Chuck vs The Sexy Handler

This is not new content. My custom was to separate my scenes with a line of broken dashes. The site decided to retroactively delete any line that starts with a dash. That made 100 of my chapters instantly unreadable. To fix them all would be a huge effort. So I decided to add a chapter at the end of each story that was the whole story.

I still don't own Chuck. Not sure who does at this point. Maybe Subway.

This story continues the Negotiation arc and directly follows Taking One For the Team. Hopefully, this story will be a little lighter and more fun. Having said that, it wouldn't be a story without a little tension, right? If you haven't read Negotiation and Taking One For the Team, what the heck? Why do you think I write this stuff anyway? It's okay. Go read them right now. We'll wait.

Thanks to Happydayz for pulling double duty as my conscience in Brickroad's absence. Don't worry folks, her leash is just as short as Brickroad's. And thanks to Poa for stepping up as lead beta. I appreciate all of your help more than you'll ever know.

If you enjoyed this or any of the stories on this site, please take a second and send the author a review.

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Chapter 1: Most Wanted

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Fred Jones sat by his pool admiring the day and counting his lucky stars. It was a day that the Orange Country Chamber of Commerce dreamed about. There was not a cloud in the sky. And even though it was not quite noon, the temperature was already in the mid-eighties. The sun reflecting off the water was so bright that if not for strong sunglasses, it would hurt your eyes. Jones had often wondered if such a luxurious pool was worth the time and expense required. After all, he rarely had time to enjoy it. He was always working. And he no longer needed it to impress the ladies. He couldn't even remember the last time that he had a party back here. But it was days like this that made him really appreciate one of the privileges accorded to a Fulcrum Elder. It was almost perfect

Then, suddenly, it was perfect. She burst out of the water. Her white string bikini contrasted with her tanned skin to create an almost angelic image. As she shook her head to clear the water from her face, the droplets on her body glistened as they caught the sun. She gently squeezed the excess water from her long blonde hair as she gracefully walked up the steps and out of the pool. With a beaming smile, she walked to the lounge chair that was next to where Jones was sitting. She grabbed her sunglasses from the table and placed them on her face. As she sat on the chair, she took a long drink from her Pina Colada and placed it back on the table.

"How did you enjoy your swim, my dear?" Jones asked. "How was the water?"

"It was perfect," Sarah said with a soft smile. "This day is perfect."

Jones had no illusions as to Agent Walker's motivation. Seduction of an enemy was on the very first page of the CIA playbook. And she clearly didn't trust him. So he needed to be on guard around her. If she wanted secrets, she would have to work for them. But he had to admit, it would be fun to see how far she was willing to go. And judging by what he heard last week when she was with Schultz, she was obviously willing to go quite far. Jones smiled as he thought of ways to make her go even farther. Maybe it was time to dust off all those old fantasies that were stored in the back recesses of his mind.

"I hope you don't mind," Sarah said as she untied the top of her bikini. "I hate tan lines."

Jones had to fight to keep the gasp from escaping his lips when she slid off her bikini bottom and kicked it to the side. He was in total awe as he beheld her lying there, completely naked except for her sunglasses. She was absolutely perfect. The coolness of the water had an obvious effect. Jones had never seen anything so erotic in his whole life. He was going to enjoy this battle of wills. He was very confident that he would soon have her on her knees… in more ways than one. But he would have to be careful. Underestimating her would quickly have him on his knees. And for a man in his position, that could be fatal. So he was going to be very careful indeed.

"Well," Sarah said softly without moving her head. "Are you just going to sit there staring at me, or are you going to help me put on this suntan lotion?"

"Excuse me, sir," the receptionist said, startling Jones from his daydream. "They are ready for you."

"Thank you, Carol," Jones said with a smile as he stood up from his chair. It had been a while since the Elders had met in person. Since they usually only bothered to invest in all of the required travel in times of crises, that was usually a very tense event. Fortunately, Jones had perfected his very own relaxation technique. As he opened the door he made a mental note to help plan his evening.

Once he was home, he would finish imagining putting the lotion on Sarah Walker and think up where that would take them.

But he was fairly sure that he already knew.

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"Do you think I'm obsessed?" Sarah asked. She said it so softly that Chuck had to replay her words in his mind to make sure that he heard her correctly. They were sitting at the table enjoying the quiet of the morning and their first cup of coffee.

"It depends," Chuck said with a grin. "Obsessed about what?"

"You know," Sarah said without meeting Chuck's eyes as the blush began to travel up her neck. "Sex. I don't know what's gotten into me. I've never felt like this in my life. I hope it's not too much. You would tell me if it was too much, right?"

"Sarah," said Chuck as his eyes narrowed. "What are you talking about?"

"Five times in the last fifteen hours," Sarah said with a sigh. "It must be the hormones. I'm so sorry, Chuck. I've never been like this."

Chuck just looked at her like she had grown another head. "You're apologizing for having too much sex?" he asked incredulously.

"Well," Sarah said as a slight smile began to appear. "It's been fantastic. I just don't want to wear you out or anything. I've missed you so much."

"I don't think you have to worry about that," Chuck said with a laugh. "It's been fantastic for me too. For one thing, you could never seduce me if I didn't want you to. For another, I'm pretty sure that I seduced you at least three of those times."

"You so cute," Sarah said as the smile became more pronounced. "You really believe that, don't you?"

"Which one?" Chuck asked. "Well, I guess that it doesn't matter. They're both true."

"Chuck," Sarah said, now with the gleam in her eye apparent. "I could seduce you anytime I wanted. You wouldn't stand a chance."

"What!" Chuck exclaimed in mock anger. "We've just made love five times. I think I'm good for a few days."

"Today," Sarah insisted. "I could seduce you today."

"I'm not trying to start a fight," Chuck said. "But I really don't think so."

"This isn't a fight," Sarah said. "This is a friendly disagreement between lovers. I'm absolutely sure that I could seduce you. How would you like to make this interesting?"

"What do you have in mind?"

"I'll seduce you before midnight," Sarah said with a grin. "By any means necessary. If I fail, you get to choose your reward just like if I forget to say 'I love you' for a day. By the way, I love you."

"I love you too. And if you win?"

"Same thing," Sarah said. "I get to choose my reward."

"Deal."

"Be careful," Sarah said with a laugh. "My hormones are really driving me to imagine some pretty wild things."

"Don't worry your pretty little head," Chuck said as he matched her laugh. "I can get wild with the best of them."

Sarah got up and walked over to Chuck and sat on his lap. Then she put her head on Chuck's shoulder. "I was being flippant just a second ago," she said softly. "But it's true. I love you. And even more than that, I appreciate you."

Chuck reached down and kissed Sarah tenderly. Quickly the kiss escalated until it was pretty intense. Suddenly, Chuck realized what was happening and broke the kiss.

"Anytime I want," Sarah said with a smile. "And that wasn't even the good part. This is how I'm going to win." She put her head back on Chuck's shoulder and began to whisper in his ear. Chuck's eyes widened as he listened to her. Finally he couldn't help but whine.

"That's not even fair."

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The dimly-lit room became silent as the Supreme Commander of Fulcrum entered the room, shrouded in a deeply hooded black robe. He took a seat at the head of the long oval table, at the darkest end of the room. The eight Fulcrum Elders, including Jones, glanced at one another nervously. This was a rare moment, indeed. The Fulcrum leader made only occasional appearances, and even then, he had never seated himself at one of their meetings. He was almost always otherwise occupied with business concerning The Ring. Someone coughed, but otherwise, the room was silent.

"Mr. Jones," the leader stated.

"Yes," Jones began in a high-pitched voice. He cleared his throat. "Yes, sir," he said more firmly.

"Congratulations on your recent success," the leader said. "I can't tell you how important that was. We need the revenue from those enterprises to fund our domestic operations. Even though we all know how distasteful some of those activities are, a disruption would have been a major blow."

"Thank you, sir," Jones said. "I'm always happy to contribute in any way that I can."

"It has also come to my attention that you have initiated contact with one of the CIA's top agents, and that she was instrumental in your recent mission."

Jones straightened his posture and leaned forward. "Yes," he said confidently. "Sarah Walker."

Every Elder in the room eyed Jones with envy.

"Excellent, Mr. Jones." The Fulcrum leader folded his hands upon the table. "I have another assignment for you to consider."

Jones tried to keep from smiling. "Yes?"

The leader paused as he looked over the group thoughtfully. "This is a marvelous opportunity," he said finally. "Sarah Walker is legendary. A tool like we have never had. We would like you to use her to attack the CIA itself, from the inside. You may, of course, use any means necessary to achieve that result. And your brethren," the leader opened his hands face up and extended his arms to gesture at the Elders sitting around the table, "will assist you as needed."

"She has friends, family. A boyfriend," said Jones, no longer keeping the smile from his face. "I may need some assistance to convince her."

"Do as you deem necessary. Fulcrum has always believed that sacrifices must be made for the greater good." The Fulcrum leader paused. "Will you accept this assignment, Mr. Jones?"

"Absolutely," said Jones. He couldn't believe that he had been offered such an opportunity. A chance to prove his worth to Fulcrum. A chance to exert power over his colleagues, several of which he owed more than a little payback. And, the creme de la creme, a chance to work with Agent Walker again. She had a boyfriend, yes, but accidents happened everyday. And if he could somehow pin the accident on the CIA, she might even turn to Fulcrum. Turn to him for support. Imagine Sarah Walker using his shoulder to cry on. He had to clear the image out of his mind to concentrate on the meeting.

"Very well," said the leader, rising and leaving the room. He would leave the rest of the meeting to the Elders. After all, they still had a very full agenda.

Very well, indeed, thought Jones. He made a mental note to himself with a grin that he couldn't suppress.

Buy some more suntan lotion.

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Chapter 2: Cruel and Unusual

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General Beckman was sitting in the conference room waiting impatiently for her meeting with Ben Adams. It was just like him to keep her waiting. Even though it had only been a couple of weeks, she was eager to get back to Washington. For one thing, she missed her bed. She was tired of living out of a hotel. Also being on the West Coast meant that you missed all of the interoffice buzz. And there had to be a lot of buzz about her new boss.

Beckman was already wondering when the first scandal would hit. After all, the man clearly thought that every woman in the world was eager to jump into bed with him. And that was not a good attribute for someone so high in the Department of Defense hierarchy. The press would love to hear of an incident involving the Under Secretary of Defense and a subordinate. They would have a field day. Beckman only hoped that it wouldn't interfere too much with the work they were doing. It was far too important.

But it was just a matter of time before it happened. It was predictable. After all, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. And he had a history.

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"Can't we have a real honeymoon?" Chuck asked. "We could really use some alone time. Preferably when someone isn't trying to kill us," he added, trying to change the subject. Sarah's seduction attempt was already paying huge dividends. A few more minutes of this and he was a goner. And he had to hold out. He was going to win that bet.

"What did you have in mind?" Sarah asked as she nibbled his ear. "We can't leave the country. Not as long as you're the Intersect. We might be able to get away for a few days if Casey and Janice went too."

"Anyplace," Chuck said. "As long as we can be alone for a few days. Maybe go to Key West and lay on the beach. Or how about Niagara Falls? That's a traditional honeymoon spot. We can stay on the U.S. side."

"I really didn't mean that we couldn't go to Canada for a day," Sarah laughed. "That's not what I meant by out of the country. I was talking about Europe. I've never been to Niagara Falls before. That sounds like fun."

"How about this?" Chuck asked. "We'll go to Vegas for the weekend and get married. We'll take our friends and make it a party. We'll just have fun for the weekend. Maybe we can all go dancing or something that you would be fun for you. Then you and I will go to Niagara Falls for a few days. We'll buy a car and take our time driving it back. It will give us a chance to see the country."

"I'd like that," Sarah said. "We need to have some fun, that's for sure. And we could use another car. If you're going to be an agent, we can certainly afford it."

"So," Chuck said. "You're okay with the agent thing? I told Beckman that I would have to talk to you first."

For the first time since their bet, Sarah got up from his lap and went back to her seat. Chuck could see the concern in her eyes.

"Are you sure that's what you want?" Sarah said.

As Chuck looked at her, he knew that she was struggling with how to tell him something.

"Because you know this life, Chuck," Sarah continued. "The CIA will ask you to do things that will go against everything you believe in. You won't be able to voice your opinion as a civilian. Heck, from their perspective, you won't have an opinion in the first place. They expect their orders to be followed, with no questions asked." Sarah sighed. "But if you really want to do this, I will support you. But I have some conditions."

"I'm listening," Chuck said.

"Please only do this if it's what you're called to do," Sarah said. "Please, don't do it for me. I'll love you no matter what job you have."

"I understand," Chuck said. "What is the other one?"

Sarah walked over to him and sat back down in his lap. She looked into his eyes for a long moment. "Don't let them change you, Chuck."

"Of course not," Chuck said.

"No," said Sarah. "I mean it. I know what this life can do…" Her eyes glistened as she struggled for the right words.

Chuck stopped her with a look into her eyes and he brushed her cheek with the back of his hand. "I won't let them change me, Sarah."

She nodded then, and kissed him softly on his cheek. "Thank you, sweetie."

x-x-x-x-x

The instant Adams came online, he was all business. "Have you arranged for the team to meet with me?" he said briskly.

"I'm meeting with them in an hour, sir," Beckman replied. "I'll discuss it then."

"I've been thinking about their cover," Adams said. "Fulcrum thinks that Walker has gone rogue, is that correct?"

"Yes, sir," Beckman said. "We believe so."

"And they don't know about Agent Beckman," Adams said. "Is that correct?"

"Yes, sir," Beckman said. "We believe that is correct. Agent Beckman has been off the grid for the past several years."

"And what is your assessment of Agent Beckman?" Adams said. "This is a key assignment."

"I'm not sure, sir," Beckman said. "She has performed admirably for the past few weeks. But she did suffer a traumatic event that would have prevented most agents from ever serving again. It may be a little too soon for such an important assignment. But she is certainly more than eager to return. And Walker and Bartowski have expressed a high level of confidence in her."

"Schedule a one-on-one meeting for me and Agent Beckman," Adams said. "I want to personally assess her."

"Yes, sir."

"We will have to set up their cover so that they don't have an association to the agency," Adams said. "We need to protect Walker's contact with the Fulcrum Elder at all cost. We are even going to attack some of the drug camps identified in the dummy report. That should convince Fulcrum that Walker can be trusted."

"Yes, sir," Beckman said. "I'm not sure that Agent Walker will be enthusiastic about pursuing the Fulcrum Elder."

"We've been all through that," Adams said impatiently. "She'll do whatever we need her to do. Leave that up to me."

"Yes, sir."

"We'll set it up so that Walker and Beckman are sisters," Adams said, more to himself than to the General. "We'll set up a front company to pay them. Bartowski and Walker can live together. Beckman next door."

"Yes, sir," Beckman said. "What about Colonel Casey's cover?"

"We won't need him any longer," Adams said as he stood up to leave the conference room.

"Reassign him."

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"I just want you to be prepared," Sarah said. "There are times when I won't be there on missions. I'll be home taking care of our family. You're going to be working with Janice. She will be taking my place. Sometimes, you'll be undercover with her as a couple. Maybe in intimate situations. Are you going to be okay with that?"

"Nobody could ever take your place," Chuck said as he grabbed her hand. "You know that. I don't want to do anything that would make you feel uncomfortable. So let's not worry about what I want, right now. How do you really feel? Are you going to be okay with this?"

Sarah smiled as she felt the blush rise up from her neck. From anybody else, that would have sounded corny. But when Chuck said it, it sounded so unbelievably sweet. "I'm not sure," Sarah said. "I'm not sure that I can sit at home while you're off on a mission. I'll be worried sick. And I still want to get some things straight with Janice. If she is going to be your new handler, I want to make sure that she has the right attitude. If anything happens to you, she'll be dealing with me. There is also the small issue of her constantly coming on to you. That's the kind of handling that I can't accept."

"I'm not sure what you mean," Chuck said as he looked at the floor.

"Come on, Chuck," Sarah said with a smile. "It's okay. I'm not blaming you. I'm not trying to trap you. But why did you think that I was Janice last night? Why did you think that she wanted to sleep with you? She must have been coming on to you. Please tell me."

"She kissed me in the van before our mission," Chuck said. "I'm sorry. I tried to break it off as quickly as I could. But she had her hand behind my head. I told her that I would never betray you. Please don't be upset. I was going to tell you about it. I just haven't had the chance."

Sarah buried her face into Chuck's neck. "Chuck," she whispered. "I'm not mad at you. You would never betray me. That's the one thing in this world I can count on. This isn't about our bet. I need you to know that. This is me. I love you so much."

"Thank you," Chuck said as he wrapped his arms around her. "You know how much I love you."

"You have to understand about Janice," Sarah said. "She is what a spy is supposed to be. She would never allow herself to fall in love. And sex doesn't mean anything to her. She wasn't trying to get you to cheat on me. She just doesn't think about it like that. To Janice, taking you to bed is like taking you out for ice cream. She was just trying to help."

Then, Sarah paused for a moment as a smile came to her face. "And Janice really, really likes ice cream," she said.

"Okay," Chuck said with his own smile. "But if I'm not mistaken, you're starting to develop a taste for it as well."

"Maybe," Sarah said as she tried to stop laughing. "But I only like one flavor. Janice likes all flavors. She likes different toppings. And she doesn't care where she is eating the ice cream. She also likes to let it melt and lick…"

"Okay," Chuck interrupted with a laugh. "I get it. I shouldn't get all worked up if she offers me a hot fudge sundae. Janice is just Janice."

"But that doesn't mean that we should accept it," Sarah said with a grin as she lifted her head off his shoulder. "Somehow I have to get through to Janice that it isn't okay for her to throw herself at you. I am going to have to teach her a lesson she won't soon forget. I'll need your help."

"Lesson?" Chuck asked. "What do you want me to do?"

"I'm not sure yet," Sarah said with the twinkle in her eye unmistakable. "She's going to want to be on my good side. So she'll do pretty much anything I ask. It has to be something that she wouldn't want to do. She has to know that she's being punished."

"It sounds like you're housetraining a puppy," Chuck said with a smile.

"Yup," Sarah agreed. "It's pretty much the same thing."

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Janice lay in bed staring at the grey cement ceiling of Castle. One thing was for sure, she would go crazy if she had to spend many more nights here. Couldn't they at least paint the living quarters a different color? Ten million to build a world class facility and they couldn't afford a simple thirty-dollar gallon of paint?

At least she didn't spend the entire night alone. It was really sweet of Chuck to include her in his and Sarah's plans. Especially after he caught her… well, you'd have to call it spying on them. She really didn't mean to. She just checked the surveillance to make sure that they were going to be okay. After all, they had been fighting a lot lately. But when she saw how hot it was, she just couldn't turn away. She had completely underestimated Chuck. Anybody who could make Sarah Walker moan like that… Janice knew that soon she was going to buy a ticket for that ride.

But mainly Janice was excited. No, not that kind of excited. Well, maybe a little. But for the first time in over five years, Agent Beckman had a chance for an official mission. Agent Beckman - it felt so good to say those words.

One thing was for sure. Janice had waited too long for this to blow it now. So she had to figure out how to work with her new partners. Casey was going to be pretty easy. Tell him who to shoot and get out of his way. Chuck was, well, he was Chuck. The biggest issue was keeping him out of the trouble that seemed to follow him around like a swarm of mosquitoes in a swamp. No, the real problem was going to be the one that she knew the best - Sarah.

What was the real deal with Chuck and Sarah? She wasn't buying that Sarah had fallen in love. That couldn't be it. Sarah Walker in love? It just sounded silly. The Sarah Walker she knew got bored with a man after a couple of weeks. Not too many years ago their favorite game was walking into a strange bar and seeing who could have a man in bed the fastest. And now she's married? Having a baby? What was going on with her? Was this just a phase she was going through? Or was she just kidding?

Janice knew that she needed to tread lightly. Sarah could still veto the entire deal. But Janice knew that she could talk her into it. It had been a while, but Janice was sure that if she laid on the charm and did her bidding for a few days, Sarah would be eating out of her hand. After all, she was somewhat of an expert in talking Sarah into things. Who else could have talked her into entering that contest in Cleveland that time?

Okay, Janice admitted to herself with a smile. Maybe that wasn't the best example. So it didn't work out exactly as they had planned. How was she supposed to know that the game was rigged?

At least they got their clothes back. Well, most of them anyway.

x-x-x-x-x

"Who should we invite to Vegas?" Chuck asked after a long moment of cuddling.

"Well," Sarah said. "From my side, Janice, Casey and General Beckman. I think from your side, Ellie and Devon and Morgan and Anna."

You've forgot a few," Chuck said. "Bryce needs to be there. I'm not sure which side he'll sit on."

"Bryce?" Sarah asked. "How would you contact him?"

"He's in town," Chuck said. "I saw him when we were briefing Beckman yesterday. They must be making plans on how to use your new Fulcrum contact."

"Are you sure you're okay with Bryce being there?" Sarah asked.

"I need you to know how much last night meant to me," Chuck said. "And I'm so sorry. I know that I've had a ridiculous sensitivity to Bryce in the past. But I'm over that. I promise. I'm going to trust you as much as you trust me."

"Thanks," Sarah said with her eyes shining. "You'll never know how good that makes me feel. I would never betray you either."

"Besides," Chuck said with his classic grin. "If I'm going to invite Jeff and Lester, the least I can do is let you invite your ex. Too bad we can't get a hold of Jill."

"Jeff and Lester," Sarah said with a groan, ignoring his barb about Jill. "I know that they are your friends. But come on. All they ever do is stare at my chest and try to look down my shirt. I can't imagine what it's going to be like when they're drunk and in the party capital."

"You have to admire their taste," Chuck said with a laugh. "Besides, if we eliminate anyone who has ever stared at your chest, there won't be a man there, including Casey."

"That's disgusting," said Sarah. "Okay, but I don't want to hear anything from you when they want to kiss the bride."

"I'll stay quiet," Chuck said with a grin. "Just promise me that you'll keep your mouth closed."

"Trust me, Chuck. I promise."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice was just about to pour her second cup of coffee when she saw Sarah walking down the stairs.

"Hey," Janice called. "Where's Chuck? You haven't worn him out or anything? Can he still walk?"

"Don't worry about Chuck," Sarah said with a laugh. "He's surprisingly durable. He is over at the Buy More inviting his friends to the wedding so he won't be here for a while. Don't worry. You have plenty of time to put your clothes on."

"Where's the fun in that?" Janice laughed.

"There isn't," Sarah replied in a serious tone. "Chuck is a married man. You need to lay off."

"Wow," Janice said. "Sarah, listen to you. You actually sound jealous."

"I'm not jealous," Sarah insisted. "I have no reason to be jealous. I just don't want you to be distracted. If you have any hope of me agreeing to this arrangement, you need to be protecting him. Not messing with his head by kissing him before an important mission. Or your silly schemes to get him in bed. And trust me - it's not going to happen anyway."

"Shit," Janice said under her breath as her eyes widened. "He told you about that?"

"Chuck is my husband," Sarah said firmly. "He is going to tell me everything. You need to remember that. I understand that you're going to have to put on a cover sometimes for a mission. That's part of the job. I don't like it but I can live with it. But in the van before a mission is completely unacceptable. Not only is it unprofessional, it crossed the line."

Janice's face betrayed her fear as she looked at Sarah. "Please," Janice whispered. "You know how much I need this. Please don't take this away from me."

"I can't be home lying alone in bed worrying about you on a mission with him," Sarah said. "I won't live like that. If I can't trust you with him…"

"Sarah," Janice said with a sigh. "What is with you? Be honest with me. How could you have possibly changed so radically? Okay, so he's a great guy. I like him too. But just listen to yourself. You call him sweetie, for Pete's sake. Do you realize how sickening that sounds? Five years ago you would have made fun at someone who called their boyfriend sweetie."

"I know," Sarah said as the blush started to rise up her neck. "I could never imagine myself calling anybody sweetie until I met Chuck. If I would have had to do it on a mission, I'm not sure I would be able to get the words out of my mouth. I guess I picked it up from Ellie. That's what she calls him. It just seems to fit somehow. He's my sweetie."

"Oh my God," Janice said with a moan as she dropped her head on the table. "It's worse than I thought. Please tell me you're kidding. Now I don't know who to shoot. Maybe I should shoot you and then turn the gun on myself. I mean really. What is the big deal? It's just sex. It doesn't mean a thing. You know that better than anybody. Why would you care if I walked him around the block a couple of times? A few years ago we would have compared notes. Maybe I can teach him something."

Sarah just stood for a long moment with a sad smile. "I'm in love with him," she finally said. "I've been looking for him my whole life. And this isn't a phase I'm going through. And it's not something that I'm going to get over. I'm home now. And I'm never going back."

Sarah paused to take a deep breath before she continued. "This is what I have to make you understand. Agent Walker wouldn't have minded a bit if you slept with him. You're right. We probably would have made it a game to see who could get him in the most unusual position. But I'm not Agent Walker anymore. She was an invention of the agency. She was a cover. I'm Sarah Bartowski now and Chuck is my husband, he is my sweetie, and he is my life. And if you only hear one thing that I'm telling you, hear this. You're not going to be his handler until you respect that."

"Okay, Sarah," Janice said. "I'm not going to pretend to understand. But I'll stay away from him."

"Be careful when you say that," Sarah said. "Because I'm being serious. Janice, you know how I feel about you. I would do anything for you. But if I hear about you attempting to seduce him again, I will end you. And I'm not going to agree to anything that might put Chuck in danger until I'm convinced that you believe that."

"Please, Sarah," Janice said. "What do I have to do to convince you? I'll do anything to make this happen."

"Now you're talking," Sarah said as her face broke into a grin. "I think I might have something that you can do for me. There are two friends of Chuck's that are coming to Vegas with us. Let's just say that it's highly unlikely that either will have dates. Your mission is to keep them occupied and out of my sight for the entire weekend. Using any means necessary."

"Two of them?" Janice asked. "Isn't that a little… unusual? What am I going to do with two of them?"

"Trust me," Sarah said with a laugh. "These particular guys aren't going to mind. They love looking at lady's…umm… assets. And since you're not at all hesitant about showing men yours, you should get along famously. They will be slobbering all over you. One of them will probably be operating the camera."

Seeing the look on Janice's face, Sarah smiled. "I meant the slobbering part figuratively," she said. "If that actually does happen, keep it to yourself."

"I get it," Janice said with a groan. "You're punishing me."

"Not completely," Sarah said with a smile. "I do want these guys out of my way this weekend. But, yes, it would be a good experience if you learned your lesson. If anything like that kiss in the van ever happens again, I'll think of something really disgusting. As a matter of fact, why don't you use this weekend to decide which one you'd rather be engaged to? It might save us a decision some time in the future. Are we clear?"

"Yes, Sarah," Janice said in defeat. "We're very clear."

Sarah and Janice were so wrapped up in their conversation that neither heard Casey come down the steps until he was practically standing next to them.

"Hey Casey," Janice said with a smile. "What's up?"

"Beckman wants to conference with us in twenty," Casey said with more of smirk than a smile. "I certainly don't mind, but you might want to consider putting some clothes on in front of the General." Casey looked around the room. "By the way, where's sweetie?"

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 3: Just In Time

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck walked down the steps of Castle just a few minutes before the briefing with General Beckman was scheduled to start. His eyes anxiously sought out Janice. He was more than a little relieved to find her standing next to Sarah dressed in something more that her underwear. Indeed, the yellow sundress was actually quite conservative. As soon as Sarah realized he was there, she walked quickly over to him and wrapped her arms around him lovingly. Sarah deftly turned Chuck so that he was facing away from where Janice was standing.

"Hello sweetie," Sarah said making sure that she emphasized the last word as she looked directly at Janice with a grin. "I've really missed you. Is everything all set?"

Janice simply responded by putting her right forefinger in her mouth displaying the classic 'gag me' gesture.

"Yes," Chuck said, suddenly confused as to why Sarah was shaking. It was like she was trying to hold back from laughing. "I talked to them both. I showed them Janice's picture. To say that they are looking forward to it is like saying a ten-year-old is looking forward to Christmas."

"That's great," Sarah said as she gently kissed him. When she looked over at Janice her lips were pursed as if she was repeatedly kissing the air. It was an obvious attempt to mock her. At that point Sarah could no longer hold in the laughter.

Chuck pulled away from Sarah with a confused look. "What's so funny?" he asked with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," Sarah said as she pulled him back tightly to her. "I'm not laughing at you. I promise. I'm just thinking that after the meeting with General Beckman, we'll take Janice over to the Buy More and introduce her to her dates for the weekend."

When Sarah looked at Janice now, the smile was gone, replaced with a scowl. Janice stopped kissing the air and gave Sarah the classic middle finger salute. "I'm sure she'll enjoy that," Sarah said with a smile as she looked directly at her.

Janice knew that she was currently playing with a bad hand. And it simply killed her to have to stand there and take Sarah's ribbing. But there would come a day when the shoe would be on other foot. And hopefully that would be very soon. Sarah was so easy to mess with. After all she had an Achilles heel. Chuck was even easier to mess with than Sarah was. Go ahead and laugh, Blondie, Janice thought to herself as she watched Sarah's hand go down to squeeze Chuck's ass in an obvious attempt to rub it in. Today's your day.

But my day's coming, she said to herself as she forced the smile on her face. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold.

"Did you have a chance to talk to Bryce?" Sarah asked.

"Sure did," Chuck said. "He said that he wouldn't miss it for the world."

Janice knew that she was supposed to be playing it cool. But when she heard the news about Bryce, she couldn't contain the sudden rush of excitement. "Bryce is coming?" she asked as her face brightened.

"Sure," Chuck said. "He said he'll be able to come for the whole weekend. The Vegas strip is Bryce's favorite place in the world. Too bad he has to go back deep undercover right from there. Who knows when we'll see him again? He was asking about you, Janice."

"Really?" Janice said with all the excitement of a cheerleader who just found out that she had been nominated for homecoming queen. "Bryce Larkin was asking about me?"

"He sure was," Chuck said. "I'm pretty sure that he has a crush on you."

"Get out," Janice said as the blush started to rise in her neck.

"Hey," Chuck said. "Here's a thought, Sarah. Why don't we hook Bryce and Janice up for the weekend? I think they would be perfect for each other."

"Sorry, sweetie," Sarah said. "Janice is already booked for this weekend."

"That's right," Chuck said with a fake sigh. "I forgot. And Jeff and Lester are so excited."

"Oh, I have an idea," Sarah said with an evil grin directed at Janice. "Let's save ourselves a trip. I'll bring up the surveillance camera in the Buy More and we can show Janice her dates right now."

Sarah sat down at the computer and started looking through the shots of the various Buy More surveillance cameras. Finally she spotted Jeff in the cage.

"Is that Lester?" Janice asked. "At least he looks like he's working hard."

"No," Sarah said. "That's Jeff. And it might look like he's working but zoom in on the screen."

"Oh my God," Janice said.

"Yup," Chuck said with a laugh. "That's Jeff. He's watching porn in the cage as usual." Chuck then punched up another camera on the monitor. "There's Lester in the break room."

"What's he doing?" Janice said. "He just keeps looking at the sheet of paper like he's hypnotized or something."

"He is," Chuck said. "That's the picture of you that I took over. Lester asked if he could keep it."

"Hey," Sarah said with a laugh. "He just kissed your picture. He must like you."

Janice's eyes pleaded with her to turn off the monitor.

"I think you're going to be in luck this weekend," Sarah said. "After all, there's plenty of porn in Vegas. And if he enjoys kissing your picture that much, it's easy to imagine what he'll do with the real thing."

"Oh my God," Janice moaned as she dropped her head on the table in a thud.

Casey walked down the steps just as General Beckman's image appeared on the large wall monitor.

"General," said Casey.

Chuck, Sarah, and Janice turned away from the computer and stood to face the screen.

"I'm sure that you are aware," General Beckman said as she began the meeting. "That we now have a new superior. Ben Adams was just confirmed as Under Secretary of Defense."

"Yes, ma'am," Casey said, speaking for the group.

"He would like to meet with you as a team," Beckman said. "He has some specific thoughts on how the team should go forward."

Sarah glared at the image of Beckman. "Excuse me, General," Sarah said sharply. "But when does he want to meet?"

"Relax, Agent Walker," Beckman said. "I've already told him that you are scheduled to get married this weekend. He is willing to wait until Monday. You'll need to fly from Vegas to Washington on a commercial flight. It is vital that none of you have any connection to the CIA from now until then. You can stay at Agent Walker's apartment. We're not going to meet at the offices. Secretary Adams is going to obtain a suite and we'll talk at the hotel."

"Sarah's apartment only has one bed," Janice said, more to herself than anybody.

"Yes, Agent Beckman," the General said. "You'll have a room at the hotel. Secretary Adams would like to meet with you to make sure that you're going to be up to such an important assignment. He'll be evaluating Chuck and Sarah later."

"Evaluating?" Sarah questioned.

"He is new, Sarah," Beckman said. "He has his own thoughts on how we should handle things. We're going to be making some changes. We have established a new set of covers. Sarah is now off the grid and married to Chuck. Agent Beckman is going to be Sarah's sister. We will build a Condo for the three of you to live. After today, you are no longer to enter Castle. We will eventually mothball it. We will equip your condo with all the facilities currently in Castle. We have also set up a front software company that the three of you will operate as your cover jobs. Are there any questions?"

"Yes, ma'am," Chuck said. "What about Casey?"

"Colonel Casey will no longer be required on this mission," Beckman said. "He will be given two weeks to disengage here and then will receive his new assignment."

Sarah saw the disappointment on Chuck's face and tried to calm him down. "Don't worry," she said. "We can talk about it this weekend."

"I'm afraid not," Beckman said. "Colonel Casey and I will be unable to attend. Since they don't know Agent Larkin, he can attend but he has been instructed to keep a low profile. It's vital that there be no visible contact between the three of you and any part of the government. If they're watching, we must convince Fulcrum that Agent Walker has disassociated herself from the CIA. We'll discuss it in Washington. I'll try and get you a few days down time after the meeting but I can't make any promises. Secretary Adams is anxious to begin with his new strategy."

"Excuse me, ma'am," Janice said. "I will be happy to assist Agent Larkin in his effort to keep a low profile. After all, a couple would blend in better than a single man."

"Yes, Agent Beckman," General Beckman said with the hint of a smile. "Thank you. Just make sure that you don't miss your sister's wedding."

Casey's eyes widened as he took in the meaning behind the General's announcement. He glanced over at Chuck and Sarah, who seemed as surprised as he was. What the hell? He was off the team? Just like that? Casey fought to keep his expression neutral, but his eyes suddenly narrowed. Just who was this new head honcho anyhow? Taking Casey off the team didn't make any sense, especially because Sarah was no longer going to be Chuck's handler. Why split the team up completely? They had done well together; they had proven themselves time and time again.

"Are you certain about removing me from this assignment, General? It might not be in the best interest of the Intersect to remove both handlers at the same time," he said, watching Beckman closely.

Beckman hesitated slightly. "This has been deemed necessary for the Intersect project."

"By you?" asked Casey, who had noticed her hesitation. They both knew that he was bordering on insubordination, but he wanted to know if she was in agreement with the new boss.

She frowned at him. "Secretary Adams believes it necessary, and I am complying with his instructions."

Casey was pleased with her careful answer. He would do some digging around and check out this Adams guy. He was unoccupied for the next two weeks anyhow.

"Um, General?" Chuck interrupted. "I don't want Casey off the team."

"I'll talk to him, General," said Casey.

"Very well," Beckman said with a curt nod. The monitor darkened.

"Casey," Chuck began.

Casey stood up and walked over to Chuck. "Chuck, we have to follow orders."

"But, Casey. . ."

"Chuck," Casey said firmly. "We have to follow orders." Casey leaned over to Chuck's ear and whispered so that the surveillance equipment couldn't pick up his words. "Semper fi, Chuck."

Chuck's eyebrows shot up. He nodded slowly as Casey straightened.

"I can't believe we have to rush through this weekend," Chuck said, changing the subject. "I guess there goes Niagara Falls."

"It'll be okay, Chuck," said Sarah. "We can have fun in Washington. I'd love to show you around."

As Casey headed up the stairs, followed by Janice, he turned around. "What's the matter, sweetie?" he growled. "You need a honeymoon? Haven't you guys been married for three months already? Hell, I never thought you'd last that long."

Sarah smiled as Casey tried to lighten the mood, in his own way. "Actually," she said to Casey. "You'd be surprised how long Chuck can last."

Janice groaned at the latest double entendre. "She's been like that all day," Janice said, looking up at Casey. "She makes you want to shoot yourself, doesn't she?"

Casey grunted as he and Janice made their way up the stairs and out of Castle.

Once they had left, Sarah turned to Chuck and put her hand on his back. "Are you okay?" she asked as she gently rubbed. "This is what I was trying to tell you before. Agents follow orders. Period. Don't become one unless you're willing to follow them as well."

Chuck stared into space for a moment, thinking about Casey's words. Semper fi. Somehow, he knew that Casey would have his back, no matter what. He smiled slightly, looking at Sarah. "Yeah, I'm okay," he sighed. "We've got a lot to do if we're getting married tomorrow. Let's go talk to Ellie."

x-x-x-x-x

It had turned out to be a long day. Even though Chuck and Sarah had always planned on keeping the wedding as simple as possible, that was before they talked to Ellie. She had other plans entirely. Ellie insisted on having certain aspects of a traditional wedding. Flowers. Cake. Photographer. And when Ellie took that tone she was hard to say no too. So Sarah finally gave in. After all, Ellie was simply too excited to disappoint. And, Sarah had to admit, it would be nice to have wedding pictures to show to their kids someday. But it made for a lot of planning. After all, just getting all of the guests into the same hotel was a challenge. But finally, the plans were made, and Chuck and Sarah returned home.

"I wonder what Bryce and Janice are doing right now?" Chuck asked as he collapsed next to Sarah on the loveseat.

"I'm not sure," Sarah replied with the hint of a smile. "But if the way they were looking at each other over dinner is any indication, my guess is the same thing that we should be doing. Do you want to check the monitor? She did watch us last night. Fair is fair, after all."

"I don't think so," Chuck said with a short laugh. "You sound jealous."

"You're damn right, I'm jealous," Sarah said quickly.

Noting Chuck's expression, Sarah quickly continued as she placed her hand softly on his arm. "Not that way, silly. I'm jealous that they get do to it and we don't. We're married and they've been a couple for four hours. Something's wrong with that."

"Just ten more minutes," Chuck said.

"You're bound and determined to win this bet," Sarah laughed as she kissed him and began to slowly unbutton her blouse. "But I still have a few more minutes. It looks like I'd better break out the heavy artillery.

"I am determined," Chuck said. "Ten more minutes."

"You won't believe how much I want you right now," Sarah said as she reached the last button. "Please don't make me wait. I want to show you. Right now. Please."

Chuck looked for a place to look that didn't include Sarah's sheer lacey bra. Finally, in desperation, he closed his eyes. "We can hold out for ten more minutes," Chuck said. "I've come this far."

"Ok," Sarah said and she began to kiss Chuck's neck. "We'll wait. You've held out a lot longer than I thought you would. You deserve to win."

"I've never seen someone so relieved as when you let Janice off the hook," Chuck said, desperately trying to change the subject. "I thought that she was going to cry. Do you really think she learned her lesson?"

"I do," Sarah said as she laughed. "I told her that you talked me into it. You didn't want to start your partnership on a bad note. You wanted to prove to her that you'll always have her back."

"I felt so bad for her when you told her that she was going to be busy all weekend," Chuck said. "The look on her face almost broke my heart. She looked almost bashful when Bryce came down."

"I know," Sarah said. "She has always had a huge crush on Bryce. I don't think that we'll have to worry about Janice coming on to you anytime soon."

"Not only that," Chuck said. "Two people that we love found each other. You have to feel good about that."

"How did I know that's what you would say?" Sarah asked with a smile. "That's so you. But don't confuse them with us, sweetie. Neither Bryce nor Janice will ever fall in love. What they have isn't like what we have. And it never will be. They are going to spend the weekend together, probably most of it in bed, and maybe never see each other again. And if they ever do, it won't be for a long time. It's a spy's life."

"But that's why it's so important that they have this weekend," Chuck said. : "You've done great today, Sarah. You've had a lot to deal with, what with your ex being here, and having to see him dating another woman."

"You're the nicest man in the world," Sarah said. "But that doesn't bother me at all. I hope they have a terrific weekend. I'm where I want to be."

"That's great," Chuck said. "But I have something else to tell you."

There was something in his voice that told Sarah that he was serious. Even though she was on a mission, she stopped kissing his neck and sat up.

"Don't take this the wrong way," Chuck said. "I know that we've been married for three months. I do. But I'm excited to say our vows again in front of our friends and family. It will be special for them to be able to see it."

"That's sweet," Sarah whispered as she put her head on Chuck's shoulder. "I'm looking forward to that too. I'm happy that you're going to win. I want to see what it is you come up with."

"I've been thinking about it all day," Chuck said with a laugh. "I have some pretty wild stuff planned."

They sat and watched the second hand on their large wall clock as the last minute ticked down towards midnight. Chuck suddenly realized that he was holding his breath.

"Congratulations, Mr. Bartowski," Sarah said as she turned to straddle him on the love seat. "You deserve a reward," she whispered as she pressed her mouth against Chuck's. Their tongues quickly found each other in their very familiar dance.

"Sarah," Chuck whispered as the kiss finally broke.

"Umm," Sarah moaned as she pressed her mouth against his again and began to unbutton his shirt.

"Sarah," Chuck said a little more insistently as he broke the kiss.

"Yes," she whispered.

"I know that you set the clock ahead," Chuck said with a grin. "I set it back. It is really midnight."

"What!" Sarah exclaimed as she jumped up off Chuck's lap. She went to her cell phone and checked the time. "Shit," she muttered in defeat.

"It was a good plan," Chuck said. "Make me think that I had won and then seduce me. Then show me the real time. Do I have it about right?"

"Pretty much," Sarah said as the blush quickly rose to her face. "I was sure that it would work."

"Well," Chuck said. "If I'm going to be a real spy, I have to get better at those sorts of things. Don't you think?"

"The truth is I'm very proud," Sarah whispered with a smile. "A little embarrassed, but very proud. I've never wanted anything in my whole life like I want you right now."

"You're in luck," Chuck said with his classic wide grin. "I'm going to give you the chance to prove that to me."

As Sarah moved in to kiss him, Chuck held up his hand to stop her. "Not so fast," he said as he picked up his phone and chose a seductive play list. "After all, I won the bet. You're ready to pay up, right?"

Sarah just smiled at him.

"Why don't we start with a lap dance?"

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck had never had a lap dance before. The closest he had even been to one was at Devon's bachelor party. And he was far too nervous then to pay much attention. So he really didn't know the difference between good and bad lap dancing technique. But he guessed that Sarah was doing it right. She was certainly casting some kind of spell. Even though he didn't specifically remember either of them taking off any clothes, Chuck suddenly realized that both he and Sarah were in their underwear.

"Someday," Chuck whispered as Sarah ground her hips into his lap. "You'll have to tell me where you learned to do this."

"I hope that you have some cash," Sarah half moaned, and half whispered. "Because I've been told that the mark usually gives you a big tip."

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Sarah knew that she had said the wrong thing. Chuck visibly tensed as he quickly reached over and turned off the music. The sadness in his eyes broke Sarah's heart. She quickly wrapped her arms around Chuck's neck.

"I'm so sorry," Sarah said in a near panic. "That was such a stupid thing to say. I was just teasing. You know that I would never say anything like that to hurt you. Please. I'm really sorry. Don't be hurt."

"Oh," Chuck said as he realized what Sarah meant. "No. Don't worry. I'm not jealous. I understand what you've had to do for your job. I've already dealt with that. You were kidding. I know that."

"Then what just happened?" Sarah said. "I feel terrible."

Chuck just held on to Sarah for a long moment. "I'm ashamed," he said.

"Sweetie," Sarah said, now genuinely concerned. "Why on earth would you be ashamed?"

Chuck paused for a long moment to gather his thoughts. "Men have been treating you like a sex object for your whole life," he finally said. "And here I am, doing the same exact thing. I was planning on it all day. I was going to use you like an object. For my own personal desires. Just like they always did."

"Chuck…"

"Please," Chuck interrupted. "Let me finish. And the worst part is that those other guys didn't know any better. But I do. I know how wonderful you really are. That is why what I did is worse. I want to make sure that you understand how much I worship you. Not for your body, but for you. I'll never treat you like anything other than what you are… my soul mate."

"Wow," Sarah said, her eyes glistening in the soft light. "I'm with someone almost every waking moment for two years. I didn't think that I could possibly love you any more. And then you go and pull something like this. Why do you have to be so sweet? Two more seconds and I'm going to start bawling. I can't believe that I found you. What did I ever do to deserve you?"

"Sarah, I…"

"No, Chuck," Sarah said. "Now it's time for you to let me finish. I worship you, too. You're my soul mate. And you're not using me. I'm not doing anything that I don't want to do. We made a bet. You won. Next time I might win but this time you won. You deserve your fantasy."

"But this is what you don't understand," Chuck said with a smile. "I'm living my fantasy right now, here with you. I never want you to think that I need more."

Sarah paused for a long moment to gather her composure. After a couple of false starts, Sarah was finally able to get the words out without breaking down. "You're not going to stop until I'm sobbing, are you? But this is what you don't understand. I feel like you've been cheated out of so many things. This is something that I can do for you. And I know that you feel a little guilty over being selfish. But, sweetie, sometimes it's okay for it to be all about you. So, I'm not telling you that it's okay. I'm asking you. Please, Chuck, let me do this for you. It's important to me."

"Are you sure? My imagination was getting pretty wild."

"Please don't make me beg."

"Don't worry," Chuck said as the smile appeared on his face. "In my fantasy you don't beg for a while yet."

"I love you," Sarah whispered.

"I know. I love you too."

"Just remember," Sarah said with smile as she restarted the music.

"Next time, I'm going to win."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 4: The Wedding Party

x-x-x-x-x

It must be the hormones.

After all, one of the first things that an agent was taught was how to hide her emotions. Emotions made you vulnerable. And tears were the absolute worst. She would never allow herself to cry in front of people. The only times would be on a mission. That happened a lot. After all, a few strategically placed tears from the poor helpless blonde made even the most cynical men melt. But crying for real? Never, that was for little girls. She would have never allowed herself to cry in front of Bryce. And they were together for the better part of two years. She had only cried in front of Chuck a couple of times. And that, more than anything, proved how much she trusted him. So why was Sarah Walker sitting at the table, in front of her entire wedding reception, bawling her eyes out?

x-x-x-x-x

Three hours earlier:

Sarah stood at the back of the chapel, waiting for the music cue. This was seeming more and more like a bad idea. From the start, if it had been up to her, this wedding wouldn't be nearly so formal. But Ellie was obsessive about making this a "real" wedding, as much as possible. And no matter how much Sarah protested, that meant she had to walk down the aisle. Chuck had actually backed Ellie up on this one. That was as surprising as it was annoying. He knew how much Sarah shied away from being the center of attention. Taking his sister's side on their wedding day? They were going to be having a little chat about this later.

Then there was the stupid lady from the wedding chapel. For some reason, Chuck wasn't at his place at the alter yet. Okay, so now they were going to run a few minutes over. Give me a break. Didn't she know better than to bother a bride on her wedding day? Not only a bride, but a three-month pregnant bride who knew a hundred different ways to kill her? Some people were just too stupid to live.

Sarah knew that she had better calm down or risk making a fool of herself. So she tried to picture how she had always imagined this day. And she realized that she didn't have a clue. Being the bride had always been beyond the realm of possibility for her, even in her private fantasies. Sarah really didn't even know all that much about weddings. She knew that traditionally, the bride's father walked her down the aisle. She thought for a moment about her father, and then shook her head as she dismissed him from her mind. He was far from a traditional father. Even if she had a way to contact him, he wouldn't have made it in time for the wedding. Taking a deep breath, she once again checked the monitor. Where was Chuck? The cameras panned the guests every two minutes. Great, even her wedding would be under constant surveillance.

Sarah glanced at the screen, just for something to do while she waited. Suddenly, her eyes widened. She tapped a few keys to replay the last few minutes of footage. There. An elderly man shuffled over to the bench where Jeff was sitting. Sarah stared at him for just a moment longer and then smiled. Casey. Jeff didn't have a clue. He even extended his arm to the 'elderly gentleman' to help him sit. Actually, Jeff's stock went up quite a few points in Sarah's mind as she watched him help the older man.

Casey had crashed the wedding. Sarah smiled to herself as she made a mental note to find out if he had gotten permission from Beckman. But she strongly suspected that he hadn't asked. One thing was very clear. This was not a mission to him. It wasn't even the courtesy that you would extend to your partner. This was personal. He not only wanted to be here, he was willing to violate orders to make it happen.

She allowed the monitor to resume the live footage, and saw Chuck finally standing at the front of the chapel. Everybody was in place. The music began to play, and Sarah looked up, taking another deep breath. It was time to get married.

As she walked along the short hall towards the chapel, she felt a tap on her shoulder. Okay, this was getting ridiculous. Sarah turned forcefully to tell this wedding chapel bitch where to go in a manner that she would never forget. Instead, she stood speechless for a moment, wondering if the wedding day jitters included hallucinations.

"Dad?" she asked, more to herself than to anybody.

"Hi darling," he said with his classic smile.

"What are you doing here?" Sarah asked.

"Come on Angel," he said. "I would think that should be pretty obvious. I know I've been a lousy father. And maybe I don't deserve this honor. But it would mean a lot to me if I could take this walk with you. Is that okay?"

Blinking her eyes, she could only nod at him. It was a freaking fairy tale. Together, they walked arm in arm down the aisle and her father gave her away. As she took Chuck's hands, she suddenly realized why he had taken Ellie's side earlier… and why he was late getting to his position. They would so be having a little chat later. As she pledged herself to him, for the second time, she knew she was the happiest woman in the world.

x-x-x-x-x

Now she was Sarah Bartowski. Legally. Officially recognized by the state of Nevada for well over three hours now. So why was the new Mrs. Bartowski bawling her eyes out? Why now, for goodness sake? After all, it had been hours ago. It wasn't that they were finally married. They had been married for three months. She was fine during the trip to Vegas. More than fine. It was light and fun. They had laughed most of the way. She was fine getting ready. Ellie clearly relished the big sister role. She had carefully guided Sarah through every turn, even to the point of not allowing her and Chuck to sleep in the same room last night. Which was a little on the silly side of old fashioned since they had been married for three months. Not to mention that they had a baby well on the way.

She was fine during the ceremony. More numb than anything. Thankfully, Chuck was far less nervous this time. Indeed, it was Sarah that was more nervous. Spies were taught to never be the center of attention. Standing in front of that chapel, with every single person that she loved sitting there… well, that was quite intimidating.

She was even fine during the dinner. It was a little strange introducing her dad to everyone. But naturally, Ellie made him feel like they had known him forever. And he had been on his best behavior. He didn't call Chuck 'schnook' once. As a matter of fact, there was a respect in his tone that Sarah had never seen before. Chuck had obviously impressed him. And he didn't impress easily.

It must have been a delayed reaction. Casey was long gone. It wasn't surprising that he didn't stick around for the party. Not only was that pushing it, it wasn't his thing anyway. Her dad had also just left. She knew that he couldn't stay long; after all, he was on the run himself. But just the fact that he was there… It was the first time in many years that he had come through for her.

The very last person in the world that she expected to see today was her dad. Her dad… there to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. And the best part was telling him about the baby. That's a conversation that Sarah was sure that neither of them ever expected to have. And she could tell that he understood, because he didn't make any jokes about a shotgun wedding. Truth be told, she had never seen that particular look on his face before. He even hugged her. And she couldn't remember the last time that had happened. Maybe being a grandpa would change him in ways that being a dad hadn't. In any event, maybe he could be a small part of his granddaughter's life. Maybe he could even be part of a real family. It could change him. It sure as hell had changed her.

But Sarah knew that wasn't the reason for the embarrassing stream of tears that was currently running down her face.

She could blame the damn hormones all she wanted. But it was him. Her new official husband. She could see him, over there on the dance floor with his sister. Acting just like any normal guy dancing with his sister on his wedding day. How could he be so… well, perfect.

How could he have possibly gotten her dad here today? How did he even find him? There was one thing that was for sure, he was getting a lot better at this spy stuff. Because Sarah didn't have a clue. She tried earlier to get it out of Janice but she would have none of it. Partner privilege, what in the hell was that?

She never believed that guys like this existed. What he must have gone though to make that happen… wow. Nobody had ever done anything like that for her in her whole life. And he didn't even mention it. He wasn't looking for gratitude. He wasn't banking a chip to be cashed in later when he wanted something from her. The honest truth was he would do anything for her. Simply because he wanted to. And, almost as good, now she had a whole roomful of people who felt the same way. It was pretty overwhelming. And Sarah simply wasn't equipped to deal with that. Even Jeff and Lester didn't seem quite so creepy. Sure, they still stared at her chest. But somehow, it didn't bother her as much now. It was just them.

As Sarah tried to wipe the tears away, she became aware of Devon sitting at the table staring at her. He leaned in close to be able to be heard over the music.

"Welcome to the family, Mrs. Bartowski," Devon said with a smile.

"Thanks," Sarah said.

After a moment, he put his arm around her and Sarah buried her face in his shoulder. At least that would hide her tears for a moment. As Devon softly rubbed her back he whispered in her ear. "I meant officially. You've been part of the family for a long time. Don't be embarrassed. Nobody was buying the tough girl act anyway."

"Really," Sarah whispered back as a smile finally overcame the tears. "And I thought I was doing a good job of selling it."

It wasn't long before Ellie and Chuck finished their dance and came back to the table. As soon as they arrived, Ellie grabbed Devon and pulled him to the dance floor. Ellie didn't get the opportunity to party very often and she was going to make the most of it. That left Chuck and Sarah alone at their table for the first time since the ceremony.

Chuck had an expression on his face that was half grin and half concern. "Is being married to me really that bad?" he asked with a smile. "You look like someone just ran over your puppy."

"Bad?" Sarah said with a laugh through her tears. "It's a freaking nightmare. Are you ever going to tell me how you got my dad here?"

"Sorry," Chuck said with his own laugh. "That's classified. In a round about sort of way, you can thank Fulcrum. He wouldn't have been here last week when we first planned this. He almost didn't make it today. I will tell you that Janice and Casey helped a lot. By the way, I told Janice that they could leave. It was obvious that Bryce was dying to get her upstairs."

"Aren't you dying to get me upstairs?" Sarah asked.

"Not when you're crying," Chuck said as he continued kidding her. "You'd just depress me."

But then, as Chuck looked into her eyes, he quickly became serious. "Listen to me for a second," he said. "I tell you that I love you all the time. I hope that never becomes cliché. I'll always mean it. But I just wanted to give you a wedding present. Something that maybe would say the things that my words alone can't. The look on your face as you were walking down the aisle made it all worth it. I love you."

"But I feel guilty," Sarah said. "I didn't get you anything."

"Hold that thought," Chuck said with a laugh. "We'll be upstairs soon. But seriously, you said 'I do'. That was more than enough. You told me the other night that sometimes it was okay for it to be all about me. Well, tonight, it's all about you. This is the only time in your life that you're ever going to be a bride. I hope that those tears mean that you are enjoying it."

"I've never been this happy in my life," Sarah said. "I'm so sorry if it looks like anything else. Thank you for giving this to me. I love you, too."

"Trust me when I say it's my pleasure," Chuck said as he held out his hand. "Would you like to dance with your new legal husband?"

x-x-x-x-x

Almost two hours later, Chuck was thankful that Sarah had finally let him take a break from the dance floor. But it was worth a little physical exhaustion to see her face light up like that. The tears were long gone. Only to be replaced by an ear to ear grin. Sarah was always in her own world on the dance floor. She was obviously having the time of her life. So much so that she even danced with Lester and Jeff. And while it felt great to see the look of contentment in her eyes, Chuck had to admit that it felt great to just sit and relax for a beat.

It was a surprise when Bryce and Janice rejoined the party. Chuck thought they had seen the last of them for that night. And Sarah was clearly nervous when Bryce asked her to dance. She looked at Chuck for an indication of what to do. The relief on her face when she saw Chuck's relaxed smile and nod was apparent. So he thought that it would be a good idea to dance with Janice.

"Why are you guys back down here?" Chuck asked once the song had nicely begun. "I figured you would want to be alone."

"We were alone," Janice replied. "We did what we wanted to. We had a good time. Now it's over."

"It's over?" Chuck asked. "How can it be over? It hasn't started yet. I'm sorry. I thought you two had a chance."

"Don't be sorry," Janice said with a smile. "I'm not Sarah. I'm not looking to fall in love… with anybody. And especially not with Bryce Larkin."

"What's wrong with Bryce?" Chuck asked, obviously confused.

Janice paused to consider her answer. She looked over at Bryce dancing with Sarah on the other side of the floor. "Well," she finally said with a laugh. "He may know his way around the bedroom but the man is not a brilliant conversationalist."

Bryce leaned back to look at Sarah as they danced.

"What?" Sarah finally asked.

"I've never seen you look like this," Bryce said as he pulled her tighter. "You look so peaceful. Contented. The fear that is always in your eyes isn't there."

"I'm happy, Bryce," Sarah said.

"Are you sure?" Bryce asked. "You're giving up a lot. Are you sure that you won't miss this in a couple of years?"

"See," said Sarah. "That's where you're wrong. I'm not giving up anything. I'm home. I can't imagine being anything other than Chuck's wife and the mother of his family."

"I'm happy for you," Bryce said. "He's a great guy."

"He is," Sarah agreed. "I want you to be careful out there. We both care about you."

"Do you think that our great guy would mind if I kissed the bride?"

x-x-x-x-x

Since Sarah couldn't drink, Chuck decided that he would stay sober with her. After all, it was his baby too. But naturally, that didn't apply to the rest of the party. So they were all pretty… well relaxed. So relaxed that they actually saw Jeff talking to one of the women from the hospital that had come with Ellie. She didn't even look like she wanted to find a hole to hide in. Could this be Jeff's lucky night? Chuck and Sarah were so busy giggling about the possibilities that they missed, at first, the fact that the rest of the party was pounding on their table.

Sarah was surprised when Chuck leaned into her and asked "Should we give than a show?" After all, he was the one who was always so shy about PDA. But apparently that didn't apply tonight. So instead of answering she quickly moved over to sit on Chuck's lap.

Sarah was just teasing. She really didn't intend on that big of a show. The last thing she would want to do was embarrass him. But as soon as she touched her lips to Chuck's the electricity simply overwhelmed her. And he was giving just as much as she was. Quickly, their tongues started to explore each other. And just as quickly, Sarah lost track of where she was. All she knew was that she never wanted this moment to end. She had never had such an intense feeling in her life. She closed her eyes and just let herself go with the feeling.

Finally, Chuck reluctantly broke the kiss and left their foreheads touching. Sarah stared deeply into his eyes, and then, remembering the guests, she blinked and glanced around the room. Everybody had a silly grin on their face at the unexpected exhibition. Everybody except one. Ellie sat with the tears freely flowing down her own face. And, for once, Sarah completely understood. Those were the same happy tears that just a couple of hours ago were streaming down her own face.

"I'm sorry," Sarah said. "I got a little carried away. I didn't mean to embarrass you."

"Don't ever apologize for that," Chuck said. "Kissing you is my very favorite thing to do."

"Are you ready to go upstairs, Mr. Bartowski?" Sarah asked. "I think I heard something about a wedding night. The rest of the party can manage without us."

"Is this a trick question?" Chuck asked with a laugh. Then his face grew serious. "I don't mind staying for a while longer, Mrs. Bartowski," Chuck said. "I know that you're having fun. Don't you want to dance some more?"

"I thought tonight was all about me?" Sarah said with a smile as she stood up.

"It is," Chuck replied.

"Well, then," Sarah said as she extended her hand.

"Please don't make me beg."

x-x-x-x-x

Once Chuck had carried Sarah over the threshold and into their room, he took her to the couch and sat her down. Then he sat down beside her.

"What's wrong?" Sarah asked.

"Nothing's wrong," Chuck said.

"Sweetie," Sarah said hesitantly. "Do you think I can't tell when something's wrong? Is this about Bryce?"

"It's not what you think," Chuck said with a smile. "I just feel sorry for them. I mean, they probably rattled the windows in their hotel room. But they'll never know what it feels like to cuddle up on the couch with someone they truly love. Isn't that sad?"

"Yes," Sarah whispered. "It's sad. The funny thing is that while we feel sorry for them, they feel just as sorry for us. But it's the life they've chosen."

"And this is what we've chosen," Chuck said with a grin as he rubbed Sarah's belly. "I was just wondering. What do you think she'll look like?"

"I don't know," Sarah said as her eyes sparkled. "Blonde straight hair, brown curly hair, brown eyes, blue eyes; with our mixture it could be anything."

Chuck leaned over and kissed her. And again… and then again. Quickly the kissing became more intense. Soon they approached the edge, the point where passion takes over. But just before they got there, Chuck paused the make out session for the briefest of moments. His grin was infectious.

"I can't wait to find out."

Author's note:

I do have a serious question. It seems lately that there has been a trend among the various Chuck authors to use far more angst. And there is nothing wrong in that, by itself. I use angst in my stories. But lately, in my opinion, an increasing number of stories cross the line from angst to schadenfreude (thanks to Brickroad from coming home from her summer of living in a tent in time to teach me a new word, lol).

Perhaps this is a reaction to the season 3 spoilers. If so, that would disappoint me because I believe those spoilers are deceptive. But I see that many of those grim, depressing stories get a lot of attention. So, my question is, is that what you really want to read? Stories about Sarah running off with Bryce or Cole (or both, lol)? Stories that make you hate the main characters? If so, that's your perfect right. But if not, I'd like to gently suggest that you support the stories that represent what you do like. To an author, reviews are like ratings. They drive what gets written next. And, trust me, I'm not pleading for reviews. You've been great to me.

Okay, that's the end of today's lecture. I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing.

Thanks for your support

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 5: Agents Follow Orders

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck, Sarah and Janice had to leave Vegas early Sunday afternoon to be in Washington in time for their Monday morning meeting. So that left little time for celebration. Apparently, the party had continued well after Chuck and Sarah went upstairs. Most of the group was feeling the effects of a severe hang over. Janice was worse than most. In fact, she owed Devon a huge favor. Although she didn't remember much of last night, if not for Devon she would almost assuredly have awakened in Lester's bed.

They were all able to meet for an early afternoon brunch. But not surprisingly, only the newlyweds had any sort of appetite. The only two that didn't show up were Jeff and Ellie's friend from the hospital. Nobody was quite sure why. After all, it couldn't be… it just couldn't.

The flight to Washington started off uneventful. Sarah settled in for a long, boring flight. She always hated the six hour flight across the country. Chuck, on the other hand, was having a blast. He was not used to flying in general and he had never been in first class before. Janice fell asleep pretty much the instant her seat belt was buckled and didn't wake up until after they had landed. So that left Chuck and Sarah pretty much on their own.

Sarah glanced at Janice and knew that she had the right idea. They should get some rest. The time difference when going from the West coast to the East always took a lot out of you. That was something that Chuck had never experienced. And tomorrow was an important day for all of them. But she just couldn't help it. Chuck was so excited about being in first class that he could hardly sit still. And as they flew over the Rockies, watching him made her so happy that she didn't want to close her eyes. His excitement was contagious. She didn't want to miss any of it.

Finally, she got him to sit still long enough to cuddle with her. By Sarah's calculation they were approaching the Mississippi river. But even that didn't turn out to be very restful. Under the blanket that they shared, Chuck's hand was pushing the boundaries of, well, of acceptable conduct. Sarah couldn't help but shoot him a questioning look when she felt his hand fumbling with the clasp of her pants. After all, he was never the aggressive one. It was so unexpected. What was he thinking? Her eyes widened even more as she felt the clasp give way and his hand slide inside. But his smile was so innocent. After all, they were just married yesterday. And this was technically the start of their honeymoon. And, oh my God, where did he learn how to do that? So she lifted her head from his shoulder and gave him a soft kiss. Then she shifted her hips to give him a better angle and returned her head to his shoulder.

Chuck loved the feel of Sarah lying close to him. It was his favorite thing in the whole world. She felt like an angel. There was always a certain tension in Sarah's demeanor. But that was gone now. She was totally relaxed. To anyone else, she looked to be sleeping. But Chuck knew that she wasn't sleeping. She trusted him. And that wasn't trivial. Sarah Walker, no wait, Sarah Bartowski didn't trust people. But she trusted him. And that fact alone made him feel better than he was making her feel. Well, maybe not. At this particular moment, she didn't even look like she knew where she was. Sarah was always aware of her surroundings. But that was sure out the window now. Chuck smiled as he watched her bite her lip. He could tell that was to prevent the moan from escaping. Her breathing was gradually getting heavier and deeper. After a while, she turned her head slightly to whisper into his ear, "Please don't stop." Not that Chuck had any intention of stopping. It was probably somewhere around Pittsburgh when Sarah's breathing finally returned to normal. She sleepily whispered into Chuck's ear, "Thank you, sweetie. That was nice."

As Chuck finally closed his eyes, he spent the rest of the flight wondering if this meant that they were both now members of the mile high club… or just her.

x-x-x-x-x

Even though he was very nervous about the meeting, Chuck had to admire Ben Adams's taste in hotel rooms. The suite where they were meeting was very impressive. Deep wood paneling and plush carpet adorned a room with an impressive view of the capital skyline. It had a large meeting table and full multi media capabilities. It was actually a suite within a suite and was clearly designed for high level meetings. The conference room adjoined a separate living area that had its own bed, kitchenette, and lounge area.

The two Beckmans, Agent and General, were already there when he and Sarah showed up for the meeting. Neither looked particularly comfortable, if body language was to be any indication. At least Janice was finally recovered from her hangover. Either that or she was faking it effectively. When they had dropped her off at the hotel on their way to Sarah's apartment last night, she was still obviously suffering.

And one thing was for sure. There were some things about Ben Adams that Chuck didn't admire… namely everything else about him. The way that he checked out Sarah when she walked into the room sealed that deal. Not that checking Sarah out was that uncommon. Almost every man did to some extent the first time they saw her. But there was something about Adams. He didn't even try and hide it. He started at her feet and overtly continued up her body, smirking all the while. Chuck was not a possessive person by nature. But this guy was already starting to get to him. After all, Adams knew that they were married. He knew that Sarah was pregnant. But just as he stepped up to say something, he felt Sarah squeeze his hand. The smile on her face was easy to read. Not a big deal. So Chuck let it slide.

"Agent Walker," Adams said ignoring Chuck completely. "How nice to finally meet you. I understand that you have infiltrated a Fulcrum cell. Well done."

"Thank you," Sarah said. She barely touched the hand that Adams extended. If he noticed, he gave no indication.

"Please," Adams said. "Sit down. We need to talk about how to best exploit this."

Chuck and Sarah took their seats at the round conference table. As Sarah moved past Chuck to her seat, she quickly rubbed his back for support.

"I don't see how that could work," Sarah said. "Infiltrated is an overstatement. I only performed one mission for them. I'm sure that they don't completely trust me. And even if they did, I'm the only one they would trust. Even if I were inclined to work him, that would require a long term commitment."

"There is no question," Adams said. "This Elder would have to trust you on both a professional and personal level. You will need to seduce him. It should be easy enough for you to quickly become his live-in girlfriend. From your report, he seems quite smitten."

"That's not going to work," Sarah said. "I'm retiring from those sorts of missions. And anyway, I'm not going to be available. I'll be out of commission."

"Agent Walker," Adams said forcefully. "We're in the middle of a war. Your having compromised this Elder's organization could be the turning point. Imagine the intel we could obtain if you were living with him and sharing the same bed. You're sitting in the middle of a room of people who have dedicated their life to this effort. Don't tell me that you are going to let something like having a baby get in the way of your duty to your country."

"Exactly what are you saying?" Sarah asked as she stopped the exclamation about to come from Chuck's lips with a quick look.

"That you're a young woman," Adams said as he lowered his voice to a more normal level. "You have plenty of time to start a family. Right now your country needs you. You need to deal with this and do your duty."

Sarah just sat and looked at him for a long moment. Everyone except Chuck assumed she was deep in thought. Chuck could tell that she was trying to control her anger.

Finally Sarah spoke. "You're right," Sarah said calmly. "I have decided to terminate my pregnancy."

"Excellent," Adams said. "We'll set up the appointment…"

"I'm going to terminate my pregnancy in about six months," Sarah interrupted. "It's going to happen in the delivery room. And let me be crystal clear, Secretary Adams. If you ever disrespect my husband or my baby again by suggesting anything different, I will become most unhappy."

"Calm down," Adams said. "Please listen to reason."

"I am calm," Sarah said, although her tone said otherwise. "You need to understand something. I'm no longer Agent Walker. My name is Sarah Bartowski. You can address me as Mrs. Bartowski. If you call me Agent Walker again, I will become unhappy."

Sarah paused for a moment to smile at Chuck.

"I love my country," Sarah continued. "That should be beyond question. I've dedicated my entire adult life to her service. But now my first priority is to my husband and family. Having said that, I would do anything I can for the greater good. Suggesting otherwise will make me unhappy."

"Let's calm down for a second," Adams said. "We can talk about this more a little later, after you've had a chance to cool off. We need to talk about Mr. Bartowski and Agent Beckman becoming partners. Frankly, I have concerns about both of them. Let's go into the living quarters for a moment. I would like to evaluate them."

As they stood up to go into the other room, Adams stopped. "Tell me, Agent Walker," he said with a smirk. "You've mentioned being unhappy a few times. It sounds like a threat. Just to be clear, what happens when you get unhappy?"

Suddenly a knife stuck into the wall next to Adams about an inch from his face. Adams turned white as he glanced at the knife still quivering in the wall.

Sarah glared at Adams. There could no longer be any doubt of the fury in her eyes. She stopped and squared her shoulders towards him in a confrontational stance.

"People die."

x-x-x-x-x

Adams was the last to enter the bedroom part of the suite. "So, Mr. Bartowski," he sneered. "You want to be a real agent? How do you think you could possibly do that without your girlfriend here to watch your back?"

"For one thing," Chuck replied. "She's not my girlfriend. She's my wife. And I think I will be okay."

"Do you really?" Adams replied. "Do you think that you can actually pull off a believable cover with someone other than Agent Walker?"

"I do," Chuck said.

"I don't think so," Adams said. "Let's find out, shall we? Let me describe an example situation. Take Agent Beckman over to the bed. You're undercover as a newlywed couple. You're under surveillance in your hotel room by the mark who will kill you both if he suspects anything. Prove to me that you can sell it."

Chuck looked at Sarah for reassurance but she quickly turned her head away.

"Don't look at her," Adams said sharply. "She isn't going to be there. Sell that you and Agent Beckman are newlyweds."

Chuck reached out his hand to Janice and together they walked to the back of the room. As they walked, Janice whispered so only Chuck could hear. "Don't worry, Chuck. Just pretend that I'm Sarah. We need to sell this." When they reached the bed, Chuck turned to face Janice. He stood and looked at her for a long moment. Then he reached down and kissed her gently.

"Give me a break, Mr. Bartowski," Adams said. "This crazed lunatic is watching you. He is already suspicious and is looking for any sign that something is not right. He doesn't think that he is watching your first date. She should be half naked by now. There is no way in hell that you can sell this."

"I'm not finished," Chuck said. He cupped Janice's face in his hands and kissed her again. Then he kissed her again. Then he put his hands behind her head and pulled her into an urgent kiss. Janice wrapped her arms around Chuck's head as she opened her mouth to him. The kiss quickly picked up steam as their tongues began to dance back and forth. After a moment, Chuck reached his hand up Janice's shirt and under her bra. As they continued to kiss, Chuck reached his hands behind her back to unclasp her bra. Chuck broke the kiss and took a step back and lifted the hem of Janice's shirt. Janice smiled and lifted her arms to allow Chuck to lift her shirt and bra over her head. As soon as her top hit the floor, Chuck stepped back in to kiss her again. He put his left hand on her breast while his right hand worked to unbutton her pants.

Meanwhile, Janice was also just as busy. She had unbuttoned Chuck's shirt and slipped it off his shoulders. Chuck removed his hand from her breast for a moment to let it slip to the floor. Janice unbuckled his belt and was about to unfasten his pants but she was momentarily consumed by the sensation of Chuck kissing his way down her neck towards her chest. She settled for rubbing the outside of his slacks in a slow, circular pattern. Janice then slowly put her hand inside the waistband of Chuck's pants…

"That's enough," Adams finally said. So far, this day had not worked out nearly as well as he had hoped. But he had just seen everything that he needed to. And it wasn't just seeing Janice topless, although he had to admit that was a treat. He had observed Sarah's eyes while she watched them go at it. And that's when it hit him. He knew how to get what he wanted from her. It might take a couple of weeks more. But that wasn't really a problem. He could wait. Maybe this wasn't such a bad day after all. The mighty Agent Walker had a weakness. Everybody did, after all. And he had just discovered hers.

That's how he would break her.

As soon as Adams told them to stop, Chuck quickly broke the embrace and scrambled for his clothes. Janice refused to let Adams see her get flustered. So she calmly grabbed Chuck's hand before he could put on his shirt. He was plainly trying to catch Sarah's eye. But Sarah was, just as plainly, having none of it.

"Chuck," she said. "That was pretty good."

Chuck looked Janice directly in the eye to avoid looking at her naked chest.

"But there are a couple of things we should work on," Janice continued in her professional tone. "Since we were newlyweds, it would have been a nice touch for you to say that you love me."

Chuck nodded, trying to concentrate on looking straight ahead.

"And another thing," Janice said as she lowered her voice so that only Chuck could hear her. "I was going to take off your pants. But I couldn't because you weren't… umm… in character. You're going to have to find a way. Maybe think of something sexy with Sarah."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck was desperately trying to gauge Sarah's reaction as they silently walked back to her apartment. He knew that she wasn't happy. No question about that. But how unhappy? The last thing that he wanted was to make her feel bad. Damn that Ben Adams. Why did he make them put on such a lurid exhibition? Now his tepid dislike for Adams had turned into a rather serious one. Sarah wasn't saying a word. When Chuck grabbed her hand, she didn't pull away, but she didn't participate either. Finally they were in the apartment.

"I'm sorry," Chuck said with a sigh as he tried to catch Sarah's eye. "Please don't be upset. I didn't know what to do."

For the first time since they left the conference room, Sarah looked into Chuck's eyes. It was obvious that she was emotional.

"I'm not upset," Sarah said. "I'm way beyond that. I'm pissed."

"I know," Chuck said. "I'm sorry. I went too far. I didn't know what he was looking for."

At that, Sarah's face turned into a sad smile. "You don't have a clue as to why I'm pissed," she said. "Do you?"

"I'm guessing that it has something to do with my hand on Janice's bare breast," Chuck said. "I'm sorry. I didn't know what to…"

"Stop it," Sarah interrupted. "Chuck, that has nothing to do with it."

In spite of her anger, Sarah couldn't help but smile at the surprise on Chuck's face.

"Don't get me wrong," Sarah said. "I didn't like watching it. I think that Adams did it for exactly that reason. But I understand. You're going to have to do things like that on missions. That's part of the job. I've had to do those types of things in the past. And, who knows, maybe again someday. That's not why I'm pissed."

"Then why?" Chuck asked. "Help me understand."

"Because you hesitated," Sarah burst out far more forcefully than she intended. "Chuck, this isn't a game. If you were actually in that situation, you'd be dead. And Janice right along with you. The mark would have seen you and realized something was wrong in the first second. You should have had her naked and under the sheets in the first minute. I need you, Chuck. I need you to come home. And if you're going to be in these kinds of situations, you need to do whatever it takes to survive them. Do you understand?"

"I understand," Chuck said. "But how far do I have to go?"

"It depends," Sarah said. "In that particular situation, once you were under the sheets, you could have pretended. But you have to do whatever it takes. Do you understand, Chuck? Whatever it takes. And if that means you have to plow your partner or your mark, or even me, in front of a crowd, that's what it means."

"I don't want to betray you," Chuck said as he looked at the floor. "I never want to do that."

"I know," Sarah said with the beginnings of a smile. "But, Chuck, the biggest betrayal is if you don't survive. Do you realize what that would do to me? I can't lose you. Our daughter needs a dad. It would be a betrayal if you were to sleep with someone else because you wanted too. And I know that you would never do that. But doing what you have to do for a mission is not a betrayal, sweetie. It's not. It's a sacrifice."

"I understand," Chuck said with a grin. "I'm sorry. I won't do it again. Next time I'll plow her."

"You know, I'm not saying that," Sarah said with her own grin. "I do expect you to do whatever it takes to minimize any of the physical stuff.

"I think I'm still a little confused," Chuck said as he grabbed her hand and pulled her into the bedroom. "Maybe you can help me practice. It would help with my training."

"Okay," Sarah said with her eyes sparkling as she began to unbutton her blouse. "It's time for your first lesson. Are you paying attention?"

Chuck just nodded.

"Well, first," Sarah said as her blouse slipped to the floor. "I think that Janice should have been a little more aggressive."

x-x-x-x-x

Adams asked Janice to stay behind after he dismissed everyone else. She could tell that General Beckman was hesitant to leave her alone with him. And she also had a pretty good idea why. After all, Janice was a trained agent and Adams, for all his bluster, was not. And Janice could tell full well when a man was looking at her chest. Even when a man was trying to hide his… well, his excitement, Janice was trained to pick up on it. And if Adams was trying to hide it, he was doing a lousy job. Even though she had long ago put her shirt back on, his eyes were glued to her chest.

"Are you sure that you are up to this?" Adams asked as soon as the General left the room. "You haven't been in the field for a long time."

"I'm up to it, sir," Janice replied. "The Intersect is a handful but I'm ready."

"I'm not talking about the Intersect," Adams said.

Janice paused for a moment in surprise. "I'm afraid that I don't understand, sir," she said.

"The Intersect is a valuable weapon," Adams said. "He has proven quite useful. But we have another Intersect, Agent Beckman. What we don't have is an agent who can infiltrate a Fulcrum Elder. Agent Walker is in position to do just that. Getting her to do her duty is our top priority. That's where I need you."

