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"No, no, no! Sarah, I forbid it!"

Chuck, arms folded in front of his chest, glared at Sarah, who couldn't help smiling at his adamant refusal.

"Bartowski, it's not your decision," cut in Casey. "And lower your voice. We're supposed to be undercover, genius."

Once Sarah had collected herself again, she reached over and laid a hand gently on Chuck's arm.

"Chuck, it's what we do all the time, you know that," she explained.

Chuck deflated, his shoulders sagging, face falling.

"I know," he sighed. "But I wish you didn't have to."

He turned to look at Sarah, whose eyes were still twinkling with amusement in the darkened hotel lounge. Or was it only a trick of the candlelight? Chuck couldn't be sure.

He had just flashed on the man standing at the bar. It was the reason the three of them were here tonight, following a tip from CIA intelligence gatherers that Alfonse Michaels was in town to plan a big operation. Something to do with diverted uranium shipments, according to the images in Chuck's brain. So anything that could be done to close the operation down, the whole operation, preferably in the early stages, had to be done. And Chuck was now flanked by two experts in these matters, agents with lots of practical experience between them.

That didn't mean he had to like it.

"Sarah, isn't there any other way? Casey, can't you just shoot him? You could hit a fly from here."

"You know we're supposed to go for the whole operation, Bartowski, and that means getting information from this guy to help us infiltrate and take them down," replied the big man, who was, incongruously, sipping on a straw from a tall glass topped by fruit slices and a colorful paper umbrella.

"No, Chuck, I'm afraid it has to be seduction. Michaels' file indicates that is the fastest and most effective method."

As she spoke, Sarah rearranged her features into a serious, no-nonsense look and directed it at him for a few seconds before the urge to smile got the better of her and the corners of her mouth began to twitch.

"Well, the least you could do is not laugh," Chuck harrumphed, moving away from her slightly to underline his disapproval.

Casey sucked the last of his drink through the straw, followed by some air. The noise caused Chuck to turn his head and look at the agent, and when he did, he noticed that the man, for all the gruffness in his voice, was laughing to himself as well.

Chuck tightened his arms around his chest, pouted, and gave in with a curt, "Fine! Do it, then! See if I care!"

Casey put his glass down on the table, smiling outright now, and said, "Well, Walker, you heard the man. All systems go."

"Roger that," replied Sarah, as she stood up. But then she sat down again.

Confused, Chuck looked at her and opened his mouth to ask what was happening. Before he could get a word out, however, Casey had stood and was walking over to the bar and into position beside Michaels, waving a bill at the bartender and ordering a drink for himself. When Michaels turned to see who the new arrival was, Casey swung around to face him, flashing a wide, warm smile. They began talking and, a moment later, Casey's hand gestures told Chuck that he was ordering another drink for Michaels, who grasped Casey's elbow in a rather familiar manner and moved closer to him, smiling up into his face in an unmistakable way.

By this time, Chuck was doing a pretty good imitation of a fish, eyes rounded, jaw silently opening and closing, and Sarah, hiding a smirk behind her hand at his expression, lowered it and said through barely contained laughter, "My partner's pretty smooth, isn't he?"

After weakly spluttering out, "Wha' – Case – he –," Chuck gave up. Turning to Sarah, he smiled apologetically.

"I'm sorry, Sarah," he said, "I shouldn't have interfered. I thought it would be you."

"Well, it couldn't be you," Sarah said, taking a sip of her drink. "You're not Michaels' type."