CHAPTER 10

Chuck wanted to rub his face, but it hurt too much. He was glad to know that the gunshot he'd heard before passing out marked the death of his captor and not his best friend. It was one of the few times he could remember that he'd sustained legitimate injury before passing out, as opposed to being injured in the process. Sarah had called to update him, and tell him he had to come to San Diego with her and Casey. He felt more up to the drive than a night in the hospital, so he hadn't asked too many questions.

"I'm fine. Really," Chuck insisted, swatting the nurse away as she came to run more tests on him. "I promise, as soon as you stop poking me with needles, I'll stop passing out."

The nurse made a face, but left when Ellie came in. Chuck was so confused. His worlds had collided, even more dramatically than they had at Christmas. Scooting carefully out of the bed, and squeaking when his feet hit the cold floor, Chuck started looking for his clothes.

"I thought you'd want to know," Ellie said softly. "The police caught the man who took you and Morgan."

"Thanks," Chuck said. She didn't know the half of it, and he didn't know how to explain. He pulled his pants on and changed the subject. "How is Morgan?"

"Hitting on the nurses. Even the men," Ellie said with a smile.

"Gotta love morphine."

"He'll be fine," Ellie agreed. She placed a hand on his shoulder as he changed shirts. "Are you okay? I thought you'd be more freaked out."

"I took the training course," Chuck dismissed. When she gave him a funny look, he shrugged and explained. "Casey lost his toe Christmas Eve."

"Yeah …"

When she didn't look convinced, Chuck got more concerned. "Wh – How bad is Morgan hurt?"

"No. He's fine. I just …" Ellie trailed off, looking at him helplessly. "If you need to talk."

Chuck's heart melted in gratefulness. He realized that if any sane civilian had been through what he and Morgan had, he'd be freaked out. Chuck had been freaked out the first fifteen times, and he'd been freaked out this time, too. He wanted so desperately to talk, he'd just become so used to holding it in.

"Tomorrow," he promised, shrugging on his jacket and brushing past her to the door.

Ellie jumped up in protest. "Wait! Where do you think you are you going?!"

"Chuck, they released you already?" Devon asked, appearing from nowhere and blocking Chuck's path down the hall.

"No one has released anyone," Ellie said. "Chuck –"

"I have to go meet Casey," Chuck explained. "I'll come right back."

"He can meet you here," Ellie said firmly, pressing her palm against his chest to direct him back to his room.

"She's right, bro," Devon agreed. "You need to stay overnight."

"In a hospital!" Chuck balked, repulsed by the mere notion of sleeping in the vicinity of so many needles without having great need for any decent drugs. "First of all, no. And second, Casey kinda needs me right now."

"I can't believe he'd ask anything, knowing what you've been through," Ellie said. Chuck suppressed an ironic laugh, wondering what might happen if she only knew.

"He didn't ask." Chuck trailed off, trying to think of a way to phrase this so that he'd get their sympathy and be able to meet Sarah downstairs in time. "He'd probably tell me to stay away."

"Is this about the kid?" Devon asked, dropping his voice immediately and pulling them out of the hall and into an empty room for more privacy.

"A little," Chuck stammered. "Quincy's sister – Casey's taking her to, um …"

"He's reuniting them," Ellie finished.

"No, he – I – How do I …" Dear God, Chuck felt like he would burst with pain. He wished he could un-know this burden, and knowing it as he did, he really did think Casey needed him tonight. "Quincy didn't make it. He, um … didn't make…"

Ellie gasped sharply and covered her mouth. "Was it an allergic reaction to one of the medicines?"

"Was something ruptured from the crash?" Devon asked, his eyes going wide. "I knew he needed a cat scan."

Of course they would blame themselves. Chuck felt horrible. He should've gone with Ellie's happier story about Quincy being reunited with his sister, but then he'd have no excuse to go.

"No, guys. Nothing like that. He was killed. Shot."

They stared at him, speechless, and Chuck wished he'd thought of a lie to tell them instead.

"He had some bad people chasing after him," Chuck said. "Anyway, Casey's not handling it so well, so I'm… Sorry, I have to go, or I'll miss them."

*~*

Chuck picked at a hangnail, mulling over the events of the day, wondering how he would explain to Morgan about all the secrets he knew, or what he'd say to Ellie and Awesome about Quincy. He worried that Casey would kill him (or at least hurt him severely) for saying as much as he had, but it wasn't his fault that Ilsa had carried Quincy through his window and set the kid down in the middle of Chuck's life.

Casey wasn't ignoring him. This was different and far more severe. They'd been driving for three hours now. Chuck and Sarah were in the front, and Casey and Ilsa were in the back. Chuck watched Casey carefully using the vanity mirror on his visor, but it was hard to catch more than a glimpse here and there since it was dark out. Casey and Ilsa were separated and looking away from each other, too overwhelmed with shock to process the truth of what had happened to them. De Mer had tracked them down and killed Quincy. The ripples of emotion – shock mixed with anger – played across Casey's face, looking torturous in the shadows of passing street lights. It only took a second for a man to snap, and with traffic moving as slowly as it was, Chuck worried that Casey would jump out of the car and start shooting anything that moved.

Chuck's phone rang, startling him. It was Captain Awesome – probably worried because he hadn't come home yet. Debating with himself and deciding that the silence made him lonely, Chuck answered.

"Put John on," Devon requested somberly. Chuck checked Casey in the mirror.

"He's not much in the talking mood."

"He doesn't have to talk."

With a shrug, Chuck handed over the phone. Casey moved numbly, and summoned his voice, speaking with more strength than Chuck would've thought possible.

"Yeah."

For a few minutes, Casey held the phone to his ear and listened. Then he hung up and stared at the phone. The shocked look on his face faded, leaving only anger and guilt. He kept clenching his jaw. Whatever Devon had said, it helped. With a small shiver, Casey shook the whole thing off and Chuck could tell he'd buried the hurt in that little black box in his heart where he'd hidden all the other painful things that happened in his life.

Handing the phone back to Chuck, Casey sat straighter in the seat, now looking around with his normal level of alertness and ignoring Chuck in his usual way. Sometimes Chuck wished he could get over things as quickly as Casey, but he didn't want to become jaded. Casey fidgeted like he wanted to get out of the car and Chuck locked the doors.

Then Casey reached over and places his hand on Ilsa's. She bowed her head and quiet tears streamed down her face, splashing on Casey's fingers. Casey's eyes stayed dry and he looked alternately at Ilsa and the road ahead. Their hands clasped. Chuck expected her to break into sobs and fall woefully against Casey's chest, but she never did. They just sat there, grieving together, hands connected in a way that seemed so intimate that Chuck felt like an intruder. So he closed the mirror he was using to keep an eye on those two, and started a conversation with Sarah.

This day had been one of his worst since the Intersect business began. Bounty hunters knew where he worked, they'd kidnapped him and his best friend, and now he was in a car driving to San Diego. No one had said anything about how such a breach in security had occurred, or about Victor's hit list. Bells should have been ringing louder, but no one had said anything. And why would Sarah bring him along on this trip?

"Sarah?"

"Yeah, Chuck?"

He debated with himself, wonder if he was paranoid, and even if he wasn't, whether he really wanted to know the answer to his question. "Are you extracting me?"

*~*