"Sir?" Janice asked. "What can I do?"

"Agent Walker obviously has a strong attachment to Mr. Bartowski," Adams said. "She won't agree to a long term seduction style mission until that changes."

"Yes, sir," Janice said in a puzzled tone.

"Tell me, Agent Beckman," Adams said. "What is the nature of your relationship with Mr. Bartowski?"

"I'm afraid I don't follow, sir," Janice said.

"Come on, Agent Beckman," Adams said firmly. "Stop the high school crap. Have you or have you not fucked your new partner?"

Janice couldn't help the flush that rose quickly from her neck. She set her jaw and stared straight ahead. "No, sir," she said stiffly. "I have not."

"Good," Adams said as he observed her mood. "We'll need to change that. Agent Beckman, your assignment is to seduce Mr. Bartowski away from Agent Walker, using any means necessary. Is that understood?"

"But, sir," Janice protested. "How am I going to do that? They have a connection that would be very hard to break."

"Don't sell yourself short, Janice" Adams said. "You are a very beautiful woman. You're even prettier than she is. I watched him in today's simulation. He is very attracted to you. And it's plain that you are curious yourself. Tell me that you haven't imagined what it would be like getting him between the sheets."

The blush on Janice's face deepened but she didn't respond.

"I thought so," Adams said with a smile. "Good, that should make it easier. I think we can help you in your objective by setting up some missions that will force him to become very intimate with you. I'm not saying that you have to get him to dump her, although that would be great. Just get us some footage of him in a compromising position, something that will convince Agent Walker that he was prepared to betray her. I'm sure you can do that."

Janice just sat and stared at him.

"Agent Beckman," Adams said. "You took an oath to protect this country. Right now, we are in a war. Agent Walker is key in fighting that war. I know that you feel a certain closeness to Agent Walker. After all, you two go back a long ways. So I understand that you might find this a little distasteful. But it is your duty to do whatever it takes to get Agent Walker back into the game. Your country needs you. I need to know that I can count on you to do your duty. So, can I count on you?"

Janice paused for a long moment, deep in thought. Finally, she sighed.

"Yes, sir, you can count on me."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 6: General Mayhem

x-x-x-x-x

Janice lay still in bed with the sheet pulled over her, watching silently as he got dressed. This was far from the first time that her duty had required her to sleep with a man. Hell, this wasn't even the first time this week. Usually it was no big deal. But now, it just felt different somehow.

Sex wasn't a big deal to Janice. It never had been. Even before the CIA. Fortunately, having a father in the military meant that they moved around a lot. And that usually kept her from gaining a reputation at school. But she was never one to avoid making a young man's dreams come true in the back seat on a Friday night. Of course the shrinks told her that was due to unresolved daddy issues. Maybe they were right. But regardless, it had helped Janice's career. In the CIA, a casual attitude towards sex was a valuable attribute. That was always her advantage, even over Sarah. Yes, Sarah was an expert seductress. But she had never enjoyed it. She always avoided it whenever possible. And that gave Janice an advantage. It always had. And they both knew it. Even at their most competitive, Sarah was forced to admit that Janice was a better seductress. Janice was almost always able to enjoy it at some level. She enjoyed the hunt, the control it gave her, and most of the times, even the act itself.

So why was today any different? Why was she suddenly so aware of being naked? She couldn't be bashful. That certainly wasn't it. So why was she hiding under the sheet, waiting for him to leave so she could get dressed? Why did she feel so cheap? So used? After all, this was her element. It was her most potent weapon. And it had never let her down.

He stopped getting dressed for a moment and sat back down on the edge of the bed. The glint in his eye was unmistakable.

"That was fantastic," he said as he reached over to kiss her. But there was something about the kiss. It wasn't tender. It wasn't a thank you. It was more gloat. It was the proclaiming of a conquest. And that's when Janice realized what the problem was. She wasn't controlling the situation. He was. He was blatantly using her.

A small smile was the most she could come up with in response.

"I have another meeting," he said. "So I won't see you again before you leave."

Janice just nodded to let him know that she understood. Her bedroom assignment was complete. He was now dismissing her.

"Maybe we can hook up again the next time you're in town," he said as he walked towards the door. "I'm still counting on you."

"Yes, sir," Janice said softly. But she knew. She knew that this was the last time she was ever going to degrade herself with Ben Adams.

Now she just wanted to get back to her own room, take a hot shower, and go to bed. Alone.

Janice wanted to get dressed as quickly as possible and get the hell out of there. But as she gathered her clothes from where they were randomly strewn around the room, a thought popped into her head. In spite of her disgust over what Adams had just gotten her to do, it brought a genuine smile.

I wonder what Chuck is doing.

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah lay in bed and her eyes followed Chuck as he dressed. She was starting to feel a little guilty. She knew that she should be getting dressed too. After all, she had promised to show him around the town. But she couldn't help it. She couldn't make herself move from that spot. It just felt so good to lie there. She was so contented. So peaceful.

It was funny. This apartment had been her home for the past several years. One of the benefits of being a CIA agent was that they provided you an apartment, complete with a housekeeping service, so it was always livable. And she had always looked forward to getting back. The favorite part of a mission was that first night back after it was over. But now, the feeling was different. Oh, it was great to be able to share this with Chuck. After she had quickly taken down the pictures of Bryce, that is. But it was definitely different. It wasn't home anymore. It might sound silly, but now home wasn't even an apartment. It was a hotel room. And it was on the other side of the continent. But now that's where Sarah looked forward to getting back to.

Chuck sat down on the side of bed and grinned as he leaned down to gently kiss her.

"As much as I enjoy watching you lie there naked," he said. "I'm afraid that you'll have to get dressed if we're going to see the sights." He kissed her again, and leaned back to look at her, admiring how her body curved in all the right places. "Actually, I've changed my mind. You're the only sight I want to see today. Although, in a minute, I might be prepared to show you my impression of the Washington Monument."

Sarah laughed. It was one of the simple things that she loved about him. She could never tell when, out of the blue, he would make her laugh. It didn't even occur to her that she was lying there completely naked. No wonder his eyes were so wide. And for some reason, now she was blushing like a schoolgirl. How great was that? Suddenly, his enthusiasm was infectious. She knew he was excited to be in Washington. And she wanted him to see it. After all, this was her city. She owned it. And today she would show it off to the love of her life.

"I'm coming," Sarah said, trying to control her laughing. "By the way, the Washington Monument was erected in 1884. It's lasted for well over a hundred years. It's something that I would like you to think about when we see it today. So maybe when you show me your impression later…"

x-x-x-x-x

Janice was sitting on the bed. She was finally back in her room. The hot shower had managed to wash away most of her disgust with herself. After a while she reluctantly got dressed. There was no way that she was going to put on the same clothes that Adams had so crudely made her strip out of a few hours ago. So she picked a grey top and black slacks out of her suitcase. It was far too early to actually go to bed. That meant she had to decide what to do with her evening. Janice was very familiar with the city. After all, she lived here with Sarah for the better part of two years. But she hadn't been here in a long time. Not since the disastrous mission in Bogotá. Surprisingly, not that much had changed. Janice had just decided that exploring one of the old hot spots was better than sitting alone feeling sorry for herself when she heard a knock on her door.

Janice's heart froze as she heard the knock. She couldn't handle it if it was Adams looking for round two. She barely made it through round one. So she silently crept to the door and looked out the peephole. If it was Adams, there was no way she was going to open the door. But thankfully, it wasn't. In fact, it was the very last person on earth that she expected.

"General Beckman," Janice said as she opened the door. She was in plain dress. But even in her conservative slacks and button up blouse, her very presence still commanded attention.

Beckman didn't wait for an invitation before she stepped into the room. "Would you like something to drink, ma'am?" Janice asked, not knowing what to do to break the tension.

"This visit is not official, Janice," Beckman said. "So you can relax the decorum."

"Okay," Janice said as a smile crept over her face. "If I can't call you ma'am, what should I call you? Dianne? Or Mom?"

Well, that definitely broke the tension. Beckman was unable to continue suppressing a smile. And she actually looked friendly. "You've called me a lot of things, Janice," she said. "But I don't think you've ever called me mom."

"I know," Janice said. "About that… I was a shit. I'm sorry."

"It was a tough situation," Beckman said. "You were a fourteen-year-old girl whose life revolved around your father. It was just the two of you for many years, every since your mom died. You depended on each other. Then all of a sudden you're asked to share him with a new step-mom. I understand the resentment… the fear.

"I really hated you," Janice said.

"I know," Beckman said as she now openly smiled. "Trust me. If you were trying to hide it, you failed miserably."

"I'm not proud of those days," Janice said. "I said some pretty hateful things. I said a lot of things that I regret. That must have hurt you. Why did you keep trying so hard?"

"That's easy, Janice," Beckman replied quickly. "For one thing, I tried to understand. I was fourteen once too. But I did it for your dad. He always was so worried about you. And we both knew that I could never replace your mother. But he had always hoped that we could at least accept each other one day and become a family. I'm sorry that he never got to see that."

Janice took a moment to gather her composure. "You really loved him," she finally said. "Didn't you?"

Beckman took a long moment to gather her own composure. "I did," she said. "Very much. I still do. He was an amazing man. He's been gone for almost ten years and I still think about him every day. He could make me smile no matter what was going on around us. I miss him."

Janice wiped the tears that were filling her eyes. "I miss him too."

"I know," Beckman said. "He loved you very much."

Janice just nodded as she continued to wipe her eyes. She was determined not to break down.

"You know what?" Beckman finally said. "I think I will have that drink."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah led Chuck around the city visiting the historic monuments. It's funny, having lived here for so long, she had started to take them for granted. But seeing the excitement in Chuck's eyes was enough to make her excited about them again. It was almost like she was seeing them for the first time. They walked from site to site, holding hands and swinging their arms like a couple of teenagers who were going steady.

Finally, they were both starting to wind down from all the walking.

"Would you like to go to dinner?" Chuck asked. "You're probably getting a little tired."

"I'm starting to get a little tired?" Sarah asked mockingly.

"Okay," Chuck said with a laugh. "Guilty. I'm starting to get a little tired. You're probably not even warmed up yet."

"Let's go get some dinner in a minute," Sarah said. "I still want to show you my favorite place."

So Chuck let Sarah pull him along until finally they were in front of Arlington National Cemetery.

"This is your favorite place?" Chuck asked softly. "Why?" He gazed at the row after row of identical white headstones that seemingly went forever.

"As agents," Sarah began just as softly. "We're asked to make some incredible sacrifices. Look at all those rows of headstones, sweetie. Every one of them represents someone who provided an incredible service. Not for themselves, but for something bigger. For duty. For honor. For the right thing. For their country. Adams can talk about that all he wants but he doesn't know squat about it. Those men and women out there, they made the ultimate sacrifice. It makes me feel part of something. And that helped me get through some pretty rough times. Whenever I was alone on an assignment and things were looking bad, I always thought back to this place. To those rows of white headstones. And I knew that I wasn't alone."

"I think that I understand," Chuck said, turning away from the view to face her. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. "You're a hero. This is a place for heroes. It makes sense that you would feel good here. This is your place. This is my favorite spot too."

"The cemetery is your favorite spot?" Sarah said skeptically as she rested her head on his chest. "Are you finally realizing that you're a hero?"

"No," Chuck said as he rubbed her back. "I didn't mean that. My favorite spot is standing next to you."

x-x-x-x-x

"This conversation is off the record," Beckman said as she took a sip of the scotch that Janice had poured for her. "Is that clear?"

"Okay," Janice replied.

"You know that I was never in favor of your becoming an agent," Beckman said. "We've had that discussion."

"I remember," Janice said as a smile came to her lips. "There was a lot of yelling. I remember the phrase 'shit for brains' being thrown around a lot. Why did you give in?"

"I finally decided to stop being a hypocrite," Beckman said.

"Hypocrite?" Janice repeated.

"I was completely ready to order other women to do all kinds of distasteful things for the cause I believed in," Beckman said. "How can I justify ordering someone like Sarah to do something when I wasn't ready to have someone I care about do the same thing? That's the very definition of hypocrite."

Janice just nodded.

"When I finally gave in," Beckman continued. "I made myself a promise. I would treat you exactly like an agent. I would never let our relationship affect the way I dealt with you. That's why we've never told anybody that we were related. It's why I didn't come to see you in the hospital in Miami, after Bogotá. Believe me, Janice, I was dying to. The doctors got tired of talking to me on the phone. But I promised myself. I wouldn't interfere in your career. If you failed, it was going to be because of you. And if you made it, it was going to be because of you. And I've kept that promise… until tonight."

"Why tonight?"

"For one thing, you've made it," Beckman said. "I don't have to worry about affecting your career anymore. You're at the very top. The Intersect project is as good as it gets. And the other reason is I'm concerned, Janice. Secretary Adams has somewhat of a reputation. I saw the way he leered at you this afternoon."

Janice just looked at the floor as the blush rose up her neck.

"What did he make you do?" Beckman asked softly.

"He didn't 'make' me do anything," Janice said without looking up. "Sometimes it's just easier to give in."

"You shouldn't tolerate any foolishness from him," Beckman replied with her eyes blazing with anger. "I understand that agents are sometimes asked to work men for missions. That's just a reality of our business. But for him to use you for his recreation…"

When Janice glanced over she saw a scene that she had witnessed many times before. She had even been the cause more times than she wanted to admit. Beckman was clenching her fists. It was her self control mechanism. She took several deep breaths before she was able to continue.

"That is over the line," she finally said. "It's unacceptable. And I would feel the same way even if I didn't lov… umm, if you weren't my step-daughter."

"Thank you," Janice said. "But I have my duty."

"What did he ask you to do?"

"He wants me to steal Chuck away from Sarah," Janice said. "He's hoping that will get Sarah back into agent mode."

"That's a tough assignment," Beckman said. "I know your history with Sarah. You two have been friends for a long time. Are you going to do it?"

"Sarah is my only friend," Janice said. "The very last thing that I want to do is crush her. But it wasn't a request. He was very clear. It was an order. Certainly you wouldn't suggest that I ignore a direct order, would you?"

"Of course not, Janice," Beckman said. "You have to follow orders. That was a legitimate order. I'm not suggesting otherwise. But just listen to some words of advice."

Janice's curiosity made her forget about being uncomfortable. So much so that she looked up for the first time.

"Be careful with Chuck," Beckman said with a soft smile. "He is an agent killer."

"Huh?"

"Have you ever met anyone as hard core as Sarah Walker?" Beckman laughed. "In two years, he's turned her into a housewife. She's barefoot and pregnant for goodness sake. And she's loving it. John Casey was the most burnt out, stone cold, follow-orders-without-question killer you'd ever meet. Now I'm not sure what order he would actually obey. Chuck has ended them as agents. He turned them into people. I saw the way that you looked at him this morning. Don't underestimate him, Janice. He's an agent killer. And you're in line to become his next victim. Not only that, he's married to a deadly, jealous woman. He may be the most dangerous person on the planet."

"He's really a handful, isn't he?" Janice said with a grin. "Come on, admit it. You like him too."

"He is a royal pain in the ass," Beckman said. "He is insolent, disrespectful, and never saw a rule he wasn't willing to break… but, yes, he can be quite charming. And that's exactly why you have to be careful. You're in more trouble than you realize."

"Okay," Janice said as she nodded. "It's been a while since we've had a mother-daughter chat like this."

"It has," Beckman agreed. "Probably not since you were eighteen."

"In the interest of full disclosure," Janice said. "I think you need to know something. I know that you're concerned about Adams. I hate to tell you like this… But I'm not, umm… I'm not a virgin."

At that, they both busted out laughing. Janice leaned over and hugged her. They stayed in their embrace for a long moment.

"Don't let emotion get in the way, Agent Beckman," Beckman finally said as she stood and walked to the door. "It will tear you apart."

Walking out of the hotel, General Beckman smiled grimly. Adams. That son of a bitch. Well. I have my duty as well. She pulled out her cell phone.

"Beckman, secure."

"Yes, Colonel. Before we begin I want to make something perfectly clear. This conversation never took place..."

x-x-x-x-x

Fulcrum Elder Jones took a deep breath before initiating the conference call with two of his 'brethren.' He knew that the other Elders looked down on him—a few even despised him. He knew that they thought he was a flake, having attained Elder rank only because his uncle had carried a fair amount of weight with Fulcrum. But now he had the approval of the Supreme Commander himself. He straightened in his seat as the connection was completed.

"How do we know that Agent Walker is actually rogue?" asked one of the men, immediately getting to the topic at hand. "She could just be playing you."

"She performed the mission that we assigned her," Jones said. "That's a pretty high price to pay if she only meant to play me."

"We just received word," the man said. "It's been confirmed. Four of the dummy camps were just attacked."

"That's excellent news," Jones said. "This means that Agent Walker can be trusted. She would never have given up that list if she were still loyal to the CIA."

"It appears so," the other man said. "But we still have to convince her to perform our mission. How do we deal with the boyfriend?"

"We have to make it look like it's the CIA punishing her for going rogue," Jones said. "I have some ideas. But I want to talk to her first. It's possible that we don't need to be that drastic."

"What are we talking about here?" the first man asked sarcastically. "Performing our mission? Or getting you laid?"

"I think that it might work out best if it's both," Jones said.

"Pretty arrogant," the man laughed. "You think that you can seduce Sarah Walker? You may have caught a lucky break with her, but let's face it, you're not known for success in the seduction arena. In fact, why don't you let me take charge? I have more experience, and this mission requires someone more capable."

"Then perhaps I should ask someone else for assistance," Jones said. "I'm sure the Commander would be interested to hear of your comments."

The Elder fell silent.

"Why not just kill the boyfriend?" asked the other man. "She would want revenge, and we could help her with that."

"That might work," Jones said. "But it could also backfire. At the very least, it would make her ineffective while she mourns. I think that I may have a shot with her. She gave me a present the last time we met. It was a significant gesture. I think she was trying to tell me something. Besides, if I strike out, we can always go to plan B."

"Present?" the man asked in disbelief. "What did she give you?"

The pride in Jones's voice was undeniable. "She gave me her bra."

"Really," the man said with a sudden respect. "Sarah Walker gave you her bra? Are you sure? The bra she was wearing?"

"She gave me her bra," Jones repeated. "She told me to keep it as a souvenir."

"Wow," the man said. "I guess it doesn't hurt to give you a shot. I'll have our agent stand by."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice was just sitting and thinking of the prior conversation. There was no question that she had treated her step-mother badly. And worse, it had hurt her dad. She would have to find some way to make it up to her. She was in the middle of those thoughts when there was a pounding at the door again. She must have forgotten something. So Janice was very surprised when she opened the door to find Chuck standing there.

"Let's go," Chuck said. "We're taking you out to dinner."

Janice was moved by the gesture. "Come on, Chuck," she said with a smile. "You're on your honeymoon. You two should be alone."

"We want you to come," Chuck said. "Will you please hurry? I'm starving."

Janice threw her arms around Chuck. "Where's Sarah?" she asked.

"She's holding the cab," Chuck said as he hugged Janice back, obviously a little confused by her emotion. "Come on, Janice. What part of 'I'm starving' didn't you understand?"

"Sorry," Janice laughed as she broke the embrace. "Let me grab my purse."

Agent killer? Perhaps. Pain in the ass? Probably. But totally adorable? Most definitely.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 7: Mission Impossible

x-x-x-x-x

It was in the cab on the way to the restaurant when it struck Janice how daunting her task was really going to be. His eyes lit up the second he saw her. He obviously adored her. And she… well she was like an entirely different person. They were headed to a nice restaurant in the nation's capital. That meant that half the patrons were either going to be high level government officials, influential lobbyists, or agents trying to compromise someone.

Janice had picked out three people who were more than likely agents while they were waiting for their table. She could tell by just casually observing them. She knew from her training what to look for. But Sarah? She sat there staring at him like a clueless teenager. What had happened to her? Normally, she would have been the one to point out to Janice who to keep an eye on. But not tonight. The only thing that she was aware of was Chuck. It was getting harder and harder to believe that she was the top agent in the CIA.

Naturally, she perked up when Chuck flashed. And Janice had to admit, it was exciting for her too. It was the first time that she had ever witnessed a flash when she actually knew what it was. And Chuck flashed on all three people that Janice had picked out. Fortunately, none of them were serious threats so they felt comfortable staying.

Janice felt a little underdressed for such a place. Not that they were inappropriate, far from it. But it was substantially short of their usual standards. Agents Beckman and Walker would have normally walked into that restaurant dressed so that every man's tongue would be on the floor. After all, who knew when you would need to get close to someone? And they had always liked to be prepared. It's what agents were… prepared. And besides, what was wrong with making a few eyes bug out? If the right guy came along, being prepared could lead to a very enjoyable evening.

They had finally ordered and had just gotten their appetizer. Although the service wasn't all that great, the stuffed mushrooms were every bit as good as Janice remembered. Chuck must have been really hungry. He was so cute devouring his mushrooms and was now working on the bread.

As Janice watched him eat, she racked her brain trying to figure out how to drive a wedge between them. The problem was he obviously didn't view her sexually. She had already paraded around in her underwear in front of him on more than one occasion. And yes, he had looked. But that would have driven most men crazy. With most men, she would be fighting off their advances. But Chuck had never so much as even tried to flirt with her. It was frustrating. But Janice had to admit, it was a main reason why she found him so incredibly attractive.

Jealousy might work. People did stupid, irrational things when they were jealous. Maybe she could tell some stories about how wild Sarah was. But that probably wouldn't be effective. He'd already heard most of those stories. After all, she told him some in Denver for exactly the same reason, to get him in bed. And that didn't work out very well. Janice sighed. This was going to be a long term project. That was for sure.

Then fate, as she was wont to do, intervened on Janice's behalf.

She spied him sitting on the other side of the restaurant.

x-x-x-x-x

"Hey, John," Devon said as he answered the door. "Come in." Since escaping from Fulcrum, Devon and Casey had come to somewhat of an unspoken understanding. It would be a gross overstatement to call them friends. They probably never would be. The fact of the matter was they were simply opposites who had virtually nothing in common on which to communicate. But they were willing to be around each other without trying to pick a fight. And, at least, that was something.

So Devon let go the fact that he wasn't all that comfortable with this guy taking such an interest in Ellie and even less comfortable with the interest that she took in him. And Casey let go the fact that Devon's whining and stubbornness had gotten them captured by Fulcrum. He was trying to let go the fact that Devon's whining and stubbornness had gotten Casey shot. But that, quite honestly, was a work in progress.

General Beckman had made it quite clear that they would be seeing a lot of each other. It made some sense, after all. Ellie and Devon still represented a risk to the Intersect. They were known to Fulcrum. And although they didn't currently know that Chuck was the Intersect, who knows when they might find out? While there was currently a truce, nobody was willing to completely trust that. And since Casey lived next door anyway, it was natural that he be assigned to watch over them. So Beckman held off on reassigning Casey. Babysitting two doctors was not a suitable long term assignment for someone of Casey's caliber. But Beckman didn't want to lose him. She had a feeling that Team Chuck would be calling on him sooner rather than later.

Since they were going to be seeing a lot of each other, Ellie put her foot down. She had insisted that they learn to be civil, at least when they were around her. And Ellie could be quite insistent. Devon was easy to control. Either get in line or never see her naked again. But surprisingly, Casey was even easier. "Yes, ma'am," was his simple reply. Why was his face so red?

"Hi, Devon," Casey said as he walked into the apartment. "Is Ellie here? I need to talk to her."

"Hi, John," Ellie shouted from the kitchen. "I'm just making dinner. I'll set a place for you."

"I don't want to impose," Casey said. And it was true. He didn't want to impose. But he had to admit, he loved Ellie's cooking. The woman was a true genius with a casserole. There was a reason that he picked dinner time to come over.

"Come on, John," Devon said with a laugh. "You and I both know that she is not going to let you leave without eating dinner. So come, sit down, and tell us what you need to talk about. Do you want a beer?"

x-x-x-x-x

Oh my God, that's Jimmy.

Of course, Jimmy wasn't his real name. He was the sort of man who didn't have a real name. But he was a big player. Janice could never figure out how best to describe him. The closest that she ever came was that he was organized crime's main lobbyist. And he definitely knew how to play both sides. He gave the CIA just enough information that they protected him. And when the CIA protected you, you were untouchable. He knew it. He made no bones about it. Rules simply didn't apply to him. And if you got in his way, you paid a price. Janice quickly glanced around the restaurant. Jimmy never went anyplace without his bodyguards. And there they were.

The toughest assignment that she and Sarah ever had was 'protecting' him for those three months. Well, actually that wasn't true. It wasn't that hard for Janice. Jimmy had taken a major liking to Agent Walker. Silly boy had picked the wrong agent. Sarah took great pleasure in shutting him down cold. The challenge was probably one reason why he kept trying so hard. Naturally, Janice would have screwed him just to break the monotony. But he wasn't interested. He just had to have Sarah. And since that was the time period when she and Sarah fiercely competed over everything, that fact alone made her dislike for him quite intense. But Janice had to admit; she admired his perseverance, if not his taste.

Janice realized that Sarah might have a hard time with Jimmy. He would clearly try and flirt with her. And it might be interesting if Chuck were to see that. It might spark something that Janice could use later. So she excused herself for a moment. It was easy to pretend to catch his eye on the way to the lady's room. And she knew that he would ask about Sarah. That was a sure thing.

As soon as Jimmy approached their table, Janice could tell that Chuck was in the middle of a flash. This might be fun. But it can't go too far. This guy was dangerous after all. And he definitely was in the Intersect. That couldn't be good. Janice opened her purse under the table and grabbed the gun that she kept there. Better safe than sorry. She also scooted closer to Chuck in a protective measure.

Not that any of that mattered. Jimmy was not paying any attention to Chuck or Janice. His full attention was directed towards Sarah.

"Hi, Jimmy," Sarah said. To anybody else, her smile would have been considered happy. But Chuck and Janice both knew that it was forced. "It's been a long time."

Most people would have recognized Sarah's statement for what it was; a casual acknowledgement to an old acquaintance. And they would have kept walking. But Jimmy was obviously not most people. He was far to used to getting what he wanted to worry about things like manners. So he sat down in the open fourth seat.

Janice was trying to read Sarah's expression to gauge how big of a threat this guy was to her. But her face didn't give her a good feel. Then she looked to Chuck to see if she could read anything on his face. After all, she hadn't seen this guy in several years. Sarah may have had some history with him that Janice wasn't aware of. He may be an even bigger threat now. If Chuck had concern on his face then she was going to make an excuse and get him out of there. After all, Chuck's safety trumped making Sarah look bad. But, again, she couldn't get a good read.

Finally, Janice decided to act. "Hey, Jimmy," she said. "Meet my new husband. Chuck, this is Jimmy."

Sarah's head shot towards Janice in surprise. Even before seeing Jimmy, Sarah was starting to regret coming here for dinner. There were far too many skeletons in her closet to bring Chuck to such a hot spot. But she had to admit, Janice was right. Chuck was safer if Jimmy thought he was with Janice. And she didn't want Chuck anywhere near Jimmy. He was bad news and Chuck was a trouble magnet. And who knows what Jimmy was thinking? Protecting Chuck was primarily Janice's job now. Sarah would have to let that go. But that didn't make it any easier to take.

"Hello Chuck," Jimmy said as he reached across the table to shake his hand. "Congratulations, you've bagged a live one."

"Yeah," Chuck said as he glanced at Janice. "She's full of surprises."

"So, Sarah," Jimmy said as returned his undivided attention to her. "I haven't seen you in years. What happened to you?"

"I live on the coast," Sarah said. "I'm just in town to see my friends get married. I'm heading back tomorrow."

"You're leaving tomorrow?" Jimmy asked. "Then we have to catch up. After dinner, let's go out for a drink. The four of us."

"I'm sorry, Jimmy," Janice said as she reached over to give Chuck a quick peck on the lips. "Chuck and I want to get back. You know how it is. We're on our honeymoon."

"Okay," Jimmy said to Sarah. "I guess that just leaves you and me."

"I don't think so, Jimmy," Sarah said. "I have an early flight tomorrow…"

"Come on, Sarah," Jimmy interrupted. "I have some business to discuss. You'll want to hear this." He looked at Chuck warily and must have decided to be secretive. "Let's take a little walk."

"Jimmy," Sarah sighed as she pushed her chair away from the table. "This better be good."

Sarah was only gone for a couple of minutes. The very instant that she sat back down, Janice was on her. "Well?" she asked.

"I'm not sure," Sarah said. "He said that he had some information about the 'Tea Party', whatever that is. He assumed that I would know about it. He said that my bosses would want to know. He said he would tell me if I would go out for a drink with him."

"What are you going to do?" Chuck asked, obviously concerned. "I didn't like the way that guy was looking at you."

"I don't know," Sarah said. "You know how much I like tea." But seeing Chuck's face she broke into a laugh. "Don't worry, sweetie. I'm just teasing. I'm not going to go."

"But this might be important," Janice said. "Maybe he knows something helpful."

"Yes," Sarah agreed. "He might. Then again it could just be another of his pathetic attempts to get me to go out with him. That's my bet."

"He wants more than for you to go out with him," Janice said as she watched Chuck closely for his reaction. "This guy has made more moves on you than I can count. How far did he get last time?"

And, indeed, Janice saw the redness in both Chuck's and Sarah's necks. Bingo.

"Maybe we should call Beckman," Janice said.

"If we could," Sarah said. "But there's no way to call her. It would break our cover to call her. And she's left the office. So we can't go see her. If Jimmy had any real information, he would know how to get it to the right people"

"Okay," Janice said after a moment. "That's probably true. But it's also possible that he's willing to give up something important for the chance to get you in bed. Did you see his eyes? That's still a major motivation."

"That's true," Sarah sighed. "It's possible. I just don't see it as worth the risk." That should end this conversation.

"Don't ask me why," Janice said. "But I have General Beckman's personal phone number. It's one that no one knows about. I can call her without breaking our cover. I'll go find out what she wants you to do."

That immediately piqued Sarah's interest. Why would Janice have Beckman's personal phone number? She would have to find out why. Janice was only gone for a few minutes. When she returned to the table, she paused for a long moment.

"We've got a big problem," Janice finally said. "The Tea Party is a major Organized Crime drug sting. We have a dozen agents with their lives on the line if the cover is blown. There are some very major players involved. Beckman said that it's vital that Sarah find out whatever Jimmy knows about it, using any means necessary."

Chuck's face fell when he heard the 'any means necessary' part.

Sarah stared helplessly. The fact that agent's lives were on the line was probably the only thing that could make her think of doing this. At least, she was grateful for Janice's quick thinking. The honeymoon excuse was great. She didn't want Chuck around this guy any longer than absolutely necessary. "Okay," she finally said with a sigh. "I guess one drink can't hurt. I'll see if I can find out what he knows."

"By any means necessary," Janice stressed as she fought to keep a serious look on her face. Okay, so most of that had been a lie. The Tea Party was a major drug bust. But there weren't any undercover agents. Beckman's exact instructions were to leave it up to Sarah's discretion if she wanted to pursue this. If she found out anything, they would add it to the file. If she didn't, no big deal. But those instructions would hardly help Janice. For her mission to have a chance, Chuck had to believe that Sarah was getting ready to sleep with this mark. On their honeymoon, no less. That had to leave him vulnerable. No problem. After all, Janice could always comfort Chuck.

And she knew exactly how.

x-x-x-x-x

The rest of the meal was finished in silence. But the tension was there. You could cut it with a knife. It wasn't until they were safely in the cab that Chuck spoke.

"Why would you agree to go on a date with this guy?" Chuck asked. "Do you know what he is into?"

"Of course I know," Sarah said. "Why do you think I agreed? Lives are on the line here, Chuck. This guy is bad news. But at least I won't have to worry about you."

"We're being tailed," Janice said as she glanced out the back window. "They've been on us since we left the restaurant. Come on, Sarah. You know this guy. There is no way he is going to take anything for granted. He knows that we're CIA. He is looking for something suspicious."

"Damn," Sarah said. "I was afraid of that. Okay, sweetie, listen to me. I'm going to go and have one drink with him. I'll find out what he wants to tell me. Then I'll let him make his move. I'll shoot him down and meet you at the apartment. Please don't worry. It will be fine."

"You can't drink," Chuck said with a smile. "Remember the baby."

"I'll have Ginger Ale," Sarah said with a smile of her own.

Janice was disappointed at their reaction. Chuck was taking this far too well. Maybe she could plant a seed. "That's not going to work," Janice said. "There is no way that you are going to get away with one drink. You know damn well what he wants. He probably also knows that you'll do anything to get his information. Guess what he is going to want? You'll have to do some fancy talking to stay off of your back tonight. Why do you think that he wants you to meet at his hotel? You might as well give it to him and get it over with. And he thinks that Chuck and I are together. So Chuck is going to have to stay with me."

Sarah shot Janice a look as she sighed. Thanks for saying that in front of Chuck. But she knew that Janice was right. On both counts. He would be looking to make sure that Chuck and Janice were together. Trusting people was not one of Jimmy's strengths. And she was going to have to do some fancy talking to get his information without getting naked tonight. Jimmy had never made any bones about what he wanted. And he was almost certainly going to use his information as leverage to try and get it. But at least Chuck would be safe. And she could handle Jimmy. She was sure of that. At least, when she didn't have to worry about Chuck.

Sarah had the cab driver take them to a hotel that was several blocks away from Janice's hotel.

"Why are we here?" Chuck asked.

"The tail will stay with Sarah," Janice said before Sarah could speak. "We'll go in and wait for them to leave, and then we'll walk back to my hotel."

"You be careful," Chuck said to Sarah as he leaned in to kiss her. He was trying hard to be supportive of Sarah but his face betrayed his obvious concern.

Janice noted the exchange with interest. At least she had planted the seed. Let's see if it will sprout.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," Sarah said as she backed away and turned her head. "I can't kiss you. They're watching us. Please don't worry. I can handle this guy with my eyes closed. Trust me. I know what I'm doing. I'll meet you back in Janice's room as soon as I can."

"Don't lead them to my room," Janice said. She was genuinely concerned that Sarah had forgotten how to be an agent.

Sarah looked at Janice like she had grown another head. Janice immediately turned red as she realized how stupid she sounded. "Don't worry," Sarah growled. "I'm pretty sure I can lose a tail. I taught a class on the subject, remember?"

"Let's go, Chuck," Janice said as she suddenly wanted to be out of that cab and away from Sarah's glare. "We'll see you in a couple of hours."

As soon as the cab pulled away, Janice could hear Chuck under his breath. "How is she going to avoid sleeping with this guy?"

"I'm sorry, Chuck," Janice said as she grabbed her hand. She put her other hand on his back and rubbed gently. She had to fight to keep the smile off her face. This was working out perfectly.

"I don't think that she can."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 8: The Seduction Lesson

x-x-x-x-x

There was one thing that Casey had to admit. He enjoyed the dinners with Ellie and Devon. And not just for the food. Ellie was one hell of a cook. And that was just the half of it. Ellie was one hell of a total package. Devon was a very lucky guy. But it was more than that. It was the feeling of sitting down with people that you actually cared about and sharing something as routine as a meal. It was a piece of normalcy that Casey missed from his life. Not that he regretted the choices that he had made for his life – he didn't. But it was also nice to feel normal for an hour. And since Ellie's strictest rule was no business talk at the table, they were guaranteed that meal time would be a respite from the life and death situations that dominated their lives.

Finally, Ellie poured everyone a cup of coffee and turned to Casey. "Okay, John," she said. "What did you want to talk to us about?" It was her signal that the meal was over and business could begin.

"I just got a call from General Beckman," Casey said. "We need you to get a message to Sarah. It's important that she know something."

"Why don't you just call her?" Ellie asked.

"We're staying away from Chuck, Sarah, and Janice," Casey said. "Fulcrum thinks that Sarah has quit the CIA. We don't want to give them any reason to think otherwise."

"What is the message?" Ellie asked.

"Sarah needs to know that Janice has received an order," Casey said. "She has been ordered to steal Chuck away from Sarah using any means necessary."

Ellie thought that Casey was joking. "Right," she laughed. "Good luck with that."

From the look on Casey's face, Ellie quickly realized that he wasn't kidding. "That's awful," she quickly said. "Why would Beckman order her to do that?"

"It wasn't Beckman," Casey said. "Beckman has a new boss. This new guy, Ben Adams, really wants Sarah to use her new connection to get close to the Fulcrum Elder. Sarah is refusing to do that. She would have to use seduction so she outright refused the order. Adams feels that her bond with Chuck is preventing her from serving her country." Casey grunted and rolled his eyes. "Chuck might keep Sarah from seducing Jones, but I hardly think he will keep her from serving her country. Long story short, he feels that if he can split Chuck and Sarah up, that Sarah will be more likely to do what he wants her to."

"What an asshole," Ellie said. "Thank goodness Janice is Sarah's friend."

Again, Casey's expression caused Ellie to pause. "Oh, John," she said. "Tell me that she is Sarah's friend."

"Agents follow orders," Casey said. "They don't have friends." His eyes flicked away from her as he spoke.

"Chuck would never betray Sarah," Ellie said firmly.

"I don't think so either," Casey said. "But have you seen Janice? She is an expert at seduction. Let's not underestimate her. If Sarah knows, they can defend against it happening better. That's why it's important that you tell her."

"I'll tell her," Ellie sighed.

"But wait until I get my hands on Janice."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice had finally gotten Chuck safely back to her hotel room. She made them stay in the lobby of the other hotel for quite a while to make sure that the tail had left with Sarah. And she was on edge for the entire walk back. To an outside observer, she and Chuck were newlyweds, holding hands, enjoying an evening walk under the city lights. But Chuck could tell that Janice was vigilant. She remained sharp at all times, constantly checking for any sign of a tail. She even chose an indirect route, and backtracked twice before she was satisfied that they were in the clear.

Janice was torn on how aggressive to be trying to get Chuck in bed tonight. After all, just two days ago, they were celebrating their wedding. So under normal circumstances, he probably wasn't ready to start cheating on her. But on the other hand, Janice knew that Chuck would be concerned about Sarah with Jimmy. No surprise there. Maybe she could use that concern to her advantage. And if she could turn him on half as much as she was right now, it was time to turn down the bed.

A big part of her wanted to comfort him. She hated seeing him suffer, especially needlessly. After all, there was no way that Sarah was going to let anything happen. She had spent an entire three months with Jimmy while staying out of his bed. It sure wasn't going to happen for him tonight. But she knew that this was her big chance to make progress on her mission. Janice knew that a straight forward seduction attempt would get shot down. And earn her a beating when Sarah found out. But maybe she could trick him. She finally decided to play the evening by ear. Chuck was sitting on the sofa watching Sports Center. He looked surprised when Janice turned off the television.

"Don't worry, Chuck," Janice said. "She's just doing her job. Maybe she'll be able to talk her way out of actually sleeping with him."

"I know," Chuck said. "She is not going to sleep with him."

"Maybe," Janice said. "But this guy's tough. She has to get that information and he's dying to get into her pants. Something's gotta give."

"Not going to happen," Chuck said.

"What in the hell do you know about it?" Janice said sharply.

Chuck's head jerked up at the harshness in her response.

"I'm sorry, Chuck," Janice said. "I didn't mean to snap at you. It's just that you don't know what she's going through. What her training is making her do."

"Okay," Chuck said. "You've been through the same training. Explain it to me."

Janice smiled suddenly. "Okay, Chuck," Janice said softly. "I think that I know how to make you understand. But I have to do it my way. Is that what you really want?"

Chuck just shrugged his shoulders. "I guess."

"It's a battle of wills," Janice said. "He wants something and she wants something. He wants in her pants and she wants information. It's all about who breaks first."

"Wills?" Chuck asked.

"Let me explain," Janice said. "Do you think I'm pretty?"

"What?"

"I'm making a point," Janice said. "Answer the question. Do you think I'm pretty?"

"Janice," Chuck sighed. "You're one of the most beautiful women that I've ever seen. You could be an actress or a super model."

"Do you ever think about me?" Janice asked softly.

"Of course I think about you," Chuck answered.

"No," Janice said quickly. "That's not what I mean. Do you ever 'think' about me? Be honest, have you ever pictured me naked?"

Chuck turned red almost instantly. "I don't see what that has to do with anything."

"I'm not saying you would ever cheat on Sarah," Janice continued, taking full note of his non-denial. "But, come on. You've thought about me… about us. You've had your little imaginary fantasies, right? There's nothing wrong with that."

"What is your point?" Chuck asked as his face turned a fiery hue.

"I'm going to show you what Sarah is doing," Janice said. "I'm going to get you to tell me all about the last fantasy that you had about me."

"No you're not."

"Yes, I am, Chuck," Janice said insistently. She knew that she had just crossed the point of no return. It was either seduce him now or face a very pissed off Sarah. "That's how I'm going to explain to you what Sarah is doing right now. Just like Sarah is going to get the information that Jimmy doesn't want to tell her, I'm going to get the information that you don't want to tell me. And I'm not even going to touch you. I'm just going to give you what you want. Just like Sarah is. In a few minutes you'll be telling me all about it."

"What do you think that I want?"

"Most guys want sex," Janice said quickly. "That's what Jimmy wants. That won't work with you. So I'm going to have to use something else."

"Something else?"

"Yes, Chuck," Janice said. "You want me to stop embarrassing you. So tell me about your fantasy and I'll stop taking off clothes."

"You're crazy."

"Maybe," Janice agreed as she began to unbutton her blouse. "I think you have to be a little crazy to do this job. But I'm still right. Sarah is going to start by flirting with him a little. Sometimes, that's all it takes."

"But if that doesn't work," Janice said as her blouse hit the floor and she began to unfasten her pants. "She'll probably kiss him. Maybe not with an open mouth yet."

"Janice," Chuck said. "Please don't do this."

"Then tell me," Janice said as pulled her pants off and kicked them to the side. She stood before him in a lacy black bra and matching panties, hands on her hips, a triumphant grin on her face. "You can stop this at any time. All you have to do is tell me the story. But it's going to have to be good. I want details."

Chuck glanced up at her briefly, and immediately returned his gaze to the floor. God, she really could be a model. She has a terrific body, he thought, swallowing hard.

"In your fantasy," Janice said. "Did you make the first move? Or did I?"

When Chuck didn't respond, Janice smiled. "Okay, Chuck," she said as she reached to unfasten her bra. "We can do this your way. If the flirting doesn't work, Sarah will open up her mouth and do some serious necking." Janice then switched topics quickly. "Tell me, did you get me to strip for you? A lot of men have told me that I'm very good at it. What do you think? Is this getting to you a little? Or maybe you helped me undress. That's fun too."

Chuck still wouldn't respond.

"The next thing that Sarah would try is to let him undress her," Janice said in a soft sultry voice as she kneeled on the floor in front of Chuck in only her panties. "Its okay, Chuck. Trust me; I've had lots of fantasies about you. Remember when you were pretending to be Schultz with Sarah? That's the hottest thing I've ever heard. I listen to the tape a lot. Last night in bed, I was Sarah and Schultz was seducing me." Of course that was a lie. Last night she was still hung over. She fell asleep the second her head hit the pillow. "I think I can guess," Janice said with a smirk. "I'll bet your fantasy includes both Sarah and me. Am I right? That's pretty wild, Chuck."

Chuck just continued to look at the floor.

"It's happened, you know," Janice said with an evil grin.

"What's happened?"

"Sarah and I with a guy," Janice said. "It was… different. She's really a tiger in bed." Okay, so that was a total lie. Oh, a couple of guys had suggested it. But they had earned a Sarah Walker slap in the face and an early end to their evening for their trouble.

"I'm begging you," Chuck said.

Still on her knees, Janice moved her arms and leaned back, her hands on the floor behind her. She lifted her chest slightly so that her breasts became the focal point of her body. "Look at me, Chuck. This is really starting to turn me on." That part wasn't a lie. She was ready to start ripping his clothes off. He was almost ready to cave. She could feel it. He just needed one more gentle push.

Chuck continued to stare at the floor.

"I said, look at me," she said more firmly.

Reluctantly, Chuck raised his eyes.

She moved one hand and traced a circle around her belly button. She held Chuck's gaze for a moment, and then slowly slipped her hand into the waistband of her panties. "Don't worry, Chuck," she said. "It's perfectly normal. I've had that fantasy too. Let me show you what I do about it."

"Stop it!" Chuck all but shouted. "Stop. Please. I'll tell you, okay?"

"That would be nice," Janice said with the smile of victory. "But I want a good story."

"A couple of conditions," Chuck said. "You need to put your clothes back on. And, please Janice, this can't get back to Sarah. You have to promise me."

"I promise."

"I mean it, Janice," Chuck said. "We both know where this is headed. If we're going to do this, you can't say a word. You know how jealous she gets."

"Don't worry," Janice said as she put on her shirt. She didn't bother with the bra since it would only be a minute before she would be taking it back off anyway. "Whatever happens tonight is just between us. We're partners." That wasn't technically a lie. She wasn't going to tell Sarah anything about tonight. She didn't have to. Once they were regularly screwing, it would be easy to arrange to get caught.

Chuck swallowed hard as Janice finished putting on her clothes. "Come here and sit next to me," Chuck said. "Maybe it won't be so hard to say if I can whisper it to you."

So she sat next to Chuck and immediately snuggled into him. She was a little surprised when he put his arm around her and began to rub her arm. This was going to be easier than she thought.

"You're one of the most beautiful women in the whole world," Chuck whispered. "I can't believe that I'm sitting here with you. But it's funny that you would mention Schultz, because that's how it starts out."

Janice smiled at Chuck and laid her head on his shoulder.

"You'd invited me to your room," Chuck whispered. "It was pretty much like this tonight. Except I was in complete control. You told me that you would do absolutely anything that I asked. You asked me to please make love to you."

Janice turned her face towards him and nodded. And frankly, he was right. She would do anything for him at this moment. At this point, she wasn't sure which she was happier about, completing her mission, or experiencing what she had been wondering about for so long. Either way, she knew that she had to put out the fire that was burning inside her. The time for rational thought had passed. She had to have him.

"Please, Chuck," she whispered. "I will do absolutely anything that you ask. Please make love to me." Janice lifted her face towards him to kiss him. And he leaned towards her, but just before their lips met, he diverted his kiss to her brow.

"Not yet," Chuck said. He was no longer whispering. His voice was soft yet commanding. "We're going to do this my way. You haven't earned it yet."

Oh my God, Janice thought. He is taking control. They were no longer talking about a fantasy. They were talking about now. It had to be the sexiest moment of her whole life.

"Are you ready to earn it?" Chuck asked.

Janice swallowed hard and nodded her head. Whatever she had to do to earn it, all he had to do was ask.

"I didn't hear you," Chuck said a little more firmly. "Are you ready to earn it?"

"Yes,"

"Yes, what?"

"Yes, Chuck. I'm ready to earn it."

"I need your handcuffs," Chuck said.

There was no way that Janice would allow anybody to handcuff her under normal circumstances. It just wasn't her thing. And agents never wanted to be that much out of control. But when she looked into his brown eyes, she no longer had any will to resist. She handed him the cuffs and her keys without a word.

"Who's in charge?" Chuck asked with a grin.

"You are, Chuck."

Chuck pulled Janice to her feet. Then he leaned in to kiss her. But again he pulled up short. "Not yet," he whispered as he softly shook his head. "You still haven't earned it."

Chuck led Janice into the bathroom and turned on the shower. As the steam billowed around them, Chuck pulled her close and embraced her. He slid his hands down her arms and she closed her eyes. He fastened one cuff to her hand and she shivered with anticipation. Slowly, he moved her hand back, and then fastened the other cuff to the towel rack.

She opened her eyes immediately and jerked her hand; it was securely attached. Chuck placed his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed her down so that she sat on the toilet seat. He turned off the shower and closed the door as he left the room.

After about five minutes, he heard her call. "Chuck"

A couple of minutes later, he heard her call again, this time a little louder. "Chuck!"

"What?" he called through the closed door.

"What happens now?"

"I get to watch Sports Center in peace," Chuck called. "That's been my fantasy all night."

"What the hell am I supposed to do?" Janice all but screamed.

"Well," Chuck called. "First, you can sit there and think of what you're going to tell Sarah after she learns that you tried to betray us both. Then you can go to hell."

"You son of a…" Chuck laughed to himself as he listened to Janice rant. Actually he learned a couple of new curse words. Fortunately, Janice knew that she couldn't get too loud; they were in a hotel.

Chuck had just finished watching Sports Center and was looking for something else when he heard a knock at the door. As soon as he opened the door, Sarah was in his arms.

"Hi," Chuck said after their kiss broke. "I really missed you. How did it go? I assume that you didn't get lucky."

"No," Sarah laughed. "I did have to peel his hand off my butt about a hundred times and off my chest once. He has a finger that he won't be using for a while. The bastard didn't know anything anyway. It was complete B.S. So, how did it go here?"

"Well," Chuck began with a sigh. He thought about how best to tell her. This was going to crush her. There was going to be no way around that. She was not going to be happy with Janice. The understatement was so large that it was almost silly. But he could see the growing curiosity in her eyes.

"Like it always goes."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 9: The Confession

x-x-x-x-x

"She did what!"

Chuck figured that would be Sarah's reaction. Actually, he was fairly impressed that she wasn't reaching for her gun. But after hearing the details of what had happened this evening, Sarah hit the roof. Chuck knew that he had to calm her down a little before they released Janice, who remained cuffed in the bathroom. Even though Chuck was pissed at Janice, he didn't want Sarah to really hurt her. Chuck was pretty sure that if Sarah and Janice got into a serious fight it would be pretty even but that Sarah would eventually win. But now that Janice was helpless, it would be no contest. And as angry as Sarah was, would she be able to stop?

"Sarah," Chuck said softly as he pulled her into a tight embrace. "Nothing really happened. You know that, right?"

Sarah's voice was so soft that Chuck had to strain to hear her. "I know, sweetie," she said. "But you said that she was trying to seduce you. Why do you think that?"

"Well," Chuck began. "She took off all her clothes? Then she started telling me stories about how you and she were in bed with a guy and what a wild time you had. Then she asked me to make love to her. If she wasn't trying to seduce me, I hope she never does."

"She told you what!" Now Sarah was shaking with anger. "Give me the key," she said.

"Why?" Chuck said. "Sarah, can't we sit here for a minute and cool off? Yes, what she did was unacceptable. But maybe there is a reason that we're not considering."

Chuck more or less dragged Sarah to the couch and pulled her down beside him. Sarah buried her face into Chuck's shoulder.

"I just don't know what she's doing," Sarah said with a sigh. "Janice and I have never been in bed with a guy together. That's just a lie. It's disgusting. She was obviously just trying to use it to get you worked up."

"Can we not think about it right now?" Chuck asked gently. "This is supposed to be our honeymoon. Don't take this the wrong way, but today hasn't really been what I pictured when I imagined our honeymoon. You've gone on a date with another man… and I've seen Janice naked more times on this trip than I've seen you."

Chuck could feel the tension in Sarah's body relax a little as she sighed against his shoulder. "Let's go back to the apartment," she said. "We'd better see if we can reverse that trend."

"Sounds good."

"Give me the handcuff keys," Sarah said. "I'd like to have a word with your sexy handler in private. I'll meet you in the lobby."

"Sarah," Chuck said hesitantly. "Please don't start a fight with her. I'm worried about the baby."

"Don't worry, sweetie," Sarah said. "I'm just going to talk."

Sarah waited for Chuck to leave and she opened the door to the bathroom with a jerk. Janice was still sitting on the toilet seat. She snapped her head up when the door opened but she wouldn't meet Sarah's eye.

"Of all the people," Sarah said as she threw the keys into Janice's chest. "Of all the people in my life, you are the last one that I ever thought would betray me. Do you realize what that would have done to me? Do you? It would have destroyed me. It would have made me not want to live any more. It would… no, you would have ended me."

Janice looked at the floor.

"We're through," Sarah continued. "You're off the team."

Janice still didn't look up so Sarah couldn't see the tears filling her eyes, but she nodded to acknowledge Sarah's statement.

"One other thing," Sarah said as she turned to leave.

"I never want to see your face again."

x-x-x-x-x

"I don't think that I can partner with anyone except Janice," Chuck said. They had returned to their apartment, and were relaxing in bed, having snuggled into their favorite position. And although they were just lying there in the dark and hadn't spoken in some time, each took great comfort in just being there together.

"I know," Sarah sighed. "It would be hard to trust anyone with your safety other than Janice. Why would she do it? There has to be a reason."

"What do you mean?" Chuck said with mock offense. "Are you saying that there is no possible way that this beautiful super spy is simply attracted to me? It is possible, you know. It has happened. Go look in the mirror. Apparently, beautiful super spies have no willpower when it comes to Chuck Bartowski. I don't quite understand it either."

Sarah smiled for a moment and then her expression became more serious. "So, you think she is beautiful?" Sarah asked.

Suddenly Chuck got quiet. After a long moment he finally spoke. "I hope you can forgive me."

That certainly got Sarah's attention.

"When Janice was trying to seduce me," Chuck continued. "She accused me of having thoughts about her. She said that I was having fantasies."

"And…," Sarah asked cautiously. "Have you?"

"Well," Chuck said slowly. "Not fantasies exactly. But I have had some thoughts that I'm not very proud of. I've noticed that she is very pretty."

"I know," Sarah said as she turned her head away. "I understand. You think that she's prettier than I am."

"What!" Chuck quickly said. "Who said that? She is not nearly as pretty as you are. Nobody thinks that. Especially not me. I would never do anything with Janice. I have absolutely no desire. I just want to be honest with you. I've noticed that she's pretty. That's all. I'm sorry."

"Chuck," Sarah said with a relieved laugh. "You just confessed to being human. There isn't a man around who wouldn't notice that Janice is gorgeous."

"So, you're not disappointed with me?" Chuck asked with obvious relief.

"Sweetie, I'm so proud of you," Sarah said. "There is no crime in being tempted a little. This beautiful trained seductress took her clothes off, told you erotic stories, and was begging you to make love to her, and you didn't. Why is that?"

"Why do you think?" Chuck asked; a little surprised at Sarah's question. "I'm married to the love of my life. And if I ever hurt you, Sarah… I mean, why would I do anything to mess that up? I was never tempted. I was embarrassed. I just wanted her to stop."

Sarah didn't really respond. She just snuggled up a little closer.

But it was a very good answer.

x-x-x-x-x

Janice was still sitting in the bathroom in pretty much the same position. She had unlocked the handcuffs, but she couldn't muster the nerve to get up and walk out of the bathroom. Agents had bad days. Lots of them. But this was shaping up to be one of Janice's worst.

Agents learned to deal with disappointment in their personal life. And the truth of the matter was that they weren't even supposed to have a personal life. Why then was the hurt in Sarah's voice affecting her so badly? Then she answered her own question. It was because Sarah was right. It wouldn't have hurt her. It would have destroyed her.

And professionally, the day hadn't been any better. She had blown her mission. There was no way Sarah was going to let her anywhere near Chuck now. And even if she did, Chuck was going to be on guard. If anything, she had managed to bring them closer together, if that was even possible. And that wasn't the worst part. She had just been out seduced by Chuck. He had her willing to do almost anything to have him. Janice had put dozens of men in that same position over the years. But it was the very first time that it had happened to her.

And what about Chuck? What was it about this guy that was driving her so crazy? Did she love him? She honestly wasn't sure. Having never been in love, she couldn't compare it to anything. And that fact alone scared the crap out of her. But one thing was for sure. For the first time since she had known her, she saw the contentment, the pure bliss, in Sarah's eyes. And she'd be lying if she said that she didn't want that for herself.

Janice had never in her life wanted so much to break down and have a good cry. But she knew that she couldn't. Once she allowed herself that weakness, she would be finished as an agent. Once she admitted to herself that she had feelings that she couldn't control, she was done. But there was the rub.

She definitely had feelings that she couldn't control. Maybe General step-mom was right. He really is an agent killer.

x-x-x-x-x

Lying in the dark, comforted by the rise and fall of Chuck's chest, Sarah found herself distracted by thoughts of her decision to go after Jimmy. She wasn't concerned so much about Chuck; he trusted her completely, and he knew she would never endanger the baby. But the timing was bad. This was supposed to be their time together, and she blew it. And yet Chuck never complained. He was quite an amazing man. She wondered for the hundredth time if she deserved him. Finally, Sarah broke the silence. "Chuck," she whispered. "I'm so, so sorry."

"What have you done to be sorry about?"

"I should have never gone with Jimmy," Sarah said softly. "It wasn't worth it. And even if I did, I should have taken more time to make sure you were okay. I know that you trust me. You know that there is no way I would ever seduce someone like Jimmy. But I can see where you would have some doubts. No man should have to think about his wife with another guy. I should have… I don't know. I should have told you how much I love you. I should have made you feel better. I assumed that Janice was going to handle that. I shouldn't have. I should have made sure myself. I feel horrible."

"You did exactly what I wanted you to do," Chuck said. "I appreciate your wanting to make sure that I'm okay. But, Sarah, you're dedicated to your duty. And there's no way that you would let fellow agent's lives be at risk without trying to help. That's who you are. That's who I love. You were only gone for a little over an hour. And I never thought for a second that you were going to seduce him. I told Janice that."

"You did?"

"Absolutely," Chuck said. "Sarah, it's time for me to grow up. I'm a hypocrite if I say that I trust you, but then I'm panicked that you're going to sleep with the next bad guy that we come across. And if I don't trust you, then I don't deserve you. Sarah, please listen to me. You're my wife. I'm trying to deserve you."

"Please don't ever say that you don't deserve me," Sarah whispered as she reached up and gently kissed him. "I know what you were trying to say. And it was sweet. But the truth is – I'm the one that doesn't deserve you."

"Okay," Chuck said with a smile. "Maybe we don't deserve each other. Maybe that's what makes it so great. I just want you to know that I trust you."

"I trust you too," Sarah said. "But I still feel horrible. You wanted to get away for a few days and have a real honeymoon. And all we've done since we've been here is work."

"We still have tonight," Chuck said softly. "Sarah, I'm lying here in bed with the most amazing person that I can imagine. I can rub your stomach and know that my daughter is in there. And you're telling me how sorry you feel for me? Before I met you I could never dream of this…" Chuck had to pause a moment to keep his voice from breaking. "Do me a favor. Don't ever feel sorry for me, Sarah. I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

Sarah clutched him closer. He could always make her feel better. "You know what?" Sarah asked after lying there for a long moment. "I'm really looking forward to our flight home tomorrow." There was the definite hint of a smile in her voice.

"Why?" Chuck asked.

"Because of the new Bartowski family tradition that you introduced me to on the flight here," Sarah said. Now there could be no question of her mood. "I can't wait to get that same treatment tomorrow."

"Hold the phone," Chuck said with a chuckle. "That was the eastbound tradition. There is a completely different westbound tradition. One that requires you to take a more active leadership role."

"Don't tell me," Sarah said trying to control her giggling. "Let me guess. The westbound tradition starts the night before. I think I've got a pretty good idea how it goes. It probably starts off with you getting me naked."

"Wait a minute," Chuck said suspiciously as he pulled Sarah's night shirt over her head. She lifted her arms to allow him to take it off and throw it to the floor, leaving her only in her panties. "How did you know? Have you gone westbound with someone already?"

"No," laughed Sarah. "At least, not with a Bartowski. But then I think the next step is probably me getting you naked." She pulled Chuck's t-shirt over his head. Soon it joined hers on the floor. She reached down and pulled at his pajama bottoms. At first, she struggled to get them over his hips until he finally lifted himself up to help her. As soon as they hit the floor, she leaned over and kissed him. Sarah reached over to the nightstand and picked up his phone, selecting the soft play list. Gentle music filled the room. She swayed in time to the music for a moment, and then straddled his body, her hands on his chest.

"So how did you know?" Chuck said. "Because, so far you're executing it perfectly. Have you been talking to Ellie or something?"

"Chuck," Sarah said with a smile. "Ellie and I are close. But we don't talk about our sex lives. And even if we did, I wouldn't tell you about it."

"That's good," Chuck said with a laugh. "I knew that didn't sound right the second it came out of my mouth. I'm pretty sure that I don't want to hear about whatever Devon is doing to her. And I'm sort of hoping that Ellie doesn't know about the westbound tradition anyway. So, how do you know about it?"

Chuck inhaled sharply as her fingers traced along the sides of his body. "Is this something new?" he stammered. "Is this part of the tradition? Or are you improvising?"

Sarah slid herself down Chuck's body, leaving soft kisses along his belly. She looked up at him briefly. "Lucky guess," she said with a mischievous grin. "Why don't you lie there and see how close I can come to getting it right?"

Chuck closed his eyes, relishing every brush of her lips on his skin. This is better than the lap dance, he thought, nearly incoherent with pleasure. His gasp was audible as Sarah acquired her target. Even if this wasn't the tradition before, it sure as hell was now. Just before he reached the point of not being able to speak, he mumbled just loud enough for Sarah to hear him over the music.

"We have to travel more."

x-x-x-x-x

Casey finished cleaning his Sig Sauer for the third time and sighed. How clean could the damn gun be? Watching Devon and Ellie wasn't much of an assignment under the best of circumstances. And when they were working, it quickly went from not very exciting to mind-numbing boredom. He had just gotten off the phone with General Beckman. She wanted to be briefed on his conversation with Ellie. He smiled to himself. Beckman had some sneaky tactics up her sleeve. She didn't interfere with Janice's order. It would be wrong to do that. After all, it was a legitimate order from a superior. Janice really had no choice but to obey. But Beckman had just ensured that she couldn't be successful. It was brilliant. Say what you want about Beckman, but she was one smart soldier.

One thing was very clear. Beckman had very little use for her new boss. She didn't even try and hide the disdain in her voice. Sure, it was a slime ball move to coerce Janice into bed. But there was something more. Casey could tell that Beckman was being protective of both Janice and Sarah. And that was loyalty that Casey could get behind.

The truth was that Beckman had just expressed a lot of confidence in him. Casey knew that he could make a ton of trouble for her with the information that she had just shared. He probably could have gotten her dismissed. But he also knew that was something he would never do. Her loyalty deserved his in return.

And that's why Casey didn't mind his current assignment so much. Normally he would have demanded a more legitimate assignment. Something more worthy of his talents and skills. But she was obviously dragging her feet on reassigning him for a reason. Did she know something? Or was it just her intuition that he would be needed soon? Either way, Casey was willing to trust her instinct. For a little while, anyway.

After all, she was one smart soldier.

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah should have been more excited about returning home. After all, it wasn't every day that the CIA built you a brand new house. And this one was a beauty. So why wasn't she excited? She really couldn't blame her mood on the long flight. It actually turned out that the westbound tradition had a very key element in common with the eastbound one. Chuck had certainly not lost his touch. If anything, he was getting better with practice. And it was a treat that Ellie picked them up from the airport. After all, they hadn't seen her in a couple of days.

But Sarah knew full well what the problem was. It was Ellie's news. It was disturbing on multiple levels. Now Janice's actions made sense. No wonder Jimmy didn't really know anything. It was all a setup for Janice to be alone with Chuck. It actually made her feel a little better. After all, Janice was an agent. And agents followed orders. Who knew that better than Sarah? Just how many things had she done that she really didn't want to because she was following orders? More than she could count.

But the real problem was much bigger. Ben Adams was now a dead man walking. For two reasons. First, you didn't treat your own people like that. Sarah had dedicated her life to the country for ten long years. She had been in situations and was called upon to do things that Ben Adams couldn't even imagine. And to be manipulated in such a cruel way? It was completely unacceptable. But even more, to mess with Chuck? It didn't get any worse than that. Sarah was seriously thinking about getting back on the plane and dealing with this asshole tonight. She wasn't going to forget. Ben Adams was a dead man. He may currently be Under Secretary of Defense, but soon he was going to be six feet under.

Sarah Walker… no wait, Sarah Bartowski didn't take this shit from anybody.

x-x-x-x-x

They spent a few hours settling into their new home. But other than getting familiar with the house, there really wasn't much to do. The CIA had taken care of every detail. There was even fresh fruit in the kitchen. If Sarah had needed any further evidence of how much Chuck was devoted to her, she had it tonight. The CIA had gone all out on the house. And since Chuck's cover was as a big time software developer, they had supplied a media room that NASA engineers would drool over. It was obvious that Chuck was dying to check it out. Sarah knew that it was going to be a struggle to get Morgan to ever go home. And Sarah could tolerate Morgan. But Jeff and Lester, well Chuck was never going to tell them about it. That's where Sarah was putting her foot down. But instead of checking out this new adult play toy, Chuck was sitting next to her, cuddled on the couch. And for no other reason than he felt that she needed him. It was today's reminder of something that she already knew. He worshiped her just as much as she worshiped him. She was almost feeling a little guilty. Almost, but not quite. After all, it felt so good sitting there with him. It made some of the pain of Janice's betrayal fade away.

As they were sitting there silently cuddling, there came a knock on the door. When Chuck opened the door, Janice was standing there. Even though she wouldn't meet his eye, he could see that her eyes were puffy. It was the first time Chuck had ever seen her without perfect makeup. And her hair obviously hadn't seen a brush in some time. He could see the tremble in her hands as she stood before him.

"Hi, Chuck," she said. "Can I come in? I need to talk to you both."

Chuck didn't answer. He just moved out of the way and held the door open for her to walk into the room. Janice walked to about ten feet from where Sarah was sitting and stopped.

"Chuck," Janice said. "I'll want to talk to you in a few minutes. But first I need to talk to Sarah. Do you think you could please give us a minute?"

Chuck glanced at Sarah and she nodded almost imperceptibly. "I'll be in the media room," he said to Sarah. "Call me if you need me."

As soon as Chuck left the room, Janice turned to Sarah. "Yesterday at approximately thirteen hundred, I received an order from Under Secretary Adams," Janice said after taking a deep breath. "The order was to seduce Chuck and engage him in a repeated sexual relationship. Then I was to ensure that you witness evidence of his betrayal. The goal was to end your relationship with Chuck so that you would return to full time active duty."

Janice's voice broke and she paused for a moment to gather her composure. "Last evening," she finally continued. "I was planning a strategy to complete my assignment when I noticed Jimmy in the restaurant. I contacted him and made sure that he would approach the table. I then fabricated the results of my call with General Beckman. My goal was to get Chuck to believe that you intended to use sex as a means to obtain Jimmy's information. I then took Chuck back to my hotel room and used every trick in my arsenal to attempt a seduction. I failed in my attempt and ended up secured in the bathroom."

At this point Janice's voice broke and the tears began to stream down her face. "I was trying to do my duty. But I made an awful mistake. I betrayed you. I betrayed Chuck. I betrayed our friendship. I'm very sorry." Her words were hard to make out through her sobs.

It was the first time in her life that Sarah had ever seen Janice cry. "You do realize," Sarah said as she stood to face her. "That by telling me this, you just violated your primary mission objectives. That's pretty lousy spy work, Agent Beckman."

"I know," Janice said while still sobbing. "I can't do it. I can't destroy the people that I care about. It's not worth it anymore. I intend to resign my position effective tomorrow morning."

Even though Janice was still sobbing, she visibly flinched as Sarah stepped up to her. Normally when faced with an adversary, Janice would have assumed a defensive posture. But now she was just willing to stand there and take whatever Sarah threw at her. Janice closed her eyes and braced for the punch that she knew was coming. But she was stunned when Sarah wrapped her arms around Janice's neck and hugged her close. And if she wasn't surprised enough by the embrace, Janice was floored when Sarah whispered into her ear.

"No, you're not. Sweetie, you're a mess. Let's get you a cup of tea."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 10: Sweetie

x-x-x-x-x

Janice had been so determined not to break down. After all, keeping your emotions in check was a skill that an undercover agent just had to have. Anything less and you simply didn't survive. Then again, she already knew that she was finished as an agent. But, still, she had some pride. She wouldn't allow herself to break down in front of Chuck. And she thought that, on balance, she was doing pretty well. It wasn't until she saw the hurt look in Chuck's eyes as he opened the door that she could feel the tears start to well up in her eyes. Yet even then, she was able to keep herself relatively composed.

Sure, she sort of lost it a little when she was telling Sarah what had happened. But once Janice realized that Sarah wasn't going to hit her and was actually hugging her, the dam burst. Any pretense of self control disappeared and the emotions that she had been bottling up came pouring out. She collapsed into Sarah's arms and sobbed uncontrollably. If Sarah hadn't been holding her, she would have quickly fallen to the floor.

All Sarah could do was, more or less, drag her to the sofa and sit her down. Then she sat down next to her and held Janice as she sobbed. Sarah remained quiet. She wanted to give Janice all the support that she so obviously needed. But Sarah was also struggling with her own set of competing emotions. There was no question but that Sarah felt horrible for Janice. She had been put in an impossible position. Nobody knew better than Sarah what Janice had been trained to do. And that boiled down to one thing – follow orders. Agents were trained to follow orders no matter what. They were conditioned to follow them without question. At the academy, the instructors were geniuses at figuring out what it was that you didn't want to do and then ordering you to do it. And the more that they felt you didn't want to do it, the more often they ordered you to do it. Sarah had always wondered where they found these sadistic perverts. If they didn't work for the CIA, what else would they do? Turkish prison guards?

But the other emotion, the one that was threatening to bubble to the surface, was rage. Sarah knew that she had to control her own anger so she could help Janice. But it was hard. And not only for Ben Adams. Make no mistake, Ben Adams was a dead man. Sarah was someday going to take great pleasure in watching the bastard suffer. But it was more than that. There was simply something wrong with an organization that took young women, used their dedication and love of country, and turned them into something less than human. Ben Adams was only the latest example. There were plenty more like him. Janice was simply a tool to them. If she was destroyed, their only regret would be the inconvenience at having to find another tool. Sarah had been that tool. For far too long. But no longer. Oh, Sarah was still dedicated to the cause. She was even still willing to do things for the greater good that she really didn't want to do. After all, that's why she went for drinks with Jimmy while on her honeymoon. But Sarah vowed that the people she loved would no longer be a slave to duty. They would still do their duty… when they could. They would still do things that they really didn't want to do. But they would decide what those things were and how far they were willing to go. Not some pencil pusher in Washington who had never been in the field and didn't have a clue what went on there.

Ben Adams didn't know it yet, but he was no longer in charge of Team Chuck. Sarah Walker… no, damn it… Sarah Bartowski now had taken control. And if Ben Adams didn't like it… Sarah smiled when she pictured how to explain it to him.

x-x-x-x-x

Elise Walters sat in the bar waiting for her contact. She had been in the CIA for six years when she was first contacted by Fulcrum. Not that she was all that ideological. She wasn't. For either side, really. Spy work had never been a true passion for her. Her dream had always been to become an actress. Being a spy was the closest thing that she could come up with. It let you become somebody other than yourself. The irony was that she didn't pursue becoming an actress because she was afraid that she would have to sleep with directors to get work. Thankfully, agent training had cured her of that issue. So, instead of becoming a mediocre actress, she became a mediocre spy. And there was one huge advantage in being considered mediocre at your job. They never gave you difficult assignments.

To date, her typical assignments had been as an escort for some foreign embassy official. She would normally be introduced as a bodyguard, become his cover girlfriend for a month or two, and attend a bunch of parties where she was to keep him out of trouble. They really never told her that she had to sleep with them. They always left it up to her. But she quickly found that it made the job a lot more pleasurable. Not to mention easier. After all, guys were a lot less likely to get into trouble prowling for babes when they were getting all they could handle from the hot redhead. And Elise quickly found that she didn't even have to seduce these men. It was just easier to sit back and wait for them to make their move all on their own. And they always did.

So when Fulcrum contacted her, she figured what could it hurt? After all, her career wasn't going anywhere. And all Fulcrum ever wanted her to do was a little more of what she was already doing. So why not collect two pay checks?

Fulcrum had always insisted that she keep a low profile. They called her a sleeper agent. But what that really meant was that they never trusted her with anything important. They wanted her to keep the illusion of a loyal agent. So they had never asked her to do very much at all. Yes, there was the one weekend in Vegas when they asked her to assassinate that mob guy. She never did find out why. Fulcrum obviously didn't take to kindly to being double crossed. It was the first person she had ever killed. But even that had been easy. The guy was too busy trying to shove his hand down her pants that he didn't even see the knife until it was buried in his neck.

And mediocrity would have continued to be her career. Except for one little twist of fate. She was assigned to an attaché to the American embassy in London. Not a bad assignment. After all, she had never been to London before. The guy was all right. She had him in bed the first night. And the sex was pretty average. Nothing too great but not terrible either. Normally it would have been just another assignment and she would have forgotten about the guy ten minutes after it was over.

Except this particular guy had political connections. Big time political connections. And, as fate would have it; his friend won the election. The next thing Elise knew, he was being sworn in as the new Under Secretary of Defense. That made him her new bosses, bosses, boss.

So Elise suddenly found herself semi-regularly screwing the guy in charge of the whole agency. Yes, the sex still wasn't all that great. And it was obvious that he had zero feelings for her. She was simply his plaything when he couldn't find anything more interesting. They both knew it. Still, it was funny how the superiors who had never noticed her before, now kissed up to her. She found that she now had her pick of assignments. And that wasn't all bad. After all, she was going to see Hollywood next week, courtesy of the agency.

And Fulcrum? Where before she was barely noticed, now they were very interested in every move that she made.

Every move indeed.

Glancing around the bar impatiently, she finally spotted her Fulcrum contact. Joe had never been overly friendly to her. Professional but never more. Word was that he was gay. And that was fine with her. Her dance card was already too full.

"Let's go," Joe said as he walked up.

"Go?" questioned Elise. "I have a drink."

"Let's go," Joe repeated.

Elise knew better than to ask any questions while they were in public. And she had learned that it was pointless anyway. He wasn't going to tell her anything. And if he did share any information with her, it was going to be on his terms.

As soon as they were in the car and comfortably on the road, Joe turned to her. "You look nice tonight," he said.

Elise was stunned. That's the last thing that she expected him to say. Was he simply taking her someplace to screw? Maybe he wasn't gay after all. "Thanks," was all she could muster in response. Her suspicions were verified when Joe pulled into the parking lot of the hotel.

"Tonight is very important to me," Joe said as he turned off the car.

Yeah, yeah, just make your move already, Elise thought.

"I'm going to take you up and introduce you to an Elder," Joe said.

"An Elder?" Elise asked. Holy crap. What does an Elder want with me?

"Yes," Joe said. "I need you on your best behavior. I can't tell you how important this is for both of our careers."

"Okay," Elise said shakily. "What does he want? Is he looking to get laid?"

"I don't think so," Joe said. "I'm not sure what he wants. But whatever he wants, you're to say 'yes, sir'. Do you understand?

"Yes, sir."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck wasn't enjoying the media room nearly as much as he expected. Oh, it was world class. It was sort of like the media room at the Buy More. But times a hundred. Every gaming console that one could imagine was there. And there were hi-def monitors everyplace that you looked. It was something out of a Jeff and Lester wet dream. Too bad that Sarah was never going to let them see it. Maybe he could talk her into letting them visit once. Just to see how it went. But, then again, he was confident that he could talk Sarah into pretty much anything.

No, it was just hard to enjoy something when you were so pissed. Chuck had seen what Janice's betrayal had done to Sarah. And imagine if she had been successful. It would have destroyed both of their lives. Chuck understood about following orders. But, come on. Chuck was sure that Janice loved Sarah. He was pretty sure that she even loved him. And there was no question how he felt about her. So why would she do it? Why would she attempt to devastate people that she loved? To follow orders? That wasn't nearly good enough.

And it was something that Chuck had come to expect from his partners. That their personal loyalty superseded their loyalty to orders. He knew that was absolutely true of Sarah and Casey. When push came to shove, they were both ready to violate orders to do the right thing for him. One thing was for sure. Janice was not going to be his partner until she could prove to him that he meant more to her than her orders.

Actually, Chuck was wondering if Sarah was going to let her back on the team anyway. First off, Sarah had to let her live. And from the look on her face, that was anything but a sure thing. He was beginning to wonder if he should go upstairs and break them up. He sure hoped that if they got into a fight that Sarah would protect the baby. That's all they needed. Maybe he should go take a peek.

x-x-x-x-x

Finally, Janice had stopped crying. Actually, Sarah wondered if she had fallen asleep. So she gently squeezed her shoulder. "Are you feeling better?"

"Not really," Janice replied after a moment. "I still feel like crap."

"Come to the table," Sarah said. "I'll make you that cup of tea and we can talk."

"I'd rather have a cup of Scotch," Janice said as she walked to table.

"I think we'll start with tea," Sarah said with a smile as she put the water on to boil. "If that goes well, I'll get you something stronger."

Both Sarah and Janice were silent as the water heated up. Finally, Sarah put Janice's cup in front of her.

"Okay," Janice said as she cautiously took a sip of her tea. "What's going on here?"

"What do you mean?"

"Why didn't you hit me?" Janice said. "The Sarah Walker I know would have kicked my ass all around this room. Here you are smiling. Did you actually call me sweetie? You know how much I hate that."

"I know," Sarah said as her grin widened. "I think that I might be turning into Ellie. But Sarah Walker is dead. Chuck killed her."

"I find that hard to believe," Janice said.

"I'll prove it to you," Sarah said quickly. "I'll tell you something that you would never, ever hear from Sarah Walker."

Janice leaned forward in anticipation.

"I love you, Janice," Sarah said. "I have every since I first met you. I never would have made it through training without you. And I would do anything for you. I'm sorry that I could never tell you that before. And I understand why you can't say it back. Maybe someday."

Janice just sat and stared at Sarah for a long moment. "I don't know what to say," she said. "You're not pissed at me?"

"No," Sarah said. "Well, I was. But not any more. The truth is I'm kinda proud of you. You just violated your orders for me. I know how hard that was for you. I am concerned though. If you're going to be Chuck's partner, we need to get some things straight."

"How can I be Chuck's partner?" Janice asked with a sigh. "Do you want to get him killed? I just completely lost it. An agent doesn't do that… ever."

"That's what we're taught," Sarah softly agreed. "Isn't it? It's slammed into us over and over that feelings have no place on a mission. That emotions are the enemy. That they will just get us killed."

Janice just nodded sadly.

"But I've come to realize that's not true," Sarah said. "That's what Chuck has taught me. That it's impossible to ignore your emotions. And that as long as you realize what they are, your emotions can be an asset."

