Disclaimer: In no way, shape or form do I own Chuck or profit from this little fic.
A/N: I don't really know where this came from. I never expected to write any Chuck fic. But I really like the idea of John/Ellie, so that's what this is. Please take a quick second to let me know what you think!
Ellie wasn't usually one to cuss. Out loud, anyway. She was a woman very much in control of herself, and if any blue language came from between her lips it was usually pre-meditated. So she stood at the microwave a full ten seconds before putting her hands on her hips and sighing out a 'dammit'.
Usually, too, her swear words had a target audience, and this was no less true today. Sure enough, from across the kitchen, Devon turned towards her. He had a huge sandwich in his hand and had to swallow before speaking.
"What's wrong, babe?"
"The microwave won't run." She turned toward him and thrust her thumb over her shoulder. "It's been acting funny, lately. Can you take a look at it?"
Her fiancé stared at her before setting down his sandwich and walking across the floor. "I'm a doctor, not an electrician," he reminded her, nevertheless bending over the appliance. Ellie watched him fondly. If she asked something of him he'd always give it a try, even if he didn't know what he was doing. He had a good heart, Devon did.
And he definitely didn't know what he was doing. He punched a few buttons, unplugged and re-plugged the cord, and tried to tinker around underneath. Finally, though, he turned to her with a shrug.
"Don't know," he admitted. "Maybe you should have Chuck look at it."
"Chuck's out of town until Monday," Ellie returned. Devon nodded; Chuck had mentioned at dinner last night that he and Sarah were going camping this weekend, and indeed, this morning bright and early Sarah had appeared at their door and the two of them had gone off in a vehicle loaded down with all kinds of paraphernalia. Not all of it had looked like camping paraphernalia, but Ellie had never been much of a camper. Neither had Chuck, actually, and Sarah didn't strike her as the type. Strange.
"You could always ask that scrubby friend of his." Devon reached for the remainder of his sandwich.
"Morgan? Thanks, but no thanks," Ellie shook her head. She didn't feel like dealing with creepy little Morgan on one of her rare Saturdays off, without Chuck around to distract him.
Devon wolfed the rest of his lunch down. "Try that other one, the big one," he suggested when he'd finished. "Saw him out this morning, don't think he's working today."
"Sure. He lives right next door, try him." Devon was searching the countertop, swiping his hand around corners. Ellie reached for the keys that were next to the soap dispenser and dropped them into his palm.
"I think Mr. Casey does sales, not service." Ellie followed Devon into the living room and watched as he stuffed his feet into his shoes.
"So? Guy looks like he'd know his way around a hammer." Devon straightened up. "Most single men'll do anything for the pretty girl next door. Just wear a skirt, and when he opens the door widen your eyes, talk softly and look kind of helpless."
Ellie blinked. "Are you telling me to go over to the neighbor's house and flirt, Devon?"
He chuckled. "No, I'm just saying be a little feminine. You don't have to pour it on thick ... he's one of those knight-in-shining armor guys. You can tell he likes to help out the damsel in distress."
Ellie rolled her eyes. "I'm not in distress, Devon, except at the idea that you might not mind me flirting with some random guy."
"I got no worries, babe. I trust you completely. Gotta go, I'll be late." He bent to give her cheek a quick kiss and then left.
Ellie stared at the door he closed behind him, frowning. She was a little disgruntled, but wasn't sure exactly why. Sometimes his breezy, the-world-is-my-oyster attitude just got to her. "Wear a skirt, look helpless, I trust you completely?" she muttered, turning back to the kitchen to clean up the mess he'd made getting their late lunch ready. "Talk softly?" Was he saying her normal speaking tone was harsh or abrasive? "Be a little feminine?" That wasn't the only comment he'd made lately about her appearance. She looked down at the plain T-shirt and jeans she currently wore. So she didn't usually run around in frills and lace ... hey, she was a doctor, scrubs were de rigueur; was it so bad to want to throw on a comfortable pair of jeans on her day off? When they went out she dressed up pretty well, thank-you-very-much. It wasn't her fault that they hadn't really been out anywhere nice in ... well, awhile. She had to stop and think, actually, about how long it had been.
But by the time she was wiping the counter down, Ellie was feeling a little sheepish about her petulance. It wasn't Devon's fault, after all, that their schedules weren't jiving well lately. Or that they hadn't had a decent bout of sex in a good while. He was stressing about something, she was sure, though he hadn't yet opened up to her about whatever it was. She wouldn't push him, she decided, flinging the cloth into the sink. He'd tell her when he was ready, all in good time. They were just having a bit of a rough patch, that was all. She'd take his advice and run across to ask John Casey for help with the microwave.
She wasn't going to change into a skirt, though.
* * * * *
Ellie knocked on the door and took a step back, folding her cold hands into one another. Devon's remarks were making her unaccountably nervous about a silly little thing like asking a neighbor for a favor. A few moments passed before the door opened soundlessly inward. She concentrated on not widening her eyes the least smidgeon, and pasted a friendly but decidedly not flirty smile on her face.
