This is it - the last part. I hope you enjoy it, and thank you all so much for reading and taking the time to comment.
The next morning dawned clear and even a touch chilly, but it quickly became apparent that it was going to be warm later on. Chuck and Casey dressed and ate quickly, then, with backpacks that held the usual gear for a day's hiking in the mountains along with non-standard items such as guns, ammunition, gps tracking and the satellite phone, they set off along the trail.
The path rose steeply, and by mid-morning, breathing hard, they reached the shady pool into which a small waterfall plunged.
'Fancy a dip?' Casey grinned.
'Oh man, that's going to be cold,' Chuck said, eyeing the pool dubiously.
Casey placed his rucksack carefully beside a boulder then rapidly stripped off.
'But on second thoughts...' Chuck said, staring openly at Casey's impressively muscled body. 'I'm sure it's not that cold.' He pulled off his t-shirt and kicked off his shoes.
Casey waded in, then ducked under the surface, re-emerging under the waterfall itself with a roar.
Chuck followed, stopping when he was up to his waist. 'Ahh! On the other hand, it could just be absolutely freezing!'
'Get over here and I'll warm up that skinny butt of yours,' Casey called, grinning.
Shivering, Chuck did as he was told. When he got to within an arm's length of Casey, the big man pulled him close to stand with him under the waterfall. The agent was standing on a submerged boulder, and the water only came up to their chests. In order to keep his balance, Chuck had to stand toe to toe with the older man, wrapping an arm around him, and Casey wasted no time at all in kissing him, hands slipping round to massage his bottom.
With water pounding down around them, he sipped at the young man's lips before deepening the kiss, dipping into the heat inside. Chuck closed his eyes and held on, the warmth of Casey's body where it pressed against his making a delicious contrast with the chill of the water around him.
Then Chuck was spluttering and gasping: splashing back to the surface, he caught sight of Casey, a wicked grin on his face, turning to watch him from the other side of the pool.
'You pushed me!' Chuck shouted, wiping the water out of his eyes. His heart leapt as he saw Casey break into an honest-to-goodness laugh.
For the next few minutes, Chuck splashed after Casey, failing to catch him until the big man turned with surprising agility and ducked him under the water again. Finally, laughing and dripping, they emerged back onto the bank to dry themselves off with a tiny travel towel, which led to more joking around as Casey snapped the towel across the top of Chuck's thighs as he bent to pick up his boxer shorts and Chuck tried and failed to get revenge.
They were only just dressed again when a middle-aged couple walked past followed by a couple of teenaged girls. They called out a greeting and kept going down the mountain.
Chuck grinned at Casey, who watched them go with suspicion, one hand on the pistol hidden in his bag. When they were out of sight, he hustled Chuck on up the mountain, and they hiked for another couple of hours before stopping for lunch.
They returned to the campsite late afternoon, dusty and happy. Chuck flopped to the ground in front of the tent.
'I think my legs are going to fall off,' he grinned.
Casey grunted, prowling around the car and tent, checking for any signs of disturbance, then busied himself getting out more field rations and a couple of beers.
'Since you're down there, you can stir dinner again,' he smiled.
'Does that involve moving?' Chuck asked.
'Your arm. That's it.' Casey handed him the field rations and a beer. 'I'm going to report in to Walker.'
'We're on vacation!' Chuck protested. 'You aren't on the clock now, big guy, so why do you have to check in?'
'Because I said I would. And if I don't, we'll have that team swarming all over here, and that'll be the end of our vacation,' Casey said, opening the car door. Sitting sideways on the back seat, he used the cover of the door to surreptitiously assemble the satellite phone and called in.
Chuck set up the little camping stove in the fire pit again and set about heating up dinner. 'Chili?' he asked and Casey nodded.
They spent the evening playing cards and chatting until the night wrapped them around each other.
The next morning, Casey had to drag Chuck out of the tent.
'Ow, ow, ow!' Chuck complained as the big man lifted him to his feet.
'Stretch those legs, Chuck. You'll feel better once you get those muscles warmed up.'
