Chuck versus the Secret Order

Author's Note:

AU. Diverges in the middle of the second season, after Chuck versus the Fat Lady and the whole Jill arc. Still don't own Chuck, never have, never will. Not beta'd, so all errors are my very own.

Background:

After the debacle with Jill, Chuck was ordered to move in with Sarah as part of their cover. That was four months ago and their non-cover relationship has progressed quite a bit since then. It only took a month of privacy before they crumbled, and started a real relationship. They've been romantically involved for three months.

Day 1:

It is a quiet Sunday morning, and Sarah Walker is in her real place of work, the Castle, located beneath her cover place of work, the Orange Orange, finishing up her monthly report to her boss, General Beckman.

"Finally, Agent Walker, what is the state of your relationship with the asset? Do you continue to maintain good control of him?"

"Yes, ma'am. He believes we are having an unapproved covert relationship, and he is very attached to me."

"Good. While he has been extremely useful to us in the field, there is a huge security risk associated with having him unsecured like this. We need to keep as close control of him as possible, and having him involved with you is an important piece of that. If he decided to run or go rogue, no one really knows what he could accomplish with the knowledge contained in the Intersect. I'll continue to officially disapprove of any indications that you have 'compromised' yourself with him so that it seems like you and he are allies against everyone else. If he starts thinking about making a run for it, he'll most likely talk with you about it first, as his only ally. Keep up the good work."

"Yes, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am."

"That's all then, Beckman out." The screen goes black.

She jumps when she hears the door into the Castle quietly close. She flips on a monitor and sees Chuck hurrying out of the freezer of the Orange Orange. Oh, crap. What was he doing here on a Sunday morning? What had he heard? She runs up the steps and hurries to catch him. She trots after him as he walks quickly away from the Orange Orange, calling after him, "Chuck! Wait a second! This isn't what you think."

He keeps walking. "Really? Because I can't think of too many ways to interpret that conversation."

"Chuck, wait!"

She catches up with him, but he keeps walking quickly, looking straight ahead. They walk together for a few paces before he breaks the silence.

"So it's all fake? You're just following orders?"

"I'm following orders, but they are orders I was happy to be given, Chuck. I really do like you, that's not fake."

"Really? I find it hard to believe that you'd deceive someone you really liked the way you've deceived me. I guess this is one of the reasons you have problems talking about your feelings with me. It's probably a lot harder when you don't actually have any. Was it funny to watch me fall for you? Or just pathetic? Maybe a little of both?"

"Chuck, you're a really sweet guy and I didn't want to hurt you. I don't want to hurt you now. My feelings for you are real, even if I am terrible at talking about them. The only way the General would allow you to remain out of the bunker was if she felt you were more firmly attached to me. She didn't want to have another Jill-type incident putting you at risk. I volunteered for this because I wanted it, you know. They can't order me to have sex with someone, only to flirt with them. I have to agree to anything more than that."

"I won't ask you how many times you have agreed before, or if you have ever not agreed when asked. I suspect that I'll be happier not knowing the answers."

She winces at the tone of his bitter comment. He hadn't liked the few times she had had to seduce a mark, but he had never said anything that made it sound like he thought less of her for what was sometimes required by her job. He starts talking again before she can think of what to say.

"So this is for my own good? Letting me think that we might have a future together, sharing my fears and desires and dreams with you while you lied to me about everything that matters?"

"I know that conversation sounded bad, Chuck, but it's not the way you think it is."

"Really? What way was it, Sarah? When one person thinks he is in a real relationship, and the other one is just following orders, doing her job, and actively deceiving the other person into thinking that they have something together? What do you call that, precisely? Tell me, how much of what I talked with you at home about ended up in your reports?"

She looks away, but answers him. "A lot of it."

"Great. So when I am talking with Beckman or Casey, they know what I say in bed, maybe what I like to do there, what I hope for, what I fear. I can just imagine the conversations that you and Casey have in the Castle about me. I can't even imagine that vampire bitch Beckman reading about my sex life. Wow, not feeling personally violated or anything."

"Chuck, I'm really sorry. I had to put enough detail in my reports to convince her that I was doing my job. I tried to leave out the stuff that I thought was really private, that you would care about other people knowing. But the alternative was having you extracted. This was the only choice that Beckman gave me."

"Sarah, right this minute, I'm not sure that would be worse than this. I might agree with you in a day or two, but right now, I'm as hurt as I've ever been, including my parents leaving and right after the Bryce/Jill/Stanford thing."

"Is being with me that bad?"