Janice looked Sarah in the eye and swallowed hard. "I have feelings for him," she said. "I don't understand them."

"Tell me about it," Sarah laughed. "I don't understand my own feelings for him. Other than I know that he is my life. I don't understand Casey's feelings for him. He just gets under your skin. And that's why I don't trust anybody else but you to be his partner. You care for him. Nobody will protect him like you will."

"I think that I might be in love with him," Janice said.

"Why do you think that?" Sarah asked with a twinkle in her eye. "Janice Beckman in love? I can't believe that you just said that. Alert the media. That would be a news flash."

"I'm not kidding, Sarah," Janice said. "I've never felt like this before. Why do you think I ended up cuffed in the bathroom? I know that I was on a mission but the truth is that I wanted him like I've never wanted any man in my life. I would have done anything… he had me completely under his spell. I can see how much he has changed you. There is calmness in your eyes that was never there before. You're happy, Sarah. At peace. And I want that."

"It's great," Sarah agreed. "It's the best feeling that there is. And I'm sorry. I wasn't making fun of you. I think that I understand what you're feeling."

"So," Janice said softly. "Maybe we could share him?"

x-x-x-x-x

Elise had never been more nervous in her life than she was in the elevator on the way up to his room. Wow. A freaking Elder. What could he possibly want? Come on, Elise. No need to be nervous. It's just a man. Sure, a very powerful man. But she had been around much more powerful men. Just last week she was in bed with the Under Secretary of Defense. Okay, so that wasn't technically true. They never made it to the bed. But still…powerful men looked pretty much the same as regular men when their pants were around their ankles.

As soon as she stepped into the room, she noticed how dark it was. Didn't he want me to see his face? But that thought was quickly dispelled when he reached up and turned on the light. He was a distinguished looking man. He seemed to be in fairly good shape for a man that looked to be about her dad's age. A little grey around the temples maybe but he obviously worked out. Fairly typical of the men that she had been assigned to… umm protect.

"Agent Walters," he said as he stood and extended his hand. "What a pleasure to finally meet you. May I call you Elise?"

"Of course, sir," Elise said as she shook his offered hand. "It's such an honor to meet you, sir."

"Please sit down," he said as he indicated an overstuffed chair. "Joe, if you'll excuse us while we talk business."

"Thank you, sir," Elise said as she sat down and watched Joe leave the room. His wanting to be alone with her was telling. Luckily she had worn the nice skirt and blouse. Usually she didn't dress up for her meetings with Joe. She crossed her legs, making sure that he got a good view of her thigh. Then she sat back and confidently waited for him to make his move.

"What do you know about Sarah Walker?" he asked.

Elise was stunned by the question. "Sarah Walker," she repeated. "The Sarah Walker? Well, sir, I've met her. I was in a class that she taught once. But I don't really know her, except by reputation."

"Did you know that she is rogue?"

"No sir," Elise said, genuinely surprised. From what she knew of Sarah Walker's reputation, she would be the last person one would suspect of going rogue.

"You just received an assignment," he said. "Isn't that correct?"

"Yes, sir," Elise said. "It's a very minor assignment in L.A. I'm going undercover with another agent and meeting with a software developer and his partner. We're going to attempt to separate them and independently seduce them. I'm not sure why. Blackmail material, perhaps."

"Yes," he said. "Chuck Bartowski, right?"

"Yes, sir," Elise said. Now her interest was piqued. But she knew better than to ask any questions. "That's his name."

"He is Sarah Walker's boyfriend," he said. "She went rogue to run off with him. There is a rumor that they were married. The partner is Walker's sister. Did you know that?"

"No sir," Elise said. "Is there something that you want me to do?"

"We want Sarah Walker to help us take down Ben Adams and the rest of the DOD leadership," he said. "So far she has been resistant. We would like you to capture Mr. Bartowski and hold him at a secret location. Then we would like you to report to Mr. Adams that he has been killed." He knew that he had just crossed the line. That wasn't the plan at all. But he was going to be dammed if he would let Fred Jones get all the glory from this. If he had Bartowski secured, he could use him to make Walker do anything that he wanted. When Jones's plans came crashing down, he would step in and be the hero.

"Yes, sir," Elise said. "But did you know that I have an umm… an intimate relationship with Ben Adams? I would be happy to use that to find out how to get to him."

"Sorry, Elise," he said as he shook his head. "I don't mean to offend you. You're very pretty. But that is over your head. I would be very grateful if you would just capture Mr. Bartowski. Walker has to believe that the CIA killed him as retribution for her going rogue. I won't forget this. It would go a long ways towards helping your career. We need Sarah Walker. Can I count on you?"

"Yes, sir," Elise said sadly. Even though he was trying to be nice about it, the message was the same. They didn't think she was up to doing anything important.

"Excellent," he said. "Enough business. Elise, you are very stunning. Would you care to have dinner with me?"

Elise sat and smiled. Here it comes. She had heard this line enough times to know what was coming. Dinner, followed by drinks, followed by her clothes lying on the floor. "Yes, sir," she said.

"We're through with business for tonight," he said with a smile as he stood and extended his hand.

"Please call me Mark."

x-x-x-x-x

"I'm sorry, Janice," Sarah said. "I would do anything for you. But we can't share Chuck."

"Why not?" Janice asked. "Sarah, we've shared lots of men. Remember those brothers in Atlanta? We traded them like baseball cards."

"I remember," Sarah said with a laugh. "But real love doesn't work like that. Those guys in Atlanta were hookups. They didn't mean anything to either of us. But Chuck is different. He is my life. He couldn't love both of us the way that you're talking about. And, Janice, you don't love him anyway."

"I don't?"

"Well," Sarah said. "Of course you love him. Just like he loves you. But you're not in love with him."

"I think that I am," Janice said. "Why are you taking this so well? I expected you to be going nuts right about now."

"I know," Sarah said with a smile. "A couple of days ago I would have been going nuts. But Chuck and I have really connected in the past couple of days. And we've realized that being jealous is silly. I guess that I should thank you. Your little stunt last night really brought us closer together. I didn't think it was possible. But we are."

"You're welcome," Janice said sarcastically.

"You're not in love with him," Sarah laughed. "Trust me. You're just in love with the idea of being in love. And it's great. And I hope you find someone who can be that person for you. But it's not Chuck."

"I guess it doesn't matter anyway," Janice sighed. "He hates me."

"Janice," Sarah said as she grabbed her hand. "He doesn't hate you. He's pissed at you. There is a big difference. Look, you can be Chuck's partner. He can be your best friend. You two can even share things that he doesn't share with me. I want you two to be close. Nobody would be as fanatical at protecting him as someone who loves him. So please stay. I need you. He needs you. But understand, sweetie, he's never going to be in love with you."

"If I stay," Janice said with a smile beginning to appear. "Do I have to tolerate you constantly calling me sweetie? That may make me shoot myself. It's bad enough that I have to listen to you call him sweetie."

"I'll try and tone it down," Sarah said. "No promises."

"What should I do?" Janice said. "If you're not going to let me be in love with him and you're not going to let me have sex with him, how do I fix this? You're taking all of the bullets out of my gun."

"Go talk to him," Sarah said. "Tell him the truth about how you feel. Be his partner. Be his friend. But most of all protect him. I'm counting on you."

"He's really pissed."

"I know," Sarah said. "You have to understand something about Chuck. Loyalty means everything to him. And he feels that you betrayed that loyalty. So he's really pissed. As pissed as I've ever seen him. But I know Chuck, Janice. If you go to him and tell him that you're sorry, it won't be very long at all before it's forgotten."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck was on his third beer when he heard Janice walking down the steps. That alone was unusual. Chuck wasn't a big drinker. And he almost never drank alone. But somehow drinking beer seemed more appropriate tonight than playing video games.

He knew that it was only a matter of time before Janice would be coming to talk to him. And he wasn't looking forward to it. He was most definitely not in the mood. She had just attempted to destroy his life with Sarah. That was close to being unforgivable.

"Hi, Chuck," Janice said. "I came down to apologize."

"I really don't want to hear it," Chuck snapped without looking at her. "I already told you. You can go to hell."

"I know," Janice said. "I made a huge mistake. I betrayed you. I had a reason. But it wasn't good enough."

"You're damn right it wasn't good enough," Chuck yelled as he faced her for the first time. "Do you realize what that would have done to Sarah? Do you? I can't have a partner that I don't trust."

"Chuck, please," Janice said as the tears quickly filled her eyes. "If you can't trust me as a partner anymore, I'll have to deal with that. I have that coming. But I can't lose you as a friend. What can I do to let you know how sorry I am?"

"Oh this is perfect," Chuck muttered. "Time to turn on the tears. Right out of the CIA playbook. Sorry, Agent Beckman. That's not going to work. I can't have friends that I don't trust either. Why don't you just go home?"

Janice stood there and fought to keep the tears from falling but she wasn't very successful. "I am home," Janice finally said so softly that Chuck could barely hear her. "I live here too. Remember?" Then she turned and ran up the stairs.

Janice didn't turn around. She had to get out of there before she broke down again. She couldn't lose it in front of Chuck. Sarah had been humiliating enough. But if she had, she would have witnessed something that she wouldn't have expected. Chuck took the half empty bottle of beer that he was holding and threw it into the wall, shattering it into a million pieces. Then he sat on the couch and put his head in his hands, completely disgusted.

With himself.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 11: Equal Partners

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones sat in his office listening to his agent's report.

"So," Jones said. "They are starting a software business. Are we sure that it is legitimate? Who funded it?"

"The funds came from an offshore account, sir," the agent said. "Our assumption is that this is money that Agent Walker had hidden away. It looks like she is funding her new husband's business."

"Husband?" Jones asked.

"Yes, sir," the agent replied. "Didn't you hear? They got married in Vegas Saturday. Our man said they were all over each other. The whole gang was there. His sister and her fiancé. Our man took some pictures. We're having them analyzed. But right now we don't think that any CIA personnel were there."

"Really," Jones said. "Sarah Walker actually got married. She must have it worse than I thought. This is going to make it even easier. I'll bet she would do anything to protect him. So, the business is just the two of them?"

"No, sir," the agent said. "Apparently, Walker's sister is partnering with them. She must be some sort of technology expert."

"I can imagine what she looks like," Jones laughed. "Spinster sister who is also a geek. She must be the ugly duckling of the family."

"No, sir," said the agent as he handed Jones a photo.

"Oh my," Jones said as he examined the picture. "I guess not."

"No, sir," said the agent. "I think that she is actually hotter than Walker."

"Maybe," Jones said, more to himself than anybody. "But beautiful women are like your favorite foods. Walker is like a nice medium rare filet. Juicy and tender with a touch of pink. Her sister, on the other hand, is more like a fine lobster. Rich and sweet with a hint of elegance. Just waiting to be plucked out of the shell. They are both exquisite. It just depends on what you're in the mood for."

The agent didn't respond. He just smiled.

"Keep them under surveillance," Jones said. "Make sure that Walker is not aware that we're watching her. The last thing we would want is for her to become suspicious."

"Yes, sir."

As soon as the agent left the room, Jones picked up the picture of Janice and studied it for a long moment. Then he smiled.

I'm suddenly in the mood for a little surf and turf.

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Sarah were in their new bedroom. They were lying in their new bed. But, of course, they were in their old comfortable position.

"What's the matter, Chuck," Sarah said after a long silence. "You feel tense."

"I am tense."

"I thought you would be excited," Sarah said gently. "We have a chance to initiate the new bed."

"Not tonight, okay," Chuck said with a sigh. "I'm not up to it."

Sarah turned her head to look at him closely. "Chuck," she said. "Have you been drinking?"

"I had a couple of beers," Chuck snapped, much more loudly than he meant to. "What? I have to ask permission now to have a beer?"

Sarah didn't respond. She just stared at him.

Finally, after a long moment, Chuck spoke. "Sarah, I'm sorry," he said softly. "That's probably the worst thing I've ever said to you, isn't it?"

"Only since we've been married," Sarah said with a soft smile. "You called me a robot once. Remember?"

"I'm so sorry," Chuck said with a sigh. "Please, you have to know that I didn't mean that."

Sarah sat up as she turned on the light. "Its okay, Chuck," she said. "I know that you didn't mean it. Talk to me. What's wrong?"

"How could she do it?" Chuck sighed. "Damn her. How could she expect us to forgive her after she betrays us like that?"

"Sweetie," Sarah said. "Come here." Sarah wrapped her arms around Chuck and held him tight. "Let me tell you a story. You know that Janice and I went through training together, right?"

Chuck nodded his head.

"Well," Sarah continued. "Part of the training was to learn to follow orders. They would find out something that you didn't want to do and order you to do it. I don't know if you know this but Janice is terrified of snakes. It's a little silly, but something happened in her childhood and she has a phobia. Anyway that's the sort of thing that they looked for so they ordered her to lie in a box with about twenty snakes. She was obviously scared to death. But she did it. She said 'yes, sir' and jumped into that box with a smile."

"It sounds like your instructors were real jerks," Chuck said.

"More than you know," Sarah said. "That night, Janice was shaking in bed like a leaf. But the next day, they ordered her to do the same thing. She jumped into that box with a bigger smile than the day before. I never felt as sorry for a person in my life."

"What's your point?"

"Janice follows orders, Chuck," Sarah said. "We all do. But Janice more than most. You'll never realize how hard it was to violate her orders and confess to me today."

"You think I should forgive her," Chuck said. It was much more statement than question.

"I'm not saying you should forgive her," Sarah said. "That's up to you. What I am saying is that in her own way she loves you."

"She loves me?" Chuck said mockingly. "She sure has a unique way of showing it."

"She's just learning what that means," Sarah said with a smile. "I can sympathize. Because I had to learn what it means. Just like Casey did. And yes, she chose her orders over you. For a week. Just like I did. Only I did it for two years. You forgave me didn't you?"

Chuck didn't respond. He just sat there looking at her with a neutral expression.

"Lets face it, Chuck," Sarah said with a soft laugh. "You have pretty high expectations for people who you love and trust. Janice knows that she hasn't been meeting those expectations. And she's truly sorry. I know what that feels like. Because there have been times when I didn't meet those expectations either. And I never want to be in that position again. She would do anything to earn back your trust and friendship."

"What about you?" Chuck asked.

"I forgive her," Sarah said. "I love her."

"That's not what I meant," Chuck said. "In training, what did they make you do?"

Chuck could see the blush quickly rise up Sarah's neck. "I really don't want to say," she said very softly.

"Okay," Chuck said.

"Chuck," Sarah said. "It was one the worst experiences of my life. Please don't make me go though that again."

"You don't have to tell me," Chuck said.

But after lying there for a few minutes, Sarah stirred. "Okay," she said so softly that Chuck had to strain to hear her. "It was in front of the whole class. They called me up to the front. Remember what Adams made you and Janice…"

Chuck quickly squeezed her arm. "Sarah," he interrupted. "You can tell me anything. I'll understand. But you can also not tell me and I'll understand. It must have been something awful."

"It was awful," Sarah finally whispered with a smile. "It was the most embarrassed I've ever been in my life. And that's why I want to tell you. The more awful it was, the more I need to tell you. So you can help me with it. After all, that's what you're here for.

Chuck gave her his classic smile. "Well, it's good to know that I'm not entirely worthless."

"Can it wait until after you get back from talking to Janice?" Sarah asked.

"Why do you think that I'm going to talk to Janice?"

"Because I know you," Sarah said. Her smile was now beaming. "We both know that you're never going to fall asleep tonight until you talk to her."

"She's probably naked, you know?"

"Probably," Sarah agreed with a sigh. "You've already seen her naked though, right? And you probably will again."

"I'm not going to forgive her right away," Chuck said as he tried unsuccessfully to control his laughing. "She's going to have to work for it."

"Yes, you are," Sarah said as she joined Chuck in laughter. "Sweetie, you already have."

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones was on his sixth conference call already this week. His new assignment had certainly attracted a lot of attention with the other Elders. And they were falling all over themselves trying to find ways to help.

The jury was still out on his chances of seducing Sarah Walker. Half of the Elders wanted desperately to hear the lurid details of his conquest. And there could be no doubt. If there was a conquest, Fred Jones wouldn't be shy about supplying lurid details. But the other half wanted, just as desperately, to hear of his abject humiliation. After all, to say that Jones was not well liked…well, that was quite an understatement.

But no matter which side of the conquest fence one was on, there was one issue on which there was total unanimity. Every Elder wanted to be a part of the project. For multiple reasons really. First, they all wanted to share in the glory of any possible success. Sarah Walker was legendary. She had killed or captured more Fulcrum agents than anybody. The havoc that she could wreak upon the DoD could be enormous. It could turn the war decisively in their favor. But if they were honest they would all admit the real reason that they were so enthusiastic.

Every one of them wanted their own shot at Sarah Walker.

"Are you absolutely sure," Jones asked firmly as he leaned towards the speakerphone. "I saw the look in her eyes. If she suspects that it was us who killed him, God help us."

"No problem," said the other Elder. "Our agent is completely covert. I talked to her personally. She has already been assigned to the mission by her CIA superiors. We believe that Bartowski and Walker's sister will be scheduled to meet with them."

"What is the mission?" Jones asked.

"We're not sure," the Elder said. "She and another agent have been ordered to meet with Bartowski and Walker's sister. They think they are going to discuss a video game development project. It's unclear why the CIA is doing this. They are probably checking up to see what Walker is doing and how legitimate they are. They have been instructed to attempt to separate them and seduce them."

"This is perfect," Jones said. "I can call Walker and warn her that he is danger. That may be enough. If not, your agent can take care of Mr. Bartowski and I can offer the new widow a shoulder to cry on and a chance for revenge."

"Not to mention a warm side of the bed," the other Elder laughed. "Taking advantage of a vulnerable widow? That doesn't seem very sporting."

"That's okay," Jones said. "Nobody ever called me sporting."

x-x-x-x-x

It felt like Janice had shed more tears today than the whole rest of her life combined. And there simply weren't any more tears left inside of her. So she was lying in bed trying to get used to her new room. The CIA might have looked after every detail but they sure didn't have a very good fashion sense. This room was simply going to need to be repainted. Maybe a light green. And could that carpet possibly be any more plain? Maybe a couple of throw rugs and some new curtains could brighten it up. Then she heard a knock on the door.

"Yes," she called.

Chuck opened the door and stuck his head in. "Can I come in?"

"Of course, Chuck," Janice said, although her heart sank. The last thing that she wanted right now was to be yelled at again.

"Are you decent?"

"No," Janice said softly. She definitely wasn't decent. She was a backstabbing… well, whatever she was, she wasn't decent. "But I do have clothes on, if that's what you're asking."

Chuck walked over and sat on the bed next to Janice. He just sat there for a moment. Then he said simply, "Hey."

The expression on his face was hard to read. It wasn't the anger that she had seen downstairs. That seemed hopeful. "Hey, Chuck," was all she could muster in response.

"I want you to forgive me," he said.

"Why?" Janice asked. That was the very last thing that she expected him to say. "What did you do?"

"I didn't do my job today," Chuck said. "I'm supposed to be looking out for you. And I didn't cut you enough slack. Orders are important to you. More important than they are to me. I was pissed and I let that control me. I'm sorry."

"Chuck," Janice said as the tears filled her eyes. And she thought there weren't any more left. She was obviously wrong about that. "I'm so sorry. I betrayed…"

"Stop," Chuck interrupted firmly. "Janice, that can't ever happen again. Ever. But it's over. We have to let it go. Both of us. If we're going to be partners we need to move past it. I'm counting on you."

"Are we going to be partners?" Janice asked as her voice broke.

"Yes," Chuck said softly. "If you'll have me, I'd like that."

Thank you," Janice whispered as she grabbed Chuck's hand. "I'd like that too."

"But I think there are some things that we should get straight between us," Chuck said. "I need to know that I mean more to you than your orders. And I realize that I'm asking a lot."

Janice looked away as the blush rose from her neck. "You do," Janice whispered.

"I'm sorry," Chuck said. "I didn't quite hear you. I do? I do what?"

"Chuck," Janice said. "I'm not good at talking about my real feelings. Are you really going to make me say it?"

"Oh, absolutely," Chuck said. "And you're going to look me in the eye. You're going to tell me how Janice feels. Not Agent Beckman. It will be good for you."

Janice groaned. But eventually she turned and looked Chuck in the eye. "I lo… umm, I care for you. A lot. If that wasn't true, I wouldn't be here. You mean a lot more to me than my orders. And I'll do whatever it takes to prove that to you. I promise."

"Well, that's a start," Chuck said with a smile. "We'll work on it. Was that really so hard to say?"

"You'll never know," Janice said with the beginnings of her own smile. But she knew he was right. She knew how good it felt to tell him. Even though she hedged a little, it was the closest that she had ever come to telling someone that she loved them… and meaning it. "I hope that you don't ever expect me to call you sweetie. That's a deal breaker."

"No," Chuck said as he broke into a laugh. "I already have the other two women in my life calling me sweetie. Are you sure that you can be friends with a man without using sex to control him?"

"Honestly?" Janice asked with her own giggle. "I'm not sure. It will definitely be a first."

"Honesty," Chuck said. "Well, that's a good start. We have to be honest with each other."

"Honesty is not my strong suit," Janice said. "But I'll really try."

"Honesty comes with trust," Chuck said. "You haven't had many people in your life that you can trust. And I know that you don't completely trust me yet. But I hope that someday you will."

"I'll work on it," Janice said as she allowed Chuck to intertwine their fingers. "But there is also something that we need to get straight between us. I need something from this partnership, too."

"What is that?" Chuck asked.

"Sex," Janice said softly.

"What!" Chuck said. "I thought that you said…"

"I'm teasing, Chuck," Janice said quickly with a grin. "Sarah already told me in terms that were fairly clear. Sex is out. I really think she is being selfish but…"

"Funny," Chuck said. "Okay, what do you really need?"

"Your safety," Janice replied as she twisted Chuck's finger until he was in pain. "It's my job to protect you," Janice said as she watched Chuck grimace with pain. "And just because you just got me to say a bunch of mushy stuff doesn't mean that I don't take that job incredibly seriously. I do. For two reasons. First, mushy stuff aside, I care for you. Probably more than I should. But also I don't want to ever have to face Sarah if I fail."

"Please let go," Chuck moaned.

"In a minute," Janice said. "Don't worry. I'm not going to damage you. I just want your complete attention. Do I have your attention, Chuck?"

Chuck nodded quickly. He was willing to agree to almost anything at that point to get her to let go.

"Good," Janice said. "So let me be perfectly clear. If you ever incapacitate me again while I'm protecting you, or do anything stupid that puts yourself in danger, Sarah will be helping you on with your shoes and socks for a few weeks. Do we understand each other?"

"Yes," Chuck said with a whine.

"Good," Janice said as she released his hand.

Chuck silently rubbed his finger for a long moment. Damn, that hurt. There has to be a way to pay her back for that.

"I knew exactly what I was doing," Chuck finally said with a grin. "As long as we're being honest."

"What do you mean?"

"Last night," Chuck said. "I saw your eyes. I could have gotten you to do anything. Admit it. I bet I still could. We both know it."

Chuck could see the blush quickly rise up Janice's neck but she didn't respond.

"And I'm sorry," Chuck said. "That was a first for me. And I'll admit that I enjoyed the power. But I shouldn't have used it against you. I'll bet you enjoy having that power too, don't you?"

"Sometimes," Janice said. "I'll admit it. I enjoy the feeling."

"Good," Chuck said. "Now maybe you know how all those men felt. It's good for you to know how it feels to be on the other end of that."

"Maybe," Janice admitted. "But the other end sucks."

"You know how I feel about you," Chuck said with a smile as he put his arms around her and held her. "Don't worry. I don't expect mushy stuff twice in one night."

Janice sighed as she put her head on Chuck's shoulder.

"I want to be an equal partner with you," Chuck continued. "So I think that you should know that I'll do anything I can to protect you as well. Not physically so much. That's more your thing. But emotionally. I know how lonely being a spy is. I promise that I'll always be there for you. You can tell me anything. Even stuff you don't want to get back to Sarah. You never have to be alone again."

Janice was simply overwhelmed at how good it felt to have him holding her. It wasn't a sexual situation at all. It just felt warm… safe…fantastic. And Chuck was absolutely right. She was tired of being alone. Very, very tired. For once, Janice just let herself go with the feeling. She could have very easily fallen asleep sitting there with him holding her. Her eyes were actually starting to get a little heavy. She barely registered the soft kiss that Chuck had just placed on her brow.

Suddenly she felt the cold steel on her wrist. By the time she realized what had happened, Chuck had released her and stood up from the bed. When she attempted to pull away, she found that she was secured to the headboard by his cuffs.

"I care about you very much," Chuck said as he walked to the door. "Everything that I just said is true. I wasn't playing you. I'm your partner. I'll follow your instructions on missions. I'll gladly put my life in your hands. I'm your friend. But understand something. I'm not your bitch. If you ever twist my finger again, the next time it will be Lester who comes in to let you loose. You're going to have to talk him into it. And I seriously doubt that you'll be able to talk him into it while wearing any clothes. Do we understand each other?"

Janice tried to look stern but she was having a hard time suppressing the laugh. And that was the last thing that she wanted. He was getting a little too big for his britches as it was. So she simply bit her lip and nodded.

Chuck paused as he reached the door. "I'll send Sarah over in a few minutes to let you loose."

When Chuck shut the door, Janice finally let out the giggle she had been fighting to suppress.

Oh my God, he's so cute. But he's definitely going to pay for that.

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Chuck was back in bed with Sarah, he rolled on his side next to her. Then he grabbed her and rolled onto his back so that Sarah was on top of him.

"Feeling better, I see," Sarah teased as her eyes sparkled.

"Much," Chuck said as he put his keys on the nightstand.

"I'm proud of you," Sarah said. "How did it go?"

"I'll tell you about it in a second," Chuck said. "First I want to make sure that you understand how sorry I am. I snapped at you earlier. And you're the last person in the world that I should have taken it out on."

"That's sweet," Sarah said. "So you're telling me that you're not perfect. Thank goodness, I was starting to worry. Now tell me about Janice before I burst."

"We're going to be okay," Chuck said. "It's the first time that I felt that she was Janice and not Agent Beckman."

"You should feel good," Sarah said. "She doesn't let many people see Janice. Even I don't see her that much."

"I do feel good." But he added quickly. "But not too good."

"I understand," Sarah said with a grin. "Don't worry, Chuck. I'm not threatened at all about what you have with Janice. I love you."

"Damn," Chuck muttered.

"Damn?" Sarah asked. "That's not exactly the reaction I was hoping for."

"Sorry," Chuck said quickly. "I love you too. I was just twenty minutes away from earning another fantasy."

"Keeping track, are we?" Sarah asked as she began to laugh.

"Always," Chuck said as he joined in the laughter. "In a few minutes you should go release Janice."

"Release," Sarah said. "Did you cuff her again? I thought you said that you two were going to be okay?"

"She had it coming," Chuck laughed as he kissed her. "Don't worry. She didn't try and seduce me. She twisted my finger. It hurt."

Sarah climbed off of Chuck and off the bed. She grabbed the keys from the nightstand when she felt Chuck grab her wrist.

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going to free Janice."

"Not so fast," Chuck said as he pulled her into an embrace. "First we have to initiate the bed."

"This sounds like another Bartowski family tradition thing," Sarah said as she laughed into Chuck's chest. "How many of them are there?"

"Now see," Chuck said. "These are the kind of questions that you're supposed to ask before you marry into a family. Now you're sort of stuck."

"Okay, Mr. Bartowski," Sarah said as her eyes sparkled. "I think that it's your turn to describe the tradition. How do I get naked this time?"

"Let's see," Chuck said thoughtfully. "New bed and new bedroom. Lose the shoes first."

Sarah raised her eyebrows.

"We're going from the ground up on this one," he said with a sly grin.

"Ground up?" Sarah asked as she slipped out of her shoes. "Are you going to expect a hand stand?"

"I don't know," Chuck said hopefully as he unfastened the snap on her pants. He gently touched his lips to hers. "Can you?"

"Sweetie, I have talents that you can only dream about," Sarah said as her pants slid to the floor. "Looks like Janice is going to be chained to her bed for a little while."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 12: Spy Training

x-x-x-x-x

Sunlight streamed through the window, and Chuck blinked his eyes sleepily. He slowly stretched out and yawned, relishing how his body sank into the soft mattress. He wriggled back under the covers. Sleeping in was a luxury for Chuck, who had been working as a nerd herder by day and a spy by night for the better part of two years. It didn't leave a lot of time for sleep.

And now that he was finally able to quit the Buy More, another obstacle arose to keep him from getting any sleep. Whenever he was able to climb into bed, his super sexy blonde wife was climbing in next to him. It was hard to call that a bad thing. But it certainly wasn't restful. Especially since she was apparently determined to explore the limits of his sexual appetite.

Chuck couldn't quite figure it out. He didn't have much experience. After all, none of the other women in his life were that aggressive in bed. Quite the opposite. But that sure wasn't true with Sarah. She wasn't aggressive at all during the day but she completely changed in bed. Maybe it was the still relative newness of their physical relationship. And it was true that her hormones could be playing a role. Or maybe she was trying to make up for the past two years of frustration. More likely was that she finally felt completely comfortable with him. And it was true that they were connecting at a level that they could have only dreamed about. But whatever the reason, she had been a wild thing last night. And it had been fantastic.

Make no mistake, she wasn't anywhere close to reaching his limit. If she wanted a challenge he was more than ready to face it. After all, it had been a frustrating two years for him too. Not that Chuck was complaining, of course. Not at all. The grin on his face was a testament to that. It was merely an observation.

Chuck had heard Sarah get up some time ago. He had stirred when she moved away from him, but Sarah kissed him gently and told him to go back to sleep. He was happy to comply, but he was only able to doze lightly, too consumed by thoughts of his beautiful wife to fall back to sleep. What was she doing? With a long sigh, he threw the covers to the side and pulled on his pajama bottoms. After all, it wouldn't do to go parading around the new house buck naked. Who knows where Janice is.

One good thing about the CIA, they were nothing if not thorough. They may be heartless. They probably were soulless. But they were definitely thorough. If the media room was world class, then the workout room next to it was several notches above that. There was every type of exercise machine that Chuck had ever seen, and several others that he didn't recognize at all. There was even a whirlpool and a massage table. One obvious difference from a normal workout room was the soundproof shooting range at the far end.

When Chuck finally got around to looking down there, he found both Janice and Sarah working out. Janice was jogging on a treadmill. Jogging was an understatement. She was running almost as fast as Chuck could sprint. But there wasn't a drop of sweat on her. But at least she was dressed. Or at least, dressed by Janice's standards. Which meant a sports bra and sweatpants. Chuck was sweating just watching her run. Sarah was working out on some machine that obviously had been invented as some Middle Eastern medieval torture device. She was doing sets of some sort of leg exercise. Chuck tried not to look too closely. It looked very painful. She was dressed very similarly to Janice.

"About freaking time," Janice said as soon as she recognized that Chuck had entered the room. "Beginning tomorrow, we will begin at oh six hundred."

"Oh six hundred?" Chuck repeated with a grin. "What does that mean?" He walked over to where Sarah was working out and leaned down to kiss her. But she turned her face away, leaving Chuck with a surprised frown.

"Hey," Janice said firmly. "None of that grab ass stuff. Oh six hundred means six o'clock, Chuck. In the morning. And I hate to be kept waiting. I would strongly recommend against it. For your sake." Janice then noticed Chuck's grin. "Pajamas Chuck?" she said with a snarl. "You dare insult me by coming into our training session in pajamas? You have three minutes to report back here in sweats and running shoes."

Chuck just looked confused.

"Let me explain something to you, rookie," Janice said. "This is my room. I asked for it to be built. It's designed for one purpose. To prepare you to become a spy. Everyplace else, you and I are equal partners. Sarah is in charge of the team. But inside of this room, there are some very specific ground rules. In here, Sarah is not your wife. She is your fellow agent. Therefore it would be highly inappropriate for you to attempt to kiss her. Don't you agree?"

"I guess," Chuck said.

"And another thing," Janice continued. "In this room, I am in charge. You will obey my orders without question. I'm going to make sure that you don't get us killed by not being prepared. I'm going to push you to your limits and beyond. Do you understand?"

Chuck looked for the smile on Janice's face. She must be joking. But he saw absolutely no hint of one. He glanced at Sarah and raised his eyebrows questioningly, hoping for some support.

"She's right, Chuck," Sarah said with a sad smile. "I'm sorry, but Janice is your primary partner. She is in charge of your training. When we're in this room, Janice is in charge. I'll obey her orders as well."

Seeing the stunned look at his face, Sarah turned to Janice. "Permission to change machines, ma'am?" she asked crisply.

"Denied," Janice said firmly. "You owe me one more set."

"Yes, ma'am," Sarah said sadly as she resumed her workout.

"Three minutes," Janice repeated as she turned back to Chuck. "Do you understand?"

"Okay," Chuck said.

"Agent Walker," Janice barked.

"Yes, ma'am?" Sarah quickly responded.

"If you don't extend that leg all the way, you're going to owe me fifty pushups," Janice said. "Do you understand?"

"Yes, ma'am," Sarah replied sadly.

"One last thing," Janice said as she turned back towards Chuck. "I'm not in a real good mood. Not only do I have a boatload of sexual frustration to work through, but I spent three fucking hours cuffed to my bed last night. So, in this room, I will be addressed as either Agent Beckman or ma'am. Is that clear?"

"Yes, ma'am," Chuck said with a sigh.

"Three minutes," Janice said as she glanced at her watch. "Trust me, you don't want to see what happens at four minutes. Tell him, Agent Walker."

"Yes ma'am," Sarah said softly. "Chuck, it would be bad... very bad."

As Chuck turned to leave, Janice gave Chuck an evil grin. "Sarah might have your mind, body, and soul everyplace else. But understand one thing. In this room…"

Chuck swallowed as he looked towards her. He had never seen that particular look in her eyes before. He didn't much like it.

"Your ass is mine."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck was trying to catch his breath. His side hurt and he was on the edge of being nauseous. As he sat trying to force air into his lungs, he tried to figure out what went wrong. A few short hours ago, he was in bed with the hottest woman he had ever known. And she was doing unspeakable things to him. She was doing everything in her power to make him feel good. And now, Sarah was nowhere to be found. She probably couldn't bear to watch. Chuck had always thought that he was in relatively good shape. Of course, he had realized that he was no match for Sarah or Janice physically, but having to work out beside them was rather humiliating.

"All warmed up?" Janice asked.

If that was a warm up, I'm a dead man. "Yes, ma'am," Chuck was able to pant between breaths.

"Okay, Chuck," Janice laughed. "You really don't have to call me ma'am. I was just teasing."

"Very funny," Chuck said between breaths.

"Not as funny as being chained to your bed for three hours," Janice said as her eyes narrowed. "But I have to admit, watching you on the edge of puking has lifted my mood considerably.

"Can we please be even now?" Chuck asked hopefully.

"Yes," Janice said. "I'll call us even. I do want to work on some things. It will be nice for you to have some minimal skills. It might save both of our lives someday. So I do want you to try your best. I need you to be able to throw a decent punch and learn to shoot a gun without killing yourself. But I won't try and kill you."

"Wait a minute," Chuck said as his brow furrowed. "You mean that all the stuff with Sarah earlier was a setup? She knew that you were teasing me and went along with it?"

"Yup," Janice said. "Sarah and I are close. It was actually kind of her idea." That wasn't technically true. It had been Janice's idea. And she had to do some pretty sweet talking to get Sarah to play along. But Sarah asking for permission to change machines was an ad lib. She must have been biting her lip to keep from laughing.

Chuck set his jaw. Son of a … So that's the way she wants to play? Let's see how well she can take it.

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah knew that she had to get out of there. For one thing, she was struggling to keep a straight face. And even though she knew that Janice wasn't going to actually hurt him, she really didn't want to see him suffer. Even if it was for his own good. So she was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of tea when her cell phone rang. Surprisingly, the caller ID was blank.

"Agent Walker," Jones said as soon as Sarah answered the phone. "How nice to hear your voice again."

"Who is this?" Sarah said. "I think you must have a wrong number."

"Come on, Agent Walker," Jones said. "Don't tell me that you don't recognize your old friend, Fred Jones."

Sarah paused for a long moment before answering. She had no clue what he could want or even what he knew. But she knew that she had to find out.

"What do you want?" Sarah said. "I thought we had an agreement. I didn't expect to hear from you again."

"Relax," Jones said. "I just called to congratulate you, Mrs. Bartowski. Should I call you Agent Bartowski now?"

He obviously knew about the wedding. So there wasn't really any point in denying it. But she also wasn't going to admit it. "Actually," Sarah said. "I'd prefer that you not call me anything. If you must, you can call me Sarah."

"Perfect," Jones said. "You can call me Fred."

"Okay, Fred," Sarah said. The annoyance in her voice was becoming plain. "This conversation has lasted for thirty seconds and it is already beginning to bore me. You congratulated me. If you want to send us a wedding present, we could use a toaster. Now what can I do for you?"

"Believe it or not Sarah," Jones said. "It's what I can do for you. I want to help you. I have some information that you need to hear."

Information? What information could he possibly have? "I'm listening," Sarah said.

"I can't tell you over the phone," Jones said. "You know that, Sarah. Who knows who might be listening? Perhaps you could come to my place… say tomorrow at three?"

That had Sarah's spy alarms ringing off the hook. "Why on earth would I do that?"

"Trust me, Sarah," Jones said. "You'll want to hear what I have to say. It involves your new husband. He may be in some serious danger. I'm quite worried about him."

If Fred Jones was looking for a hot button, he certainly found one. "We had a deal!" Sarah all but screamed into the phone. "If you so much as look at him…"

"Sarah," Jones said. "We do have a deal. I'm nothing if not trustworthy. I'm not going to do anything to him. I'm trying to help you."

Sarah's mind was racing. "Why would you want to help me?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Jones asked. "You are a valuable partner to us. And, I'll admit that I like working with you. I'm hoping that you'll be grateful."

"I'll meet you," Sarah finally said. "But not at your place. We'll meet in the same restaurant as before."

"I'm afraid that is not going to work," Jones said. "Come on, Sarah. You know that it's dangerous for us to meet in public. I'm sticking my neck out trying to do you a favor here. What I'm going to tell you may very well save your new husband's life. It's going to me on my terms. Now, do you want to hear what I have to say or not?" She is actually going along with this. She must not know that I'm bluffing.

Sarah had to admit, she wasn't in a very good negotiating position. She had to find out what he knew about Chuck. But if she agreed to blind terms, there was no telling what they would be. Actually that wasn't true. She knew exactly what he would demand from her. Maybe he was bluffing. What if I pretend he's joking? "It depends on the terms," she said, forcing a laugh.

"Bring your suit," Jones said as he flashed back to last week's daydream. Let's see just how far she will go to get this information. "We'll talk by the pool. The water is quite lovely this time of year."

"I don't think so," Sarah said.

"My terms," Jones said confidently. It was time to push her. "If you don't bring your suit, I don't see a problem. The pool area is quite private."

The last thing that Sarah wanted was for Jones to know how unnerved she really was. What did he really did know about Chuck? One thing was for sure, Chuck did have a lot of potential enemies. And Fulcrum had a lot of intelligence sources. It was very likely that Jones did know something. So Sarah struggled with how to respond. She wasn't sure how to best play this. He was obviously pushing her with the bikini thing. He was going to make her work for his information. But how far would she have to go? Maybe letting him think that she would be a little receptive wouldn't be a bad thing. But if she didn't set some sort of boundary, she was in big trouble. "Okay," Sarah finally said. "I'll bring my suit. But understand something. I'm not betraying my husband."

"Of course," Jones said. "You just got married. There is no way that I would ask you to do anything that would betray your new marriage so soon. If you're uncomfortable, bring your new husband and your sister. I'd like to meet them." Actually, a lot more than meet them. It would be the ultimate victory to see how far Sarah could be pushed in front of her husband. That's when she'll truly be broken.

Yeah, right. The very last thing that was going to happen was for Chuck to get anywhere close to an Elder. But she really didn't see a choice except to do what he wanted. If she wanted to know what he had, she was going to have to deal on his terms. But she didn't like it. "I don't think so," Sarah said. "I'll meet with you. But, Fred, you had better not be wasting my time. If this is anything other than…"

"I know," Jones interrupted with a laugh. "You'll kill me, skin me, and dance on my grave. Sarah, you have nothing to fear from me. I'm hoping we can become friends. I think that you're going to be grateful to me tomorrow."

"Fine," Sarah said. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Jones smiled as he ended the call. They both knew that he had just won an important victory in his battle of wills with her. She obviously was desperate to find out what he knew. That put her at a huge disadvantage. And maybe he wouldn't get her on her back tomorrow. But he wouldn't rule it out. She was going to pay full price for his information. Tomorrow he would, at a minimum, surely get her out of her bikini. Jones took a deep breath as he pictured how good it would look lying on the floor. After all, there was really no rush. Time was on his side. If she didn't surrender tomorrow, she soon would. She would soon have no one else to turn too. And once she had surrendered, he could take his time exploring how far she would go. Both professionally and personally. He was so enjoying this game.

We'll become very, very good friends.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 13: The Bay of Pigs

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah was so shaken by her call with Fred Jones that she didn't even realize that Chuck was coming up the stairs. But when she finally did notice him, she was alarmed at the way he was moving. He was obviously hurt. He was holding his side and scrunched over. He staggered past her without a word and went into the bedroom.

Sarah sent the chair that she was sitting in flying as she hurried into the bedroom. She saw Chuck lying on the bed in a fetal position. He was softly moaning.

"Chuck!" she said as she ran up to him. "What's wrong?"

When he didn't answer, she sat on the bed and put her hand on his back. "Sweetie," she repeated. "What's wrong?"

Finally he replied in a soft broken voice. "I'm hurt," he said breathlessly. "I ran… too much."

"Let me see," Sarah said in alarm as she tried to pull Chuck into a regular position. "Sweetie, let me look at you." Right now, her call with Fred Jones was the furthest thing from her mind.

"I'm hurt," Chuck moaned. "She wouldn't let me stop."

"You mean Janice?" Sarah said. She immediately felt guilty. Sarah knew that Janice was getting back at Chuck for last night. And she went along with her gag. But she never thought that Janice would let it go this far.

"She kept pushing me," Chuck moaned. "She wouldn't let me quit. I begged her. But she told me that you would be disappointed in me. So I kept going."

Sonofabitch. Sarah had let Janice slide on the attempted seduction thing. But this was just wrong. She had hurt him. Suddenly, the steam was rising from Sarah's head. As soon as she was sure that Chuck wasn't seriously hurt, Janice Beckman was going to take a complete ass kicking. After all, Sarah was still the academy's reigning kickboxing winning streak record holder. It was something that Sarah was very proud of. The record had lasted for over ten years now. And Janice was going to quickly get reacquainted with her skills. It wouldn't be the first time, after all. That bitch was going to fully understand the consequences of not protecting the love of Sarah's life. After all, that was her only job.

But why was he grasping her wrist? His grip was firm. That seemed hopeful.

"Chuck," she said. "Let me go. I'll be right back. I need to take care of something." She was going to take care of Janice while her rage still gave her the edge.

But Chuck wouldn't let her go. Instead he pulled her down next to him. "She wouldn't let me stop," he moaned. ". I think… I think I might have ruptured my spleen. She wouldn't let me stop calling her ma'am."

Suddenly, Sarah realized that Chuck was pulling her leg. He was paying her back for this morning. And for a brief moment, she seriously thought about kicking his ass. But the honest truth was, she was far too relieved. Chuck was shaking with laughter. After a couple of moments, Sarah had no choice but to join him. After the tense call that she just endured, it felt great to lay there with her husband and just let go. So they held each other and laughed for a long moment.

Finally Chuck was able to speak. "I really am hurting," he said through his laughter.

Sarah looked at him skeptically.

"If I show you where," he whispered. "Will you kiss it and make it better?"

x-x-x-x-x

Janice stormed up the stairs in a huff. She stomped over to Chuck and Sarah's room and flung the door open. "Okay, Chuck," she snapped. "I told you that you could take a break but it's been over an hour and… Oh my God…"

Janice's eyes widened. Sarah was sitting astride on top of Chuck, moving slowly, her hands on his chest. Chuck was gripping her hips and he lifted his head up from the bed as Janice barged into the room.

"Shit!" cried Chuck, lifting Sarah off of him and pushing her to one side. He snatched up the blanket and drew it over himself up to his neck. His face was a deep shade of red. He stared resolutely at the ceiling. "Shit," he muttered.

Sarah remained uncovered, sitting beside Chuck. "Didn't anyone teach you to knock before coming into someone's bedroom?" she asked, with more than a trace of annoyance in her tone.

"What is with you two?" Janice asked in disgust as she turned partially away. "I mean, nobody has more respect for a healthy sex drive than I do. But, come on. It's two in the afternoon. Is this his reward for surviving this morning's workout?"

"Maybe," Sarah said with a grin. "I never looked at it that way. You are teaching him endurance down stairs. I'll handle it up here, if you don't mind."

Chuck groaned and slowly pulled the blanket up over his head. "Shit," he repeated, his voice muffled under the cover.

"You do realize," Janice said in a taunting tone. "He has another workout to survive this afternoon."

"And he'll get another reward," Sarah said as she broke into a laugh. "Thank you for ruining the surprise. Now, if you don't mind closing the door on your way out. You're sort of messing with the mood."

x-x-x-x-x

Elise Walters sat in the hotel room as she had been instructed and waited for Ben Adams to arrive. She had gotten the call only about an hour ago. Ben had obviously struck out tonight in all his other attempts.

Elise was torn. Not about sleeping with Ben Adams. That wasn't a big deal either way. She knew that she was only a pawn. She was only a pawn for the CIA. And she was only a pawn for Fulcrum. And actually, she had made her peace with that a long time ago. Sure, she wished that they thought more highly of her. Who wouldn't? But things were what they were. And her superior's attitudes were highly unlikely to change now. They thought that they knew her. They already knew what she was. She was the hot redhead who wasn't shy about getting the mark in bed. Normally she wouldn't have even felt bad about that. After all, she had made a career out of it.

Ironically she would be sleeping with men at the highest levels of both the DoD and Fulcrum. On consecutive nights. And it didn't really matter to either one. These men were mortal enemies. Generals in a war to the death with each other. And Elise knew the intimate details of each. But neither was willing to even treat her seriously as an agent. At this point Elise wasn't even sure who she was more disgusted with. At least Ben didn't know that she was a Fulcrum agent. Mark, the Fulcrum Elder that she had been with last night, knew that she was screwing the top guy in the DoD. The very guy they were targeting. And it still didn't matter. How insulting was that?

But what was unnerving her was the news about Sarah Walker. She couldn't pretend to know Walker. After all, she had only met her once. She would be surprised if Sarah would even remember her. But Walker was a legend. Someone who went behind the scenes and did the dirty work. And for someone like that to have a husband… For Sarah Walker to fall for a man so hard that she would go rogue for him – that was something. He must be one hell of a man. He was probably the baddest super agent on the planet. And now her assignment was to capture and possibly kill this superman. That was intimidating. Hopefully, surprise would give her the edge.

Elise knew full well that she was treading into dangerous territory. She shouldn't have feelings. Especially not guilt. It simply wasn't part of a mission. It was one of the top rules that an agent learned. Never feel sorry for your mark. She just couldn't help it. She couldn't do that to someone who she looked up too so much. So she had made up her mind. She was going to confess tonight to Ben. He would help her. And maybe they could use her Fulcrum contacts for something good.

And actually, Elise was beginning to think that had been stood up. It wouldn't be the first time that Ben had called for her to meet him, only to get lucky at the last minute. But finally, there was a knock at the door.

"Hey," Elise said as she opened the door. "I was beginning to think that you weren't…"

Elise suddenly realized that Ben was not alone. She recognized Sally. One of the other agents in her section. Apparently, Elise wasn't the only agent getting a career boost from the increasingly popular Undersecretary.

"Hi, babe," Ben slurred. "You know Sally, don't you?"

The grin that Ben and Sally shared quickly told Elise that she was on the outside of an inside joke.

"Hi, Elise," Sally said. She had obviously been drinking as much as Ben had.

"Hi," Elise said with a neutral tone. She was trying to stay calm but she could feel the blush quickly rise up her neck. She and Sally knew each other, but were never overly friendly. But Elise instantly knew that was about to dramatically change. When she looked into Ben's face, his smirk told her in no uncertain terms what he expected and that he was not going to listen to any objection.

x-x-x-x-x

Janice had finally gotten Chuck back downstairs. She had him warm up. Not the torture warm up of earlier, but a legitimate one. He needed to work out the stiffness from the previous workout. Then she started to teach him to punch.

"I'm not going to try to teach you to fight," Janice said. "Because the last thing that I want is for you to try and fight someone. I just want you to be able to punch someone to get away. The best surprise punch is to hit your opponent right in the tip of his nose. Not only is it easy on your hand, it disables your opponent. That will give you time to run away. And, Chuck, understand something. You are to run away. Is that clear?"

Chuck nodded to let her know that he understood.

"Throw a punch at me," Janice said. "Aim for the tip of my nose."

"I don't want to hurt you," Chuck said.

"Don't worry," Janice said with a smile. "You're not going to hit me. Just try."

So Chuck reluctantly took a big swing at Janice's nose. Janice dodged the punch at the last instant. She then grabbed Chuck's arm. As she bent over, Chuck's own momentum caused him to flip over her hip. He fell onto his back with a thud. Janice was still holding his arm. "Are you okay?" she asked with a look that was half concern and half amusement.

As soon as Chuck nodded, Janice let out the breath that she had been holding and smiled. "That is what happens when you telegraph your punch," she said as she helped him up. "It has to be much shorter and straight from your shoulder. We want surprise more than power."

Janice led Chuck over to the heavy bag and drew an X on it. Then she showed Chuck the proper way to stand and throw the punch.

x-x-x-x-x

It had been well over twenty minutes and Elise was still in the bathroom, looking at herself in the mirror. She knew that she couldn't stay in there forever. But after what had just happened over the past hour, the last thing that she wanted was to have to cross that room in front of them completely naked. Not that it really mattered much. They had both already seen everything that she had. And Ben and Sally were most likely asleep. Or passed out, she wasn't really sure which.

But as she watched the tears forming in her own eyes, there was one thing that she was sure of. One thing that she knew for an absolute certainty. This was the last time that Ben Adams was ever going to use her. Elise finally washed her face in the sink in a vain effort to hide her disgust with herself…and wondered. How would Ben have reacted to her confession? Would it have made a difference? Would he put the fight against Fulcrum over his own twisted lust?

Elise would now never know.

"Sorry, Agent Walker," she whispered to her own image as she watched the tears streaming down her face. "I have no choice."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck had been practicing punching for about an hour. Every once in a while, Janice would correct something, but for the most part she just let Chuck work. Neither one noticed that Sarah was in the room with them until she spoke.

"Not bad, sweetie," Sarah said as she observed his workout. "Those punches still could be a little shorter."

"Can we take a break?" Chuck asked hopefully. "I'm starving."

"We're done for today," Janice said with a smile. "You did really good for the first day. I hope you enjoy your reward."

"No offense," Chuck said to Sarah. "But I'm starving. Can the reward wait until after we eat? Maybe I could order a pizza."

"Sure," Sarah said. "You go up and order a pizza. Janice and I will be right up."

Janice raised her eyebrows at Sarah as Chuck left the room. "What's up?" she asked. Her expression became clouded with concern as Sarah related her phone call with Jones.

"What do you think that he wants?" Sarah asked Janice.

"That's pretty obvious," Janice said. "He wants Agent Walker. Both in the field and in his bed. He is setting terms. He thinks that he has you."

"I know," Sarah said as she nodded her head. "His voice was dripping with arrogance. What do you think I should do?"

"If you go over there in your bikini, you're just going to reinforce that," Janice said cautiously. "He'll assume that you have surrendered to him. But that might not be a bad thing. It might make him a little looser with the information. If the whole thing isn't a bullshit play to get you in bed, that is."

"But what choice do I have?" Sarah sighed. "At this point he's not demanding too much. If he has some information that can keep Chuck safe…"

"Do you want my honest professional opinion?" Janice asked.

"Of course"

"You know damn well that he is not going to be satisfied with just seeing you in your bathing suit," Janice said softly. "He is going to keep pushing. He wants your total surrender. So give it to him. Do whatever he wants. Make him think that he is controlling you. Give him an hour that he'll never forget. And then turn on the tears and ask for his help."

"You're absolutely right," Sarah said with a smile. "That is what you would do. And maybe even what Agent Walker would have done at some point. But I can't do that anymore. I already told him that I'm not betraying Chuck. And I'm not. End of story."

"Then you're going to have to spar with him," Janice said. "You could probably get away with a little flirting. That might get him to spill his guts. And what would be wrong with showing him a little skin? Your bikini isn't anything that you wouldn't wear on a public beach. He will probably try and get you to take it off at some point. But Chuck would understand that, wouldn't he? I really don't think he'll demand anything more than that. Not tomorrow anyway. He'll probably try. But I think he'll back down. He knows that you just got married."

"I know," Sarah said with a frown as she let out a big sigh. "I'm not eager to tell Chuck."

"Then don't," Janice said softly. "Make up an excuse and I'll keep him busy in the gym for a couple of hours. Why make him worry when you're not going to do anything anyway? Jones won't be the first man to see you naked. Nothing's going to happen, right?"

Sarah didn't respond right away. She just looked at the floor deep in thought.

"Right?" Janice repeated, a little more insistently.

"Of course not," Sarah finally said firmly. "Maybe I'll wear my suit. I'll make him think that he won a little. But I'm not stripping for that pervert. That's where I'm drawing the line. He can go to hell. It's just that I'm not lying to Chuck. Ever. He deserves to know. I'm just not looking forward to it."

"You really need to think that through," Janice said softly. "If you don't give him what he wants, it's very possible that you won't learn what he knows. It sounds like he is holding the cards. Are you really ready to walk out of there without finding out? If so, maybe you shouldn't go at all."

Sarah looked at the floor for a long moment. "I'm not sure," she finally whispered. "He is definitely holding the cards. If anything happens to Chuck… I can't go on."

"Then don't bluff," Janice said firmly. "Once he realizes that he has called your bluff, he won't be satisfied… until he's satisfied, if you get my drift. If you draw a line, stick to it."

"I'm not betraying Chuck," Sarah said as the tears began to fill her eyes. "I can't. I won't."

As they were talking, the doorbell rang. "It looks like our pizza is here," Janice said.

"Hey," Chuck shouted down the stairs. "We just got a wedding present. Come up and we'll open it."

"Go ahead," Sarah shouted back. "I'll be up in a minute."

Sarah just shook her head in response to Janice's questioning look.

"Hey," Chuck shouted down. The excitement in his voice was obvious.

But Janice could see the dread in Sarah's eyes.

"We got a toaster."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 14: The New Bikini

x-x-x-x-x

When Sarah and Janice finally came up the stairs, they were immediately treated to the sight of Chuck setting up the new toaster. The geek was truly in his element. The wrapping paper, box and packing materials were strewn around the living room. Chuck had his nose buried in the user's manual. He was so engrossed in learning the minutia concerning their new toaster's capabilities that he didn't even notice the girls until they were in the room with him.

"Hey," he said to no one in particular. "Check out this toaster. It is a beauty. It will make four slices of toast independently. It even has an attachment for a poached egg."

Sarah really didn't stop walking. She went directly in the bedroom and closed the door.

Chuck noticed that Sarah walked on by, but he chalked it up to her needing to rest. She was pregnant, after all. She must not be into toasters. Besides, he was far too excited setting up the new appliance to really give it much thought. And that left Janice as the foil to Chuck's excitement.

"Do we have any bread?" Chuck asked.

"I think so," Janice said. She had never seen Chuck so excited. And over a stupid toaster? Although, if she was honest with herself, she was enjoying his enthusiasm. He is so cute when he is excited. "But don't we have pizza coming? Why would you want to make toast?"

"I just want to try it out," Chuck said. "Get me an egg."

x-x-x-x-x

After dinner, Chuck was lying on the couch watching the baseball game. Not that he was paying much attention to the game. He really wasn't. For one thing, he was pretty much miserable. On multiple levels. First, he was starting to stiffen up from today's multiple workouts. It had been a long time since he had been pushed that far physically. But he had also just stuffed himself with far too much pizza. And that was after the poached egg on toast. After all, what self professed geek wouldn't want to try out the new toaster? And it would be a shame to make toast and not eat it, right? But the real reason for Chuck's discomfort was Sarah. Something was obviously wrong. She hadn't said two words during dinner. And as soon as dinner was over, she had retreated to the bedroom and had been there for the last twenty minutes. Chuck racked his brain trying to figure out what was wrong. Did I do something?

Actually, Chuck was just starting to wonder what Sarah was doing. He was seriously considering going in to talk to her when the door opened and she walked out of the bedroom. Oh my God, what was she wearing?

Suddenly, Chuck's discomfort disappeared and he quickly sat up. Of course, Sarah was a beautiful woman. Chuck always got a bit of a thrill when he saw her enter a room. But the vision that walked out of the bedroom literally took his breath away. She was wearing a powder blue string bikini. And to his credit, Chuck did notice that the color matched her eyes perfectly. But he gave her eyes only a passing glance as his gaze slipped downward, following the curve of her only partially covered breasts and across her smooth stomach, softened ever so slightly by the pregnancy. His eyes lingered on her hips for a moment; the blue fabric contrasted against her skin was dazzling. And then with a soft sigh, he admired her slim, toned legs before finally returning his gaze to her face.

Unable to speak, he stared at her, open-mouthed. His palms were sweaty and his heart thumped loudly in his chest. My wife is so beautiful, he thought. He had always known that, of course. But right now, looking at her, and knowing that his daughter was growing within her, he was overwhelmed by her beauty. Overwhelmed by his love for her.

"I take it from the look on your face that you approve," Sarah said as she walked over to stand in front of him. But even that was an odd statement. It wasn't a question. But it wasn't a flirtation either.

"Uh huh," was all Chuck could muster in response for a long moment. Finally he was able to get out, "Are we going to the beach? It's umm… its dark."

"No, silly," Sarah said as she sat down gingerly on Chuck's lap, mindful that he was sore from the multiple workouts and clasped her hands together behind his neck. "I just bought this for our honeymoon and realized that you haven't seen it yet. Maybe we can get to the beach in a few days. Would you like that?"

"Not really," Chuck said. At first he struggled to resist the temptation to untie the string around her neck. But that quickly faded as he studied Sarah's expression. Something just wasn't right.

"Oh," Sarah said as she arched one of her eyebrows. "Why?" she asked.

"It's funny," Chuck said. "I mean, I know that I'm not allowed to be jealous of you on missions."

"Allowed?" Sarah questioned.

"Okay," Chuck said. "Bad choice of words. You know what I mean. But anyway, the beach is different. Those guys won't be marks. You won't be playing them. And I know that this sounds possessive, but I don't want them looking at you. You're just so beautiful. I know what they'll be thinking. It's the same thing that I'm thinking right now. And I know it's silly. I've seen you wearing your birthday suit. But, Sarah, trust me. There is no man in the world that could look at you wearing that bikini and not want you. I'm jealous of that. I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry," Sarah said as she put her head on Chuck's shoulder. "It's sweet. You should feel a little possessive. Nothing wrong with that. After all, I'm yours."

"I know," Chuck said. "But I'm just going to say it. This is my stupid insecurity. And I know that it's stupid. I just can't help it. You're so out of my league. I don't want to share you with all of those guys at the beach with their tanned six-pack abs. I'm the only one that I ever want to see you wearing that sexy bikini."

The look on Sarah's face confirmed Chuck's feeling that there was something that she wasn't telling him. "I know, sweetie," she whispered.

"So why don't you tell me the real reason that you're wearing it?"

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones was on his almost daily conference call with the other Elders. They were hanging on every word as he related the status of his pursuit of Agent Walker.

"Yes," Jones said. "She's coming over tomorrow afternoon."

"What would you estimate your odds for success?" one of the Elders asked.

"I would put it at eighty percent," Jones replied confidently. "We are going to meet by the pool. She is going to show me her new bikini. I really believe that she is ready to do almost anything I ask. Let's hold off on the Bartowski killing until I get a good feel for how it will go tomorrow."

"Not a problem," replied Mark. "It's not scheduled to happen for three more days anyway."

"Is your agent in place?" Jones asked.

"Absolutely," Mark replied. "I spoke with her personally last night. It was this morning at breakfast when she told me how excited she was to be given this opportunity." After all, they all needed to understand that Jones wasn't the only one who could score with the hot babe.

x-x-x-x-x

Damn, he knows something is up. Sarah tried to figure out the best way to tell him. She needed to ease him into this. Especially since he just admitted to being insecure. That must have been hard for him to say. Sarah's expression turned sad for a long moment. But then she smiled. Definitely a sad smile. But a smile nonetheless. "I'm not trying to hide anything from you, sweetie," Sarah whispered. "I promise."

Chuck just nodded for her to continue. This couldn't be good news.

"I just wanted you to be the first one to see me in this," Sarah said. "I wanted you to have a moment to enjoy it before I told you."

"What are you going to tell me?" Chuck asked. This must really be bad news.

"I just want you to know that nothing is decided yet," Sarah said. "I would never decide anything like this without getting your input. And if you feel strongly, we'll find another…"

Chuck couldn't stand the suspense any longer. "Damn it, Sarah," Chuck interrupted. "Stop talking to me like I'm your asset or your husband. Tell your partner what is going on."

Sarah was very relieved. She was grateful to Chuck for making it professional. He was telling her that she didn't have to worry about him taking it the wrong way. "You're right," Sarah said as she got up from Chuck's lap and sat on the couch beside him. "I'm sorry. I got a call from Fred Jones today."

"And…"

"He wants me to meet him tomorrow at his place," Sarah said. "He knew that we just got married. That's who sent us the toaster. He said that he has some news about you. That you might be in danger."

"So that's why you're not excited about the toaster," Chuck said. "But that's with the bikini?"

"He was testing me," Sarah said. "He told me to bring my suit and we could talk by his pool. That's the only way that he'll give me the information. Janice thinks that he'll try and push me to go as far as he can."

"What do you think?" Chuck asked.

Sarah wouldn't answer right away. "I think that Janice is right," she finally whispered.

"And that's your professional opinion?" Chuck asked pointedly.

"Yes," Sarah said. "I'm sorry, Chuck. It is. But I have to go, sweetie. We have to find out what he knows."

"Why exactly are you sorry?" Chuck said as he stood up. "This is the job."

"Where are you going?" Sarah asked. Wow. I can't believe how calmly he is taking this. She was so proud of him. It's true. We have really connected in the past two days. And the simple fact was that he had never looked more attractive to her. Ever.

"I'm going to get Janice," Chuck said. "I want to talk about this as a team. If you do go over there, we need to know how to protect you. This guy is a Fulcrum Elder, Sarah. He's dangerous. There's no way that we're letting you walk into his house alone. Do me a favor?"

Sarah just nodded. A favor? At this point she couldn't think of a single thing that he could possibly ask for and not get.

"Get dressed," Chuck said with a laugh. "It's distracting me. I don't see how it's going to work with Fred Jones. He'll forget what it is he wants to tell you."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck, Sarah, and Janice were sitting around the kitchen table trying to decide what to do. Chuck and Sarah each had a cup of tea. Naturally, Janice had a glass of scotch.

"I have some questions," Chuck said as he started the meeting. "Let's approach this logically. He contacted Sarah. What does this guy really want?"

It was Janice who answered first. There are a lot of things that we're guessing at," she began softly. "But I don't think this is one of them. There are two things that he wants. The first is that he wants Bad Ass Agent Walker to work for him."

Chuck smiled at the familiar nickname.

"He thinks that she is a super agent," Janice continued. "To Fulcrum, Bad Ass Agent Walker is larger than life. As far as he knows, she killed twenty of his agents in a single day. She single handedly escaped from a house with ten armed men. She got the list that they had been trying to get for weeks. They think that she is on the outs with the CIA. Fulcrum is wetting their collective pants thinking they can have an agent like that working for them."

"Okay," Chuck said thoughtfully. "That makes sense. What is the other thing?"

"Come on, Chuck," Sarah blurted out. "Let's just put it on the table. He wants me in bed. I'm sorry."

"Doesn't everybody?" Chuck muttered with a smile under his breath.

Janice grinned at Chuck's reaction. "It's more though," she said. "She is a lethal weapon. She is Bad Ass Agent Walker. If she is going to be effective as an agent for Fulcrum, he wants to make sure that he can control her. And the way he is going to prove that to himself is by trying to control her in bed."

"How is he going to do that?" Chuck asked. "I think that he knows that Bad Ass Agent Walker isn't that easy to control."

"He does know," Janice replied. "That's exactly why he wants it so badly. It's a game to him. And he thinks he is about to win. He thinks that he's found her weakness,"

"Okay," Chuck said. "I give. What's her weakness?"

"You are, Chuck," Janice said. "He knows or he's guessing that she'll do anything to protect you. But he also knows that he can't directly threaten you. Sarah's already told him that would mean war. So he has some information that Sarah is desperate to have. He's sure that he has her. He's not going to give up until she's convinced him that he owns her. And he's going to do that by…"

"I get that part," Chuck quickly interrupted. "But how do you know that?"

"Because it's how these pigs think," Janice said. "All this B.S. about her wearing her bikini tomorrow is just to test how far he can push her. How much he can control her. I don't think that he is planning on her wearing it that long. And getting her naked will only be the first step. He won't stop pushing until he finds her limit. It's the very same thing that Ben…"

Chuck just looked at her thoughtfully for a long moment. Why is she blushing? Then it hit him. "It's the same thing that Ben Adams did to you," Chuck said. "That's what you mean, isn't it?"

Now it was Janice's turn to look away with a red face. "Yes," she whispered.

"Sonofabitch," Chuck muttered. "Which one of these assholes do we kill first? I don't think that Sarah should go tomorrow. Why put her in that position?"

"I have to go," Sarah finally piped in. "He says that he knows some information that may save your life."

"Not worth it," Chuck said flatly.

"She has to go," Janice said softly. "He wouldn't push this hard unless he had some real information about you. We have to find out what he knows."

"Not worth it," Chuck repeated.

"Damn it, Chuck," Janice said sharply as she pounded the table with her fist for emphasis. "She has to go. What do you think that agents do? We use the fact that bad guys want us in bed to find out what they know. We love you, Chuck. You're in danger. She has to go."

Chuck looked at Janice for a moment. Then his face suddenly broke into a grin. "I knew it," he said.

"You knew what?" Janice said in a confused tone.

"You love me," Chuck said with a grin. "There really is a person inside there."

Janice's face turned a bright purple. "I… I didn't say that," she stuttered. "I said that she loves you."

"You said 'we', sweetie," Sarah said with a grin of her own. "It's okay. You're not fooling anybody anyway. As long as we're putting stuff on the table, it's time that you looked him in the eye and told him."

Janice just looked at the table for a long moment groaning. Finally she lifted her head and swallowed. "Fine," she said. "I should have said this last night. I… I love you, Chuck. I'm not really sure what that means. But I know that I do. You're the first person that I've said that to since my dad died."

When Chuck glanced at Sarah, her smile was beaming. 'I know," he said. "Don't worry. I know exactly what it means. And you know that I feel the same way about you. I'll always be here for you in any way that I can."

"Can we please get back to talking about Jones?" Janice pleaded. "All this mushy talk has me on the edge of losing my dinner."

The mood in the room now was completely different. The tension and associated dread that had filled it was completely gone.

Chuck turned to Sarah. "It's like living with a female version of Casey," he smiled. "So what…"

"Sweetie," Sarah interrupted. "If you don't mind, I think that it's time that I started doing my job. Thank you for leading the discussion, but I'm taking charge. I know exactly what to do."

Chuck just nodded.

"Care to share this with us?" Janice asked.

"Absolutely," Sarah said as her eyes sparkled. "First, I owe you both an apology. I was paralyzed with fear. I was so afraid that something would happen to Chuck that I stopped thinking like an agent. I'm sorry, Chuck. That's exactly the way to get you killed."

Chuck grabbed Sarah's hand and gave it a squeeze for support.

"Chuck," Sarah continued. "I have to go. We have to find out what he knows. We need to be able to protect you. But understand something. That bikini is now a symbol of this fantastic thing that we have together. And that means more to me than anything in the whole world. So, no man is ever going to see me in it except for you. Ever. Especially not Fred 'the pig' Jones. That's a view that is exclusively reserved for my husband. You got that?"

Chuck nodded with a grin.

"And Janice," Sarah said. "Agent Beckman would go over there tomorrow and screw him into submission. Nothing wrong with that, it's what we've been trained to do. But that's not me. It really never was. And especially not now."

"So," Janice said. "What are you going to do?"

"He wants something, sweetie," Sarah said as she silently chuckled to herself. "You said it yourself. He wants Bad Ass Agent Walker… And as much as I hate the nickname, I'm going to give her to him. Trust me, he's not going to enjoy it."

"That's just great," Janice growled. "You can screw him to death, stab him to death, or bore him to death. I don't really care. But will you stop calling me sweetie already?"

"But we still have to keep you safe," Chuck said, ignoring Janice. "This guy is dangerous. It may be a trap. What did you do the last time that you went there?"

"I wore a wire," Sarah said. "And Janice was backing me up in the van."

"Why can't we do the same thing this time?" Chuck asked. "Janice and I will stay in the van."

"Too dangerous," Sarah said as she shook her head. "They are obviously watching us. They knew about the wedding. I don't think they would try anything. But I don't want to take that chance. If we were going to do that, I would just take you two with me like Jones suggested."

"Like he suggested?" Chuck said excitedly. "That works. We'll all go."

"No!" Sarah and Janice said at the same time.

"I'm sorry, Chuck," Janice said. "I know that you want to be with Sarah. But we can't let you anywhere close to an Elder. I'm going to put my foot down on that one."

"She's right, sweetie," Sarah said. She emphasized the last word knowing how it drove Janice up the wall. "I'm sorry. But you can't go. You have to stay here with Janice."

"Maybe I can go," Janice said. "I have a bikini. He thinks that we're sisters, right? What slime ball doesn't dream of getting sisters in the sack? It's their defining characteristic. Since you're going to act all faithfully married, maybe I can be the one to screw him into submission. Hell, it's not sounding all that bad. What does he look like?"

"It's not an act," Sarah laughed. "And Janice, Fred Jones is everything that Janice Beckman looks for in a man. He's breathing."

"Very funny,"

"Thanks for the offer," Sarah said as she continued to laugh. "But I need you to stay and protect Chuck. It's really better if I just go alone. The chances of him trying anything are very slim. He wants me to work for him…"

"And he wants to get you in bed," Chuck finished her sentence with a smile.

"Yes, sweetie," Sarah said with a beaming smile. "He wants me in bed. Never going to happen."

"How about this?" Janice said. "We'll go over to Ellie's on the way. Sarah can wear a wire and we can have Casey monitor her from outside. I doubt that they are watching Casey and he would be able to slip a tail anyway."

"Umm," Chuck said. "That might work. Except for one thing."

"What's that, Chuck?"

"Ellie still thinks that you betrayed Sarah," he said. "She is going to kick your ass."

"And with that, I think that we're done here," Sarah said with a laugh. "Chuck, I want to talk about some personal stuff with Janice. You can go back and watch the ballgame or you can stay."

"What are you going to talk about?"

"Just girl talk," Sarah said with her eyes sparkling. "Nothing mission related. You know. Stuff like feminine hygiene product preferences. Stuff like that."

Chuck stood up like he was shot out of a cannon. "Have fun," he said over his shoulder. "I'll be on the couch."

"Understand one thing," Janice said as she watched Chuck's retreating form. "I've tolerated a lot from you tonight. You've called me sweetie twenty times. You made me tell Chuck that I love him. And you just basically called me a slut. All that's fine. But if you say one freaking word about feminine hygiene, I'm going to stab you with this fork."

"I know," Sarah laughed. "I was just getting rid of Chuck." Then she got serious. "I just wanted to know if you wanted to talk about Ben Adams," she said softly. "What did he make you do?"

"It was nothing," Janice said after a pause. "The standard stuff to prove that he was in charge. So now he thinks that he owns me."

"Does he?"

Janice looked at the table for a long moment. "I need to work out some tension," she finally said. "Will you come downstairs and spot me for a few minutes?"

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck winced a little when the conversation was about the things that men wanted from Sarah. But there was no way in hell that he was going to listen to them talk about feminine hygiene. So he quietly went to lie on the couch. He just intended to watch the rest of the baseball game until Sarah came back. But he must have fallen asleep because the next thing that he knew, the television was off. Sarah was sitting on the floor in front of him with her head resting next to his.

"Sweetie," Sarah whispered as soon as she saw his eyes open. "I'm so sorry. Are you ready to go to bed? It's after midnight."

"Why are you sorry?" Chuck asked as he sat up and pulled Sarah up next to him.

"Lots of reasons," Sarah said. "But mostly because I let you down today. I almost stopped thinking like Agent Walker. I panicked and made some very bad decisions."

Chuck didn't respond. He put his arm around her and pulled her close. Sarah put her head on his shoulder.

"I will do anything to keep you safe," Sarah whispered. "But I will never, ever betray you. I'm sorry that I considered giving in to him. You should never have to worry about that."

"I don't worry about that," Chuck said as he kissed the top of her head. "Not at all. There are lots of things that I've worried about tonight. I need to you to be safe. I need our baby to be safe. But I never once worried that you might betray me. When are you going to start believing that?"

"That's the other thing I'm sorry about," Sarah said. "You're so amazing. And I underestimated you. I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," Chuck said as he kissed her. "We both have to get used to this. It's going to take some time."

"There is some good news," Sarah said with a smile as she stood up. She took his phone out of her pocket and placed it on the end table after picking a play list. "I think I know exactly how to make it up to you."

Chuck grinned as he watched Sarah unbutton her shirt and sway softly to the music. "Do you want to go into the bedroom?"

"Nope," Sarah said with a sly smile as she wiggled out of her pants and danced in her bra and panties. "We initiated the bed last night. I have an idea for a new Bartowski family tradition."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I think you might like it."

x-x-x-x-x

"Oh my God," Janice shouted from the kitchen as she slammed the door to the fridge shut. "Twice in one day? You two are killing me here. I can't even get a soda without seeing your bare asses going at it. It's like living inside the Playboy Channel."

Chuck had no place to go. There was no blanket on the sofa to cover up with. So he just buried his head in Sarah's hair. "Shit," he mumbled.

There was really nothing that Sarah could do. She was, more or less, trapped underneath Chuck. "Don't worry, sweetie," she whispered to him. "She'll be gone in a second."

"What the hell," Janice said with an evil grin as she dragged a kitchen chair into the living room. "I don't get the Playboy Channel. And as long as you're going to put on a demonstration in a public area of the house… I might as well watch for a while. Hell, I might learn something."

"Shit," Chuck muttered.

"I'm sorry," Janice said mockingly. "Is my talking bothering you? Why did you stop?"

"If we take this into the bedroom," Chuck said without looking up. "Will you leave?"

"Understand something," Janice growled as she stood up and started to walk away. "In my current state, I don't need to see this."

As soon as Janice left, Chuck and Sarah started laughing. "You have to admit," Sarah said. "That was the most interesting family tradition yet."

"Maybe," Chuck replied. "But let's make a deal right now. I'll be the one to tell our kids all about the birds and the bees."

"Sounds good," Sarah grinned.

"But it has to be you that passes forward the family traditions."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 15: The Counter Offer

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck was happy to let Sarah drive to Ellie's. It only made sense to take Sarah's car. After all, she was going from there to meet with Fred Jones. And Chuck would have to ride back with Janice. And even though Chuck knew that Sarah would do anything for him, he wasn't one hundred percent sure that translated into driving her new Porsche. When the CIA ordered their cars to go with the cover, the bean counters had tried hard to get Sarah to pick something cheaper. But Sarah had insisted on a Porsche. And when Sarah insisted on something, she usually got her way. Actually, that wasn't completely true. She always got her way.

Chuck only had his eyes half open on the ride. For one thing, he was tired. Last night had been…Well it was stressful keeping one eye out for Janice while trying to keep up with a wild thing. But eventually, Sarah was able to make him forget all about Janice. She was on a quest. Sarah wouldn't let him off that couch last night until she was satisfied that it was properly initiated. Chuck really didn't know if he would ever feel comfortable sitting on it again. Maybe they should order a new one. Of course that would probably just lead to another initiation.

Unfortunately, this wasn't going to be Chuck's day to enjoy a relaxing ride. He didn't take into account how competitive Sarah and Janice really were. And somewhere during the normally twenty-minute drive to Ellie's, it apparently turned into an impromptu road race. It was true that in terms of horsepower and maneuverability, Sarah's Porsche had a huge advantage. But Janice and her Mercedes more than made up for that advantage with an aggressive driving style that completely ignored public safety.

"Shit!" Chuck screamed as he hid his eyes from the horror as Sarah executed a power turn side-by-side with Janice a mere few inches away. He could clearly see the grin on Janice's face as she gripped the wheel. "Can't you just let her win?"

"Sorry, sweetie," Sarah said with her own grin as she quickly downshifted and used her horsepower advantage to pull ahead of Janice and cut her off. "You're not seriously asking me to let Janice win something. It doesn't work like that. She'd be insufferable for a week. Besides, don't worry. This car has side airbags."

"Damn it," Chuck yelled as soon as he was safely out of the car. "Are you two crazy? I know that my life is dangerous. But damn. I never expected to die on the way to my sister's."

Both women hung their heads a little at being berated so openly.

"Sorry, sweetie," Sarah said softly.

"She started it," Janice offered weakly.

x-x-x-x-x

So now they were early. Twelve minute early, to be precise. Fortunately, Casey was already there. Ellie wanted to take the stitches out from when Casey was shot last week. Chuck would have been embarrassed to have his shirt off in front of everybody like that. But it didn't seem to phase Casey one bit.