'I feel like a ninety-year old,' the young man complained, hobbling around in a circle. 'I can't even remember the last time I spent a day hiking, and now I remember why!' He turned, catching sight of Casey's expression. 'You're laughing at me! I'm in pain and you're laughing at me! You're a heartless man!'
In two strides, Casey was in front of him. Putting a hand on Chuck's shoulder, he gazed intently into his eyes. 'Not any more. I thought my heart died with Ilsa, but it was just buried. You found it.' He pulled the young man into an embrace, kissing him fiercely.
Coming up for air, Chuck stared at the agent, looking slightly dazed. 'Finders keepers?' he asked and Casey laughed.
With another brief kiss, the big man said, 'Yeah. Finders keepers. Now stretch those legs while I make breakfast.'
Chuck did as he was told, a happy smile breaking out every time he looked over at Casey.
Before setting out for the day, they packed up most of their things into the car, leaving only the tent to strike later. This time they headed in the other direction round the reservoir. Finding a sheltered stretch of lakefront to stop for lunch, they spent a couple of hours lying in the sunshine, talking and kissing. Casey spent an hour trying to teach Chuck how to skim stones across the blue expanse, but eventually it was time to head back to the campsite.
With regret, they packed up the tent and stowed it in the car. 'Fancy getting something to eat on the way back?' Casey asked, climbing into the driver's seat.
'Yeah, that'd be nice.'
They drove back out of the hills and stopped at a diner on the way back into the city. Sitting together in a booth, they ate mostly in silence.
'I don't want to go back home,' Chuck confessed as he finished up the last of a slice of cherry pie. 'I want to spend tonight with you.'
Casey put down his fork and took Chuck's hand. 'You can stay if you like.'
'I suppose, after I've seen Ellie. But I mean I don't want to have to sneak out and back in. I know you do it for a living, and goodness knows I'm getting used to it, but I want to be able to be honest at least about one of the important things in my life.' Chuck said, wiping a crumb from the corner of Casey's mouth with his thumb.
'You can hold out two days, Chuck,' Casey said gruffly. 'Or I can come back early.'
'Can you?' Chuck brightened.
'Tell them manoevres ended early? Yeah.' A grin flashed across his face. 'I can always tell Big Mike the CO got shot. Accidentally.'
'You make that sound so... deliberate,' Chuck said, his eyes darkening with desire. 'You think that'll work?'
'Big Mike doesn't care what I tell him, and I don't care what the rest of the staff think. So yeah.' Casey said, his eyes dropping to Chuck's lips.
A discreet cough had them both jumping apart. 'More coffee?' the waitress asked.
Casey glanced back at Chuck. 'Just the check, please.'
They made it back to the apartment complex in record time, with Casey jumping out a block away to make his way back into the building, leaving Chuck to park and unload the car.
As Chuck carried the last armload of camping gear back through the courtyard to Casey's apartment, his own door opened and Ellie rushed out.
'Chuck! I was so worried!' She flung her arms around him.
'Um... Ellie? It's not that I'm not pleased to see you, but I do need to put this down before I drop it,' Chuck said. Ellie let him go for just long enough that he could dump the armload inside the doorway and pull the door closed again. Then she grabbed his arm and dragged him over to the fountain.
'What's up?' Chuck asked as she pushed him to sit down.
'You never go camping! You hate camping! And you didn't even bother calling - you left a note! I half-thought John had come back and kidnapped you!' Ellie hugged him again, and Chuck patted her back awkwardly.
'I'm sorry, Ellie. I just needed to get away for a couple of days. Go somewhere quiet to think things over, you know?' He put his arm around his sister and hugged her tightly. 'Are you that concerned about... about me and John? I don't believe he'd ever hurt me. Honest.' Looking over his sister's head, Chuck saw Casey's blinds twitch.
'It's so unlike you to go somewhere without a computer and a tv at least,' Ellie sniffed.
'I took my PSP,' Chuck offered. 'Which was great until the batteries ran out.'