"No, Sarah, being with you was that good. I thought I was in heaven, that I was going to be one of those lucky people who live the fairy tale, that I had found my true love after years of being alone. Now I find out that 'we' was really me being played by an expert and that I am the biggest loser in the entire damn world. God, I'm a fool. How could I ever think that you'd want to be with someone like me? It's just like the Jill thing again. If a woman has a relationship with me it's because she wants to use me for something, because clearly there is something so wrong with me that a woman wouldn't really give me the time of day." He shakes his head slowly. "I wish I knew what it was. Maybe then I could fix it somehow. I try to be a good person, but it just doesn't seem to be enough."

The self-loathing in his voice breaks her heart. "Chuck, there's nothing wrong with you, you just have a complicated life and some bad luck. You're a great guy."

He stops at the employee door for the Buy More and looks at her. "You know, except for handing me over to Fulcrum directly or shooting me yourself, I can't think of a way that you could betray me more. I can hardly believe it. I knew I was a loser, but I am really the biggest idiot in the world. It's no wonder that Casey treats me like a moron, since I am one." He shakes his head in wonder. "Wow, you must be so good at your job. How did you even manage to keep a straight face when you were alone with me? It must have been like having a serious conversation with a four year old about the Easter bunny when I was telling you that I loved you." He shakes his head. "Listen, I'm going to skip the cover kiss here, if you don't mind. You should go work on your next report or something." He turns away towards the door.

"Chuck, it's not as bad as you are making it sound."

"Sarah, that sounds like a 'little bit pregnant' argument. I'm sure we'll talk more tonight, but I don't see how being a 'little bit betrayed' is going to make me feel much better. I'm not sure when I'll ever feel better about this." He unlocks the door and walks through without looking back.

She watches him walk in, devastated by his comments. He'd only talked about them in the past tense, like they had no current relationship. He'd compared her to that bitch Jill. That was the first time he'd used the words 'cover kiss' since they'd made love for the first time. She had known he would be upset about this if he found out, but she had hoped that that wouldn't happen, and that she could explain it to him if he did find out. He's always been so understanding about the issues involved with her job, she was sure they could get past this. She'll give him some time to cool off before she tries to talk with him again. She gets in her Porsche and begins the drive back to their apartment, and thinks about what to tell him to help him cope with this, to get the situation under control. They can get through this.

Later:

She's changed into a pretty blue top that she knows he likes because of the way it matches her eyes, and is waiting for him to come home. It's cute, but not too revealing. She knows that she is going to have to be very careful about giving off seduction signals while he's in this state. She's been watching his location and checking the cameras at the Buy More all morning to make certain that he didn't do anything drastic. It looks like Chuck had been meeting with one of his Nerd Herd guys to help him with a computer he was building for himself, which explains why he was there on a Sunday before the store opened. He'd probably seen her car, and just come over to say hello. It's always the little things that trip you up. She watches them finish up as the store gets ready to open, and follows Chuck's position as he drives home with the GPS locater in the NerdHerder.

She tries to start the conversation when he comes in the door. "Hi, Chuck. I know we have a lot to talk about."

He turns and stares at her with the coldest, emptiest look in his eyes, but he doesn't say a word.

"Chuck, it sounded worse than it really is. Really. Will you let me explain this to you?" she asks, somewhat desperately. His warm brown eyes are one of her favorite things about him, and she can't stand to see them look this cold and angry. It is killing her to see him this upset, and Beckman will extract him in a heartbeat if she finds out about this.

He looks at her for another moment. "Sarah, there isn't anything that you can say to make this better. I've learned that you'll deceive me about the most intimate, important things. I knew that sex was a weapon for you, but I never thought that you'd use it against me. I thought that I knew you as a person, that I could trust you. Now I know that I never knew you, and I don't trust anything you have to say. Everything you say or have said is suspect." He closes his eyes tightly and takes a couple of uneven breaths. "I knew that Casey and General Beckman didn't have my best interests at heart, and might betray me, but I thought I could trust you. You were the only true thing in the spy world that I could hold on to. Now I know that I was just being naive, and that it's all lies. There isn't anything real to believe in and you are just like them. You could all do anything to me at any time, nothing's off the table."

"Chuck, you're wrong, you can trust me. You're in a really precarious position, and I'm trying to do the best for you that I can to keep you safe and happy. That's all that I have ever done." Why won't he see? What else could she have done? She knew he wouldn't survive in a bunker, he'd go crazy in a month underground. And she'd go crazy without him. "I promised that I wouldn't let anything happen to you, and I'm doing everything I can to keep that promise."

"No, Sarah, I can't trust you. If you had told me about this up front, that we had to deceive Beckman and Casey into thinking we had a real relationship for my safety, I would still trust you. If you had told me that you had these orders and were going to use them as cover to show me your own feelings, I'd be feeling a little insecure sometimes, but I would still trust you. I might have been wrong to do so, but I would have trusted you. But to deceive me about this, and let me think that we had something real, to hide from me that this was just another part of your job… Words fail me. I don't think that I can explain to you how betrayed and violated I feel." He smacks the couch in front of him with his hand.

