I know, I said I was going to take a break and read some other fics before writing my next one. But this one popped into my head, grabbed my by the throat and said, Write me!" What could I do. Updates on this one will not be as frequent as my last fic, because I need to sleep sometime.
CHUCK VERSUS A NORMAL LIFE
The alarm flashed over from 6:59 to 7:00 and Huey Lewis and the News' "I Want a New Drug," began blasting out of the speaker. Chuck moaned and reached over to slap at the alarm clock. Last night's mission had actually ended early, but Chuck had lay awake in bed late into the night with too many thoughts swirling through his mind. After the briefing before the mission last night, his quest for a normal life, free of the Intersect, seemed farther away than ever. Beckman had informed them that Fulcrum had somehow managed to upload a trojan into the files of the new Gamma Intersect and all the information had been corrupted. It would take months, at least, to rebuild the data.
"Get comfortable, Bartowski," Casey had said. "Looks like another exiting year at the Buy More."
Sarah, at least, had been gentler. "Look at it this way, Chuck," she had said. "Every resource Fulcrum uses to go after the Gamma Intersect is one less that can be used to go after you." He wished that had made him feel better, but he appreciated her trying.
He sat up on the edge of the bed and stretched. Another boring day in his boring life at the Buy More. If only he wasn't the Intersect. He could get on with his life.
He heard a female groan from behind him and his eyes went wide. "Do you have the early shift today, honey?" he heard a sleepy female voice ask. Ever so slowly, Chuck turned and looked behind him. Sarah was snuggled under the covers, her golden hair cascading across Chuck's pillow.
"Sarah?" he gasped. "What… What are you doing here?"
Sarah sat up, yawning and stretching in a way that made Chuck almost forget his own name. "Don't you remember, sweetie?" she asked. "I didn't think you had that much to drink. Ellie and I had a little too much wine last night and you insisted that I spend the night instead of driving home." She leaned over and ran her hands down and back up his arms in such an intimate way that it sent shivers down his spine. Her hands resting on his shoulders, she leaned in and whispered conspiratorially in his ear, her warm breath tickling his ear. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I love every excuse I get to spend the night."
Chuck sprang to his feet. "Sarah! What's gotten into you?"
Sarah looked genuinely confused. "What do you mean, Chuck? Are you okay?"
"I… I need to take a shower," he said, and bolted from the room. 'A very cold shower,' he was thinking as he sprinted into the bathroom.
Chuck stood under the freezing water and wracked his brain. He clearly remembered the mission last night: they had tracked a GLA employee trying to sell the designs for a new laser to a meeting with a North Korean agent and arrested them both. And he certainly couldn't forget Beckman's news about the Gamma Intersect.
He shivered a bit at the cold water, but it was having the desired effect. He was certainly wide awake now and other… embarrassments… had gone away. He toweled off and looked at himself in the mirror. Given his shifts at the Buy More and all the time he was spending on missions, it was no wonder he was a little loopy. He wrapped the towel around his waist and tiptoed to his room. He slowly opened the door and peeked inside. He saw no sign of the soul-stealing succubus masquerading as Sarah, so he opened the door a little wider. Still no sign of Sarah. He signed with relief and opened the door the rest of the way, when he heard a voice behind him. "Chuck, what are you doing?" He jumped.
He recognized the voice as Sarah's but chanted to himself, 'Please be Ellie, Please be Ellie," as he slowly turned around. Sarah was standing in the hallway, dressed in one of his t-shirts, a cup of coffee in her hand. "Are you feeling all right?" she asked and reached out a hand to feel his forehead.
"Fine, fine," he said, backing into the room to avoid her touch. "Just running late. Gotta get dressed for work."
Sarah gave him a very puzzled look. "You have plenty of time, Chuck," she said. "In fact, I've never seen you up and in the shower so fast."
"Oh, well, I, uh, need to get in a little early. A bunch of invoices to log in before I do service calls. You know, getting behind because of all the missions."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "You know, if you spent less time on your 'missions' you wouldn't have to spend so much make up time at work."
Chuck looked at her as if she had just said the sky was made of marzipan. "Well, it's not like I have a lot of choice."