Ellie gave a watery smile. 'Call me next time you take off into the wilderness, okay? I had no idea where you were. You could have been eaten by bears or fallen off a cliff or anything.'
'It was thoughtless and I'm sorry,' Chuck said. 'Next time I'll call you and let you know where I am. Which will definitely be somewhere with electricity and a tv and a shower.'
'Was it good?' Ellie asked, pulling back and wiping her eyes. 'Where you went?'
'I went up to the Cogswell reservoir. There's a campsite there and some good hiking. Once you get up the first bit of the trail it's pretty deserted.'
'You went hiking?' Ellie asked incredulously. 'Who are you and what have you done with the real Chuck?'
Chuck grinned. 'You know, I could get to enjoy that kind of thing every once in a while. Maybe every couple of years.' He stood, leading his sister back into their flat. 'I thought my legs were going to fall off by the time I got back to the tent. I don't think I've ever walked that far before.'
'Do you want some dinner?' Ellie opened the fridge.
'No thanks, I'm good. I stopped for something on the way back,' Chuck said. 'Look, Ellie, I'm really sorry I worried you. I seem to be doing that a lot lately, but I promise you I'm fine.'
'Really, Chuck?' Ellie asked plaintively. 'I just want you to be happy.'
Chuck nodded. 'I am. I have the best sister in the world, a wonderful best friend and... and I'm in love with an incredible man.'
Gaping at him, Ellie put a hand to her mouth. 'I had no idea! When did this happen?'
Shrugging, Chuck looked round the room. 'I guess I only realised it after John left.'
'What will you do if he doesn't feel the same way about you? I mean, you haven't had chance to talk things through with him, see if he even likes you like that,' Ellie pointed out. 'I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't love you, but I'm aware there are some people in this world who don't.'
Chuck grinned. 'I'm pretty sure he likes me, Ellie. You knew Devon liked you, right?'
'Yes, but that's...'
'Different? Not really,' he shrugged again. 'Ellie, things with John will work out or they won't. Right now I'm pretty hopeful everything's going to be all right. And if it's not, I'll deal with it as and when it happens. There's no point in getting worked up about maybes.' He scratched at the back of his neck. 'You know what, I'm going to go have a shower, because I'm pretty sure I have insects living in my shirt.'
Later, after a shower and half a bottle of wine shared with Ellie and Devon over a documentary on conjoined twins, Chuck made his excuses and went to bed. He brushed his teeth, locked his bedroom door and slipped out of the window. A few strides brought him to Casey's door, which opened as he reached it. One strong arm yanked him inside, and then he was being pressed back against the wall, Casey's mouth on his, hands squeezing his buttocks, one powerful leg pressed between his.
He moaned into Casey's mouth, wrapping his arms around the agent's neck, kissing him as though his life depended on it. Casey slid one hand around to Chuck's groin, rubbing him to full hardness.
'Thought you were never going to get over here,' Casey rumbled, taking the opportunity to nuzzle Chuck's ear.
The young man shivered. 'I'm here now,' he said, turning his head to recapture Casey's lips.
With a growl, Casey flicked open the button on Chuck's jeans and slipped his hand inside. Chuck gasped as the agent's strong fingers curled around his erection and began to move. With his other hand, Casey pushed Chuck's jeans down over his hips. As Chuck's breathing grew more ragged, the big man dropped to his knees. Holding Chuck's slim hips in place against the wall, Casey took him in his mouth.
Chuck's head fell back against the wall as Casey enveloped him, sucking hard, and began to move his head up and down Chuck's length. Chuck panted, resting a hand on Casey's head as the older man swirled his tongue over the sensitive ridge around the head of his shaft.
'Oh god,' Chuck moaned. 'That's... ohhh....'
With one hand, Casey cupped his testicles, massaging them gently, as with the other he gripped the base of Chuck's penis and began once more to pump up and down.
'John!' With a strangled cry, Chuck came, pulsing into Casey's hot mouth. The agent swallowed, sucking more gently until until the young man softened. Then he stood and as Chuck's legs trembled, he picked the young man up, carrying him with ease through the living room and up the stairs to the bedroom.