Janice's eyes widened as she entered the kitchen, where Ellie was removing Casey's stitches. He sat in a chair, bare-chested, and when he looked up at her with those piercing blue eyes, her breath caught. He gave her a small nod. Janice sat opposite him, and she found herself sneaking glances at him now and then as they reviewed the plan. He didn't flinch as Ellie worked, and his attention was fully on the mission under discussion. When Ellie finished, he pulled on a black t-shirt, and Janice couldn't help but notice how he must be working out quite a bit; she felt a sudden desire to run her hands over his well-defined abs. His comments were few and to the point, and Janice realized that she had never talked to him about anything outside of a mission. She took a chance and glanced at him again. Damn it! He was looking right at her. It was a bit of irony. She was looking at his chest. And there he was, obviously checking out hers. And was that a smile that played briefly across his lips? What would it be like to kiss him?

Chuck did a double take at the way Janice was staring at him. Okay, already. Haven't you ever seen a man without his shirt before? Even Sarah noticed. He wasn't sure what Sarah had whispered into her ear later. But whatever it was, it certainly made Janice blush.

Chuck figured that he would have his hands full trying to pry Ellie off of Janice's throat. But that didn't happen at all. Oh, to be sure, the look that Ellie was giving her wasn't her 'have a glass of lemonade' look. But she looked calm. And, more importantly, she stayed on her side of the table.

It wasn't until Sarah went over and whispered into her ear for quite a long while that Ellie settled down. But once she settled down, she was fine. That was Ellie, after all. Quick to anger. But quick to forgive. She even hugged Janice. And Janice even hugged her back… cautiously.

Even though Chuck was worried sick about Sarah confronting Jones, he was very grateful that Casey was backing her up. After all, who would you rather have at your back than Casey? He had gotten them out of more scrapes than he could count. Sure, Chuck knew that he was probably going to take some teasing the next time Casey saw him. There was no way that Casey was going to let pass the fact that Sarah was going to flirt with another man.

They had gone over the plan and Chuck and Janice were about to leave for home when Chuck felt Sarah grab his wrist. He could plainly see the smirk on her face as she wordlessly led him into his old room.

"What's up?" Chuck asked.

"I made a horrible mistake last time with Jimmy," Sarah said as she put her arms around his neck. "I left on a mission without making sure that you knew how much I love you. I never plan on doing that again."

"Promise me that whatever happens, you'll stay safe," Chuck said as he kissed her gently.

Sarah didn't answer directly. She just grabbed two handfuls of Chuck's hair and used them as a handle to press his mouth to hers. It was a movie night kiss revisited. Their tongues danced as they held each other. Finally they had to come up for air.

"That was nice," Chuck said as he looked into Sarah's smiling face and reached down to kiss her again. "How long do we have?"

"Twelve minutes."

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Chuck and Janice got back home, Janice took him downstairs to the shooting range. It took quite a lot of talking to get him down there.

"I want you to get comfortable handling a gun anyway," she said. "And since we're both worried about Sarah, this will be a good thing to do to get our minds off of it."

"I don't want to shoot anybody," Chuck whined. "I'll let you do all the shooting."

"I know," Janice said. "Hopefully it will never come up. But someday, it might make the difference between living and dying. You'd want to be able to protect Sarah, wouldn't you?"

"Yes," Chuck said. "Of course."

"And maybe even protect me someday?" she asked meekly.

"Yes, Janice," Chuck said with a laugh. "I would want to protect you too. You know that, right?"

"Good," Janice said as her face broke into a grin. "Let's get started. The first step in learning how to handle a gun is learning respect for it. This is a deadly weapon. And any mistakes are very unforgiving. People die. The first thing that you have to learn is how to take it apart, clean it, and put it back together."

So for the next hour, Janice showed Chuck how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the gun. And she wasn't surprised at all by how quickly he picked it up. After all, who was better at figuring out how things work than Chuck?

And for his part, Chuck was amazed at the transformation that came over Janice. Usually, she was very high strung, brash even. But now she was obviously in her element. She was very patient with Chuck as he did things for the first time. And even though she didn't say anything, Chuck could tell by the twinkle in her eyes that she was having fun. So, even though he wasn't excited to be using a gun, he had to admit that he was having fun too. Even if she was a little fanatical about cleaning the damn thing.

"You remind me of Casey," Chuck laughed as Janice pointed out a spot that Chuck had missed in his fifth round of gun cleaning. "You two should get together."

Chuck expected Janice to laugh. But to his surprise, she didn't respond at all. She just turned away. And he could see the blush in her neck.

"Janice," Chuck said softly. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Casey and I are not getting together," Janice replied sharply. "Okay, so I noticed that he looked good with his shirt off. That's it. I really don't need you teasing me about it. It was bad enough that Sarah noticed."

Chuck was taken aback by the intensity of her response. "I wasn't going to ask you about Casey," Chuck said softly.

After a moment, Janice reached out and grabbed Chuck's hand. "Chuck, I'm really sorry that I snapped at you. It's just that… Look, I'm not in a very good spot with men right now. I'm sorry that I took that out on you. What do you want to know?"

"I was going to ask you about Ben Adams," Chuck said. "I understand if it's too personal."

Janice paused for a long moment. Chuck was beginning to think that she was ignoring the question. But finally she stirred. "Would this just be between us?" Janice whispered.

"Of course."

"I mean it, Chuck," Janice said much more insistently. "This has to stay between us. I can't have this getting back to Sarah."

"I promise," Chuck said. "Please don't ever ask me to lie to Sarah. But there is no reason why I would tell her about the things that you tell me in confidence. I'd want that same assurance from you."

Janice nodded. "Agreed," she whispered.

"So why would you agree to have sex with that pig?" Chuck asked. "I mean, I understand that we think about sex differently. But why are you so eager to offer it? Did you enjoy it?"

"It was the most degrading hour of my life." Janice whispered. "But, let's face it. Sex is all that I have to offer."

"That's total crap," Chuck said angrily as he grabbed her hand. "I don't ever want to hear you say that again. Of course, you're gorgeous. Men want you. I get that…"

"That's all that they seem to want," Janice interrupted sadly. "Even Bryce…"

"Bryce disappointed you," Chuck said softly. "Didn't he?"

Janice nodded.

"You had this ideal in your head," Chuck said as he pulled her into an embrace. "That Bryce would be the perfect guy for you. He is the smooth talking, confident spy with the perfect teeth that you thought you would fall for. And more importantly would fall for you."

"He didn't even try," Janice said with a sad sigh. "I wanted him to talk to me. And all he wanted was to…"

"I know," Chuck said as he rubbed her back. "Bryce is one of my best friends. And I was rooting for you two. But he is not the guy that you're looking for."

"I know," Janice said. "I found the guy that I was looking for. But he's already married."

"Trust me," Chuck said with a laugh. "I'm not the guy you're looking for."

"How do you know?" Janice asked.

"Let me ask you a hypothetical question," Chuck said. "Let's pretend that Sarah wasn't around. Would you be ready to stop being an agent to have my baby?"

"I don't know, Chuck," Janice said after a pause. "It's something I would really have to think about. I would want to make you happy. But I really don't ever see myself as a mother. Maybe someday, I'd feel differently."

"And let's say that you and I were together right now," Chuck said. "Would you stop using sex as a weapon with marks because you knew that it bothered me?"

"I get what you're trying to say," Janice said sadly. "I don't measure up to Sarah. I understand."

"No, you don't understand," Chuck said firmly as he squeezed her tightly. "At all. I'm just pointing out that what you and I have is great. More than great. There are some things in my life that I'm proud of. Not a big number, but a few. But very close to the top is the fact that someone as special as you loves me."

Janice looked up and smiled.

"And I'll be here for you in any way that I can," Chuck continued. "But let's face it, we would not make a very good couple. That doesn't mean that we don't care for each other. We just want different things. Your guy is out there somewhere. And right now the poor bastard doesn't have a clue how lucky he is. You're amazing, Janice. You're funny, you're smart, you're a genuine hero, and you're fun to be around."

"Thanks," Janice said as her smile turned into a grin. "You're really a smooth talker… for a nerd."

"So," Chuck said as he matched her grin. "Do you want me to talk to Casey for you?"

"I don't know," Janice laughed. "You're not exactly subtle. Do you think he'd be interested?"

"I do," Chuck said. "You and Casey are a lot alike. You're both dedicated to being heroes. But you're both lonely. I think you are sort of kindred spirits. And Casey would talk to you. Well, as long as grunts count anyway."

"Grunts count," Janice said with a laugh. "I guess it wouldn't hurt to talk to him. Just don't embarrass me."

"Talk to him about cleaning your gun," Chuck said. "I think that he'd rather do that than have sex anyway."

"Okay," Janice said as she broke the embrace. "Speaking of guns. We did come down here to teach you to shoot. Maybe we'd better get back to it."

x-x-x-x-x

It was a typical Southern California summer afternoon. Which meant that there was not a single cloud in the sky and the temperature was somewhere in the mid-nineties. The sun glistening off the waves that gently lapped at the side of the pool sent sparkles in all directions.

Fred Jones sat in a lounge chair by the pool trying to figure out what to do with himself. Sarah Walker was going to be here very soon. And frankly Fred was having a hard time staying relaxed. There was so much on the line. After all, the afternoon that he had planned was something he had been looking forward to for some time. But, on the other hand, he needed to be able to play it cool in front of Walker. If she saw his anticipation, it might give her an edge. And he couldn't give her any weapons. He had her exactly where he wanted her. Fred had even swum a few laps to try and get rid of his nervousness. But then he realized he was going to need all of his stamina this afternoon. So he just closed his eyes and pictured what she was going to look like.

He was suddenly startled out of his fantasy by the real thing. Sarah Walker was standing in front of him with her hands on her hips. She was wearing a cream colored button-up blouse and khaki pants. Her blonde hair flowed over her shoulders and glistened in the sun. She looked every bit as sexy in real life as she had in his vision.

"Okay, Fred," Sarah said as she took off her sunglasses to stare at him. "You wanted to meet. I'm here."

"How did you get in here?" Fred asked with a smile. Even though he was startled for a moment, he regained his composure quickly.

"You're joking, right?" Sarah said. "You really need to get some new security people."

"Would you care for a drink?" Jones asked. "These frozen margaritas really hit the spot out here in the hot sun."

"Why don't you just tell me what it is that you called me here for, and I'll get out of your way?" Sarah asked, ignoring his question.

Jones knew that she was bluffing. That was okay. He didn't expect her to give in easily. After all, anything great was worth working for. He slowly took a long pull from his drink. "That wasn't our deal," he said calmly. "Would you like to change? There is a room just inside the door."

"I don't think so," Sarah said. "I didn't bring my suit."

"Really," Jones said. "That's most disappointing. I thought that we agreed to relax by the pool and have a nice chat."

"I know," Sarah said. "I did agree to that. But then I started thinking. Let's face it Fred, that's not what you really want."

Pure surprise caused Jones to pause for a second. "It's not?" he finally asked.

"Of course not," Sarah said with the beginnings of a smile. "Come on, Fred. Admit it. You didn't plan on me wearing my bikini. It wouldn't have been very long before you were asking me to take it off."

Jones didn't like the way this was going at all. He was quickly losing control of the situation. He was too close to the prize to fall short now. His mind raced trying to find a way to regain the upper hand. "Let's assume that you're right," he said trying to match her calm smile. "Just for the sake of argument, of course. I called you over here today to do you a favor. I have some information that you are going to want to hear."

"I know," Sarah said. "I'm sort of in a hurry. So let's put some cards on the table. You have some information for me. I'll admit that I want it. And that gives you a little bit of leverage. I understand that the information is going to have a price. Why don't you tell me what your price is and if it's reasonable, maybe I'll pay it."

Jones worked hard to keep the concern from showing on his face. Was this a tactic? Or was she actually surrendering? He decided to play it a little coy. "Why, Sarah," he said with a slightly wider smile. "I'm not comfortable with this talk about a price. To be honest, it's a little insulting. I'm sticking my neck out by even agreeing to tell you what I know. I thought that the least you could do was to prove that we are friends by going for a swim with me. That's why I asked you to bring your suit. But since you didn't, I guess we'll have to… improvise."

"Let's be clear," Sarah said. "If I take off my clothes and go for a swim, would that be friendly enough? Would you tell me what you know? Or are you expecting more?"

The smile returned to Jones's face. She was negotiating. How far could he go? "I think that would be enough to show your good faith," Jones said. "For now anyway." Let's leave some room for negotiation.

Sarah swallowed and paused for a moment. "I guess that you have me," she said with a sigh. "Do I really have to get in the water? Or can I just give you the show that you want? I really don't want to go home with my hair smelling like chlorine."

"That's up to you, my dear," Jones said with the smile of victory. Now it was time to see how far she could be pushed. "The water is quite lovely. But I can understand if you don't want to make your new husband suspicious. He doesn't know that you're here, does he? Is he the jealous type?" It was just a guess, of course. But please let it be true.

"We've been married for five days," Sarah said. "And let's be clear. He is never to find out. Whatever happens today stays between us. That's a deal breaker."

"Of course," Jones said. He was fighting hard to keep the smug grin off his face. This day was just getting better and better. Now he would even have something more to use against her. The pool surveillance cameras would capture ever detail. What would be the price to not show the tape to her husband? He'd have to think on that one. "Naturally, once I tell you the information that I know, we're going to talk more. You're going to want my help."

"Let me guess," Sarah said with a sarcastic smile. "That help is going to have a price."

Jones knew that he had won. They both did. The look in her eyes told him. Once she was naked, it would be no problem getting her on her back. His only question was should he take her into the bedroom where it would be more comfortable? Or stay out by the pool where the cameras would record every detail of her submission? "Sarah, that's so cynical," Jones said. "I guess that comes with being an agent for so long. But we can talk about that in a few minutes. I'm sure that you'll be more than happy with whatever arrangement we come up with. Do we have a deal?"

Sarah paused for a long moment. Finally she sighed. "I want your information," she said as she unbuttoned her blouse. "I do have one suggestion."

Jones was consumed by the sight of Sarah Walker standing there. Her unbuttoned blouse hung loose on her shoulders. He could see her lacy bra. This is it. "Suggestion?" he asked numbly.

Suddenly a knife was sticking out of the chair that he was sitting in. It was so close to his face that Jones wondered how it could have possibly missed him.

"Suggestion may be a bad term," Sarah said with a smug smile. "Let's call it a counter offer. How about this? I'll keep my clothes on, you tell me everything that you know, and the next knife doesn't land in your throat. If I really like what I hear, we can talk about what happens next."

So close. Jones heart sank as he recognized the temporary setback. After all, this was Sarah Walker that he was dealing with. And really, what choice did he have? But he was still holding a lot of cards. She may have won this round, but the fight was still far from over. And now, once she had surrendered, she was going to pay dearly for this move. When it came time for her to pay up, he wasn't going to forget this indignity. "Fine," he finally said. "You drive a hard bargain."

"I guess," Sarah said with a shrug of her shoulders as she showed him the other knife in her hand. "Well… What's it going to be?"

"I accept your counter offer."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 16: The Fake Mission

x-x-x-x-x

Casey sat in the van trying to control his laughter as he listened to Sarah work Jones over. The poor bastard never knew what hit him. He actually thought he was getting Sarah Walker in bed. Too bad they didn't have video. He would have given a month's pay to see the look on Jones's face when that knife hit the chair.

Casey had to admit that he enjoyed working with the team again. Even if his role on this mission was only a support one. It still beat babysitting the doctors. Not that watching over them didn't have some benefits. The main one being, Ellie now expected him every night for dinner. And when Ellie expected you… Well, you knew to be there. But, to be honest, he missed having some action.

After all, the last mission called for Sarah and Chuck to rescue him. And he was very appreciative. But it's just that he was much more comfortable being the rescuer rather than the rescuee. Hopefully, Jones will try something today. It would be fun to go in there and rescue her… not to mention shoot that pig.

x-x-x-x-x

"Chuck," Janice said softly. "You're fighting it. It's never going to happen until you embrace it."

"I don't see how you can hit anything with this damn thing," Chuck muttered in frustration. "Every time I pull the damn trigger, the damn gun is pointing up in the damn air. And I have no idea where the damn shot went."

"Okay, Chuck," Janice said. "Secure your weapon. I want to talk to you for a minute."

Chuck clicked on the safety and ejected the clip as Janice had showed him earlier. Then he placed the clip and weapon on the bench.

"Look," Janice said as soon as Chuck turned towards her. She softly grabbed both of his hands. "I understand that you hate this. But it's important. It could save your life someday."

"I do hate it."

"I know," Janice said as she squeezed his hands. "I've never asked you to do anything just for me before, have I?"

"No, I guess not."

"I'm going to ask you for something now," Janice said.

"What is that?" Chuck asked with a sigh.

"Try, Chuck," Janice said. "Honestly try. Not for the CIA. Not for Sarah. Not even for Agent Beckman. But do it for Janice. I worry about you. I want to know that you can protect yourself. It's important to me. I'm seriously asking. Will you do this for me?"

"I guess," Chuck said. "You know that I would do anything for you."

"Prove it," Janice said with a smile. "Let's make this a game. I'll tell you what. If you can get to the point where you can hit the target three times in a row, I'll give you a reward. Sarah has kind of taken away my usual reward possibilities. So do you have any ideas?"

"Anything?" Chuck asked with a grin.

"Anything that Sarah would approve of," Janice said as she matched his grin. "Oh, and I'm not calling you sweetie. I think everything else is in play."

"Okay," said Chuck. "How about this? Morgan wants to come over for a game night in the new media room. Anna would like to come but she feels like a third wheel with Morgan and me…"

"And you want me to entertain Anna?" Janice groaned. "Isn't that something that Sarah would be better at?"

"No," Chuck said. "You don't understand. I want you to play. I want you to be my partner against Morgan and Anna."

"Why can't you just be like a regular guy and pick sex?" Janice said with a sigh. "At least that would be something I'm good at. Okay, Chuck, if you can hit the target three times in a row, I'll play."

x-x-x-x-x

"That's much better," Janice said as Chuck resumed his shooting. "But you're still jerking the trigger. You need to apply equal pressure to your whole hand. Here is what they would tell the men in training. Pretend that you're squeezing a woman's breast."

"Really?" Chuck said as he fired off a round. It actually hit the target. "That does help. What did they tell the women in training?"

"Two things," Janice said with a laugh. "They told us what to pretend to squeeze. I'm not going to tell you that."

"Okay," Chuck said. "I think I can guess. What was the other thing?"

"Stay away from the men during shooting practice."

x-x-x-x-x

"We believe that your new husband is being targeted," Jones said as he handed Sarah back her knife.

"Targeted?" Sarah questioned. "By who? For what reason?"

"We have reason to believe that he is being targeted for assignation by the CIA," Jones said. "It would be as retribution against you for going rogue."

Sarah's mind immediately turned to the termination order that Beckman had placed when they were on the run. Is that what he means? "Why do you believe that?" Sarah asked.

"I can't get into specifics," Jones said. "I'm sure that you understand the sensitivity of our covert operatives. I'm sticking my neck out a mile even telling you this much. But this is intelligence that we've obtained. We don't know for sure if this is sanctioned by the upper echelon of the agency or simply the idea of a mid-level manager. But we do know that an agent has been assigned to take him out. We also know that the instructions were to make it obvious that he was killed as punishment. As a warning to any other agent who would go rogue."

Sarah's blood ran cold. Her mind raced as she considered the possibilities. Could this be on the level? Or is he trying to play me into bed? He couldn't be talking about the termination order. The frightening fact was that she couldn't rule it out. Could Ben Adams possibly… "When?" she asked.

Jones took full note of the worried expression on her face. For Sarah Walker to make such a mistake controlling her outward emotions spoke volumes about just how spooked she really was. He repressed the smile that came to his lips and forced a concerned look on his own face. "We're not sure," he said. "We just know that the order has been issued. It could be next week, next month, or next year."

"Why should I believe you?" Sarah asked skeptically.

Jones sensed that it was time to switch tactics. He had her on the run. It was time to press his advantage. "You know, Sarah," he said firmly. "I don't know if you realize who the hell you're talking to. But I'm trying to do you a huge favor here. I'm risking key intelligence sources to give you this information. I hoped that you would be a little grateful. But instead, I'm getting knives thrown at me and insulted. So if that's all you have to say, we'll say goodbye. I guess that you don't want my help."

"Wait," Sarah said. She knew that his indignation was false. But she also needed to hear what else he knew. So the next move was hers. She needed to grovel a little. She swallowed and forced a sad look on her face. "I'm sorry."

That was exactly what Jones was looking for. She was in a very bad bargaining position. It was time to press his advantage a little farther. He stood up from his seat and moved to stand right directly in front of her. "We can help protect him," he said.

"With all due respect," Sarah said. "Why would you want to do that?"

Jones took note of the tone of her voice. She was taking care not to anger him. Let's see how far that will take me. "Fulcrum protects our own," he said. "You should know that."

"So you're saying that if I join Fulcrum, you'll protect my husband?" Sarah said.

"Precisely, Sarah," Jones said as he placed his hand on her shoulder. "I'm sure that we can form a wonderful partnership."

"That's not going to work," Sarah said. "The reason that I left the CIA is because being married and being an agent don't coexist very well."

"I understand," Jones said. "But don't be so hasty. We're probably more willing to be flexible in that regard than the CIA would be. You're an incredible talent, Sarah. As long as you prove your loyalty, I think we could work out a work schedule that your husband would approve of."

"Loyalty?" Sarah asked. "How would you propose that I prove my loyalty?"

It was time to go for the jugular. "Well, Sarah," Jones said. "It sure as hell wouldn't be by throwing a knife in my throat." He very deliberately moved the hand that was on her shoulder to her upper forearm. "From this point forward, I expect to be addressed as sir. Understood?"

Sarah swallowed. His right hand was very close to her breast. But he really hadn't done anything aggressive yet. There is no reason to not go along… yet. "Yes, sir," Sarah said.

"Good," Jones said. "We have a mission in mind for you. It should be easy for someone of your caliber and you can even take your husband with you. But first you'll need to pass my loyalty test."

"Loyalty test, sir?" Sarah asked with a groan. "Would this test take place in the bedroom?"

"Actually no," Jones said. "It will take place right here." The hell with comfortable. I want that tape. He slowly pulled on the edge of Sarah's still unbuttoned shirt and exposed her bra."So I guess this is the point where you resume what you were doing before you so rudely threw a knife at me."

Sarah sighed uncomfortably. But she made no move to stop him. She racked her brain trying to think of a way out of this. She had to get out of there and find out what in the hell was going on. "I can't betray my husband," Sarah said. "I promised him."

Jones then reached over and pulled open the other side of her shirt. It now threatened to slide off her shoulders. "You can't betray him?" he mocked. "But you can let him die? That seems inconsistent. But I guess he wouldn't have to know. Come on, the man married a CIA agent. Are you going to tell me that you've never lied to him before?"

Sarah cursed her choice of underwear. The bra that she was wearing simply didn't leave much to the imagination. There was no way in hell she wanted this to go any farther. And she knew that in a second, his hand was going to be inside of her bra. But she still didn't want to outright refuse him. Maybe a stall. "Could I ask for a favor?" she said softly.

Jones made no attempt to hide the fact that he was leering at her chest. "What favor?" Jones asked. "I think that your favors are all used up. I'm a busy man. And yet you are a most beautiful woman, Sarah. I'm sure that you can convince me."

Sarah pushed down the nausea rising from her stomach and forced herself to look him in the eyes. "Give me twenty-four hours," Sarah said, ignoring the hand that was sliding up her side. "Let me talk him into it. After all, it's his life that's on the line." She knew that she was taking a calculated risk. He might agree. But that just meant that he would be expecting more the next time they met. If there was a next time.

Jones stared at Sarah for a long moment. He was fairly confident that he could break her right now. After all, she was putting up no protest to his provocative moves. So he raised his hand until his fingertips were just beginning to slip under her bra. But, on the other hand, tomorrow she will have completely surrendered. "Fine," he finally said with a sigh. "I hope that you understand the lengths that I've gone for you here. It's only because of our high regard for your talents. But tomorrow, I expect your full cooperation. You're going to prove to me that you'll follow orders. Bring some lingerie. Several, in fact. Perhaps a little show."

Sarah was careful to not show any emotion. But inside she was very relieved. If she had to fight him off now, that would be the end of any chance of finding out if he really knew anything. Jones glared at Sarah until she finally nodded in agreement.

Jones knew that his victory was complete. Tomorrow, she was his. "It will give me a good opportunity to think of a creative way for you to apologize to me for the knife incident," he said. There was no way he was letting that go. "Report back here tomorrow at thirteen hundred. Until then, you're dismissed."

Sarah didn't respond. She simply turned and left. As soon as she was out of sight she spoke, knowing that Casey could hear her.

"Oh, trust me. You'll get a show."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck had just hit two targets in a row. And Janice honestly wasn't quite sure what she was hoping for. On the one hand, she wasn't looking forward to game night with Morgan and Anna. She wasn't a social person by nature and Morgan and Anna would be tough for her to take. After all, Janice was a natural flirt and the last thing that she could do was to flirt with Morgan in front of Anna. That would end the night real quick.

But really, who was she kidding? She was rooting for Chuck. She was so proud of him. Was there anything that he couldn't do? Once he decided to make a real effort, he picked it up in no time. And the topper was that he was doing it for her. Not Sarah… her. Oh, make no mistake. Janice knew that she couldn't compete with Sarah for Chuck's affection. But it was nice to know that she could push some buttons as well. Did she just test his affection for her? Maybe. A little. But it felt so great that he passed.

So when he hit the third target, both of their grins were huge. Janice allowed Chuck to secure his weapon and then she threw her arms around him. Janice had never wanted to kiss someone so badly in her life. But she stopped herself. Even if it was innocent, they both knew the limits of their relationship.

They were still in their embrace when Janice's phone rang. "Beckman," she answered.

"Yes, I'm secure."

"Yes, I understand. Ten minutes. I'll be there."

"What?" Chuck asked as soon as Janice ended the call. "Was that Sarah?"

"No," Janice replied with a tense look. "It was Ben Adams's administrative assistant. He wants me to conference with Adams privately in ten minutes."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah waited until she was safely out of Jones's house before she buttoned up her shirt. Unbuttoning it had been a stupid mistake. She only did it to distract him. But that definitely backfired. She briskly walked the few blocks to where her car was parked and drove directly to the restaurant where Casey had agreed to meet her. She didn't even have to ask.

"I just got off the phone with Beckman," Casey said as he sat down at the table. "She is unaware of any mission to do anything to Chuck. I think we can trust her."

"Of course," Sarah said. "I trust the General. No question. It's Adams…"

"She is going to go storming into his office," Casey said with a smile. "She'll find out what in the hell is going on. She told me to give her twenty minutes. I'll bet she only needs ten."

"At most," Sarah said with a laugh.

"So what is up with this Jones asshole?" Casey said. "I feel like I should take a shower just listening to him. I can't imagine what you feel like. Was that pure bluff?"

"I don't know what to think," Sarah sighed. "He knows that if he messes with Chuck that I'm going to rain hellfire and brimstone on him. And I don't think that he wants that. He could be bluffing."

"He definitely has balls," Casey said with a grin. "I'm pretty sure he wants you to see them. Maybe he just wants a free fashion show. He sounds like a connoisseur of sexy underwear."

"Yeah, well," Sarah grunted. "If he wants that, we'd better send Janice. She would give him more than a show."

Casey paused for a long moment, pretending to study his menu. "Speaking of Janice," he said softly without looking up. "Is she seeing anyone?"

"So," Sarah said with a laugh. "You saw her checking you out today, huh?" She looked at him and noticed the blush creeping up his neck. He was serious?

Finally Sarah decided that he was… very serious. "Janice is in a bad spot," she said. "She is looking for someone to settle down with. But in our business, that's going to be hard to come by. So if you hooked up with her, it would be purely physical. Can you live with that? If so, then I think it could happen."

"Is this a trick question?" Casey asked. "That is something I would expect Chuck to say. Not you."

Sarah didn't have a chance to respond before Casey's phone rang. "Mmm, seven minutes."

"Casey, secure."

"Yes ma'am."

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

"Adams swears that he has no knowledge of any attack against Chuck," Casey said. "Beckman said that she believed him."

"I trust her judgment," Sarah said. "I don't think there is any mission to assassinate Chuck. Not a sanctioned one, anyway."

"What are you going to tell Chuck?" Casey asked.

"What do you mean?" Sarah asked. "About today with Jones? I'm going to tell him everything."

"Can I watch?" Casey said with a low laugh. "I can't imagine him taking this well."

"Chuck has changed," Sarah said. "We both have. I know that you don't want to hear about our lady feelings. But we've gotten so close, Casey. Trust me, Chuck will be fine. I'm so proud of him."

"So what should we do about Jones?" Casey asked with a look that was half disappointment but also half pride. You do know what he wants?"

Sarah looked at Casey like he had just grown a third eye. "Umm, yeah," Sarah said with a laugh. "This isn't exactly my first time. He wants an afternoon that he'll never forget."

"That he does," Casey said.

"I say we give him one."

x-x-x-x-x

"Shit," Janice said. "Adams is going to want to know the status of my mission. What should I tell him?"

"Lie," Chuck said simply. "What else?"

"I can't lie," Janice said. "He'll sense it."

"You're going to tell me that a CIA agent can't lie?"

"Not to a superior, Chuck," Janice said. "He'd know right away."

"Then tell him the truth," Chuck said with a grin.

"I can't tell him the truth," she said. "He would reassign me and get someone else to do it."

"Sure you can," Chuck said. "Tell him something like this." He then tried to imitate Janice's voice. "I haven't been able to seduce him yet. But I did get him to admit that he loves me. We talked today about my willingness to have his baby someday. Oh, and he asked me if I would stop flirting with marks if it upset him."

Janice just grinned.

"Hey," Chuck said with his own grin. "All of that is true."

"I thought that spies were supposed to be the devious ones," Janice said. "Do you want to listen in? I'll put it on speaker phone. Just stay quiet."

"Agent Beckman," Adams said as soon as the call began.

"Sir," Janice replied in pure military fashion.

"I'm just calling to advance brief you on your next mission."

"Yes, sir," Janice said.

"I'm going to brief your team tomorrow at oh seven hundred," Adams said. "We're going to help you in your seduction mission. I assume that you have not been successful?"

"No, sir," Janice said. "But it hasn't been from lack of effort."

"I didn't think so," Jones said. "So we're going to create a fake mission that will assist you in setting the proper mood."

"Fake mission?" Janice asked.

"Yes," Adams replied. "I have sent two agents. They are going to pose as a husband and wife technology team. They develop encryption technology that Mr. Bartowski's company might be interested in purchasing."

"Yes, sir," Janice said. "I follow you so far."

"You and Chuck will go undercover as a married couple," Adams said. "The meeting will take place in the restaurant of your hotel. Your assignment will be to get the man into his hotel room and obtain a thumb drive with a proprietary encryption algorithm generation capability. Using any means necessary."

"Sir, I'm supposed to seduce him in a restaurant?" Janice asked. "In front of his wife? Would that be believable?"

"Not at dinner," Adams said. "You will invite them to go dancing later that evening. Your partner will support your mission by keeping the wife busy in your room, using any means necessary."

"So," Janice said as she silenced the expression on Chuck's lips with a look. "You expect him to seduce her?"

"No," Adams replied. "We just expect him to try. He won't be successful. She is going to give in just enough to get him in the mood. It's somewhat of an expertise of hers. We expect you to seduce him. After she has primed the pump, it shouldn't be that tough. He'll be on fire. After you get back, you will be quite emotional. I figure if you turn on the tears and give him a sob story about how hard your evening was and what the creep made you do, and how you have needs of your own, that just might turn the trick."

"With all due respect, sir," Janice said trying to suppress a laugh. "I don't think that is going to work."

"I think that it will," Adams said. "Just give it your best effort."

"Yes, sir," Janice said with a sigh. "You just want me to hang out for a while and then go back to our room and attempt to seduce him?"

"Whoa," Adams said. "Who said anything about hanging out? I expect you to complete your mission."

"I don't understand," Janice said. "I thought this was fake. Is there actually a thumb drive?"

"Of course not," Adams said. "But the male agent is a good friend. And he just completed a very successful mission as a favor to me. He is being rewarded." What Adams didn't say was that the 'favor' was setting him up with the agent's ex-partner. And she was quite the looker. Actually it was far more than just introducing them. They had already met. She actually had the gall to shoot him down once. But her ex-partner turned the tide. He supplied the information that ensured that she would be very… cooperative in bed. It had been a wild night. And now it was time to return the favor.

"And I'm his reward?" Janice asked incredulously.

"Why not?" Adams said with a smile in his voice. "You should be honored. He is looking forward to it a lot. And let's face it, Agent Beckman. You could use the practice."

It was all the Chuck could do to keep from screaming. He was able to bite his tongue until Janice ended the call. "You're not doing this," he all but yelled at her.

"I have to, Chuck," Janice said softly. "If I don't, he'll reassign me."

"You're not doing this," Chuck simply repeated. He lowered the volume of his voice but the rage was unmistakable. "No way." Chuck opened his arms as an invitation that Janice quickly accepted.

"It's okay," Janice said softly. "Don't worry. It's not that bad. I've done worse things."

"You… are… not… doing… this…" Chuck said as he squeezed Janice tightly.

"Hi guys," Sarah said from the top of the steps. "I'm back."

Chuck turned to Sarah and flashed a smile.

"So, what isn't Janice doing?"

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 17: The Revelation

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Sarah were lying in bed after dinner. Not to sleep. It was only seven o'clock. And not for sex. Not yet anyway. They were both fully clothed. It was just a comfortable place to lie and talk. And it was clear that Sarah didn't want to talk about this afternoon in front of Janice. At least, not until she had a chance to talk to Chuck.

"So," Chuck said. "What did you find out? Besides how much he wants you in bed, that is."

At first, Sarah was hoping that she could keep it light. After all, nothing really happened. "I have good news," Sarah said. "He doesn't want me in bed."

"Really?" Chuck said skeptically. "That is good news."

"Yeah," Sarah said with a laugh. "He wanted me out by the pool."

"Well, that's a relief," Chuck said sarcastically. "As long as it's not in bed. How far did he get, anyway?"

Sarah looked into his eyes and realized she couldn't joke about it any longer. Even though he was calm, he deserved the unvarnished truth. She leaned over and kissed him. "Not very far," she said. "I made a serious mistake. I unbuttoned my shirt to distract him when I threw my knife. And later he tried to put his hand inside. But don't worry, sweetie, he didn't quite make it."

"How did you get out of it?" Chuck asked.

Sarah searched Chuck's face for any sign that he was hurting. But to her great relief she didn't see one. "By agreeing to come back tomorrow," she said. "Obviously, that's not going to happen."

"Good," Chuck said. "By the way, I talked to Janice about Casey. She wants us to set them up."

Sarah was thankful that Chuck was so willing to change the subject. He really is okay. "I already talked to him," she said. "Don't worry. I told him that Janice is looking to settle down with someone and if they hooked up, it would be just sex."

"What?" Chuck said. "Janice is not looking to settle down. She just wants someone who will talk to her."

"Janice wants what we have," Sarah said. "And we need to help her find her guy. But seriously, Chuck, can you see Casey being that guy? No way."

"So," said Chuck. "That's your solution? You would just hook them up for sex?"

"Why not?" Sarah said. "They are both attracted to each other. They're both lonely."

"You're wrong about Janice," Chuck said softly. "She doesn't want what we have. She might have thought so once. For about ten minutes. But not now. Don't get me wrong, she's very happy for us. But she wants someone who gets her. She's not ready to give up being an agent. Maybe she never will be. But she wants someone to share it with. I think that Janice and Casey could really have something."

"Sweetie," Sarah said. "Who knows Janice better, you or me?"

Chuck flashed a grin. "Well," he replied. "Obviously me."

"In your dreams," Sarah said with a laugh. "Want to make this interesting?"

Chuck just arched his eyebrows.

"Our regular bet says I'm right," Sarah said.

"You're on."

Sarah jumped out of bed in a huff. "I'm going to go find out," she said. "I'm really looking forward to this. I finally get to win one of these bets. I've been thinking of wild things for the past week."

"Wilder than what we've been doing?" Chuck asked in amazement. "This I have to see. I almost wish I would lose. Too bad it's not going to happen."

"Sweetie," Sarah said over her shoulder as she left the room. "You have no idea."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice was doing leg exercises on one of the machines when Sarah walked in.

As soon as Janice saw Sarah, she stopped her set. "Hey," she said. "Is something wrong?"

"Why would anything be wrong?"

"I don't know," Janice said. "I didn't expect to see you again tonight. At least not clothed. Is Chuck okay? Is he upset about Jones?"

"Chuck's fine," Sarah laughed. "We can't spend all of our time in bed, you know."

"That's right," Janice said sarcastically. "You have to spread it around some. Like on the couch, the bathtub, and oh, don't forget the kitchen table." Janice laughed at Sarah's face. "Tell me about what happened today. What did Jones know?"

Janice listened intently while Sarah described every detail of her encounter with Fred Jones. Finally she asked, "Do you think that he's bluffing?"

"I don't know," Sarah said. "It's the only thing that makes any sense."

"I don't trust Ben Adams," Janice said. "But I don't think that he would do anything this drastic. After all, he thinks I am handling this problem for him."

Sarah grinned broadly. "And he knows that I would make him suffer for a long time before I let him die," she said. "Beckman talked to him and is convinced that he didn't place any order."

"So what are you going to do tomorrow?" Janice asked. "Are you going to try and find out what Jones knows?"

"No way," Sarah said. "I barely made it out of there today without getting naked. Tomorrow, he'll be expecting a thousand times more. I might just call him and tell him that we're not interested in his offer."

"That should work," Janice agreed. "For now anyway. He's not going to give up recruiting you."

"I know," Sarah said. "But anyway, can you help me win a bet?"

"Bet?"

"Chuck says that you're not looking for what he and I have," Sarah laughed. "He thinks that you are looking for someone to share being a spy with. He actually thinks that Casey could be a long term interest for you. I told him that you would only be interested in a physical thing with Casey. So we made a bet. And I'm dying to win. So tell me I'm right, and I'm going to go spend the rest of the night collecting my winnings."

Janice looked at Sarah sadly for a long moment. Finally, she spoke. "I'm not sure what your bet was for," she said. "But I'm afraid that you lost. I'm not looking for what you and Chuck have. Because I'm not ready to commit myself to that level. I don't know what Casey and I could have. But I hope it's more than just sex."

Sarah could feel the blush start up her neck.

"Did you tell Casey that I just wanted sex?" Janice asked cautiously.

Sarah knew that she had just made a major mistake. "I'm sorry, sweetie," she said as the blush reached the roots of her hair. "I'll have Chuck talk to him."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck could tell by the look on Sarah's face that something was up as soon as she came back into the bedroom.

"Fine," she sighed as she threw herself on the bed beside him. "So you know her better."

Chuck didn't respond. He just stared at the ceiling with his classic grin.

"Janice wants you to talk to Casey," Sarah said. "And repair the damage that I did today."

"Okay," Chuck said. "Don't worry, Sarah. You were just trying to be her friend."

Sarah tried to change the subject. "So," she said as she clicked on the play list of his phone. "How do you want me to pay off? Same as last time?"

But to her surprise, Chuck reached over and turned off the music. "Not tonight," he said.

Sarah turned to him with concern. "What's wrong, sweetie?" she asked softly. "Are you worried about what happened with Fred…?"

"Nothing's wrong," Chuck interrupted. "Just the opposite. Everything's perfect. I'm laying here in bed with the most special person in the world. And I'd like to spend tonight making sure she knows how much I worship her. Would that be okay?"

Sarah had to blink away the tears that were quickly forming. How did he always know exactly what she needed? She knew that if she tried to answer him that she would break down. Finally she was able to whisper. "I do know. But I never get tired of hearing it."

"I never get tired of saying it," Chuck said. He kissed her gently on the lips and then moved down her neck softly kissing as he went. "And besides," he mumbled between kisses.

All Sarah could do was gasp.

"You can owe me."

x-x-x-x-x

A seven o'clock briefing was a little early for Chuck. Especially with last night's workout. Fortunately, he didn't have to pay attention. Since Chuck and Janice already knew all about the mission, the briefing was pretty anticlimactic. One thing that struck Chuck was how calmly Adams could lie. But, after all, he was the head of the world's largest intelligence apparatus. Being able to lie convincingly was probably a good skill to have. Of course, the other thing that he noticed was how incredibly gorgeous both ladies were. Even just out of bed without makeup, the natural beauty was stunning.

Normally, this wasn't a briefing that Sarah would have even attended. After all, she wasn't part of the mission. And Adams was visibly surprised that she was there. So much so that he overdid the play acting that this was a real mission. To listen to Adams, that thumb drive contained the launch codes for the entire nuclear missile fleet.

Chuck, for his part, was consumed with getting through the briefing without blowing the fact that he knew the truth. And that was doubly hard since he was furious. Normally, he would have been concerned about having to attempt to seduce another woman. And he especially wouldn't have wanted to get that assignment in front of Sarah. Now, however, that was overridden by his rage at what they were going to put Janice through. At this point, he was having a hard time deciding who he disliked more. Jones, the Fulcrum Elder who was actively trying to coerce his wife into bed. Or Adams, the head of the agency, who obviously saw the pool of female agents as his personal harem. Right now, Jones was probably in the lead. But not by much. And Adams was closing fast.

"Are there any questions?" Adams finally asked.

"Yes, sir," Janice said. "How are we supposed to identify our contacts?"

"Of course," Adams said. "You are to make dinner reservation for seven. They will ask for the Carmichael party. Here are their pictures."

As soon as Adams put the pictures on the screen Chuck flashed. Sarah and Janice both noticed right away.

"Good luck," Adams said as he closed the meeting. "Report your status as soon as practical."

As soon as the screen went blank, Sarah turned to Chuck. "Sweetie," she said. "What did you flash on?"

"The female agent is named Elise Walters," Chuck said as he shook the cobwebs out of his head. "She is Fulcrum."

As soon as the words were out of Chuck's mouth, Sarah had a flash of her own. Everything suddenly became crystal clear. Now she knew exactly what Fred Joes was talking about. She quickly glanced over to Janice. Her sad nod told Sarah everything she needed to know. But Janice said the words anyway.

"She is going to kill Chuck."

x-x-x-x-x

Elise sat on the plane as it approached LAX. One of the nice perks about being a CIA agent was that you got to fly first class. At one time, Elise was excited about this assignment. A free trip to Hollywood and she didn't even have to seduce anyone. It was very clear that she was to turn him down after a little necking.

But that was before she heard that the mark was actually married to Sarah Walker. This guy was probably the baddest and best agent the CIA had in its ranks, aside from Walker. Why the CIA thought she had a snowball's chance in hell of seducing this superman was anyone's guess. Her only weapon would be surprise; he certainly wouldn't be expecting such an attempt. Especially not from the likes of someone like herself.

One plus. Her partner wasn't going to be all over her on this assignment. Given their cover as a married couple, Elise had been positive that he would insist they practice being intimate. Just to be sure that they were believable in character, of course. After all, the men always did. But he was so looking forward to his romp with this Janice Beckman chick, that he wasn't even paying any attention to her. As a matter of fact, he hadn't said two words to her the entire flight. He had his nose buried in that damned sports magazine.

Well, why wouldn't he be relaxed? He doesn't have to mess with a superspy. Elise was so spooked about dealing with this badass that she had actually spent some extra time on the gun range, sharpening her skills, just in case. But who was she kidding? This was looking more and more like a suicide mission by the minute. But with Fulcrum on one side, and Adams on the other, there was no escape. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion—she had to wait for the dust to settle. Either she would walk away, or she wouldn't.

x-x-x-x-x

Janice looked into Sarah's eyes and saw something that she didn't immediately recognize – fear. It was more than a little unnerving. Sarah was always the calm, collected one in a crises. "Sarah," she said firmly. "Calm down. You look positively panicked."

Sarah just looked at her like she had grown another head. Didn't she hear? They are going to hurt Chuck. "You're damn right I'm panicked," Sarah replied sharply.

Chuck was shocked at the sight of Sarah. Her hands were actually shaking. "Janice is right," Chuck said. "Please calm down. We'll work this out."

At that point, all of the tension that Sarah was trying to keep bottled up came pouring out. "Calm down!" she shouted. "Chuck, they are going to kill you. They are going to send an agent to shoot you in the head and make it look like the CIA did it. Don't tell me to calm down."

Chuck knew that he had to settle her down. He concentrated on making his voice as calm as possible. "Let's work this out," he said. "Come on, Sarah. This isn't the first time that someone has wanted to kill me. And it probably won't be the last. Let's talk about our options."

"We could run," Janice said gently. At this point, it was her only idea. If they could run, maybe they could buy some time to figure something out.

"To where?" Sarah asked sarcastically. "If we run we will have both the CIA and Fulcrum after us. Even if the CIA isn't trying to kill you, there is no way the CIA is going to let the Intersect just disappear. And now they know about my safe house in Denver. The time to run was when we had Janice on the outside to help us. Now they know about her. We can't run."

"Okay," Chuck said. That actually made a lot of sense. They had barely made it to Denver last time. It would be doubly tough when they didn't have a safe destination. "We can't run. Let's rule that out. But I don't have to go on this mission. Or I can get the jump on her before she tries anything."

"That would only work for tomorrow," Janice said. "They would keep trying. And the next time, we wouldn't know about it in advance."

Chuck racked his brain trying to come up with an option. "Maybe the CIA could work out something," he said. "Maybe they can hide us."

"Come on, Chuck," Sarah said sharply. "Who do you trust in the CIA that isn't in this room? Ben Adams? It's a fucking CIA agent who's going to shoot you tomorrow."

"There has to be something," Janice said. It wasn't like Sarah to give up.

Sarah looked straight ahead for a long moment, deep in thought. There was only one alternative. But how to break it to Chuck? She had to get him alone. She took a deep breath. "Janice," she said. "I need to borrow a couple of your negligees. Maybe that blue one that you bought last week. And that red one that you wore for Bryce."

Janice knew immediately what Sarah was saying. Probably because it was the first thing she would have done. But is she sure? "Okay," she said. "Those are both pretty much see-through."

"I know," Sarah said. "Could you please go get them while I talk to Chuck?'

Janice just nodded as she met Sarah's eyes.

"And, Janice," Sarah said. "We'll need a minute. I'll call you when we're done."

As soon as Janice left the room, Sarah turned to Chuck.

Chuck knew that bad news was coming. "What are you…" he began.

Sarah knew that she needed to control the conversation or she would break down. "Stop," she interrupted. "Chuck, I need you to let me talk for a minute. I need you not to interrupt me until I'm done. Will you promise me?"

Chuck nodded his head. She wouldn't take that tone unless the situation was serious.

At least Chuck was calm. Maybe if she stayed calm they could get through this. "There is only one way out of this," Sarah said. "I'm going to go over today and give Fred Jones what he wants. And I know that you don't want that. And neither do I. But, sweetie it's the only way. That will protect you. And I know that this is going to be hard on you. But I need you to support me."

Wait a minute. Yesterday he wanted to see her in her bikini. Now why is she asking to borrow negligees? "What exactly are you going to do?" Chuck asked.

"He told me to bring some lingerie," Sarah said. "He wants me to model it for him."

Chuck's blood boiled. But he knew that showing anger at this point would just make her defensive. So he forced himself to stay calm. He knew damn well what this guy wanted with her. What would any man want after a private modeling session of see-through lingerie with someone as beautiful as Sarah? But he asked the question anyway. "And after that?"

Sarah looked around the room uncomfortably for a moment, avoiding his eyes. But there was no escaping the reality of the situation. "Whatever he wants," Sarah finally admitted. "I only have a general idea of what that might be. But I'm not going to lie to you. Whatever he asks me to do, I'll have no way to refuse."

"I see," Chuck said. "It's not happening."

Sarah knew that Chuck would try and protect her. She needed to give him no choice or he would try and talk her out of it. "Yes, it is," she said firmly. "I'm sorry but it's my professional judgment that this is the only way out of this. I've decided. And I'm going. I need you to support me."

"Sarah, it is not happening," Chuck said more insistently.

"Damn it, Chuck," Sarah screamed as the tears began to stream down her face. "Don't you get it? They are going to kill you. Do you know what that will do to me? Do you? I just found you. I can't lose you now. Please don't ask me to watch you die when I can save you. I can't. I can't live without you."

Sarah just sat and sobbed uncontrollably. Chuck could see her shaking violently. So he got up and went to put his arm around her. But she slapped it away.

Sarah's capacity for rational thought was now pretty much gone. All she knew was that they were going to kill him. That they were going to kill her Chuck. And now, he was the one standing in her way to save him. "Don't you touch me!" she screamed. "I thought that you said that we had something. I thought that you understood the things that I have to do. I thought that you loved me."

Chuck knew that he had to do something to get her to listen. "Don't you ever question my love for you," he screamed back. "If that would work, I might be able to live with it. But it won't work!"

Surprised, Sarah paused for a moment and looked at him. "Why won't it work?" she finally sobbed.

"It would just make you his slave," Chuck said. "Both personally and professionally."

"It would buy us some time," Sarah whispered. "I understand that it's not a long term solution. But we have to do something. They are going to kill you tomorrow."

"How much time would it buy?" Chuck asked softly. "Trust me. Once this pig gets a taste of you in bed, he is going to want more and more. And not just in bed. He is going to expect you to become a Fulcrum agent. He is planning on having you execute missions for him."

"I understand," Sarah said. "You're right. He is. I don't know what else to do."

"But, Sarah," Chuck said. "How long are you going to be able to hide the fact that you're pregnant? Do you think he is going to lose his top agent because she wants to have a baby? Are you ready to sacrifice her? And even if you could convince him to let you have her, little Kate will just become one more weapon in his arsenal of things to threaten you. He'll use her to control you. And there will be no way out. Sarah, I love you. You know that. More than I could possibly ever say. And I'll support whatever we decide to do. But this is not the way. Do you really want our daughter to live under that cloud?"

Sarah sat and stared straight ahead sobbing. Suddenly she was in Chuck's arms. "I'm so sorry," she said. "You're right."

Chuck held Sarah and rubbed her back as she cried for quite a long time.

"Sweetie," Sarah finally whispered. "I'm so sorry. I'm just panicked. I don't know what to do. I can't let them kill you. But know one thing. That bastard is never going to threaten our daughter."

"I know," Chuck said. "There is no need to be sorry. We just have to figure out what to do together."

"I know that you don't want to hear this," Sarah said. "But maybe I can give him what he wants today. And that will give us some time to figure something else out. We'll get over this. It's only one time. I'll make it up to you. I swear. Please don't hate me."

"Understand one thing," Chuck said. "If you never hear another thing that I ever say to you, hear this. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that could ever make me hate you. You are my life. And I'll admit that I don't want you to have to go over there and be degraded by that pig. That sickens me. And I don't think that it is the right thing to do. But if we decide together that is what has to happen, I'll support you – one hundred and ten percent. And you'll have nothing to make up to me. I'll have to do something to make it up to you. For better or for worse. That was our vow. I meant it then and I mean it now. Please don't ever question that."

"For better or for worse," Sarah whispered. "I meant it too."

"Both times?" Chuck asked with a smile.

Finally Chuck was able to coax a faint smile on her lips. "Yes, sweetie," she said. "Both times."

"Let's go upstairs," Chuck said as he kissed the top of Sarah's forehead. "We'll get Casey over here and the four of us will have a talk. I'll make us some tea. And Sarah, please don't worry."

Sarah looked at him expectantly.

"I know exactly what to do."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 18: The Bartowski Family Council

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Sarah sat on the couch cuddling. After all, Casey would take a few minutes to get here. So why waste that time when they could be necking? Janice knew that they needed some time to be alone so she gracefully hid out in the workout room. Chuck did note, with some level of amusement, that Janice had obviously found time to put on her makeup and had changed into some very sexy workout clothes once she heard that Casey was on his way. That blouse was unbuttoned to the point that it screamed to be looked down. Even Chuck had to remind himself not to look. If Sarah noticed it, she didn't say anything.

It was a bit of a risk having Casey come to the house. After all, it was possible that he was being tailed. And they didn't want to broadcast their association. But it was finally decided that it was a risk worth taking. Casey was an expert at losing a tail. And it was agreed that he would park a few blocks away. Sarah feigned going for an early morning run to check for anyone watching the house. And she was very thorough in her checking. Finally she was confident that they weren't being watched.

Chuck and Sarah had spent a lot of the past half hour whispering details of the plan to each other until they were confident that there were no holes. After they started, there was no turning back. But that was over now. And it was time for comfort. As the morning light filled the room, Chuck pulled Sarah into a strong embrace, wrapping his arms around her and wishing that he never had to let her go. He kissed her almost desperately, trying to force the thoughts of Fulcrum and the CIA from his mind. She returned his kiss with fervor, and neither of them noticed Casey enter the room.

Casey cleared his throat loudly. "Will you two give it a rest already?"

Janice came up the stairs and walked up behind Casey. He turned and his jaw lowered slightly as he took in her new outfit. He just managed to turn his gaze from her—assets—and stammered a bit. "Are they like this all the time?" he asked.

"All the time," Janice said with a smile. "It's like living in the back seat of a teenager's car on Friday night. We're lucky this morning. At least they're dressed."

"You called me over here," Casey said in mock disgust. "You said it was urgent. So how about you take your hand out of her shirt and tell me what is going on before I lose my breakfast?"

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones was watching the clock that hung on the wall in his office. The damned second hand was moving excruciatingly slow. After all, in a few hours this was shaping up to be one of the biggest days of his life.

He was about to secure the services of the top agent in the country. Sarah Walker was legendary. Jones knew that this would make his stock within Fulcrum soar. He had always been thought of as one of the weaker Elders. But no more. His delivery of Walker and the associated havoc that she was going to reign on the CIA would vault him to the very top. And the best part was he had her. She had no choice but to follow his orders. He knew her weakness. He knew it. And she knew it.

But to be completely honest, Fulcrum was not the first thing on Jones's mind today. Oh, it would be a great day for his career. But that was trumped by his personal aspirations. He was finally going to have Sarah Walker. And he was going to enjoy this afternoon to the fullest. One good thing about the day's delay. It had given him a chance to get cameras installed in the house. This was going to be an afternoon that he would never forget.

Now only if that damn clock would move a little faster.

x-x-x-x-x

It was normally far too early for Scotch. But this wasn't a normal day. So Janice compromised. She poured four cups of coffee and added a healthy dose of scotch to hers and Casey's. And while she knew that they were about to have a life and death discussion, a little of her couldn't help but notice how damn hot Casey looked in a plain t-shirt and jeans. And why was she blushing? After all, you could invade Europe with the group of men that had checked out her chest before. Why was the hair on the back of her neck tingling? At least he was obviously looking. That was a good sign.

When they were all comfortably sitting at the table, Chuck cleared his throat to get their attention.

"Sarah and I have made a decision," he said as he squeezed Sarah's hand for support. "I think that it goes without saying that our baby is the most important thing in the world to us. And most couples don't have to worry about raising their family in a safe environment. But that isn't our fate. We're going to have to earn that right."

Sarah looked over at Chuck and flashed him a reassuring smile.

"The way we see it," Chuck continued. "We have three choices. The first is obvious. We can run." Chuck saw Casey's eyebrows raise but he didn't interrupt. "That probably won't work. We would have to run for the rest of our lives. And that would be no life for a family. So that's out."

"The second choice is more difficult," Chuck continued. "We can give in. That would mean that Sarah would go over to Fred Jones and negotiate with him. We all know what that would mean. I'll skip the lurid details but she would have to submit to him completely. Both personally and professionally. She would have to betray the country and everything that we believe in on a regular basis. But it is possible that she'd be able to negotiate terms that would protect our family. Sarah and I have discussed this and if it is the last resort to protect our baby, we're going to be willing to do it. Nothing is a higher priority than baby Kate."

Casey clenched his fists and turned to stare at Chuck. He spoke quietly but there could be no mistaking the smoldering anger in his voice. "That is unacceptable, Bartowski."

"We agree," Chuck said. "And that's why we have decided to fight. They won't let us live in peace. So we're going to destroy them. We're going to take down Fulcrum. And after that we're going to take down Ben Adams. I'm not sure which I actually hate more."

"How are we going to do that?" Janice asked with her mouth open in surprise. "The four of us?"

"From the inside," Chuck said. "We have to act now, before Sarah starts showing. We have a plan and we think it has a reasonable chance. But I'll be right upfront. It is risky. And it involves doing some distasteful things. Sarah and I feel like we have no choice. But we put no such obligation upon you. You know how we feel about you guys. And if you feel like the risk is too great, please don't hesitate to say so. Our feelings won't change a single bit."

Janice could feel the anger welling up inside of her. Finally she couldn't help but explode. "How dare you," she said sharply. "After all we've been through, how could you possibly insult me like this?"

"Insult you?" Chuck asked.

"You would dare to suggest that I would let you fight and not be beside you?" Janice said as the angry tears began to fill her eyes. "I thought that you knew me better than that."

"Guys," Chuck said. "I appreciate your loyalty to us. More than I can say. But think about it. We're plotting to overthrow your superior officer. That's treason."

"She's right," Casey growled. "I really didn't come over here to be insulted."

"We know," Sarah said softly. "We're not trying to insult you. We have no question that you would do anything that we asked you to do. But this is a desperate situation. We wanted you to be able to have a chance to decide for yourself if it's worth it. And Chuck's right. Whatever you decide this morning is not going to change how we feel about you."

"We're wasting time," Casey growled. "Are we going to talk about some bullshit rules? Or are we going to get down to business? Why don't you shut the hell up and tell us this plan that boy genius here is so proud of?"

At that moment in time, Casey had never been more attractive to Janice. "He's right," she said as she flashed him a smile. "Tell us the plan. At least Sarah isn't going to have to borrow my negligees."

"Sorry," Chuck said. "She is still going to need the negligees." Chuck had to pause for a moment to grin at the surprise on their faces. "These men are both pigs. And Sarah and Janice's bodies are our main weapon. We need to keep their minds on wanting them. That's when they are going to make mistakes."

"So," Janice said slowly. "Sarah is going to give in to him?"

"Of course not," Chuck said. "Think of your seduction training. She is just going to make him think that she might give in to him someday. If he continues to behave. If you're willing, you're going to do the same thing. He'll stick his neck out a mile to make that happen. And when he does, we're going to fucking chop it off."

"Now you're talking," said Casey. "But how is that going…"

"Wait a minute," Chuck said. "I'll answer all of your questions." He looked over at Sarah who was smiling lovingly at him. "But first, let me tell you the plan."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah decided to not attempt to bypass Jones's security today. Of course that meant she was subject to being searched. And that always meant the obligatory search for machine guns inside of her bra. So she pulled a fast one on them. She didn't wear one. It actually fit in better with Chuck's plan anyway. Sarah knew that she needed to let Jones think that she was there straight up, ready to submit. So, it was worth the momentary annoyance. After all, what did it matter if two more losers stared at her chest for a couple of minutes? They were certainly in good company. Finally she was escorted into Jones's living room where he was sitting on the sofa.

Sarah was really looking forward to this encounter. She had been taking crap from this guy for far too long. It was time to fight back. It was going to be so much fun to put this jerk in his place. So much so that she had to force the smirk off her face. Sarah walked to stand directly in front of him. "Reporting as ordered, sir," she said.

Jones looked at the vision that was standing in front of him. He had his usual drink, Jim Beam and water in his hand. "Sarah," Jones said as he took a sip of his drink to calm his nerves. "I assume you're here to prove yourself."

"Yes, sir," Sarah said. "I'm here to protect my husband's life. If you can guarantee his safety, I'm yours all afternoon. I'll gladly obey any order you issue."

Those were the words he'd been dying to hear. "I'll guarantee his safety," Jones said as he took another sip. "That was our deal. Are you ready to begin?"

"Permission to be casual, sir?" Sarah asked. His eyes were boring directly into her chest. Good, that will distract him.

"Granted," Jones said as he forced his eyes off her chest long enough to look at her face. "You're looking lovely today. What do you have with you?"

Sarah walked over to him and kneeled down, resting her chin on his knee. She gave him a 'come hither' gesture with her finger and he leaned forward. She moved her lips to his ear and whispered softly, while her hands slid along his thighs. "Thank you. I have the lingerie you asked me to bring. Would you like to see one?

Hell yes! A gasp escaped from his lips, and Jones cursed himself for it. He could barely speak coherently. "Very much, Sarah."

Sarah leaned back and gave him her shyest smile. Then she opened the bag, selecting the hot red number that Janice had bought to drive Bryce crazy.

Jones did a double take as Sarah held the garment in place against her body.

Naturally, Sarah had been in this position with marks before. But somehow it was different this time. Before it had always been about the job. Now it was personal. Jones represented everything that she had dedicated her life to fight against. And far worse, this bastard was asking her to hurt Chuck. She was going to enjoy making him suffer. The look in his eyes told Sarah everything that she needed to know. And Chuck was absolutely right. Jones was no longer in charge. She now was. It felt great to turn the tables. "Do you like?" she whispered.

Although Jones was desperately trying to play it cool, all he could do was nod. He couldn't believe what Sarah held in front of him. It was absolutely transparent. In a second, this goddess was going to be kneeling in front of him wearing next to nothing. And in a few minutes after that, she would be literally wearing nothing.

Sarah's thoughts drifted to Chuck. And how much she wanted out of there so she could get back to him. After all, tonight was going to be their last one together for a while. But she knew that she had to concentrate. The more turned on he became, the more she was in charge. "We have a small problem," Sarah said with a soft smile as she softly stroked the inside of his thigh. "Actually, I can see that it is becoming a fairly large problem. You're on fire. You're in no condition to pay attention to my show. Not many men have ever seen what I'm about to show you. I think that deserves your undivided attention. Don't you?"

Jones was only half paying attention to what she was saying. But she was right about one thing. He was on fire.

Sarah grinned involuntarily as she realized how completely aroused he had become. It was time to turn up the heat even a little farther. She forced the grin away and replaced it with her sexiest pout. "And here I am already on my knees in a perfect position to fix your problem," she said shyly. "Would you like that?"

Jones opened his mouth to say yes. But nothing came out. So he took a sip of his drink. "Yes," he was finally able to choke out.

It was now time for the pig to become bacon. "Great," Sarah said. "After all, this is your day. Would you like me to take off my shirt first?"

All Jones could do was nod.

Sarah said as she reached for the hem of her shirt and began to lift it. Just as she reached the bottom of her breasts, she paused. It was time to spring Chuck's trap. "All I need is the name of the agent that they assigned to kill my husband," Sarah said as she held her position.

At first Jones didn't recognize that she was asking him a question. After a moment, it hit him. "That wasn't our deal," he said.

"I know," Sarah said softly as she kept her hands in place with her shirt just barely covering the upper half of her breasts. Now it was time to drive the stake right through this asshole's heart. "But I'm afraid this is a deal breaker. I really need the name. That way I can deal with him. I want to send my own message."

It took a long moment for Jones to realize what she had said. Frankly he didn't remember the name of the agent that they had assigned. And he wouldn't have given it up anyway. The very last thing that could happen was for Sarah Walker to capture her and find out the she was Fulcrum. That would be a total disaster.

"You must know his name," Sarah said with a soft smile. "Right? How else could you guarantee Chuck's safety?"

Damn. Now Jones was really stuck. She was right. How could he claim to be able to protect him if he didn't know who was after him? "Of course I know," was all he could think of to say.

"I think this is more than fair," she said. "For the price you're going to ask me to pay this afternoon, I want to kill this bastard myself. And it's not going to be pretty. I'm going to do it in a way that the next agent they attempt to assign will take full note of. What's it to you if there's one less CIA agent running around? Give me a name and my shirt is lying on the floor and you're on your way to an experience of ecstasy that you'll never forget. Please? I promise you won't be disappointed."

Fortunately, Jones was nothing if not resourceful. You didn't get to be an Elder unless you could think on your feet. He quickly decided that he didn't have to know the name. He would just make up one and by the time she could check it out, he would have a very descriptive tape. So he looked around the room trying to think of a name, when his eyes fixed on his bottle of whiskey. "Okay," he sighed. "I'll tell you as a sign of good faith. The agent's name is Beam. Don Beam."

Jones may have been a sharp thinker. But he wasn't even in the same league as her Chuck. Sarah was completely ready for this. "Don Beam," Sarah said as she dropped the hold that she had on her shirt and it fell back into place. "Donald Beam from Boston? You do know that he's dead? We were in the same class at the academy. I just got a notification to attend his funeral. He was killed on a mission last week." Naturally, that was all a lie. Sarah had no idea who Don Beam was. She was almost certain that there was no Don Beam. She was also almost certain that Fred Jones was going to break into tears any second now.

Jones couldn't believe his ears. This couldn't be happening. He knew that it was all slipping away quickly. There was no way to change the name now. "They might assign someone else," he said in desperation.

Sarah was biting down on the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. "They probably will," she said as she put her lingerie back in her bag and stood up. "If you get a name, give me a call and I'll come back." Sarah knew that she had to get out of the room fast or she was going to break out laughing. But once she was out of sight, she paused to listen. She couldn't suppress the giggle as heard the unmistakable sound of a glass being thrown against the wall and a loud cry.

Son of a bitch.

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Sarah walked into the house, Chuck was standing in the living room waiting for her. He didn't have to ask how it went. Her grin said all he needed to know. But that didn't keep her from throwing herself into his open arms.

"It went just like you said," Sarah said as she pressed her lips to his. "I don't think that he is going to be able to walk upright for a while."

Chuck couldn't get over how happy Sarah was. It was infectious. She was positively giddy. "It's funny," he said. "I almost feel sorry for him. No, take that back. I don't feel sorry for him at all."

"Where is Janice?" Sarah said. "I want to tell her about the look of despair in his face. It was so great."

"She is downstairs showing Casey the shooting range," Chuck said with a smile. "Why don't you give them a few minutes?"

"Why?" Sarah said. "Didn't you talk to Casey? I thought you said that she just wanted to talk?"

"I said that she wants to talk," Chuck said. "I didn't say that she just wants to talk. This is Janice, after all."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice was having a blast. She thought it was fun teaching Chuck how to shoot. And it was. After he started honestly trying, anyway. But it was even more fun shooting with someone who was better than her. And Casey was definitely better. He was probably the best shot she had ever met.

It was amazing how quickly they hit it off. Janice always said that she wanted someone who would talk to her. But it turned out that not talking worked just as well. After all, it was hard to talk over the gunfire anyway.

Casey had just hit eight moving targets in a row. It was one of the most impressive shooting displays Janice had ever seen.

"How about a friendly wager?" Janice asked as Casey paused to reload.

"Ten shots," Janice said in response to Casey's raised eyebrows. "The targets on the fastest speed. Loser buys dinner."

"You've got a bet," Casey said with a grin. "Do you want to go first?"

The range was set up to display targets at random. The drill was to pick out if a target was an enemy and shoot the enemy before the target disappeared. And if you shot a friendly, your turn was over. At the fastest setting, you only had a split second to make a decision and fire. Janice usually averaged about six hits out of ten in this exercise. And she knew that wasn't going to beat Casey. So she called on her training to concentrate. After all, Janice was nothing if not competitive. And when her turn was over, Janice had scored seven.

"Very nice shooting," Casey said with no hint of condescension in his voice.

Janice returned his smile with one of her own. She knew that Casey could probably beat that score under normal circumstances. But let's see how well he performs under pressure. So she 'accidentally' dropped an empty clip. As she bent over to pick it up, she made sure that Casey had an excellent view down her shirt. Especially since she had managed to unbutton an extra button while he was loading.

"Casey," Janice said softly.

"Huh," Casey finally responded as he shook out of his trance.

"Good luck."

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones was on his regular status conference call.

"So," one of the other Elders said in a condescending tone. "You weren't able to seduce Sarah Walker."

Jones kicked himself. This was the worst part. Having to listen to the other Elders make fun of him. "It's not over yet," Jones said. "I'm very, very close."

"Our agent is in place," Elder Mark said. "She is waiting for her go code."

"Walker wants to find this agent," Jones said. "It would be a disaster if she discovered that she was Fulcrum."

"Don't worry," Mark said. "Walker will have no way to find out. We always planned on killing Elise Walters as soon as she executes her assignment. It's a shame. She's actually quite lovely. I'm going to miss her."

"Okay," the other Elder laughed derisively. "Whatever you two studs say. But how should we proceed on our plan? What should we do with Mr. Bartowski?"

Jones smiled to himself before he answered. Sarah Walker was going to pay. Then she was going to pay some more. Then she was really going to pay.

"Kill him."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Sarah were lying on the bed in their favorite position. Casey and Janice had gone out for dinner. They said it was to give Chuck and Sarah some privacy. But it was pretty obvious that they also wanted some alone time themselves. So Chuck just ordered some Chinese food to be delivered. That was some time ago. It was getting late, but not quite time for bed.

"I'm so proud of you," Sarah said. "That worked exactly like you said today."

"Proud of me?" Chuck asked. "Thank the CIA. You're the one who taught me all about the power of seduction. It's really pretty simple. Offer him what he wants - but set terms that you know he can't meet. You just executed it perfectly. Besides, he's probably ordering me to be killed as we speak."

Sarah scanned Chuck's face for any sign of worry. But, to her relief, she didn't see one. "But we planned for that to happen," she said. "Right? You're not worried, are you?"

"No," Chuck said. "I'm not worried. I have every confidence in you. It's just that today's test was an easier one. They're going to get harder."

"Speaking of harder," Sarah said with a smile. "We have the entire house to ourselves. And I'm in the mood to pay off my bet. Are you ready? This would be a good time."

"Maybe," Chuck said with a grin. "But you know that I don't like you thinking I'm a pig. You already had to deal with one pig today."

"Sweetie," Sarah said. "We've been all through this. You're not a pig. You're my husband. You're the love of my life. What I gladly do for you and what people like Fred Jones asks me to do are light years apart."

"I'm impressed," Chuck said. "You knew that light years was a measure of distance and not time."

"I may not be a geek," Sarah said with a laugh as she reached over to kiss him. "But I'm not stupid either. I am also going to win a bet one of these days. And when I do I expect a similar commitment from you. Now tell me, Mr. Bartowski. How I can serve you to pay off my debt?"

"Well," Chuck said awkwardly. "It's a shame that you never got a chance to model those negligees today."

Sarah smiled at his discomfort. He is so cute. "Which one first?" she asked excitedly as she jumped off the bed and grabbed her bag.

"How about the red one?"

When Sarah stepped out of the bathroom wearing that see-through negligee, Chuck was sure that he was going to have a heart attack. It was the single sexiest sight of his entire life. Chuck knew that they probably weren't going to get to the other three tonight. But that was okay. There would be other nights. Just before he succumbed to his feelings of passion, he had a final, fleeting thought.

Sorry Fred. This is something you're never going to see. But thanks for the idea.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 19: The Long Goodbye

x-x-x-x-x

Janice took a drink of her beer and looked over at Casey. His face was dotted with barbeque sauce. Of course, that meant that hers was probably as well. And the truth was, she didn't care in the least. That was an amazing admission for Janice Beckman. The first rule of being a female spy was to look sexy and sophisticated at all times. But that was completely out the window tonight.

A rib shack was an odd choice for a first date. After all, it was hard to look dignified while eating ribs. Most guys would have tried to impress her by choosing a fancy restaurant they could pick. Or selecting the most expensive wine. And they would attempt to parlay that impression into bed.

But obviously, Casey wasn't most guys. And Janice had to admit, she loved ribs. So when he suggested this fabulous place that he knew about, she agreed. And since Janice didn't know a single restaurant in the L.A. area, she really had little choice but to follow his lead.

But one thing that Janice did know. She was having a blast. Not only was the food amazing, but she and Casey were acting like they had known each other for years instead of days. And they were entertaining each other with Chuck and Sarah stories. Well, actually, mostly Chuck stories. Janice couldn't remember the last time she had laughed so hard.

"So," Casey said. "You really tried to teach the moron to shoot? You're either braver than I thought or dumber than I thought."

"Hey," Janice said while she was laughing. "Can't I be both? Actually Chuck did really great."

"That's hard to believe," Casey said with his own laugh. "The one time he carried a gun on a mission, he dropped it and it shot a mark in the leg."

"He dropped it?" Janice said. "That sounds like Chuck."

"Actually," Casey said. "It worked out. The shot caused a distraction and allowed Walker and me to gain the upper hand."

Janice just shook her head. "Yup," she said. "That's our Chuck. The man could fall into a sewer and come out smelling like a rose."

"Do you want another beer?" Casey said. "After all, you won the bet. Remind me to never bet with you again. You cheat."

"I'd love another beer," Janice said as her eyes sparkled. "What do you mean, I cheat? You have to use all of your assets. It wouldn't be cheating if you used your muscles, would it?"

Suddenly Casey got a little more serious. "Can I tell you something?" he asked.

"Sure."

"I'm having a great time," Casey said. "I can't remember when I had more fun."

"I'll bet it was when you were shooting someone," Janice said with a grin. "Actually, I'm having a great time too."

It was the first awkward silence of the entire evening.

"Do you think that Chuck's plan has a chance?" Janice finally asked softly.

"There's one thing I've learned over the past two years," Casey said with a smile. "Never bet against Bartowski. It won't go nearly like he said…"

Janice finished his sentence with a giggle. "But he'll come out smelling like a rose."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice was lying on her bed reliving the date. Her television was on, but she wasn't really watching. It had been a long time since she had that warm glowing feeling in her stomach. And as disappointed as she was that Casey had declined to come in with her, she was also impressed. He was obviously going to make an attempt to be more than just a bed partner. And he was willing to turn down her implied offer of sex tonight in order to prove that to her. Wow, not many guys would do that. As she thought about their last conversation, she heard a knock at her door.

"Yes," she called.

Chuck popped his head inside the door. "I saw your light," he said softly. "Can I come in?"

"Of course, Chuck."

"Are you decent?"

Janice looked down at her nightgown. It wasn't a transparent negligee. But it certainly wasn't modest. If you looked hard, you could definitely see her chest. "I'll leave that to your judgment," she said with a smile.

"I'm just checking how your date went," Chuck said as he came in and sat on the bed next to her.

"It wasn't a date," Janice said with a smile. But she knew that Chuck wasn't buying that. "It was just dinner. Where's Sarah?"

"She's sleeping," Chuck said. "I couldn't sleep." Chuck took a moment to look around the room. "I don't see Casey. So either he's hiding under the bed or things didn't go that well."

He is so sweet. "Things went fine," Janice said with a grin. "Actually, they went more than fine. Satisfied, dad? I'm sorry that I didn't make my curfew. Please don't ground me."

"Okay," Chuck said with his own grin. "I guess I could let you slide a little today. I do see that you cleaned your room. Did you do all of your homework?"

But then both Chuck and Janice got quiet. They both just sat there next to each other for a long moment.

Finally Chuck stirred. "There is something else that I want to talk to you about," he said without turning to look at her.

"What is it, Chuck?"

"About our plan," Chuck started hesitantly. "I know that we're asking you to do a lot of the… umm… the dirty work. And I feel horrible about that."

"Don't…"

"Please let me finish," Chuck interrupted. "I just want you to know that if you don't want to do it, tell me. I promise that I'll never tell anyone. It will just be between us. I'll make up some excuse. And Janice, I'll still love you just as much."

Janice slid closer to Chuck and put her head on his shoulder. "I know," she whispered. "Don't worry. This is what I do. And this needs to be done. I'm proud that you're letting me fight along side of you."

Chuck put his arm around Janice and gently rubbed her shoulder. "You need to stay safe," he said. "I'll be worried about you. You'll never know how much I admire you. Can I ask for one more favor?"

Janice just nodded with her head still on Chuck's shoulder.

"Take care of her," Chuck whispered to keep his voice from breaking. "If anything happens to Sarah or the baby, I don't… I don't…" Chuck tried to continue a couple of times but just couldn't get the words out.

Seeing Chuck hurting simply broke Janice's heart. "Don't worry, Chuck," she whispered. "I'll make sure that you get your wife and baby back. I swear. I love them too, you know?"

"Thanks," Chuck said as he tried to wipe the tears from his eyes with his free hand. "That means a lot to me."

Janice continued to rest her head on Chuck's shoulder. It felt so warm, so safe, so nice. And even though it was not a romantic moment at all, Janice was overwhelmed by the feeling. She was kidding Chuck earlier about acting like her dad. But the truth was, that's exactly what it felt like. She could stay there forever.

Finally, after a few minutes, Chuck stirred. "Well," he said. "I'd better get back to bed. Tomorrow's going to be a busy day."

Janice didn't respond.

"Janice," Chuck said gently.

She still didn't respond.

Finally Chuck turned to look at her. She was sound asleep. So Chuck just smiled and gently guided her head to her pillow. Then he lifted her legs on to the bed. Once he had the blanket pulled up, he softly kissed the top of her head.

"Goodnight beautiful," he whispered. "You've had a long day."

Janice just rolled over to her side, still sleeping. Chuck clicked off her television and walked to the door. Just before he walked out of the room he turned back towards the bed and whispered, knowing full well that she couldn't hear.

"I hope that you find what you're looking for."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah sat hidden in the dark hallway wearing her regular mission blacks. She had her gun drawn and at the ready. Her job was to protect the rear entrance and make sure that Chuck and Casey weren't surprised from the rear.

So far, the mission had gone exactly how Chuck had planned. But Sarah still couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right. She didn't know exactly what. But her spy instincts were almost never wrong. And that had her completely on edge.

Sarah caught a glimpse of Chuck coming from the elevator towards his room. The woman with him must be that Elise bitch. And the way she was clinging to him. Could she possibly be any more obvious? At least Casey was waiting inside of the room to take care of her. After they had her captured, Sarah was definitely going to take her shot. She was looking forward to that moment. Nobody threatened her Chuck and lived to tell about it.

Suddenly Sarah heard a shot ring out. It sounded like it came from the back stairway. So she carefully walked to the stairs and opened the door just a crack. To her horror, she saw Casey laying there.

"Casey," Sarah yelled. "Are you okay? Why aren't you in Chuck's room?"

"Ambushed," was all Casey could say. It was then that Sarah noticed the blood that was flowing from Casey's chest. "Go get Chuck."

Sarah ran down the hall in a panic. She tried to kick in the door to his room, but it was pretty sturdy. It took her three tries before the door finally gave way. When Sarah entered the room, the first thing that she noticed was Chuck lying there in a pool of blood. Sarah quickly ripped open his shirt to see where the wound was. She desperately tried to apply pressure to stem the flow but she quickly realized that it was hopeless. The shot was clearly fatal.