She can't remember ever seeing him this angry and upset about anything. She tries to interrupt, "Chuck, I'm sorry-"

"And it's all of you, your whole culture. You all think this is an acceptable thing to do. I'm not some Fulcrum agent you need to take down. I'm not some terrorist planning to hurt innocent people. I'm on your side, I risk my life trying to do the right thing, to help people, to help my country. And you all think this is how I should be treated. Not one of you trusts me enough to tell me the truth, or to treat me as a teammate. I know that you all think that I'm weak and sentimental and incompetent, but, damn it, I'm still on your side."

He covers his eyes and rubs his temples with one hand. "I thought I had at least you on my side, too. But I'm all alone in this, and you can all do anything you want to me and there's nothing I can do. I don't have any rights or power. You can kill me, you can lock me up and make me disappear, you can trick me with a pretend girlfriend. I can't run, you're everywhere. Fulcrum is even worse than you guys, there's no one I can even appeal to for better treatment. I'm at the mercy of people who don't have any mercy."

He looks up and there are tears running down his face. "I would have done anything to be with you, sacrificed anything. Now I feel like my heart's been torn out and there's nothing left but a bleeding hole. It's like a nightmare, except I'm not going to wake up, am I?"

"Chuck, I didn't want to hurt you, but I had orders to follow. I was afraid to tell you about this, that you wouldn't be able to act well enough to sell it to Casey and General Beckman. I didn't want you to go to a bunker. It would kill you to be locked up like that. I thought this was the best thing for you. And I wanted to be with you. Really." She tries to make him believe her with the force of her words. "Please believe me. I just want you to be as safe and happy as you can be."

"And that's supposed to make me feel better? What happens when your next orders are to terminate me? I guess I won't hear about that before you carry them out either, huh?"

"Chuck, I won't shoot you." How can he think that? She loves him, she wouldn't shoot him!

"And would you say anything different if you would? I know the General would order it. I know Casey would do it. Is killing someone harder than faking a relationship with them? Why should I believe that you are any different than the other two?"

"Chuck, I love you, I'm not going to hurt you."

"Don't say that! Don't try to use that against me! I have no idea what you feel for me or what you have been ordered to say to me. Don't you dare say that to me again. It hurts me to hear it come out of your mouth."

Her eyes get moist. "Chuck, I know that I handled this badly, but I didn't have a lot of choices. I thought I was doing the best thing that I could for you, and I was happy to have a relationship with you, I'd been fighting to keep my hands off of you for more than a year before this. This way I could be with you and Beckman wouldn't say I was compromised and send me away."

She looks down at her feet. "You know some of how I grew up. It's really hard for me to be honest with people about difficult things, and opening up about how I feel is a difficult thing for me. And this goes against every bit of my training, and the rules of my job. You're right. I should have told you about the orders up front. But I was afraid that you'd say no, or that you wouldn't be able to act well enough to convince everyone else, and that Beckman would lock you up. I was just trying to protect you. To protect us." She looks back up at his face, but he's still really upset.

"You could have told me. You could have trusted me. You could have treated me like a partner or like your boyfriend or like anyone you had a shred of respect for. Instead, I'm supposed to blindly trust you, despite all the evidence that I shouldn't, despite the fact that you lie to me all the time, despite the fact that you don't trust me."

"Chuck, these last three months have been the happiest time of my life. I know you don't want to hear it, but I love you. I love living with you. I love Ellie and Devon, and being part of their lives. I never dreamed that I would ever have a chance to be this happy in my life. Beckman's orders gave me a chance to act on my feelings, but my feelings are real. I don't know how to convince you of that, but it's true. I was afraid if I didn't do this that I would lose you."

"Sarah, that all sounds great, but I have no idea of what to believe anymore… You know, even Carina told me that I shouldn't trust you, that all spies are out for themselves. And she's your colleague and your friend, not your asset. I've watched you deceive other men as easily as I tie my shoe laces. I know what I heard this morning. If you haven't actively lied to me about this, which I doubt, you've certainly deceived me by omission. How can I believe you?"

"I don't know how to convince you, Chuck. I'd do anything to protect you, and almost anything to be with you. You mean everything to me."

"Sarah, right now I don't know what I should believe or feel. This is your mission, would you be saying or doing anything different to try and salvage the situation if you didn't feel anything for me? I think it would sound just like it sounds right now. I don't think that I can handle any more of these mind games that you people play. Look, I don't think there's any point to us talking about this more right now. I just need to think for a while."

"Okay, Chuck, but I'm here when you want to talk."