She gave him an exasperated look. "Of course you do. Just tell Morgan that Call of Duty can wait."
Now Chuck was completely confused. "Call of Duty?" he asked.
"Or whatever 'missions' you're running this week. You know, Chuck, some times I think you prefer Morgan's company to mine."
Chuck just started at her. Was she actually pouting? Sarah Walker, super-spy, was pouting because she thought he was spending too much time with Morgan? He leaned to look past her to see if maybe Ellie was standing in the hallway and this was all part of their cover. Nope. No Ellie.
He straightened back up and looked at her. "I wasn't talking about video game missions," he said. "I meant spy missions." He whispered the last words in an overly dramatic fashion.
"Is that some new role-playing game you and Morgan are doing?" Sarah asked.
Chuck just looked at her. "I mean our spy missions," he said in a low voice, so Ellie and Awesome wouldn't hear.
Sarah raised an eyebrow, and smiled. "Well, Mr. Bartowski," she said seductively, running a hand up his arm, "if this is some new 'role playing' game just for us, I'd love to hear about it. We haven't had to resort to role playing in that department yet, but I'm always open to trying new things."
"It's a dream," Chuck said, closing his eyes.. "It's a dream. It's a dream." He opened his eyes to see Sarah looking at him quizzically. "Sarah, is this a dream?"
Her sly smile faded and she furrowed her brows. "Are you sure you're feeling all right?" she asked. "I want Ellie to take a look at you."
"I'm fine. I'm fine," Chuck reassured her. "Just have to get to work." He hurried in to his bedroom and shut the door so he could get dressed. He quickly dressed in his Nerd Herder uniform of black pants, white shirt and grey tie and put his pocket protector with his name on it in his pocket. He was sitting on his bed lacing up his Converse All Stars when there was a knock at the door.
"Yes?" he called.
The door opened and his sister, Ellie, entered his room. "Chuck, are you feeling all right? Sarah said you were acting strangely."
"I'm fine," he said. He paused and then quickly asked, "Ellie, what did we do last night?"
Ellie looked at him strangely. "You mean you don't remember?"
"Just humor me," he said.
"Well, we all went over to Bok Toi and had some Vietnamese, then we came home. Sarah and I had a little too much wine looking at Brides Magazine and you convinced her to spend the night so she wouldn't be driving." She looked at him with a worried frown. "Chuck, what's going on?"
"Nothing, sis," Chuck said. "Nothing. Just overly tired from… you know… everything."
"Maybe you should call in sick," Ellie said.
"No," Chuck said, a little too forcefully. "I mean, lots to do at the Buy More," he said with a nervous laugh. He grabbed his Nerd Herder bag and hurried out of the room. Sarah was in the kitchen sipping coffee and giggling at something Devon had said. "I'm, ah, off to work," he said.
"Woa, not cool, bro," Devon said. He held up some kind of green concoction. "Most important meal of the day."
"I'll, ah, grab something later," Chuck said, and started toward the door.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" Sarah asked. Chuck turned around and looked at her, confused.
She sauntered up to him, put her arms around his neck, and gave him a kiss that made his toes curl. He couldn't help dropping his bag and returning the kiss. After a few moments, she pulled away and smiled at him. "Stop by work and we'll have lunch, okay?" she asked.
"Um, yeah?" Chuck said, and turned to the door, a dazed but happy look on his face.
"Chuck," Sarah said. "Aren't you forgetting this?"
He turned around, half-hoping for another kiss. She held his bag out to him. "Have a good day, sweetie."
Chuck exited the apartment and leaned back against the door to catch his breath. "Wow," he said. His heart was beating a mile a minute he couldn't seem to uncurl his toes.
He heard a sound on the other side of the courtyard and saw John Casey, his NSA handler, stepping out of his apartment. He ran over to him. "Casey, Casey," he called.
Casey turned locked his door, then turned around and scowled at Chuck. "What is it, Bartowski?"
"Casey, listen, I think there's something wrong with Sarah."
Casey looked at him like he was some particularly uninteresting variety of bug. "Listen, Bartowski, I've told you before. Just because we work together doesn't mean we're friends. I have no desire to discuss your lady troubles with you."
"But it's Sarah," Chuck said.
