Author's Note: I apologize for the lateness of this chapter! Our school had this thing called Integration Week where we had projects for every single subject. Hope to review in a couple of weeks. Again, I apologize! I hope you enjoy it though, despite the length. :))

Disclaimer: Do not own but wish I could. :)


The One Time He Didn't

Sweatdrop

The waiting room was filled with nervous teenagers, nearly out of high school but not quite. Some were flipping though magazines but not really reading them while others simply tapping out random rhythms with their toes and fingers. It was deadly quiet, only the sounds of the receptionist clacking away on the phone breaking the ominous silence.

Chuck wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead. His fingers wormed their way up to his tie, attempting in vain to loosen the vice-like grip it had on his neck.

Why was he so nervous?

It wasn't like he was banking on this school or anything. It wasn't a place he was extremely interested in spending the next four years of his life at. It was however, where his best friend Morgan had applied at and due to his incessant wheedling for weeks on end, Chuck had finally given in and had decided to schedule an interview as well.

He tapped his sneakers on the linoleum floor. Why was it that it took a school only one interview and a standardized test to decide who they wanted as their students? Wasn't there more to a person than that? This was why he was always a wreck during interviews. He couldn't depend on the interviewer to somehow see through his sweaty palms and subdued voice. He had to make a good first impression, the way Elie always did. He wasn't exactly a pro at it, as most girls at his school would attest to. At any rate, he was determined to give it his best shot.

He didn't have anything to lose anyway. His hopes were pinned on Stanford, his number one dream school, but it was good to have a backup all the same.

"Mister... Barlowski?"

Chuck nodded frantically, not even registering the way the receptionist had pronounced his name.

"Yeah, that's me."

"Dean Reynolds will see you now," she added with a gentle smile, accustomed to the discomfort of most people who traversed this part of the campus.

Chuck gave her an uneasy smile. Was it just him or had the butterflies in his stomach multiplied by ten in the past two seconds?

"Just go all the way down the hallway and enter the door on your left."

Chuck nodded again and cast one last glance at the people remaining in the waiting room, anxiously awaiting their fate.

"Thanks."

Chuck slowly walked down the hallway, his hands firmly tucked inside his jean pockets. He barely noticed what the dean looked like as he was intent on not meeting his eyes, lest he lose his nerve.

So much for a good first impression.

"So... why do you want to study here Chuck?"

Oh, so he was one of those 'I feel so close to you, I can call you by your first name even though we just met' types.

Chuck swallowed before launching into his answer.

"Well I'm really interested in technology and I'm hoping to pursue a career in that field," Chuck replied calmly with an earnest smile on his face, his hands slightly gesticulating in the air. He raised his head to stare at the dean's nose. It was a compromise, he supposed. So far so good, no nervous breakdowns in sight as far as he could see.

"That's great," the dean beamed at him from ear to ear, revealing a yellowish stain on his teeth. Chuck shivered involuntarily.

"Feeling cold son? I could lower the thermostat if you like." The dean offered, seemingly concerned for his wellbeing. Or maybe Chuck was being too judgemental and he really was concerned.

Chuck shook his head, his brown curls bouncing from side to side.

"No I'm good sir. Fantastic. Never been better." Chuck grinned, a bit of sarcasm filling his voice. He hoped the dean didn't notice.

He shrugged. "If you're sure... So..." He shuffled the papers on his desk and set them to one side before clasping his hands together and looking earnestly into Chuck's brown eyes.

It unnerved Chuck, but he stubbornly continued at staring at the dean's nose.

"Tell me, who is Chuck Bartowski?"

It was a simple enough question, a standard interview question he had been expecting.

Chuck opened his mouth, about to respond with some routine answer when he stopped and actually gave the question some thought.

Who was Chuck Bartowski?

He didn't know. This question had him stumped, which was not good for a college interview.

He could have said that he was an eighteen year old boy whose mother had left him at the age of fourteen. He could have told the man in front of him that he had an extreme fear of clowns, or that he was addicted to video games. It didn't fit the question though; those were merely his circumstances, his likes and dislikes.

Unsurprisingly, Chuck didn't get in.

--

At the age of 18, Chuck excitedly carries boxes filled with his worldly belongings to his dorm room and meets the dashing Bryce Larkin.

At the age of 20, his best friend gets him kicked out.

At the age of 21, Chuck still wonders whether he would still be moping about his expulsion if only he had known who he truly was.

Somehow, he didn't think so.


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