"Please," Sarah sobbed as she held his head. "Please, sweetie. Please wake up."

But Chuck just lay there motionless. Sarah could only scream. "Please, sweetie! Please wake up!"

"I'm awake," Chuck said as he shook Sarah gently awake. "I think the whole neighborhood is awake now. You're just having a bad dream."

It took Sarah a moment to realize that it was just a dream. But once she did, she clung to Chuck like she was never going to let go.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Chuck asked as he rubbed her back. He could feel her shaking.

"I'm so sorry that I woke you," Sarah said. "I'm okay."

But Chuck knew better. "Don't be sorry," he said as he tightened his grip. "That's what I'm here for."

Sarah forced herself to calm down. He needed to get back to sleep and he wouldn't if he thought that she was hurting. So she reached up and kissed him. "I'm fine," she said as calmly as she could.

Chuck still wasn't buying it. "It was just a dream," he said.

"I know," Sarah said. "Sweetie, I'm fine. Really. Just hold me and let's go back to sleep."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah was fully awake. And she knew that it was pointless to lie there. She was far too spooked to go back to sleep. The last thing that she wanted was to wake Chuck up. After all, it was his ass that was on the line today. He needed to be well rested. So she got up and went to make some coffee. To her surprise, Janice was already at the kitchen table drinking her own cup of coffee.

"Morning," Janice said as she poured Sarah a cup. "Where's Chuck?"

"Still sleeping," Sarah said. "I can't sleep. I'm way too nervous."

"I know," Janice said. "Me too. But I think he'll be okay. We have to trust the plan."

"It's funny," Sarah said. "Neither one of us are worried about what we have to do. We're both worried about Chuck."

"I guess that's what love is," Janice said. "I wish you would have warned me. It kinda sucks."

Sarah smiled at how far Janice had come in such a short time. Actually using the L word? "It's worth it," she said.

"Maybe," Janice replied. "It still sucks."

"I know."

"You do know that Casey is on his way over?" Janice asked.

"Good," Sarah said. "I want to talk to him."

"And you do understand that I'm trying to start something with him?"

Sarah was surprised at the hostility in Janice's voice. "Of course, sweetie," she said. "I'm rooting for you."

"Then do you think you could put on some clothes?" Janice asked.

Suddenly Sarah realized that she was still wearing the red negligee from last night… and nothing else. "Good call," she said with a laugh. "I can't let Casey see this. Both he and Chuck would have heart attacks."

"Thanks," Janice said sarcastically. "Who needs that kind of competition?"

The edge in Janice's voice caused Sarah to take notice. "Sweetie," she said. "What's wrong? Did something happen with Casey?"

"I'm sorry that I snapped," Janice said with a sigh. "Casey was perfect. We had a blast. I'm just sort of freaked out. I had a bad dream."

That caused Sarah's heart to leap into her throat. "Dream?" she asked.

"It was silly," Janice said. "We were on the mission and something went wrong. Chuck got shot. And by the time I could get there it was too late."

Janice could see Sarah's hands shaking. "Don't worry," she said. "It was just a dream. I just had a hard time getting back to sleep."

"You don't understand," Sarah said. Her voice was so shaky that Janice had to struggle to understand her.

Janice looked at her expectantly.

"I had the same exact dream."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah didn't want to get fully dressed. Even though last night had certainly been fun, Sarah was still hoping that she and Chuck would have a chance to say goodbye properly one last time. After all, they weren't going to see each other for a few days. It was going to be the longest amount of time that they had been apart since they had met. And that was if everything went perfectly. But obviously, talking to Casey in that transparent negligee would never do. So she threw on her bathrobe. Sure, it made her look like she was sixty. But it would suffice.

Sarah did take a moment to do her favorite thing in the world. She sat on the side of the bed and watched his face as he slept. The last thing that she wanted to do was wake him up. But she just couldn't help but run her fingers through his hair a couple of times. And even though she was still quite freaked out, just touching him helped a lot.

When Sarah finally forced herself to leave the bedroom, Casey was already at the table with his own cup of coffee. With a glance from Sarah, Janice quickly excused herself.

"What's up, Walker?" Casey asked in his typical unsubtle right-to-the-point style. Janice had already told him about the dreams. She was obviously spooked. And honestly, it spooked him a little as well. They had identical dreams? That was a little freaky.

In spite of her tenseness, Sarah couldn't help but smile. "It hasn't been Walker for quite a while," she said. "You crashed our wedding, remember?"

"I know," Casey said. "Sorry. Force of habit. What's up, Mrs. Bartowski?"

"I need a favor, John," Sarah said.

Casey knew Sarah well enough to know when she was serious. And now certainly qualified. The tone in her voice and the way she wouldn't meet his eye told him. And did she just call me John? She never calls me John. "Shoot," he replied.

"I know that I don't have to ask you this," Sarah said. "I even know that it might be considered a little insulting. I'm sorry about that. I just need to know that he's going to be okay."

"He'll be fine."

"Not good enough," Sarah said quickly. "I have a horrible feeling about this, Casey. I need you to promise me. I need you to look me in the eye and promise me that he'll be okay." At this point, Sarah's voice broke down to barely a whisper. "Please," she said. "I can't live without him."

"Sarah," Casey said. "Look at me." He paused until Sarah lifted her head and looked into his eyes. He could see something in her eyes that he had never seen before. Dread. And he knew what she needed to hear. "He'll be fine, Sarah," Casey said as gently as he could. "I promise. Your baby needs a father. You just worry about the plan. I'll take care of Chuck."

"Thanks, John," Sarah said.

"You're welcome," Casey said. "Unless, of course, he starts talking to me about sandwiches. Then I just might have to shoot him myself."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah finally decided to simply take off her housecoat, climb back into bed, and watch him sleep until he woke up. Fortunately, it didn't take very long at all before his eyes opened and that familiar smile was directed at her.

"Morning gorgeous," Chuck said. But he knew immediately that there was something still very wrong. So he put his arm around Sarah and pulled her tight to him. "Don't worry," he whispered. "It was just a dream."

'I have such a horrible feeling," Sarah said as she buried her face into his chest. "I feel like I'm never going to see you again."

"Well you are," Chuck said. "I've already penciled in some dates in my calendar."

"Dates?"

"Yup," Chuck said. "I want you to listen to me. I already know exactly where I'm going to be in a year from now. I'm going to be listening to Kate as she says her first words. Then I'm going to be there to catch her as she takes her first step. I'm going to be there with you when we tell her that she has a little brother on the way. I'm going to be holding her hand as we take her to her first day of school."

Sarah was forced to smile. How did he always know what she needed to hear? "It sounds like you're going to be pretty busy," she said.

"Not only that," Chuck said. "I'm going to have to tell Kate a funny story to get her mind off the first time that a boy breaks her heart. Then I'm going to have to tell you a funny story to keep you from throwing a knife at him."

"Why would a boy break her heart?" Sarah asked. "He deserves a knife. Don't you think?"

"Maybe," Chuck said with a laugh. "But that's frowned upon outside of the CIA. Not to mention trying to keep Casey from teaching her to shoot a gun when she's six."

"I know," Sarah said as her eyes sparkled. "But that pales compared to what Janice is going to try to teach her when she's sixteen."

"Why would you tell me that?" Chuck laughed. "Now I'm the one with a horrible feeling. Don't worry. I'm going to talk to Janice today."

"Sorry."

"That's why we're doing this," Chuck said. "To earn the right to have that life. But also for each other. Remember that. When things look bad in the next few days and you're feeling lonely or scared, I want you to remember the promise that I made to you."

"Promise?" Sarah questioned.

"You don't remember?" Chuck said. "That's a little disappointing. Maybe I'd better tell you again. I, Charles, take you Sarah, to be my wife, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part."

It was perhaps the single most romantic moment of Sarah's life. "I do remember," she said softly. "And I promised you right back. I, Sarah, take you Chuck, to be my husband, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part."

"I guess that makes it official," Chuck said with a grin. "I now pronounce us husband and wife… again."

Sarah smiled as she lifted her head up from Chuck's chest.

"You may kiss the bride."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 20: The Fall of Elise Walters

x-x-x-x-x

Elise was just about to get to sleep. It was only ten local time. But her body was telling her that it was one in the morning. The time difference always kicked her when she was traveling. And she knew that she had a big day ahead. If she had any shot of surviving tomorrow, she needed a good night's sleep. So it was typical timing that just as she got comfortable, her cell phone rang. Her caller ID didn't register a name.

"Walters," she answered hesitantly.

"Elise," Mark said. "This is Mark. Are you secure?"

"Yes, sir," Elise said.

"There has been a change in plans," Mark said.

Elise was very relieved. Maybe she would live past tomorrow after all. "Yes, sir?" she asked.

"We no longer want you to capture Mr. Bartowski," Mark said. "We just want you to kill him."

Elise's heart sank. She was hoping that the mission would be cancelled. But at least she didn't have to capture and hold him. Maybe if she could surprise him, this wouldn't be so tough. "Yes, sir," she said.

"Make sure that the body is public," Mark said. "As soon as your assignment is complete, call me and let me know. Then call Ben Adams as we've previously discussed. As soon as that is complete, go off the grid for three days. I'm coming to the area. Contact me on Friday and we'll meet."

"Yes, sir," Elise said. "Three days."

He could tell that Elise wasn't happy. "Cheer up," Mark said. "This is an important assignment. I'll have a surprise waiting for you." What he didn't tell her was that the surprise was a bullet between her eyes. But there was no reason why he couldn't have one more night of fun.

Elise wasn't sure what the surprise could possibly be. But she was sure of one thing. It involved her clothes lying on the floor. "Thank you, sir," she said.

"Until Friday," Mark said as he disconnected the call.

"Until Friday," Elise repeated into a now dead phone. "Assuming I'm still alive."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Janice had just checked into their hotel. And it was very nice. One thing was for sure, the CIA didn't spare any expense when it came to a believable cover. It was a room that one would expect to be waiting for a leading software executive and his new wife. The hotel was certainly pulling out all the stops to impress him. There was even a chilled bottle of champagne and fresh strawberries waiting for them.

Chuck had always thought that they would play the cover on this mission casually. After all, it wasn't a real mission. It was all a setup. Why would it matter if people believed that Janice and he were newlyweds? But Sarah told him, in no uncertain terms, that was completely unacceptable. He could still feel the spot where she had poked her finger into his chest. But after she explained, it made some sense. After all, they really didn't know what Fulcrum's exact plans were. To avoid raising suspicions they would have to play up the couple aspect. Of course Sarah did make a point to apologize for the poke. And her apology nearly made Chuck forget his own name.

Even though he had witnessed Janice on missions before, Chuck couldn't get over the change in her. It was like someone had turned on a switch. The very second that they walked into the hotel lobby, she stopped being Janice Beckman. She was now Janice Bartowski, the newlywed wife of Charles Bartowski. And so devoted to him that she would gladly use her body to advance his career. She was obviously playing Mrs. Bartowski as a southern belle. Where did she learn to use that southern accent?

Janice had insisted that they stay in character, even in their room, until she had swept for bugs. After all, who knew who could be listening? Fulcrum could very possibly have bugged the room. And it wouldn't be above Ben Adams to try and listen in on her seduction attempt. So, naturally, that meant they had to pretend to make out while they enjoyed the fresh strawberries and champagne. It wasn't too bad. The kissing and the taking off of clothes was all fake. Chuck could have done without the multiple times that Janice told her new husband how much she loved him. And the expression that she flashed him that told him she expected him to say it back. But finally, the fake lovemaking session was over... apparently Janice Bartowski was a moaner. And Janice proclaimed the room bug free.

"Was that absolutely necessary?" Chuck asked.

"Absolutely," Janice firmly replied. "Understand something, Charles. You made me promise last night to protect Sarah. Remember?"

Chuck nodded.

"Well I made a similar promise to Sarah this morning," Janice continued. "She is just as worried about you as you are about her. And guess what, so am I. We don't really know what Fulcrum has planned tonight. So we are going to play this exactly by the book. When we go downstairs, you are my new husband. And you can't keep your hands off of me. I expect hand holding, loving looks, lots of kissing, and for you to cop a quick feel several times. And if I get anything less, I'm kicking your ass. Then I'm going to rat you out to Sarah and she is really going to kick your ass. Do we understand each other?"

"Well," Chuck said with a laugh. "Since you said it so romantically… Do I really have to cop a feel?"

Janice was trying to keep a stern look but she had no defense for Chuck's puppy dog eyes. Her face broke into a smile in spite of herself. "I'm afraid so," she said with her own laugh.

"Explain something to me," Chuck said. "If we're going to act all in love, why would this couple think that we're interested in getting them upstairs to umm… to umm…"

"To screw?" Janice finished his thought.

Chuck just sighed. "Yes," he said.

"Human nature," Janice said with her own sigh. "Of course this mission is fake. They know that we're not really married. But if this was real, the more they thought that we really had something, the more excited they would be to get us in bed. Bad guys, and girls too, love a challenge. It would be a game to them."

"You would really rat me out to Sarah?" Chuck asked with a laugh. "Man, that's harsh. I thought that you loved me."

But to Chuck's surprise, Janice stopped laughing. "Look, Chuck," she said softly. "I do love you. And that's why I need you to be safe. I'll admit that there was a time when I would have looked forward to tonight on a personal level. But I promise you that this is strictly professional. We're not betraying Sarah. We're doing what she expects us to do. We're doing our job. This is where I need you to trust me."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck finally decided that Janice was right. And that Sarah was right. And that even Casey was right. If he expected them to do whatever it took to make this plan work, then he'd better be just as willing. And he had to admit, having someone as beautiful as Janice fawning all over you in public wouldn't exactly qualify as torture. He could see the envious looks that he was getting from the other men. So he gave in. Mostly.

But Chuck discovered that the CIA 'couple' that they were meeting with weren't nearly as professional. Chuck could tell right away that the man was not a technology expert. Oh, he could recite the correct words from the script that he had been given. But after that, it was obvious that he was lost. If this had been a real mission, Chuck would have known that something was up right away. He seemed consumed with flirting with Janice. One good thing, she wasn't going to have any problem getting him upstairs. And once they were there, it was going to be quick. His eyes had already undressed her. That would save some time.

And this Elise chick? Could she possibly be a CIA agent? She was obviously uptight. Oh, she was gorgeous. No question about that. Where did the CIA find all these beautiful women? But as a spy she wasn't in the same league as Sarah or Janice. Even a relative newbie like Chuck could see that. When she tried to flirt, it came across as flat. And she kept glancing around the room nervously. Chuck could sympathize. He didn't want to be there either.

Chuck quickly found that it was a lot easier to act like a newlywed when he pretended that Janice was Sarah. And he was pretty sure that Janice realized that was what he was doing. Because he found her starting to react like Sarah would have. The tip off was when she actually called him sweetie. That was something that Janice would never do on her own. Was she trying to make this easier on him by pretending to be Sarah? Perhaps. But the sparkle in her eye told him that it was far more likely that she was teasing him.

Well two could play at that game. Let's see how well she really knew Sarah. Elise was asking Chuck where they went on their honeymoon. So Chuck reached under the tablecloth and began to toy with the clasp to Janice's slacks. "We went East," he said. "Remember the tradition honey?"

The blush that rose from Janice's neck clearly told Chuck that she had indeed heard of the Bartowski Family Tradition for eastbound air travel. Good to know. It would be a good opportunity to tease Sarah about it later.

Other than that, Chuck let Janice take the lead on the PDA stuff. After all, she was a world class expert at flirting. If they could make it an Olympic sport, she could win the gold medal. How could she possibly be so affectionate to her 'husband' while still convincingly flirting with the man on the other side of the booth? Chuck was amazing to see her pull it off. But then again, the man wasn't listening to her anyway. The way his eyes were fixed to Janice's chest, she could have been speaking in Russian and it wouldn't have made much difference.

Finally, the longest meal of Chuck's life was mercifully over. He left it to Janice to make the date to go dancing later. But, of course, they all quickly agreed.

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah was slowly talking herself into becoming frantic. Sitting in that house all by herself waiting for some word was torture. There was no hope of any news until Janice got home. At best, that wouldn't happen until after midnight. And Janice probably wouldn't know much anyway. She was going to be busy with her own 'assignment'. The worst part was that there wasn't a single thing that she could do. Chuck's fate now rested in Janice and Casey's hands. And, of course, she trusted them. She did. It's just that the stakes were so high. But Sarah didn't take being helpless very well.

Sarah went down to the fitness room and threw a couple of lackluster punches at the bag. She stopped and leaned her forehead against the bag for a moment before finally deciding that she just didn't have the motivation for working out. Sighing, she sat down on a weight bench, staring at herself in the wall mirror. Her heart was full of dread, and she couldn't shake this nagging thought that she would never see Chuck again. She tried to tell herself it was silly, that everything would be fine, but the thought returned again and again.

She stood up and went upstairs, grabbed her gun and keys and was nearly out the door before she stopped herself. She desperately wanted to drive over to the hotel. She just wanted to see him. But she quickly realized what a stupid move that would be. It might endanger him further. With a loud sigh, she threw herself into a chair. Blinking her eyes fiercely, she remembered what Chuck had told her to do when she felt worried. So she began to recite his promise to her.

I. Charles, take you Sarah…

And, the truth was, it helped. Chuck always knew what she needed to hear. Even when he wasn't here.

x-x-x-x-x

Joe hadn't been a Fulcrum agent very long. Actually, this was his first solo assignment. And it was a pretty simple one. Keep an eye on Agent Walters and this Bartowski guy and make sure that she killed him. He was just an insurance policy in case something went wrong. Piece of cake. He knew that Elise's plan was to lure Bartowski into his hotel room with the promise of sex and kill him there. So he decided to keep an eye on that room. It was fairly easy to score a hotel worker uniform. That way he wouldn't look too conspicuous if anyone spied him in the hall.

So when he saw Bartowski and his 'wife' going down for their evening of dancing, he knew that things were on schedule. All he had to do was wait here until Walters brought him back, listen for the shot, and see Walters leave. She would never know that he had been here. One thing that he hadn't counted on was how incredibly hot that woman was who was with him. She was almost assuredly an agent. But she was also the most gorgeous woman that he had ever seen. He certainly wouldn't mind keeping an eye on her. Fortunately he had plenty of time on his hands. He could pass that time daydreaming about talking her back in that room and keeping a very good eye on her.

x-x-x-x-x

Janice turned to Chuck in the elevator. "Remember," she said. "As soon as I leave, invite her back to your room for a drink. She'll be expecting it. Make sure that you get her back to the room. Casey will be waiting for you. Don't go anywhere else with her. You're going to be on your own from the club to your room. I'll be…"

"I know," Chuck said. "It still makes me sick what you have to do. It's not too late, you know. We can always do something else. I'll think of something. You can just blow this guy off."

"I'm afraid that you're only half right," Janice said with an evil grin. "I seriously doubt that I will be blowing him off."

But when she saw Chuck's look, she became much more serious. "Don't worry, Chuck," she said. "This is what I do. I've done it plenty of times before. And I will plenty of times in the future. It's just not a big deal."

Chuck just sighed. Janice smiled and grabbed his hand. "Hey," she said. "When's the last time that someone told you that you were sweet? Quit thinking about me and start worrying about staying alive tonight. Now let's go over this one last time…"

x-x-x-x-x

Casey waited until well after Chuck and Janice had left before he entered their room to plan his ambush. It seemed pretty simple, hide out in the bathroom and wait until Chuck brought the Fulcrum agent to the room. Then jump out with gun drawn and secure her. Chuck's plan seemed pretty simple. Get her to confess to being Fulcrum and get her contacts. After that, they would plan on what to do next. He stood in the center of the room, and suddenly realized that Janice's clothing and personal effects were scattered about the room. He knew full well what her assignment was tonight. Was that jealousy? That would be stupid. Casey understood what female agents did as part of their assignments. It didn't mean anything. It was their sacrifice for the greater good. He just hoped she would be okay.

Casey checked his watch and decided that he had time to check out the rear stairwell. There was absolutely no substitute for being prepared. After all, it had saved his life on more than one occasion. The stairwell looked pretty typical. There was nothing that would keep them from taking the Fulcrum agent with them. Or even a body, if it came to that.

Casey was just about to head back to the room when he felt something poke into his back.

"I'll take your weapon," a voice said from behind him.

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck hated every single thing about this situation. He hated having to dance. He hated what Janice was about to be forced to do. He hated having to pretend to make clever conversation with a pretty woman. But most of all, he hated that he wasn't where he wanted to be, curled up on the couch with his goddess wife. He knew that he had to stay sharp tonight. And he was willing to do whatever it took. But he also couldn't help but think of Sarah. She was obviously really struggling. I wonder how she is doing. But he really had no choice. So when Janice took the man off to 'dance', Chuck turned to look at Elise, who sitting across from him at the table. Better get this over with.

He gave her his best smile. "Would you like to dance?" he asked.

"I'd love to dance," Elise said.

Chuck extended his hand and Elise quickly grabbed hold of it. Chuck led them to the floor and they started dancing to the soft waltz.

As they were dancing, Elise smiled. This wasn't the badass super spy that she had been expecting. Not at all. But Elise was not fooled. It was clearly all part of his act. Make them underestimate you and then surprise them. Well. She wasn't going to fall for that. She might not be a badass super spy, but Elise Walters could be underestimated with the best of them. It was time to play her part. "You seem distracted," she said. "You do realize that we won't be seeing them for a while? When Alex gets to talking about his invention, there's no stopping him. I'm sure that he'll want to take her up to the room and show her the details."

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out her meaning. "I am distracted," Chuck said. "I didn't expect you to be so beautiful."

Elise had to smile. He is good. This faux nervous geek act was very charming. "Thanks," she said. "You're not so bad yourself."

Chuck winced briefly. Did these cheesy lines ever actually work? "I'm quite the inventor as well," he said. "And since we've been left on our own, maybe you'd like to come up to my room. I could make us a drink and I'll show you what I'm proud of. It seems only fair, doesn't it?"

x-x-x-x-x

Casey had no idea who this guy was and why he was pointing a gun at him. But this couldn't be good. Chuck was going to be back in the room any minute. And he had promised Sarah. Maybe he could talk his way out of this.

"Easy pal," Casey said. "No need to get violent. Why don't you put that away and we can talk?"

"Oh, we'll talk," the man said. "Let's start with why you were in that room a few minutes ago."

Casey tried to play dumb. "Chuck's room?" he asked. "He's my cousin. I was looking for him. Why else would I have a key?"

Casey glanced past the man and through the small window in the door. To his horror, he spotted Chuck coming down the hall with a woman clinging to his arm. Damn it, he thought. Casanova picked a hell of a time to show up early for once. There was only a second to act or things were about to go very bad. Chuck wouldn't last thirty seconds against a trained agent.

He gestured toward the door with his chin. "See, here's Chuck now," he said. And sure enough, the man's eyes left Casey for an instant, giving Casey his break.

Casey reached out and struck the arm holding the gun. The agent fired once and the shot went wild. The sound was muted by a silencer. Casey grabbed the gun and both men struggled for control. Casey used his forehead to smash the agent's nose, and the gun went off again. The agent fell forward into Casey. A small bleeding hole appeared on his chest, and he took a final breath before collapsing onto the landing.

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck keyed open the lock and entered the room. He glanced into the bathroom as Elise closed the door behind them. Where the hell was Casey? He was supposed to be here. And that meant he was now on his own with this Fulcrum assassin. Now, Chuck was starting to get that uneasy feeling. This was the dream that Janice and Sarah shared.

Elise wanted to take him by surprise. She planned to get in close and then stab him with her hidden knife. In spite of herself, she smiled at his act. She knew damn well that this super spy couldn't be this nervous about having a woman in his hotel room. He must be toying with her. So she really had no choice but to play her seductress role. "You're so cute when you're nervous," she said. "Don't worry, Charles. We both know why we're here."

Elise was getting more and more concerned. This badass was good. He was playing the nervous role really well. He was actually going to make her seduce him. She had no choice but to play the game. That's what the bastard wants. "Maybe this will calm you down," she said as she unbuttoned her blouse.

Chuck was getting more and more freaked out. He was on his own.

Elise knew that she had to distract him in order to pull the knife. "Why don't you kiss me?" she said softly as her blouse slid to the floor.

Chuck knew that kissing Elise would be a fatal mistake. "In a minute," Chuck replied out of desperation. "Right now I'm enjoying the show."

Elise now knew for sure that this bastard was playing her. And she couldn't get totally naked. After all, the knife was strapped to her leg. But she could lose the bra.

Chuck knew that he had to make a move soon or he was dead. So while her hands were behind her back unfastening her bra, he threw a punch at Elise's nose. Unfortunately, in his panic, he forgot his training. Elise saw the punch coming and was easily able to flip Chuck over her hip just like Janice had in training. When Chuck was once again able to focus his eyes, he was looking up at Elise who was holding a very large knife.

Elise was confused. Certainly this bad ass super spy would never telegraph a punch like that. There must be some mistake. "You're married to Sarah Walker?" Elise said in amazement. "That's hard to believe."

Chuck knew that it was over. He closed his eyes as Elise raised her hand with the knife ready to strike. Fortunately, Casey chose that exact moment to come crashing in the door. The gun that Casey pointed between Elise's eyes quickly convinced her to drop the knife.

"Where the hell were you?" Chuck asked as he scrambled to his feet.

"Something came up," Casey said as he tried to catch his breath. He quickly cuffed Elise to the chair. "Let's secure Miss July here and you can help me deal with the body."

"The body?"

"Yeah, genius," Casey said sarcastically. "Something you may want to consider incorporating into your future mission plans. Sometimes the bad guys do things that you don't expect. Fulcrum must have sent someone to make sure that Miss Bottle Red here completed her mission."

"Hey, fuck you," Elise said. She knew that she was most likely dead anyway. So why take any crap? "This is my natural color."

"And you were just getting ready to prove it," Casey growled. "How nice."

Chuck ignored the banter. He was too deep in thought. "You shot him?" Chuck questioned. "There is a body someplace?"

"Unless he's sleeping," Casey said. "The body is in the stairwell."

All of a sudden a smile broke out on Chuck's face. "Oh my God," he said. "Casey. I have an idea."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 21: The Morgue

x-x-x-x-x

It was funny. Well, make that ironic. It was not close to being funny. But six months ago, if Janice had met Alex in a bar, there was a very good chance that she would have gone home with him. He was exactly the type of man that she usually hooked up with. After all, the man was a CIA agent. He was himself an expert in seduction, so he obviously knew his way around the bedroom. He was smooth, confident, and good looking. He carried himself well and was an impeccable dresser. He would send her over a drink, and follow it up with some witty conversation. And, more often than not, he would have been rewarded with a night of passion courtesy of Janice Beckman. And, to be honest, that's all Janice would have been looking for as well. The next morning they would have gone their separate ways. Maybe on the rare occasion, she would give him her number and they might have a repeat occurrence or two. But never more.

So why was it that tonight she was fighting to keep from shooting this son of a bitch? It wasn't that he was expecting sex. It really wasn't. Sex just didn't mean that much to Janice. It never had. Not to say that she didn't enjoy it. She certainly did. It's just that it was never emotional. And CIA training had only cemented that attitude. Sex was just a means to an end. And if Janice could use her body for the greater good, she was more than willing. Most times she could even find some way to enjoy it. If not the act itself, then at least the satisfaction of a job well done.

And naturally, Alex demanded that she put on a show for him. Of course the bastard had this planned all along. Why else would he have a CD with that particular play list ready? It wasn't until she was down to her black bra and matching panties that she realized why she was fighting to keep the smile on her face. As she softly danced to the music, she realized that she was no longer the same person. She had fallen victim to an agent killer. Thanks to Chuck, she now expected more from people. Oh, she was still willing to use sex. But use was the proper verb. She was no longer willing to be used.

And then there was Casey. Honestly, in a bar, she wouldn't have looked at Casey twice. Sure, he was incredibly good looking, in a rugged way. It's just that he would never have approached her. But he was a good, decent, honorable man. He had dedicated his life to the same cause that she had. And he wanted to get to know her as a person. He was even willing to turn down that night of passion to prove that to her. It just didn't seem right to give something to Alex that Casey wanted. And even though Janice knew that there was a key difference between the situations, it still didn't seem right. After all, here was a man that she genuinely liked, admired, and maybe even more. And who apparently liked her back. How far would it go? Janice couldn't say. The job was going to be number one… for both of them in the near future. But could they have something? Janice found herself, for perhaps the first time in her life, hoping that she could have a chance. And the simple truth was, before meeting Chuck, that would have scared her. It would have scared her so much that she would run away from it. But now, it sort of excited her. Being in bed with a man for something more than just a physical act would be a new feeling. She wasn't even sure how to act.

But how could she get out of this? Alex wasn't hoping for sex. He expected it. And a flat refusal wouldn't do. Who knew what was going to happen tonight with Chuck? And Ben Adams could still cause trouble. No, she couldn't refuse. But maybe he wouldn't be in the mood.

As soon as Janice had taken off her bra, she kneeled down in front of Alex who was sitting on the couch. She put on her most seductive smile. "Let's see if I can guess what you'd like next," she said softly as she pushed Alex back into the couch.

Alex, for his part, was perfectly content to let Janice take the lead. It was pretty much what he was thinking anyway.

"Hmm," Janice said. "There seems to be something wrong with your zipper. It seems to be stuck."

One sharp tug and the girlish scream from Alex told her that she had just hit pay dirt. "Alex," she said quickly. "I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"

Agents were taught to control their expressions. Still, Janice was having a hard time keeping a straight face. She had to resort to biting her lip to keep from laughing. Fortunately, Alex wasn't paying that close attention. He was too busy writhing in agony. But there was one thing for sure. Whatever debauchery he had planned for the rest of this evening was now moot.

Janice was able to keep from laughing until she was dressed and safely in the hallway. But then she lost it. She was going to have to find a way to let Casey know what didn't happen tonight.

Maybe Chuck can help.

But just as suddenly, the smile disappeared. Chuck. What had happened with Chuck? Janice quickly headed to their room to find out.

x-x-x-x-x

As they had agreed, Casey used a prepaid cell phone to call General Beckman on her prepaid cell phone. Although it wouldn't be as secure as their regular NSA phone system, they wouldn't have to worry about being compromised by any NSA personnel. And that would be fatal in their current circumstance. Treason was something that the NSA took very seriously. If they even suspected it, they would shoot first and ask questions later. Since their conversation wasn't guaranteed to be secure, they were going to have to be careful not to speak too plainly.

"Is everything on schedule?" Beckman asked.

"Yes, ma'am," Casey said.

"John," Beckman said. "This is not official. You need to call me Dianne."

Casey wasn't sure how comfortable he was calling his superior officer by her first name. But if that's what she wanted. "Okay, Dianne," he said. "We have changed the plan substantially because an opportunity presented itself. It is now much more ambitious."

"What are the odds?" Beckman asked.

"Our confidence is high," Casey said.

"Anything that you need from me?" Beckman asked.

"Chuck's body is at the morgue," Casey said. He emphasized the word 'body'. "It would be good if they didn't examine it too closely."

"Understood," Beckman said. "I'll take care of it. Now I need to ask you for a favor."

Casey would gladly lay down his life for General Beckman. So he couldn't imagine what favor she could ask for that he wouldn't try and comply with. "Shoot," he said.

"This is awkward," Beckman said. "But I need you to keep an eye out for Janice for me."

"Janice?" Casey asked. If that was the favor, it was one he was most happy to grant.

"She's my daughter, John," Beckman said. "Nobody knows. You can tell Bartowski and Sarah but nobody else."

Casey swallowed. He was about to pursue a serious relationship with General Beckman's daughter. "Daughter?" he asked. "How can that be?"

In spite of the seriousness of the situation, Beckman couldn't help but laugh at Casey's reaction. "Stepdaughter, actually," she said. "I married Janice's dad when she was fourteen. He died ten years ago. And, I'll admit, our relationship hasn't always been great. But it's been a lot better lately. She's the only family I have. I love her, John."

"I'll take care of her," Casey said. "I would like that."

"Thanks, John." Beckman said so softly that Casey wasn't sure that he heard it. He was going to ask her to repeat it, but she had already ended the call.

As soon as Casey put down the phone, Chuck turned to him. "How did it go? Is she on board?"

Casey didn't know how to answer him. "She's on board," he said. "But how did it go?"

Chuck just nodded expectantly.

"Things just got more complicated."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice ran into the house. "Sarah," she shouted. "Get dressed. We have to go."

Sarah knew right away that something was very wrong by the look on her face. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"I don't know," Janice said. "I just got a call to come down to the morgue and identify Chuck's body."

Sarah's blood turned cold. This wasn't part of the plan at all. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure," Janice said breathlessly.

"What happened!" Sarah screamed.

"I'm not sure!" Janice screamed back. "When I got back to the room, the police had already cleared it. But there was blood all around. Then I got the call. We have to go."

Sarah was so nervous that Janice had to drive to the morgue to identify the body. Even Janice was having a hard time driving. They both shared a feeling of dread. But Sarah was sure. She could feel it in her bones. Her nightmare had come true. Something had gone terribly wrong. What was she going to do? Her Chuck was gone.

Suddenly Sarah saw her future. A future without the love of her life. Who would help her raise Kate? Sarah didn't have a clue. She didn't even know what kind of formula to buy for goodness sake. Ellie would help. But she had her own life to worry about. Janice would help as much as she could. But she was even more clueless than Sarah.

x-x-x-x-x

When they finally got to the morgue, they were greeted by a tired looking man in a white lab coat. And even though they had both been to morgues many times before, it was amazing how much alike they looked. And how the stench of death hung in the air. After they were finally able to get his attention, he led them back to where the bodies were stored.

Sarah was visibly shaking as the man pulled open the drawer. "I can't look," she said. She knew that Chuck's body was lying in that body bag. She knew it.

Janice grabbed Sarah and wrapped her arms around her. If the news was as they feared, she didn't know what she was going to do with her. She thought about calling Ellie and seeing if she could give Sarah something to calm her down. Hopefully there was something that wouldn't hurt the baby. But, wait, that was Chuck's sister. What a horrible way to tell her that her brother had just been killed. So she decided that she would call Devon . That was still horrible but maybe he could help. And where was Casey? Was he dead as well? Or captured? And, if so, how could she rescue him? Sarah wasn't going to be much help. She was already a basket case. Wait until she actually sees his body.

Sarah buried her face in Janice's shoulder and stood there trembling. "Please, God," she whispered.

Janice motioned for the worker to unzip the body bag. She softly rubbed Sarah's back while they waited for what seemed like forever to both of them. As soon as the bag was opened, Janice started sobbing herself. She grabbed Sarah and squeezed her as tightly as she possibly could. She whispered so that only Sarah could hear. "It's not him."

Pure surprise caused Sarah to open her eyes. Whoever that man was, he definitely wasn't Chuck.

When you worked the night shift at the morgue, you became accustomed to sorrow. After all, there weren't too many happy scenes that played out here. So after a while you became used to it. But those two sisters sobbing in each other's arms was particularly pathetic. So the morgue attendant quietly closed the body bag and slid it back into the drawer. He waited for a respectable amount of time. But he had other things to do.

"Excuse me," he finally said. "I'm very sorry. But can you positively identify the body?"

Sarah was just starting to regain awareness of her surroundings. And she knew what she had to do. There must be a reason that this dead guy was here. She lifted her head up from Janice's shoulder. "Yes," she said through her sobs. "It's my husband."

The attendant wrote something on his clipboard. "Can you give me the full name of the deceased?" he asked.

Sarah was so relieved that she was having a hard time composing herself. There was still hope that Chuck's plan had worked. That he and Casey were out there somewhere. They would live to fight another day. So finally, she was able to answer in a shaky voice.

"His name is Charles Irving Bartowski."

x-x-x-x-x

The attendant led Sarah and Janice to a small grieving room. Once the door was closed, he handed Sarah an envelope. "These were the personal effects," he said. "There wasn't a wallet. It must have been taken during the robbery."

There wasn't much in the envelope. Just a belt and a set of keys. "Wait," said Sarah softly, more to herself than to Janice. "This is actually Chuck's belt."

"Why would Chuck send his real belt?" Janice asked.

Suddenly it hit Sarah. She fished in the secret compartment and pulled out a single carefully folded sheet of paper. Oh, but what a sheet of paper it was.

Janice could recognize Chuck's handwriting but she was too far away to read it. "Chuck," she said disgustedly. "It was nice to leave a note. But you shouldn't have tipped off your position."

"He didn't," Sarah said. She handed the paper to Janice.

For the life of her, Janice couldn't imagine why Sarah was now grinning… until she read Chuck's flowing handwriting.

New plan. They are all going down.

When we're through with Adams he will do anything you demand. Scare him. Have fun. He has it coming.

Jones thinks he has the poor widow alone and defenseless. Guess what the pig is going to want? Have fun. No, not that kind of fun, silly. Tease him. Make him crazy.

See you at the funeral.

Janice, Casey says hi.

Sorry to have scared you. Take care of Kate. I love you.

Don't forget my promise.

I, Charles, take you Sarah,

to be my wife,

to have and to hold,

for better or for worse,

for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and in health,

to love and to cherish;

from this day forward until death do us part.

Janice flashed a huge grin back at Sarah. "What a romantic sap," she teased. "It about makes me want to hurl."

Sarah wrapped her arms around Janice's neck and pulled her into a tight embrace. "I know," she whispered. "Isn't it great?"

Sarah was far too happy to be worried. That would have to wait. They were going to have to get those grins off their faces before they left this room. They were now almost certainly being watched.

She could guess most of what Chuck was now thinking. And it was absolutely brilliant. She would have to wait until they could talk to get the full details. But there was one thing that she knew for sure.

The plan had just dramatically changed.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 22: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

x-x-x-x-x

Ben Adams's phone ringing woke him up from a deep sleep. He glanced at the clock on the night stand. Three o'clock? This had better be good. The woman who was lying next to him didn't stir. He didn't bother to look at the caller id.

"Adams," he growled into the phone.

"Ben," Elise said softly. "Hi."

Adams was now slowly becoming awake. "Elise," he said. "You shouldn't have called me here. Aren't you supposed to be on your mission?"

"It's complete," Elise said. "I… I miss you."

Adams sighed. He hated it when the woman got attached. It just made it awkward. "How did it go?" he asked.

"It went perfectly," Elise said. "I killed him."

Adams tried to shake the cobwebs out of his head. He couldn't have heard her right. "What?" he asked.

"I killed Bartowski," Elise said. "I thought you would be happy."

"What!" Adams said. "You're joking, right?"

"Don't worry, Ben," Elise said. "They will never be able to tie it to you. You can just say that I killed him to get back at Walker for going rogue. I'll never tell anyone the real reason."

Now Adams was completely awake. This couldn't be happening. "The real reason? What is the real reason?" he asked.

"Come on, Ben," Elise said. "We both know that you wanted him dead . You want Agent Walker to work for you and Bartowski was in the way. I knew that you would never order me to kill him. You're too nice of a man. So I did it on my own."

"Why?" Adams asked.

"Isn't it obvious?" Elise said. "I did it for you, Ben. I love you. Don't worry. I'm going off the grid for a couple of months until the heat dies down. I'll contact you then."

"Elise," Adams shouted. "Don't hang up." But he was shouting into a dead phone.

Finally the commotion woke the woman who was in bed with him. "What's going on?" she asked sleepily.

"Crises," Adams said. "You'll need to catch a cab. I'm sorry, Kathy. I'll call you later."

Now she was also completely awake. And she shot a look that made her feelings plain. "My name is Ann," she said disgustedly as she began to throw on clothes. "And don't bother."

But Adams was far too freaked out to be worried about blowing a return engagement with the lovely Ann. She wasn't that good anyway. Shit! Now it was really going to hit the fan.

As if on cue, Adams phone rang again. He could tell that it was the NSA command center. "Adams, secure," he answered.

"Sir," a man answered. "This is Colonel Briggs with NSA command. We just received a frantic call from an Agent Sarah Walker. She is demanding a secure video conference. She is standing by."

Adams swallowed. This couldn't be good. "Rodger," he said. "I'll be with her in ten."

"Yes, sir," Briggs said as he sharply ended the call.

Now Ben Adams was as close to a panic as he had ever been in his life. Yup, it definitely was going to hit the fan.

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Elise hung up the phone, Casey turned to her. "That was good," he said. "I guess you get to keep your finger for a while longer."

"Thanks," Elise said sarcastically. "Glad I could help."

"Do you know Adams?" Chuck asked. "What was that crap about you loving him? We didn't tell you to say that. Was that some type of code?"

"I was messing with him a little," Elise said. "I know him. We've gone out a few times. It seemed like the thing to do."

"Do you love him?" Chuck asked.

Elise firmly shook her head. "I can't stand him," she said with an ironic smile. "He is an abusive, sadistic pig. He gets off on humiliating women. But I knew that he would think that I love him. He thinks every woman loves him."

"I'm pretty sure that he doesn't think that Sarah loves him," Chuck said with a smile.

"You're right about that," Casey said. "And if he had any shred of a doubt, it will be completely gone within the hour."

Elise watched the two men laughing. Even though she knew they were likely to kill her any minute, she couldn't help but be impressed with the calm way they were handling the situation. And although she knew that she should just keep her mouth shut, her curiosity overcame her fear. 'Tell me," she said. "Which one of you is actually married to Sarah Walker? Neither of you seem her type."

"We'll tell you in a minute," Casey said. "First, you have another phone call to make."

x-x-x-x-x

It only took Adams about ten minutes to throw on some clothes and get to the office. That was one advantage of living in the same building that you worked. The instant that he stepped into the conference room, he could see Walker and Beckman's face on the screen, waiting for him. It was obvious that they were both in shock. Their eyes were red and swollen from crying. And they both had obviously had better hair days. But one other thing was also obvious. The rage on their faces.

"You son of a bitch," Sarah screamed as soon as she spied Adams's face on the monitor. "You're a dead man."

"Agent Walker," Adams said. "I can see that you're upset. Why don't you calm down and tell me what is going on."

"My name is Sarah Bartowski," Sarah snapped. "I've told you several times to never call me Agent Walker again. That just cost you one more hour of suffering before I allow you to die."

Adams knew that he'd better tread a little lightly until he figured out what was going on and why. "Okay, Sarah," he said softly. "I'm sorry. Why don't you calm down and tell me what is going on."

"Calm down?" Sarah said sarcastically. "I just identified my husband's body at the morgue. Don't you dare tell me to calm down, you pig."

"She knows," Janice said.

Oh shit. "What does she know?" Adams asked. But he already knew the answer.

"She knows that tonight's mission was a setup," Janice said. "She knows that you ordered me to seduce him. But killing him was never part of the deal, you bastard."

"Agent Beckman…" Adams said.

"Go to hell," Janice interrupted. "It's no longer Agent Beckman. You can shove Agent Beckman. Killing him was not part of the deal!"

"Agent… umm, ladies," Adams said. "I did not order Mr. Bartowski killed. I swear. I don't know how that happened."

"And why would we believe a word that you say?" Janice screamed. "Because you've been so forthright up to now? Killing him was not part of the deal!"

"Listen very closely, asshole," Sarah said firmly. "My reason for living died tonight. So I no longer have anything to lose. Here is what's going to happen. We will avenge Chuck's death. And you're going to assist us. You are no longer in charge of this mission. I am. And you're going to do every single thing that I say, without question. If I tell you to quack like a duck, I want the next sound that I hear to be a quack. Is that understood?"

Adams had no defense for the fire in Sarah's eyes. "Yes," he said.

'I'll be addressed as ma'am, you pig," Sarah said. "And if you fail to do one single thing that I instruct you, we won't kill you. We'll kidnap you. Understand something. The CIA spent a lot of money teaching us how to inflict pain. And we're going to practice every single technique that we've learned on you. And then we're going to think of some more on our own. When we're done with you, you'll be way past begging us to let you die. Do you understand?"

There was absolutely no doubt in his mind that she was not making a hollow threat. The exploits of Agent Sarah Walker were legendary. And the pure hatred on her face said everything. She was not just going to kill him. She was going to make him suffer unimaginable horrors. Adams swallowed. There was only one way out of this. "Yes, ma'am," he said softly.

"I'm not sure that I believe you," Sarah said. "Maybe you should do something to prove your loyalty… your obedience."

"Prove?" Adams asked. "How can I prove…"

"He made you prove your loyalty," Sarah interrupted as she turned to Janice. "Didn't he?"

Janice nodded.

"How?"

"Take a guess," Janice said through gritted teeth. "The bastards always use sex. He made me strip. And then…" She leaned over and whispered in Sarah's ear.

"That's disgusting," Sarah said. "Well, that's out. I have no interest in the pig touching me. How about you?"

"None," Janice said.

Sarah looked back at the screen. "Okay," she said. "I guess the strip will have to do."

"You're joking," Adams said. "Please be reasonable."

"Screw being reasonable," Sarah growled. "This was your idea. It is how you make other people prove their loyalty to you. It's your test. It only seems fair that you pass it. Now get going."

Adams knew that he had no choice. So he pulled off his shirt. After he unfastened his pants and let them fall to the floor, he paused.

"Tell me," Sarah said as she turned to Janice again. "Did he let you keep your underwear?"

"He did not."

Sarah just indicated to Adams with a wave of her hand. Adams swallowed hard but finally complied.

"Wow," Sarah said with no trace of humor in her voice. "That is something I never thought I would see. It looks just like a penis… only smaller. It must be cold in that room."

Janice looked at the screen. "No," she said. "The way I remember, I think that's about right."

"Listen up stubby," Sarah said. "I will avenge my husband's death. We let you off easy tonight. Don't make me regret it. You have one chance to survive. Do you understand?"

Adams just nodded.

"Good," Sarah said. "Here is your first set of instructions…"

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as the screen went blank, Janice turned to Sarah. Then they both burst out laughing.

"That was for you," Sarah said as she wrapped her arms around Janice. "I hope you enjoyed it."

"Yeah," Janice said as she wrapped her own arms around Sarah's waist. "That was fun. Why didn't you make him quack like a duck? I was sure you were going to. After all, he made me do things that were a lot more degrading then that."

"It was fun," Sarah agreed as she continued her laughing. "It's one more thing that I'll have to thank Chuck for. Maybe next time, we'll make him quack."

x-x-x-x-x

Fulcrum Elder Mark was expecting Elise's call. So he answered on the first ring. "Was your mission successful?" he asked.

"Yes sir," Elise said. "Bartowski is dead."

"Any complications?" Mark asked.

"Well, maybe, sir," Elise said. "I met a man tonight. He claims that you assigned him to help me. Is that correct?"

"I'm sorry," Mark said. "It wasn't a lack of confidence in you. We just wanted to make sure nothing happened that we didn't anticipate. So we asked Joe to make sure you were safe."

"Don't apologize, sir," Elise said. "Joe saved my life tonight. I just wanted to confirm he is who he said he was."

"Yes," Mark said. "He is."

"If it's okay," Elise said. "Joe would like to go off the grid with me. I sort of promised that I would spend the next three days paying him back for saving my life."

This would be perfect. Joe could make sure that nothing happened to tip off Walker. And they certainly wouldn't miss him for three days. "Let me talk to Joe for a second," Mark said.

Elise's eyes went wide as she didn't know what to do. Casey, who was holding the phone to Elise's ear, placed it to his own. Hopefully, he didn't know this guy's voice very well. "Sir," he said.

"Joe," Mark said. "Excellent work. Do you know who I am?"

"Yes, sir,"

"Leave the room," Mark said. "Make sure that I'm not overheard. Let me know when you're secure."

Casey waited a moment and then answered. "I'm secure, sir."

"I have a new assignment for you," Mark said. "It is critical that Elise not have any contact with anybody from the CIA for the next three days. I want you to stick to her like glue."

"Yes, sir," Casey said.

"On Friday," Mark continued. "Contact me. If things go as planned, we'll ask you to kill her and bury the body in the desert." Mark would miss a good time, but there were plenty of other women.

"Yes, sir,"

"And, Joe," Mark said. "Make sure that you enjoy yourself. I haven't found anything that she isn't willing to do. Consider it a reward for saving an important mission. Now put Elise back on."

"Yes, sir," Casey said. He waited a moment and put the phone back to Elise's ear.

Elise was trying to blink the tears out of her eyes. Now, she was dead either way. Even if Fulcrum did rescue her, they were going to kill her. It was the final blow. "Sir," was all she was able to choke out.

"It sounds like Joe is a pretty lucky guy," Mark said. "I trust that you will spend the next three days making sure that he knows how grateful we all are to him."

"Yes sir," Elise said. "One thing is for sure. Joe's troubles are all behind him now."

As soon as Elise ended the call, the tears that were filling her eyes overflowed. "Okay," she said. "I've done everything that you've asked of me. Now could I ask for one favor? Please kill me quickly." Elise started to silently sob. "And make sure that I get a proper burial?"

"Yes," Casey said. "You've earned that much."

Chuck looked into Elise's eyes. And when he did, he saw something that he didn't expect. He saw a person. "No," he said. "Elise, we're not going to kill you."

"We're not?" Casey asked.

"No," Chuck said firmly. "We're not. We're going to keep you secured until we're safe. Then we'll figure out what to do. But we're not going to kill you. I promise."

"She's an enemy," Casey said. "We can't afford any surprises. I understand you not wanting to take a life. But do you really want to risk Sarah's life?"

"She's a person," Chuck said.

Since Elise's hands were secured behind her back, Chuck put his arms on her shoulders. He looked directly into her eyes. "We're not killing you," he said. "Look into my eyes and know that I'm telling you the truth."

Elise's eyes said that she believed him. And that she was grateful. "Thanks," was all she could say.

"Those pigs haven't treated you very well," Chuck said. "Have they?"

Elise didn't answer. She just continued to silently sob.

"Those bastards," Chuck continued. "I hate them. They take people, good dedicated people, and turn them into machines. And they use them until they're no more use to them and they discard them."

"Think about this, dumb ass," Casey growled. "She was going to kill you."

Chuck turned and looked Casey directly in the eye for a moment. "So were you once," Chuck finally said softly. "Remember? She was following her orders just like you were. And now you're one of my best friends in the world. There is nothing that I couldn't depend on you for."

Casey looked away. But the blush that was starting up his neck said everything that his words couldn't.

"You and Janice are really going to get along," Chuck teased. "I can see you staring into each other's eyes and not saying how much you love each other. Just standing there. Maybe you're cleaning your guns."

"Words are cheap," Casey said. "You don't tell someone that you love them with words. You tell them by your actions. Janice can walk into a bar anytime she wants and find someone to tell her that he loves her."

"That's true," Chuck admitted. "But sometimes it's nice to hear the words. And the harder it is to say, the nicer it is to hear. I still remember every detail about the first time that Sarah told me that she loved me. Even though I had known it for a long time, her saying it was the highlight of my life. And it was so hard for her to say…That's what made it so special. Wouldn't you like to hear Janice tell you that she loves you someday?"

"We've gone on one date, moron," Casey said. "It would be insulting to say anything about love. Not everybody is looking for what you and Sarah have."

Chuck turned back to Elise. "That reminds me," he said. "My wife isn't going to be very happy with you when you meet her for the first time. But don't worry. I'll protect you from her."

"So," Elise said. "You are really married to Sarah Walker?"

Chuck nodded.

"Really?" Elise asked. "No offense, but that's hard to believe."

Chuck smiled. "None taken," he said. "Don't worry, I get that a lot."

"And how are you going to protect me from Sarah Walker?" Elise asked skeptically. "Come on, I just kicked your ass."

"She's right about that," Casey said with a laugh. "But Sarah will do absolutely anything that Chuck asks her. It's sickening."

"What are you really after?" Elise asked skeptically. "Are you after sex? Because I'm pretty helpless here. If that's what you want…"

"I'm not after sex," Chuck laughed. "And I wouldn't mention that again in front of Sarah if I were you. I might not be able to protect you."

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones really wasn't sleeping that soundly. He hadn't been sleeping well since his last encounter with Sarah. After all, he was so close to the brass ring. So close. Yet so far. So it didn't take long for him to answer his phone. It was Alan, his Chief of Staff and second in command.

"Jones, secure," he answered. "What is so important at four in the morning?"

"Yes, sir," Alan said. "I'm sorry for waking you but I thought you would want to hear this. I'm holding a copy of Chuck Bartowski's death certificate in my hand."

Jones sat up and turned on the light. "Excellent," he said. "Our agent must have completed her assignment."

"Yes, sir," Alan said. "And there's more. The CIA has just issued a sanction against Sarah Walker."

This was the kind of news that Jones lived for. That meant that Fulcrum, and Jones specifically, would be the only safe haven for Walker. She would have no where else to turn. Not only that, she no longer had a husband to worry about. And even though he would no longer get the pleasure of breaking her in front of him, he was sure that he could figure something else out. Perhaps her sister. "Fantastic," he said. "Keep me posted."

"Yes, sir," Alan said as he ended the call.

For the first time in two days, Jones finally felt like the weight had been lifted from his chest. It was only a matter of time before the new widow showed up asking for his help. Jones rolled over and smiled as he felt himself drifting off to sleep. Just before he fell completely asleep, he had one comforting thought.

She was going to pay full price.

x-x-x-x-x

The angle of the sun that came through the window told Fred Jones that he had slept in far more than usual. The military background usually called for an early start to the day. And although he hadn't been in the military for many years, he still liked to discipline himself. But he smiled when he remembered last night's news.

Suddenly he was aware of a noise in the room. "Good morning," the noise said.

When Jones looked up, he saw two amazingly beautiful women. One was Sarah Walker. And the other was obviously her sister. And her picture didn't come close to doing her justice. She was every bit as stunning as Walker. Some men might even disagree about which one was hotter. But both were simply incredible.

"Well," the sister said. "For someone who has been trying to get you into this bedroom for so long, he sure doesn't seem that excited."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 23: The Plant

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones really didn't know what to do. Here he was lying in bed, while two of the most beautiful women he had ever seen were standing before him. But he knew that this was not a social call. This was most definitely business. Sarah Walker was probably the most dangerous person he had ever known. And she was almost assuredly on the very edge of rationality. Provoking her in the slightest would be incredibly stupid at best… And suddenly fatal at worst. So Fred decided to play a little dumb and see if they would volunteer what they were after.

"Ladies," Jones said as calmly as he could. "What can I do for you?"

"You were right," Sarah said softly. "They killed him."

Jones decided to see how far playing sympathy would get him. "Sarah, I'm sorry," he said. "I was afraid that was going to happen. Why don't you give me a minute to get dressed and I'll make us some coffee. Then we can talk."

After a few minutes, he joined them in the dining room. As Jones handed Janice her cup of coffee, he smiled at her. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure," he said. "My name is Fred."

Janice took his extended hand and shook it. "I'm Janice," she said.

"I hope this doesn't sound inappropriate given the circumstances," Jones said. "But I just want to tell you how incredibly beautiful you are... well both of you, that is."

"Thanks, Fred," Janice said. "But to tell you the truth, I don't feel very beautiful right now. We've had a tough night."

"That's what I hear," Jones said. "Tell me what happened."

"Just like you said," Sarah said sadly. "The CIA killed him. They said it was to send a message to anybody else who would think of going rogue."

Jones spirits soared. This was perfect. She was buying the whole deal. Now let's see how far I can push her. "I'm sorry," Jones said. "I was afraid that might happen. I tried to warn you."

"I know," Sarah said. "I should have listened to you."

"What are you going to do now?" Jones asked.

"Revenge," Sarah said. "They just murdered the nicest, sweetest man in the whole world. He was the love of my life. I now only have one reason to live. To make them pay. They are going to regret this."

"I see," Jones said. "How can I help? There must be some reason that you're here."

"I need a favor," Sarah said. "I need to know who issued the order. I want to make sure that I don't kill him by mistake."

"Don't kill him?" Jones asked. "I figured you would want to kill him. I thought you wanted revenge?"

"I do," Sarah said. "I'm going to kill a lot of them. But whoever issued the order is not going to die right away. He is going to suffer. I'm going to listen to him beg to die. But he is not going to for a long while. He made me suffer. And now he's going to taste it."

Jones had to force the smile off his face. This was working out just as we'd hoped. "The man's name is Ben Adams," he said. "He became the new Undersecretary of Defense after you went rogue."

"That's surprising," Janice said. "I guess I don't have to wait in the car."

Sarah smiled as she got up to leave. And Janice quickly followed suit. "Thanks," Sarah said. "I appreciate it."

"Wait," Jones said. "What are you plans? Maybe I can help."

"I'm not sure yet," Sarah said. "The bastards probably have a sanction out on me. And maybe even Janice as well. So we'll have to go off the grid. We'll lay low for a few days and come up with a plan."

Jones was grateful that Sarah had assumed a sanction. That meant he could pretend not to know. "Why don't you stay here?" he asked. "I have extra bedrooms. You'll be safe here and you'll have access to our resources to help you plan your attack."

Chuck's plan had assumed that Jones would want to keep her close. So Sarah was completely expecting the offer. She forced a look of surprise on her face. "Why would you want to help me?" Sarah asked. "You didn't get what you wanted."

Yet, thought Jones. I haven't gotten what I wanted… yet. "A couple of reasons," he said. "First, it is in my best interest that you be successful. These people are my enemies. I'm happy to help you kill them. But more importantly, I'd like to prove to you that I can be your friend. Maybe you'll see that I'm not such a bad guy after all. Besides, who could turn down having two such beautiful house guests?"

"Okay," Sarah said. "Thank you. That would be helpful. We'll be back later today."

"You're leaving?" Jones asked.

"Yes," Sarah said. "I have to go tell Chuck's sister the bad news. And then I have to make arrangements for his funeral."

"Do you want me to send some men with you?" Jones asked. "You'll probably want to go home and pack some things. I'm not sure how quickly the CIA will move. I want you to be safe."

"We're already packed," Sarah said. "But thanks anyway."

Sarah gave Janice a knowing look.

Janice nodded slightly. "I'll be outside," she said, leaving Sarah and Jones alone.

Chuck said to tease him. And this is the best way that I know of. Make him think that he had the game won… and blew it. So as soon as Janice left, Sarah stepped up to Jones and put her arms around him. She knew that she wouldn't be able to keep a straight face so she buried it into his shoulder where he couldn't see. "Thank you," she whispered.

Jones was more than a little surprised by any sign of affection from Sarah. But, after all, she must be emotional over the death. "You're welcome," he said. "But like I said, it's in my best interest that…"

"No," Sarah interrupted. "Thank you for giving me the name without making me pay."

"Pay?" Jones asked.

"I think we both understand how our relationship works," Sarah said. "And I'm sure you know that I would have done anything that you wanted this morning to get that name. Absolutely anything. And I figured that I knew what that was going to be. The negligees that you wanted to see are in the car. I already told Janice. That's what she meant about being surprised that she didn't have to wait in the car. But I really wasn't looking forward to it. After all, he's only been gone a few hours."

Sarah bit her lip to keep in the laugh as she felt his shoulders sag as he realized the implication of what she was saying. Might as well really rub it in. "I mean, it would have been hard for me to dance for you wearing those skimpy negligees knowing that Chuck was watching. And each time I would change into the next one, I would have been thinking about him."

All Jones could do was stand there and mentally kick himself. Damn, she would have slept with me. How could he have possibly missed such an opportunity?

Now Sarah was on a roll. It was time to go for the throat. "And to be honest," she continued. "I probably would have pretended that you were him. I would have closed my eyes and imagined that those were his hands rubbing my breasts and his tongue playing with mine. I probably would have imagined it was for him as I pulled the last one over my head and stood there naked. And then I would have done his favorite thing in bed until you were on fire. It would have been like I was making love to him one last time. And when we were finally really going at it, I would have closed my eyes and fought to keep from moaning his name. So thank you for not making me go through with that."

Jones was numb. How could he have been so stupid? "You're welcome," was all he could say. Hopefully this afternoon would be different.

As soon as Sarah was in the car, Janice turned to her. "So," she asked. "Is he properly teased?"

"We're off to a good start," Sarah laughed. "He is definitely banging his head against the wall. If he thinks it's bad now, wait until this afternoon when we're both working on him."

"Poor guy," Janice said with her own laugh. "His head is probably not the only thing he's banging."

x-x-x-x-x

Casey had left. He went to Elise's hotel room to pick up her things. After all, now that she was going to be around for a while, she would need her clothes. While he was out, he planned to pick them up some breakfast. Casey even asked Elise what she wanted to eat. For all of his gruffness, he was apparently slowly warming up to her. They had relaxed her binds. Instead of having her hands cuffed behind her back, they only had one hand cuffed and secured to the chair. That made it a lot more comfortable for her.

And they even let her take a shower. Elise was positive that it was only so they could see her naked. And the truth was that a shower sounded good. So good that she would have gladly given them their show. She was actually stunned when they allowed her to close the bathroom door and get undressed in private. Who were these guys? But then again, what was she going to do? Attack them with the bar of soap? The big guy still had a gun.

And after a while, Elise was starting to question if she was really being held captive. After all, CIA training was very explicit when it came to what you could expect when you were captured. They even made you practice. But this was nothing like that. Not at all. This Chuck guy was actually helping her to blow dry her hair. Since she only had one free hand, he held the hair dryer for her.

"Don't let me burn you," Chuck said as he directed the flow of hot air to the spot where Elise was brushing. "Tell me if it gets too hot."

Now Elise was totally confused. She was going to kill this guy just last night. She had the knife ready to plunge into him. Yet he was treating her better than her own teammates did. He must want something. And what did they always want? This must be an act to get me into bed. But why? I've already told him that I would do whatever he wanted. And now is his chance. The big guy is gone. He must want something really wild. It was always the quiet ones who could dream up the weird stuff. Elise decided to try and talk to Chuck to see if she could figure out what he was really after.

"How did you meet Agent Walker?" Elise asked.

"First off," Chuck said with a smile. "Her name is Sarah Bartowski. Calling her Agent Walker is going to get you on her bad side. And you're already pretty deep in that dog house as it is."

"Okay," Elise said as she returned Chuck's smile. "Thanks, that's good to know. So how did you meet Sarah?"

"She was my handler," Chuck said. "That's as much as I can say."

"Wait a minute," Elise said. "Your handler? The famous super spy, Sarah Walker, fell in love and married her asset? That's wild."

"It was very wild," Chuck said with a laugh. "It took two full years for her to finally admit it."

"I've met her," Elise said. "But she would never remember me. I attended a class that she taught once. She is pretty… intense."

"She is intense," Chuck said. "I'll give you that."

"She is going to hate me," Elise said. "Isn't she?"

"At first," Chuck admitted. "You're going to have to convince her that you're not loyal to Fulcrum. But she'll come around. I'll talk her into it."

"I'm not loyal to Fulcrum," Elise said. "I tried to confess to Ben Adams before I came out here but he wouldn't listen."

"Let me guess," Chuck said. "He was too busy getting you into bed."

"How did you know?" Elise asked with a laugh. But as she thought about that night, suddenly it hit her. That's what Chuck wants. That's why he's being so nice. He wants…

"I know him," Chuck said sadly. "He is pretty predictable."

Elise didn't respond. She was disappointed but not that surprised. After all, they always wanted something. All men are predictable. At least now, thanks to Ben, I'll know what to do.

x-x-x-x-x

"You're sure that Chuck is okay?" Ellie said in a near panic. "Where is he?"

"Ellie, relax," Sarah said. "Chuck is fine. I promise. I'm not sure where he is right now. He and Casey are hiding out."

"But why a funeral?" Devon asked. "Isn't that a little extreme?"

"We have to convince Fulcrum that Chuck is dead," Sarah said. "Our whole plan depends on that. They will be watching our every move. We are going to have to sell it. And that means acting like Chuck is dead. I'm going to have to count on you guys to sell it."

Janice walked into the apartment. She had just checked out the perimeter.

"Where are they?" Sarah asked.

"There are three of them," Janice responded. "They are watching from the courtyard."

"Who is watching?" Ellie asked. The concern in her voice was plain.

"It's Fulcrum," Sarah said quickly. "Don't worry. They are just following Janice and me. They'll leave when we do. This is what I'm trying to tell you. We need to sell it. It would have been better if you didn't know the truth. But I couldn't put you through that."

"How are we going to act?" Ellie asked.

Instead of responding, Sarah just looked at her. Suddenly, Sarah's eyes filled with tears and they started to flow down her cheeks. "I don't know," she sobbed. "I just lost the love of my life. I'm not sure what I'm going to do."

Devon stepped up to hug Sarah. She threw herself into his arms sobbing.

"You're going to act just like that," Janice said with a smile.

"Wait a minute," Devon said. "That was an act?"

"Yes, Devon," Sarah said. She was now smiling broadly. "That was an act. And that's exactly what I need from you tomorrow."

"Morgan is on his way over," Janice said.

"Good," Sarah said. "Ellie, I'm going to need your help explaining things to Morgan. I'm really concerned about him blowing it. He is the weak link."

"Why me?" Ellie asked.

"Because, babe," Devon answered for her. "You're the one that Morgan will listen to."

"Devon's right," Sarah said. "Ellie, you know how Morgan feels about you. I need you to use that to make him understand."

"Oh hell no," Ellie said. "You are not seriously asking me to flirt with Morgan."

"Sorry," Sarah said with a smile. "Maybe a little. But look on the bright side. It beats having to play a crack ho."

"I'm not so sure," Ellie said with a sigh. But she couldn't keep the smile from her face. "They both suck."

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones had just finished showing Sarah and Janice to their rooms. After his failure of this morning he vowed that he would not make that same mistake again. He knew that Sarah was not going to be in any sort of mood to tolerate any advance from him. But what about Janice? She would certainly do. So he invited them out to the pool area.

"Wow," Janice said under her breath. "This is fabulous." And she wasn't exaggerating one bit. It really was fabulous. The bright sun sparkled off the crystal clear water and simply invited you to jump in. "Sarah, why didn't you tell me how nice this is?"

"Thanks," Jones said. "It's ridiculously expensive to maintain. But at times like this it is worth it. Why don't we go for a swim? You've had a tough day. I'm sure it would relax you."

"We didn't pack our suits," Sarah said. Actually, that was a lie. But she promised Chuck that no man would ever see her in that new bikini. Considering the alternative, that was a tad silly. But she meant it. That promise was sacred to her. No matter what, that bikini was reserved for Chuck. "I think we'll just relax in the sun by the side of the pool if that's okay."

"The pool area is quite private," Jones said softly. "And the water is fantastic. I'm sure it would do you some good."

"I don't think so," Sarah said hesitantly.

"I'll tell you what," Jones said. "I have some work to do. I'll leave you ladies alone. I promise that no one will see you. If you want to get in the water, I'm sure you'll find it relaxing. If not, that's fine too. Enjoy the afternoon and come in the house when you're ready for some dinner."

As soon as Jones left, Sarah turned to Janice. She kept her voice low in case someone was listening. "You do realize that he's watching?" she asked. "There are probably cameras at every angle."

"Of course he's watching," Janice said. "Let's give him a minute to get to the monitor and then we'll go for a swim."

"I'm not going," Sarah said.

"Chuck said to tease him," Janice said softly. "What better way?"

"I'm not letting that pig see me naked," Sarah said. "At least not until I've talked to Chuck about it. There will be plenty of chances to tease him. I just want to make doubly sure that Chuck is okay."

"Suit yourself," Janice said as she pulled off her top. As soon as she was undressed, she ran and dove into the water.

"How is it?" Sarah asked.

"It's fantastic," Janice said. She knew that she had to be careful to stay in character in case someone was listening. "You should really come in. If Chuck is watching, he will be okay with this. He'll only see you for a second until you get into the water."

"I know that Chuck would be okay," Sarah said with a smile. I just want to hear it from his lips first.

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones sat in his office staring at his monitor intently. He was almost afraid to blink. This was actually working out quite nicely. Walker was completely on board with the mission. And the best part was that she thought that it was her idea. All he had to do was to give her the right guidance and assistance and get out of her way. This could be the blow that turned the war in their favor.

And he also had a couple of days to get Sarah Walker into his bed. He needed to come up with something that she wanted from him. He was sure that her wanting revenge would trump any other consideration. Especially after the funeral was over and she no longer felt married. But, on balance, the day had gone quite well. If not for his own stupidity, he would already be celebrating his victory. And figuring out how to bag the sister. As he watched her sleep naked while collecting the full force of the afternoon sun, she suddenly became his newest priority. She was absolutely gorgeous. Well, at least he had one of them naked.

Now to work on the other.

x-x-x-x-x

Elise had been unusually quiet for most of the day. So much so that Chuck took notice. She was distant in a way that she hadn't been before. Was it something I said? But he just figured that she was depressed from having failed at her mission. He knew that spy types were really competitive. So he tried to leave her alone. The bad news was that meant talking to Casey. And that, combined with Chuck being excited about the prospect of seeing Sarah tomorrow, didn't mix very well. So it was actually a relief to both of them when Casey left to get dinner.

"Hey," Chuck said to Elise after Casey had left. "You've been pretty quiet. What's wrong?"

"Honestly?" Elise asked.

"Of course," Chuck said.

"I might as well be up front," Elise said with a sigh. "I'm not looking forward to seeing Sarah tomorrow."

"I told you not to worry about that," Chuck said with a smile. "I'll protect you."

"I know," Elise said. "It's just that I'm not really into that. But don't worry. I owe you. I'll come through."

"Elise," Chuck said. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"What you want tomorrow," Elise said. "You, me, and Sarah. I'm not really into that. But I promise, I'll do my best."

"Oh my God," Chuck said in alarm. "Why would you think that I want that?"

"It's what all men want," Elise said. "Isn't it? It's what Ben wanted."

"Okay," Chuck said angrily. "Three things. One, I am in love with my wife. I'm not looking for any trysts. Two, Sarah would kick both of our asses for even thinking about what you're suggesting. And three, it pisses me off that you would compare me to Ben Adams. There is not much more you could do to insult me than that. Now I'm officially not speaking to you for the rest of the night."

Elise looked at Chuck and realized that he was honestly offended. Either that or he was a great actor. Had she misjudged him? She just watched Chuck ignore her for several minutes and decided that nobody was that great of an actor. She had misjudged him. "Chuck, I'm sorry," she finally said softly.

"Why would you say that to me?" Chuck asked angrily. "I have been nothing but nice to you. Why would you assume that I'm a pig?"

"Simple," Elise said. "In my world, all of the men are pigs. And you're right. You have been very nice to me. But that almost always means that you want something."

Chuck looked at Elise and the light bulb went on. Of course. From her perspective it made perfect sense. The men that she knew all wanted something from her. Usually to satisfy their own twisted desires. No wonder she immediately suspected his motives. Chuck's anger disappeared like a balloon had just popped. "I don't want anything," Chuck said softly. "Not if by anything you mean sex. I hoped that we might be friends someday. But you're really not making that easy."

Elise looked into Chuck's eyes and saw something that she never seen before – honesty. "I'm sorry if I misjudged you," she said. "I think I might like that."

Chuck couldn't help but smile. "Besides," Chuck said. "Believe me when I say that keeping up with Sarah is all I can handle."

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones was sitting on his couch watching the ending of the baseball game. He wasn't a big fan at all. The game was on, but he was only partially paying attention. His mind was on an entirely different game. The one between Sarah Walker and himself. He had to admit, it was an odd game. He was dominating in every measurable statistic. But he had failed to score. It was becoming most frustrating. He was so deep in thought that he didn't notice Janice come in the room.

"Hi," Janice said. "I hope I'm not bothering you. What's the score?"

Her hair, which was still a little damp from this afternoon's dip in the pool was tied in a loose ponytail. She was dressed in a simple t-shirt and cut-off jeans. She was giving off a girl-next-door vibe that was incredibly sexy. "Janice," Jones said. He ignored her question. Mostly because he didn't know what the score was. "It's nice to see you. Is anything wrong with your room?"

"Nothing's wrong," Janice said. "It's perfect. I was just lonely. If I'm bothering you, I'll leave. I don't want to impose."

"Don't be silly," Jones said. "Please sit down. Would you like a drink?"

"I'd love one," Janice said. "Thank you."

Since his eyes had not left her chest once, it was fairly obvious that he would be receptive to her advance. But how to not make it completely obvious. "I want to thank you," Janice said. "You've been a life saver. Without you, we'd be holed up in some cheap motel somewhere trying to think of someway to get revenge."

"Well," Jones said. "Like I said, it's in my best interest that you succeed. She really must have loved him."

"She really did," Janice said. "But I'm trying to figure something else out."

"What is that?"

"Why did Sarah warn me to stay away from you?"

"I don't know," Jones said with a laugh. "Why do you think?"

"Honestly?" Janice asked. "I'm not sure. She is pretty protective. You know how big sisters are? And she knows that you're the type of guy that I usually fall for."

Jones certainly liked the way this conversation was going. "What type is that?" he asked.

"Powerful," Janice said so softly that he could barely hear her. "But I'm not sure that is the total reason."

"What do you think the total reason is?"

"She's intrigued herself," Janice said with a soft smile. "She would have had a hard time cheating on Chuck, but I can tell that she was tempted. Power turns her on. Just like it turns me on. And we're pretty competitive when it comes to men."

"Janice," Jones said with a grin. "What are you saying?"

"Are you really going to make me say it?" Janice asked shyly. "Okay. I'll admit it. I'm very attracted to you."

Jones was stunned. But not stunned enough to look this gift horse in the mouth. "I'm very attracted to you too," he said.

"It's more than that," Janice whispered as she looked at the floor. "You're probably not interested but I feel like I have no defense against the power of your will. That whatever you asked me to do; I would have no choice but to comply. I'm not sure why I'm telling you this. But I guess that's part of it. I'm defenseless."

Now Jones was completely consumed. There is one way to find out if she was serious. "Wow," he said with a smile. "You do realize that this is something that you're going to have to prove? Perhaps you could start by taking off your shirt?"

Janice swallowed and nodded. "Whatever you say," she whispered as she stood up. She reached to the bottom of her shirt and lifted it over her head. After it was off, she held it over her now bare chest for a long moment before she finally let it drop to the floor. "Could I ask for one favor?"

Jones had seen Janice naked on the black and white surveillance footage this afternoon. But he was simply mesmerized by the sight of her standing there in front of him, live and most definitely in color. She is serious. He had not gotten to his position by failing to press any advantage. "Favor?" he asked. "I thought I was in charge."

"You are," Janice said as she looked at the floor. "You're completely in charge. I just don't want to do this where Sarah might see us. She's probably sleeping anyway but she's had a bad day. Can we go out by the pool? Maybe we can go for a night swim after. The water looks scrumptious."

"After?" Jones asked. "After what?"

"That's entirely up to you," Janice said. "You said that I was going to have to prove it. I'm ready to do that. I'm yours tonight. Whatever you want."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah sat in her room wincing while listening to their conversation. Janice was simply the best seductress that she had ever heard of. He bought that load of crap completely. He was so aroused that the moron actually left his cell phone lying on the table. It only took a few seconds for Sarah to replace the battery. And, after all, that was the only way to bug him. The house was almost assuredly swept several times a week. But no one would suspect his cell phone.

When Sarah looked out the window, she could tell they were both naked. And she tried not to notice but it was obvious what was happening. Even before Chuck's 'death' changed things, this had always been part of the plan. It was always the part that Chuck dreaded. Janice had to make a huge sacrifice. And Chuck would feel awful when he heard the details. They had already talked about it – several times. Chuck was so sweet. He would never believe that this wasn't a big deal to Janice. But there also was absolutely no question. The payoff was huge.

They now would be listening in on his every conversation.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 24: Hello Kate

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Casey were actually watching the same baseball game that Fred Jones and Janice had been pretending to watch. The main difference was they were actually watching the game. Especially Casey. Anything was better than talking about sandwiches.

Elise found that she was actually having a good time. She was already somewhat of a baseball fan. It was something that she had picked up from her dad before he died. Some of her fondest memories of him were still at baseball games. And although she didn't follow either of the west coast teams that were playing, she could still enjoy the game. Truth be told, she knew more about the details of the game then either of the guys.

Sure, technically she was a captive. But it was the weirdest thing. She didn't really feel like it. Okay, she was cuffed to the chair. But they were great about letting her get up whenever she asked. Not many captives sat drinking a beer with a bowl of chips while they enjoyed a baseball game. That was never covered in the CIA training.

And she had to admit, she was enjoying the banter between the guys. On the surface you would think that they couldn't stand each other. But once you were around them for a while you understood that was not the case. Quite the opposite. They obviously cared for one another a great deal. It was sort of like two brothers. They would tease each other and fight like cats and dogs. But each knew without question that the other had his back.

Elise knew that it was stupid to develop feelings… for anybody really. But it was particularly dangerous with other spies. She just couldn't help herself. She found that she was truly beginning to like them. They were so different. Neither was like any spy she had ever known. Elise even sat and wondered which one she could see herself with. Honestly, neither was like the alpha male types they she usually ended up with. But they both had their attractions. Casey was the strong silent type. Coarse and gruff on the outside, sure. But she bet that he was loving and tender in bed. And Chuck? She couldn't figure out Chuck. A man trying to be her friend was a new experience for Elise. She wasn't sure that she completely bought it. It was an interesting concept. How to find out? Chuck might be a challenge to get into bed. After all, how could she compete with Sarah Walker on any level? But Casey? Maybe she would have to try and see if she was right. Maybe the next time she was alone with him. Tears. I bet that he would react to tears. What could it hurt?

As they were watching the game, Casey's alarm went off. When he went to check what happened, Chuck's eyes followed him in anticipation.

"What is it?" Chuck asked.

"Good news," Casey said with a grin. "Your plan worked. The girls have planted the bug."

Chuck nodded. That wasn't good news. It was fantastic news. It meant that they would be listening to any conversation that Fred Jones had. They would know about any plans that he made. And it could very possibly lead them to the other Elders. But he also knew what else it meant. One of the girls was currently naked, submitting to Jones as he enjoyed using her to the fullest extent possible. Chuck tried not to think of what was currently happening to her. But he knew full well that a man like Jones wouldn't settle for plain sex. He would play the game. He would see how far he could push her. And she was probably forcing a smile on her face while pretending to enjoy whatever degrading thing he was making her do.

