He had the Mother of All Headaches. He'd flashed the previous afternoon while reviewing some intel at the Castle. His flashes were now accompanied by a sudden burst of pain followed by a massive headache that almost made him vomit. And the headaches were never totally gone. He wondered if he should buy stock in Advil since he'd been popping them like TicTacs for a week now.
This started the week before on a mission when he'd left the car to tackle a Fulcrum agent who'd eluded his team mates and slipped out of the warehouse they were searching. He'd been kicked in the head by the rogue agent and been briefly unconscious and the Fulcrum agent had escaped.
In an area of the brain known as the Canal of Willis a small capillary ruptures allowing a small amount of blood to pool in the small area between the many brain cells, displacing them, compressing them. A very small amount, certainly not discernable to the naked eye, too small to show up on a CAT scan. But it was there, a small semi-circle of blood. Over time the body healed the small rent in the capillary, scarring the vessel wall, weakening it and the blood formed a clot.
He'd crawled back to the Herder and returned to his seat. He didn't want Sarah berating him again for leaving the car. Or hear Casey utter Grunt #9 ("Aw, did the widdle woosie get a booboo?"). He didn't mention it when the disgruntled agents returned empty handed to the car. It was a long and quiet drive back to the Castle, each lost in their own thoughts. The Beckman briefing had been mercifully brief and for once Chuck was not the object of her ire.
After the briefing, Casey immediately began questioning Chuck about the accuracy of his interpretation of the flash. Did he have the right address? The right date? Did he have anything right? Of course, no blaming his handlers. They were perfect. They were trained agents. He was just the nerd with the intersect in his head who stayed in the car while real agents handled the situation. He must have been wrong.
"Casey, maybe, just maybe, you and Walker blew it. Missed the target. Let someone outsmart you. Don't blame me for your mistakes. The intel was right. The Intersect was right. My interpretation was right. Now, if there's nothing else you feel obligated to rag me out for, I'm outta here. I'm tired and I have the early shift tomorrow." Getting to his feet he ignored the surprised looks on his handlers' faces and charged up the stairs and out of the Castle.
"Somebody didn't get their nap today. Chuckie's a bit cranky," Casey snarked.
Sarah sighed. "You know, you could cut him a little slack. His intel has been right-on and he's right, we may have been outsmarted. He's not a trained agent. He's just a guy who is trying to make the most of a bad situation. You don't always have to be such a gloating prick about everything."
She hadn't missed his referring to her as "Walker" instead of "Sarah". For some reason that hurt.
Casey just let fly Grunt #7. He'd never admit it, but she was right. He did enjoy picking on Chuck. He did it more now than before since he felt he knew his boundaries. He'd developed a grudging respect for the little … for Chuck but wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of a response.
Logging out of the system and setting the night security sensors, he followed his partner up the stairs and out into the parking lot. Another day down the tubes. And he had a boring evening ahead of him, monitoring the Bartowski audio surveillance tapes
Symptoms of an acute subdural hematoma initially present themselves as nervousness, anxiety with marked behavioral changes and increased irritability. impulsiveness and disinhibition.
3 days later
He didn't want his handlers to know about the headaches since the outcome of any such revelation was probably going to be a bullet in the brain in a botched robbery attempt or something equally as innocuous and untraceable to the government. He didn't want his brain ending up in a specimen jar in some NSA laboratory. He knew first hand how the government handled their obsolete assets. He didn't want to die.
The day had been interesting to say the least. He hadn't been in the store more than 5 minutes before Big Mike came charging out of his office shouting "Bartowski, what the hell is going on here?" and definitely invading his personal space. "Bartowski, this store is falling apart. Orders are not logged in, the Green Shirts are at the video wall again and repairs are backed up in the cage. You know who's responsible for all this, don't you? Well, don't you? And what are you going to do about it?"
Chuck's hand shot out and grabbed Big Mike's tie, jerking the big man even closer and loudly replying. "Yeah, Big Mike, I know exactly who's responsible for all this. YOU are responsible. You're the manager making the big bucks. You're the big man who stays in his office all day, filling his fat face full of doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and slurping down soft drinks in between forays to the local deli for sandwiches and snacks."
The store was deathly quiet as the Green Shirts and Nerd Herders observed the confrontation. Morgan came rushing up and grabbed Chuck, trying to pull him away from Big Mike.
"Chuck, be cool, back off, give the big man some room." He looked at Chuck and saw no hint of the usual easy-going friend. Instead he saw a red-faced Chuck, veins standing out in tension, a cold and determined look in his eyes. He'd never seen Chuck so angry, not even when Bryce tried to contact Chuck after the whole Stanford mess.
Big Mike's eyes were bulging out of his head as he tried to pull away from Chuck but Chuck just kept a taut hold on Big Mike's tie, ignoring Morgan and pushing his face closer to Big Mike's.
"I'll fix all of this if you'll just quit yelling at me and get your fat ass back into your office. I'll tell you when it's done but until then, stay out of my way and let me do your job."
