A/N - Hi All, welcome to the sequel to The End is Only The Beginning. I tend to get side-tracked a lot when I write either by real life or a story idea that will just not leave me alone. Hence, I started writing the chapter below.
So a couple of points, first, I will try and update but it will not be on a regular basis until The Inevitable Life of Chuck Bartowski is finished. Secondly, this story really starts near the end of the big mission and it ends in a cliff hanger that will nor be resolved for a number of Chapters as I will move back in time for Chapter 2 and the rest of the Chapters until I get back to this point in the story (intrigued yet ?). Hopefully I don't confuse myself (which is rather easy to do so you guys have to help point out any inconsistencies).
The End in Itself
Chuck vs The End?
Wilmington Refinery, California 2.04am, 3rd December 2010
Sarah is running at full speed, her gun held firmly by her side, as she navigates through the steam and pipes, Casey's voice in her ear providing the vital directions she needs to get to Chuck. She has one singular thought in her mind and it centers on ensuring that her husband comes out of this mission alive and completely unhurt.
"Room is a hundred metres ahead of you but twenty metres up. You'll need to start the generator and activate the elevator. It'll take you fifteen minutes." Casey knows that she will protest and can picture her frustrated expression. "Relax Walker, your boy's a trained professional." There is no irony in Casey's voice and despite his prior reservations about Chuck, Casey has acknowledged that he's more than proven himself as a damn good spy.
"I know." She smiles for the first time as she increases her pace as soon as she spots the generator. Quickly re-holstering her gun as she starts the process to switch it on and thus activate the make-shift elevator that will take her to her husband. She hopes that he does not do anything stupidly brave in the meantime.
She can't believe that they're so close to the end of this assignment, that their work throughout the past year is finally about to pay-off. Best of all, the new arrangement with General Beckman almost guarantees that Chuck will manage the new Intersect project team in a supervisory capacity only with no more field work and that she will be allowed to retire to a training role.
She looks at her watch and knows that she told him she'd come and get him at 2.30. She hopes that he'll forgive her for being a few minutes early but she does not like being separated from him for so long. Ever since Vegas, they had not spent more than a day apart and she does not want to break that streak, knowing that she last saw him at 3am yesterday morning. At least she made him wear the new Kevlar vest she had been given, insisting that he was the one who would be in the line of fire for the duration of this mission and that he would be dispatched first. As usual, Chuck had refused, only to finally relent when she promised to get one for herself as soon as she could find the time.
Chuck sees the fist coming towards him and only just manages to whip his head back and avoid some of the momentum behind the punch. His body swings wildly and he feels the strain on his arms and shoulders as the ropes cut into his wrists. He's hanging from a makeshift hook, his feet barely touching the ground. "You know…" He spits out the blood pooling in his mouth and continues, "my wife doesn't really..like it when my face gets hit. And ..you really don't want..to get her angry." He does not like speaking French but knows that he has to do it for the benefit of Alain.
The three other men in the room are bit players, but it is Alain who is calling the shots and despite liking all things American, he has devoutly refused to speak or converse in English throughout this entire mission. He sees Alain rear back to hit him again and knows that he should just shut up and wait for Sarah. He already has the information he needs, considering he has had a good view of the bomb that is currently being assembled on the table in front of him.
This time the punch landing on his torso and he does not have enough torque to lessen its impact and can feel his ribs protest at the contact.
"Who do you work for?" He expects the question but is surprised that Alain actually waits for an answer.
"You're not going to believe me even if I told you." He sees Alain pause, waiting for him to continue. "My wife, I actually work for my wife." a small smile punctuating the end of his sentence as he can picture Sarah's exasperated expression when he tells her about this encounter. According to her, this would probably merit what she would call being stupidly brave or in Casey's terminology, Doing The Bartowski. Chuck's at least glad that the ensuing punch has resulted in Alain's fist getting caught in his teeth causing blood to appear on his hand.
He can see the small clock on the wall and knows that Sarah will be there in ten minutes or so and that he needs to move their plan along. He closes his eyes and concentrates, as usual, picturing Sarah in his head but this time with the smile that signifies to him that she loves him unconditionally. He feels the pressure build up at the base of his skull and the onset of the Flash start. He knows he has to be extremely directed in this, that what he needs to flash on is not just one thing but instead pull together various bits of information that would allow him the ability to defuse the bomb when Sarah comes charging in to save his life, as usual.
