Author's Note:

This is my very first attempt at a fanfic so please go easy on me! In fact, it's pretty much the first non-scientific thing I've written in six years or so, so if you see anything that looks like it should be followed by, "the samples were centrifuged at 2500xg for 30 minutes and the supernatant collected," please let me know. I can't even say how nice it is to write in the active voice again, but old habits do die hard.

It looks like people start these things off with a disclaimer, so I'll say that I own nothing. In two years I'll own my car. The quotes from the show, song lyrics and the Dean Koontz quote in Chapter 3 are of course not mine, and the transmission fluid gag I expanded on from my friend DW's Tarmac the Barbarian blog. Thanks for the laugh DW, just wish I could have seen it myself!

That being established, I'll just say that for my first time out of the gate I tried to stay as true to the characters and things that might possibly happen as possible. I may have stretched it a bit far here and there and let I the characters swear a little bit, but I feel like I stayed pretty close to reality -- or what passes for reality on the show. Chapter One takes place in the Intersect room, starting on the last line of the season finale. It's multiple POV, but mainly Chuck. Chapter Two focuses on Orion and his thoughts on the issues at hand with a little bit of Ellie, The Very Awesomes and General Beckman in the mix. Chapter Three is a loooooong Charah conversation on the beach from Sarah's POV. I tried to cover a range of emotions there. It kinda ran away from me and I'll probably end up having to hack it up, but I really think those two deserve a long, uninterrupted night together. Don't you? I'll finish out the night from Chuck's POV in Chapter 4 or 5 and then I'm going to try to get into John Casey's head -- Heaven help me.

So, happy reading and let me know what you think!



CHAPTER 1

Chuck vs. the Concrete Wall



"Guys," Chuck said in disbelief, "I know Kung Fu." Then he flashed; once on Casey and again on Sarah. Yep, the Intersect was definitely back, new and improved. And it seemed that he could look forward to a repeat performance of every flash he'd ever had. His head ached at the thought of it.

The three of them gaped in astonishment at Miles and the four unknown agents lying senseless on the floor of the Intersect room. A full minute passed with only the sound of their ragged breathing and the squeak of Chuck's All Stars as he paced among his victims, staring alternately at his own hands and the prone figures around him. Finally, a nervous laugh escaped his lips.

"And I didn't even deploy the Morgan," he said, looking at Sarah and Casey, twisting up one side of his mouth and raising an eyebrow in one of his trademark sardonic smiles.

Sarah's eyes widened as she stared at him with incredulity. During the long silence as Chuck surveyed his handiwork, she had inched backwards until she felt the assuring solidity of the concrete wall behind her. She didn't completely trust her trembling legs to support her at the moment and his fumbling attempt at humor proved to be the thing to loosen them completely. With a wordless syllable, she sank down to the floor, hiding her head between her knees and covering it with her still-bound hands. Her back heaved as she drew in her breath in jagged spasms, somewhere between tearless sobbing and relieved laughter. Even she couldn't tell which.

"Oh my God, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. That wasn't funny. That wasn't funny at all," Chuck stammered, racing over to kneel down in front of her and cover her hands with his. "Are you okay?" he asked as he moved his hands over her hair and shaking shoulders. "I'm sorry. I'm so so so so sorry." With another wordless sound she pulled away from him, her face hidden behind her hair and hands.

"Hey, what's wrong? Are you okay? Tell me you're okay. Talk to me, Sarah." All Sarah could manage to do was shake her head. She knew Chuck was looking at her with hurt and confusion in those liquid brown eyes and she couldn't bring herself to face him just now. Not yet.

Across the room, one of the unconscious agents began to groan and scrape his feet weakly on the floor. The sound pulled Casey's attention away from his inspection of the charred Intersect cube.

"Hey Chuck Norris!" he barked, "You think you could maybe use your new super skills and cut us loose? We need to tranq these guys and call in a containment team before they come around."

"Of course," Chuck breathed, snapping to and shaking his head. "Of course. Of course." Moving slowly so as not to alarm the uncharacteristically out-of-sorts agent curled in front of him, he reached towards the top of her boot where he knew she carried her throwing knives. "I'm just gonna . . . I need to kind of . . . your knife . . .Is it ok if I . . .?" he asked softly, trying to maneuver a hand around to the back of her leg, fumbling to find a knife she had not yet thrown. Sarah, her breathing starting to normalize but still unable to speak, raised her head. She left her face covered by her hands and hair however, continuing to cut herself off from him. She moved her leg out slightly so he could slide a knife out of its sheath. Holding the blade, he looked at her again questioningly, but as she made no move to offer up her hands, he sighed and moved over to Casey.