Then the door cleared the person standing behind it, and she lost the smile and her eyes widened way past the flirty stage. Naked. That was the only thought in her head ... that he'd come and opened the door naked.
After her brain had a moment to get un-dazzled, though, she saw that wasn't precisely true. He did wear a pair of athletic shorts. That was all, though, and they were hard to notice against all that array of skin. Skin and muscle. Lovely, smooth skin and beautifully bulging toned muscle.
She'd never really noticed John Casey in just this way before. She wasn't sure she'd ever noticed anyone with this intensity before. What he normally wore around her must detract a lot from his assets. She'd briefly noticed his baby-blues and lovely smile when she'd met him, and that had been about it. Well, there was that one time at the Buy-More that she'd been admiring the ass ... ets of an employee bent over a boxed television, and when he'd straightened up and shown himself to be her brother's friend she'd blushed a little and glanced away before he caught her ogling him.
Right now, though, she felt bushwhacked. Sideswiped. Bulldozed. Those blue eyes seemed electric, somehow, with the skin crinkling around them, and the well-formed lips were gorgeous and ... and moving.
He was talking. What?
"What can I do for you?" he asked, speaking a bit slowly and a bit loudly. As though this wasn't the first time he'd said it.
"Oh ... uh." She really needed to say something and for the life of her couldn't think why she was here. "How are you, Mr. Casey?" Yeah, say something normal. Maybe it would help if she didn't glance below his neck.
"You can call me John."
He'd told her that before, she recalled. "OK, OK sure. I'm Ellie." Brilliant, Ellie. That's Ok, though, just be normal. He shifted his stance, folding his arms across his chest, and distracted her. Bad, bad eyes, no looking below the neck!
"Yes, I know." His voice was devoid of amusement, and his face looked set in stone, but one eyebrow had twitched up and down. He didn't say anything more. A man of few words, John Casey.
"Right." She searched desperately for another topic of conversation, and for a way not to stare at the sleek, toned belly showing below his arms. "Been working out?"
He dropped his arms and glanced down at himself. "Yeah, sorry, I'm a little sweaty."
"No, no, you're fine. You're very fine." Shut up, shut up, what is wrong with you?
He squinted at her a little. He was probably confused, and rightly so. She sounded like an idiot.
"Can I help you with something, Ellie?"
And, that wasn't the first time he'd asked the question. She mentally thumped herself across the forehead, silently promised she'd do it again later for real, and took a breath, trying to gather her scattered wits. "Yes, actually, I came over to ask a favor." Her voice had gotten rather breathy. Soft, in fact. She cleared her throat and talked louder. "My microwave seems to be on the fritz. I was wondering if you could take a look at it? That is, if you know anything about appliances."
He shrugged one shoulder. "Guess I could give it a shot. Hang on a sec." He stepped back into the interior of the house and shut the door.
Ellie turned around and moved some steps away, fulfilling her promise to give her forehead a good thump. Then she did it again, for good measure, and took a couple of deep breaths. What in Hades was wrong with her? She'd never turned into Ms. Head-Full-of-Rocks at the sight of a well-muscled man before! Devon, in point of fact, wasn't exactly a 90-pound weakling; he was nicely muscled indeed. But she'd never ...
Best not to go there, she decided hastily. The door behind her was opening again. John came through it. He'd pulled on a T-shirt. Thank God. She mustered up a smile, and John quirked one corner of his mouth up in return. Shame he didn't use his beautiful full one, but the half-smile was sexy too.
Stop that. Just stop. "Ridiculous."
John cocked his head at her. "Sorry?"
Damn it, she'd spoken out loud. "Ah, it's ridiculous. The microwave not working, I mean. It's only ... eight years old."
"Eight years is long enough for an appliance to wear out," he advised her gravely, as though he was informing her of the importance of looking both ways before crossing. "You may want to consider getting a new one."
"Well, maybe," Ellie hedged. She had no idea, at the moment, how old the microwave actually was. "Let's see if anything can be done for it first."
They were at her door. She fumbled it open and they stepped inside. She welcomed the coolness of the air conditioning on her heated face.
"Right here," she gestured, leading the way into the kitchen where the microwave sat on the countertop. "Do you need any tools?"
"Maybe. What's it doing?" He programmed a few minutes in and hit 'start' while Ellie pulled open a cupboard and placed a screwdriver and pliers within his reach.
"That. It does nothing. The display looks like it should be running, but ..." Ellie shrugged. Here in her own house, she was feeling more self-assured, more together. She must have had a momentary attack of insanity at his door, that was all. A brief flare-up of lust, nothing serious. Probably happened to other people all the time.
Damn it, again. She had to get past this new talking-out-loud-by-accident problem.
"Er, microwaves breaking down. Happens to people all the time, right?"