The next morning, tired but grinning from a night of interrupted sleep in Casey's bed, Chuck sneaked back through the window into his room in time to turn the alarm clock off when it buzzed. He stripped down to his boxer shorts and grabbed a towel. Showering quickly, he changed into his Nerd Herd uniform of charcoal-grey trousers and short-sleeved white shirt and went through for breakfast.
'Someone's in a good mood,' Ellie said, smiling.
'Yeah, I guess I am,' Chuck said, fixing himself a bowl of cereal.
'Looks like that little trip of yours did just the trick,' Devon said before drinking half a glass of something greenish-puple.
Chuck nodded. 'Yeah, I'm starting to think you've got a point about outdoor activities.'
'Does that mean you're coming white-water rafting next month?' Devon asked, raising an eyebrow.
'Heh, no, I think I'll work my way up a little more gently. You know, camping, hiking, a little swimming, then way, way in the future, white-water rafting. Right before paragliding, surfing and base jumping.' Chuck smiled.
'Thank you for the extremely generous invitation, though.'
'Well, whenever you're ready, just say the word, bro,' Devon said seriously. 'I'll be happy to organise a trip.'
'Right now, the only trip I'm making is the one to work,' Chuck sighed. 'Anyone catch the traffic report yet?'
Ellie shook her head. 'Not so far.' She stood up to get more coffee.
There was a knock at the door. 'I'll get it,' Ellie said, crossing the room. 'I wonder who that is... Oh!' She opened the door wide. 'Hi, John,' she said awkwardly. 'I, uh, I thought you weren't due back for another couple of days?'
Casey, dressed in his regular Greenshirt attire, filled the doorway. 'I wasn't supposed to be, but my commanding officer got hurt on a live-fire exercise, so it was cut short. I thought I'd come see if Chuck wanted to carpool.'
'I hope your CO wasn't hurt too badly,' Ellie said, eyeing Casey warily. 'When did you get back? I didn't notice any lights over at your place.'
'After midnight,' Casey said. 'I was trying to be quiet, didn't want to wake the neighbours.' Looking over at Chuck, he added, 'You ready to go?'
Chuck swallowed hastily. 'Yeah, sure, big guy. Just let me get my keys.' He headed for his room, swiftly followed by Ellie.
'Are you going to talk with him?' she asked. 'Because Devon and I can always get out of the way, give you some space.'
'Thanks for the offer, Ellie, but I'm sure we'll get chance to talk at some point today. If I'm late home, don't get worried, all right?' Chuck reassured his sister, picking up his wallet, phone and keys.
'Okay. Good luck,' Ellie said, giving him a quick hug. 'Let me know how it goes, okay?'
Chuck nodded. 'Thanks, Ellie,' he said, moving back through to the living room. 'Have a great day, guys.' With that, he walked out into the courtyard where Casey was waiting.
'So, how was life in the military?' he asked loudly.
Casey put a hand on his shoulder. 'A lot more organised than the Buy More,' he said gruffly, his gaze dropping from Chuck's eyes to his lips.
'Well, we all missed you at work,' Chuck smiled. 'I think Big Mike is planning on never letting you take time off again. I... I missed you.' He gazed back at the older man and unconsciously wet his lips, tongue flicking out to pass over first his top, then his bottom lip. With a grunt, Casey took a step towards Chuck and kissed him hard for just a second before stepping back.
'Come on, or we'll be late,' he said gruffly, and strode out of the courtyard. Chuck stared after him for a moment, then followed, wearing the biggest grin Ellie had ever seen on her brother's face.
Standing just inside the doorway, Ellie leaned against Devon as he put his arms around her. 'Oh my god,' she said. 'Did you see that?'
'Totally awesome,' Devon nodded. 'Totally awesome.'
The Buy More was just opening up when Chuck and Casey pulled into the parking lot.
'Your new Nerd Herder should be here this afternoon,' Casey said, locking the car. 'Try not to wreck it.'
'You spoke to the General?' Chuck asked as they strolled towards the doors.