The primary plan was for that to be Janice. But depending on circumstances and how Jones had reacted, it could even possibly be Sarah. Chuck knew that he was being a complete hypocrite when he prayed that it was Janice. Because no matter which one it was, it was someone whom he loved very much. And that wasn't even the worst part. The worst part was it was his idea. This was his plan. This was his fault. He was the one who was using her. Someone that he loved. So in a very real sense, it didn't matter which one it was. He didn't deserve her.

Casey could tell by the look on Chuck's face that he was hurting. Of course, Casey also knew what generally must be happening at Fred Jones's mansion. Chuck shouldn't feel guilty. He should be proud of them. Casey sure as hell was. This is what they were trained to do. They had just used Jones's weakness to defeat him. But then again, if Chuck could feel that way, he wouldn't be Chuck. "Chuck," he said softly without looking away from the television. "You can't let it drive you crazy. It's just part of this nasty business."

Elise sat and watched the interplay with interest. She didn't know any details. After all, except for what she had overheard, they had not shared any of their plans with her. But they most definitely had something cooking. She assumed that the girls were Sarah Walker and that Janice chick she had met last night. It was obvious that one of them had planted a bug on the Elder. And it was a safe bet that they had used seduction to do that. Either one was obviously more than qualified to perform a seduction. So why was Chuck so sad? Casey was right. That sort of thing happened every day. It was part of the business. Chuck was married to a spy. He must know what female spies do. Elise decided that she wanted to find out what made him tick. And Casey had just gone a long way towards validating her thoughts about him as well. He was much more gentle inside than he would want you to believe. Now she was dying to know. Does that translate to in bed?

Chuck couldn't shake the mental image of Sarah standing in front of Fred Jones softly dancing as she stripped out of her clothes. He knew that he had to get out of there or break down in front of them. And he wasn't willing to do that. "I'm tired," he said softly. "I'm going to bed."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice shook the water out of her eyes as she surfaced. She was right, the water was scrumptious. Of course, another side benefit was that it gave her a break from Fred's hands. But she knew that it was only a matter of time before he wanted round two.

Round one hadn't been all that terrible. Oh, the sex was lousy. No question about that. He wasn't at all interested in pleasing her. He didn't even pretend to be interested. But Janice wasn't surprised. That was completely expected. She knew up front that whenever you told a man like Fred Jones you would do anything he asked, he would push your boundaries. She knew damn well that he was currently thinking up what he would demand to do next. And if he was anything like the other men that she had been in this position with, she had a pretty good idea of what that would be.

Jones watched Janice swim and sighed. This night had worked out very well. He wasn't at all convinced that Janice was being completely candid with him. But at some level, it didn't really matter. She was eager to do anything that he asked. So he might as well ask for it all. But, as fun as tonight was, he couldn't get his mind off of the big prize. Sarah Walker was now more than a challenge. She was a quest. But how to approach this? If Janice was at all telling the truth, they were competitive with men. Maybe that was something he could use. Perhaps if he exploited Janice in front of Sarah, that would spark something. Oh well, it couldn't hurt. And it definitely would be fun.

As Janice continued to swim her laps, she couldn't help but think about Casey. She knew that he would understand. This was her job. She had just given Sarah the time to bug his phone. Hell, she had just given Sarah time to bug a hundred phones. No, Janice wasn't worried about that. In a real way, Casey would be proud of her. She was just wondering what he was thinking. And more specifically, how she should approach the next time they were together. Janice really didn't want to give Casey the impression that she was seducing him. That wouldn't do at all. The last thing that she wanted was to make him feel like it was a mission for her. But she also knew if she wanted him to make the first move, she would have to encourage him somehow. He was far too consumed with proving that he was interested in more than sex. That made Janice smile. Okay, Casey. It's sweet but I get it already. The real problem was that none of her usual 'encouragement' techniques would work. He would see right through tears. Or 'accidentally' letting him see her without some clothes. And who could she use to make him jealous? Chuck was out. But there had to be a way. Maybe Sarah would have an idea. After all, blondie never had any trouble getting Chuck in the mood.

"Hey," Jones called, startling Janice out of her thoughts. He was sitting on the edge of the pool with his feet dangling in the water. "Come here. I think I have an idea for what we can do next."

Janice had to suppress the groan as she began to swim over to him. Gee, what a surprise.

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah was lying on her bed in Fred Jones's guest room. The plan had gone quite well. Jones was obviously going to be satisfied with his romp with Janice, for tonight at least. That meant he probably wouldn't try anything with her until after the funeral.

Sarah, naturally, didn't trust him. And that was an understatement. She had already swept for bugs. She didn't find any. But that didn't mean that Jones wouldn't be listening at the door. So she knew that she needed to be very careful about what she said. And there wasn't anybody to talk to anyway. Well, actually, that wasn't entirely true. Because that night, for the very first time, she felt the bump in her stomach. It was very slight. No one else would have noticed it. But it was definitely there.

To tell the truth, it was a moment that Sarah had been dreading. She was going to lose her figure. And she was ashamed at how selfish that sounded. She was excited about the baby. She absolutely was. It's just that her body was one of her most valuable attributes. It had gotten her out of more scrapes than she could count. It had saved her life on several occasions. And now it was going to be gone. Probably never to completely return.

So when she felt the bump, Sarah was actually surprised at her reaction. She was excited beyond belief. She was really going to have a baby. Chuck's baby. And, of course, she always knew that. She had listened to the heartbeat, for goodness sake. But tonight it was real. She could feel Kate growing inside of her. How great was that?

The simple truth was that Sarah was scared. Hell, that didn't come close to being right. She was terrified. She had no idea how to be a mom. So what that she could speak seven languages? Or that she could kill an armed man with her bare hands in fifty different ways? Or that she even knew how to disarm an active bomb. She really didn't know how to change a diaper. And giving a baby a bath? She may as well have been asked to perform brain surgery. But every time the panic rose in her, one single thought drove it away. She was going to be doing this with Chuck. And together, they could figure out anything.

Sarah knew that some tough days were coming. The plan called for Fred Jones to burn with desire for her. And that meant that he was going to get more and more aggressive. Especially now that he had conquered Janice. It was predictable that he was now going to concentrate on getting her between the sheets. Sarah knew she was going to have to walk a fine line between encouraging him while not giving in. She knew that she was almost certainly going to have to compromise with him in some way. And that wasn't her only problem. Chuck was already messed up by what happened tonight. He was worried about it when they first came up with the plan. Sarah just knew that he was lying in bed someplace worried that it was her with Jones. And that broke her heart.

But tonight, even those grim things didn't seem quite so ominous. She was going to see Chuck tomorrow. And now she had great news. She had something to show him. The first visible sign of his daughter. That would cheer him up. Fortunately, there was nobody to see the silly grin on her face. Because she would have had a very hard time hiding it.

Chuck had made a habit of talking to the baby. He started the night that he found out about her, and made it sort of a ritual almost every night. He would rest his head on her stomach and whisper to her for a few minutes. And even though Sarah could never hear exactly what he was saying, he was beyond adorable. Sarah laughed to herself as she guessed what he talked about. Probably some nerd thing. No, he was probably telling her to be careful around boys. But it struck Sarah that she had never talked to the baby. Not once. And she wasn't even sure why. But she knew that it was time to start. So she gently rubbed her stomach where the bump was.

"Hi, Kate," Sarah whispered. "This is your mommy…"

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 25: The Funeral

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Chuck went to bed, Casey and Elise returned to watching the baseball game.

"What's wrong with him?" Elise asked. But she already had a pretty good idea.

"He just isn't cut out for this life," Casey said without looking up. "Things bother him."

"I know," Elise said. "Sarah seducing that Elder really affected him, didn't it?"

Casey was surprised and actually more than a little impressed that Elise was able to piece so much together based on the little that she had overheard. "It bothers him," Casey admitted. "But the funny thing is that it almost certainly wasn't even Sarah."

"So," Elise said. "That must mean it was Janice. Why would that bother Chuck? Aren't you dating Janice? It doesn't seem to bother you."

"In case you haven't noticed," Casey said sarcastically. "Chuck and I are different. Janice and I have only gone out on one date. Besides, why would it bother me? She is doing her job. This is what you ladies are asked to do."

"So why is it bothering you?" Elise asked with a grin.

"I thought we already agreed," Casey said. "She's doing her job."

"Come on, Casey," Elise said softly. "I may not be the bad ass super spy, but I'm not stupid. I can see the look in your eyes. Do you love her?"

"Love?" Casey asked sarcastically. "We've gone on one date. You've been hanging around Chuck too long. After one day you're already sounding just like him."

"I'm not sure I'm buying it," Elise said. "But if it's true then I'm glad. Spies shouldn't fall in love. Tell me, Casey. Do you think I'm pretty?"

"Of course," Casey said. "But where is that coming from?"

"I thought that maybe we could hook up." Elise said. "I mean, we're here. We're both alone. And you said it yourself. It doesn't mean that much. Why not?"

"You must really think that I'm stupid," Casey said. "Seducing the guard so you can escape? That's the oldest trick in the book."

"I'm not trying to escape," Elise said sadly. "Escape to where? Trust me, Casey. Even if I could escape, I have no place to go. Besides, I'm not seducing you. I'm trying to get you to seduce me."

"Then why?"

"Honestly," Elise said. "I'm curious. Most of the men that I'm with are pretty selfish in bed. I have a hunch that you're different. I'd really like to see what that feels like. Maybe I'd get to know what this Janice chick is missing. Besides, it would be nice to be able to sleep in the bed tonight. This chair isn't all that comfortable. You can keep me cuffed if you don't trust me. And like you said, we're spies. It's no big deal. I promise that I won't fall in love with you."

"Very funny," Casey grunted. "So we're just supposed to go for it here on the chair?"

"You're really not Mr. Romantic, are you?" Elise laughed. "No. I already told you that the chair is not comfortable. But maybe if you kissed me once, it might not be so terrible. Let's start there. Who knows, you might even like it. Unless, of course, you're in love."

Casey thought about it for a long moment. He wasn't in love. He wasn't. How stupid would that be? Right now, Janice was groaning… Aw, the hell with it. "Elise," he said with a sigh as he unlocked her cuffs. "If you're pulling something…"

"Casey," Elise said softly. "I'm a trained agent. But so are you. And I weigh 106 pounds soaking wet. If we were to fight, who would you bet on?" Elise grabbed his hand and guided it to her side. "And if you're worried about weapons," she said. "Maybe you should frisk me again."

Casey swallowed as he allowed Elise to stand and put her arms around his neck. He really didn't know what Elise was after. But he knew that she was trained just like Janice was. And maybe she's right. It just isn't that big of a deal. After all, Janice is… He tried to block what Janice was doing from his mind. And Casey had to admit. Elise is beautiful. And she is here.

Elise touched her lips to Casey's. At first he didn't really respond. But the second time, he actually kissed back. So Elise opened her mouth a little to give him access. And after a couple of seconds she felt his tongue tentatively pass her lips. "See," she whispered with a smile as soon as the kiss broke. "Was that really so bad?"

Quickly the kissing became passionate. They stumbled to the bedroom locked in their session of hot necking. Somehow, both of their shirts were lying on the floor. Casey rolled Elise so that she was on her back and began kissing down her throat. He paused for a moment at her breasts and then kept moving down her stomach. Casey hooked his thumbs in the waistband of Elise's pants. She quickly lifted her hips to allow him to pull them off. Casey kept kissing, moving slowly lower and lower down Elise's stomach.

Elise, for her part, was perfectly content to let Casey take the lead. "I knew that this was a good idea," she moaned as Casey reached her navel on his journey south. "Yes," she finally hissed as she placed her hands on Casey's head to guide him. "Yes, sweetie. Right there."

It took Elise a long moment to realize that Casey had stopped. She wasn't quite on the edge. But she was darned close.

Casey put his head on the pillow next to Elise. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "I just can't."

Elise had to wait until she could think rationally again. But finally her breathing returned to the semi-normal range. And she had figured it out. "She calls you sweetie," Elise said. "Doesn't she?"

"No," Casey said with a sigh. "She would never call me sweetie. She makes fun of Sarah for calling Chuck sweetie."

"You were trying to pretend that I'm her," Elise said. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she realized how much like a jealous accusation it sounded. So she knew that she needed to soften it. "Weren't you?" she asked softly. "It's okay. I understand."

Casey didn't respond. But the look in his face as he stared at the ceiling told Elise that she was right.

Elise studied Casey for a long moment. "You have to tell her," she said softly. "You know that, right?"

"I can't tell her," Casey said as he continued looking at the ceiling. "Tell her what? We've been on one date. I'll scare her away."

"She deserves to know how you feel," Elise said with a soft smile. "She will want to know that you're in love with her. I know that I would. And who knows? She might even feel the same way."

"Would you stop talking about love?" Casey asked. "I don't even know what to tell her. I'm not sure how I feel. I just know that I can't stop thinking about her."

"Wow," Elise said. "You really are bad at this romantic stuff, huh?" Then she rolled on her side and put her arm across Casey's chest. "Tell her exactly that," she said. "Tell her that you can't stop thinking about her. Trust me, she'll like it."

"I'm not sure what she's looking for," Casey sighed.

"I think I might know," Elise said. "Don't get me wrong. I've only met her once. And we were both undercover. So I can't pretend to know her. But our situations are not that different. She's lonely. This job almost forces you to be lonely. She wants someone to share that with. And it's about far more than sex. We've both been with tons of men. Janice can walk into any bar on any night and come away with a companion for the evening. But I'll bet that she's never made love with someone who honestly cares for her. She thinks that she is a world class expert on sex. So do I. But the truth is that neither of us have a clue about making love. And trust me on this, if you treat her like you almost just treated me, she'll be yours for as long as you want."

"I'm really sorry," Casey said.

"Don't be," Elise said as she leaned in and kissed his cheek. "I'm not. I found out what I wanted. I was right. I only have one regret."

"What's that?" Casey asked.

Elise sat up with a grin. "I wish I had waited for two more minutes to call you sweetie."

"Where are you going?" Casey asked as he fought to repress his own smile.

"Back to the chair," Elise said.

"Stay here," Casey said. "I'll take the chair."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure," Casey said as he began to lose the fight to smile. "You deserve a good night's sleep."

"Thanks, Casey."

"You're welcome," Casey said. Now the smile was clearly genuine. "I'm not going to be able to sleep for a while anyway."

Casey got up from the bed and fished his shirt off the floor. He then walked to the door. Just before he left the room, he forced himself to turn and face her. "Elise," he said softly. "Thanks."

"Anytime," Elise said with her own smile. "She's a lucky girl."

x-x-x-x-x

The next morning Sarah got up early to get ready. She was very wary of taking a shower in Fred Jones's bathroom. Oh, she knew that she had to. This was her husband's funeral. It wouldn't do to be anything less than conservatively stunning. But she also knew that it wasn't past Jones to set up some surveillance to see her naked. She checked very carefully for cameras. And even though she didn't find any, it still didn't make her feel at ease. So she was very careful when she undressed. She made sure to always keep a towel around her. And she only stayed in the shower itself for the bare minimum.

x-x-x-x-x

It was a perfect day for a funeral. And actually, it was a perfect day for almost anything. It was a typical Southern California mid-summer day. And that meant not a cloud in the sky and a mid-morning temperature approaching eighty.

Sarah could see the Fulcrum agents stationed all around the perimeter. They weren't all that subtle. But Jones had insisted. And there really wasn't a good way to refuse. After all, the CIA was supposed to have issued a sanction against her. And it would look bad for her to show up in a public place without protection. So if Fred Jones wanted to think that he was protecting her, that was fine. It would be good for him to get the report that the funeral was legitimate anyway.

And if Sarah had been worried about Morgan, she didn't need to be. Whatever Ellie had whispered to him turned the trick. He sat there wordlessly. Apparently, he was going for the stunned shock look. And it worked quite well.

The actual funeral had been over for some time. But it was obvious that Sarah wasn't ready to leave. So eventually, most of the people drifted off, leaving Ellie and Devon with Sarah. Janice stood a respectable distance off to the side. Devon was torn on what to do. First off, he was no longer completely sure that anybody was acting. If they were, then they needed to change professions. They did live quite close to Hollywood.

Whatever happened, Devon wanted to be there to support Sarah. She was a heartbreaking sight sitting there with her hand on the urn that contained his ashes. And even though her dark glasses hid her eyes, it was plain that she was overcome with grief. Devon kept telling himself that this was just an act. But act or not, this was still an incredibly horrible day. And Devon also had Ellie to worry about. She had either joined the ensemble cast of brilliant actors or she was a wreck herself. On the one hand, he wanted Sarah to know that she was family and that they loved her. On the other hand, he wanted to give her the chance to say goodbye on her own. So when Janice stepped up and suggested that they give Sarah a minute, he compromised. They left their seats and went to wait for Sarah in the limo. Devon practically had to carry Ellie. Janice quickly took Ellie's other side and, together, they guided her to the car.

They had been gone for a few minutes when Sarah noticed several cemetery workers in blue coveralls waiting awkwardly. They waited for a few minutes until one finally approached her. His hat was pulled low over his hair. And his own sunglasses hid most of his face. But his calm smile was strangely comforting.

"I'm so sorry, ma'am," he said as he knelt by her chair. "We would never interrupt you in a time like this, but we need the chairs for another funeral that is about to start. Would it be okay if we quietly took them?"

Sarah just nodded. So the man nodded to the other workers and they very respectfully began to remove the chairs.

"Thank you," the worker said. "Please stay as long as you need. I'm so sorry about your husband. I understand that he was a special man."

"He was very special," Sarah said. "He's been gone for two days and I miss him like crazy."

"Well," said the worker as he lowered his voice. "Has anybody ever told you that you're very pretty when you're crying? Maybe I can help you get over him. Is that what you wear to your husband's funeral? One more button and I could see right down the front of your dress."

"Please don't make me smile," Sarah said. "They are still watching. How did it feel to attend your own funeral?"

"I feel a little like Mark Twain," Chuck said. "They know the truth, right?"

"Yes," Sarah said. "Ellie was great. She played the heartbroken sister perfectly. Janice actually went over to make sure that she was okay. Where is Casey?"

"He's watching us from the car," Chuck said.

"Where is she?" Sarah asked softly… but with a definite edge.

"She's in the back seat," Chuck said. Then he subtly slid her a small piece of paper. "Does he suspect anything? Or did he buy it? I'm hoping to see you at the hotel soon. We have some decisions to make."

"Hook, line, and sinker," Sarah said. "I'll be there in an hour. I need to stop by quick and make sure that Ellie, Devon, and Morgan are okay. Then I need to lose the tail. Order us some lunch from room service."

Chuck got up to leave. "Lunch?" he asked. "It's only ten."

"Kate needs something to eat," she said. "I've tried my best but my appetite hasn't been that good for the past couple of days. I know that we have to talk about the plan. But that is going to have to wait for a while. I have my own plan for this afternoon. And trust me on this sweetie. For what I have planned, you're going to need all of your strength."

Chuck was able to hold in the smile. And his eyes were covered by the glasses. But Sarah could see the grin ready to break out. "By the way, it was Janice last night," she whispered. "I know that you were worried about that."

Suddenly any hint of a smile was gone. Again, Sarah didn't have to see his eyes to know that they were now filling with tears.

Sarah had to fight the overwhelming urge to reach out and grab him to keep him from walking away. The only reason she was able to resist was because she knew that it would only be another hour. "Sweetie," she whispered. "Please stop. It's not your fault. And Janice is fine. She was joking about it."

Chuck gave a short nod before he stood up and left. Sarah made sure to turn her head but she watched Chuck walk away out of the corner of her eye until he was out of sight.

As soon as Chuck was gone, Sarah thought about how completely worthless Fulcrum protection really was. She could still see them guarding the perimeter. Did they really think that the CIA was going to attack wearing their t-shirts with the CIA logo on the front? If Chuck could so easily get past them, what good were they? Sarah had to bite her lip to keep from shouting at the pure incompetence.

But then she read the paper that he had given her. On the top was, as she expected, the address and room number of the hotel. But there was something else. Sarah had shed a ton of fake tears today. All part of the act. It was something that she was very good at. But now, the tears that were streaming down her face were real. Even she didn't realize how much she had missed him. Seeing him just now felt like someone had taken a hundred pound weight off of her chest. And fortunately, she had no reason to hide the tears. It was great for the cover. Jones would soon get a full report that they had just witnessed a heartbroken widow grieving for her murdered husband. They would never know the difference. They would never know that those were happy tears. Relieved tears.

But they would soon know one thing. Now she knew what it felt like to be without him. She knew the fear of not knowing if he was safe. Sure, it was only for a couple of days. But it might as well have been a couple of years. Now anyone who ever tried to keep them apart again was a dead man walking. They would get zero pity. Sarah sobbed as she read Chuck's flowing handwriting and his now familiar promise.

I, Charles, take you Sarah,

to be my wife,

to have and to hold,

for better or for worse,

for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and in health,

to love and to cherish;

from this day forward until death do us part.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 26: Elise's Choice

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Sarah closed the door to the limo, Ellie turned to her. "Are we safe now?" she asked. "Or do we have to keep the act up?"

Sarah flashed a sad smile. "We're safe," she said. "You all did great. Thank you."

Ellie studied Sarah's face. She was convinced that there was something Sarah wasn't saying. "Then tell me what's wrong," she said.

Sarah let out a huge sigh. "I'm worried about Chuck," she said.

Of course, that was the wrong thing to say to Ellie. A look of pure panic appeared on her face. "What's wrong with Chuck?" she quickly said.

Sarah took one look at Ellie's face and mentally kicked herself. What a stupid thing that was to say to her. Of course they had just attended Chuck's fake funeral. Naturally she would be on edge. "I'm sorry," she said quickly. "There is nothing wrong with Chuck. At least not physically. He's just down. He's worried about Janice."

That certainly got Janice's attention. "Why is he worried about me?" she asked.

"Yeah," Ellie joined. "Why would he be worried about Janice? Is something wrong?"

"Not really," Sarah said haltingly. She wasn't sure how to tell Ellie without shocking her. "Janice had to do something on our mission last night… Umm… Something that might not… Umm…"

"Oh for goodness sake," Janice interrupted. "Ellie, I had to seduce a bad guy last night so Sarah could plant a bug. It wasn't a big deal."

Ellie just looked confused. "Why would Chuck be worried about Janice flirting with someone?" she asked. "That's not a big deal."

"This went a bit beyond that," Sarah said.

"How far beyond…" Ellie started.

"For crying out loud," Janice interrupted. "Why is everyone dancing around this? I had sex with the man, Ellie. A couple of times actually. I lured him out of the house and had sex with him by the pool so that Sarah could plant a bug."

"Oh," was all that Ellie could say. But the blush rapidly creeping up her neck said much more.

"That's not all," Sarah said softly. "It was Chuck's plan. So he feels responsible. And depending on how the mark responded, it could have possibly been me that had to… umm… lure him. So Chuck feels guilty."

"Sarah," Ellie exclaimed. "You would sleep…"

"Only as a desperate, last resort," Sarah interrupted. "I'm not anticipating doing that. But it is critical that we stop these men. It's important to the country. But even more importantly, it's important to us. They are never going to let us raise our family in peace as long as they are in power. That's why they have to be stopped. And Chuck and I have to be willing to do almost anything to stop them. Wouldn't you do that to save your babies life?"

Ellie just nodded sadly. Then she turned to Janice. "Are you okay?" she asked.

"Why do you think that I wouldn't be okay?" Janice asked with a smile. "The sex wasn't all that great. Come on, Ellie, this is what spies do."

"So," Ellie said as she turned towards Sarah. "That means that you've…"

"A few times," Sarah said sadly. "But I always did everything I could to avoid it and not since I've met Chuck." But then she smiled. "But I'm not nearly as good at it as Janice. It's her specialty."

Up to now, this conversation was pretty predicable for Sarah. That all changed when Ellie moved to sit next to Janice with a grin.

"Tell me the truth," Ellie whispered into Janice's ear. "How does it feel? How does it really feel to make a complete stranger burn with desire for you so much that he'll do anything to have you?"

Janice's eyes widened. She wasn't sure what to expect from Ellie. But this certainly wasn't it. "It can… feel," Janice started haltingly. "It can feel good. Very good."

"I want to hear all about it," Ellie said softly. She was obviously trying to keep her voice low so that Devon wouldn't hear. But she didn't need to worry about that. Devon was in the front of the car consumed by his own thoughts. "You have to promise that you'll let me take you out for a drink and tell me about it."

"Okay," was all that Janice could think of to say. After all, she still had some fences to mend with Ellie anyway. But if she was interested… she was part of this world now. She deserved to know the truth. "But it's a long story. It may take more than one drink."

"I can't wait," Ellie said. The sparkle in her eye was clear. "Too bad you can't come, Sarah."

"Why can't I come?" Sarah asked with a questioning smile.

Ellie's grin lit up the limo. The somber mood from the funeral was now completely gone. "Because, silly," she said. "You can't drink."

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Chuck opened the door, she was in his arms.

"I really thought you were dead," Sarah whispered. "I never want to feel that way again."

"Sarah, I'm sor…" Chuck began. But then Sarah smashed her lips against his, and she gripped the back of his neck fiercely. Casey averted his gaze while Elise stared open-mouthed. But Chuck was no longer aware of them; as Sarah's tongue entered his mouth, the world simply fell away. He felt like he could kiss her forever. But then finally, the lack of oxygen overcame Sarah's lack of Chuck, and she was forced to break off the kiss.

"Wow," Chuck said with his classic grin. "I hope there's more where that came from. Where's Janice?"

"We drove separately," Sarah said. "We wanted to divide the tails and make it easier to lose them. She took the long route. She'll be here in a few minutes."

"I ordered lunch," Chuck said as he indicated the tray of food that was sitting in the room. "Do you want to eat? We can't waste this. Casey has already had a fit about ordering from room service. He says it's a waste of taxpayer dollars."

"In a minute," Sarah said. "First I want you to show me around the suite."

"Oh," Chuck said. "Okay. Well, it's a two bedroom suite. We're here in the common area. And there is a …"

"No, Chuck," Sarah interrupted with a grin. "The bedroom. I want you to show me the bedroom."

"Are you sure?" Chuck teased. "Because the master bathroom is very nice. Are you sure that you don't want to start there?"

"Are you sure that you want to tease me?" Sarah asked as she raised her eyebrows. "Or do you want to get in there and let me show you how much I've missed you? Your choice."

"You're right," Chuck said. "I'm sorry."

But just then, Sarah gaze focused on Elise sitting there. Instead of following Chuck to the bedroom, Sarah stomped over to where she was sitting. "Why isn't the prisoner secured?" she growled to Casey.

Sarah didn't wait for Casey's answer. She grabbed a handful of Elise's hair and used it to jerk her head up forcing Elise to look into her eyes. "Did you really think I would let you try and kill him and live to tell about it?" Sarah said harshly.

Elise didn't respond. She just stared at Sarah.

"I'm talking to you," Sarah said as she raised her voice even more. She gave the handful of hair a shake for emphasis.

Elise just shook her head sadly.

Chuck quickly stepped up and grabbed Sarah's arm. "Sarah," he said softly. "Please let go."

"This isn't close to being over," Sarah said as she finally released her. "I'll be back. And then it's you and me. Do you understand?"

Elise could do nothing except nod as Sarah stomped off.

But Chuck flashed Elise a reassuring smile. "Don't worry," he said. "I'll bet that she is in a much better mood in a few minutes."

"I hope so," Elise whispered.

Sarah went to the bedroom door and stopped. She turned towards Chuck and placed her hands on her hips. "Are you coming?" she asked.

As soon as they were in the bedroom, Chuck turned to Sarah. "Are you upset with me?" he asked.

"Upset?" Sarah asked. "Not really. I'm pissed."

"Why?"

"I'm not saying that I have any right to be pissed," Sarah said with a smile. "I just am. You should know me well enough by now to realize that. I thought you were dead. Then you defend the woman who I thought killed you."

"I'm sorry," Chuck said.

"Don't be sorry for that," Sarah said. "That's not really your fault. But here is something that is your fault. You can't feel guilty about Janice. She is doing exactly what she wants to do. She is proud of what she is contributing. And you have no right to make her feel bad because you're applying your moral foundation to her."

Chuck just looked at her sadly for a while. But then his eyes began to fill with tears. "You don't get it," he said. "I'm not worried about Janice. I mean, I am. Of course I am. But I understand that she is okay. I even understand that you would be okay if you had to do it. That's not why I feel bad."

"Then why?"

Chuck just looked at her for a long moment. "I hate those guys," he finally said. "Jones, Adams, it really doesn't matter. All of them. But don't you see? Now, I'm just like them. I just sent my best friend and maybe even the love of my life to become Fred Jones's sex toy. And I did it for my own selfish reasons. I'm turning into them."

For a moment, Sarah couldn't tell if he was being serious. But when she looked into his eyes, she decided that he was. So Sarah wrapped her arms around him. "Trust me, sweetie," she whispered. "You are nothing like them. And I can prove it to you."

"How?"

"You feel guilty," Sarah said quickly. "That's the proof. Do you really think that Adams or Jones would ever feel guilty? I'll agree that we're in a tough spot and to protect our family we're going to do some distasteful things. But you're not using us, Chuck. We're desperate to do it. You're just showing us how to be effective."

Chuck didn't respond other than squeezing Sarah tightly.

"You're actually being silly," Sarah continued. "For a second I even thought that you might be teasing me. Come on, sweetie. There's no way. A few days ago, you had one of the most beautiful women in the world convinced that she was in love with you and willing to do anything to prove it. Tell me, Chuck. What would Fred Jones have done in that situation? We both know. What did you do?"

"I did what I wanted to do," Chuck said sadly.

"Exactly," Sarah said. "And what you wanted to do was help her through it. And that's what you did. Sweetie, you're so far away from Fred Jones that I'm surprised that we're even having this conversation. I couldn't be more proud of you. I couldn't."

Sarah paused for a moment to compose herself. "When I was sitting in the morgue," Sarah said as her voice broke and she was forced to whisper. "And I was scared to death. Who was thoughtful enough to leave me a note with your vows? Do you realize how wonderful that made me feel? Would Ben Adams ever do something like that? Would Fred Jones? You're my hero, sweetie. You really are. I love you. That's what makes this so awful. When I see you hurting, I hurt. And there is no reason to hurt, Chuck. None. You should be as proud of yourself as I am of you. As Janice is of you. And even though he'll never admit it, as Casey is of you."

"I'm sorry," Chuck said. "You know that I never want to hurt you."

Sarah put her arms around Chuck's neck and put her head on his chest. "Then don't," she said softly. "The worst part about this is we're wasting time talking about this crap instead of getting naked, climbing into this bed, and showing how much we have missed each other."

"I've really missed you," Chuck said with a smile. "I love you."

"Talk is cheap," Sarah said with a grin. "You don't tell someone that you love them with words. You show them with your actions."

Chuck flashed his own grin. "Now, you're just sounding like Casey," he said. "Did you have some particular actions in mind?"

x-x-x-x-x

Janice was as nervous as she could ever remember standing in the hallway waiting to knock on the door to the suite. And why? Janice was in the worlds most dangerous profession. She was an undercover intelligence operative – one of the best. She had been in incredibly tense situations - life and death situations and remained calm. That's what spy training was all about. So why was she now so freaked out - over a guy?

One thing that she knew for sure, she didn't want to blow this. It was too important to her. But how should she act? She wanted to let Casey know that she was interested. And even more than interested. But she didn't want to scare him off. And Sarah was absolutely no help. All she could do was smile and tell me that it would work out. Work out? That was easy for her to say. She was already in love with her guy. And he was already in love with her. Wait a minute. Did she really just go there? Is that what she was after? Love? It was way too early to be talking about love. She didn't love Casey. Did she? Oh crap. Now she had just talked herself into being even more nervous.

Finally, Janice had no choice but to dry her sweaty palms on her pants and actually knock on the door. And when Casey answered, she took full note of the warm smile that he flashed. More than took note. It took her very breath away. He seemed genuinely happy to see her. That looked hopeful. He even hugged her as he showed her into the room. But she didn't really know what to do. And she just knew that he would be able to see that doubt written all over her face. Janice was panicked. CIA training was great at teaching you how to get them into bed. But it didn't do a damn thing to teach you how to make them fall in love with you. She really cared for this guy and she didn't know what to do. She was going to blow it.

So in a weird, ironic, sort of perverse way, Janice was almost grateful when she looked over Casey's shoulder and noticed that Elise was pointing a gun at them. That couldn't be good. Wasn't she supposed to be the prisoner? But at least it was a situation that she was trained for.

x-x-x-x-x

All was now right in Sarah's world. Or at least it would be once she could suck enough oxygen into her lungs to keep her chest from exploding. One look at Chuck lying there told her that he was fighting his own battle to catch his breath. But it felt so great. To have her head in this familiar position on his chest. She knew that she had missed this for the past couple of days. But even she wasn't aware of how much. Only now did she realize that the ache that had been in her chest was gone.

And even though Sarah was still trying to catch her breath, she had to feel his lips again. So she turned towards him and pressed her mouth to his. Naturally, he responded as she would have expected. He wrapped his arms firmly around her head. They were so locked into their own world with their tongues dancing that neither noticed Elise enter the room until she was next to the bed.

Once Sarah saw the gun she immediately knew that her position was defenseless. She was naked, tangled up in bed with Chuck, and facing an adversary with a weapon. And her own gun was lying on the floor, buried someplace in that mound of clothes. So Sarah did the only thing she could do. She placed her hands on the top of her head in a show of surrender.

Elise tossed a pair of handcuffs on the bed. "Cuff your hands to each other," she said.

Sarah had no choice. She was careful not to make any sudden moves. She slowly reached down and fastened the cuff to her right wrist. Then she reached over and secured the other cuff to Chuck's left wrist.

Elise motioned with the gun in her hand. "Let's go," she said. "Out into the living room."

"We're naked," Chuck protested. "Can we put on some clothes?"

At first, Sarah had hope. If Elise would let her grab some clothes, her gun was there.

But Elise dashed that hope when she shook her head. "Sorry," she said. "I can't risk it. Grab the sheet and wrap it around you."

When they walked into the other room, they could see Casey and Janice were sitting on the same chair where Elise had been secured earlier. Their arms were fastened to each other in a similar way as chuck and Sarah. But their hands were fastened to each other through the arm of the chair, effectively securing them to it. Sarah could see the gun that Elise had taken from Janice sitting on the counter. But it was too far away to make a lunge for it. Janice sat on Casey's lap as they watched Chuck and Sarah walk in. Chuck was obviously trying to keep the sheet in place but was having a hard time. Elise indicated that they should sit on the couch and they immediately and silently complied.

"I want to talk to you," Elise said.

"Elise, please…" Chuck started.

"I intend on doing all of the talking," Elise loudly interrupted. "Is that clear?"

Chuck just nodded his head.

"It's funny how quickly things can change in this business," Elise said. "Isn't it? Ten minutes ago, I was a captive, wondering who was going to kill me first. Sarah Walker or Fulcrum. And now, thanks to your carelessness, I find myself in quite a different position. For the first time, I actually have options."

Sarah squeezed Chuck's hand under the sheet for support.

"There are several things I could do," Elise continued. "The most obvious choice is for me to shoot you all in the head and run. That would probably work. After all, they would assume that I'm dead and stop looking for me. But I actually think it might work out even better for me if I were to turn you over to Fulcrum. I'll bet they would be so happy that they would let me live. And once they found out about your plan, I don't think they would be very sympathetic towards you. Imagine, Sarah, what that Elder would have you do when a gun was pointed at Chuck's head. You'd do anything that he asked. We all know it."

Sarah knew better than to respond. But Elise was right. The defense against Fred Jones had always been that he needed her. His ultimate goal was to have Sarah work for him. So he was careful not to push her too far. But once they found out about the plan to take him down… that was out the window. He would be looking for revenge. And she didn't have to guess how that would play out. Elise was right. She would do anything to protect Chuck. And, more importantly, Fred Jones would know that. It was the worst case scenario they had discussed when they first developed the plan. Modeling lingerie would be the tamest thing he would demand. And it would all happen in front of Chuck. The odds of Jones being merciful were almost non existent.

Sarah began to think about ways to attack. She had to admit that her choices were very limited. Elise was a trained agent. That meant the chances of surprising her were not good. Sarah knew that there was no way to get to Elise before she shot. But anything was better than being Fred Jones's helpless plaything. If she took the first bullet, maybe Chuck could get to her before he was shot. Casey and Janice were secured to the chair. It would be several seconds before they would be able to drag it over and be any help. Could Chuck hold out that long? And being fastened to Chuck was going to make any attack much harder. Especially since they were naked and wrapped up in this stupid sheet that wasn't really hiding anything anyway. To have any chance, they would have to move together. Sarah was trying to make eye contact with Chuck to let him know to be ready to move when something strange happened. Tears started to stream down Elise's face.

"I've made some huge mistakes in my life," Elise said softly. "I didn't think some things through. I'm really not making excuses. There is no one to blame except myself. I've made some decisions that I'm not proud of. I need to fix that." She then tossed the keys to Sarah. "I'm sorry about pointing the weapon at you. But I wanted to make sure that you realized that I have a choice. So you'll realize that what I'm doing now is what I truly want to do. Maybe that will allow you to trust me a little easier. I understand that I have to earn that trust. I'm not demanding anything. I have to pay for my sins. I realize that. But I would be truly grateful for a second chance. If you would give me that chance, I promise that you won't regret it."

As soon as Sarah had released Chuck and herself, Elise walked over and handed her the gun. "I'll do anything that you ask me," she said.

Sarah took the gun from Elise but didn't point it at her. She just sat it on the sofa.

Elise took the keys and unlocked Casey's cuff. As she reached for Janice's wrist she leaned in to speak to her. "By the way," she said softly. "As long as I'm on a roll here, I might as well tell you something. He's in love with you. He was so excited about seeing you just now that he left his gun sitting on the table. I guess that's why spies shouldn't fall in love. He's too chicken shit to tell you. But I figured you'd want to know."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 27: The Spy Couple

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah sat and stared at Elise for a long moment while the relief washed over her. "Okay, Elise," she finally said calmly. "You're right. You did have a choice. And you made the right one. Thank you. But understand something. This doesn't erase everything between us. You still have some work to do before I can call you a friend. But I'll give you the chance to prove it to me. You've earned that much."

"Thanks," Elise said with a sigh. "That's all I'm asking for."

Sarah turned towards Janice and Casey who were just standing there. They were both looking awkwardly at different parts of the floor. "It sounds like you two have some talking to do," she said with a smile. "I'd suggest going into that bedroom, closing the door, and working it out."

"What are you going to do?" Janice asked.

"Take a guess," Sarah said sarcastically. "Chuck and I haven't seen each other in two days. We have some catching up to do. I owe him a big thank you for cheering me up at the morgue. It's time for him to collect. Thankfully Elise didn't let us put on any clothes. That will save some time."

"Come on," Casey growled. "In the first place, that sheet isn't doing much. I don't really need to see how much Chuck is looking forward to your thank you. Secondly, do you really have to stand there naked and rub our faces in it? You're going to make Elise reconsider that shooting us in the head thing. She might do it as a favor to me."

Elise looked around. "What do you want me to do?" she asked.

"I'm sorry, Elise," Sarah said with a grin. "We're out of bedrooms and out of men. You want to be trusted? Here is your first assignment. Find something good on television."

Elise nodded with a grin. "Yes, ma'am," she said.

"But whatever you do," Chuck said with a laugh. "Do not walk into that bedroom again without knocking. Sarah's thank you can get a bit… graphic."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice and Casey went into the bedroom that Sarah had indicated and stood in silence for a long moment. Neither really knew how to start the conversation. Finally, Casey couldn't stand the tension.

"I'm sorry that Elise said that," Casey said. "I never told her that I am in love with you."

Janice knew that she should be relieved. After all, it was silly to be talking about love. She had only known Casey existed for a few weeks. Sure, they had spent a magical couple of days together. There was even this strange tingling in her stomach whenever she looked at him. But love? Come on, that was for suckers. Love made you do crazy things. Agents couldn't fall in love. Look at Sarah. She was finished. She was once the top agent in the world and now she was barefoot and pregnant. No, it was good that Casey didn't love her. It was. It was good. So why do I feel like crying? But crying would never do. So she forced as much smile as she could. "Why are you sorry?" she asked.

"I don't want to scare you off," Casey said with a sigh.

That sounded a little more hopeful. "Why did Elise get that impression anyway?" Janice asked.

The blush that started running up Casey's neck said more to Janice than his words. "I'm not sure," he said. "I think that she got it from Chuck. He's bound and determined that you and I tell each other that we're in love."

Janice noticed that Casey wouldn't meet her eye and his obvious discomfort. He's not telling me everything. "That's funny," she said. "Elise is a spy. She would know that Chuck's idea of love doesn't really apply to spies. Why would she take his word for it?"

"Okay," Casey said with a sigh. "You're going to make me say it, aren't you? I'll be honest. I may have said something to her. I didn't say that I was in love. I just told her that I couldn't stop thinking about you. She translated that into I'm in love. I'm sorry."

Now Janice's heart was soaring. "Why are you sorry?" she asked as she tried to suppress the grin. "That sounds sweet." Actually, it sounded more than sweet.

"She said that you would like it," Casey said with a smile starting to appear.

"She was right," Janice said softly as she looked at the floor. "I like it a lot."

"I just don't want to scare you off," Casey continued. "I understand that our job really doesn't allow for…for…"

Janice lifted her head and looked into Casey's eyes again. "For love?" Janice finished his sentence. "Probably not. But I have something that you need to hear. I'm not scared. Not about that anyway. And I can't stop thinking about you either."

"You do realize that Chuck and Sarah are never going to let us hear the end of it until we admit that we're in love?" Casey said. "I don't think I can do it. Don't get me wrong. But when I look at the two of them, I feel like tossing my cookies."

"They're ridiculous," Janice agreed with a smile. "Please tell me that we're never going to end up like that."

"I know," Casey said. "And they are always all over each other. Give me a break. Can the sex really be that good?"

Janice laughed as she took her gun out of her waistband and handed it to him. "Do me a favor," she said. "If I ever call you sweetie, take this gun and shoot me in the head."

"Okay," Casey said with his own laugh as he set the gun on the nightstand. "I hope that you won't mind if I use a real gun."

"What's wrong with my gun?" Janice asked.

"Nothing," replied Casey. "If you're a traffic cop. In our line of work, you sometimes need some real firepower."

"Like that howitzer that you carry?" Janice asked sarcastically. "Sometimes you want to shoot the guy in the leg and have him survive so you can question him. When you shoot him with that cannon, bad guy goes one way and leg goes the other."

"But at least he's not shooting back at you," Casey said. "With that rubber band thing of yours…"

Casey couldn't finish his sentence. He suddenly found that his mouth was full. Janice had launched herself into his arms. And while it took him a short moment to realize what had happened, he knew exactly what to do. Casey wrapped his arms around Janice and fiercely kissed her back.

Janice had been in this position with a man more times than she could count. And she was typically the aggressor in these situations. She even had perfected a technique. She would get the guy warmed up with a hot kiss and then step back and slowly and wordlessly pull off her shirt. It had even become somewhat of a game to her. To see in his face how much more in control she became as she took off more and more clothes. And after all, she was the one who had initiated this kiss. So why was she now paralyzed? And what was the electricity that was flowing through her lips? She had never felt like this in her life. All she could do was stand there while his tongue gently teased hers. She was helpless.

Janice wasn't sure how long the kiss lasted. She had stopped caring. All she knew was that she was on fire. And that she was not in control. Casey was firmly in control. It felt simply intoxicating. Finally, Casey broke the kiss. But only long enough to lift Janice's shirt over her head and let it fall to the floor. At least Janice was still aware enough to raise her arms and help him. As they resumed the kiss, Janice put her hand behind his head to keep them as close as possible. And when she felt her bra loosen, she couldn't keep her hands from shaking with desire. Janice knew that her legs were on the verge of not supporting her weight. Fortunately, Casey scooped her up and placed her gently on the bed. Janice knew more by instinct than anything that she had to raise her hips to allow him to take off her pants. And once again as he slid off her panties. The fog of desire now overwhelmed her. All she knew was that she needed to feel his lips on hers. Rational thought had left. All she knew was that she needed to feel… him.

In bed, Janice was always the one that was in control. Last night Jones may have thought that he was in charge. But even when she was playing the submissive with him, she controlled his every move. So why now was it that she could really do nothing but lie there and let him lead? She could feel him slowly kissing her neck and slowly moving down her now naked body Finally, after what seemed an eternity, his lips were back on hers. She gasped as he suddenly entered her, moving gently. She arched her hips, needing to feel him inside, trying to fill herself up with his heat. She moaned softly and whispered once, "Casey."

Casey smiled and kissed her again, moving now with confidence and increasing the pace and force of his thrusts. By more instinct than awareness, she pressed her hips to match his until they were moving as one. Janice had no idea what had come over her. She was reduced to moaning his name. "Casey," she whispered as he continued with his slow, yet steady pace. "Oh God, Casey."

Janice opened her mouth, her tongue seeking his as they moved together now. She moaned softly again, and just as she reached the brink of ecstasy, he stopped moving, hovering over her body. She looked up at him. "Please," she said quietly.

Casey resumed, slowly at first and then intensifying his movements, leading her to the edge once more. And once more he stopped, pulling back for a kiss.

Janice narrowed her eyes. "Casey," she said firmly. He smiled at her again, and suddenly they were moving together as one with passion and vigor. She could no longer think rationally, and she tried to hold out for as long as possible. But then her moment came, and she nearly lost her mind. She had never felt anything like this before, nothing came even remotely close to this feeling. Although she tried to delay it, her body betrayed her, and she was overwhelmed with sensation during her climax. Wave after wave of electrifying pleasure consumed her. Time itself disappeared until the waves finally began to subside. Finally she could think again. She was in the last sweet spasms when she heard him moan and felt his own release.

After it was finally over, Casey gently kissed her and went to roll off to his side of the bed. But Janice grabbed him, not wanting the magical moment to end just yet. "Please," she whispered. "Don't move. Not yet."

Janice just lay there and allowed the warmth to encompass her. She knew that if she opened her eyes, she would break down. After all, she was twenty-eight. She had seduced men on three continents. And in numbers too great to keep track of. To tell the honest truth, she felt a little foolish. She knew more about sex than anybody she knew. But that was the first time in her life that she had ever made love. And now she understood what Sarah was trying to tell her. She finally understood the difference. But Sarah was wrong about one thing. It wasn't ten times better. It was a hundred times better.

"We have to talk," Casey said between kisses as he fought to catch his own breath.

She knew that he was right. They did have to talk. All of that stuff they said about love earlier… it was all still true. They still had jobs to do. And that would certainly include sex with other marks. Probably for both of them. And Chuck and Sarah were definitely still sickening. But she also knew that she couldn't lose this. She couldn't lose… him. And if that meant that she was in love, then so be it. She was in love. "Please," she whispered without opening her eyes. "It feels so good. Just one more minute."

"Don't worry about me," Casey said as he kissed her again. "This is great for me too. I'll stay like this as long as you want."

"Thank you," Janice said with a huge sigh as she finally opened her eyes and kissed him. She loosened her grip and allowed him to move off her. "I just didn't want that to ever end."

"You do realize," Casey said gently with a smile. "It might have ended. But we can do it again. I just need a few minutes."

But Janice could feel the anxiety creeping back into her conscious. She couldn't lose this. Yes, the job was still important. And she knew that it was to him as well. But she couldn't lose this. "I've never had a boyfriend before," Janice said. And she knew that Casey understood, because he just smiled and nodded. Certainly there had been many men in her life who would have called themselves her boyfriend. "I still have a job to do. And that job makes me do some things that a boyfriend wouldn't like."

"Promise me one thing," Casey said. "Promise me that you'll never let how I would feel affect what you do in the field. That would just get you killed. And I couldn't live with that. I'll make the same promise to you. That's the only way this thing can work."

"No jealousy?" Janice asked.

"No jealousy," Casey repeated. "If either of us ever feels jealous, we have to talk about it. It's the only way."

Suddenly all of the anxiety in Janice's mind was gone. Gone like it had never been there. Casey understood. He was exactly right. It was the only way it could work. "I promise," Janice said with a smile. "But right now, I'll promise anything to make this thing work."

"Me too," Casey replied with his own smile.

And there it was again. The smile that she loved. Okay, yes, she said it. Loved. "And for round two," Janice whispered.

"Me too," Casey replied as he leaned over to kiss her.

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones was sitting in his office watching the surveillance tape of his romp with Janice last night. One thing was for sure. He was replacing the black and white cameras with hi-def color ones as soon as possible. But even the grainy image that he was watching was wildly erotic. Janice was a beautiful woman. Nobody could question that. And she was obviously willing to do a lot to please him. Hopefully they would be back tonight. Although Walker had warned him that they might not. It would be interesting to see if she would be just as obedient tonight. Last night had just been about having fun. Tonight it would be to test how far he could push her. Especially in front of her sister. He was in the middle of planning tonight's test when he was interrupted by his cell phone. Damn. It was Mark. Not a good time. But at least he could tell Mark about Janice.

"Jones, secure," he answered.

"How's it going with Sarah Walker?" Mark asked. "Has she agreed to our plan?"

"Not yet," Jones said. "We may have a bit of a problem. She wants to capture and torture Adams . Not seduce him."

"I knew it," Mark said. "You never should have told her that Adams ordered the hit. It won't do us any good to kill Adams . They'll just replace him. We need Walker to seduce and blackmail him. That way we can direct his activities."

"Don't worry," Jones said. "Give me a couple of days and I'll talk her into it."

"You still think that you're going to get her in bed," Mark said with a laugh. "When are you going to give that up?"

"I'm close," Jones insisted. "I bagged the sister last night. It's only a matter of time."

"Okay, stud," Mark laughed. "Whatever you say. But the little sister isn't the prize. I think that we need a backup plan."

"What did you have in mind?" Jones asked.

"We were able to gain a lot of credibility with Walker by killing the husband and pinning it on the CIA," Mark said. "What if the CIA captures the sister?"

"That would be perfect," Jones said. "Walker would do anything for our help at getting her back. But how would we do that?"

"We still have Elise," Mark said softly. "I have another agent watching her. We could set up Walker and the sister."

"We're going to have to be very careful," Jones said. "If Walker learns that we had Elise kill her husband, we've got a big problem. Walker is itching to kill someone."

"I'll talk to Elise," Mark said. "I'm sure the two of them can pull this off. The poor kid is kind of infatuated. The only problem is that she's off the grid for two more days."

"That works," Jones said. "In the meantime, I'll work on Walker . If I can nail her and get her to do things our way, we'll just kill Elise as planned. Otherwise, we proceed with grabbing the sister."

"What does this sister look like?" Mark said. "Real bowser, I'll bet."

"Some people would say that she's hotter than Walker ," Jones said. "I don't think so. But she has a bigger chest. And she can suck a tennis ball through a garden hose."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Sarah were in their favorite position. Well, make that their second favorite. Chuck was lying on his back and Sarah on her side with her head on his chest.

"Thank you," Chuck said. "That was some reward."

Sarah smiled at him. "You're welcome," she said as the twinkle became obvious. "You deserved it."

"I knew that you would be scared," Chuck said. "I'm sorry to have put you through that."

"It was horrible," Sarah whispered. "You'll never know how happy I was to read that note."

"You know that I'm going to walk Kate down the aisle," Chuck said. "You can count on that."

"Speaking of Kate," Sarah said. "I have something to show you." She took Chuck's hand and gently slid it down her stomach. "Feel that?"

"Sarah," Chuck said in alarm. "Is something wrong? What is that?"

"Nothing is wrong, sweetie," Sarah said with a grin. "Something is very right. The Bartowskis are having a baby."

Sarah smiled as she saw Chuck make no attempt to hide the tears that were quickly forming. She could have easily predicted his next move. He moved his head down to her stomach and kissed the spot where Kate was. Then he spent the next few minutes whispering to her.

And even though Sarah couldn't make out what he was saying, it really didn't matter. It was a moment that she couldn't have even dreamed about two years ago. The love of her life was whispering to their baby. And she knew that this moment… right now, was the very highlight of her life. So she put her hand on his head and let her fingers gently run through his hair as he softly instructed Kate on the mysteries of life.

Finally, Chuck said everything that he had to say and returned to his spot. He pulled her into a strong kiss. And what would have happened next would have been very predictable had there not been a knock at the door. Chuck quickly pulled the sheet over them. "Yes," he called.

Elise tentatively poked her head into the room. "I'm so sorry to bother you," she said. "But I think we're intercepting a phone call."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Sarah took a minute to get dressed before they joined Elise in the living room. Elise silently handed Chuck transcript of the call. He quickly read it before handing it to Sarah. And if there was any question about Sarah's mood at being interrupted, it was quickly answered.

"Bigger chest my ass," Sarah growled as she read the transcript. "Hasn't the moron ever heard of a push-up bra?"

Chuck just smiled.

"And what's this little sister crap?" Sarah asked to no one in particular. "We're the same freaking age. Janice is actually ten weeks older than I am."

"Sarah," Chuck said as he tried to keep from laughing.

"And of course she can suck a tennis ball through a garden hose," Sarah growled. "The girl spends more time on her knees than the pope."

"Maybe we should go get them," Chuck suggested gently. "We have some decisions to make. And they have been in there for quite a while. Do you think they've worked it out?"

"Probably not," Sarah growled. 'They're probably just standing there staring at each other. They're both cowards when it comes to talking about feelings."

"Should we knock?" Chuck asked.

"Screw it," Sarah said as she stomped to the door and flung it open. "I'll get them. Were you guys ever… Oh my God,"

"Shit," Casey said as he unsuccessfully tried to reach for the sheet to cover up.

"Don't you dare move," Janice said as she put her arms around Casey and held him in place. "I've waited too long for this feeling. Is that blondie?"

"Shit," was all Casey could reply.

"Hello," Sarah said as she turned partially away. "Sorry to bother you in such a… well, sickening moment. But we have a situation. Remember this life and death stuff?"

Janice didn't open her eyes. She just continued to hold on to Casey. "Is my gun still on the table?" she asked. "Hand it to me and I'll shoot her."

"Shit," Casey mumbled.

"We have an intercept," Sarah finally said. "Be out in ten. Preferably dressed."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 28: Two in the Bush

x-x-x-x-x

It was only a few minutes before Janice came out of the bedroom. She was wearing most of her clothes. She was also wearing an ear to ear grin.

"I'm sorry that I interrupted your first time," Sarah said rather unconvincingly.

"Sorry, blondie," Janice said with a smile. "You interrupted our third time. If you had interrupted our first time, I'd gut you like the Christmas goose."

"Turn about is fair play," Sarah said. "After all of the times that you've walked in on Chuck and me. I hope that you at least took notes."

"Notes?" Janice asked sarcastically. "Who needs to write anything down? I have it memorized." She began to imitate Chuck and Sarah.

"I love you more."

"No, sweetie, I love you more."

"I must insist. I love you more."

Elise watched the interplay with something between amusement and dismay. She wasn't really sure how serious they were until Chuck smiled and winked at her.

"Where is Casey?" Chuck asked.

"Yeah," Sarah said. "Can he still walk? Or should I have Chuck go in and help him out here? Maybe you should ease up on him a little. He is a tad older you know? It would be a shame to lose him on the first day."

"Casey's fine," Janice said with a grin. "He's more than fine."

"Yeah, Sarah," Chuck said with his own smile. "Lay off Casey. Anybody who could get Janice in bed three times after only one date… Okay, never mind. I guess it's not that impressive."

"Very funny," Janice said. "I expect that crap from blondie. But you Chuck?"

Chuck stepped up to Janice and put his arms around her. "You know that we're just teasing," he whispered. "We're so happy for you guys."

"Thanks, Chuck," Janice whispered back. "That means a lot. I think that it's going to work out."

Finally Casey came out of the bedroom. The blush in his face was evidence of his discomfort. "And you guys wonder why I stayed in there," he growled.

x-x-x-x-x

Ben Adams was in bed. Alone. That wasn't unheard of. But it was unusual, especially lately. Every since he taken control of the CIA, there was almost always an ambitious agent nearby who thought that screwing the big boss would get her assigned to the French Riviera. And honestly, Ben wasn't shy about implying that might happen under the right circumstances. Especially when he was in the mood for something a little off the beaten path. It was amazing what the simple hint of an attractive assignment would get them to do. So why was he alone tonight? Hey, even the biggest players struck out every once in a while. Unfortunately, it was turning out to be a trend.

Ben knew that this was more than just a simple slump. He had lost his mojo. And that wasn't the worst part. He knew exactly when it happened. And why. It was that bitch Sarah Walker. Why did she have to humiliate him like that? Sure, he understood her point that he had done the same thing himself lots of times. But didn't she understand that it was different for a man? Women didn't mind men asking them to strip for them. They seemed to almost expect it. It actually gave them self-esteem.

All Ben could do was sigh. And vow that he would get even. After all, he was a very powerful man. She might have the upper hand now. But there would come a day soon when she would need something from him. And she would definitely pay. They both would. But especially Walker. Her clothes lying in a pile on the floor would only be the down payment. The principle would come due early and often.

She had it coming.

x-x-x-x-x

Elise sat on the couch with a smile on her face. She couldn't help it. It was all she could do to not have a silly grin. What was with these people? She had never seen spies act like this before. They actually liked each other. They were in the middle of a life and death struggle. And if things went badly, the best that could happen was horrible beyond belief. And yet, here they were, joking, smiling, even making fun of each other.

Spies didn't have relationships. Not really. And Sarah Walker was a legend for goodness sake. Even though she didn't know Janice or Casey, she knew that they must be top rate to be able to work with Walker. And another thing that Sarah Walker was famous for was being a hard ass. Elise had just personally witnessed that a few hours ago. The spot where Sarah had pulled her hair was still sore. So why was she now laughing so hard?

It was by more feeling than logic that Elise knew who was responsible. Chuck was obviously the glue that held this eclectic group together. They all obviously cared for him. But the way that Walker's face lit up when she looked at him was something to behold.

Chuck finally cleared his throat to get the room's attention. The fact that he instantly got it was proof enough of the respect that he garnered. "We have some…" Chuck's voice trailed off as he noticed Elise sitting alone on the couch. "Elise," Chuck said. "Why don't you come and join us at the table? We need to talk about what to do."

Elise's heart soared. She wasn't sure if she should laugh or cry. But the gesture was clear. For the first time in her professional career, she was part of the team. Chuck, this fish out of water spy, trusted her when he had absolutely no reason to. She had tried to kill him for goodness sake. And now he was treating her with respect. The respect that she had never gotten from the CIA, Ben Adams, or Fulcrum. And it was funny what respect would do for a person. Loyalty was based upon respect.

Sarah moved over closer to Chuck so that Elise would have room at the table.

As soon as Elise was sitting, Chuck continued. "We have some decisions to make." He said. "We have already won a great victory. We have Ben Adams scared to death. And we can bust two Fulcrum Elders. With the information we can get from them, we can cripple their local operations. That would leave the other Elders defensive and scared, wondering if they would be next."

"But they wouldn't be crushed," Janice said. "Would they?"

"No," Chuck admitted. "They would eventually regroup. They might be crippled for a while. But they would be back. They would probably lay low for a long time."

"But where would that leave us?" Sarah asked. "Once they regrouped, they would probably eventually figure out that it was us and come after us."

"Maybe not," said Casey. "They would have all they could handle trying to not get caught themselves. It's very possible that they would just move on."

"What if they don't?" Janice asked. "Do we want to spend the rest of our lives looking over our shoulder?"

"I don't want you to have to do any more," Chuck said. "Going on is dangerous. And even if everything goes our way, you'll have to do some very unpleasant things. And I think that we've protected our family. That's what we set out to do."

"I'm with Chuck," Casey said. "We've done our job. Two Elders? That's more than anybody could hope to expect. Let's turn them over to the experts and see how much information they'll give up. I think that will be enough."

They had reached an impasse when a soft voice broke the silence. "You're fooling yourself."

Everybody at the table looked surprised. Even Elise had a hard time at first believing that it was her voice. Did I just say that out loud? But with all the eyes in the room now on her, she didn't have much choice but to finish her thought. "I know these men," she continued. "They will never give up. They will figure out who did this to them. And they will exact revenge. It will be a quest for them. It's just the way that they are. You'll never be truly safe."

Chuck just sighed. "This has to be over," he said. "It's just too much to ask."

Sarah could tell that there was something that Chuck wasn't saying. And she also knew that she needed to hear it. So she stood up and grabbed his hand. "Excuse us," she said. "I need to talk to my husband in private for a minute."

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Sarah had led Chuck into the bedroom she turned to him. "Talk to me, sweetie," she said. "What's this really about?"

"I think that you've sacrificed enough," Chuck said.

"I have," Sarah quickly agreed. "And so have you. More than enough. But we really don't get to choose that do we?"

Chuck's eyes widened in surprise.

"We're defending our family," Sarah continued. "And as long as there is a risk to them, we'll continue to sacrifice. That's just the way it is. And right now, there is a risk. Not only to Kate, but to Charles Junior, and even to the brothers and sisters that I haven't picked out names for yet."

"I hate him," Chuck said as his eyes began to water. "I hate what's he's thinking. If we go on, there'll be no way to protect you from it."

"But you have a plan," Sarah said with a soft smile. "I know you and I can see it in your eyes. You have a plan that would crush them, don't you?"

Chuck just looked at her for a long moment. "Yes," he finally admitted. "But I don't want to put you through that. I just don't think that it's worth it."

"I hardly ever ask you to do something just for me," Sarah said. "But I'm asking you now. Trust me."

Chuck knew what Sarah meant. He did. But it was too real. So he looked at the floor and tried to cover. "This isn't about trust," he said. "You know that I trust you…"

But Sarah knew him all too well. "I know," Sarah quickly interrupted. "But look at me, Chuck. I need you to trust me."

Chuck slowly looked into her eyes. Sarah could see the tears forming. "I do trust you," Chuck whispered. "You know that I do,"

Sarah felt the smile spread across her face. "I know," she whispered. "I'm never going to sleep with him, Chuck. You know that, right?"

"He's going to think that you will," Chuck said.

"I thought we were past being jealous," Sarah said with her eyes sparkling.

"I'm sorry," Chuck said sadly. "We are past that. I'm not jealous. I know that you hate him just as much as I do. I just can't stand the thought that he is going to think that he owns you. I guess that does make me a little jealous. But please understand, it's not because I don't trust you."

"I know," Sarah said. "Don't be sorry. I'm glad that you're a little jealous. It's sweet. You already know that you and Kate are my life. And if you say stop, we'll stop. But we need to be able to get back to living that life. So I'm begging you, Chuck. Please let me be a spy for just one more week. And I promise, I'll spend the rest of my life being your wife and the mother of our family."

"You don't have to ask for my permission," Chuck said. "You're the one making the sacrifice. You're the one he's going to be pawing and constantly trying to get naked."

"Yes I do," Sarah said. "Because it's more than just letting me. I'm asking for you to get on board. I can't do this knowing that you're hurting. I won't. If you're not going to be okay, then it's out. I need you to look me in the eye and tell me that you understand. In case you haven't noticed mister, I sort of worship you."

"I know," Chuck said with a grin. "I worship you too. I do understand. I hope that you don't expect me to like it but I do understand."

Sarah put her arms around Chuck's neck and gently kissed him. "Thank you, sweetie," she whispered. "It will be okay. I promise."

"After it's over," Chuck said. "Can we shoot him?"

"Sorry," Sarah said. "We'll need to turn him over for questioning. We can kick him in the groin a few times."

"I'm just kidding," Chuck said. "You know that I would never be in favor of shooting someone. I only have one more question. Does it really have to be Charles Junior?"

"I'm afraid so," Sarah said with a grin. "You always said that as long as they had ten fingers and ten toes, I could be in charge of the naming."

"I guess that's fair," Chuck said with a sigh. "After all, I'm in charge with the manner of conception."

"Okay, sweetie," Sarah said with a grin. "That's fair. You can be in charge of the conception. Now, why don't you tell me about this brilliant plan?"

x-x-x-x-x

While Chuck and Sarah were off talking, Casey went to get some equipment out of the car. And that left Janice and Elise alone at the table. It was an uncomfortable moment… for both of them really.

"Thank you," Janice said finally.

"For what?" Elise asked.

"For telling me about Casey," Janice said. "That was really helpful. He never would have told me otherwise."

"You're welcome," Elise said. "Like I said, I was on a roll. I knew that he was. When he stopped and said that he couldn't, I could tell by the look in his eyes."

"Stopped," Janice said with a confused look. "Stopped what?"

"You know," Elise said with a grin. "In bed…" Elise paused when she saw the look on Janice's face. "Oh my God. I'm sorry. I thought he would have told you. Don't worry. We didn't get very far. I could tell that he was pretending that I was you. He said that he couldn't stop thinking about you."

"He told me that part," Janice said. "He didn't tell me that you were in bed."

"I'm so sorry," Elise said. "I feel terrible that you found out like that."

"Don't worry," Janice said with a laugh. "I'm not upset. But how would you like to get on my good side?"

"It depends," Elise said cautiously. "What would I have to do?"

Janice couldn't hold back a sly grin. "Not much," she said. "I just think that it's about time that I marked my territory. Help me mess with him a little."

x-x-x-x-x

"Chuck, no," Sarah whispered. "That's crazy."

"We can crush them," Chuck said softly. "Getting the Elders would be a great thing. But they would eventually just be replaced."

"But Chuck," Sarah said. "If anything went wrong…"

"That's why we have to make sure that nothing goes wrong," Chuck interrupted.

"Chuck," Sarah said. "There has to be another way. I can't bear to think of you in that situation. I would sleep with him in a minute before that."

"You do understand that he's not looking for you to sleep with him," Chuck said. "Not really. He knows that he'll never seduce you. He wants a lot more than that. He wants to control you. To force the great Sarah Walker to submit to him. Sex is only a small part of it. And even if you gave him what he says that he wants, he'd never be satisfied. He'll just keep on thinking up new and more creative ways to prove that he's broken you."

"I know," Sarah said with a sigh. "It's a game to him. He already has put on a lot of pressure. Chuck, I'm an expert at not sleeping with men. As good as Janice is at sleeping with them, I'm at least as good at not sleeping with them. Do you really think that I can't string this pig out for a while longer? I strung you out for two years, didn't I?"

"You're going to have to make it look good," Chuck said. "The plan needs him to burn for you. He needs to get to the point where he's consumed by having you. That's the only way our trap will be believable. He has to think that you're broken. That you're willing to trade him the one thing that he wants more than sex. He'll only believe that you would offer it if you were truly broken. You'll need to sell that you are. Janice won't be there. It will have to be you. You'll be there on your own with him."

"I know," Sarah said. "I can play his game. I'm going to have to keep his motor running..."

"I know," Chuck said. "I understand what you're going to have to do. You don't have to say it."

"Yes, I do," Sarah said. "I need to be completely honest. I want to make sure that you know exactly what I'm willing to do. So you'll know what I'm not willing to do. I'll probably have to show him some skin. He'll probably try and kiss me. His hands are probably going to wander for a second. But it will never lead anywhere. He's going to be very frustrated."

"Lingerie?" Chuck asked sadly.

"Maybe," Sarah admitted. "I hope not. But it's possible. If I get into a situation where I have to let him think that he's winning a little, that's probably the tamest thing. What's more likely is for us to go swimming."

"Wow," Chuck said with a faint smile. "Well at least you're being completely honest."

"I'm putting it on the table," Sarah said. "I don't want you to think that I'm hiding anything from you. Both as my partner and my husband. I'm trying to describe the worst case. I'm hoping that I can get away with much less. But I want you to know every detail of what I'm going to be willing to do and why. This is purely professional."

"I know," Chuck said with a smile. "But you have to hold out. He'll never believe that you would give up easily. The more frustrated he is, the more he is going to press. You'll have to wait until he has you in a position where you'd agree to do anything. That's the whole point."

"Can we trust Elise?" Sarah asked. "The whole plan depends on her ability to sell it."

"I think so," Chuck said. "You're actually her hero. You looked into her eyes earlier. What did you see?"

Sarah thought about it for a while. "We can trust her," she finally said. "I still don't like it. It's too dangerous."

"We're fighting for the right to raise our family in peace," Chuck said. "You're always so willing to make sacrifices. Now it's my turn. And if this works, we can make Fulcrum cease to exist. There would be nobody left to come after us. We would be free. I think that it's time for you to practice what you preach. It's time for you to trust me."

Sarah had to admit, the plan was brilliant. And Chuck was right. If it worked, Fulcrum would cease to exist. But if anything went wrong. Sarah had to fight to keep the panic from overcoming her. But then something magical happened. She looked into his brown eyes… and the fear disappeared. It was just gone. Yes, the plan was risky. But, at least, they would be together. And together they could do anything. After all, if they could learn how to give a baby a bath, they could certainly do something simple like destroy Fulcrum.

Sarah really didn't intend on kissing him. It just sort of happened. The others were out there waiting for them. They really didn't have time for this. So why was she unbuttoning his shirt? "I trust you," she whispered between kisses. "And even if I didn't, you could talk me into anything."

"Thanks," Chuck said with a grin. "You do realize that they are out there waiting for us?"

"I know," Sarah said as she pulled her own shirt over her head. "But this is part of the plan."

"How is this part of the plan?" Chuck asked with a grin as he reached behind Sarah to unhook her bra.

"We have to get our attitudes in the right place," Sarah said softly as she slid Chuck's shirt off his shoulders and to the floor. "That's vital for any mission. You know that."

"What do you think they're thinking?" Chuck asked.

Sarah quickly moved in to resume their passionate kissing. Her fingers fumbled with his belt as she felt his tongue brush past her lips. Finally she broke the kiss just long enough to answer. "They'll figure it out," she whispered.

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as they were all back at the table, Chuck began to speak. "Sarah and I have made a decision," he said. "We're going to proceed. We'd like your help."

Everyone was quiet for a long moment. Finally Casey broke the silence. "Of course, moron," he said. "Are you going to tell us the plan or make us guess?"

"Okay," Chuck said with a smile. "I guess you deserve to hear what you're signing on for."

"Before you begin," Casey replied with a sneer. "Are you sure that you don't want to drag Sarah back in the bedroom for round twenty-three? It has been over five minutes. I wouldn't want you to have any accidents."

"I don't know, sweetie," Sarah said with a grin. "That doesn't sound like a bad idea."

"Twenty-three," Chuck deadpanned. "I thought that we were only on twenty-one."

"He must be averaging," Sarah said. "You're on twenty-one. But I'm on twenty-five. Thanks for that, by the way."

"Enough," Janice finally shouted. She banged her hands on the table for emphasis. "One more sickening word from you two and I swear, I'll go on a five-state killing spree."

"I hope your plan works out better than the first one," Casey growled, ignoring the banter. "Perhaps not including having to dispose of a dead body."

"Let's hope," Chuck said. "But let's also be clear. There are some serious sacrifices that need to be made. Elise, we're especially going to depend on you. You'll have to convince that Elder Mark that you're infatuated with him and willing to do anything to prove your loyalty. Knowing these guys, I think we can all guess what that is going to mean."

Elise could feel the tears forming in her eyes. They are actually trusting me to help. They wanted her to be a spy… on a vital mission. She was truly part of the team. "Don't worry about me," Elise said. "I've already spent one night with him. So I'm pretty sure that I know what he'll want. I'll live. Thank you for including me. I won't let you down." Then she turned to Janice. "I really can't do the tennis ball and garden hose thing. Maybe you can work on it with me later."

If Elise was trying to get on Sarah's good side, she couldn't have possibly said anything better. Sarah couldn't help but giggle as the blush traveled up Janice's neck.

"Janice," Chuck said sadly. "I'm afraid that a lot of the heavy lifting is on you again. You're going to be captured. And that means that this Fulcrum guy is going to have his way with you. You'll have no way to refuse him. He's really not even going to ask. Depending on his mood, you may even be cuffed. I'm afraid that he is really going to put you through the wringer. He is going to want to prove to you how big of a stud he is. It's going to be pretty much non stop for a few days."

Janice just swallowed. She didn't mind using sex for a mission. But this didn't sound like fun at all. And especially not having it rubbed in Casey's face. She knew that he understood. But still. She looked for any sign of worry in his face. And thankfully, there was none. "What does he look like?" she finally asked softly.

"He's a big guy," Chuck said. "What does he look like? Well, I wouldn't want to sleep with him, that's for sure. But I guess he's not terrible looking."

"What's this asshole's name," Casey growled.

"I only know his first name," Chuck said calmly. "It's Joe."

At that, Casey, Sarah, and Elise joined Chuck as they all burst into laughter. Janice could only look confused. "What's so funny?" she finally asked.

But they were all laughing too hard to answer. Finally Elise pointed towards Casey. "He's Joe," she finally choked out.

"Very funny," Janice said.

After Chuck had calmed down enough to be able to speak, he continued. "I'm really sorry, Janice," he said. "I just couldn't resist. There is one serious thing that we need you to do,"

"What's that?" Janice asked.

"We need you to call home," Chuck said. "We need a favor from mom. A big favor."

Janice looked around the table and realized that they knew. But Sarah had a puzzled look. "I'm sorry Sarah," she said. "I didn't want you to find out like this. General Beckman…"

"So it's true?" Sarah gasped. "General Beckman is your mom?"

"Step mom," Janice said. "But yes. It's true."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 29: Phase Two

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah was saying goodbye to Chuck. Of course, she had been for the past twenty minutes. And now it was getting to the point where they actually had to say goodbye. Janice was already down in the car. They agreed to leave Sarah's car here since they would only need one car for the remainder of the mission. Janice and Casey had already said their goodbyes. That's probably why Casey was still in the bedroom. He was more likely than not, exhausted. Probably naked. But surely exhausted. Elise stepped out into the hallway in an obvious attempt to give them some privacy.

Sarah put her forehead against Chuck's. "The next time that we see each other," she said. "It will probably be pretty tense."

"Maybe," Chuck said. "I think that it might work out that we see each other once before then. But if not, take care of Kate. Don't worry about me. Just stick to the plan."

"You know how much I love you," Sarah whispered. "But don't let that fool you. If you do anything stupid - I will kick your ass. And then I'll cut you off."

"But wouldn't that cut yourself off too?" Chuck said with a grin.

"Yes," Sarah answered as she stepped out the door. "And imagine how miserable your life will be. No sex and living with a miserable pregnant wife. Trust me, Chuck. You don't want that."

"I understand," Chuck said. "Just remember what we're doing this for. And remember my promise. I love you."

x-x-x-x-x

As soon Sarah closed the door, she noticed Elise waiting for her in the hall. Sarah wasn't really sure how she felt. There was still a lot of anger over her being assigned to seduce Chuck. Especially now that she could see in person how amazingly beautiful she really was. Not to mention that she was going to kill him. Now that Sarah knew how really close she came, it was hard to look at her without some bile rising in her throat. On the other hand, she had been very cooperative lately. And Sarah had to admit, Elise had them completely at her mercy – and let them go. She deserved some benefit of the doubt.

"Agent Walker," Elise said softly.

Sarah sighed as she turned to face her. "It's not Agent Walker any more," she said. "If anything, it's Mrs. Bartowski. Call me Sarah."

"Look," Elise said as she looked at the floor. "I understand that I'm not your favorite person. I don't blame you. I just wanted to tell you how much I've always admired you and that I'm going to do everything I can to help. I was sort of hoping that, after this is over, you could put in a good word for me with the agency. I could sure use it."

Sarah couldn't help but smile – a little. "I'll tell you what," she said. "If this mission goes well, we'll become friends. And I'll do anything for a friend."

Elise just nodded.

Sarah turned to leave. But before she did, she turned back to Elise. "I just said that I would do anything," she said. "There is one exception. I'm not sharing Chuck. So keep that in mind when you fall in love with him."

Pure surprise made Elise forget her nervousness. "What makes you think that I'll fall in love with Chuck?" she asked. "I'm not likely to fall in love with anybody. He's a great guy, but…"

Sarah started to walk away. "Trust me," she said over her shoulder with a sigh. "You will. They all do."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah and Janice were in the car on the way back to Fred Jones's place. The mood was hard to figure out. They were both sad, no question. Last night had been magical for both. And they were sorry to have to leave. But there was also an anticipation. They both knew what it was. They were always excited about starting on a mission. And now that their plan was fleshed out, the end was actually in sight.

Janice was driving. So she didn't turn to look at Sarah directly. "Are you pissed at me?" she asked.

Sarah was surprised by the question. "Why would I be pissed at you? Is there something you're not telling me – again?"

"I knew it," Janice said. "You're pissed that I didn't tell you. I'm sorry. I just didn't want everybody to think that I had made it because she's my step-mom. And once I knew you well enough, it was too late. You would have already been offended. So I thought it was just better if you didn't know."

"I'm not pissed," Sarah laughed. "I'm impressed that you could keep that from me for all of these years. Do you two get along?"

"I hated her," Janice said. "She married my dad when I was fourteen. My dad was all that I had. I was awful to her for a few years. I've said some things to her that I'm really embarrassed about. But she hung in there with me. I'm not really sure why."

"That's a tough age," Sarah said. "Have you made up?"

"We don't talk that much," Janice admitted. "But things got a lot better between us after my dad died. I guess I grew up a little. I realized that she really did love him. Now she's the only family I have."

"You know that's not true," Sarah said softly. "We're family. I can't believe you let me leave from Denver knowing that I was going to shoot her."

"I know," Janice sighed. "It was hard not to tell you then. I was hoping that you wouldn't shoot her. I was pretty sure that you wouldn't. And I know that you're family. You're my big sister. Are you sure that you're not pissed?"

"I'm not pissed, sweetie," Sarah said. "At least not if you'll stop calling me your big sister. You're older than I am. As a matter of fact, I have something to tell you. Or more accurately to show you. Give me your hand."

Janice had to keep her eyes on the road so she couldn't exactly tell what Sarah was doing. As Sarah guided Janice's hand up her shirt, Janice giggled. "I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with you outing yourself, blondie," she said. "After all the years we've been together. I knew that you had a thing for me. I'm surprised you've been able to hold out until now."

"Maybe we should wait and do this in front of Jones," Sarah said. "That would get his motor running."

"Trust me," Janice said. "I think that Chuck is right. The image has already crossed his mind. Here's some free seduction advice. I know that you're not real comfortable with the whole sex-on-a-mission thing. But when you're coming on to somebody, you should try and feel them up. Not the other way around."

