Chuck vs The Holiday
Disclaimer: This is Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz's sandbox. I'm just playing!
Warning: This story contains explicit m/m slash. If this is illegal where you are, or you find such things offensive, don't read.
It was another slow day at the Buy More. Thursday morning, and there had been fewer than 10 customers in since the store opened. Big Mike was holed up in his office with a box of pastries. The Greenshirts were engaged in a Guitar Hero tournament, cheering on Morgan and Anna as they riffed through Stairway to Heaven on Expert level, and the Nerd Herders were gathered around a laptop which had an unexpected fund of pornography. So far, so Thursday.
Well, all the Nerd Herders except Chuck, who was in the cage, fixing a broken PC, and all the Greenshirts except Casey, who was in the home theater room talking to General Beckman.
'You're kidding,' Casey said, stoney-faced.
'Not in the slightest, Major,' replied the General. 'Joking aside, Human Resources has determined that you haven't taken any leave at all in the past three years. Although you've passed your psych evaluations with flying colours, they're insisting that you take at least fifteen of the forty days you've accumulated in the next month. Something to do with an upcoming audit? Nonetheless, you're relieved of duty for the next three weeks.'
'They do know I'm working undercover? A twenty-four hour detail with a clueless asset who is likely to get shot if I take time off? And what about my cover here at the Buy More?'
'I'm sorry, Major, but you're going to have to let Agent Walker look after the Intersect. Tell the Buy More you've been recalled for annual military training. As of now, you're on holiday.' With that, the connection broke, and Casey was left staring at a blank screen.
He growled in disgust. 'What the hell am I supposed to do with a vacation?'
Big Mike took the news with equanimity, which is to say that as soon as Casey had left his office, he hollered for Chuck.
'Chuck! You know John Casey, right?'
'He ever mention the military to you?'
'He might have once or twice. Why?'
'Because he's recalled for the next fifteen days. Something about training. You'd better get those Greenshirts working to cover his ass, 'cause he's the best damn salesman on the team, or I'm going to get mighty tetchy. None of them have ever shifted a BeastMaster 6000! I need them to be Casey, you hear me?'
'Loud and clear, Big Mike, loud and clear,' Chuck sighed. He left Big Mike's office wondering just how he was supposed to turn the notoriously slack Greenshirt team into pseudo-Caseys.
He tracked down Casey at an otherwise empty Orange Orange, where he had obviously just finished talking with Sarah.
'Casey! What's this about you being recalled for training?'
'Why, gonna miss me?' the agent said, deadpan.
'No! Well, yes, but only in a manly running from danger while you shoot the bad guys kind of way.'
'Good to know.' A spark of anger flashed in Casey's eyes. 'You'll be fine with Walker. And I'm not being recalled, I'm on vacation.'
'You're taking a holiday?' Chuck squeaked.
'That's what I said. Damn paper pushers are getting audited, noticed how much leave I have due. I have to take fifteen days.'
'Oh, man, what I could do in fifteen days off! Call of Duty, Medal of Honour - no, wait, I have it! Diablo Three!' Chuck grinned happily, lost in a world of non-stop gaming.
Casey and Walker exchanged glances.
'Chuck, I'll be looking out for you, but that makes it imperative that you let me know where you are at all times,' Sarah said. 'And if you flash, if there's a mission, you have to do what I say. Do you understand?'
Blinking, Chuck returned to reality. 'Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure, Sarah. So what're you going to do, big guy? Go fishing? See the family? Hit some bars, maybe get laid?'
Casey growled in disgust. 'I'm going to be hiding out in my own damn apartment keeping up surveillance on you. For fifteen days.'
'What? No! You said it yourself, I'll be fine with Sarah. Go, lie on a beach, try not to shoot anyone.' He clapped Casey on the shoulder, ignoring the patented Casey death-glare. 'You never know, you might actually have fun.'
Fishing in his pocket, Casey pulled out a key and pressed it into Chuck's palm. 'Here. If you do have to come over for any reason, tell your sister you're looking after my bonsai. Don't use it if you don't have to.'
Back at the Buy More, the Greenshirts took the news with equanimity. Which is to say, they complained.