"I ... suppose." He gave her a puzzled look and upended the microwave. She tried to ignore the very nice bulge of his arms as he did so. She also tried to ignore this new view of his backside. It was an excellent backside, exactly the right size and shape, and parts of her lower anatomy seemed to be liquefying. Ellie licked her lips and sighed. John glanced around and caught her staring at nothing, leaning on a counter while he worked and heaving sighs like she was in some 1940s drama. He was probably thinking Chuck's sister was a loon. And who could blame him? Maybe she should apologize. Yeah, right. What was she going to say? 'Pardon me, I'm a lot turned on right now'?
"What??" That was John's voice, and it cracked. He straightened up from the microwave and moved an abrupt step in her direction. Oh, no, please God, no she had not said that out loud ...
"You're a lot ... what?" His voice was raspy, and he was staring, and there was something dark and hot in his eyes. Her stomach muscles quivered and she had to get out of here. Right now.
"Ex – excuse me," she squeaked, before whirling on legs that were numb, and dashing from the room.
* * * *
She ended up in the bathroom, not by design, and found herself leaning on the counter over the sink staring sightlessly into the mirror. What had she just done, and how in hell had she done it? Had someone slipped something into her lunchtime coffee? No, that would have to have been Devon, dear dimwitted Devon who trusted her completely. He was a stand-up guy who'd never dream of something so underhanded. So it only remained that she had herself to blame. Somehow she and her hormones had gotten herself into this position, and she'd have to get herself out.
She wasn't sure how long she stood there, blinking into the mirror, mulling over what she needed to go out and say to John. She just needed to be honest. "I'm experiencing an inexplicable physical attraction" ... all right, so it wasn't inexplicable, it was completely reasonable given his state of physical fitness. "I'm experiencing an inexplicably intense physical attraction ..." no, better not say that, he'd think he could have her at the snap of his fingers. Which he definitely couldn't. She was an engaged woman. A faithful engaged woman.
That thought sobered her. She splashed some cool water onto her face and straightened away from the sink, looking herself firmly in the eye. "Go out there and face him," she told her reflection. "And stop talking to yourself."
She moved back toward the kitchen with a sense of dread. Maybe he'd gone home, she thought. That'd be nice ... maybe they could just move on and the next time they saw each other from across the street or the yard or the store or the room they could pretend she'd never said what she said. The room was silent as she neared it, and her hopes rose.
But there he was, lovely tapered torso reclining back while his hips rested against her counter. Looking like he belonged there. The room would never be the same for her after this.
She halted across the room from him, not certain what to say. Her gaze halted and stuttered between his and their surroundings, but his didn't waver. She offered a weak smile.
"It's running," he said in reply, gesturing at the microwave that had started all her troubles. "There's a short in the panel. I did a temporary fix, but you'll want to replace the panel pretty soon, if you don't plan to get a new microwave."
"Thanks," she responded lamely. When she didn't say anything else, John levered himself away from the counter and headed out of the kitchen. Toward her. She hastily moved out of his way and followed him to the front door. He paused there a moment, eyed her as though he was about to say something, then apparently thought better of it. He was reaching for the doorknob when she reached for his arm.
She stopped short of touching him, thinking that would be a really bad idea, but he must have seen her movement because he didn't open the door. Instead he pivoted toward her and looked down, silently. She met his eyes and swallowed.
"I want to apologize for what I said earlier," she sighed. He regarded her steadily. "I don't know what my problem is today, because usually I'm not like this."
He knew, did he? How, exactly?
"Chuck talks about you. You're the level-headed one, the adult, the caregiver."
The caregiver. Ellie's brows furrowed. She wasn't sure she liked the sedate and boring sound of that.
"You're the giver, period," John added in a lower tone. She wasn't sure about that statement, either, but more because she wasn't quite certain what he meant.
"I just want you to know that ... me saying things, like I said back there" - she waved vaguely in the direction of the kitchen – "that won't happen again."
He cocked his head, calm and steady as a rock, a sharp contrast to her frayed nerves. That wasn't fair at all. Then he reached out, gently catching a strand of hair that was curling over her face, and tucking it away slowly. His hand lingered, tracing the curve of her ear with a deliberate motion, and then trailing down the side of her neck lightly but with a scrape of calluses. She swallowed hard. His warm dry fingers paused in the juncture of her neck and shoulder, just over her pulse, so there was no way that he didn't know how it pounded. He probably knew she was light-headed and about to hyperventilate, too.
She'd been frozen, staring up into his blue blue eyes this whole time, eyes that watched her every move and every reaction to what he was doing. But now she swallowed again, summoned every last drop of will power in her being, and stepped back from him. It felt like scaling a mountain, that step, and he let her go, dropping his hand to his side. She moved her lips and finally got a whisper to pass through them.
"I don't cheat." If he hadn't been standing so close, he wouldn't have been able to hear her.
He nodded, once, slowly. "And I don't poach." His voice was rough. Now it was his gaze that dropped. He turned his head to the door. After a second he reached for the doorknob. It turned, and he went through, and pulled it shut carefully behind him.
For the second time that day Ellie stood staring at a closed door.