"Just shut up," Sarah laughed. "Only in your dreams could you bag someone like me." As soon as she got to the spot she whispered, "Do you feel that?"

Janice's eyes widened. "Oh my God," she said. "You're really going to do this, aren't you?"

"No sweetie, we're going to do this," Sarah corrected. "I'm going to need tons of help from my much older sister."

"Sarah," Janice said. "I'm ten weeks older. And you know that I can't touch a baby. I'll break her."

"I know," Sarah laughed. "I feel the same way. But we'd better get over it. Real fast."

"How about you handle the first few years?" Janice said. "Once she's sixteen…"

"Forget it," Sarah interrupted. "There is no way that Chuck is going to let you anywhere's close to her when she's sixteen. From the time that she's fifteen to about twenty-five, all your visits are going to be very closely supervised."

"Come on," Janice whined. "The poor kid has to have a little fun. I remember you in Cleveland that night. You survived."

"Speaking of surviving," Sarah said, as her laughing quickly ended. The tone of her voice made it clear just how serious she was. "If Kate ever hears that story – you won't. Do we understand each other?"

"I understand," Janice said. "She wouldn't believe me anyway. I was there and I don't believe it."

"Speaking of believing," Sarah said in an obvious attempt at changing the subject. "Is Casey okay with you and Fred Jones tonight? I think that Chuck is right about that. I'm sure he has something planned."

"Sure," Janice said with a sigh. "Casey understands. I'm not going to rub his face in it, but he understands. How about Chuck?"

"He's struggling," Sarah admitted. "But he's dealing. He's so sweet. He's just worried about me. Fortunately, he's too excited about you and Casey to worry too much about it."

"He's never going to let us hear the end of that," Janice said. "Is he?"

"Never," Sarah said. "Not until he knows that you've told Casey that you love him."

Janice groaned. "Please," she said. "Talk to him for me. Make him understand that's not us."

"Sorry, sweetie," Sarah said. "I'd be wasting my breath. And besides, I'd like to see it too. Let's face it. It's written all over your face."

"I never would have believed how great it could be," Janice said. "By the way, that reminds me. Why didn't you tell me how great it was?"

"I did tell you," Sarah said as her laughter returned. "You just didn't believe me."

x-x-x-x-x

Mark had just checked into his hotel. He wasn't fond of traveling. But it was part of the job. And this Walker mission was far too important to leave it to that moron, Fred Jones. He spent far too much time letting the little man in his pants do his thinking for him. Not that there wasn't a time for fun. Certainly, Mark would love his own shot at Sarah Walker. But the mission was the important thing. Fun would have to come later. Soon, Mark's phone interrupted his thoughts. He looked at the phone in alarm.

"Elise," he said. "Why are you calling me? I thought you were off the grid until tomorrow."

"I'm scared," Elise said. It was obvious that she was crying. "I just escaped. I don't know where else to turn."

Escaped? That didn't sound good at all. Could she have found out about Joe? The last thing that he wanted was to have her running around town panicked. If Sarah Walker learned the truth… "Elise," Mark said firmly. "Calm down. Now tell me what's wrong."

"I don't want to talk on the phone," Elise sobbed. "But there is something that you need to hear. Can we meet someplace? Please, Mark, you're the only one that I trust."

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones sat on his sofa thinking. He was very relieved when Janice and Sarah finally arrived back at the house. He half expected that they wouldn't be back. After all, Walker had buried her husband yesterday. And she probably needed to spend some time dealing with family. It was a little strange that both of them would take the trouble to shake the tails that he had assigned. But it was probably more principle than anything.

Jones was trying to get a read on Janice's mood. Was the other night a one time thing? Or did it have legs? He couldn't get a good feel when they first came in. She seemed a little distant. But that could very well be because Sarah was there. And all of his plans for the evening depended on her… well on her willingness to cooperate. Now, Sarah and Janice were both lying down for a while before dinner. So he was very surprised when Janice plopped down on the sofa next to him.

"Hi," Janice said as she placed her head on his shoulder. "I really missed you."

Jones had to fight to keep the grin from his face. Well, I guess that question is answered. "I missed you as well," he said. "Did the family stuff go well?"

"It was sad," Janice said. "He was so young. He was really a great guy. And the family was so close. That's why I'm hoping that you can cheer me up."

"I'll do my best," Jones said. "What did you have in mind?"

For the first time in her career, Janice had trouble putting the seductive look on her face. All she could think about was last night with Casey. But then she remembered her promise to him. And there was a job to do. She had to sell it. So she leaned over and kissed him. "That's not important, is it?" she asked. "You're the one in charge. Remember? I had a blast swimming the other night. It was very erotic. But whatever you decide is fine with me."

Jones smiled. It was indeed time to see how far she could be pushed. "Anything?" he asked coyly. "I may just test that."

"Absolutely anything," she said with a grin. "Haven't I already proved that to you?"

Jones kissed Janice again, this time more firmly. "The other night was pretty tame," Jones said. "We can get a lot more wild than that."

"Try me," Janice said. "The wilder, the better."

"Good," Jones said. "I think we will go swimming. But there is something that I'd like you to do for me first."

As the intensity of their kissing increased, Janice already knew what he was going to ask her. They talked about this very thing last night. Chuck had already predicted how it would go. He even made a bet with Casey about it. And there were also some things that Janice could predict herself. Like his tongue that was sliding past her lips at the same time his hand was sliding under her bra. "Name it," she whispered between kisses.

"I want you to talk Sarah into joining us," Jones said with a wicked smile. "She could use a nice swim. The poor kid needs to relax a little. It will be wild." And I'll finally get to check her out.

Janice had to bite her lip to keep from grinning. Damn that Chuck. How could he possibly know these things? "What?" Janice asked as she withdrew. "Sarah? You're going to expect me to put on a show in front of her, aren't you?"

"You said anything," Jones said. "She will have to find out sometime."

Janice bristled. Actually Sarah would be more nauseous than pissed. "What in the hell is wrong with you?" she said. "You sick bastard. You want us both naked, don't you? One day after she buried her husband and you want me to help you seduce her?" I wonder how much money Casey just lost.

Jones tried to backpedal. This obviously wasn't going well at all. "Relax," he said. "It was just a thought."

"Go to hell," Janice said as she stood up. "Stay away from me, you pervert."

Jones could just sit there in shocked silence. How could this possibly have gone so badly so fast?

Janice stomped off to her room. "If you lay another finger on me," she shouted over her shoulder. "I'll break it off and hand it back to you."

Janice was able to keep the grin off her face until she had slammed the bedroom door. But then she broke down. She leaned against the door as she thought about the shocked look on his face. That was fun. Thanks Chuck. Well, Sarah, he's all yours now.

x-x-x-x-x

Normally, Mark would never meet another agent alone. After all, Elders had lots of enemies. And you never knew when the CIA could be setting a trap for you. But he realized that Elise was not a threat. If push came to shove, he could easily handle her. And the girl simply didn't have the heart for it. She was as far from being an agent as he could imagine. Sure, she was lovely. She was also very talented in bed. Mark would have to send the CIA a thank you note for that. But a CIA agent? Mark was frankly surprised that she graduated from the academy. She must have slept with more than one instructor.

Mark was so comfortable that he toyed with the idea of having her come right to his hotel room. But then he thought better of it. Why take an unnecessary risk? After all, the restaurant across the street was almost as convenient. And his room, and its king sized bed, was just a five minute walk away if the meeting went at all like Mark was anticipating.

It was true that Mark didn't think much of Elise as an agent, but even he was surprised at her appearance. As soon as she walked in the door, Mark could tell that she was panicked. That, alone, would disqualify an agent. She even looked as if she had been crying. Perhaps if he acted as a comforter, she would settle down and open up to him.

"Elise," Mark called as he stood up and waved to her.

As soon as Elise saw him, she came quickly over. So quickly that she was on the verge of causing a scene. Indeed, she had been crying. And her hands where shaking. "Mark," she said shakily as she sat down across the table from him. "Thank you so much for meeting me. I don't know what to do."

There was something about her mood that was starting to make Mark himself nervous. "Elise," he said. "Calm down. What's wrong? Where is Joe?"

"I'm sorry," Elise said softly to make sure that she wasn't overheard. "I'm completely freaked out. Do you think that we could go someplace more private and talk? Joe's dead."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Casey sat in the car a block away from the restaurant where Elise was meeting Mark. Of course, they were listening to Elise's wire.

"So far, so good," Chuck said. "It sounds like he believes her."

"He believes her," Casey agreed. "It's hard to imagine how careless he's being. An Elder meeting an agent alone? Not sweeping her for bugs? But what makes you think that he is going to take her back to his hotel room? That would be a foolish mistake."

"Trust me," Chuck said. "He's not thinking with his brain, right now. He is definitely going to want her in his bed. I mean, most men would. She's incredible."

"Most men would," Casey agreed as he turned his head to try and hide the blush that was traveling up his neck. "Do you think that she can sell it?"

"I hope so," Chuck said with a sigh. "It would be a shame to have to abort now."

"At least we'll have two Elders," Casey said. "That isn't anything to sneeze at."

"But it isn't the prize," Chuck said. "We could have busted the two Elders yesterday. And I don't want to have to be the one to tell Sarah that she and Janice did all of that today for nothing."

"That's true," Casey admitted. "Hey, look at that, they are crossing the street."

"Right to the hotel," Chuck said. "Bingo."

"You know," Casey said softly. "For being such a faithful, married man and all, you sure know a lot about how horny men think. Why is that?"

"I've only been married for a few months," Chuck laughed. "Besides, I'm friends with Jeff and Lester."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 30: Respect

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah sat on the floor in her bedroom with her back against the door. She knew that Janice storming off was her cue to go talk to Jones. But she had to wait for a few minutes. For two reasons. First, she wanted the despair over losing a romp in the pool with a naked and submissive Janice to sink in. Not for any mission related reason, really. The pig simply had it coming. But, even more importantly, she couldn't stop laughing. And she knew that she needed to control herself. Showing any emotion to him would not be a good thing. He would interpret any smile as a sign encouraging him to get aggressive. And Sarah didn't want him to be any more aggressive than he already was. She needed him to have some doubt. Otherwise his hands would be everywhere.

It had been a while since she had witnessed Janice's whiplash move. But Sarah remembered very well the night when she officially named it. Not that the guy didn't have it coming. He absolutely did. Trying to hit on Janice while on a date with Sarah? Of course, it didn't matter that they had themselves played those games with men all the time. Neither of them would tolerate someone trying to hurt her roomie. So The Whiplash was invented. Taking the guy to the heights and then suddenly crushing him. And nobody did that better than Janice.

Sarah's grin faded to a sad smile as she thought about everything that Janice and she had been through. And especially how far they had come. She was happy for Janice and Casey. Who knew if it would work out long term? But at least, Janice now had a taste of what it could feel like. That had to be worth something. Janice had come a long way in the past month. Naturally that inevitably shifted her thoughts to Chuck. Because that's how far she had come. She finally had the brass ring. She had earned the love and trust of a man that she didn't think even existed. A man who loved her for more than her body or her good looks. A man who would sacrifice anything for her. And now they were actually going to start a family together. It was the fairy tale story that she told herself in bed when she was ten. And the best part – this one was true.

But first, there was one more job to do. It was time to make one more man burn for her. Like the scores before him. Oh, Sarah knew that she could do it. After all, he was going to do all of the work. She just didn't want to. All that she really wanted to do was go find Chuck and cuddle on the couch. But it would be a few days now before that could happen. Might as well get it over with. Sarah went to wipe the tears from her eyes – but then she realized tears would actually help. She could play them as angry tears.

Chuck was kidding when he said that he wanted to shoot Jones. Chuck never wanted to hurt anybody. It was what made him so completely unsuited for this life. But it was also what made him so unbelievably sweet. No, they couldn't shoot Jones. But Sarah would figure out a way to hurt him. She would hurt him enough for both of them. That was a promise.

The Whiplash was only a down payment.

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Mark closed the door, he turned to Elise. "Okay," he said. "Tell me what's wrong."

Elise knew that it was show time. It was important to the plan that Mark think that she had a big crush on him. So she threw herself into his arms. "It's all a setup," she said.

"What's a setup?" Mark asked.

"Bartowski," Elise said. "He's still alive."

"How can that be?" Mark asked. "There was a body."

"That was Joe," Elise said. "We were ambushed. They killed Joe. And then they made me call Adams and you. They were going to kill me."

"Why didn't they?" Mark asked.

"At first I was not sure," Elise said. "But it wasn't long before I figured it out. Bartowski and that other guy. They are both big time… I mean, I've been around the block a few times but you wouldn't believe the things that they made me do. Things I'd never tried before."

Mark had to fight to control the smile. He could just imagine the scene. But he knew that he couldn't daydream right now. He had to concentrate. "That's a shame," he said. "Men can be such pigs. I hope that you're okay."

Elise snuggled deeper into Mark's chest. "I am now," she sighed.

"How did you escape?" Mark asked.

"They got careless," Elise said. "After a while, I was able to convince them that I wanted to stay with them. I'm pretty sure that Bartowski thinks that I'm in love with him. I think that he has some delusion that women fall in love with him easily. The big guy… I just don't think that he gets laid all that often. He was so excited that he left the handcuff keys where I could hide them in the cushion. I waited until they were sleeping and then I left. That's when I contacted you."

"What is their objective?" Mark said.

Elise shook her head. "I don't know," she said. "They were pretty quiet. But I know that it's big. Do you know who Dianne Beckman is?"

"Of course," Mark said.

"She's in charge," Elise said. "I could hear them talking to her on the phone."

"Shit," Mark said, much more to himself than to Elise. Beckman was a big shot. If she was running things, something big must be going down. "Can you make them trust you?"

"I could," Elise said. "Easily. All I would have to do is go back and tell them that I missed them and had no place else to go. They would buy that. But please, Mark. Please don't make me go back there. I don't think I can take much more of that. I lost track of how much sex there was in that hotel room last night." At least that part wasn't a lie. "First it was Bartowski, then the big guy, then Bartowski again. I didn't get a minute's sleep." Another true statement. The walls were thin. And neither Sarah nor Janice was shy about telling the world how great they were feeling.

"Elise," Mark said as he grabbed her shoulders. "We need intel. You're one of our top agents. We need you to go back there and find out what they are up to."

Top agent my ass. Elise forced a half smile. "Do you really think so?" she asked.

"Absolutely," said Mark. "And trust me, if you'll do this for us, I won't forget it."

Elise just stood there and thought for a long moment. "If I do this," she finally whispered. "I'll be doing it for you. Not for Fulcrum. Just for you, Mark."

"I'll be most appreciative," Mark said with a smile. "Should I send someone with you? Maybe you can wear a wire."

"That wouldn't work," Elise said. "These guys are pigs. But they are sharp. They are always sweeping for electronics. They're paranoid about it. And they have video surveillance outside. So they would know if anyone was with me. I should just go alone."

"Thank you for this," Mark said. After all, a good leader was a good motivator. And it never hurt to praise somebody. After all, she was showing a lot of loyalty. It would be a shame when they had to kill her. "Think of what you'd like for a reward."

Elise thought for a moment. "When it's over," she said softly. "Do you think that maybe… maybe we could go out? You, know… like on a real date?"

Mark was forced to grin. She really was smitten. "Yes, Elise," Mark said. "After you find out what they're up to - we'll go on a real date. Maybe we'll drive to Vegas and see a show. Would you like that?"

Elise just nodded as she continued to snuggle into his chest.

"Good," Mark said. "Then it's a date." Naturally, he had no intention of taking Elise to Vegas. Maybe dinner. But, then again, maybe room service. Maybe he'd let her pick out a pay-per-view movie after… well after. "Call me every four hours."

"I'd better get back," Elise said. "Or they're going to get suspicious."

"You probably have a few minutes," Mark said as he slipped his hand inside of her shirt. "I know that you've been through a lot. Hopefully, you're up for this."

Elise looked up and smiled. "I'm always up for this," she said.

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck turned to Casey in the car. "Do you think that he bought it?"

"Do you hear him groaning?" Casey answered. "That's him buying it."

"She was pretty good," Chuck said with a smile. "When she said that you didn't get laid much, I was buying it myself. She must be a character actress. She was living the role."

"My favorite part was when she called you a delusional pervert," Casey said with his own smile. "The girl can tell a good story. There is no question about that."

"I don't think that she said the word pervert," Chuck said with a chuckle. "It was more an implied kind of thing."

Finally Elise opened the door and got in the back seat. "Did you hear everything okay?" she asked. "How do you think it went?"

"It went well," Casey said. "It sounded like he bought it."

"I think so too," Elise said. "I feel great."

Chuck reached his hand into the back seat and grabbed Elise's. "You should feel great," he said. "You were brilliant. Thank you."

Elise had to pause for a moment to keep her composure. She had done it. She had pulled it off. "Thanks, Chuck," she finally whispered. "That means a lot."

"So," Chuck said. "I guess we are a go to proceed."

"I guess," Casey said with a sigh. "You know how I feel about this plan. But it's going just the way you said so far."

"It is," Chuck agreed with his own sigh. "That means that Jones is finished with Janice and just about to work on Sarah. Sometimes, I'd rather be wrong."

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones could see the look in Sarah's eyes the instant she stepped out of the bedroom. He had seen that look before. It was desperation. The look of someone with nothing to lose. And for Fred, the really exciting part… she was vulnerable. She could be played. So, in a way, Janice's stupid tantrum was a blessing. Now he could concentrate on the real prize. This game was just getting interesting again.

"We have to get moving," Sarah said. "It's time for revenge."

Jones knew what she meant. She was going after Ben Adams. "What is your plan?" he asked. But he knew that she didn't have one. He just let her stare blankly for a long moment.

"You might be able to assassinate him," Jones continued. "If you can figure out where he'll be. You may even be able to trap him alone and kidnap him. If you can give me a few days, I can help with that."

Sarah just nodded. "I can wait a couple of days," she said.

Good. Now she thought of him as an ally. "There is something that I'd like you to consider," Jones said. "If you kill him, it may make you feel good for a minute. But he'll quickly be replaced by someone just as bad. The real way to get revenge is by betraying what he believes in."

"How would I do that?" Sarah asked.

"From inside," Jones said. "Have you thought about the damage you could do to him if you controlled his actions?"

"How would I get inside?" Sarah asked.

Jones stood up to face Sarah and smiled. "Agent Walker," he said in a soft, slightly condescending voice. "I'm truly disappointed in you. You would get inside and control him by making him fall in love with you. That's how you would crush him. Then you could have your revenge for as long and in any manner you would choose."

Sarah shook her head. "That sounds great," she said. "But it's too complex. I'd need resources…"

"Which I can give you," Jones interrupted.

"And I'd need a detailed plan…"

"Which I can help you develop," Jones interrupted again. "Let's face it, Sarah. The man murdered your husband. You don't just want to kill him. You want to destroy him. I'm the only one who can give you that."

"And what do you get?" Sarah asked.

Jones looked into her eyes. She was considering this. It was time to see how serious she was. So he stepped directly in front of her to see if she would step away. The fact that she didn't told him everything that he needed to know. "I get some things," he admitted. "Ben Adams is my enemy. I'd like to see him destroyed. And we can control him. That would be good for me. But none of those things are enough. There is something else that I would have to have."

Sarah didn't have to ask. But she did anyway. "What is that?"

The time for subtlety was past. It was time to lay his cards on the table. "You," Jones said. "I can give you the revenge that you want. You can control him for as long as you would like. Destroy everything that he has ever believed in, including his good name. And then kill him in any horrible way that you choose. But I get you."

Sarah knew that she had to go along. At least give him enough so that she could reasonably stall. So she visibly swallowed when Jones slowly reached out and began to unbutton her shirt. She didn't help but she made no move to stop him. As soon as he had slipped the shirt off of her shoulders, she allowed it to fall to the floor. Then he reached behind her back.

Sarah put her hand on his chest, gently pushing him away. "Wait," she said. "I'm not doing this until you prove to me that you can deliver. Show me the intel on Adam's location, security, movements, and social tendencies." Hopefully that would take some time to come up with. If he had planned ahead, well, she was going to lose some more clothes.

Jones had never seen anything as sexy in his whole life as Sarah Walker standing there in her lacy bra. He recognized the negotiation tactic right away. But he could afford to wait. The game was nearing the end. "That will take a day or so," he said.

Sarah kept the relief from showing on her face. But she was very relieved. At least she wouldn't be getting naked tonight. "When I see what I want," Sarah said firmly. "Then you'll get to see what you want."

Jones was torn. She had stalled him too many times. And there was always the next excuse. It was getting frustrating. And he could probably demand some compromise tonight. But one more day wouldn't hurt. "Okay," Jones finally said. "But understand something. I want to see it all… and more. I expect you to keep your word."

It was the more that had Sarah worried. After today, he wouldn't have any reason to be stalled any longer. Oh well, the terms were clear. Hopefully, Chuck's plan would kick in before he could gather all that intel. But he had something up his sleeve. That much was a given. "I understand," she said.

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Elise were just leaving to go get dinner. Amazingly, Casey was actually letting them go down to the hotel restaurant. For a couple of reasons. Well, three, actually.

The main reason was that Elise had really come through for them today. She deserved a reward. And since she was never going to get Mark's show in Vegas, a nice dinner with real plates and silverware was the least they could do. And since Elise was an agent, Chuck wasn't in much danger. She could always back him up. Casey even gave her a gun.

A close second was that Casey's tolerance of Chuck's whining about having to eat out of a paper bag was drawing thin. Not that it was ever that strong to begin with.

The third reason was a little selfish. It would give Casey some alone time to sit and sort out his feelings. And that was hard to do with Chuck around. One thing was for sure – he had feelings to sort out. There was no question - yesterday was the best day of his life.

It was hard to even get his mind around that fact. All of the other best days were job related. Defeating the bad guys. Protecting innocent people. Even using his skills to protect the greater good. Those were the good days. They never were about a woman.

Of course – Casey had been with lots of women. But one thing was for sure. He had never met anyone like Janice. Most female spies fit into one of two types. There were the hard nosed, tight ass, by the book types like Forrest or Walker before Chuck. Then there were the soft, sexy seductresses like Carina or Elise. But Janice… Janice was the best of both. She could kick ass with the best of them. The fact that she could keep up with Walker proved that. But wow, was she sexy.

Without question, Janice was the most beautiful woman that Casey had ever seen in person. But it was more than just attraction. They hit it off. Most beautiful woman were high maintenance. But not Janice. Their conversation was comfortable. Neither Casey nor Janice could ever be called talkative. But their conversations were never awkward. Even the silent parts were comfortable.

And the sex. That was mind blowing. The funny thing was, it was more than just the sex. That was actually the least important part. It was the intimacy. It felt like there was a part of themselves that they were sharing. Almost like they became one. Chuck always babbled on about how great it was. And frankly Casey tuned most of that crap out. But now he knew. Well, he sort of knew. He knew how he felt. He just wasn't sure how to describe it. Whatever it was, it was simply unbelievable.

But what did that translate too? Was it love? Casey honestly wasn't sure. He knew that it was pretty early to be talking about love. After all, Chuck and Sarah were together every day for two years before they admitted that they were in love. But Casey knew one thing. Well, make that two. He had never felt this way in his life. And he couldn't, under any circumstance, let her get away.

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as Chuck and Elise were back in the room, Casey wordlessly handed him the transcript.

Mark: We have a serious problem.

Fred: What's wrong? Everything is going great at this end. I believe that Walker has agreed to our plan.

Mark: I don't think so. I just got a visit from our agent. Bartowski is not dead.

Fred: What do you mean, not dead?

Mark: What could I possibly mean, moron? Like still alive.

Fred: Wait. That means…

Mark: She is playing you.

Fred: Why?

Mark: We don't know yet. Our agent is working on it.

Fred: What should we do? Kill them?

Mark: Let's hold out for a day. See what our gal can find out. They are up to something. It would be nice to find out what. Perhaps we can turn it against them.

Fred: One good thing. She's mine now. I no longer have any reason to be patient.

Mark: Don't tip them off. Keep playing her. It's okay to push a little harder. But let's find out what they are up to first.

Chuck handed the transcript to Elise for her to read with a sad smile. "Looks like they're reacting just as we expected."

"Yup," Casey said.

"Well, Elise," Chuck said. "It looks like it's time for you to check in with headquarters."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 31: Hooked

x-x-x-x-x

"I just don't feel right leaving you alone with him." Janice said. They were sitting on the edge of the pool, allowing their feet to splash in the cool water. It was the one place where they were confident that they could speak without being overheard. After all, the closest place to hide a bug was well out of earshot for a normal conversation. "I don't think that Chuck truly understands what he's after."

"We have to follow the plan," Sarah said. "I'll be okay. Trust me. Chuck understands how much of a pig he is."

"This guy is a real creep," Janice said. "I mean, we've met some disgusting men. But this guy…"

Sarah turned and smiled. "He wouldn't be the first guy who wanted us both in bed," she said. "Remember that guy after the Inauguration party?"

"If I remember right," Janice said with a smile. "It didn't work out too well for him. I wonder if he ever emotionally recovered. You were pretty hard on him. But even he didn't think that we were sisters. This creep thinks that we're sisters. How sick is that?"

"It's a new low," Sarah admitted. "That's the main reason why you have to go. He needs to think that he is winning. And if you're here… well, guess what he is going to want a preview of. It takes that particular perversion off the table. We need him to want something else. Besides that – it will surprise him. He's expecting us to stay together."

"I know," Janice said. "But you still need to be careful. This guy is capable of almost anything. Especially now that he knows you're not on the level."

"Don't worry," Sarah said with a grin. "He is still going to be playing his little games. Especially when he starts thinking that he's winning a little. Besides, I think that you're going to have enough to worry about on your own tomorrow."

Janice just grinned back. "Maybe," she said. "Do you think he'll actually be jealous? He said that there's no room for jealousy."

"I don't think," Sarah said. "I'm positive. But be careful what you wish for."

"I've been thinking about it," Janice said. "I have a going away present for you."

"Good," Sarah said with a laugh. "I love presents."

"I think that you'll like this one," Janice said. "I want you to know something. I… I… Why is this so hard?"

Sarah looked over at her with a confused look. She could plainly see the tears forming in her eyes.

"I love you, blondie," Janice finally whispered. "I'm sorry I could never say that before. I don't know why."

Sarah could feel the tears filling her own eyes. "Wow," she said. "That's one of the best presents I've ever gotten. What brought that on?"

"I don't know," Janice said softly. "It seemed like the thing to say. Maybe something about the baby. Maybe because you're not Sarah Walker any more. Maybe Chuck is getting to me more than I thought. Whatever, it just got to the point where not telling you was harder than telling you."

"First Chuck," Sarah teased. "Now me. Can Casey be far behind? Pretty soon, you'll be telling the mailman that you love him."

Janice just smiled as she stood up to leave. "You know how much I love a man in uniform," she said.

"If I remember right, you love them out of uniform even better," Sarah said with a grin. "That's some information that you might want to consider not sharing with Casey. Make sure that you tell Chuck how much I miss him. And maybe pry Elise off him."

Janice began to walk away. "I will," she said over her shoulder. "On both counts."

Janice had only taken a few steps when Sarah called to her. "Sweetie," she said.

Janice didn't stop walking but turned her head towards Sarah.

"I love you too."

x-x-x-x-x

Mark was expecting Elise's call. So he answered on the first ring. "What is your status?" he asked. "Were you able to convince them?"

"It was easy," Elise said. "All I had to do was undo one button, turn on a few tears, and tell them that I didn't have anyplace else to go. Not only did they buy it, now I'm not even being secured."

"Were you able to find out anything?" Mark asked.

"I think maybe," Elise said. "I overheard a phone conversation that they were having. It sounded like they were talking to General Beckman."

"What were they saying?" Mark asked.

"It was hard to follow," Elise said. "Since I could only hear one side of the conversation. But I think they were talking about targeting the Elders. They said something about Sarah getting all of the Elders in the same room and then they would move in for the kill."

Mark scratched his head. How would they target the Elders? Why would they think that Jones would give up anything about them? "Really," he said. "That's surprising."

"Can I come back now?" Elise pleaded. "I can already see what their plans are for this evening. My ass already has a full set of Bartowski's fingerprints."

"I'm sorry, Elise," Mark said. "We're going to need you to tough it out for another day or so. We need to find out more about what they are planning."

"Please," Elise said. "I miss you already."

Mark couldn't help but grin. The poor kid had it bad. "I miss you too," he said. "But duty comes first. You know that. I need you, Elise. Can I count on you?"

"I guess," Elise said softly.

"That's my girl," Mark said. "Don't worry. I'll make it up to you."

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones studied Sarah intently through the patio door. Even though it was dark, he could clearly see her silhouette against the lights. She was sitting by the side of the pool. She was fully clothed - she was just letting her feet dangle in the water. But even that was an amazing sight. He was able to come up with some intelligence reports on Ben Adams that Fulcrum had on file. Unfortunately, they were old. There was no way that Walker would accept them. But maybe they would give him the opening to be able to press her. At least they would be enough to start the conversation.

"The water is amazing," Jones said as he walked up. "Isn't it?"

"Yes," Sarah said without looking up. "It is."

"We should get in," Jones said. "A midnight swim would be very refreshing."

Sarah didn't answer… or even look towards him. She just kept swishing her feet in the water.

"Where's Janice?" Jones asked. "I see that she left."

"You should know," Sarah said sadly. "She said that she couldn't stay here. She went to stay with Ellie."

Jones was a little confused. Whatever their objective, he figured that they both would stay to back each other up. "I thought that you would probably go with her."

Jones took her lack of a response as a very good sign. It meant that she wanted him alone. And that she had an objective she would trade for. "I have some of the intelligence that you wanted," he said. Hopefully, in the dark, she wouldn't notice how dated it was.

Still, Sarah didn't speak. She just held out her hand to take the report that Jones was holding out to her."

Jones couldn't get a good feel for her mood. She was playing him. He knew that. But that was okay. He always suspected that she was. And now, he had no reason to be coy. In a way, he was glad that she was playing him. The battle of wills between them was on. And knowing gave him an edge. It would make his victory – and her surrender, all the more sweet. "This shows my good faith," he said softly. "Wouldn't you agree? I think that this calls for a sign of good faith from you as well."

"What did you have in mind?" Sarah asked.

"Perhaps we could go for that swim," Jones said. "After all, you still owe me from the other day."

Sarah took her legs out of the pool and stood to face him. "This report is old," Sarah said. "It's from before Adams even became Undersecretary. I could look this stuff up on the internet. Surely he has changed offices and staff by now. If this is the best you can do, I'm better off on my own. This report isn't worth the paper that it's printed on."

"We're working on fresher intelligence," Jones said. "But you have to admit, I've given you much more so far than you've given me. I think it's time that you caught up, don't you?"

Jones wasn't expecting much response. So it was hard to keep the surprise off his face when Sarah stepped up to him and sighed."

"Let's put some cards on the table," Sarah said. "Janice doesn't like you. She thinks you're a disgusting pig." Sarah left unsaid that she completely agreed… for obvious reasons.

"Well," Jones said with a smile. "At least, that's honest. How about you?"

Sarah knew that she had to let him win a little. "We have an understanding," she said. "As long as you give me the things we've talked about, I guess I'm willing to pay your price. Maybe it's even time to up the ante a little."

Jones wasn't sure where this was going. But he sure liked the sound of it so far. "I'm listening," he said.

"Do you have a fantasy, Fred?" Sarah asked softly. "I mean, of course you do, right? If you could have me do anything that you wanted, how would it go? Don't tell me graphic details. Just in general."

Talk about an unexpected question. Jones really didn't know what to say. It wasn't that he didn't have lots of candidates. But how to pick just one? Hopefully, he would get a chance to enjoy several. "I have something in mind," Jones said. "Several, in fact. Why do you ask?"

Sarah didn't meet Jones's eye. She just looked over his shoulder vacantly. "If I make Ben Adams fall in love with me," she finally said. "It would be huge for you. At a minimum, I could feed you every detail of any missions that the whole agency was planning. It would allow you to be ready for anything that they would throw at you. It might even turn the war around in your favor."

"It would be big," Jones admitted. "What's your point?"

"If I'm going to be this important," Sarah said. "I think I should get something out of it more than just revenge. Don't you?"

"What did you have in mind?" Jones asked.

"I want to address the Elders," Sarah said softly. "I want to look in their eyes and have them admit to me how important my work is. I want the thing that I never got from the CIA."

"What didn't you get?" Jones asked.

"Respect," Sarah said, more to herself than Jones. "I was a tool to the CIA. Once a mission was complete, the only thing I ever heard was the details of the next assignment. I want the Elders to know what it is that I'm doing for you… for them. I want a thank you. A live and in-person thank you. Is that really too much to ask?"

Jones was puzzled. Why would she really want to meet with the Elders? Surely she would know that they would take precautions to ensure that they were not followed. "You must realize," Jones said. "How unusual that would be. The Elder's identities are secret."

Sarah had to gather herself before she could continue. Even though she knew that it was never going to happen, she struggled to tell him without gagging. "I understand," Sarah said. "And that's why you're going to get such a fantastic reward for setting it up."

Reward? He certainly liked the sounds of that. "And that would this reward be?" he asked.

"That would be up to you," Sarah said. "Whatever that fantasy is, I'll make it come true for you."

x-x-x-x-x

Elise was just lying on the sofa about to fall asleep. One good thing about being trusted – the sofa wasn't exactly a bed. But it sure beat the chair. It was an odd situation. In a way, her circumstance was not all that good.

After all, she was in big trouble with the CIA. They didn't take working for Fulcrum lightly. It wasn't unheard of to have a sanction placed against you just for that. Not only that, but Fulcrum was also looking to kill her. It was the classic rock and hard place dilemma.

For another thing, Elise had grown accustomed to first class. It was one of the perks associated with sleeping with powerful man. They dined at the finest restaurants and slept in the best hotels. And while the sofa was more comfortable than the chair, it was still a long ways from first class. And tonight's dinner was the first meal in the past two days that hadn't come in a paper bag.

So why was this the best night of Elise's life?

There were multiple reasons really. First was she was finally part of the team. That's all she had ever wanted – a chance to contribute to the team. The CIA certainly never gave her that chance. She was the pretty face. Sleep with the important diplomat and keep him happy while he was in the country. Of all people, Chuck had given her that chance. He was the last person who should have. She tried to kill him a couple of days ago. And yet, he did. He saw inside her and understood what all of the professionals never did. That she was a more than just a pretty face. She was capable of so much more. That's why it felt so incredibly good to come through for him.

But the other reason was just as good. Elise now had friends. And that was quite a statement. She never had friends before, only marks. Now she knew what Sarah was telling her. Oh, there was no way that she was going to fall in love with Chuck. For one thing, that would be stupid. Sarah had already made it clear that she wasn't going to tolerate that. And Sarah already didn't like her all that much. There was no good reason to pour gasoline on that particular fire. But Elise could see why Sarah would say such a thing. Chuck wasn't like any man that she had ever met. He kept her laughing all through dinner. He made her feel special. And it was different. Lot's of men made her feel special. That's how they thought they were getting into your pants. But with Chuck, it was genuine. It made her feel great. And even though she had only known him for two days, she felt like she could tell him anything.

Elise was about to let the warm glow led her into sleep when she was shocked by a pounding at the door. At first she didn't know what to do. But it only took a second for Casey to come bounding out the bedroom. He looked fairly comical dressed only in his boxers. But the huge gun in his hand, quickly told Elise that they weren't expecting anybody. Casey waived Chuck back into his room and motioned for her to answer the door.

When Elise opened the door, she was staring at the most handsome man that she had ever seen. When he smiled, all Elise could see was the two rows of perfect, white teeth. She actually felt her knees weaken a little. It was a shame that Casey was going to shoot him. Elise could think of much better things to do with him.

So Elise was quite relieved when Casey lowered his gun. It wasn't exactly a smile, but at least the scowl was gone.

"You're early," Casey said. "We weren't expecting you until tomorrow at the earliest."

"Beckman said to get my ass over here right away," he replied. "And you know Beckman."

"I know Beckman," Casey sadly agreed.

The man turned to Elise. If she thought his smile was nice before, when he turned on the full force, she could feel the blush travel up her neck.

"Well, hello," he said as he stuck out his hand. "My name is Bryce Larkin. And who might you be?"

x-x-x-x-x

"Anything?" Jones asked skeptically.

Sarah let out a big sigh. "Pretty much," she answered as she forced a smile. She knew that Chuck was right. She needed to sell him that her objective was really meeting with the Elders. And she would be willing to do almost anything to make that happen. She knew that he would never settle for something that she was willing to do. He would keep pushing until he could force her to do something that she wasn't willing to do. After all, that's what Chuck was counting on. She also knew that she was going to have to give him some sort of a preview tonight. It was the only way he'd buy it. Hopefully, she'd be able to get away with a little second base necking. But it was more likely that she would be going swimming. There was even an outside chance that she would be forced into some lingerie making an appearance. "Try me."

Jones just stood and stared at her for a long moment. He absolutely knew that she was playing him. But that's not what was making him angry. She was actually daring him. Almost mocking him to come up with something. And that pissed him off. He was going to find her limit. And then go beyond it. Way, way beyond. "Okay, he said calmly. "I'll play. I want you and Janice together."

Sarah had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. Why were these pigs so totally predictable? "Fred," she said softly. "That's disgusting."

Jones's heart soared. He had found her limit. Now to push her past it. "I knew it," he growled. "You tell me anything and then the first thing I ask for, you say no."

But Sarah knew that she couldn't let him find her limit. Not yet. Because once he found it, he would stop pressing. Almost no matter what he asked for, she would have agreed. And since it wasn't going to happen anyway, it didn't really hurt. "I didn't say no," she said. "I just said it was disgusting. But I also said anything. If that's what you really want…"

Jones tried to keep the shock from his face. Damn, that's not her limit. I'll have to keep trying. But at least it would be fun. "It is," he said. "It would be a lot of fun."

"Understand," Sarah said. "Nothing is going to happen until I get what I want. And it all depends on being able to talk Janice into it."

This was going to be so easy. Get five agents, dress them in suits, and have them pretend to be Elders. And then sit back and collect his reward. "Can you?" Jones asked.

"Probably not," Sarah said. "You've pretty much burned that bridge. I'll try, but I think that maybe you should come up with a second choice." That was a complete lie. Sarah was sure. Even if this hadn't been part of the plan, there was no way in hell.

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck tossed and turned in bed. Even though tomorrow was going to be a big day, sleep was no where in sight. Bryce showing up had been just the latest event in a hell of a day. There were so many things to worry about that he couldn't keep track of all of them. Most of them were pretty minor.

One of those things was the way Elise was looking at him during dinner. The last thing that he wanted was a repeat of the mess with Janice. But he also was worried about her. She was special. Was she actually so lonely that she could fall for the first man who was genuinely nice to her? What did that say about the spy life? It made him feel sorry for Sarah and Janice… and even Casey and Bryce more than he already did.

And Bryce being here caused problems on its own. Casey and Bryce could barely stand each other under the best of circumstances. When Janice showed up later, all hell might break loose. And Chuck was not up to playing referee to a macho pissing contest between Casey and Bryce. Hopefully, Bryce would pick up on the bond between Casey and Janice and back off. But picking up on signals was not Bryce's strength. And if the plan went the way he thought, those three would be alone for a whole day. Chuck could only hope there would a hotel room left to come back too.

Those other things were dwarfed as he thought about Sarah. He knew that right now was the time that she was going to be called upon to sell it. His blood boiled as he thought of the thoughts that must be running through Fred Jones's head. And even though Chuck wasn't trying to be possessive, he really couldn't help it. Sarah was the love of his life. She was the last person who should be subjected to that pig.

But when Chuck pounded the pillow in frustration, something wonderful happened. How could he have possibly not noticed that note? It was a little hard to read. There wasn't much light in the room. And Sarah's penmanship was not always the most legible. But after looking carefully, he was able to figure it out. And its meaning was clear.

Sweetie,

I know that you're feeling bad. You're worried about me. Don't be. Right now, I'm laughing at him. And that's pretty easy, since he's so ridiculous. You made me feel a lot better with your notes. So I want to try and repay the favor. You made a special promise to me. Here is my answer.

I, Sarah, take you Charles,

to be my husband,

to have and to hold,

for better or for worse,

for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and in health,

to love and to cherish;

from this day forward until death do us part.

I love you,

Sarah

P.S. Yes, sweetie, I do expect a reward. I think that you already know what. I can't wait.

Within five minutes, Chuck was sound asleep… with a huge smile on his face.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 32: Be Careful What You Wish For

x-x-x-x-x

And Elise already thought that this was the best night of her life. Here she was, sharing a room with the hottest man that she had ever seen. He was incredible. Even his name was sexy. Bryce. Just saying it made her hot. And that boyish smile… it could have her, or almost any woman really, naked in a second. She was grateful when Chuck introduced them both as agents. It put her on equal footing with him right off the bat. She could see the respect in his eyes as soon as Chuck called her Agent Walters. It's funny, Elise had always been pretty much immune to the pretty boy spy types. But, she had to admit, there was something about Bryce Larkin's smile that took her breath away. And now they were sleeping in the same room. Okay, so he was over there in her old chair. But Elise knew that if he wanted to be more comfortable… a lot more comfortable… all he had to do was ask. After all, she had to spend all of last night listening to Chuck and Casey's repeated bouts of passion. Maybe it was time to turn the tables on them. Men used her to satisfy their twisted desires all the time. It was about damn time that – hey she could turn the tables in more than one way. If only he would wake up.

Elise was just about ready to succumb to the warm glow that was pulling her eyelids closed when there was a loud pounding at the door. Her eyes immediately popped open. Damn, this is Central Station tonight. It was almost a repeat of the earlier drill. Casey came bounding out of the bedroom in his boxers with his huge gun. If Elise hadn't felt with her own hands the other night, she would have suspected that Casey was compensating for something. But if there was one thing that she knew now for certain - that wasn't true. Casey had no reason to compensate. And, true to form, Casey waived Chuck back into his room, just like before. And he also motioned for Elise to answer the door. It was a deja-vu moment – with one very notable exception. Because this time, instead of one gun-toting agent dressed only in his boxers, there were two. And when Elise caught sight of Bryce's bare chest – she frankly forgot all about the door.

Fortunately, Elise's fog of lust was interrupted by Janice's voice coming through the door. "Come on guys," she called as she pounded again. "Are you going to make me spend the night out here in the hall?"

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah could see the wheels turning in Fred Jones's head. It was clear what he was after. He was going to push her as far as he could tonight. And Sarah knew that she was going to have to be careful. She wanted to get away with giving in as little as possible. For obvious reasons. But she knew that she needed to keep him interested. He had to believe that she would actually deliver. After all, he thought that he had figured out what she was after. And what she would pay. She understood that he wouldn't walk away tonight without some show of good faith.

Jones knew that she was playing him. But part of that depending on delivering. She had to know that she would have come through with something. But how far could she be pushed tonight - without blowing the whole deal? "I think I can come up with a second choice," Jones said. "As long as I understand that you've made a legitimate effort to talk her into it. But frankly I'm having a hard time believing that you're being honest with me."

"Why would you think that?" Sarah asked.

"Come on," Jones said in a frustrated tone. "You've been teasing me for a week now. It's time to put up or shut up."

Sarah was actually beginning to enjoy the sparring herself. Or at least, the part where he was frustrated. "Let's be frank," she said. "I'm not looking forward to being your plaything. If you think that I am, you're only deluding yourself. I'm only agreeing to reward you when you do what I want. And, let's face it, Fred. You haven't done anything yet."

Jones was forced to smile. Damn, she was good. "It appears that we have an impasse," he said. "Because what you're asking of me would require me to stick my neck out a mile. The Elders guard their identities very jealously. And for very good reason. We have serious enemies. I'm not going any farther unless I'm convinced that you'll actually pay off."

Sarah considered this. What would he settle for? The tamest thing was to allow him a little second base action. The problem with that is that it would require allowing him to actually touch her. Chuck really had a hot button reaction to the lingerie thing. So that was a last resort. But the primary rule of negotiating was to force your opponent to make the first offer. "What would it take?" she asked.

Jones stepped forward to Sarah but she blocked him with her palm in his chest. "How about for now, you just tell me?" she asked with a grimace.

x-x-x-x-x

Elise breathed a sigh of relief as she opened the door. Maybe they would survive this night without being attacked, after all. But then again, the room was getting pretty crowded. "Why are you here?" she asked Janice. "I thought the plan wasn't for you to come until tomorrow."

As soon as Chuck heard Janice's voice, he bounced out of the room. At least, unlike the other men, he was semi-dressed. He was wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants. "What's wrong?" he asked. The concern in his voice was plain.

Janice suddenly realized that she had caused Chuck to worry that something was wrong with Sarah. The look on his face broke her heart. He was panicked. And that's the last thing that she wanted. So she ran over to Chuck and threw her arms around him. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "Nothing's wrong. I promise. I just couldn't wait to get here."

Chuck squeezed Janice tightly. "How's Sarah?" Chuck whispered back. "Are you sure that nothing's wrong."

"I feel terrible," Janice said softly as she kissed his cheek. "Sarah is great. She told me to tell you how much she misses you. I'm so sorry that I scared you. I just… I was able to lose the tail pretty easily and decided to come here early. I know that wasn't the plan."

Chuck was obviously relieved. "I understand," he said as his eyes sparkled. "I know exactly why you're here early. And it has nothing to do with me."

"Okay," Janice whispered. "Yes, but please don't embarrass me in front of everybody. I know that you're excited. I am too. And maybe someday, you'll get to hear me say it. But for right now, we're taking it slow. Please let me do this my way."

"I don't need to hear it," Chuck whispered back. "It's not important that I hear it. It's Casey who would love to hear it. Even when he says that he wouldn't. Be honest. Wouldn't you love to hear it back?"

Janice's grin told him what he wanted to know even thought she didn't verbally respond. She released Chuck and turned to Elise. "I know," she said with a smile. "I just couldn't wait to get here."

But then something happened that Janice didn't anticipate. Bryce walked up to where Chuck and Janice were standing and smiled. "I missed you too," he said.

Then, to Janice's horror, he wrapped his arms around her neck and kissed her.

Janice was frozen. She didn't know what to do. She didn't want to humiliate Bryce and cause a scene by pushing him away in front of everyone. But she certainly didn't want to give him the impression that she had raced over because she knew that he would be here. And the last thing that she wanted was for Casey to have to witness this. So, not knowing what to do, she did nothing. She stood there and allowed Bryce to kiss her – but she really didn't kiss back.

Bryce must have realized after a moment that something was not right because he broke the kiss. The awkwardness in the room could have been cut with a knife. Then Janice saw the worst thing that could have happened. Casey closing the bedroom door behind him. As Janice walked towards the bedroom to talk to Casey she passed close to Elise.

"Damn," Elise said softly so that only Janice could hear. "All three? You really need to learn how to share."

x-x-x-x-x

Jones stared at Sarah for a minute. Might as well go for the brass ring. "Do you want to go into the bedroom?" he asked. "Or should we stay out here like Janice and I did the other night?"

Sarah bristled at the not so subtle reference to his romp with Janice two nights ago. If he was trying to make her angry, he had certainly succeeded. So her response was a little more biting than she originally intended. "If you think that I'm having sex with you tonight, you're nuts," she said. "That is something that you're going to have to earn."

"What do you suggest?" Jones asked caustically.

The absurdity of this conversation was not lost upon Sarah. They were negotiating about sex like they would be negotiating over the price of a used car. The line between a CIA agent and a hooker was often blurry. But right now, it really didn't exist. Even though she knew that it wasn't actually going to happen, the very thought was making her nauseous. She had to end this conversation and go take a hot shower. "You talked about going swimming," she finally said. "I'll do that. Ten minutes and you don't touch me. Take it or leave it."

Jones knew that was all he was getting tonight. But it was enough – for now. He was finally going to behold the mighty Sarah Walker in all of her natural glory. And his cameras were going to record the event for posterity. So he smiled. "Agent Walker," he said. "I believe that we have a deal."

Sarah wasn't happy at all about taking off her clothes in front of this pig. But she knew that it was required. So she might as well get it over with. And the sooner she was under the water, the less he would see. So she glanced at her watch. "Ten minutes," she said. "Starting now."

Sarah knew that he was expecting a show. And normally the situation would have called for her to put one on. She just wasn't up to it. And judging by how wide his eyes were as she unbuttoned her blouse, he didn't mind all that much. So she quickly let it slip to the floor. Fortunately, just as she was about to unfasten her bra, Jones's cell phone rang. He was going to just let it ring but he could tell by the ring tone that it was Mark. He had to take this. But his phone was way over there on the table.

Sarah saw her chance. While Jones was off looking after his phone, she quickly peeled off the rest of her clothes and jumped into the water.

Jones finally picked up his phone. He knew that protocol called for him to answer with "Jones, secure." But he couldn't get the words out of his mouth. So he simply answered, "Your timing sucks." When he looked back towards the pool. His heart sank. All he could see was Sarah Walker's head. The lights shinning off the water hid everything else.

x-x-x-x-x

When Janice finally made it to the bedroom, Casey was lying on the bed. He was face up, staring at the ceiling. He was so sexy, lying there dressed in only his boxers. But he didn't turn his head to acknowledge Janice's presence. So Janice did the only thing that she could think off. She plopped down next to him and joined him in contemplating the ceiling.

Finally Janice felt like she was going to explode if she didn't speak. "I thought that we weren't going to be jealous," she said softly.

"I'm not jealous," Casey said with a sigh.

"Really," Janice said. "Because you're acting like you're jealous. But I wasn't really talking about you. I was talking about me. When were you going to tell me that you had Elise in this bed?"

If Casey was surprised, he didn't show it. "To tell you the truth, I wasn't," he said. "Nothing really happened. I'm very sorry that it even got that far. To be honest, I'm embarrassed about it."

Janice was pretty sure that she already knew the answer. But she asked anyway. "Do you care for her?" she asked softly.

"Of course not," Casey said. "I mean, she's a good kid. But the honest thing was I was using her. It's when you were doing your thing with Jones. I just couldn't get that out of my head. Don't get me wrong. I'm not jealous about that. I understand what agents do. I was just missing you. So I was using her because I was lonely. I was trying to pretend that she was you. And that was a horrible thing to do to her. I feel like an ass. That's why I'm embarrassed."

"I think that I understand," Janice said. "Because that's exactly how it was with Bryce. I was using him. I was lonely."

"I understand," Casey said with a sigh.

"I don't think so," Janice said quickly. "Because if you do, you're the only one. The whole problem is that I was still lonely. I was lying in bed with him and I was lonely. Does that make sense?"

"Some," Casey said. "Agents are lonely. It comes with the territory."

"I know that," Janice said. "The funny thing is… I never felt lonely until I met Chuck. Now seeing what Chuck and Sarah have…"

"I know," Casey said. "Trust me. I know. We tease them but…"

"That's why what we have is so special," Janice whispered. "With you I can still be an agent. But I'm not lonely. I'm so tired of being lonely."

"It's special for me too," Casey said as he turned to look at her for the first time. "I promise you'll never have to be lonely again. I'm sorry that I got jealous and acted all possessive. It won't happen again. I have no right to be jealous."

"Actually you do," Janice said. "Of course you do. It's simply human nature. I have a confession to make. When I knew that Bryce was going to be here, I was hoping that you'd be a little jealous."

"Really," Casey said. "Well, I guess you got your wish."

"It's complicated," Janice said. "Isn't it? I mean, Fred Jones had his hand inside my bra for ten minutes this afternoon. And I would be very disappointed in you if you were jealous about that."

"I'm not jealous about that," Casey said. "I'm absolutely not. That's your job."

"I know," Janice said. "But to have to watch another man kiss me in a social situation is unacceptable. You shouldn't have to tolerate that. Casey, listen to me. I'm very sorry. I shouldn't have let that happen. I wanted to stop him. I just didn't know what to do. I'll make sure that he knows that it will never happen again."

"Thanks," Casey said. "You don't have to be sorry. You didn't kiss him. He kissed you. Things like that happen."

"But there's something else that you need to know," Janice said firmly. "I'm not going to tolerate it either. You're mine now. Missions are one thing. But if I catch Elise, or anybody else when it comes right down to it, so much as admiring your ass, it's on. Do we understand each other?"

"Yes, ma'am," Casey said with a smile. "You're being very clear."

"Good," Janice said as she rolled over on top of Casey. "I know that it's sort of cliché to use sex to apologize," she said with a grin. "But if that wouldn't offend you, I'd like to show you how truly sorry I am."

"I'll live," Casey said. "But before that, I need to tell you something. I've been thinking about it all day. I hope that this doesn't mess us up. But you need to hear something. I wouldn't feel right continuing with this unless I'm honest with you."

Janice's heart sank. He was reconsidering their relationship. There was probably someone else. Sarah had told her all about the girl in Europe. He probably wasn't over her. She should have known it was too good to be true. So she just nodded for him to continue.

"I love you," Casey said.

Casey watched Janice's eyes quickly fill with tears. Now it was Casey's turn for his heart to sink. "I'm sorry," he said. "I don't mean to scare you. I know that it's too soon. I just needed for you to know."

Janice just shook her head. "I… I… I'm not scared," she was finally able to get out. "I love you too. It might be too soon. But I know that I do."

They just held each other for a long moment. Finally Casey whispered, "Damn that Chuck. Why is he always right?"

"I know," Janice said. "It feels great, doesn't it?"

"We don't have to tell him," Casey said. "Do we? He'll never let us hear the end of it."

"Oh hell no," Janice said with a grin. "Chuck doesn't find out for a long time. He's insufferable enough as it is."

"Good," Casey said. "Maybe I can avoid blowing my brains out for a while longer."

"He does have a tendency to get a little annoying," Janice said with a laugh. "How about after, we go out, grab his legs and play wishbone?"

"We'd have a problem," Casey said. "Sarah wouldn't take the news of him being out of commission very well."

"I have my own problem," Janice said. "I was going to show you how sorry I am about Bryce kissing me. Now I think I should do something to show you how I feel about you."

"That's quite a problem," Casey said as he kissed her.

"Not really," Janice said as she pulled her shirt over her head and began kissing down Casey's neck. "I think that what I have in mind will work for both."

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 33: Taking the Bait

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck could tell by the confused look on Bryce's face that he needed to explain some things. Elise wasn't looking all that happy herself.

"Janice and Casey?" Bryce asked in disbelief. "That's hard to believe. When did that happen?"

Chuck knew that even though Bryce was a first class spy, he really wasn't the best at picking up on emotional signals. So it would be better if he made it very plain. "A few days ago," he said with a smile. "I think that it has a good chance to be really serious."

"Serious?" Bryce asked incredulously. "She's a spy. So is he. How serious could it be?" Then he did the mental math. "Wait… A few days ago. That would mean right after…"

Obviously Bryce was having a hard time with this. He didn't like to lose. "Trust me," Chuck said. "This is different. They really have a connection. I'd be surprised if it didn't turn into a permanent thing."

"That's crazy." Only the words didn't come from Bryce. They came from Elise. "Spies don't have permanent things," she continued. "The worst thing that can happen to a spy is to fall in love. It makes them sloppy."

"Exactly," Bryce said. "Spies have to take it a day at a time. Who knows where you'll be next week?"

"I completely agree," Elise said. "I'm not really tired. Would you like to have a drink and talk?"

Chuck saw that as his cue to leave. "I have a big day," he said with a yawn. Never mind that so did Elise. Let her have her chance. "I'm really tired. I'm not coming out of this bedroom again tonight."

Elise's smile told him that she was grateful.

"I'm going to fall dead asleep," Chuck said. "I probably won't hear anything for the rest of the night."

"Okay, buddy," Bryce said with his own grin. "We get it."

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones held the phone to his ear while he sadly watched Sarah Walker swimming her laps. He had to admire how effortlessly she glided through the water, leaving almost no wake. Of course, all he could see was her blonde hair.

"I think our agent has discovered their objective," Mark said.

Jones was mesmerized by the sight of Sarah. And especially by the opportunity that he had just missed. He could see her clothes lying in a pile by the pool.

"Hello," Mark said harshly. "Are you still there?"

Jones shook himself out of his haze. "Yes," he quickly said. "I'm here. I think I know what they're after as well."

"We believe that they may be targeting the Elders," Mark said. "Our agent overheard them talking about getting the Elders in the same place."

Reluctantly, Jones moved out of hearing range from the pool. That meant that he couldn't see Sarah any longer. But it was important that she not overhear. "That makes some sense," Jones said. "Walker just asked me to set up a meeting so that she could address the Elders. What do you think they are going for?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Mark said. "They want to kill or capture the Elders. They think that would cripple us."

"But it really wouldn't," Jones said. "Our ascension plans would just kick in. If they captured some of us, they might eventually learn of some of our high level organization structure. But by that time, our people would have changed it."

"That's true," Mark said. "They would have already moved all of the money into different accounts and changed all of headquarters locations. We've always planned on the possibility of losing an Elder to them."

"So what are they after?" Jones said. "Walker is really anxious for this to happen. She offered quite a reward."

"Sex?" Marks asked softly.

"More than sex," Jones said. "She said she would do anything I asked."

"She knows that she will never have to pay off," Mark said. "She would offer anything."

"But what are they really after?" Jones said. "I'm tired of taking this crap from her. Maybe I should bring in some men and make her talk."

"That wouldn't work," Mark said. "By the time you could make her talk, the information would be worthless. And it would be a shame to miss such an opportunity. I have an idea."

"Idea?" Jones asked.

"Tomorrow is going to be your lucky day," Mark said. "I think that it's time that we truly break Agent Walker. And there is one way to do that. Trust me, by tomorrow afternoon, she'll be begging you to think of some more things that she can do for you,"

"What should I do until then?" Jones asked.

"Just don't tip her off," Mark said. "I'll be by tomorrow with a huge present. Just so we're clear, I'll want my own shot at her after you're done."

"Sounds fair," Jones said with a laugh as he ended the call. He looked over at the pool. He could see Sarah just wrapping herself in a towel. All he could do was sigh at the missed opportunity. He suspected that he could talk her into more tonight. But why bother? Tomorrow he would have her total surrender. And there was always the tape to watch.

Unfortunately for Fred, even that small consolation prize would be denied him. Janice's final going away present was more than just telling Sarah that she loved her. She also found the control room on her way out – and turned off the cameras.

x-x-x-x-x

Janice made her way back next to Casey and snuggled into his neck. She could feel his heart pounding. She just let her hand gently lie in his chest while he recovered. Besides, the contented look on his face looked so great. She wanted him to be able to enjoy it as long as possible. So she waited for a moment until his pulse was approaching normal, then she leaned over to kiss him. "So," she said softly between kisses. The sly grin and twinkle in her eyes was unmistakable. "Am I forgiven?"

"I'll tell you later," Casey said with his own grin. "Right now, I'm having trouble remembering my own name. Is that always how you plan on apologizing?"

Janice rested her head on Casey's chest. "If you play your cards right," she sighed. They stayed in that position for a long time, just enjoying the moment. But after a while she got serious. "What do you really think about Chuck's plan? Please be totally honest."

"It's risky," Casey said. "But the payoff is huge. If they don't do everything exactly like he planned, it's going to get really bad, really fast."

"I know," Janice said. "I'm scared to death. If it goes bad, Sarah's going to be in a tough spot. We'll have to fight our way in there and get them. And there are only three of us."

"We'll have Elise and Sarah on the inside," Casey said. "And hopefully we'll have an element of surprise. But, yes, we're going to be outnumbered. There's a good chance that not everybody makes it."

"But so far he has been spot on," Janice whispered. "It's hard to not have faith in him."

"You're too tense," Casey said with a smile. "We've been in tough spots before. And we've always come through. I've seen you in action, Agent Beckman. And, if I may say so, you're a sight to behold. And even as much as I dislike Larkin, I have to admit, he's pretty competent with a gun."

Janice smiled. "I thought you were over being jealous of Bryce," she said.

"You're right," Casey said as he grabbed Janice and rolled them both over so that she was on her back. "I'd better apologize."

x-x-x-x-x

Elise hands were shaking as she dialed the phone. This was it.

Mark quickly answered. "Is something wrong?" he asked.

"No," Elise said. "I'm just checking in. I'm sorry if I woke you. I've been… I've been occupied."

It was time to turn on the old Mark charm. "Don't be silly," he said. "It's nice to hear your voice. I've missed you."

Elise had to catch the laugh that threatened to come out. What a tool this guy was. Did he really think that she was buying this? Instead, she went for the pitiful, scared little girl voice. That always worked. "Really?" she asked. "That's so sweet. I've missed you too."

"I have good news," Mark said. "Your mission is over."

"Really?" Elise asked. "That's great. I don't know how much more of these guys I could take."

"Yes, really," Mark said with a smile. "There is one more thing that I need you to do. I'd like you to capture Bartowski. I want to have some fun with him. He needs to learn that he can't mess with my girl. You can do that can't you?"

"Easily," Elise said. "They totally trust me now. The gun is lying on the table. What about the big guy?"

"We don't need him," Mark said. "You can kill him. I assume you'll enjoy that. After all he's put you though."

"Very much," Elise said. "What should I do with Bartowski?"

"Bring him by the hotel in the morning," Mark said. "We'll use him to mess with the mighty Sarah Walker. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

Elise rubbed the spot on her head where Sarah had pulled her hair. It was still mighty sore. "I would love that," she said. "Do you think I could have my own shot at her? She needs to be taken down a peg."

"Absolutely," Mark said. "We have our own plans for her for a while. I think you'll enjoy watching. But after that, we'll let you take some shots. You just can't kill her. We need her to suffer for a while."

As soon as Elise ended the call, she turned to Chuck and threw her arms around him. "Well," she said as he grabbed him tightly. "It's all set. It went just like you said."

Chuck put his arms around her as softly rubbed her back. "Thanks," he said.

"You're welcome," Elise said with a sigh as she buried her face into his neck. "I just hope that you know what in the hell you're doing. These guys aren't messing around."

x-x-x-x-x

"Okay," Casey said as he handed the transcript to Janice. "This is our last chance to back out. We can bust Fred and then use him to get Jones. It would be fairly easy to get Sarah out of there."

"Why would we do that?" Bryce asked incredulously. "Sarah understands the risks of this life. She knows what she's doing."

"It's not just Sarah," Janice said. "There's Chuck and a baby to think about. And we would have already won a huge victory…"

"Guys," Chuck interrupted. "We've already been all through this. Janice is right. We do have a baby to think about. That's why we're doing this. And after reading this transcript, I'm more convinced than ever. Just capturing a couple of Elders wouldn't be a big victory at all. They've already planned contingences. They wouldn't miss a beat."

"You're right about that," Casey said with a sigh. "They've planned ahead. That's disappointing. But there is some good news here. First, I have to admit, they have done everything that you have predicted so far. Second, Elise will be able to wear a wire. They shouldn't suspect her. So we can be listening and ready to move the instant it goes bad. We just need to understand something. If it does go bad this morning, Sarah is in a bad spot. It's going to take us some time to fight our way in to her. She will be pretty helpless with those assholes until we get there. There is only one way for her to buy us that time. And we all know what that is."

"If we don't do this," Chuck said. "It's just a matter of time before they put her in the same spot. They'll find something. We won't be able to hide the baby from them. And they know about Ellie. We have too many weaknesses to fight them for long. At least this way, we have a chance to destroy them."

Janice always knew that agents weren't supposed to fall in love. It was the first and last thing that they taught you in training. And in her head, she always knew why. Chuck just admitted it himself. Sarah was in danger because the bad guys would eventually find someone that she loved and use it against her. The tears that were now filling her eyes even told her that she now truly knew it in her heart. But there was another thing that she now knew. They were wrong. They were all dead wrong. Loving didn't weaken you. It made you stronger. Whatever down side there was, it was so worth it. "It's your decision," she said softly. "We'll all follow whatever you decide. You know that, right, partner?"

Chuck just nodded as he reached out and grabbed the hand that Janice was extending to him. "I know, partner," he was finally able to whisper. "Let's do this."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah had just finished getting dressed when there was a knock at her door. She barely had time to call out to come in before the door opened. Fred Jones stepped into the room. The smirk on his face told Sarah that something was up.

"Agent Walker," Jones said. "Could you step out her please? I have something that I'd like to show you."

Even though Sarah knew more or less what to expect when she entered the living room, the sight still shocked her. Of course, along with her and Jones, Elise was there. She was holding her gun in her hand. Next to Elise was a man that she assumed was the Elder Mark. There were also two men that Sarah recognized as being in Jones's security detail. Both had their guns drawn.

But Sarah's attention was immediately drawn to the only other person in the room. Chuck was standing there with his hands secured behind his back. He obviously had been having a bad day. His hair was messed up and he had what looked to be a mouse forming under his left eye. But that's not what had Sarah unnerved. There was fear in his eyes. And that broke Sarah's heart. She knew that she couldn't go over to him. But she couldn't resist trying to talk to him. "Are you okay?" she asked.

Fred Jones stepped up directly in front of Sarah. "He's okay," he said with a sneer. "For now. How long he stays that way is totally up to you."

Sarah knew better than to respond. But she was dying to kick that smirk off his face.

"The game between us is over," Jones said. "All that now remains is the victory dance."

Jones smiled as he looked at the despair on Sarah's face. "Speaking of dancing," he said. "I do believe that you have some lingerie to show us."

Sarah, for the moment anyway, ignored Jones's lewd suggestion. "Where's Casey?" she asked.

Chuck didn't answer. He just stood looking at the floor.

"Chuck," Sarah asked more insistently. "Where's Casey?"

Chuck just shook his head.

"Oh my God," Sarah cried. "Where's Janice?"

The tears in Chuck's eyes said everything. "I'm sorry," he whispered as he shook his head sadly.

"You bastards," Sarah sobbed, more to herself than anybody. "You rotten bastards."

"What did you expect?" Jones asked. "Did you think that we were just going to let you play us, lead you to the Elders, and then surrender? Really, Agent Walker, you disappoint me."

"So," Sarah said. "What happens now? You kill us too?"

"That's option B," Jones admitted. "But really, nobody wins if that happens. Option A all depends upon you, my dear. It would be a shame to kill such a talent. And there are still some very valuable services that you could provide. It all sort of depends on how you really feel about Mr. Bartowski here. For example, what would you do to keep him from joining your friend and your sister?"

"What do you want from me?" Sarah asked.

"We want what we've always wanted," Jones said. "For you to control Ben Adams for us. Since the revenge was obviously always bullshit, we'll have to come up with a real reason. Like maybe keeping Mr. Bartowski here alive."

"Please," Sarah said in defeat. "Don't hurt him. I'll do anything."

"Not so fast," Jones said as he stepped up to face her. "You've forgotten all about my loyalty test." Then he pulled her into him and kissed her.

Sarah didn't kiss back, but she didn't withdraw either. "Please, Fred," she whispered as soon as the kiss broke. "Don't make me do this in front of him. Take me into the bedroom."

"Sorry," Jones said as he lifted the hem of Sarah's shirt. "At one point a trip to the bedroom might have been enough. But you decided that it would be more fun to tease me for a week. Now I feel like I can't trust you. You're going to have to prove to me that you will be obedient."

Jones lifted Sarah's t-shirt to her arms. He glared at her until she finally slowly lifted her arms to allow him to lift it over her head. As soon as the shirt hit the floor, Jones stepped up to her and kissed her again. This time, he probed with his tongue until Sarah finally opened her mouth a little. He put his hand on the outside of her bra. After he finally broke the kiss, he took a step back. "I do believe that it's time for the show that I was promised," he said with a grin.

"Please, Fred," Sarah whispered. "Please don't make me do this in front of him."

Jones just nodded to one of guards who immediately kicked Chuck in the side of the knee. To his credit, Chuck did not cry out. But the pain was evident on his face.

Sarah made a mental note of which guard had kicked him. "Okay," she cried. "Please stop hurting him." As she reached behind to unhook her bra, tears started streaming down her face. "I can't do this," she cried. "You win. I'm willing to make a deal."

"Deal?" Jones asked. "What do you have to deal?"

"What I've always had," Sarah said as she struggled to contain her tears. "You guys are really pretty pathetic. You're supposed to be Fulcrum's top leaders? No wonder you're losing the war. Your vision is ridiculously tiny. Think about it. Controlling Ben Adams would be an okay victory. But he would eventually be discovered and replaced. It might allow you to hold on for a while longer. But you're still going to lose. What I can give you guarantees that you win the war."

Mark stepped up from the side of the room. He couldn't hide his curiosity. "And what is that?" he asked.

"I can give you the intersect," Sarah said. "With it, you win. Without it, you lose. It's really as simple as that."

Sarah saw the look of power lust in their eyes. It was over. She had to use every fiber to keep the grin off her face. She had never wanted to run over and hug Chuck more in her life. Even though there were as many fake tears streaming down his face as hers, she could see the twinkle in his eyes. Was she really married to this big of a genius? Or was he just really lucky? Whichever it was, she couldn't wait to get him alone to congratulate him.

They had just taken Chuck's bait.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 34: Stupid is as Stupid Does

x-x-x-x-x

"Sarah, no," Chuck said. "Don't give them that. It's too much."

Sarah picked up the first thing she could grab – it was a potted plant that was sitting on a table - and threw it at Chuck's head. It missed him by about a half an inch and smashed into the wall behind him with a sickening thud. "You shut your damn mouth!" Sarah screamed. "It's your damn fault that we're in this mess. You and your stupid plan. We've gotten Casey and Janice killed. I should have my head examined for listening to you. Do you really want to stand there and watch me screw him, and lord knows what else, right in front of you?"

"No," Chuck said softly. "Of course not."

"Then I don't want to hear another fucking word out of you," Sarah ranted. "You do what you do best. Stand there and do nothing while I get us out of this... as usual. I sure hope that you're not expecting sex anytime in the next year. At least, not with me."

Mark watched Sarah rant with amusement. "Excuse me," he finally said with a grin. "If we're not interrupting your domestic situation, could we please get back to the part where you give us the intersect? How would that work?"

Sarah was still fired up. "You guys are incredible," she said caustically. "You are almost as thick as my husband. I thought you had someone watching our wedding?"

"We did," Jones said. "What's that got to do with…"

Sarah turned her fiery gaze towards Jones. "Because he was there," she said in disgust. "Whoever the agent was that you assigned, I'd send him back to his old job, parking cars."

"Bryce Larkin was at your wedding?" Mark asked.

"He was acting as Janice's date," Sarah said.

"Where is he now?" Mark asked. "We'll pick him up."

Sarah just shook her head in disgust. "You guys are really something," she said. "Tell me something. Why do you think that we've been kicking your ass so thoroughly for the past few years? Have you asked yourself that question? Why is it that we know every thing that you're going to do before you do it?"

"The intersect?" asked Mark.

"Of course," Sarah said. "And you think that you can just send a few men and pick him up? He'll laugh at you. And then he'll send you those men back in body bags. I'm the only one who can give him to you."

"Okay," Jones said. "How are you going to do that?"

"I'm not doing anything unless we can make a deal," Sarah said. "Chuck and I get to disappear and live our lives in peace."

"Why would we agree with that?" Jones asked. "We can make you do anything that we want. We have your husband."

"It doesn't work like that," Sarah said. "I'm drawing a line in the sand. Kill us and lose the war – or let us disappear and win. It would cost you nothing. It's a pretty simple choice."

"Why would you want to disappear with him?" Mark asked. "It doesn't sound like you even like him that much."

"That's a hell of a question," Sarah said with a sigh. "It's the same one that I ask myself every day. I'm afraid that I don't have a real good answer. I just know that I do. I can't explain why."

Jones studied Sarah's face for a long moment. "We get the intersect first," he finally said. "Bartowski stays secured until we know that we're not being double crossed. I can guarantee you safety from Fulcrum. But I can't do anything about the CIA."

"I'm not worried about the CIA," Sarah said. "After your victory, they are going to cease to exist. One other thing, you can shove your sick loyalty test. So hand me my shirt."

"You still haven't told us how you can deliver Larkin when our small army couldn't," Jones said.

"Because," Sarah said softly. "I have something that you don't. He trusts me. And even more than that, he is in love with me. I'm carrying his baby."

x-x-x-x-x

Casey, Janice, and Bryce sat in the van listening to Elise's wire. Casey and Bryce were doing okay. Well, sort of okay. There was still a palatable tension between them. Janice really didn't know how to handle it. They really needed to be on top of their game today. The last thing that they needed was the petty sniping. So she decided to play it strictly professionally. Casey would understand… eventually anyway.

"It sounds like they have taken the bait," Janice said. "I have to admit, they reacted exactly as we planned."

"Sarah was brilliant," Bryce said with a laugh. "Even I'm beginning to think she's carrying my baby."

"I didn't expect her to say that," Janice said. "But I have to admit, it was great. They completely bought it."

"I hope that Chuck didn't buy it," Casey said. "Jealousy is his weakness."

"Unlike us?" Janice asked softly. The twinkle in her eyes was unmistakable.

Casey smiled at Janice. "Unlike us," he agreed with a grin. Then he turned to Bryce. "Well, pretty boy," he said. "We're committed now. It looks like you're on."

x-x-x-x-x

"What!" Chuck exclaimed.

"I'm sorry that you had to find out like this," Sarah said sadly. "I was going to tell you."

"But that means…" Chuck said as he thought through the implications. "You two have been… How many times?"

"A few," Sarah admitted. "The intersect is good for more than just spy stuff. There's all sorts of good information in there. You've never lived until you've had sex with an intersect. Besides, you knew from day one that we were never going to be exclusive. Tell me that you haven't been enjoying a certain redhead bimbo for the past few days."

"Hey," Elise said. "Watch who you're calling bimbo. I'm not the one standing there in my see through padded bra. And I'm glad that one of us enjoyed it. Because it sure as hell wasn't me."

"Excuse me," Mark interrupted. "Could we get back to the intersect? Maybe you two can get some marriage counseling later. How us this going to work?"

"Easy," Sarah said. "We have a code worked out. All I have to do is make a post on a fan forum. He'll meet me anyplace I say. He'll think that I want to meet him to… to…"

"Just say it," Chuck said in disgust. "He'll think that you're meeting him to screw. He thinks that you're dying to get him in bed and screw his brains out."

"Yes," Sarah admitted. "That's exactly what he'll think. Once we're… umm engaged… I'll put the cuffs on him. He'll think it's our normal game. Once he's secured, your men can bring him here."

"Okay," Mark said as he handed Sarah the laptop. "Let's get this over with."

Sarah took the laptop and began typing. As soon as she made the post, she turned to Jones. "We have a few hours," she said. "He'll respond once he reads this. He usually checks a couple of times a day."

"Good," Jones said. "What do we do until then?"

"We wait," Sarah said. "Will you take off Chuck's cuffs? We need to go into a room and talk about what's left of our marriage. After I kick his ass, maybe we'll take a nap."

Jones motioned for the guards to remove Chuck's cuffs. "You can use your room," he said. "We'll be right outside. If you try anything…"

x-x-x-x-x

As soon as the bedroom door closed, Sarah jumped into Chuck's arms and pressed her lips to his. "We have to be very quiet," she whispered as soon as the lengthy kiss broke. "I'm so proud of you. You were brilliant."

"So were you," Chuck whispered. "I thought that plant was going to hit me in the head."

"Sorry about that," Sarah whispered with a grin. "I had to sell it."

"I'm sorry that you had to let him grope you," Chuck said sadly. "He needed to believe that you were desperate. How far did you have to go last night?"

"Not far," Sarah said. "Don't worry about me. Today was the worst thing that happened with him. Are you okay? I'm just sorry that you had to see it."

"Umm," Chuck whispered. "The part about the baby being Bryce's. That isn't…"

Sarah didn't answer. She just punched Chuck in the arm.

"Damn that hurt," Chuck whispered as he rubbed his arm. "I didn't think so."

"So," Sarah whispered with a grin. "We have a couple of hours. What should we do?"

"I have a couple of thoughts," Chuck said as he pulled Sarah in for a kiss. "But I have to know. Later with Bryce. You're not going to actually…"

"Damn," Chuck whispered as he rubbed his arm again. "Will you stop hitting me?"

"Will you stop being stupid?" Sarah asked with a grin.

Chuck rubbed Sarah's belly. "How's our baby girl?" he asked.

"She's good," Sarah said with a smile. "She misses her daddy."

"So," Chuck said with his own grin. "When are you meeting Bryce, anyway?"

"Damn it, Sarah," Chuck sighed as he rubbed his arm. "Why did you hit me that time? I was obviously kidding."

"I know," Sarah said as she pulled him into a long kiss. "It was just fun."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah was already in the hotel room when Bryce knocked at the door. When Sarah opened the door, she threw herself into his arms and pressed her lips to his as she, more or less, dragged him into the room. As soon as the door closed, she broke the kiss.

"Now that's what I'm talking about," Bryce said with a grin. "Why couldn't you do that more when we were together?"

"Come on, Bryce," Sarah said with a sigh. "You know that I had to sell that. They were watching. Do you have it?"

"Of course I have it," Bryce answered. "I understand about selling it. But we were together for a long time. You can't blame me for liking it."

"Hurry up," Sarah said. "Take off your clothes. And then close your eyes."

"Close my eyes?" asked Bryce.

"I have to sell this," Sarah said. "That means I'm going to have to take off some clothes. I need to be able to tell Chuck that you didn't see me."

"You're going to be naked and I can't look?" Bryce said with a moan. "I must have missed this part of the mission briefing. Nobody said anything about torture."

"If anything about today gets back to Chuck and causes him pain," Sarah said firmly. "Torture will be the least of your worries."

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck was sitting on the couch when Sarah returned with Bryce. Chuck's hands were cuffed behind his back just like Bryce's. Mark was not yet in the room. He had taken Elise into a bedroom for a 'nap' of their own. The men quickly secured Bryce to a chair.

Jones walked up to Bryce with a smug grin. This was a moment that he had been looking forward to for years. Bryce Larkin. The Intersect. What a victory this was. Wait until the Supreme Commander heard about this. Walker was right. This meant that the war was won. And, yes, he had to share some of the glory with Mark. He didn't deserve it. But, then again, there would be plenty of reward to go around. "Well, well," he said. "We meet at last."