'Oh man, does Big Mike really expect us all to turn into John Casey? Dude, I gotta say I don't see that happening,' Morgan said, leaning on the Nerd Herd desk. 'I'm pretty sure that guy only bought the BeastMaster because he was scared Casey might just fire it up and grill him on it if he didn't. Now I'm pretty tough, but even at my most badass I'm nowhere near as scary as he is. I'm not ashamed to admit it. That guy is just one scary dude.'
Chuck shrugged. 'I'm just telling you what Big Mike said. While Casey's off doing whatever it is you do when the military calls you back for training - and I'm assuming that involves obstacle courses and shooting guns and maybe something to do with blowing things up - you guys have to step it up. Which means no more cage fights, not unless it sells things.'
'This totally blows,' Morgan grumbled.
Anna, perched on the edge of the desk, leaned over and whispered loudly, 'He's just grumpy because I kicked his ass at Guitar Hero.'
'I am not! My controller was faulty. Oh, look, a customer. I'll just go sell them a BeastMaster.' Scowling, Morgan made his escape.
Anna laughed, then, grinning slyly, she turned to face Chuck. 'So, Chuckles, have you seen Casey's uniform? I bet he's Special Forces.'
'What? I have absolutely no idea what branch of the military Casey served in. Why would I?' Chuck protested.
'Come on, Chuck,' Lester joined in. 'The two of you spend so much time in each other's pockets, I'm expecting to receive an invitation to your wedding any day now.'
Chuck gaped, speechless.
'Yeah, Chuck! Can you really expect us to believe you don't know all about your boyfriend's military past?' Jeff added, leaning in and incidentally leering at Anna, who ignored him. 'I bet you've seen him in just his dogtags, right?'
'You guys are insane! I'm going out with Sarah, remember? Casey's just my neighbour!'
'Whatever you say, Chuckles.' Anna laughed evilly as, blushing furiously, Chuck fled to the back room, where he locked himself in the cage and got back to work fixing PCs.
The rest of the week went badly. Shoplifting increased once word got out that Casey wasn't in the store, and Big Mike's temper worsened along with the store's sales figures. Every time Chuck was out on the sales floor, the Greenshirts took to asking him just how he was planning on welcoming back his boyfriend. As a result, their backlog of broken computers was rapidly depleted, and Chuck took every opportunity to go out on service calls. Which naturally led to his stumbling across and flashing on a foreign terrorist who was engaged in a plot to...
'Fix the 2008 Koi Carp World Championship? You've got to be kidding!' Sarah said in disbelief when Chuck phoned her from the relative safety of the Nerd Herder.
'That's what I said!' Chuck replied desperately, 'But he seems to be taking it very seriously!'
Sarah winced at the burst of gunfire that crackled loudly from her phone. 'Hang in there, Chuck. I'll be there in two minutes.'
The Nerd Herder, even enhanced, was not perhaps the best place to be in a firefight. By the time Sarah arrived, the little car's windows were smashed and one door stood open. Chuck was gone.
It took an hour for Sarah track him down, to a warehouse at the far end of an industrial park. She arrived to find the place already being raided by the CIA.
With Chuck safely retrieved and the would-be Koi Carp world champion under arrest, Sarah headed back to Orange Orange, where General Beckman was waiting to speak with her.
'Well done, Agent Walker. Good work on tracking down the asset so quickly. However, I'm not sure that it's wise for Chuck to go out on support calls with Major Casey not around to provide backup. Mister Bartowski, you'll have to remain at the Buy More while you are at work.'
'What if someone asks for me by name?' Chuck said, rubbing the sore spot on his wrist where the rope had chafed.
'Make some excuse. We can't have you out alone, especially not until a new custom Nerd Herder arrives for you to drive. Agent Walker, you are to escort the asset to work and back.'
'Yes, ma'am.' Sarah said as the connection cut out.
'Fine, whatever,' Chuck said in annoyance, taking the steps two at a time. 'I have to get back to the Buy More and tell them I got carjacked, or something. It's getting kind of hard to explain why my car keeps on getting trashed.' Pausing at the top of the steps he added, 'Oh, but thank you for saving me. Again. I guess I'll see you in a couple of hours.'
Frowning, Sarah watched him jog back across the parking lot towards the Buy More. She flipped open her cellphone and dialled Casey.
'What the hell was that?' she snapped.
'Thank you for saving the Intersect and making me look good,' Casey said. 'That was me saving your ass as well as your asset.'