'Yeah, told her I had to come back to maintain my cover,' Casey said, holding open the door for Chuck to go through.
'Was she okay with that? With us?' Chuck asked anxiously.
'She's waiting to see how it pans out,' Casey said, looking around the store. 'Look sharp, Grimes at ten o'clock.'
Morgan came barreling up to Casey talking a mile a minute. 'Hey there, John, good to see you back, man. Big Mike has been kicking our asses over sales these last two weeks. If you could, you know, move a couple of BeastMaster grills today that'd be a big help. Plus that kid, you know, the one with the purple stripe in his hair? He's been back twice and he has those ninja shoplifting skills but we can't catch him at it. I have this gut feeling he's going to be back in today because we just got a shipment in of the latest Tony Hawks game and he has 'skater-boi' written all over him.'
Casey allowed himself to be shepherded over to where Big Mike was assembling the staff. 'I banned that kid,' he said to Morgan, taking his place at one end of the line. 'If he shows up, he won't know what hit him.' He grinned at the prospect of a little violence.
Chuck stood beside Casey, enjoying the big man's presence. Their fingers brushed, and Chuck smiled as Casey gave his hand a brief squeeze. He tuned out Big Mike's briefing , which consisted of a minor rant about selling more and bothering him less. As he dismissed them Big Mike stopped in front of them.
'Casey. Good to see you back. You could use some of that military training to whip these losers into shape.' The manager scowled. 'It's been chaos.'
Casey nodded. 'I'll get right on it,' he said with an evil grin.
The store was surprisingly full for a Thursday daytime and the staff were kept busy with a constant stream of enquiries. That didn't stop them watching Chuck and Casey at every opportunity, although the two were kept just as busy and had no time to talk.
In a brief lull close to lunchtime, Anna leaned over the Nerd Herd desk.
'So?' she asked sweetly.
Chuck looked up from a recalcitrant mobile phone.
'John Casey's back in town. Early.' She stretched out the word, almost purring. 'Did you welcome your soldier home, salute his flag?'
'I, uh...' Chuck felt his cheeks grow warm. His eyes automatically skipped across the store looking for Casey, who was nowhere in his line of sight.
Anna laughed as Chuck jumped. 'You have to stop sneaking up on me like that,' the young man complained.
'Time for lunch,' Casey said, looking at Chuck with a heated gaze that made his throat go dry. 'Coming?'
'Anna, you're on the desk.' Chuck said, following Casey towards the front of the store.
'Take your time, guys!' she called after them.
Over at Orange Orange, Chuck and Casey had to wait until a customer had been served before slipping behind the counter and down to the secret spy base, where Sarah joined them as soon as she had flipped the sign to 'Back in 5 minutes'.
Standing at the top of the stairs, she watched for a moment as Chuck smiled at Casey and the agent laid a hand on his arm briefly before checking quickly through the surveillance feeds.
'How's the cover coming along?' she asked, smiling as she walked down the stairs.
Chuck glanced at Casey and smiled. 'Well, I think,' he said. 'I feel like everyone's been staring at us all morning.'
Casey looked round at Sarah. 'Anything come up, Agent Walker?'
Sarah filled Casey in on everything that had happened over the past couple of weeks, pretending he didn't already know, while Chuck ate his sandwich.
'I'm not officially back until Saturday,' Casey said as they went back upstairs. 'But if anything comes up, I expect you to call me.'
Sarah flipped the sign back to 'Open' and held the door open. She followed them outside and stopped them before they could head back to the Buy More.
'Chuck... I'm sorry it didn't work out between us,' she said, pulling him into a hug. She kissed him on the cheek, then let him go. 'I'm glad we can still be friends, though. And you, John...' She tugged the surprised agent down for a hug too. 'You take care of Chuck for me, you hear? Don't break his heart.' When he tried to pull back, she whispered, 'I mean it, John, take care of him. It's okay to let yourself love him.'
Awkwardly, Casey hugged Sarah back. 'Later, Walker,' he said gruffly. 'We'd better get back.'
