There's patriotism, and then there's masochism. And no one has the right to tell Major John Casey about either one.

Because staying true to the first means an ungodly dose of the second. Isn't it enough that he has to live near Bartowski, his weirdly protective sister, and her obscenely childlike boyfr - fiancé? Now he has to listen to the two of them - the engaged ones, thank Jesus Christ, because he didn't even want to consider any other pairings - have their inane conversations directly in front of the new bug in the living room.

Casey rolls his eyes, listening once again to the sounds of long, slurpy kisses and the sort of pet names that had the power to ensure that he'd never eat again. Yeah, so they're civilians, and he's sworn to protect them, but now that he's met them, he isn't so sure that he really would take a bullet for them. They're so wide-eyed and trusting, so full of enthusiasm and high-fives, treating him like he belonged in their weird little family. It's damn unsettling.

A strange clicking sound comes through his headphones, and he sits forward eagerly. What was that? Interference? Doesn't sound like any countersignal he can name, but chances can't be taken with the Intersect's home base. He'll have to go down there, borrow something or lend them something. He snatches up his Rambo DVD; this would be more convincing if Bartowski had ever manifested an ounce of testosterone, but it's a good enough cover to get him through the door if he needs to.

It's easy enough to peek through the window - these people are just asking to be stalked, really - and he sees the female Bartowski guiding her fiancé's hands over some knitting needles. "Babe," the guy is saying, sounding way too dumb to have even heard of medical school, let alone graduate at the top of his class, "this is awesome!" Looks like there's an all-around lack of testosterone in that whole apartment.

"Hey, Casey," someone says from behind him, and he spins to see Bartowski standing there, holding a plastic bag full of junk food and looking way too amused. "Wait a minute - did I just get the drop on you?"


Chuck's eyes drop to the DVD still clutched safely in his hand. "Were you looking for a movie buddy?" Chuck asks, still smirking from his imagined victory.

"You want my boot to become your ass's best buddy, I suggest you keep talking." That finally shuts him up. But of course, closing his mouth means that his basic motor skills have become impaired. Chuck promptly drops the groceries, and not even the demented lovebirds inside could fail to hear that thump.

"Chuck?" Ellie calls out. Must be smarter than she looks, if she knows to blame any disturbances on her stringbean little brother. Her voice gets tight and suspicious. "Morgan?"

Chuck bounces back up from retrieving his spilled stash. "Just me! And, and Casey. Casey came by to watch a movie with me."

"You guys want the living room?" Ellie offers, but before Casey can decline, her face lights up. "Or, you could skip the movie, and join Devon and me. I'm teaching him how to knit."

"Let me guess - he thinks it's awesome," Chuck deadpans, and Casey smirks; sometimes the kid's okay.

"Because it is, bro," Devon says, coming up behind Ellie. "It's very soothing."

"What do you say, Casey?" Chuck, that stinking traitor, says. "Soothing activity or ultra-violent movie?"

"Oh, I bet you can do both!" Ellie says, pulling the DVD out of his hand before he can object to the stupidity of this plan.

He is definitely not getting paid enough for this. Uncle Sam owes him big.