Author's Note: Okay, you see what happened was this. Verkisto sent me a website with screen captures of Adam Baldwin. He apparently made something called DC CAB when he was younger. A lot younger. Early twenties or so. And he had dark, curly hair, a wide smile, big eyes ... and he sort of reminded me of someone. Verkisto said to go ahead and write it. So here it is. Indulge me.
Casey sat in the uncomfortable chair, leaned his elbows on the uncomfortable control board, and wondered just how many ways God had of making his life even more uncomfortable than it was already.
"Hey, Casey, wanna play I-spy?"
Oh, yes. There was that one too.
Charles Irving Bartowski, known to everyone as Chuck and to him personally as 'that pain in the ass', grinned. "Go on. Just a couple. I'll let you go first."
"Okay, then I will." Chuck took a deep breath. "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with M."
The hottest day of the year so far, and he was sweating like a pig, stuck in a surveillance van that had developed an unaccountable problem with its air conditioning, and a moron who couldn't keep his mouth shut if his lips were sewn together. "No."
"Come on. It's easy. You just take a guess, and I say whether you're right or not."
"Come on," Chuck repeated. "Something beginning with M."
"How about M for your mangled corpse if you don't shut up?"
"Ouch." Chuck managed to look hurt. "I'm getting the feeling someone wasn't hugged enough as a child."
"You try it and I won't be held responsible for my actions. I might even be able to persuade the court that it was justifiable homicide."
Chuck simply grinned. "Sarah wouldn't let you."
"She's not here."
"No, she's out there." Chuck nodded towards one of the many TV screens in the van, picking up the security feed from the bar across the street. Agent Walker could be seen smiling at customers and making cocktails.
"My job," Casey muttered. "I do the bar work."
"And they only hire women," Chuck reminded him. "Now, I know you're good at disguises, but I kinda figure you might have a problem with that one." He sat back, twisting slightly on the seat, making the central post squeak. "Although, I can see it. Something off the shoulder, maybe, showing off your hairy chest. And I'd go with something sparkly and midnight blue – it goes with your eyes."
Chuck's jaw dropped first, then became an even wider grin. "Casey. You made a funny." He slapped him on the shoulder. "Good for you!"
Casey sighed, a deep breath from the soles of his very hot feet. "Bartowski, read my lips," he said, enunciating carefully. "If you don't shut the hell up, they won't find enough pieces to identify."
Chuck held up his hands. "Fine. Fine. We'll just sit here in silence."
"Good." Casey turned back to the screens.
"It was monitor, by the way."
His hands becoming fists, Casey growled out, "What?"
"The I-spy. M. M for monitor."
It took an effort of sheer and indomitable will for the older man to consciously uncurl his fingers. "I. Don't. Care."
Sometimes, Casey thought, this job wasn't worth it. He was a top agent, after all. Okay, maybe he'd had a few problems in the past, and some people thought he was a burn-out. But that wasn't the case. He could still hack it with the best, and his reputation for getting the job done was second to none. Yet for the last year or so he'd been stuck babysitting.
Although to be honest – at least, in his own mind – he had had a few good days. Taking down Sarnow. Saving all those people at the hotel. Stopping a diamond from funding terrorism.
Except … and that was a big 'except' … not a little of that had to be put at Chuck's door. Without him …
"What is it, big feller?" Chuck asked, then recoiled at the glare that came his way. "Okay, okay. Sorry." He mimed zipping his lips up and throwing away the key.
If only that were possible.
On the monitor Sarah was making something long and cold, and Casey could feel his mouth watering. He'd kill for a beer right now. With condensation forming on the glass, like the little beads of sweat on his top lip. He sighed and reached up to adjust the contrast.
Casey's eyes darted around the different screens. "Where?"
"Not up there." Chuck pointed. "There."
Casey followed Chuck's gaze to his own chest. "What the hell are you talking about, Bartowski?"
"On your side. Under your arm." He leaned forward as if he could see through the light t-shirt his partner was wearing. "Was it a tattoo?"