"Nice work Bartowski," he said with a smirk as Chuck cut through the strap binding his wrists. "Looks like you might finally be able to start pulling your own weight around here. You think that thing taught you how to tango too?"

"You know Casey?" Chuck said brandishing the knife threateningly, "I . . . you . . .I . . ." For once at a loss for words, Chuck let his knife hand drop to his side as the enormity of what had just happened began to wash over him.

Casey grunted and glanced over at Miles who was beginning to pull himself up into a sitting position, gazing blearily around him. He casually strolled across the room and kicked the traitor hard in the ribs.

"That's for Barber," he said, and then stomped on his solar plexus. "And Perez." He twisted the agent's arm with a grimace of satisfaction as he felt it snap in two places and Miles screamed breathlessly. "And Miller. And this," he said with his booted foot held high over the gasping man's face, "is for betraying me!"

"Casey!" Chuck yelled before the red-faced agent's size fourteen boot could come crashing down onto Miles' terrified face. "We need him alive!"

"Huh? Oh." Casey lowered his foot slowly. The disappointed look on his face slowly morphed into satisfaction though as he stared down at the battered man who was looking at Chuck with an expression approaching gratitude on his face. "That's okay," Casey crooned almost sweetly as he kneeled down to murmur directly into the agent's ear, "we'll have all the time in the world for you to tell me about your new affiliations. And I am going to take immense satisfaction in torturing every last detail out of you." With that he stood back up and kicked the now petrified agent smartly in the side of the head. Miles lapsed gratefully back into unconsciousness.

Chuck felt a little sick. "You could have just used a tranq dart."

"Where's the fun in that? Here," he said removing his tranquilizer gun from an ankle holster, "you knock them out while I check for weapons." As he turned, he aimed another brisk kick at the head of a bald agent who was just beginning to stir.

"Casey!" Chuck waved the tranq gun in Casey's face.

"What?" Casey asked. "It doesn't hurt to be thorough."

Chuck emptied the tranquilizer gun's clip into the groaning agents on the floor while Casey called for the containment team. He took a certain amount of pride at the contusions and hematomas beginning to blossom beneath their skin. As he moved around, the adrenaline surge that accompanied his surprise Kung Fu exhibition began to wear off and he started to feel – and move – like his normal self again. To be honest he felt wiped, and a little sore. His muscles had not been conditioned for that kind of action. He was also beginning to get a raging headache—the Intersect hangover that he had come to know all too well. At least he had managed not to pass out this time. Maybe he was improving.

As Casey finished his phone call and began to paw through the captured agents' clothing looking for weapons and identification, Chuck sat back on his heels and heaved an exhausted sigh. He glanced over in Sarah's direction and found with relief that she had regained her composure. As much as he knew that behind her toughened spy exterior lived a real woman with real emotions, seeing her withdrawn into herself like that, no matter how briefly, had disturbed him immensely. He didn't suppose he could blame her after the past few days, but it shook his confidence nonetheless. She was sitting upright against the wall, face dry, eyes focused on his. Her wrists rested on her knees as she idly played with her fingernails, her face a carefully blank mask. As Chuck continued to stare at her, she moved her arms, tightening the strap between them, and raised her eyebrows, questioning.

"Oh, oh. Of course, yeah." He fumbled her knife out of his waistband and scrambled to his feet, only to trip over them and fall sprawling over one of the agents on the floor.

"Hmmph," Casey snorted. "So much for that tango theory, Grace."

Chuck rolled his eyes, but for once didn't have the energy to come up with a pithy response. At least he hadn't managed to stab himself with the knife. His legs were seriously starting to cramp. He untangled himself, staggered over to Sarah and began to saw through the strap binding her wrists. Once her hands were freed, he took hold of them and helped her to her feet, not letting go once she was upright. Despite her calculated coolness, he could feel her still trembling slightly. They stood there, agonizingly close to one another, him holding her shaky hands, thumbs moving lightly over her chaffed wrists, her mouth moving wordlessly as they stared into each other's eyes, each very aware of Casey's continued presence in the room.

"Sarah, I –"

"Chuck, don't," she whispered, interrupting. She looked anxiously over at Casey who was still rifling through the bodies behind Chuck, studiously pretending to ignore them. She caught his gaze and raised her eyebrows slightly. He gave her an almost imperceptible nod and a wink. She closed her eyes briefly, then looked back up at Chuck through her lashes, unconsciously biting the corner of her lower lip. She shifted slightly onto the balls of her feet, took a deep tremulous breath, and then, meeting Chuck's questioning gaze directly, she placed her hands lightly on either side of his face. She pulled him gently down to her, and kissed him.

