Original A/N - I've had massive writer's block on about four different stories for a while now, and I wanted to write a little something to get the juices flowing again. A little Charah is always good for the soul, and hopefully it will also be good for breaking up the logjam in my head. This is set early season 2, I'm thinking not long after Chuck vs. the Break Up. I borrowed the idea of Beckman's daily report from Altonish and his Chuck vs the Doldrums story (if you're one of the six Chuck fans who hasn't read that, well, what's wrong with you? :D) This was written fairly quickly and did not benefit from a beta read, so all mistakes are my own.
A/N #2 – The lack of section breaks has been bothering the heck out of me, and I finally motivated myself enough to fix that problem. Removing that particular thorn from my side also gave me the chance to revisit a few places where I inexplicably forgot all rules of writing and grammar. CJ, 11/17/10
All usual disclaimers apply.
Sarah vs. the Squire of Buymoria
It was evening in the Castle. Upon hearing that strange sound, Sarah looked up from her mission report for what seemed like the millionth time in the last hour. She had no idea what the noise was, but she did know that it came from her asset, who was stuck doing paperwork right alongside her.
"Chuck? What exactly was that supposed to be?"
He was sitting across the table, Beckman's "daily report" spread out in front of him. It consisted of recently collected intel, and a new packet arrived by encrypted email each day at 0800. Chuck was supposed to sift through it and see if he flashed on anything, but he hadn't really been paying it much attention for the last hour, and he was currently flipping his phone around and making goofy noises.
"Well, my iPhone makes all kind of cool sounds when it does stuff, and I have different ringtones for all my contacts. But for some reason, there's no sound effect when you flip it back and forth from portrait to landscape. I think it needs one."
"And that swoop noise - "
"Oh, excuse me. That VWOOOP! noise is your choice?"
"It's one of the possibilities. That's a noise you'd hear a lot with an iPhone, so I don't want to make any rash decisions."
Sarah groaned inwardly. Chuck was suffering from a distinct lack of focus tonight, and she felt that a little well placed sarcasm might speed things along. "Obviously, this is a momentous issue. Please take all the time you need. It's clearly more important than finishing your daily report, especially since Apple is paying you such a huge consulting fee."
"Yeah, they're paying me almost as much as the CIA." He almost managed to hide the bitterness behind those words.
Sarah winced. She'd walked right into that one. "Fair point. But then, Steve Jobs doesn't have the power to throw you into a tank for the rest of your life, either."
Chuck's eyebrows shot up. "Well, not as far as we know. And may I add that I'm impressed that you even know who Steve Jobs is."
"I thank you. What can I say? When you wade every day in nerdiness, some of it sticks to you, no matter how hard you scrub." She gave him a small but genuine smile to let him know she was joking.
Chuck smiled right back. "Oh, you're thinking of the Morgan variety of nerdiness. That stuff is sticky – Ellie's been trying for years to wash it off. My nerdiness, on the other hand, is more of the insidiously smooth variety." He drove his point home with the Bartowski eyebrow dance, and Sarah had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing.
"Okay, Chuck. If I concede that your particular brand of nerdiness is much sexier than Morgan's, will you finish that report? I'd like to get home sometime this week."
Sarah very much enjoyed the blush that suffused Chuck's face when he realized that she'd sort of called him sexy. She considered it a bonus that when she'd said it, she wasn't lying. And the icing on the cake was that Chuck actually agreed to get back to work.
x x x x x x x x x x
Unfortunately, her success was very short lived. She stopped writing not ten minutes later, when she noticed that Chuck had spaced out. He was looking all around the room, apparently lost in thought, and Sarah was about to remind him yet again of his report when he asked a puzzling question.
"Sarah? Why do we call this place the Castle?"
She sat back in her chair, nonplussed. "Well, it's because, ah...hmm. You know, I have no idea."
"Well, if we're going to call it the Castle, it has to be the castle of something. It can't just be some random castle. Oh, I've got it – it's the Castle of the Kingdom of Buymoria!"
"Chuck, we really need to get back to -" Sarah's attempt to cut him off was too late. He was rolling.