He's oblivious now to Alain's frustrated voice and does not even feel the hit to his body as his mind and consciousness is wrapped around the flash, diligently mining for the data he needs to accomplish the task that he and Sarah were sent for. He does not hear the door bust open or the shots fired off around him, one splintering the chair Alain had been sitting on, resulting a shard of wood grazing the side of his cheek. He feels or hears none of it, nor does he witness Sarah 's unfortunate entrance.
Sarah knows that Casey has gone radio silent and would remain so, monitoring their progress as soon as she makes contact with Chuck. She does not hesitate as she kicks the door in, shooting three of the men in quick succession before turning on Alain. She does not expect a shot to come from behind as she pitches forward. She manages to break her fall with her free hand but cannot react fast enough as she sees Alain's gun go off in her general direction.
The second bullet enters her side, knocking the wind out of her but still she manages to roll behind the table, finally firing off a shot at Alain, causing him drop his gun. She sees Chuck staring at her wide eyed and winks at him despite the immense pain. She sees the gunman at the door and shoots him without hesitation, only to turn back to see Alian once again in possession of his gun.
Sarah already feels light headed and is glad when she sees Chuck react as he grabs hold of the ropes he is hanging by and swings his legs up and around Alain's neck, slamming him to the ground and allowing her to take the shot. She uses the table to pull herself up, feeling the fiery pain in her side and back, knowing that her shirt is soaked with her blood.
"Sarah, you're shot. The vest…your vest" He does not want to revert to the old Chuck, the one who panics and does not know what he needs to do. However, seeing her ashen face and wetness soaking her shirt finally spurs him on as he quickly reaches for the small blade hidden in his wrist and starts to cut through the ropes binding his hands. He does not feel the blade slice into the soft tissue of his wrist, his senses all localized and focused on Sarah as he sees her stagger towards him.
She's breathing hard, her eyes already glassy but still she makes it over to him and helps to cut him down. Chuck's arms are immediately around her as soon as his feet touch the ground. She touches the blood on his face and shakes her head, "Wha..What did I tell you ..about asking them…to lay off your..face." The words would have brought a smile to his face if it weren't punctuated by her soft cry of pain. Her hand grabs onto his shoulder and her eyes shut as she sways slightly on her feet.
"We need to get you to the extraction point," His voice is firm because he knows she will protest. He tucks a stray strand of her hair behind her ear and removes the transmitter she has there. "Casey, immediate evac necessary. We have two GSWs to the back and the side. Only one exit wound. We'll be there in twenty minutes or less." He gently lowers her to the ground, taking of his shirt and tying it around her abdomen in hope of stemming the flow of blood.
"No, the bomb's… been… activated" She hears her own voice as if coming from a distance and knows that its due to the blood loss and shock, that her body is slowly shutting down. "You need to …defuse it." She looks up at him and despite the pain, slowly raises her hand to touch his cheek as she sees his anguished expression. She does not like to see him in pain, physically or emotionally. "I'm..so. sorry."
Chuck knows what his mission is, he had accepted it without qualms or complaint. He had endured beatings, sleepless nights and countless other issues to get to this point but at this juncture, he knows for a fact that he cannot continue. That the person he is holding in his arms is the only reason he is alive and if anything happened to her, he could not go on. "Sarah." Her name sounds like a prayer from his lips infused with promises yet to come. He looks at the table and can see the countdown timer on the bomb ticking away. The blood red numbers counting down and it feels too much like it's leading to Sarah's demise that he tears his eyes away, refusing to look at it.
"Bartowski." Casey's voice is loud in his ear and he can hear him panting, gunfire echoing in the background. "Casey? Where are you?" He looks down to see Sarah's unfocused eyes although she's currently trying to sit up, her hand grasping at his arm for support.
"Tell..Casey to stand down..we..we can finish the mission." She will not give up, not when their future is on the line. She knows she is badly hurt though, the bullets penetrating skin and organs but she also knows that she is too stubborn to just give up. She's finally found the balance and focus in her life and does not want to lose it without a fight.