'What did you do?'
'I was listening in when the firefight started. I tracked Chuck using the traffic camera network. As soon as they turned into the industrial estate, I called your hotline, used a voice modulator and pretended to be you. The CIA sent a strike team out and you turned up in time to give Chuck a lift back to the Buy More.'
'And you couldn't call me to let me know where he was?' With difficulty, Sarah kept her temper under control.
Amused, he replied. 'I didn't want you going in on your own. I knew you were heading in the right direction.' At her snarl, he added, 'I would have called you otherwise.'
She snapped her phone shut in frustration just as a customer strolled in. A second later, she was smiling and taking the customer's order, and only Chuck and Casey would have spotted the tense set of her shoulders that showed she was still angry.
The rest of Chuck's shift was filled with reporting the destruction of yet another Nerd Herder to Big Mike and attempting to fill in the paperwork for it, interrupted repeatedly by everyone coming up to hear his story of getting caught up in the middle of a firefight.
When Sarah came by to collect him, he made a point of kissing her in front of his colleagues and walking out with her arm in arm. He didn't hear Lester's snort of disbelief, nor Anna's derisive comment about beards.
As they left the store, Sarah detatched herself from Chuck's arm. 'Want to tell me what that was all about?'
'Sorry, sorry. I realise that was possibly overstepping the line a little in our fake relationship, but all I've had from everyone for the past three days is how I must be missing Casey and exactly what I should do when he gets home to show him just how much I've missed him. They actually laugh when I tell them we're going out on a date.'
'You're saying our cover is compromised?' Sarah asked, her voice rising. 'Oh, this is just perfect!' She lapsed into silence as she drove, but as they drew up outside the apartment complex, she sighed. 'Chuck, you need to go see Casey.'
'Okay, why?' Chuck frowned in confusion.
She put a hand on his arm. 'It was Casey who saved you this afternoon, not me. He was tracking you.'
'You mean he really is sitting in there keeping an eye on me?' He flushed. 'God, the poor guy must be going stir-crazy by now! I'll go over, take some Chinese, maybe a good film. He needs to learn how to relax. He's supposed to be on holiday!'
Sarah looked at him for a long moment, eyebrows raised, before she shook her head. 'Thank you, Chuck.' Leaning over, she kissed him on the cheek. 'I think I see why your colleagues are having a little trouble believing in our cover.'
'What? I can't be concerned about the two people who keep me alive?' Chuck stared at her. 'Sarah, you can't honestly believe there's something going on between Casey and me!'
'I'm sure there isn't,' Sarah hastened to reassure him. 'But maybe you should ask yourself just how much you're missing him. Take some time, think it over, and if you'd rather, I can talk to the General, tell her maybe I'm not the one best suited to the really close protection work.'
Chuck's mouth moved soundlessly as he stared at her with huge eyes. After a long moment, he found his voice. 'I'm not having this conversation. I'll see you tomorrow morning, Sarah.' He climbed out of the car and Sarah waited until the door had closed behind him before driving off.
He leaned against the door, thoughts racing.
'Are you all right?' Ellie asked, looking round from her cooking.
Chuck jumped. 'Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. It's just been a long and deeply weird day.'
'Want to talk about it? I've nearly finished making dinner.'
'Oh, you know what? I was going to order some Chinese and head over to Casey's apartment, check up on those bonsai of his.'
'This will be ready in five minutes. Why don't you save the takeout for tomorrow evening and go grab a shower? You can always go over after you've eaten.'
Admitting defeat, Chuck said, 'Okay. I'll set the table, then.'
Concerned, Ellie gave him a long look as he left the living room.
Devon came through to the kitchen and fished a pitcher of juice out of the fridge. 'What's up, babe? You look troubled.'
With a sigh, Ellie answered. 'It's Chuck.'
'What's the problem?' He put the pitcher on the table and started pulling table mats out of a drawer.
'I'm not sure. I can't help thinking it has something to do with John Casey.'
'Really,' Devon said, eyebrow raised. 'I see. I'll handle this. I know he's your brother, but I think this requires a talk, man to man.'
'Oh? Why? What do you know about this that I don't?' Ellie asked, suspicious.
Devon put on his serious face. 'Chuck's been through a lot lately, Ellie. He's done a lot of changing, growing up. Finding out who he really is, what he wants out of life.'