"Yeah," Casey said. "And I'm not interested." He turned and walked off, leaving Chuck staring at his retreating back.
"Do do do do, do do do do," Chuck said, singing the Twilight Zone theme to himself.
Chuck hurried out to the Nerd Herder in time to see Casey pulling away in his Crown Victoria. "What the heck is going on?" he asked the sky above.
His drive to work was uneventful and he was relieved to enter the Buy More and see everything appeared normal. Okay, perhaps 'normal' was not a proper term to apply to the Buy More, but at least there weren't people with an extra eye in their forehead manning the cash registers.
"Ah, Bartowski," Emmett Milbarge said from behind him as Chuck punched in on the time clock. "Good to see my... I mean Big Mike's employees taking such an interest in their work." He leaned closer to Chuck and said in a faster but softer voice. "You realize of course that clocking in early without proper approval for overtime will not result in time and a half per Buy Employee Manual section 104.13(b)(2)(i)."
"Just trying to get caught up on some invoices, Emmitt," Chuck said, trying to keep the disgust out his voice.
"I wasn't aware the invoices were behind." His voice went up half an octave. "No one told me the invoices were behind!" He ran down the hall.
"Dude, you shouldn't mess with Emmett like that," Chuck heard Morgan say from behind him. "I swear, one day that dude's head is just going to explode."
"Morgan. Buddy," Chuck said turning around. "Little buddy, am I glad to see you."
"Well, likewise oh wise and benevolent leader of the Buymoria resistance movement," Morgan said. "What's up?"
"Up? Up? Nothing's up," Chuck said nervously. "Why would you think something was up?"
"Dude, you been nipping at my Red Bull?" Morgan asked. "You're jumpier than Emmitt when he forgets Big Mike's donuts."
"I'm just tired, Morgan," Chuck said.
"Ah," Morgan said, giving a knowing nod. "Sarah spent the night again last night. Dude, no problem. We'll cover for you today. I'll alert the troops." Morgan saluted, turned and marched off down the hall. Chuck stared after him. Had everyone gone completely insane?
He tried several time during the morning to talk to Casey, until finally Casey threatened him with bodily harm if Chuck didn't leave him alone.
Finally, at lunch, Chuck walked over to the Orange Orange. Sarah smiled at him when he walked in and then turned back to the two customers she was helping. Chuck waited until she was finished and then she surprised him by coming out from behind the counter to give him a quick kiss. "Hi, Chuck," she said. "Ready for lunch?"
"Sure," he said.
Sarah turned and yelled into the back. "Bridget, I'm taking my lunch."
"Okay," came a voice from the back.
"Who was that?" Chuck asked.
"Why, Bridget, silly," Sarah said. "Who else would it be?" as if that answered everything." They stepped out of the yogurt shop and Sarah slipped her arm in Chuck's. "So what do you feel like?" she asked. "How about Sbarro?"
"Um, fine," Chuck said, glancing over his shoulder at the young brunette in the Orange Orange outfit coming out from the back room of the yogurt shop.
Chuck got a calzone at Sbarro and Sarah got a salad. They sat at one of the outside tables.
"So when did this Bridget start?" Chuck asked. "Is she an agent, too?"
"An agent?" Sarah asked. "Chuck, what are you talking about?"
"You know, CIA, NSA, DEA, whichever A they're getting yogurt girls from these days."
Sarah looked at him, confused. "Chuck, you've been acting weird since this morning. Are you sure you didn't hit your head or something?"
"No, I didn't hit my head," he said, starting to sound irritated. "What's wrong with everybody? This isn't funny."
"Chuck," Sarah asked, "tell me what you're talking about."
Chuck leaned in and lowered his voice so that no one could hear. "I'm talking about the Intersect. Team Bartowski. General Beckman and the NSA. Bryce Larkin. Any of this ringing a bell?"
"Bryce?" Sarah asked. "Isn't that your old roommate that got you kicked out of Stanford?"
"And your old partner at the CIA," Chuck said.
"The CIA!" Sarah said. "Okay, Chuck. This isn't funny any more. I want you to take the rest of the day off and go see Ellie or Devon. You're talking crazy."
