that might interest you."
"If it's either a Russian assassin or a notorious thief, I'm plenty interested, dude."
Neil glanced over at his companion, sharing an inside joke with himself. "Well, I'm sure I can procure something that can capture your attention either way."
Needless to say, the drive back to the Bartowski mansion was awkward, the only excitement coming from a rather harried phone call from Jill's right hand man, only known as Scud. Neil glanced over to his unwitting companion, unsure what to make of her. Between the revelation she was the notorious thief known as Lucy Diamond as well as the rather infamous first love of Chuck Bartowski's life, Neil wasn't quite sure what to make of her. He simply put his eyes to the road and drove. In contrast, Jill's eyesight strayed out the window as Neil took them further and further into the outskirts of town. The diamond thief tensed slightly, flicking a gaze to her captor and back out to the winding pavement.
"Uhm, you're not taking me to like a deserted highway to dump my cold, dead body, are you?"
Neil shook his head. "No, not quite. The house is really out of the way."
"That's not a house," Jill stuttered out as the Bartowski homestead came into view. "That's a whole other country."
Neil chuckled. "He's graduated a bit from the Nerd Herd and living with Ellie and Awesome."
"Yeah," Jill breathed out. "I'll say."
Neil punched in the entrance code, leading Jill through the house to the study where he met Chuck in the lair. The tall nerd lit up at the sight of him.
"Please tell me you have Lucy Diamond. I mean, I'll totally settle for Mikhailov, but dude, that would be awesome if you have Diamond."
Neil smirked, tilting his head slightly. "Well, not per se..."
"Chuck, meet Lucy Diamond."
Chuck practically trembled in anticipation until the extremely familiar figure moved into the light. He paused, looking from his wife to his ex-girlfriend.
The CIA agent-turned Fulcrum agent-turned unwitting ally-turned notorious thief smiled hesitantly, wringing her hands before her. "Surprise?"
Chuck swallowed hard. "Hey-yo..."
And…to be continued! Well, there is the first part of this massive three-part chapter, a bit of an introduction and backstory until we get into the mission and the good stuff. If any of you have seen the movie D.E.B.S. starring Jordana Brewster, you'll notice that some of this chapter is loosely based on the plot of that film. Ha, I honestly thought it was hilarious, but I'm not gonna disillusion myself in thinking everyone will share my humor. Anyway, still to come: the mission and aftermath of the revelation that Jill is back. I hope this doesn't disappoint…Until next time – which shouldn't take as long this time, I swear…