He let go of Big Mike's tie and the man stumbled backwards, almost tripping over himself hurrying to his office thinking 'Bartwoski's either losing it or he's growing a pair. Either way I win.' He slammed his office door shut, smiled and sat down, selected a nice fresh chocolate doughnut from the half-eaten box and opened up his fishing magazine to the article he'd been reading. Life was good.
"Um, Chuck, your nose is bleeding, bro. I'll, yeah, I'll get you a tissue." Morgan paused, surveying the store. "Wait right here, I'll be right back."
Chuck pivoted towards the cluster of employees, an evil grin twisting his face. "Lester, Jeff, into the cage. Have every repair done by end of shift or you don't need to come back tomorrow". Lester started to protest but Jeff just grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the line of fire muttering "This is not good. This is not good. Must work. Must work hard."
Morgan came back with a tissue and Chuck said "Morgan, you and Anna head to the break room. Find some Clorox or some disinfectant and you both better sterilize those tables, chairs and any other horizontal surface you've christened. Don't let me catch you goofing off, either of you. Unemployment is at an all-time high here in sunny California so I'm sure you won't be hard to replace."
Dismissing them with a glare, he turned to the remaining employees, eyeing each of them and saying in a soft voice "OK, there are customers waiting for your expertise and I better not see a customer wandering around without one of you trying to sell them something. I better not see any goofing off or it's the highway. If you're not willing to work for the Greater Good, you're gone."
"Now, I'm going on break and going over to chat up my so-called girl friend. Any problems will have to wait until I'm back. But then, there won't BE any problems, will there?"
Sarah looked up from the building she'd been constructing using straws and swizzle sticks when Chuck opened the door. Business wasn't exactly booming and she'd completed her tasks minutes after coming to work so "straw construction" as Chuck called it was the order of the day. She grinned and said "Hi, honey, you're early. Is something wrong? Or couldn't you stand my absence one moment longer than necessary?" She loved it when he blushed at her endearments and flirtatious banter but she noticed he wasn't blushing. He was angry.
"Oh, yeah, honey, you're right. I just couldn't stay away. In fact, I think it's time to seal the deal between us. I mean, after all, you've done it before. Just think of this as an easy way to gain my compliance and cooperation. 'Stay in the car, Chuck. Flash on the bad men, Chuck. Let us ruin your life, Chuck.' I mean it shouldn't be hard for you. You've done it before. Hell, you did it with Bryce and …"
He never got to finish the sentence. Sarah's hand connected with his cheek, knocking him back a step. She stopped, a horrified look on her face, her eyes tearing over, her breath hitching. "Chuck, I'm sorry. I never meant to hit you but what's come over you? What's wrong with you? You know I have feelings for you but I can't let them show. I can't be what you want and need. I'm your handler and…."
"Don't say it. Don't you dare say it. I'm sick to death of all your excuses, your reasons, your dedication to the job and the Greater Good. Jesus, Sarah, don't you get tired of being a hypocrite". He wiped his lip, smearing blood over it. His damned nose was bleeding again. He wiped his hand on a napkin and threw it at her. "Here, you've taken everything else, take my blood, too!" and left the store slamming the glass front, making it rattle.
Intracranial pressure increases in direct proportion to blood pressure. The weakened capillary wall again splits, allowing more blood to pool, forming the classic sickle shape of the hematoma. The amount is small but increased the volume of the blood pool, displacing more brain cells and causing an increase in intracranial pressure which in turn increased the size of the tear and the amount of blood slowly leaking into the brain increasing the size of the clot.
Sarah began to cry, falling to her knees, sobbing behind the counter. She didn't hear Casey come in from the Castle.
"C'mon, CIA, we have a problem. Chuck's off the reservation. He just told Big Mike to get his fat ass back into his office, and scared the crap out of the rest of the crew. He sent them off on various tasks after threatening them with near-death experiences. I was in the back but heard all about it from Jeff, Lester and then Morgan. Anna was in shock but I really think she was incredibly turned on by Chuck. The lad's definitely grown a pair overnight but I don't think that's our Chuck at all. Did you see his nose bleeding? I think something's wrong. We need to report this to Beckman. The Intersect is in jeopardy."
"Casey, you're exaggerating. Chuck is obviously stressed out about everything. He hasn't had a break in a year and I think it's all just starting to wear him down. Let's give him a while and see if this is just Chuck's way of dealing with all the crap that's been thrown at him or if it's something more serious. Besides, the blood is probably from my slap. I hit him pretty hard. So, if it continues to be a problem, we'll talk to Beckman. Deal?"
"Ok, Walker, but I don't like this new Chuck. I liked the whiney nerd. He was predictable. This guy is definitely different. A few days, a week at the most. If it continues, we go to Beckman."
"Oh, it won't continue," said Sarah, thinking "not after I have a few words with a certain Chuck Bartowski." She knew she was the Queen of Mixed Signals but she really did have deep and, so far, repressed feelings for Chuck. They had a "cover date" tomorrow night and she planned to eliminate all doubt from Chuck's mind about where he and Sarah were headed in the long run. Agent Walker was definitely off for the night. The woman, Sarah Walker, was in charge and looking forward to scratching some intimate itches with the man she found she couldn't live without.