'Bye, Sarah,' Chuck said with a little smile. She watched as they crossed the parking lot together, shoulders occasionally touching. They clearly looked as though they belonged together.
Entering the Buy More together, Casey placed a hand on the small of Chuck's back, guiding him straight over to the Home Theatre room.
'What's up?' Chuck asked as the agent quickly shut the door behind them and pulled the curtains.
'This,' Casey growled, pulling Chuck into a long, hard kiss.
Chuck pressed himself against the older man, meeting Casey's tongue thrust for thrust as the agent's strong hands came up to tangle in Chuck's hair. Chuck clung to Casey's green polo shirt as they devoured each other's mouths. Neither of them noticed the door open a couple of inches, or the hand with a camcorder that appeared between the curtains. They broke apart when the hand disappeared abruptly with a thump and a squawk.
'What was that?' Chuck gasped, looking round dazedly.
'Stay here,' Casey said, reaching for his modified barcode scanner. He whipped back the curtains, revealing Lester sprawled on the floor with Morgan sitting on his chest tugging at the camcorder which Lester refused to relinquish.
'What the hell's going on here?' Casey growled, yanking the door open.
Lester paled as he caught sight of the angry man and Morgan looked round.
'I've got it all under control,' Morgan said, finally pulling the camcorder out of Lester's hands. Getting to his feet he danced backwards away from the prone nerd, hastily switching the camcorder off. 'There's nothing to see, all taken care of!'
Casey's head whipped round just in time to see the bank of tvs go black. With a snarl, he grabbed the front of Lester's shirt, pulling the terrified man to his feet. As he drew his fist back, Chuck threw open the door and dived for his arm.
'No, no, no, don't hit him!' Chuck babbled, hanging onto the big man's elbow.
'He was taping us. With a live feed to the Wall,' Casey growled, eyes not leaving Lester's face.
'And I'm betting he's not going to do that again ever,' Chuck reassured him. 'Right, Lester?'
'R-right!' Lester stammered. 'Never!'
'If you do, I'll make sure they never find your body,' Casey snarled, then let go of Lester's shirt, sending the little man sprawling. He looked across the store, at the customers who were staring curiously at the trio. Just as he took a step forwards, the main door opened and a teenager sauntered in, purple-striped hair standing spiked over the cocky grin on his face. He caught sight of the scowling Greenshirt, froze, then turned and sprinted out of the store.
'At least someone has a sense of self-preservation,' Chuck said, clapping Casey on the shoulder.
The big man grunted disappointedly as they headed for the Nerd Herd desk. As Chuck took his place behind the desk, ignoring the applause from the cluster of Nerds and Greenshirts, Casey leaned in close.
'Seven o'clock, dinner, my place. Don't be late.'
Chuck smiled up at the big man; eyes filled with desire as he gazed at his colleague, agent, handler in all senses of the word: his lover. 'I'll be there.'
Casey bent and dropped the briefest of kisses on Chuck's lips. 'I'll be waiting,' he murmured, then straightened. Chuck watched as he strode off through the store.
Morgan came to stand at Chuck's shoulder, flicking open the camcorder and setting it to play. Wordlessly they watched as a tiny Chuck and Casey kissed soundlessly on the camcorder's screen for a few seconds before the camera jerked back, then, carefully, Morgan deleted the footage.
'Thanks, buddy,' Chuck said gratefully.
'No problem,' Morgan said. 'Just remember, I get to be your best man.'
Later that night, curled up around the older man, Chuck relayed Morgan's words.
Casey chuckled. 'Best man, huh?'
'I didn't have the heart to tell him I haven't actually asked you out yet,' Chuck confessed.
'Huh,' Casey said, stroking Chuck's shoulder. 'You were going to ask me?'
Chuck smiled. 'John Casey, would you go out with me? Be my boyfriend as well as the guy who repeatedly saves my life?'
'You mean your ass is mine?' Casey grinned.
'In all senses of the word.' Chuck confirmed.
'Try and stop me,' Casey said, pulling Chuck on top of him, kissing him passionately, and thoroughly claiming Chuck's ass.