"I am not crazy!" Chuck said. "You're a CIA agent. John Casey is NSA. You're here to protect me because Bryce sent me an email with the Intersect. I have all the government's secrets in my head."
Sarah took Chuck's hand. "Chuck. I'm sorry. I have no idea what you're talking about. I work at a Yogurt shop. Yes, John Casey, is retired Air Force but he's never mentioned working for the NSA, although I guess that's possible. He doesn't talk about much of anything. But the Insect? Government secrets?"
"Intersect," Chuck corrected, a little more forcefully than he intended. He lowered his voice. "I can prove it to you."
"How?" Sarah asked.
"Come with me," Chuck said, taking her hand and pulling her back toward the Orange Orange. Chuck was walking so fast that she had to jog a little to keep up. Bridget, behind the counter, gave them a strange look as Chuck pulled Sarah through the door, behind the counter and into the freezer. He faced a grating, grabbed a wall sconce and tried to turn it. It wouldn't budge. "It must be stuck," he said, pulling on the sconce. When it wouldn't budge, he tried prying at the grate. It, likewise, wouldn't move.
"It's here!" he said. "Why won't it open?"
"What is, Chuck?" Sarah asked. "What's here?"
"The entrance to the Castle."
"The Castle?" she said. "As in knights and ladies and wizards?"
He gave her a look of irritation. "Of course not knights and ladies and… Look, this is the entrance to the Castle. That's what we call the secret base under the Orange Orange that the CIA built. It extends from here to the Buy More…" He snapped his fingers. "The Buy More!"
He ran out of the freezer. Sarah following after him shouting, "Chuck! Wait!"
Chuck ran into the Buy More and through the store. Two stoners watched him run through. "Woah," one said. "Computer emergency."
Chuck ran into the Buy More break room and began pulling on the middle set of lockers. Like the wall sconce at the Orange Orange, they wouldn't budge. Just as Sarah was about to enter, he ran out and ran over to the home theater room and began searching the floor. Sarah watched him with alarm. "What are you looking for?" she asked.
"The trap door," he said. "I used it when I led Leader and Jill out of the Castle."
A voice came from the couch, "Cool." Jeff rose up from where he had been napping. "Dibs on whatever he's on."
Sarah reached down and grabbed Chuck's arm. "Come on, Chuck,"
"It's here!" he said. "I know it's here."
"Chuck. It's okay. I believe you. Just come with me," Sarah said gently.
Sarah led Chuck out of the home theater room. A crowd had gathered, drawn by Chuck's anguished cries. Big Mike stood in the doorway to his office. "What's all this ruckus?" he bellowed.
"Big Mike," Sarah said to him. "Chuck's not feeling well. I'm taking him home."
"It's not contagious, is it?" Big Mike asked nervously, taking a step back. "I have to preserve the temple." He indicated his body.
Sarah ignored him and led Chuck out of the store.
"Come on, sweetie," she said, pulling him toward her car. Chuck looked at her, confused.
"What's happening to me?" he asked.
Jeff and Lester stood in the doorway of the Buy More, watching Sarah lead Chuck away. "I always knew he'd snap," Lester said. "Just a matter of time."
"I get his locker if he doesn't come back," Jeff said.
"You know," Lester said, realization dawning. "This means the supervisorship of the Nerd Herd is open. I gotta go see Big Mike."
"You had your turn at command," Jeff said, pushing him aside and hurrying toward Big Mike's office. "My turn at the helm."
Lester leaped and knee-tackled Jeff. "No you don't, you inebriated oaf! This is my opportunity and I'm snatching it!"
"Not if I get there first," Jeff said, trying to push Lester off of him.
Sarah pulled up to the hospital. Chuck looked up at the building. "I'm fine, Sarah," he said. "There's nothing wrong with me."
"Please," Sarah said. "For me. Let's just go see Ellie."
Chuck sighed but he knew arguing was futile. He followed Sarah into the hospital. "Hi," Sarah said at the front desk. "We're looking for Doctor Ellie Bartowski. I wasn't sure where she was working today."
"She's down in the E.R.," the receptionist said. "Follow the red line on the floor."
"Thank you. We've visited her here before," Sarah said.