It was at that point that Mark and Elise entered the room. He was just finishing buttoning up his shirt. Elise was still trying to situate her clothes. "Is that him?" Mark asked.

"Yes," Jones said. "Allow me to introduce you to the man who is going to win the war for Fulcrum. The great Bryce Larkin."

"If you think that I'm doing anything for you," Bryce said. "You're crazy."

"Oh," Jones said. "But I think that you will. After we've had a chance to soften you up a little. And even if you don't, at least the CIA doesn't have you any longer. That alone is a great victory."

Sarah leapt to her feet. "No torture," she said. "That wasn't part of our deal."

"Sorry, my dear," Jones said. "This is too important an opportunity for us to pass up."

"Quit pretending that you give a damn about me," Bryce said coldly. "I trusted you. I thought that you loved me. What you're doing now is worse than torture."

"I did what I had to do," Sarah screamed. "You have no idea what I've been through. None. I do love you."

"You do realize," Chuck said loudly. "That I'm sitting right here. If you're going to tell another man that you love him, the least you could do is lower your voice."

"I'm sorry, Chuck," Sarah said. "You always knew that this was complicated. I love you too. But right now, I have to protect you both."

"What do you mean?" Bryce asked.

But Sarah ignored Bryce. Instead, she turned to Jones. "I'd like to make another deal," she said.

"I'm listening," Jones said. "I'm liking your deals so far."

"You'll like this one," Sarah said. "Your victory will be complete. All I ask is that Bryce be treated humanely."

"And what do I get?" Jones asked.

"This," Sarah said as she held up a DVD.

"Sarah, no," Bryce said as he struggled against his cuffs. "Please don't. I'm begging you."

"Sorry, Bryce," Sarah said. "Face it. They've won. We have to accept that. It's the only way." She then turned back to Jones. "This is the intersect file," she said. "If you watch it, it uploads the intersect into you. You can have your own army of intersects. The CIA wouldn't last a month."

"And why hasn't the CIA done the same thing?" Mark asked. "They could have their own army."

"They were going to," Sarah said. "That's where Bryce was going. They have just finished perfected the uploading process. The CIA is moving slowly. They were going to meet in Vegas and upload a hundred agents. Once that went well, they would set up a webcast to upload all of their agents. This is the only copy of the file. You can beat them to it."

"Excellent," Mark said as he grabbed the disc from Sarah. Then he turned to one of the guards. "Take five men," he said. "And move Mr. Larkin to our regional headquarters. We can keep him better secured there."

"Five men?" Sarah asked. "That is a mistake. You should send more men."

"Five should be enough," Mark said. "That's all we can spare from here. It should be okay. He's cuffed."

Jones turned to one of the other men. "Get Smith over here," he ordered. "Have him prepare a secure webcast from this disc.

"You're making a serious mistake," Sarah warned. "You should send more men."

"Why should we listen to you?" Mark said. "With all due respect, Agent Walker, when I want your advice I'll ask you for it. You would like to see us lose."

"Not anymore," Sarah said softly. "I've made my choice. Now, the only way for me and Chuck to survive is for you to win. I gave you the intersect. No way is the CIA going to forgive that. Trust me, they know just as much about torture as you do. And they're just as willing to use it."

x-x-x-x-x

Casey and Janice were sitting in the van listening to the conversation over Elise's wire. And that also meant that they were forced to listen to their 'nap'. Actually, that wasn't totally true. They weren't just listening. Since they were alone in the van, they were also taking the opportunity to make out. Well, just a little. After all, this was a serious situation. And it wouldn't do to be lax. Not at all.

On the other hand, there was really nothing they could do right now. They were already in place to ambush the detail to transfer Bryce. They had driven down the road a bit. Casey popped the hood on the van. And along with some fake CIA issued steam, it was the perfect picture of a classic damsel in distress.

And Janice was perfect as said damsel. She was obviously going for a Daisy Dukes, southern, sort of thing. Her long black wig was tied in pigtails. Her cut off t-shirt barely covered her breasts. And her shorts barely covered – well, they didn't cover much either.

"I hope that no one recognizes my face," Janice said softly in her southern drawl between kisses.

"Trust me," Casey said. "They are not going to be looking at your face. I barely recognize you myself. It almost feels like I'm cheating on you."

"I guess that's kind of fun," Janice said. "I'll have to remember that one for a rainy day."

"Okay," Casey said. "Just so you know, I'm not expecting any rain for a long, long time. You'd be sexy to me wearing a suit of armor. But it's good to know that you're prepared. And I'm sorry how this sounds. I understand that this is a mission. But do you think you could change before Bryce gets back in the van?"

"Don't be sorry," Janice said with a grin. "It sounds sweet. You've got it. I'll pack away the heavy artillery."

"Thanks," Casey whispered.

Janice saw the blush traveling up Casey's neck. So even though she already knew the answer, she asked anyway. More to change the subject for Casey's benefit than anything. "Do you think they'll stop?"

"It depends on what you mean," Casey said with a grin. "Stop the car? Or stop breathing? I'd say it's fifty-fifty on the stop breathing part. There is no question about stopping the car."

Janice laughed as she wrapped her arms around Casey's neck and pressed her lips against his. "Hey," Janice said with a fake pout as soon as the lengthy kiss broke. "Making them stop breathing is your job. Do I have to do everything?"

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 35: Renegotiation

x-x-x-x-x

The Fulcrum agent that Jones had previously identified only as 'Smith' entered the room. He stepped up to where Jones was sitting. "Excuse me, sir," he said. "But the webcast is ready. We have issued an organizational alert for all of our agents to be ready on a moment's notice. Currently, we have received confirmation from about eighty percent of our active agents. Within the hour, that should reach close to one hundred percent. There are going to always be a handful that we can't reach. Those on deep cover assignments."

"Excellent," Jones said. "Let me know when we have reached everyone. Stand by and wait for my instructions."

"Yes, sir," Smith said as he left the room.

"You know," Mark said thoughtfully. "Maybe we should do some testing of our own. After all, Fulcrum has done a lot of research on building our own intersect. Nobody survived our many attempts. Perhaps we should create a control group and intersect them first."

"Not a bad idea," Jones said. "We can identify a few individuals and make sure there are no glitches. It will take a little more time. But there is really no rush."

Sarah caught Chuck's eye as they sat across from each other. This was always the part of the plan that they feared most. But to Sarah's surprise, there was no fear in his eyes. As a matter of fact, he winked at her. Is there something that he's not telling me? On the one hand, it made Sarah relax a little. If Chuck was confident, what could go wrong, even if it was crunch time? On the other, if he was holding out on her… there would be hell to pay.

x-x-x-x-x

Once Casey and Janice had Bryce safely back in the van and had removed his cuffs, Janice excused herself to go in the back and keep her promise to Casey.

"Thanks," Bryce said as he exaggerated wiping his brow. "I'm glad that I didn't make it to their headquarters. It would have been a long torture session. I don't have anything to tell them."

"You would have had to flash," Casey said with a laugh.

"Seriously," Bryce said. "Where did you learn to shoot like that? I thought that I was a decent shot. But that was amazing."

"Practice," Casey said. "Lots and lots of practice. There was a long time when I practically slept with my gun."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah ending up sitting on the couch next to Chuck. It was obvious to everyone that he really didn't want to be that close to her. But with his hands secured behind his back, there wasn't really much he could do. So he just sat there and let Sarah snuggle into his neck. They were all just sitting there in the awkward silence when one of the guards came racing in.

The guard went up to Jones. "Sir," he said breathlessly. "We have a problem. The intersect has escaped."

"What!" Jones as he stood up. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, sir," the guard replied. "When they didn't show up at headquarters, we sent a team looking for them. We found the car with the bodies of our five men. There was no sign of Larkin."

"I told you," Sarah shouted as she stood up. "I told you to send more men. Now we're really in trouble."

"What do you mean?" Mark asked.

"He is going to be coming after the disc," Sarah said. "He knows that it's here. He's probably watching the grounds as we speak. It will only be a matter of time before the intersect comes up with a plan. It will probably only take a few minutes. He may wait until after dark, but make no mistake. He's coming for us."

Mark and Jones glanced at each other. Both men's eyes registered grave concern. "What should we do?" Mark asked.

"So," Sarah said facetiously. "Let me be clear. Now, you're asking for my advice?"

"Yes," Mark said softly.

"You were foolish to underestimate him," Sarah said with a sigh. "You don't understand the power that the intersect gives him. The only way to fight it is to have some intersects yourself."

"Let's go with the webcast," Jones said. "That way, we'll have an army of intersects. He won't be able to last a minute against us."

"Wait a minute," Mark said. "I don't trust this situation. We still need a test."

"We don't have any time to be screwing around," Sarah said. "He's out there. Fine, you want a test? I'll upload it."

Mark studied Sarah for a long moment. Then he shook his head. "You'd like that," he said. "Wouldn't you? That's been your plan all along. The super spy Sarah Walker with an intersect in her head. She would be unstoppable. No, I think we'll pick someone else."

"Who?" Sarah asked. "We don't have much time."

"Mr. Bartowski," Mark said. "I know that your marriage isn't exactly in great shape right now. But how would you like to save your wife's life?"

x-x-x-x-x

Janice had already changed her clothes. Honestly, she was stalling. She knew that she needed to rejoin them soon. After all, she didn't want to leave Bruce and Casey alone for very long. Not that she was too worried. They were on a mission. And both were far too professional to allow personal feelings to affect a mission. But she was encouraged that they were talking to each other - actually talking to each other and not past each other. Maybe if she gave them a minute, they would actually make some progress towards tolerating each other. Janice knew they would have to tolerate each other at some point. It wasn't realistic to think that Bryce wasn't going to be around. As long as Chuck was the intersect, they were going to be connected. And there was no way that she was losing Casey. So if they could learn to get along, it would make things a lot easier.

"I understand that you've been sleeping with more than your gun lately," Bryce said. "Congratulations. She's really hot."

Janice feared that Casey would take offense. She knew that she had better get back out there to get between them. But she was very surprised by Casey's reaction.

"That's what you'd think," Casey said softly. "Isn't it? I'll admit it. That's the first thing I thought when I first saw her too. Beautiful but stone cold CIA Agent who would screw her own grandfather if the mission called for it. She could make you think that she was in love with you one minute and shoot you in the head the next."

"Plus," Bryce said. "She's super hot."

"But that's not really it," Casey said with a smile. "That's only the surface. Once you spend a couple of hours with Janice, you find what an amazing person that she is. She's smart, funny, generous, a genuine hero among heroes, and fun to be around. And sure, she's sexy - but not in some high maintenance, diva way. She's just as comfortable eating a slice of pizza and drinking a beer as she is dining on lobster and drinking champagne. She's the most amazing person I've ever met, Bryce."

"And she's hot," Bryce offered weakly.

Janice suddenly found herself grinning from ear to ear. Janice had never wanted a mission to be over as much as she did right now. She was going to find someplace where they could be alone and… well… thank him for the compliment.

"I'm just afraid," Casey said softly, more to himself than Bryce. "She's confused. She was looking for something with you that didn't happen. Then the whole mess with Chuck and Sarah. She says that she knows how she feels. But I'm just afraid that she'll realize… I don't think I can handle that."

The grin was gone as quickly as it had come. Now Janice could feel the tears filling her eyes. Was he crazy? Janice knew one thing. She needed to get him alone and find some way to make him understand. She wasn't confused. She was happy - happier than she could remember. Maybe she could get Chuck to talk to him. Chuck could fix this.

x-x-x-x-x

"Okay, Mr. Bartowski," Mark said as he handed Chuck the laptop. "Go into the bedroom and watch the disc. That will upload the intersect. Then come back out here and we'll test you. For every minute past ten that you don't return, your wife here loses one of her lovely fingers. And that would be a shame. Do you understand?"

"I understand," Chuck said. "I'll do it. Please, don't hurt her."

Sarah wrapped her arms around his head. "Don't be afraid, sweetie," she said.

It was only about five minutes before Chuck came stumbling out of the bedroom. He staggered to the sofa and collapsed next to Sarah.

Mark studied Chuck intently. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"It's a side effect," Sarah said. "Bryce told me all about it. Uploading the intersect takes a lot out of you for a few minutes. It's like running a long distance race. Are you okay, sweetie?"

Chuck nodded.

Mark held up a picture of a man and showed it to Chuck. Naturally, he immediately flashed.

"That's Omar Robinson," Chuck said as soon as the flash ended. "He is the Fulcrum liaison to the Columbian Drug Lords. Previous to that he was a hit man. He has forty-two known kills. He defected to Fulcrum twelve years ago. He currently lives in Miami. His address is…"

"Very good," Mark said. He then held up a picture of a building.

Again, Chuck flashed. "That's the Fulcrum East Coast regional headquarters," he said. "It is in Boston. The building was built in 1998. There are offices for fifty-three Fulcrum officers and eight hundred and fifty-two field agents. It is commanded by…"

Mark and Jones looked at each other. Neither could keep the excitement off their face. "Excellent," Mark said. "It works."

Jones couldn't suppress his grin. And after all, there was no longer any need. This was his hour. In a few minutes, he was going to be a top leader in the most powerful organization on the planet. It meant that he could have anything – or anybody that he wanted. And, right now, he knew exactly what was on the top of that list. "Schedule the upload for the top of the hour," he said to one of the guards.

"That's twenty-two minutes from now," the guard said. "For everyone?"

"Yes," Jones said. "Let's do this while we still have the chance."

Sarah held Chuck's head against her shoulder and gently ran her fingers through his hair as they watched the clock on the wall. She made no attempt to hide the tears that were rolling down her cheeks. "I'm sorry, sweetie," she said. "I'm sorry about everything. You know that I love you."

x-x-x-x-x

Casey, Bryce, and Janice were getting ready to roll. Hopefully, they wouldn't encounter any resistance. But it didn't hurt to be prepared. And in this case, being prepared meant vests and weapons. Lots and lots of weapons. They estimated about twenty guards. They knew that, if they had to fight, there was no choice but to shoot first and ask questions later.

Janice knew that she couldn't talk to Casey now. Not before such a dangerous situation. The last thing that she wanted was to endanger him. As a matter of fact, it was time to get her own game face on. But she knew. As soon as was practical, they were going to have a little chat. Hopefully one that included a make out session. But definitely a chat.

x-x-x-x-x

Fred Jones could barely contain his excitement. He grinned as he watched Chuck and Sarah sitting there helplessly. So he did the only thing that made sense. He sat down in the chair opposite them and joined as they watched the seconds click off the clock in silence.

With about two minutes to go, one of the guards entered the room. "Excuse me, sir," he said. "We have received confirmation from all except eighty-three of our agents. That's well over ninety-nine percent. Do we have permission to proceed?"

"Permission granted," Mark said. Then he addressed the two guards. "Go and join them," he said. "Mr. Jones and I will stay here and wait. Then we'll upload after everyone has recovered."

Chuck realized that he was holding his breath watching the clock. Finally it clicked to the top of the hour. The upload of the intersect into virtually every Fulcrum Agent in the world had begun.

Fred Jones waited for a couple of minutes. Then got up and walked to the opposite side of the room. "Agent Walker," he said. "Will you come over her for a second?"

Sarah's face registered surprise. But she wordlessly got up and walked over to him.

"You said that sex with an intersect was better," Jones said. "I think you said – amazing. I think a comparison test is in order. Now would be a good time for the before side. In a few minutes, we can compare the after."

"We had a deal," Sarah said sharply.

Jones lifted his hand to slap Sarah. But then he controlled himself. "And I'm renegotiating," he said sharply. "You should have known better than to make a deal with me. One other thing. If you ever raise your voice to me again, your husband will pay a severe price. Do you understand me?"

Sarah looked at him and swallowed. "Yes, sir," she finally said in defeat. "You're right. I'm very sorry. What is it that you'd like me to do?"

"Really," Jones said incredulously. "You're giving up that easily?"

"It's over, sir," Sarah said. "Fulcrum has won. You are now one of the most powerful men in the whole world. It's time that I admit that and do whatever it takes to get on your good side. I'm pretty sure that I know how to do that. Maybe that way, you'll be merciful to me and my husband. There are some favors that I'm going to ask you for. I realize that I'm going to have some work to do to earn them. Why fight it? What would you like me to do?"

This was the moment Jones had been dreaming of non-stop for the past two weeks. Sarah Walker was actually surrendering to him. "Why are you looking so sad?" he asked with a smile. "You're actually, quite lucky. I'm going to give you the chance to talk me into letting you and your husband go. So naturally, I expect your best effort. But first I think that it's time for the show that you have put off for so long."

"Please, sir," Sarah said. "I'm not demanding anything. I'm just respectfully asking. Can we go into the bedroom so that Chuck doesn't have to see it? He's been through a lot today already."

"Yes," Jones said. "You see, Sarah. As long as you ask nicely, I'm not such a bad guy."

"Can I go talk to him?" Sarah asked. "I'll only take a minute."

"Quickly," Jones said with a nod. "I've been waiting for a long time.

Sarah walked over to where Chuck was sitting and sat on his lap. She wrapped her arms around his neck. The grin on her face as she gently kissed him was evident. "Please sir," she whispered in Chuck's ear. "I know that this is not the plan. - but can I kill him?"

Chuck was fighting unsuccessfully to keep a straight face. "I don't know, Mrs. Bartowski," he said. "You did ask nicely. But you haven't yet cooperated fully."

"Let me kill him," Sarah said. "And I'll owe you. I'll cooperate until you can't walk, talk, eat, or spit."

Chuck just laughed. "That's a lot of cooperation," he said. But when Sarah turned to leave, Chuck grabbed her wrist. "We need him for questioning. And you know how I feel about killing. But if you need to, I'll understand. I love you."

"I know," Sarah said. "I can't kill him. But let's see how close I can come."

"Be careful," Chuck said. "Remember Kate."

Sarah nodded with a grin. She then walked back over to Jones, who was trying unsuccessfully to hide his excitement, and extended her hand. "Are you ready for an experience that you'll never forget?"

Jones grinned and took Sarah's hand. Unfortunately for him, that was a serious mistake. He attempted to lead her to the bedroom but she didn't budge.

"I want to thank you," Sarah said.

"Okay," Jones said. "Let's go into the bedroom. You can thank me. Not that it matters but what are you thanking me for?"

Sarah smiled. "I'm thanking you for renegotiating," she said. "Now I don't have to feel guilty about doing a little renegotiating of my own."

Sarah immediately grabbed two of his fingers and twisted. The bones snapped with a sickening sound.

The attack came so quickly that Mark didn't have time to react. When he realized what was happening, he turned to Elise. "Shoot her," he cried.

Sarah kept hold of Jones's hand. He was paralyzed in pain. "That renegotiation was for Chuck," she said. "You are easily the sickest bastard I've ever met. You were going to kill the love of my life to force me to betray my country." Then, using his hand as leverage, she threw a side kick that landed directly in the middle of Jones's gut. The blow caused his breath to escape in a hiss.

"Why aren't you shooting her?" Mark screamed at Elise.

"Sorry," Elise said as she pointed her gun at him. "I'm actually with her. Did I ever mention that she is my hero?"

"That renegotiation was for Janice," Sarah continued. "Not to mention, all of your pathetic, sick plots to get me in bed. I'm married - to the most wonderful man in the world. And understand something, you creep. You are never, ever going to touch me. Actually, I don't see touching any women in your future."

Sarah threw another side kick. This one aimed a little lower. Jones fell to his knees as the kick impacted his groin. Sarah delivered one more kick, this time to the side of his head, knocking him unconscious. "That renegotiation was for me," she said.

Sarah left where Jones was lying and stepped up to Mark. "You never actually touched me," she said. "So I guess I don't have to kick you around the room."

"Wait a minute," Elise said. "The bastard sure as hell touched me." She threw a straight kick directly into his groin.

"You're crazy," Mark moaned as he bent over in pain. "I have twenty men in the next room. Surrender now or you're dead."

"Do you?" asked Sarah. Then she turned to Chuck with a grin. "Does he?"

Chuck was now flashing his classic smile. "I don't think so," he said. "Let's check."

Chuck got up and walked to the door. When he opened it, the bodies of the Fulcrum agents were plainly scattered around the room. Casey, Bryce, and Janice were just walking in the main entrance.

"Hey guys," Chuck called. "Welcome to the party."

Sarah threw herself into Chuck's arms and began planting wild kisses all over his face. "I love you," she whispered between kisses. "You did it. You're a genius."

Chuck's smile couldn't have been any bigger. "Thanks," he said. "We're half way home. Now was that really so hard?"

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 36: Half Way

x-x-x-x-x

Mark's eyes widened in horror as he caught sight of the bodies of his men strewn around the room. It took a long moment before he could comprehend what he was seeing. "What in the hell happened here?" he said, far more to himself than anybody else. Then he glanced over to where Fred Jones lay face down. "Is he dead too?"

Sarah pried herself away from Chuck's face enough to answer him. "No," she said. "He's not dead. But Fulcrum is."

"Dead," Mark said. "What do you mean, dead?"

"What we mean is that Fulcrum no longer exists," Chuck said. "Everybody who uploaded that file is now dead. That wasn't the real intersect file. It was the flawed one that Fulcrum was experimenting with. Congratulations Mark. You just issued the order that ended Fulcrum. Thanks a bunch. We couldn't have done it without you."

Mark stood there stunned. "That is over eight thousand men," he whispered. "What happens now? Do you kill us too?"

"No way," Sarah said. "We'd like you to answer some questions. Fulcrum may be destroyed, but there still is a lot of cleanup work to do. Bank accounts to seize, relationships with other organizations to discover, things like that."

"I'll never talk," Mark said defiantly.

"Of course you will," Sarah said with a grin. "Come on, Mark - everybody talks. You know that. That's why your buddy is still alive. With two of you to question, they'll have an easy way to know if you're telling the truth. And if you're not…"

Mark couldn't keep the shudder from being obvious. He knew enough about interrogation techniques to understand Sarah's not so veiled threat.

As soon as Sarah stepped away from Chuck, Janice stepped up and wrapped her arms around him. "Congratulations, partner," she whispered. "I can't believe how well that went."

"We still have some work to do," Chuck said. "But so far so good. You were brilliant." Then his voice lowered to a whisper. "How did things go in the van?"

Janice knew what Chuck meant. So she loosened her grip on him a bit. "Mostly good," she whispered. "But I want you to talk to him for me. Make sure that he knows that this isn't a temporary thing."

"That should be interesting," Chuck whispered with a grin. "Me giving relationship advice to Casey."

Sarah turned to Casey. "Do me a favor," she said. "Get these jerks out of my sight. I'm taking my husband into the bedroom for a little mission debriefing. I'm not sure how long we'll be."

Chuck smiled. "I not wearing briefs," he said.

Sarah smiled back. "Me either," she said. "We'll have to improvise."

Both Casey and Janice groaned at exactly the same time. "Come on," Casey grunted. "Are you really going to start this crap again already? We just won a great victory. Now you have to ruin it. Please don't make me hurl."

"At least she's taking him behind closed doors," Janice said as she shook her head. "Be grateful for that. If we were home, they would probably go for it on the kitchen table – again. We still have the intersect DVD. Maybe it's not too late to watch it."

Sarah ignored the banter as she stepped over to where Elise was standing. She was still holding the gun on Mark. She was obvious shaken. So Sarah waited until Casey had cuffed Mark and led him away. Then she gently took Elise's gun out of her hand and set it on the table. "Are you okay?" Sarah asked softly.

"I don't understand what just happened, ma'am," Elise said. "How are all of those men dead?"

"I'm sorry," Sarah said. "We didn't tell you that part of the plan. That DVD was something that we captured from Fulcrum. They were experimenting with creating their own intersect. But they kept having problems. There was a nasty side effect. Anybody they tried to upload died. That's what we had Janice ask Beckman to get for us. So the plan was to trick them into thinking that the CIA had solved the problems. That's why Chuck was their test."

"But, ma'am," Elise said. "How did Chuck survive?"

"He didn't watch it," Sarah said.

Elise just stood thinking for a long moment. "But how did he flash?" she asked, more to herself.

Sarah just smiled.

Suddenly it came to her. "Oh my God," Elise whispered. "Chuck was always the intersect."

Sarah nodded as she took Elise into her arms. "There are only fifteen people in the world who know that," she said. "I hope that you understand how secret that has to stay. I also hope that you understand that telling you this signifies how we feel about you. You were phenomenal today. I've never seen anybody do a better undercover job… ever."

Elise, more or less, collapsed into Sarah's arms. "Thank you ma'am," she said. "Does this mean that you'll put in a good word for me to the agency? I'd really appreciate it. I'm in a lot of trouble. Maybe with your support, I could get a minimum sentence."

"I'll do anything for you," Sarah said. "But you're not going to need my help with the agency. You were just the key undercover agent in the mission that ended the war. I really don't see prison in your future. The CIA is very much a 'what have you done for me lately' sort of organization. I suspect that you'll be surprised by how much and how quickly they will forgive. And please stop calling me ma'am. It makes me feel old. Call me Mrs. Bartowski."

Elise just looked puzzled.

"I'm joking," Sarah said with a laugh. "Elise, we're friends now. Call me Sarah."

Elise clung to Sarah. "Okay, Sarah," she whispered. "Thank you."

"I said anything a second ago," Sarah said with a smile. "You do understand the exception, right?"

Elise pulled back a little. "I didn't fall in love with him," she said with a smile through her tears. "But he is a great guy."

"It's not over yet," Sarah laughed. "Trust me. You will."

x-x-x-x-x

General Beckman sat in her office. It was approaching midnight. And she knew full well that staring at the phone wouldn't make it ring one bit faster. But she couldn't help it. She was on pins and needles.

Not because her career was on the line. Oh, it certainly was. After all, she had just gone completely off the reservation and authorized a risky undercover operation without following any established procedures. Releasing that Fulcrum experimental DVD and risking it falling back into their hands was a potential career ender. If things went badly, she was toast.

And her anxiety wasn't because the mission was so important. Of course, it was important… vitally important. The war could be won tonight. And that would mean hundreds of lives would be saved. It would also mean that they could take the resources that were currently fighting Fulcrum and divert them to solving the other pressing problems around the world.

But she knew the real reason. She was concerned for her team. She had grown fond of them. And that was hard for her to admit to herself. When you commanded people, it was always a good idea to stay emotionally detached. Especially when you were going to order them into situations where they could be killed… or worse. She knew that she should feel better about tonight. After all, she didn't issue this order. They approached her. But she didn't. She was too worried for them. If it went badly… well she couldn't bear to think about it. And, try as she might to stay impartial, Janice kept creeping to the fore of her anxiety. They were just starting to form the type of relationship that she had always wanted. It would be doubly tragic for something to happen now.

So when the phone did ring, she answered it before the ring was finished. "What is your status?" she asked.

"Complete success," Janice said. "We also have a new location to scout." She gave Beckman the address of the Boston headquarters that Chuck had previously flashed on.

Beckman had to blink back a tear. "Excellent," she said with a sigh. "I've been very concerned. "Any casualties?"

"No," Janice said. "Everything went exactly as planned."

"Okay, Janice," Beckman said. "I'll verify the extent of the damage that we've inflicted and get back to you. From this point forward, all of our communications will be through official channels. I'm afraid that means we'll have to return to our formal decorum."

"Yes, ma'am," Janice said. "I understand. I hope that when we get to Washington, we can get away for a personal hour or two. I have some exciting things in my life that I want to share."

"I understand," Beckman said. "A successful mission is very exciting. Especially one so important. You can tell me…"

"No," Janice interrupted. "You don't understand. This is a personal thing. I'm very excited. I can't wait to tell you about it."

Now Beckman couldn't blink back the tears. Janice was going to include her in her life. It was everything that she had hoped for. Maybe they could be that family. "I'd like that," she said softly.

Janice knew that she would have to work hard to repair all of the damage that she had done to their relationship over the years. But she was now willing to put in that work. "So would I," she said.

Janice smiled as she ended the call. Introducing her new boyfriend to her mom shouldn't be that awkward. Boyfriend? That wasn't quite right. It felt far to tame to describe the man that she was in love with. They were going to have to work on a better term.

x-x-x-x-x

Beckman sat for a long time just enjoying the moment. After all, it wasn't often that Janice had been the source of anything pleasurable. But she knew that she would have time to bask in that glow later. Right now, there was urgent work to be done. As soon as the call ended she walked over to her computer and clicked on the window that contained the open link to the NSA Command Center.

"Yes, ma'am," the Officer of the Day quickly responded.

"Code red," Beckman said. "Assemble all senior staff. Emergency video conference in ten."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah had her head resting on Chuck's chest trying to catch her breath. She could feel his heart pounding into her ear. It was more than enough for her to know that he was having his own breathing issues. So she waited until she could feel his heartbeat return to a semi normal rate. "That was fantastic," she finally said. "I've missed you."

"I heard," Chuck said with a grin. "I'm pretty sure that the whole house heard you. Were you really that into it? Or were you just trying to rub it in to Janice and Casey?"

Sarah could feel the blush starting up her neck. "A little of both," she said.

Chuck laughed. "I hope you realize," he said. "That in a few months, we're going to have a baby sleeping down the hall. Maybe we should work on some expressions of bliss that are less… loud."

"You might be right," Sarah said with a laugh. "It might eliminate some embarrassing questions from her down the road." But then she got serious. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Huh," Chuck said. "You know that you can ask me anything."

"I know," Sarah said shyly. "It's just this is… well it's pretty personal. Have you ever used the intersect for… for…"

"For sex?" Chuck finished her question.

Now the blush was to the roots of her hair. "Yes," she whispered. "I'm trying to figure out how it could be so great."

Chuck laughed. But he quickly realized that Sarah was not kidding. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "I'm not making fun of you. I've never tried to use the intersect for anything like that. I don't have to. Just being with you is my wildest fantasy. And it's so great because we honestly trust each other. We're looking out for each other."

"Please promise me that part will never change," Sarah said. "It's like living in a dream."

"Okay," Chuck said. "I thought I was doing okay. But let me promise you again. I, Charles, take you Sarah…"

Chuck was interrupted by Sarah pressing her lips to his. "I'm sorry," she said as the kiss broke. "I think I do remember something about that now. I'm just being crazy. You're doing great."

x-x-x-x-x

General Beckman had issued an NSA senior staff alert. That meant there was no way to keep Ben Adams from finding out about the operation. And, indeed, he participated in the conference. But, at that point, Beckman really had little choice. It was imperative that they get some early estimates on how successful their attack had been. They knew a few suspected Fulcrum bases. And they had just gotten a huge one from Chuck in Boston. Now, Beckman needed to dispatch people to each of those known locations to gather the intelligence.

It could possibly be a dangerous mission. After all, if the attacks had not been successful, her people would be walking right into active Fulcrum operations centers. But they needed the intelligence.

Adam's, to his credit, didn't make a fuss during the call. Actually, he didn't say a single word. But right on cue, twenty seconds after the briefing ended, her phone rang.

"What is the meaning of this?" Adams demanded. "Who authorized this mission?"

"I did, sir," Beckman said.

"Under what authority?" Adams said harshly.

Beckman knew that she had to get off the phone. She had a very busy night ahead. "Sir, I used my own authority," she said. Perhaps she could stall him. "I'll gladly brief you in the morning. The mission looks to be a smashing success."

"Be in my office at oh eight hundred," Adams said as he angrily ended the call. But actually, he was far from angry. A successful mission. From what he heard on the call, there was a good chance that Fulcrum was crippled. And as head of operations, it would be a good thing to take credit for.

Adams looked at his watch. It was only a little after midnight. And he suddenly felt in the mood for some female companionship. Let's see who is at the club.

But neither of those were the reason why he was suddenly so happy. This was an amazing turn of events. So… Walker had lied to him. Bartowski was not dead. Not only that, she had threatened him. That could be considered treason. She would be looking to get back into good graces. And now that Bartowski was alive, he had something to use against her. She actually had something to lose.

Like maybe her clothes.

x-x-x-x-x

It didn't take very long for the CIA team to arrive to get Jones and Mark. Jones was still groggy. But Janice made sure that she got one kick in to the side of his knee before he was taken away.

It took a little more time before the cleanup team was able to clear the bodies. After all, there were twenty of them. And they all needed to be examined and their possessions cataloged. You could never know what piece of evidence would be found. It would be enough to keep the analysts busy for months.

Finally the house was cleared. As soon as the last men left, Janice went over to where Casey was standing and grabbed his hand. "Take a walk with me," she said.

"Where are we going?" Casey asked.

"Bedroom," Janice said as she pulled Casey's hand. She smiled when she saw the look on Casey's face. "Just to talk," she said with a grin. "At first, anyway."

As soon as the door was closed, Casey sat on the bed. "What's up?" he asked.

"I heard you talking to Bryce," Janice said. "What can I do to convince you that how I feel isn't going to change? Whatever it is, I'll do it."

Casey let his head fall back on the bed. "I know," he said with a sigh. "The problem is that you're such a good pro. Nobody can tell when you're lying. So nobody can tell when you're telling the truth."

"That may be true," Janice said as she sat on the bed next to Casey and grabbed his hand. "But I'm going to tell you anyway. I'm in love with you. I've never felt like this in my life. And I'm going to find a way to convince you of that."

Casey sat up and put his arm around her. "You don't owe me anything," he said. "This is just part of falling in love with a spy. But Janice, let's face it. Either of us could get reassigned tomorrow. Tell me the truth. If you got the order, would you go?"

Janice swallowed. She knew that Casey was right. The order could come at any time. Casey had just asked her for the truth. The problem was she didn't know what the truth was. Even worse, she knew that Casey potentially had the same choice to make. And that scared her. She really needed to talk to Chuck. But for right now, she did the only thing she could think of… she kissed him. "It will work out," she whispered between kisses. "We'll make it work out."

But as their kissing intensified, Janice knew. He was hurting. They both were. And sex wouldn't really fix it. But she had to find a way. As she lifted her arms to allow him to take off her shirt, she knew one thing. There was no way that she could lose him. Chuck was going to have to come up with something… quick.

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 37: The Afterglow

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah was lying with her head on Chuck's chest after round two. "Let's do something," she said.

"Aren't you the frisky one?" Chuck said. "I'm actually going to need a few minutes."

"No, silly," Sarah said as she slapped his chest. "We can do other things beside sex. I was thinking about going swimming. The water is fabulous. We might as well enjoy it."

"Umm," Chuck said. "I don't have a suit. And I'm not really comfortable…"

"Don't worry," Sarah said. "I packed your suit. I was hoping this would come up. I do need to break a promise I made to you."

"What promise?" Chuck asked.

"I really want to take you swimming," Sarah said with a smile. "It would be a lot of fun. And I have my bikini. But I promised you that no man would ever see it except you. Casey and Bryce are out there. So with your permission, I'd like to break that promise."

Chuck just looked at her and smiled. "And the alternatives would be?"

"The alternative would be without the bikini," Sarah said. "That would be different."

"How would that be different?" Chuck asked. "Didn't that happen last night?

Chuck could see the tears forming in Sarah's eyes and immediately knew that he had said the wrong thing. "Sarah," he said quickly. "I'm so sorry. I was just trying to be funny. I wasn't trying to take a shot. I just wasn't thinking."

Sarah didn't respond. She just buried her head into Chuck's chest.

Chuck rubbed her back for a long moment. "Sarah," he said softly. "Please. I'm sorry."

"No, Chuck," Sarah said. "I'm sorry. You're right. I took off my clothes in front of another man. And even though he didn't see much. I did it. That's something that a husband should never have to hear from his wife. You should never have to live with that thought. So now, for the rest of our lives, that is going to be between us."

Chuck continued to rub her back softly. "See, this is exactly why I didn't want us to continue with the mission," he said. "I didn't want you to have this guilt. And there is nothing I can say to change that."

Sarah didn't look up. "Then tell me the truth," Sarah said. With her face buried in Chuck's chest, it was hard for him to hear her. "This is bothering you. I can see it in your eyes. Please tell me. Maybe we can get past this."

"Okay," Chuck said. "You really want to know? Yes, it bothers me. Of course it bothers me."

Sarah's shoulders sagged and Chuck could feel the sob more than he could hear it. "I knew it," she whispered.

"You don't understand," Chuck continued. "It bothers me - but not because I'm jealous. You hate Jones worse that I do. I know that. That's not it at all. It just bothers me that I'm the one who came up with the plan. I put you in that position where you had to let that pig think he was going to own you. I'm so sorry, Sarah."

Sarah continued to sob. "You have nothing to be sorry for," she said. "You're seriously not bothered by the thought that I was naked in front of another man?"

"I'm really not," Chuck said. "Don't get me wrong. I wish it wouldn't have happened. But that doesn't bother me. To be honest, the stuff with Bryce bothered me more. I almost cried when you said that the baby was Bryce's. I wasn't expecting you to say that."

"Chuck…" Sarah said.

"I know," Chuck said. "I know it wasn't true. It just hit a little close to home. That's all. Do me a favor. Sit up and look at me."

When Sarah finally picked her head up off his chest, she was surprised at his reaction. Chuck was smiling. Actually he was closer to grinning.

"I just figured something out," Chuck said. "I'm sitting here worried sick about you. At the same time that you're sitting here worried sick about me. That's how close we are now."

Sarah nodded hesitantly. "I guess," she said.

"Don't you get it?" Chuck said. "That's how close we are now. How great is that? I have someone in my life who worries more about me than she does herself. So do you. Why should we waste any of that on feeling badly? We shouldn't. We've waited too long for it to happen. We should just enjoy it."

Suddenly Sarah got it. "You're right," she said as the smile began to spread across her face. "I have to admit, it's pretty great."

"Let's go swimming," Chuck said.

x-x-x-x-x

General Beckman was sitting at her desk. Well, it was true that she was sitting but it sure didn't feel like it. It felt like she was floating a foot above it. It had been a long time since she had this good of a feeling. Information was starting to come in from the field. A trickle of reports at first. And then a wave. They all basically told the same story. Report after report of scores of dead Fulcrum agents.

One thing was becoming apparent. Their victory was total. Fulcrum was finished. Oh, there was plenty that needed to still be done. There were probably some agents who had not participated in the attack. They would have to be identified and rounded up. And there was still the Fulcrum infrastructure to identify and dismantle. She was grateful that Chuck's plan had delivered the two Elders alive. They would be invaluable in discovering the remaining secrets. And, despite their bluster, preliminary reports indicated that they were singing like canaries. Beckman knew they were going to need to add some additional analysts to process the mountain of intelligence they were getting. And that would take several months. But Fulcrum was finished. The war was over.

Typically Beckman was all business in the office. But she was feeling so comfortable with the flood of great news that she even allowed herself to think about Janice. What news could she possibly have? It must be good news. Because she was excited. And that level of excitement usually only meant one thing… she had a new romance. But who? How could she have met someone? She really didn't have any opportunity to meet any men. Suddenly it hit her like a ton of bricks. Of course. Beckman's good mood vanished. The smile turned into a scowl as she slumped in her chair and tried to figure out how to deal with this situation. It would never work. Never in a million years. Janice should have her head examined for even thinking about it. It was far too complicated. More than complicated, risky even. It threatened the team dynamic like nothing else would. Someone was sure to get crushed. One thing was for sure. Colonel Casey was going to get an earful. She had asked him to look out for Janice. And instead, we have this awful mess. How could he have let this happen? He was going to pay dearly for this.

How could he have let her fall in love with Chuck?

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck and Sarah were back in their room. Sarah was right, the water had been fabulous. Luckily, Casey had insisted that they check out of the hotel that morning. His wanting to save the taxpayers a few bucks finally paid off. Because now their luggage was in the van. And that meant that everybody had something to go swimming in. Okay, so Elise's shirt kind of became transparent when it got wet. But she didn't seem to mind. Actually, nobody seemed to mind. Except possibly Janice. Chuck noticed several times that Janice was checking to see where Casey's eyes were. But to Casey's credit, he stayed away from Elise as best he could.

Jones's pool was truly amazing. They were having the most fun anybody could remember. And after the tension of a long mission, the team was in the mood for some fun. It felt so great to just relax. Of course relaxing had somewhat of a different meaning with this group. Sarah and Janice's competitive nature quickly came to the fore as they organized their mini version of the Summer Olympics. Chuck's shoulders were still a little sore from carrying Sarah. But he knew what the price would be if he allowed Casey and Janice to beat them. Lucky for him, he had Bad Ass Sarah Bartowski as his partner. Which simply meant that defeat was not an option. She found a way to win each time.

As a matter of fact, they stayed in the pool so long that they decided just to spend the night here. Fortunately, there were enough bedrooms. At least now that Bryce and Elise seeming to be willing to share one.

Sarah had just gotten out of the shower to get the chlorine smell out of her hair. "What were you and Elise talking about?" Sarah asked as she was toweling the excess water out of her hair. "Was she asking for your opinion of her chest?"

Chuck quickly looked to see if there was jealousy in Sarah's eyes. Thankfully, there was no hint of any. "No," he laughed. "Relationship advice. She was asking me if anyone would have a problem if she took a shot at Bryce."

"Why would anyone have a problem with that?" Sarah asked. "Is she worried about Janice? She should know that Janice is hung up on Casey."

"Well," Chuck said. "Truthfully, she was asking if you would have a problem with it. She heard the stuff you were saying to Bryce during the mission."

Sarah looked for any hint of discomfort on his face. Thankfully, she didn't see any. "Oh," she said in surprise. "What did you tell her?"

Chuck could instantly tell what she was afraid of. "Don't worry," he said with a short laugh. "I'm not bothered by it. Even though Bryce will have slept with all three of you. It doesn't bother me. He must not be very good in bed. He can't keep a woman for very long."

Sarah eyes sparkled. "I'm pretty sure that you're not asking for a comparison," she laughed.

Chuck grinned at her. "No," he said. "I'm long over you and Bryce. But I really don't want to hear about it."

"Good," Sarah said. "Because there is no comparison. You already know that. What was Janice talking to you about?"

"What do you think?" Chuck asked with a sigh. "Relationship advice."

"Who are you?" Sarah asked with a laugh. "Doctor Phil?"

x-x-x-x-x

Adam Colson sat across the street in the dark. He was watching the building from inside of his car. He could plainly see the many CIA agents come and go. He could tell that they were CIA agents because every time he looked at one, he suddenly could see in his mind every detail about them. So that is what a flash is. It was actually a little painful. So painful that he started avoiding looking at their faces.

Colson had only been with Fulcrum for a few years. But he knew that something had gone terribly wrong. For one thing, why was he the only one who survived the upload? Sure, he was exhausted. But he was warned that would happen. Exhausted sure beat dead. And it was surreal, leaving his colleagues all lying there. But by some instinct he knew that he quickly needed to get out of the building.

And, sure enough, within a few minutes along came a horde of CIA agents. That in itself was remarkable. This was a secret Fulcrum location. The CIA wasn't supposed to be aware of it. And showing up right after the upload left everybody dead? That couldn't have been coincidence.

No, this was obviously a planned attack. The upload had been a trap. But how did he survive? How many Fulcrum agents had survived with him? He didn't know the answers to any of those questions. But he would find out. He was now an intersect. And he wasn't sure of the extent of his new powers or how to use them. But he would soon experiment until he could. And maybe have a little fun along the way. After all, what good were superpowers if they didn't get you a little fun? But he now had a mission.

Find out who was responsible for this – and make them pay.

x-x-x-x-x

Janice was in the bedroom brushing her hair. Casey had turned the bed down and was lying on his side waiting for her to join him. And Janice had to admit – she was stalling. Not that she didn't want to go to bed with Casey. She did. More than anything. She absolutely did.

Chuck had convinced her of what she had to do. And the simple truth was that she didn't want to do it. But Chuck was right. A long term relationship between two agents would never work. It would only be a matter of time before one or the other was taken away.

Janice knew that she was just putting off the inevitable. She had to get this over with. So she climbed into bed beside him. Casey immediately tried to kiss her. But Janice knew where that would quickly lead. So she quickly broke the kiss.

Casey could tell right away. "What's wrong?" he asked.

Janice paused for a second. "I want to talk," she said.

Casey could see her struggling and immediately came to his conclusion. He knew what was coming. This was the breakup speech that he had been expecting. "Okay," he said with a sigh.

"We're both agents," Janice said. "And let's face it, Casey. We always will be. It's who we are."

Casey had to admit to himself – as painful as this was, she was right. So he just nodded.

"I was talking to Chuck," Janice said. "And a long term thing is never going to work. It's only a matter of time before one of us has to leave. And the longer we stay together, the more it's going to hurt when it does. Chuck's right."

"I know," was all Casey could get out. "Chuck's right."

"I know that you don't want to hear this," Janice said. "I know it's hard – but there is only one solution. Otherwise, we're going to get crushed."

Casey knew that she was right. Because he was already crushed. How would he feel if this happened in a year? The last thing he wanted was to put Janice through that. It was better this way. But it still hurt. All he could do was nod.

"So," Janice said as the tears began to stream down her face. "I hate to do this to you. But I have no choice. I can't lose you. So Chuck's idea was to make us partners that they couldn't break up."

Huh? Casey had to replay her words over in his mind to try and make sense of them. But he couldn't. "What are you saying?" he asked.

"I love you, Casey," Janice said. "Will you marry me?"

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 38: The Last Chance

x-x-x-x-x

Chuck was tired. Actually he was more than tired. It was closer to exhausted. For one thing, he wasn't used to this much physical activity. And the hours spent in the pool were very physical. They were a blast. But very physical.

There was also the added fact that they had just finished a very tough week. Not getting much sleep without Sarah in bed beside him was only part of it. With all of the tension, Chuck found himself living on adrenaline. And now that the mission was over, there wasn't much left.

Chuck was able to stay awake long enough to have his regular talk with Kate. After all, it had been a couple of days since he'd talked to her. And he felt like he had some catching up to do. Finally, he had said everything he needed to say and was back in his usual place. Sarah felt like an angel in his arms. Her deep regular breathing told Chuck that she was already asleep. Or at least he thought she was asleep. So he was surprised when she spoke.

"Are you sure about tomorrow?" Sarah asked softly.

Chuck knew what she meant. "Not really," he said. "Maybe we should just let this go."

"Maybe," Sarah agreed. "After all, we can't fix every problem in the world. It would be nice to get back home and settle into a routine."

Chuck had to admit that it sounded good. "Okay," he said. "It's settled. We'll pass on this one. We'll let him stay in charge."

Sarah didn't respond except to snuggle deeper into Chuck's chest.

Chuck didn't say anything for a long moment. But then he lifted his head. "I wonder what he's doing right now," he finally said. "I wonder what poor agent is in his bed. What's her story? What is he making her do right now?"

Sarah couldn't help the grin that spread across her face. "I wondered how long that would take," she said. "I didn't think there was any way you could let this go."

"I'm sorry," Chuck said. "I can't."

"Don't be sorry," Sarah said. "That's you. That's who I fell in love with."

"Maybe you should sit this one out," Chuck said softly. "After all, you've done your part."

"That's so sweet," Sarah said. "It really is. But you know that it has to be me. I'm the one that he wants. He's already conquered Janice and Elise. He'll want me. Especially after our last meeting."

"I know," Chuck said with a sigh. "I just wish you didn't have to do it. You've had your fill of pigs lusting after you for the past couple of weeks. You're going to start thinking that all men are pigs."

"I know that all men are not pigs," Sarah said. "Most men aren't. I'm married to one who isn't. Besides, you're not cheating me out of this. It's the one part of the plan that I've been looking forward to every since you told me about it."

"What's that?" Chuck asked.

"We're flying eastbound tomorrow," Sarah said with a smile as she picked her head up to look at him. "It's time to renew our family tradition."

Now Chuck couldn't suppress his own grin. "You do realize," he said. "That we'll eventually be coming back home. That will kick in the westbound tradition."

"I know," Sarah said as she reached up to gently kiss him. "I'm looking forward to that too."

x-x-x-x-x

Ben Adams didn't even try and hide the smirk as he stared at General Beckman sitting across from his desk. After all, he was back. Last night had been fabulous. Rumors of Fulcrum's demise had already made the rounds. And all of the agents correctly concluded that he was now more powerful than ever. They were practically climbing over each other for the chance to go home with him. The lucky winner, a hot blonde named Joyce, was so grateful that he didn't even have to mention the assignment in the French Riviera – any of the three times. So now it was time to make Beckman squirm.

"So," Adams said. "You're convinced that the damage to Fulcrum was devastating."

"Yes, sir," Beckman replied. "All of our teams that have scouted known Fulcrum locations report one hundred percent fatalities. We've obtained many more locations from documents we captured in our initial searches. We're busy running those leads down now. But we expect the same story."

"Explain to me how this undercover operation was executed without my approval," Adams said. "Agents Beckman and Bartowski had direct orders that were most obviously violated. How could that happen?"

"Yes, sir," Beckman said. "It was just a case of an unexpected opportunity. Sarah Bartowski was contacted by the Fulcrum Elder. That contact led her to identify what she believed to be an outstanding vulnerability with an appropriate risk. She communicated that opportunity to agents Beckman and Bartowski. They then broke off their current assignment and engaged the Elder."

"They didn't follow procedures," Adams said. "This whole damn thing was a rogue operation that violates virtually every section of the National Security Act. Some of their actions could even be considered treasonous. I could have them thrown in prison."

"Yes, sir," Beckman said. "I think you could. That's technically true. But, given the circumstances, don't you think some discretion is in order? After all, they just ended the war. All of the agents that participated in the mission are flying in today. Sarah Bartowski has requested that you meet with her so that she can explain the details in person."

"Have her here by fourteen hundred," Adams said.

"Yes, sir," Beckman said. "She is actually requesting that she meet with you off the record. Since she is not officially with the agency, it might be a good idea for her not to be seen here. She suggests that you come by her apartment. The other agents will be here debriefing. She will be there by herself to meet with you. Perhaps you'll feel better once you hear her explanation."

"Excellent," Adams said. "You're dismissed." This was perfect. Sarah Walker wanted to meet with him in private? And she desperately needed a favor to keep herself, and more importantly, her husband out of prison. I think that I'll be feeling a lot better. How could this possibly get any better? But how far can she be pushed? What will she do? There was only one way to find out.

Adams pulled out his cell phone. "Hello, Joyce," he said. "Yes, last night was great for me too. Remember when you asked me if there was anything else you could do? Listen, how would you like a six month assignment investigating luxury hotels on the French Riviera?"

x-x-x-x-x

Obviously Janice knew far too much about the Bartowski family traditions concerning flying for Chuck's comfort. And for all of her bluster about being disgusted, she sure seemed obsessed with trying to figure out when it was happening. She kept trying to catch Chuck's eye. The flight has only been in the air for about an hour when Chuck and Sarah cuddled up together in a blanket.

"They're disgusting," Janice said.

"Who's disgusting?" Casey asked without taking his nose out of the magazine he was reading.

"They are," Janice said. "Look at Sarah's face. She's pretending to be sleeping. What a lousy actress. She's biting her lip."

Casey could tell from her voice that something was wrong. So he put down his magazine. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Them," Janice snapped. "Just look at them." She then leaned over and whispered in Casey's ear.

Casey's eyes widened as he turned his head in amazement to look across the aisle. But then he quickly snapped it back. The blush traveled up his neck in near record time. "Why would you tell me that?" he asked. "Why on earth would you think that I would want to know that?"

"Sorry," Janice mumbled.

Casey looked at Janice's sad face and it suddenly hit him. Janice wasn't disgusted. She was jealous. "No," he said softly. "I'm sorry. I'm just a little slow sometimes. I really don't see us ever acting like Chuck and Sarah. I didn't think that you wanted that."

Janice turned her head to study Casey's expression. She couldn't figure out where he was coming from. "I don't want that," she said. "Of course I don't want that. They're sickening."

"Being romantic is never going to come naturally for me," Casey said. "Please don't let that confuse you. It doesn't mean that I don't love you or that I'm taking you for granted…"

Now Janice was concerned. "I know," she said. "I'm sorry if I made you feel that way."

Casey smiled. "If we're going to get married," he said. "Maybe it's time that we started our own traditions."

Janice had to blink a tear out of her eye. Casey understood. He was really going to make an effort. And he was going to do it… for her. How great was that? So she put her head on his shoulder as she gathered their blanket around them. "Thank you, Casey," she whispered. "I'd like that."

"I'd like it too," Casey said.

As Janice's breathing started to increase she gently kissed Casey's ear. "If you like this," she whispered. "Wait until you hear about the westbound tradition."

x-x-x-x-x

General Beckman couldn't believe her ears. "What do you mean, they were given the wrong intersect file?" she barked.

The poor Major that was standing at attention in front of her desk was wishing that he was anyplace else in the world right now… except where he was. "Yes, ma'am," he said. "There was some confusion at the lab. When you asked for the Fulcrum experimental file, they gave you the latest version."

Beckman couldn't keep her hands from trembling. "What capabilities were in the file?" she asked.

The Major paused a moment before answering. "Full 2.0 capabilities, ma'am," he said with a sigh. "But we suspect that no one survived the upload. It is still fatal in every test we have run."

"But if someone did survive?" Beckman asked.

The Major swallowed before responding. "Then I'm afraid," he said. "That person is an intersect at code level 2.0, ma'am."

"I want a list of everyone who was scheduled to upload," Beckman said. "I want to make sure that we account for every single body."

"That will take some work, ma'am," he replied.

"Well then, work!" Beckman barked. "We can't have an intersect 2.0 running around."

"Yes, ma'am."

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah fought to keep the half smile on her face as she let Ben Adams into the apartment. After all, it wouldn't be wise to provoke him. Even though he made no attempt to hide the fact that he was overtly checking her out. Let him look. Maybe they could fix this and move on. "Thank you for agreeing to see me," she said. "Would you like something to drink?"

Adams made a point of leering as his eyes traveled the length of Sarah's body all the way to her feet and back again. "No," he said curtly. He tossed a folder of papers on the table. "Do you know what this is?"

Adams really didn't give Sarah a chance to respond before he continued. "It's an indictment," he said. "The charge is violation of the National Security Act. There are twenty-two separate counts for Chuck and fifteen counts for you. If found guilty, Chuck's minimum recommended sentence would be one hundred and twenty-five years."

"Come on, Ben," Sarah said. "You know that this is a technicality. Chuck is a hero. He single handedly ended the war."

"I really don't think that a jury is going to see it that way," Adams said with a smirk. "Let's face it, Agent Walker, laws are laws. And in your report, you've already admitted to most of these violations. I don't anticipate much trouble getting a conviction."

Sarah bristled at him calling her Agent Walker. She knew that he was simply taunting her. But she had to keep her cool. "Why don't we bury the hatchet," she said. "I'm willing to let bygones be bygones if you are. After all, we did just end the war. We just made you a hero. I know that you have some discretion. You can get these charges dropped."

"Of course I can," Adams said. "And I might be willing to be persuaded to do that. Depending on how much cooperation I get here today."

Sarah knew instantly what he meant by cooperation. So she took a deep breath. "Okay Ben," she said. "Let's stop beating around the bush. What are we talking about? What do you want?"

Adams didn't even try to keep the smirk from his face. After all, he was an expert at manipulating vulnerable women. The look on her face said everything. She was willing to do whatever he would ask. Chuck had always been her weakness. And now he was going to use it to get her surrender. "You made me strip," he said. "It would have to start there."

Sarah looked at the floor. "If I do this," she said. "What then?"

"Agent Walker," Adams said. His voice dripped with condescension. "I think you're smart enough to figure that out. Don't worry. It'll be fun." Adams pulled out his cell phone and made a call. A few seconds later, there was a knock at the door. Adams went to the door and let Joyce in.

"Who is this?" Sarah asked.

"Special Agent Joyce Town," Adams said. "Let me introduce you to the legendary Agent Sarah Walker. Joyce is here for two reasons. First, she is my insurance policy in case you try and claim anything happened. She's going to swear that you approached me. Second, she'll be joining us in the bedroom."

"Well," Sarah said. "It sounds like you've thought of everything."

"Plan ahead," Adams said. "That's my philosophy. Now, I believe you have some stripping to do. Do you have some music?"

Sarah sighed. "Ben," she said. "Please. I'm asking you. Don't make me do this. I'm married. I have a baby coming soon. If you want an apology for the other day, fine. I'm sorry. But please, not this."

Adams just grinned at her. "It's not so fun when it's you on your knees," he said. "Is it? You're perhaps the sexiest woman I've ever seen. I've been waiting for this for a long time. Now either get on with it or watch your husband go to prison for the rest of his life."

"Sorry Ben," Sarah said. "I think I'll take a third option. You may have planned ahead. But unfortunately for you, I have a better planner working for me than you are. You remember my husband, right?"

At that Chuck came out of the bedroom. He walked over to Sarah and put his arms around her.

"What's going on here?" Adams asked.

Chuck allowed Sarah to kiss him before he answered. "You see, Ben," he said. "This was a test. We were actually going to forget all the crap you've pulled and let you stay in your position. All you had to do was act like a human being and treat this amazing hero with some simple respect. But you couldn't do that. You failed. Now you have to leave."

"What do you mean, leave?" Adams asked cautiously.

"Resign," Chuck said. "You're going to resign by close of business today. Either that or your attempt to coerce a married pregnant war hero into bed will go to the press."

"You've got nothing," Adams said. "This is your word against mine. Two against two. Maybe I'll visit you in prison."

"You might be right," Chuck said as he pulled out his cell phone. "If it was just our word against yours. That's why we took the precaution of videotaping this exchange. You were so anxious to get Sarah in bed that you let her pick the venue. Pretty stupid, Ben."

Adams looked around the room uncomfortably. "You've still got nothing," he said. "Tapes are doctored all the time. There will be a couple of embarrassing articles written and it will fade in a few days."

There was a knock at the door and Sarah went to check on it. As soon as she opened the door, the team filed into the room.

"Perhaps," Chuck said with a huge grin. "If that was all, you might be right. But let me tell you how I see this happening. Tomorrow Agent Elise Walters here is going to go to the press and tell about how she has been forced into a long term sexual relationship to keep her job."

Elise smiled and waived at Adams sarcastically.

"Naturally, your office will issue a denial," Chuck said. "They may write a story. But they may not. Then the next day, Agent Janice Beckman here will go to the press and tell a similar story. That will be a much bigger deal. Certainly, it will get picked up by the cable news networks. They're always looking for sex scandals."

Janice gave Adams the classic middle finger salute.

"Then, three days later," Chuck said. "Once the fire storm is raging, Agent Sarah Bartowski will tell the press her sad tale. She'll be sobbing as she tells her story of what she was forced to do to protect the father of her unborn baby." Chuck turned to Sarah. "Why don't you give him a sample?"

Sarah immediately forced the tears to stream down her face. "The things that he made me do," she sobbed. "Awful things. Sick things. I begged him. But he wouldn't let me stop."

"Wow," Chuck said with a laugh. "She's really believable, isn't she? And she'll have a tape. You're a political appointee, Ben. What do you think your chances would be of surviving? Especially since there will probably be a score of other women coming forward."

Adams looked around the room. "Fine," he said. "But you're still going to prison."

"Yeah, about that," Chuck said with a grin. "I really don't think so. General Beckman has already secured a presidential pardon. You'd better hurry if you're going to get your resignation in today. I hear traffic can be intense this time of day."

"Agent Town," Chuck said. "I'll give you until tomorrow to submit your resignation. We don't need agents like you."

Adams knew that he was defeated. He just slumped his head and began to walk away.

"One last thing," Chuck said. He stepped up to Adams and threw a punch that landed directly on his nose. Adams went down in a heap.

"If you ever," Chuck said. "And I mean ever… look at my wife again…"

Adams looked up. He was holding his hand against the obviously broken nose.

"I will be going to prison," Chuck said. "Because I'll kill you. Now get the hell out of here. You're getting blood on our carpet."

As soon as Adams and Agent Town left, Janice stepped up and threw her arms around Chuck. "Nice punch, partner," she said with a grin. "See how it works? Surprise more than power."

"Thanks," Chuck said. "I'm not much for violence. But I have to admit, that felt good."

As soon as Janice stepped away, Elise stepped up. "Thank you for your help," she said hesitantly. "I don't know what I would have done… I… I don't know how to say this."

"Elise," Sarah said with a laugh. "It's okay. Really."

"You can hug him."

x-x-x-x-x

A/N: Okay folks. We have a decision to make. With Chuck's victory over Adams, all of his objectives are complete. The next chapter would be a good point to end Sexy Handler. There still is that matter of the Fulcrum Intersect 2.0 that is running around looking for revenge. I have some thoughts on how that would go. I would like to get to the point of Sarah having the baby. Mainly because I want to write the labor room scene. I think that could be pretty funny. I have several options –

I could just continue with Sexy Handler.

I could write a sequel.

I could just end the universe by writing an epilogue.

So I'll be looking for feedback in your reviews. Whatever I do, I'm going to take a few weeks off.

If this is the end, I want to take a moment and thank everyone. The support I've gotten for this story has been nothing short of phenomenal. At this writing, Sexy Handler has received almost 700 reviews. I can't begin to tell you how rewarding that is. So if I haven't responded to your review, please know that I do appreciate it. I also want to take a moment and especially thank some amazing ladies.

Happydayz has been great at finding grammar errors and from keeping Chuck and Sarah from going to far with other people. We talk several times a day and she is key in keeping me optimistic about where the show is going. If you're ever concerned about where C/S are headed, PM Happy and she'll encourage you. Having Chuck turn the tables on Janice when she was attempting to seduce him was born out of our conversations. The chapter where Sarah and Chuck forgive Janice is probably my favorite chapter I've ever written. And that would not have happened except for Happy.

Brickroad is one of the first friends that I gained in the Chuck fandom. She is fiercely loyal to the characters. Whenever I am tempted to make Bryce or Beckman do something evil, she always makes me stop, lol. Of course, anybody reading this already knows what a phenomenal author she is in her own right. If you're ever feeling depressed about the show, read a couple of chapters of Collide, and you'll feel better.

Poa has had more impact on this story than even she probably recognizes. It was her idea that Beckman be Janice's stepmom. And that led the story into a path that I had not anticipated. Elise became much more of a major character. And Casey and Janice became a couple based upon that one decision. One of the comments that I regularly get in reviews is that my writing has improved. To the extent that's true, it is mostly due to Poa.

Thanks guys,

x-x-x-x-x

Chapter 39: Home

x-x-x-x-x

General Beckman stood uneasily in the entrance to Janice's hotel room. Actually, it wasn't General Beckman, it was Dianne Beckman. This was personal. She even made a point of changing into civilian dress.

She wasn't really sure what to expect. Her relationship with Janice had been odd – to say the least. Dianne had tried so hard to become friends with Janice over the years. And all that she ever got in return was hate. Dianne could sort of understand that. She really could. After all, Janice and her dad were so, so close. It was perhaps the only thing that Dianne and Janice had in common – they both loved an incredible man. And when he died… well suddenly they found that they didn't have anything in common. So although things had warmed up a bit lately, Dianne was still not sure which Janice she was going to get. To say that she was relived by the smile on Janice's face as she answered the door was a gross understatement. At least that was hopeful. And the hug? That was beyond hopeful. It was stunning.

"Come in," Janice said. She led Dianne to the sofa. "Would you like something to drink?" she asked.

"I would," Dianne said. "But I can't. I have to go back to the office. There's a ton of cleanup work to be done."

"I know," Janice said. "Isn't it great? Chuck is a genius. It went exactly how he predicted at every turn."

"I know that this is our personal time," Dianne said. "So this is not your commanding officer speaking. This is – well – whatever I am to you. And I just want to make sure that you know how incredibly proud of you I am. Janice, you were remarkable."

Janice could feel the tears quickly filling her eyes. "Thanks," she whispered. 'That means a lot. But why would you wonder what you are to me?"

Dianne smiled sadly. "I know," she said. "That, no matter what, I'm not your mom. I'm okay with that. But I had always hoped that we could be… well… friends. It's what your dad would have wanted."

Now the tears began to stream down Janice's face. "I'm so sorry," she said. "I've been so horrible to you. I can't imagine why you're even interested in being friends with me. But you need to understand something. You're the only mom that I've ever known. I've learned a lot about myself in the past few weeks. And now I realize that you were always looking out for me. If you would give me a chance, I'd like to try to get to know you better. I know that I can never make up for all of the horrible things that I've said to you. That's just something that I'm going to have to live with. But I'm willing to try my best."

Dianne was fighting to keep her own composure. This was almost too good to be true.

"And I know that words are cheap," Janice continued. "But right now, they're all I have. So here are some for you. I … I … I love you, mom."

It was the first time that Janice had ever seen her cry. Oh, she had seen tears, lots of times. Angry frustrated tears – and most of those times she had even been the cause. But now was different. Dianne was fighting to keep control… and not really winning. Her upper lip was quivering as she put her arms around Janice and they embraced.

It was a long moment before Dianne could speak without totally breaking down. So she just buried her face in Janice's shoulder and hung on for dear life. Finally she was able to speak without her voice breaking. "I love you too," she said. "I don't tell you that nearly enough. You're the most important thing in the world to me. I'd really like it if we could become a family."

"I'd like that too," Janice said as soon as she could control her own voice.

Janice wasn't sure how long they had been in their embrace. Time seemed to lose meaning. But it felt great. "I have some news," she finally said as she pulled back a little. "I've met somebody. For the first time in my life, I'm in love."

Dianne tried to keep the disappointment off her face. "I already know," she said. "Janice, I'm really trying to be happy for you. But are you sure this is such a good idea?"

Janice was stunned by her reaction. How could she know? Did Sarah say something? "I don't understand," she said. "Why wouldn't it be a good idea?"

"I know that this is our personal time," Dianne said. "But this affects both our personal and professional relationship. How could this possibly work and not destroy the team? I'm afraid that someone is going to get hurt. And, Janice, I'm afraid that might be you."

"It's going to be hard," Janice admitted. "But we're both going to work hard to make sure that it doesn't. I think we both can separate our personal feelings from our responsibilities. We've had that discussion… many times. We've decided that it's worth the risk."

"But Janice," Dianne said. "How is Sarah possibly going to be okay with this?"

Now Janice was totally confused. "Sarah?" she asked. "Why would Sarah mind? She's the one who first told us to go in the bedroom and work it out."

Now it was Dianne's turn to be confused. "You're kidding," she said. "Sarah told you to take Chuck in the bedroom and work it out?"

Suddenly the light bulb went on in Janice's mind. "You don't understand," she said with a laugh. "I'm not in love with Chuck. Oh, I'll admit that there was a day or so when I wondered about it."

Dianne just sat stunned. "If not Chuck," she said slowly. "Then who…"

Janice's face lit up into a huge grin. "You'll never believe it," she said. "I'm in love with Casey."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice knew that she had to keep the sadness off of her face. She owed it to him. She knew that if he understood how she really felt, he would do it just for her. And that wouldn't be right. The last thing that she wanted was to trap him into something. And she would get over it. Sure, she was disappointed. But that was life. This was the right thing for Casey. And she truly did love him. So she forced the bright smile on her face before she opened the door.

Casey was sitting on the bed waiting for her. "How did it go?" he asked.

"It went great," Janice said with a laugh. "She thought that I was in love with Chuck. But after we cleared that up, she was fine."

"She is okay with the prospect of having me as a son-in-law?" Casey asked. "That's going to be a little strange."

"About that," Janice said. "I have some good news. She told me all about a policy that the agency has about couples. If you register as an approved couple, they won't separate you."

"Really?" Casey asked. "So that means…"

"Yup," Janice replied with a grin. "We don't have to get married."

Casey studied Janice's face for a long moment. She seemed happy – even relieved. So the last thing that he wanted was to appear disappointed. He forced a smile to his own face. "We sure dodged a bullet there," he laughed. "Although, I have to admit, I was really looking forward to the wedding night."

Casey really expected Janice to laugh. But instead, she put her arms around him. "I was too," she said just as their lips met.

It was an odd kiss. Odd wasn't even the right word. Because it was easily the most powerful kiss they had shared. But it was different. Most of their kissing had been pretty passionate. Hungry, exploring each other, passionate. But this was even more intimate. Oh, it quickly became passionate. But they were connecting at a level they had never quite reached before.

Finally the kiss broke. Janice pulled back a little to look into Casey's eyes. There was a sparkle in her eyes… but a sadness as well.

"I guess we'll have to improvise."

x-x-x-x-x

Elise Walters stood at attention in front of Beckman's desk. There was no reason for her to be standing at attention. She wasn't in the military. It just seemed like the thing to do. Elise had never been more intimidated in her entire life. If not for the agent training, she would have been in tears. As it was, she wasn't far away.

"Agent Walters," Beckman growled. "Explain to me why you shouldn't be in cuffs right now. You betrayed your country. You joined the enemy in a time of war."

Elise was trying hard to keep her composure. "Yes, ma'am," she said. "I've made some very bad choices. I admit that. I have no excuse."

"There is one reason why you're not wearing cuffs right now," Beckman said as she picked up her phone. "Send them in," she said into the phone.

Chuck and Sarah entered the room and stood on either side of Elise. Casey and Janice followed them and stood behind them. Sarah reached over and rubbed Elise's back.

"Okay," Beckman said. "You folks have something to add? Let's hear it."

"Yes, ma'am," Chuck said. "I understand that Elise has made some mistakes. I just think that you should hear about the heroic actions that she took in our mission. Elise was the key factor that allowed us to have success. We couldn't have done what we did without her."

"She did anything that we asked," Casey said. "She fit in with the team dynamic perfectly. She even helped with some… well some interpersonal issues."

"She had a number of opportunities to betray us, ma'am," Janice said. "And in betraying us, she could have become a hero to Fulcrum. But she risked her life for us time and time again."

"Ma'am," Sarah said. "There is nobody in the world that I would rather put my life in their hands. Elise Walters has more than redeemed herself in our eyes. She is a hero. And more than that, she is my friend – and I don't have many friends."

"Well, Sarah," Beckman said. "What do you think we should do?"

"I think it's clear," Sarah said. "We would like to request that Agent Walters join our team. Janice is going to move in with Casey. Elise could take over Janice's room."

Beckman sat and stared at the team for a long moment. She didn't smile. Far from it. But there was a twinkle in her eye. "Agent Walters," she finally said. "I'll not lie to you. My gut reaction is to throw your ass into a dark cell and toss away the key. But… I have to admit, my regard for the people in this room is incredible. And if they trust you and are willing to put themselves on the line for you… that says something to me. I'll also admit that your performance in this mission was exemplary. That has to count for something. So if you're willing to join Sarah's team, I'll not stand in the way."

Training or not, Elise was having a hard time keeping her composure. Nobody had ever come though for her like this in her whole life – ever. "Yes, ma'am," she was finally able to choke out. "I'd like that very much."

"Very well," Beckman said. "You're dismissed."

To her credit, Elise was able to stay relatively composed until they were out of Beckman's office. But then she lost it. Chuck and Sarah were looking at each other to figure out which one should try and comfort her. But to their surprise, before either could make a move, Janice had Elise in her arms.

Casey looked at the sight of Elise sobbing on Janice's shoulder while Janice gently rubbed her back. "Wow," said Casey. "I have to say that surprises me."

"It shouldn't," Sarah said. "After all, none of us understand redemption like Janice does."

x-x-x-x-x

Janice walked back into their room holding Casey's hand. She should have felt great. It had been a hell of a day.

Professionally, she was part of the team that had just ended the war. It was hard to walk down the hall without getting stopped by people patting her on the back.

Personally, she had just gotten permission to live with Casey. And it was now guaranteed that they wouldn't be separated. The best part was that she didn't even have to trap him into something that he didn't want. It was all she ever wanted.

Half way between professionally and personally was Elise. It felt great to hold her. Janice knew all about self doubts. After all, she was the poster child. So it felt so great to be able to reassure her. After all, it was all Elise had ever wanted – to be a part of the team. And now that it had happened, she had a hard time believing it. It was wonderful to be able to be the one to convince her that it was real.

So why was she feeling sad? The honest truth was she didn't know. After all, things were perfect. At least they should be perfect. The man that she loved was gently kissing her neck. And since they had already made love once just a couple of hours ago, this promised to be a long, slow, tender moment. To say that Janice was looking forward to it didn't even come close to reality. It was more than that – she needed it. So she was surprised and disappointed when Casey stopped kissing her and stood up.

Janice knew right away that something was off. This wasn't how Casey usually reacted. And she had to know. "What's wrong?" she asked.

Casey just stood in the middle of the room. He was looking anyplace except at Janice. "You know that I was not crazy about getting married," he said.

"I know."

"It would be crazy for us to get married," Casey said. "We're agents. And being married would change things. I'm not sure how exactly – but it would."

Janice knew that something was wrong. So she got up and walked over to him. "It's okay," she said. "I understand."

"I don't think that you do," Casey said. "You know that I'm crazy about you, right?"

Janice nodded.

"And I wasn't wild about being forced to get married," Casey continued. "I'm pretty sure that you feel the same way. But it had nothing to do with how we feel about each other. I want to make sure that you realize that. And now that we aren't being forced, it lets me see things more clearly."

Now Janice was confused. "I don't understand," she said. "What are you saying?"

"That I know that this is crazy," Casey said. "And I'll understand if this isn't what you want."

If Janice was confused before, now she was stunned as she watched Casey get down on a knee.

"I love you, Janice," Casey said. "Will you please marry me?"

x-x-x-x-x

Elise was lying on her bed. She knew that she should be packing. After all, her new home was in Los Angeles. And she had to be there tomorrow. But she couldn't make herself move. Not yet. And while it was true that she was lying on the bed, she wasn't actually touching it. Because she was really floating about a foot above it. She had never felt this good in her entire life.

Not only because she was not going to prison. Although that was a relief. And it wasn't mainly because the team had stuck up for her. But, wow… how great was that? It wasn't even that she was now part of a team. Not really. But, she had to admit, serving under her hero, Sarah Walker, was a dream come true. The things that she could learn…

No, the real reason was that she had proved something to herself. She was a real agent. And all those men who had underestimated her - well they could all go to hell. That was now something that she would know for the rest of her life. She no longer had to take a back seat to anybody. And man, did that feel good.

Bryce had just left after saying his goodbye. And she could tell that he was disappointed that she didn't offer up goodbye sex. The truth of the matter was that she was feeling far too good for sex. And if Bryce wanted some, he could just haul his ass out to L.A. If he asked, she'd think about it. But it was only going to happen if she wanted it. Okay, who was she kidding? She'd probably want it – more than once. But long gone were the days where men could just assume it. He was going to have to make an effort.

Elise Walters was worth it.

x-x-x-x-x

It took a long moment for Janice to register what Casey had just said. After all, it was the very, very last thing that she expected him to say. But there he was, on one knee. That was the traditional proposal pose. He must have just proposed. He's so cute. Why is he just staring? Then it hit her. Of course, stupid. He's waiting for an answer. So Janice took a moment to compose her voice. "Is that really what you want?" she asked. "Or are you just doing this for me?" It was really a stupid question. Because either answer was so incredibly sweet. She just couldn't think of anything else to say.

"A little of both," Casey said with a smile. "But, yes, I really want it. I've never wanted anything more in my life. And I know that we're still going to be agents. There are going to be compromises to a normal marriage. But I want to work it out with you. I want to spend the rest of my life working it out with you. So, what do you say?"

Of course, Janice couldn't speak. She knew that if she tried, she would start blubbering like an eight year old. And she didn't want to cry in front of him again. That would be the second time in as many days. He would start to think she was a sissy. So she did the only thing that she could.

She nodded her head.

x-x-x-x-x

Sarah and Chuck sat snuggling on the sofa. It felt fantastic. And the best part was, there was no reason not to sit there and snuggle forever. There was no life or death mission to attend to. No disgusting pig to seduce. It was just them. They didn't even have to get up early to fly home. General Beckman had ordered a military flight to take the 'heroes' home whenever they wanted.

Sarah finally reached up and kissed him. "Are you going to be okay with Elise as your primary partner?" she asked.

"I think so," Chuck said. "She's really grown in the past few days."

"She needed someone to believe in her," Sarah said. "You did that for her."

"She's earned it," Chuck said.

"You do realize," Sarah said with a laugh. "That she will eventually fall in love with you. We're going to have to deal with that."

"I seriously doubt that," Chuck said. "She knows the deal."

"Sweetie," Sarah said. "I have something to tell you. I'm going to try and get through this without bawling. So bear with me."

Chuck's head popped up. "What's wrong?" he quickly asked.

"Nothing is wrong," Sarah said. "I just need you to understand how proud I am of you. I can't believe what you just accomplished. You single handedly destroyed Fulcrum."

"Not quite single handedly," Chuck said. "I had a lot of help."

"No, Chuck," Sarah said. "This victory is yours. And most importantly, you did it for me and Kate. I can't tell you how much I'm in awe of you. How much I love you."

"I love you, too," Chuck said. He reached down and kissed her. Quickly the kissing escalated. Sarah even broke out her old movie night technique of grabbing two fistfuls of his hair to keep him in place while their tongues danced.

Neither was sure how much time had passed. But finally, Sarah broke the kiss. "Tonight is your night," she whispered. "Anything you want. I mean anything. I have the lingerie."

"Wow," Chuck said. "Am I dreaming?"

"You're not dreaming," Sarah said with a grin. "But you need to enjoy tonight. Because starting tomorrow we have another assignment. I'm afraid that we have to start training right away."

"Assignment," Chuck groaned. "Can't they give us a few days off?"

"I'm sorry sweetie," Sarah said as she kissed him again. "This is going to be our most dangerous assignment yet." She placed her lips against Chuck's and began another mind blowing kiss.

Chuck knew that she was prepping him for important news. "Okay," he said. "What's the assignment? Is it overseas? Is it going to be undercover? Maybe something in Bogotá? Taking down a drug cartel?"

Sarah just shook her head. "Worse," she whispered.

"Worse?" Chuck asked. "What could be worse?"

Sarah grinned as she turned on the music from her phone and began to softly sway.

"We have to learn how to give a baby a bath."

The End

x-x-x-x-x

A.N. I hope that you enjoyed reading this half as much as I enjoyed writing it. I think this might be the most fun I've had yet. And your support has been nothing short of incredible. Thank you so much.

Well, the votes are in, and the results were a landslide. You want to see a sequel. So expect to see Chuck vs The Dark Intersect in the coming weeks.

Chuck will have to change in order to fight the new enemy and protect his family. But he may find that the real enemy is within him. And. yes, they will learn how to give baby Kate a bath. Sorry if that ruined it for anybody, lol.