"And if it's going to be a proper castle, it needs the entire cast of characters, just like in the old Errol Flynn movies. The King is easy. Big Mike. He'd sit on his throne all day, eating roast leg of mutton and throwing things at people who displeased him. And Casey is easy, too. He'd be the King's Champion. He'd get to wear cool armor and carry a big sword and challenge people to duels and jousting tournaments and stuff. I think he'd really like that."
Sarah was trying hard not to listen. This was definitely not funny or clever at all.
"Lester is a tough one. Maybe some sort of oily little advisor to the king. Jeff, on the other hand, is easy. He'd be the court jester."
Despite her growing irritation at the fact that her report was still unfinished, Sarah had to chime in on that one. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I'd figure Morgan for the jester."
"Nope. I'd considered that, but I see Morgan as more of a court mascot. King Big Mike – or would it be Big King Mike? - would assign him little odd jobs and he'd mess up all of them, but he'd never really get in trouble because he's so loyal and lovable."
Sarah was taken aback. "Wow. That's startlingly accurate."
"Yep. I love my little buddy to death, but I hold no illusions. Now, you're probably wondering about the two of us."
Sarah just stared at Chuck. She was indeed wondering, but she wasn't about to admit it. Fortunately, she didn't have to, because Chuck was in full flow.
"I'd be a young squire. Casey would be training me as a knight. He'd be tough on me and give me all kinds of grief when I messed up, which I'd do often, mostly because I wouldn't ever stay on the horse. But he'd watch out for me all the time, because despite the gruff exterior, he'd really like me."
Sarah's brows furrowed. "Chuck, I -"
"Let me live the dream, Sarah. Just for a moment, let me live the dream."
She smiled. "Okay, then."
She expected Chuck to continue, but he didn't say anything, and Sarah knew that he was waiting for her to ask. She knew that she should just let it drop, but her curiosity got the better of her. "What about me, Chuck?"
He grinned, clearly pleased at her interest. "You? You're the mysterious Lady Sarah. You're bound to Big King Mike's court, but no one knows why. Every eligible bachelor in the land desires your hand, but only the young squire knows that you were meant for more than a life as some nobleman's wife, that you dream of adventure in far away lands."
Sarah was drawn in. Picturing herself in a beautiful gown and attended by her ladies in waiting, she'd turn down the advances of knights and nobles from all across the land, her heart already given to the young squire even though she knew it could never be. She felt her face growing warm, and she knew that it was time to end this particular discussion. She had no idea how, but this seemingly innocuous tale of knights and ladies had struck very close to home. She swallowed the lump that had risen in her throat and set about changing the subject.
"Chuck, as fascinating as your tale is, it's not helping to finish my report. Yours either, for that matter. Let's get back to it. Please? If we're here late again I'm gonna get angry, and you wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
"Hey! That's from The Incredible Hu-"
x x x x x x x x x x
Sarah sighed. He'd actually worked for almost twenty minutes. "Yes, Chuck?"
"Um, I was wondering...are you hungry?"
"No, Chuck. I'm not hungry. I'm going to get something to eat on the way home tonight. You know, after we finish these reports." She gave her last words a hard edge, and added a glare for good measure.
Chuck was oblivious to the implied threat. "Because I was thinking, if you were, you know, hungry, I could go get us something."
"No thank you, Chuck. Let's get back to work."
"I'm thinking sandwiches."
"Chuck, listen to me. I. Am. Not. Hungry. Now, please, finish your report."
Chuck sighed and grabbed his paperwork. He fell silent and began to read again . . . for about a minute. "Sarah?"
There were fourteen different ways Sarah could kill Chuck from their relative positions, and they all seemed attractive right about now. "What is it this time, Chuck?"
"What do you think is the best sandwich for doing paperwork?"
Sarah's jaw nearly hit the table. She and Casey had had their share of disagreements over the last year, but at this moment Sarah understood her partner perfectly. "Chuck, you should know that Casey nearly murdered both you and Morgan over this same conversation." She didn't add that Casey's idea held a growing appeal.
Chuck shrugged his shoulders dismissively. "Sure, but that's Casey. He nearly murders me about a dozen times a week. You're a much more reasonable sort of spy."