He turns and walks into the second bedroom where his computer and games are, and closes the door behind him. She's never seen him this upset. She stares at the door for a while, trying to think of what she can do to calm him down and make him be reasonable about this. He'll see why she did this eventually, and it will all be okay. She almost believes herself, until she remembers the way he looked at her.

She putters around their apartment, randomly cleaning things and watching the door to Chuck's room, but he doesn't come out. She's usually the one with the temper who goes away to cool off, she's not used to him hiding from her like this. When it starts to get close to dinnertime, she makes meatballs and sauce, then boils water for spaghetti. Its something they both like, but isn't one of his special favorites, so he won't think she is trying to play him. When everything is ready, she knocks on the door and calls into him. "Chuck, dinner's ready."
He calls back. "Thanks, but I'm not feeling very hungry. Go ahead and eat without me."

She sits down at the table, and picks at her food a little, but she's too upset to eat much, and there's no reason to pretend to have an appetite without him watching. Eventually she gets tired of pushing food around her plate, and puts the leftovers away in the fridge and cleans up after herself.

She's getting progressively more worried as the hours pass. Their situation is hard, but she's always been able to make him understand why things had to be the way they were for them, even if he didn't always like it. She's never seen him this upset about anything before though, and he's never given her the cold shoulder this long. He'll sulk a little when he's upset, but he always wants to talk out their problems, to the point of driving her insane. She tries to watch some television, but she just gets irritated by everything that's on. She changes into a comfy, deliberately non-sexy pair of pajamas and gets ready for bed. She starts cleaning the bathroom to distract herself, but finally gives up and goes to bed.

She's been reading the same page in her current book for twenty minutes when he finally comes out of his room at eleven o'clock. He comes into their bedroom and starts to change into his pajamas without saying anything to her. He dresses in front of her unselfconsciously but without making eye contact. He goes into the bathroom and brushes his teeth, then walks over to the bed, grabs his pillow, and walks towards the door. "FYI, I'll be sleeping on the couch from now on. We don't need to keep up the cover in the apartment, and I'm not comfortable with this arrangement."

She smiles at him and tries to break the tension. "Afraid that your self-control isn't up to the challenge?"

He doesn't react to her at all. "No, that's not going to be a problem," he says flatly. "I'd just prefer to be alone. I have a lot of things that I need to think about." He turns and leaves the room.

She sinks back in the bed and stares at the ceiling. Oh, no. He's not just upset. He's had all day to think about this, so this isn't just a knee-jerk reaction. He's not acting like he's angry with her, he just doesn't believe her. He's not going to fight with her because he thinks that she was just doing a job. He really thinks she's just following orders. She tries to think about this from his perspective and she starts to get even more scared.

He thinks he's been played. He thinks that he put his heart on the line, and got played. He'll hear anything she says as more of the same. He was going to shut her out completely. It'll be like the last three months haven't happened. No, it'll be worse. Three months ago he wanted her and trusted her. How can she get him back if he won't even talk with her? How can she fix this? How long can she hide this from Beckman? She thinks about their conversations today. He had been so hurt. He's right, she screwed this up. Their situation is incredibly complicated, but she should have told him. She knows how insecure he is about her, about being with any woman, and they just had the disaster with that bitch, Jill, where she played him as part of her job. Just like he thinks she has. She feels a lump forming in her stomach.

Now he thinks every bit of their relationship was just a fake, with her playing him like a mark, just like Jill did. Oh, God. He thinks that she has slept with him for three months as part of her job. That she has been Beckman's whore and that every look, touch, kiss, and moan were calculated manipulation. She knows him, and he'd never touch someone he thought was being paid to sleep with him. He'll never touch her again outside of their cover. She'll never wake up in his arms again. She starts to cry. If that's what he thinks of her, how can she ever get him back?

She eventually falls asleep, but wakes up when she hears a noise she doesn't recognize from the living room. She grabs her gun from underneath her pillow and moves silently to the door of the bedroom. She opens the door and looks out into the living room. She can see Chuck's shape on the couch, but nothing is moving. She listens but doesn't hear anything for a moment, then she hears it again. Her heart breaks again as she listens to Chuck crying like his world's ending. He has his pillow over his face, but it doesn't really hide what's going on. She thinks that he's grieving for them and for everything that he thinks he's lost or never really had. She makes herself listen to the pain she's caused but can't comfort with tears rolling silently down her face. Eventually his sobs slow down and he falls asleep. She goes back to bed and thinks about what she might do to help Chuck hurt less, but she can't think of a single thing. He thinks that she is just another woman who has betrayed him, like his mother, like Jill. She's hurt him as badly as anyone ever has in a lifetime that's already had too many betrayals in it. She's never felt more helpless about a situation.

End of Part 1.