It was a soft kiss, and lingering. As Chuck began to relax into it following his initial surprise (he couldn't believe she was doing this in front of Casey), he opened his mouth against hers. The warm breath flowing over her lips was still tinted with the scent of champagne from the wedding reception. He breathed it in, savoring the heady fumes. She sunk her fingers deeper into his hair, pulling softly at his curls. As he moved his hands from her waist up to her face and stepped in closer (Casey be damned! Bryce said she wasn't going anywhere, and he certainly wasn't going to let her now. No matter who was watching.) She let go of his face and stepped back, leaving him awkwardly bent over, eyes closed and lips parted. And then . . . THWACK!!! She slapped him hard across the face, his head snapped sharply to the side, eyes flying open.

Casey snorted in amusement. "Way to go Walker," he muttered under his breath. "I'm glad one of us has the skill set to put that little shit in his place."

Chuck put a hand to his stinging cheek and looked down at Sarah, baffled. "Okay, okay, I deserve that. I can see how I could deserve that."

The hurt in his eyes, the dumb shocked look on his face and his self-effacing tone only served to infuriate her further and she reeled her hand back for another go at him. Only, this time he got his arm up in time and she winced slightly as her forearm collided with the hard plastic of Orion's computer sleeve, still strapped to his forearm.

"Chuck! What the hell were you thinking?" She had meant to yell, to scream it in his face loud enough to deafen him, but the words only came out in a choked whisper.

"I thought . . . I dunno, I thought . . .. " He was still completely tongue-tied in her presence.

"How could you do this to me? To us?" she accused softly. Wrenching her eyes away from his gaze she turned and strode out of the room.

As he turned to watch her go, the words she spoke into his ear not even an hour before came sighing back to him again: How many times do you have to be a hero before you realize that you are that guy?

He thought back to their conversation in the Weinerlicious when she had asked him, Some people want to be heroes and others have to be asked. So, Chuck, are you ready?

To their conversation in the courtyard, the night after his first mission. What's the good of being a hero if nobody knows about it?

You know. And so do I.

"I thought you wanted you wanted me to be a hero," he finished lamely as she disappeared around the corner.

"Way to go Casanova." Casey clapped him hard on the shoulder. "Did the Intersect teach you new lady skills too?"

Chuck took a breath and schooled his face into what he thought was a patient half smile but looked more like a grimace. "You know Casey, would it kill you to show a little emotional sensitivity just once? Would it?"

The smirk dropped off of his face and he met Chuck's eyes seriously, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Give her some time Bartowski. There's been a lot going on in that little blonde head of hers the past few days. You know she doesn't like to talk about the emotional stuff, and she needs some time to sort out her feelings. So do you."

Then, turning away and talking more to himself, "hell, so do I. My God, fucking Operation Moron part Deux. How the hell do I keep getting myself stuck here? I can't believe I actually jumped at the opportunity to go after Bryce Larkin. God damn Stanford pansy ass Glass Castle recruiting FULCRUM fucking sons of . . . "

Casey continued to grumble to himself as he walked out of the room.

Sure thing Casey, I'll just call all of the criminals and rogue spies and let them know to hold on a sec because John Casey needs some time to sort out his Bartowski feelings, Chuck thought ironically. Then, out loud, "But why did she have to fuck with me like that?" He almost yelled it in frustration.

"Because she can moron!" Casey yelled back and then continued his grumbling. Apparently he was not quite out of earshot yet.

"She's staying here with me. She's had a shock and it made her angry, but she's staying right here with me," he mumbled to himself.

Chuck wanted to go say his good-byes to Bryce. He started to follow the muttering Casey down the hallway, but then stopped. Sarah would be with Bryce now, and as angry as he was at the moment, he couldn't intrude on her grief. Thinking about her quietly crying over Bryce's still-warm body, he realized something strange. For the first time in six years he did not feel the slightest shred of hatred, or even jealousy when he thought about his old nemesis, only a surprisingly warm sense of gratitude—and forgiveness. "Huh," he said to no one in particular, "I guess all it took to for me to forgive him was for him to lose the girl and die.

"Ha. Ha huh." Chuck began to laugh, a slightly depraved, rather desperate laugh born of exhaustion and the sense of hysteria he began to feel creeping in. As his legs started to tremble and cramp he staggered backwards until he felt the reassuring solidity of the concrete wall behind him. With a wordless syllable, his knees buckled and he sank down the wall until his head was between his knees, hands grabbing at his hair. His back heaved as he drew in his breath in jagged spasms, somewhere between tearless sobbing and manic laughter. Even he couldn't tell which.