Casey finally comes barreling into the room, his face streaked with sweat, his attention divided between the ticking bomb on the table and his partners sitting on the floor. The bomb is a thing of destructive beauty, all wires and tubes, the timer showing the countdown at just under seventeen minutes. He does not know how or where to start but he knows that Chuck does. The issue though is that Chuck's only reason to exist is currently bleeding out on the floor and being too stubborn to pass out.
Casey knows his options currently are pretty easy as he strides over to Sarah and kneels next to her, one hand supporting her neck. He sees her looking up at him and knows what she's trying to tell him but listens anyway at her strained voice. "Get..Chuck to …diffuse the ..bomb." He can see the heroic idiot's waging an internal war within himself, knowing that there are more lives and value at stake than just his wife's. The choice is so crystal clear to Casey that he does not hesitate as he leans closer to Sarah and states, "Next time wear a vest." he sees her eyes widen as he finally places more pressure on her Brachial Plexus, causing her to gasp and lose consciousness almost instantaneously.
Predictably, Casey knows exactly how Chuck would react to his current decision and stops the fist from connecting with his face. His palm wrapped around Chuck's fist as he pushes back. "How many times do I have to tell you to stop thinking with your d.." He's unceremoniously cut off as the timer on the bomb beeps loudly. "What the..."
Chuck knows exactly what it signifies and his face turns even more pale. "It's armed itself and although I can dismantle parts of it, the core blaster cannot be disarmed. He looks at Casey, regret in his eyes, only to see Casey sweep up Sarah's limp body and places her in his arms. Pushing the both of them towards the door.
"Go." Casey's tone does not give any room for misinterpretation. "Now." He shouts as he pushes Chuck towards the door again. "Am ambulance is on its way. It'll be waiting about a mile from the refinery."
"The Bomb." Chuck wants to take Sarah away but also knows that she will always feel duty bound, driven by her beliefs and her honor. Likewise, he cannot walk away despite wishing to with all his being.
"Walk me through it. You have the transmitter and I'm assuming you can run and talk at the same time." Casey knows a thing or two about bomb diffusing and disposal but the specimen before him is somethnig else. Any wrong move could detonate it and blow up the refinery and probably all three of the nearest towns. Even now, he knows that there will still be a pretty big blast although not a catastrophic one. But still enough to kill him if he does not clear the room in time.
Casey knows he does not have the epic love story of the Bartowskis' but Ilsa had joined him in Germany that last week, last year and even now, they have managed to touch base either physically or virtually almost on a monthly basis. Casey does not want to die but he's also a professional who understands that if Sarah does not get medical help soon, she will. And if she does die, Chuck will too. "Bartowski, get out of here. That's an order." Again, his tone is firm as he takes out his toolkit and places it on the table before him. He does not look back as he hears Chuck run out the door.
"Casey..can you hear me. You need to first unscrew the panel on the right side. The small rectangular one…..It's covering the first circuit….linking to…the gaseous canister" Sarah is heavy in his arms but he does not feel the strain. His mind is focus on going over the information he had mined in his Flash as well as trying to come up with a plan that would give Casey the small time window he would need to get out of the room.
"Roger that, I'm on it." Casey slowly removes the panel only to be confronted by a myriad of colored wires. "Chuck, there are like thirty little wires connected here." He does not like the uncertain note in his voice and takes a breath to centre himself. He can hear Chuck's harsh breathing through his comm link and hopes that all the training he had put Chuck through has given him adequate stamina now. "She ok?" It's not the best time to check but Casey does not want his possible sacrifice to be in vain either.
"You're looking for the intertwined green…. and white wire. It's the …..one that will ignite the… gas." Chuck exits the elevator and runs through the darkened corridor. Most of the lights have been shot out probably due to Casey's recent insertion. He looks down at Sarah, her heads tilted back, her eyes are closed and for a second, he cannot tell if she is breathing or not and his heart almost stops. It's only because of her soft moan doe he not stop right there to take her pulse. "She's still breathing." He can picture Casey nodding at that while trying to find the wire he needs to cut.
"Ok, wire's cut." Casey wipes his forehead with the back of his hand. The timer reads 12.12 and he knows that he would need at least a couple of minutes to transport the core blasting unit to a different location and ensure that the damage is minimized to himself and the refinery. "When can I move this thing?"