"Can I see?"
"What's it of?" Chuck grinned. "Come on. I bet it's an old girlfriend's name. Maybe Ilsa."
"Casey. Show me. You know I'm only going to nag you until you do."
For a long moment the big man entertained himself with the image of Chuck spread-eagled in the desert, his naked body covered with honey, a colony of fire ants just a few feet away … "It's nothing to do with you."
"It's just, I haven't noticed it before. And … well, I want to know something about you."
"Because you're this big, tough G-man assassin. And you keep your private life private."
"That's why it's called private. And I don't have one."
"A life or a tattoo?"
"Not even a little?" Chuck put on his wheedling voice. "Show me, Casey. Just so I can have something. Anything."
Casey stared at him, the light from the screen bringing out the planes and hollows of his face, while making his eyes dark, mysterious. He didn't speak for a long time, and Chuck began to feel uncomfortable.
Finally … "If I show you, will you shut up?"
Chuck licked his finger, made a cross over his heart, then held up his hand. "I promise."
Casey grunted again, this time in experienced disbelief, but started to lift his t-shirt. His well-defined abs appeared, but Chuck only had eyes for the tiny …
"What is that?" the younger man asked. "A bird?"
"Because it looks like a bird."
"It isn't anything. It's a birthmark." Casey pulled his t-shirt back into place and went back to the monitors.
"And you've always had it?"
"That's why it's called a birthmark."
"Only I thought agents had all identifying marks removed."
"Yeah, well, they tried. Only I said no."
Chuck's lips lifted. "I knew it," he said. "You're a sentimental softie inside."
Casey didn't answer.
There was silence for a minute or two.
"Only Ellie's got one, looks almost identical."
Of course he couldn't be quiet. That would mean the entire rule book on the laws of the universe would have to be rewritten.
"She got it from our father. It's something of a trait in the family. Different places, but most of us have one."
"You don't." Casey wished he could drag the words back into his mouth as soon as he'd uttered them.
"I did. Once. It was on my knee. But I fell off my bike when I was a kid, skinned that whole area. It never grew back." He laughed. "It looked just like that," he added, pointing.
"Only like I said, it's inherited …" Chuck looked at Casey, who looked back at him. "You don't think …"
"I lied, okay?" Casey was gruff, his voice lower than usual, as if he didn't want anyone else to hear. "It is a tattoo. Of a bird. A blue tit." He shrugged. "I was young, the tattooist was pretty …"
Chuck laughed, even if it was a little tentative. "Swayed by a pair of eyes, huh?"
"It wasn't her eyes I was looking at."
The laugh became more natural, less forced, and as he shook his head, he caught sight of a man being served by Sarah at that very moment. His face glazed, his lashes fluttering.
"Chuck?" Casey sat forward. "Who is he?"
"Marcus Gregorio, arms dealer. Exported through a shell company. He's been considered dead since an explosion at a warehouse three years ago, but before that his preferred method of execution was …" Chuck's face cleared, although he was now grimacing. "He's the main man."
Casey grinned ferally. "Then it's time we made that consideration fact, don't you think?"
Chuck nodded. "Do you want me to …" He indicated the van.
"Yep. Stay in the car, Chuck."
Casey grabbed his weapon and slid the door open, stepping out into the slightly cleaner air.
At least Chuck had only flashed on Gregorio, and not the birthmark. That would have been the last straw. If the sight of it had brought up Casey's file, he'd have been so mortified he would have had to commit murder, just to stop the embarrassment.
Only two people knew, and one of those was General Beckman. It was one of the reasons he'd been given this assignment, once the powers that be knew of the Intersect. They thought he might be more … amenable … to protecting one of his own.
Not a close relative, of course. But a cousin. Maybe a couple of times removed. Which that birthmark was going to be, as soon as he could arrange it.
Now, though, now it was time to go and get the bad guy. His job. And maybe work out a little of that aggravated aggression he was unaccountably feeling ...