'And this has what to do with-' Ellie stopped abruptly as Chuck came back into the living room, wet hair touselled, looking more comfortable in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt.
'What? Oh, hey Devon, I'll get that.' Chuck took the fistful of cutlery from Devon and started laying them out on the table. 'So, Sarah's going to be giving me a lift in to work for the next few days.'
'What happened to your Nerd Herder?' asked his sister, emptying the rice into a large bowl.
'Oh, it, er, got a bit... shot at. While I was on a support call.'
'Oh my god! Chuck, are you okay?' Ellie gasped, putting the rice down and coming over to look him over.
'Yeah, I'm fine. I wasn't in it at the time,' Chuck lied, 'But it's going to need the windows replacing.'
She hugged him fiercely. 'You shouldn't have to go to dangerous areas. Isn't there a company policy on that?'
Chuck shrugged awkwardly. 'Possibly. I won't be going on any more calls at least until I get my car back, anyhow. So, dinner smells good. How was your day?'
His sister frowned but let him get away with changing the subject, and in short order they were seated around the table enjoying Ellie's famous chili.
After dinner, Devon and Chuck cleared the table.
'Why don't you go run yourself a bath, babe? Light a few candles? You deserve a soak after preparing that awsome dinner. I'll bring you a glass of wine in a minute.'
'Thanks, I think I will,' Ellie smiled. 'You could bring the wine through in, say, five minutes?' She looked across at Chuck, then back to her fiancé.
'Will do, hon,' Devon grinned, nodding.
Chuck scraped the leftovers into a couple of tupperware tubs then busied himself piling plates beside the sink. 'Do you want to wash or dry?' he asked.
Devon shrugged. 'I don't mind. Whatever you like is fine by me.' He leaned against the worktop while Chuck ran water into the bowl. 'If you don't mind me saying, you've been looking a little off your game for a few days now. Ever since John got recalled for training.'
Chuck nearly dropped a glass. 'I'm fine, Devon. Really. Just a bit shaken by today, that's all.'
'Are you sure?' Devon asked, eyebrows raised. 'Because you and John have gotten very close awfully fast. And that's okay, bro. I know things between you and Sarah have been complicated, but they don't have to be.'
Chuck stared at Devon, cheeks flaming. 'What exactly are you trying to say, Awesome? Does Ellie think I'm secretly cheating on Sarah with Casey too?'
'Whoa there! Nobody's saying you're cheating on Sarah!' Devon put down the plate he was drying.
'No? Only everyone at work.' Chuck muttered, scrubbing at a pan.
'Not awesome, bro, not awesome. Is that why you're so worked up?' Devon clapped him on the shoulder.
Chuck put down the dishcloth and sighed, staring disconsolately into the soapy water. 'Partly, I guess. Even Morgan thinks there's something going on.'
'Why do you think that might be?' Devon regarded him with compassion.
Chuck looked up at his soon-to-be brother-in-law. 'I don't know.' He shrugged. 'I suppose because John and I are close, in a way. I guess I rely on him being there. And he's so different from anyone I've ever met. It's like... It's like he's Superman, and I'm Jimmy Olsen.'
'Touch of hero worship?'
'Yeah, I guess there's a little of that. I just... I realized how much I admire him. And though it pains me more than you can ever imagine to have to admit it, I actually have missed him these past few days. The growling, the snarling, the bad temper...' He trailed off.
'I hear ya, bro.' Devon nodded sympathetically. 'Like I said, whatever you choose is fine by me. And it'll be fine by Ellie, too, don't worry about that. She just wants you to be happy. You should talk things through with Sarah, though. Perhaps the reason why things are always so complicated for you guys is because your heart just isn't quite in it. And if it's not, she'll know, you can be sure of that.'
Chuck grimaced. 'Thanks for the pep talk, Devon. Only mildly awkward, and I actually do feel a little better for talking. Would you mind finishing up here? I'd better go see to Casey's bonsai before I forget.'
'Sure thing, bro. Take your time.'
Chuck dried his hands off, grabbed a tub of leftovers and, calling into his room, grabbed his phone and a dvd. He climbed out of the window and crossed the courtyard. Then, feeling obscurely as though he was doing something wrong, he pulled Casey's key out of his wallet, turned it in the lock, opened the door and walked in.