"True, but it's getting to be a closer thing each minute. Now, can we please get back to work?"
"Sure. But I'm just saying that..."
As Chuck began to ramble yet again about sandwiches, Sarah's watch chimed eight thirty. Even without distractions, it would take at least another hour and a half to finish her report, then time to get some food, and the drive home...she wouldn't be in bed before midnight. It was time to end this foolishness. She stared right into Chuck's eyes, and when she spoke, her voice was as cold as the Siberian winter.
"Chuck, I'm only going to say this one more time. I don't want to discuss sandwiches. I also don't want to invent new sound effects for our iPhones, or play the casting agent for your little Castle movie. What I want to do is get my mission report done so I can go home and get some sleep, and if you insist on staying here with me, then I'd like you to finish the daily report. Maybe that way, you can flash on a bad guy or two and actually do something useful with your time!"
Sarah's words hit with the force of a sledgehammer, and Chuck's face crumbled. His brown eyes locked on Sarah for just a moment, then fell to the jumble of papers strewn on the table in front of him, and he didn't look up as he spoke in a very small voice. "Okay, Sarah. I know how I can get when I'm bored. I'll shut up." He picked up the photo under his right hand and pretended to study it. "I'm sorry I'm being a pest."
An uneasy silence descended on the Castle, and Sarah found it much harder to tolerate than Chuck's prattling. He was still holding but not really looking at a picture of some random thug, and Sarah knew that it was just a way to avoid looking at her. She felt the briefest flash of irritation, and she nearly scolded Chuck again for being childish, but something struck her as she looked at him, and she took advantage of his downcast gaze to examine him closely.
He was really tired. She had no idea how she'd missed it. There were dark circles under his bloodshot eyes, and his shoulders drooped as if carrying much too heavy a load.
Which, it finally dawned on her, he was.
Last night's mission had kept them out past three in the morning. Sarah didn't have to be at the O2 until noon, but Chuck had had the early shift at the Buy More, so he got maybe four hours of sleep maximum. Then he spent over nine hours dealing with idiot customers and fixing computer problems well below his skill level. His lunch break was only thirty minutes long, and he'd spent most of that talking to her instead of eating. And to make the day complete, he had the pleasure of coming here after finally leaving the Buy More, where he got to slog through Beckman's daily intel packet. Without pay, of course.
Sarah once again marveled at her ability to mess up anything personal. Chuck had been doing so much for so little. Was some harmless conversation really asking too much? Well, maybe it wasn't too late to fix things.
"You know what, Chuck?"
"What, Sarah?" Despite her much softer tone, he still wouldn't meet her gaze. But she pressed on.
"I'd love a sandwich. Double decker pastrami on rye, swiss cheese, grilled, lots of spicy mustard. Some of those thick-cut kettle chips, preferably barbecue flavored. I wouldn't say no to a side of crispy cole slaw, either. Oh, and a jumbo Diet Dr. Pepper."
Chuck finally looked at Sarah. He seemed a little confused at her sudden shift in mood, but his face was hopeful. Sarah decided that it wouldn't be so bad to give him just a bit more.
"That's my all-time favorite sandwich. Suitable for both desert islands and paperwork sessions."
It wasn't much. Really, it was no more important of a detail than knowing that she didn't like olives on her pizza. Yet for some reason, Chuck looked like she'd just handed him the only key to Fort Knox. His smile was dazzling, and looking at it made her a little lightheaded.
"Wouldst thou fetch me mine sandwich, squire? Though I needs must tell thee, if thou visiteth that fiendishly evil purveyor of sandwichry known as Lou, an evil curse shall most certainly befall thee."
Chuck rose dramatically from his chair. "Milady, I should cross the length and breadth of the Kingdom of Buymoria to avoid such a vile fate. Fear not, I shall do as you command." With a surprisingly graceful bow, he headed up the stairs. Just before his hand hit the freezer door, he heard Lady Sarah call to him.
"Tarry not, for both my heart and my stomach shall feel thine absence most heavily. Hurry back to me."
Chuck's smile would have outshone the sun. "Always, milady. Always."