Chuck looked confused. He didn't remember Sarah ever coming to visit Ellie at work before. 'I guess she's talking about when Ellie was here after being poisoned, or the time she had the concussion,' he thought.
They wandered through the hospital until they got to E.R. admitting. "Hi," Sarah said again. "This is Doctor Bartowski's brother, Chuck. Is Ellie available?"
"Have a seat," the receptionist said. "I'll see."
They took a seat. Chuck was looking nervously around. All these sick people gave him the willies. That's why he hated visiting Ellie at work. The receptionist leaned out from behind her desk and said, "Doctor Bartowski is with a patient, but she'll be out in a minute."
A few minutes later, Ellie came out in her ubiquitous blue scrubs. Chuck and Sarah stood. "Sarah," she said, giving her a hug. "This is a surprise. Hi Chuck."
"Is there somewhere we can talk privately?" Sarah asked.
"Of course," Ellie replied. "Follow me."
"Why don't you wait for me here, Chuck?" Sarah said.
"But…" Chuck started to protest.
"It's okay, Chuck," Ellie said, looking a little confused and concerned.
Chuck sat sullenly down and looked around. There was a TV on in the corner. He turned to watch it. With any luck, he'd flash on something. That would prove he wasn't crazy.
A few minutes later, Ellie and Sarah came back out. "Why don't you come on back, Chuck?" Ellie asked.
"Really, I'm fine," Chuck said.
"Please Chuck. I just want to have a look at you. Sarah's worried about you," Ellie said.
With a heavy sigh, Chuck followed her back to an examination bed. Sarah followed along. Ellie pulled the screen around the bed to give them some privacy.
"Have you hit your head, recently, Chuck?" Ellie asked.
"No," Chuck replied.
"Any dizziness? Headaches?"
Ellie shined a light in his eyes to check the reaction of his pupils and then took his pulse and blood pressure.
"Have you taken anything recently; any drugs or anything like that?"
"Ellie!" Chuck said indignantly. "You know I wouldn't do anything like that."
"Please, Chuck," Sarah said, laying a hand on his arm. "Ellie's just trying to help."
The examination continued for another fifteen minutes.
"Chuck," Ellie said when she had finished a preliminary physical examination, "Tell me about the spies and the Castle."
"Spies? Castle?" Chuck said. "That's crazy talk." How could he tell Ellie about Sarah and Casey and the Intersect? He had spent two years keeping it secret from her.
Sarah looked at him with a puzzled look. Chuck sighed. He knew this just made him look even crazier.
"Chuck," Ellie said. "I want to do a CAT scan to see if there is anything wrong."
"No!" Chuck said. Then calmer, "I mean, there's nothing wrong with me. I'm fine. Perfectly fine. Never better. Can I go home now?"
"Chuck," Ellie said. "It would make Sarah and I both feel better."
Three hours later, after all the tests were completed and those for which results were available showing negative, Sarah took Chuck home.
Chuck unlocked the door and tossed his keys on the front table. Sarah followed him in and closed the door behind her. Chuck turned to face her and Sarah threw herself into his arms. "I was so worried," she said. "You were acting so strange." Chuck felt his shoulder grow wet from her tears.
He lifted her away from him for a moment and looked into her eyes. "I'm fine," he said. "Don't cry."
Sarah sniffed and wiped her eyes. "Are you hungry?" she asked.
"Are you offering to cook?" he asked, grinning.
"Well, I can dial a phone," she said, smiling but sniffing back her tears.
Chuck took her in his arms and hugged her close. But there was a troubled look on his face.
Sarah sat by Chuck's bedside, her eyes red from crying. The steady beep on the heart rate monitor and the low 'gush' of the ventilator were the only sounds in the room. Sarah was clutching Chuck's hand. The charm bracelet he had given her brushing his skin.
Ellie came in and laid a hand on Sarah's shoulder. "You should go home and get some rest," she said.
"No," Sarah said, drawing a shaky breath. "I want to be here when he wakes up."
"Sarah, we don't know how long that's going to be," Ellie said. 'If ever,' she added silently.
"It's all my fault," Sarah said, looking forlornly at Chuck's pallid face. "He was trying to save me."