Chuck wants to be able to give Casey better news but knows that he does not have the time to explain much, "You need to take out the gas cylinder now, don't disconnect any of the other wires yet. After that, you will see a digital panel situated below the cylinder. The code to enter is 2312398." Chuck's hands feel wet and he knows that he is slowly being soaked by Sarah's blood. Worse yet, he can feel her body losing it's warmth and the only thing he can do about it is to hold her tighter to him.
Casey can tell that Chuck is avoiding telling him the bad news currently because he needs to concentrate at the job at hand. "Good news is that the canister is out. Bad news is that there is no digital panel underneath it."
"Underside, it's on the underside. They flipped it over maybe. Casey, I can't flash" Chuck knows he needs to flash again but he cannot think of Sarah alive and happy when she's literally dying in his arms.
"Hey…" Chuck feels her touch rather than hear's her voice and he looks down, frighten to acknowledge what he will see. It's only when he looks into her eyes, does he understand the strain she is under but also how strong her will is as she continues to let him focus on her. Her face is serene and he can see the love and faith she has in him. The only indication that all is not right is the continued flow of blood he can feel on his arms.
Amazingly, he does not stop as he flashes, his legs continue to pump as he runs out of the refinery complex. Nor does he lessen his hold on his wife. Whether driven by necessity or serendipity, he manages a quick Flash, just enough to retrieve the information he needs as to how Casey can bypass the digital panel. He almost stumbles then, his feet slipping on the gravel path and he can feel Sarah's touch tighten on his arm. "Casey…I need you to cut the dark blue… wire and then wait… for thirty seconds… before you cut the dark …..green wire. Timing…timing has to be accurate…Can..you do that."
"Yeah, the timer on this thing is as accurate as I can get." Casey does not question Chuck or his instructions. He's bet his life before and Chuck has come through and there is no difference now. He follows Chuck's instructions to the letter, "What now?". The timer is below the ten minute threshold.
"Break… the …panel ..and you can access the core detonator…It..it's going to blow …regardless..so..you need to get it away from the …main bomb unit." Chuck's voice is coming out in gasps now, the adrenaline high fading quickly. He can feel the muscles in his arms and legs protesting but he does not pay them any heed. Sarah has been limp in his arms, her head back and he knows that she's either not breathing or that her breathing is so shallow that not enough oxygen is being taken in. He sees the red blinking lights in the distance and knows that it's the ambulance Casey was talking about. He can hear Casey's muttering under his breath and the noise of something being hit.
"Casey..you still need to ensure that…nothing else ruptures…" Chuck's frantic voice cuts in and he's relieved to hear Casey stop.
"How else am I going to break it?" Casey grounds out the question, frustration coming through for the first time as he looks at the timer.
Chuck is at least appreciative that Casey has held off on calling him a moron and also knows that currently Casey's life is in his hands as much as Sarah's is. His partners need him and he will not let them down. "There's..a bag..in the corner…Nitrogen cylinder….small amount….enough..to crack…the panel." He knows he is slowing down and his voice is already weak but at least Casey has received the message and he can hear him searching for the nitrogen.
Casey sees the small cannister and quickly uses it to weaken the panel, finally cracking it open to reveal the explosive detonator. It's a cylinder the size of his fist, filled with a clear viscous liquid and suspended in the middle is a small black cube. "I think I have the detonator, clear liquid, black cube. Anything else I need to know?"
Chuck stops then, knowing that he needs to tell Casey the next part as it's the most difficult. "You can't..let..the cube…touch the side..of the cylinder..It'll casue the ignition….Right now…it's..counting..down…as well though..Put it in…the elevator shaft is reinforced…Casey..I'm.."
"Bartowski, get her to the ambulance. I''ll see you soon." Casey slowly raises the detonator stopping only when he sees the cube move on its own volition closer to the wall of the cylinder. He does not look at the timer any longer, instead concentrating on the small black cube. His footsteps are measured as he holds the cylinder before him and slowly walks out of the room. He does not have much time to get to the lift shaft but he also has never been one to give up. He hopes Sarah is also in the same frame of mind.
Chuck can see the military paramedics standing next to the ambulance and it takes most of his remaning strength to call out to them. As soon as he does though, he's glad to see them rush about, grabbing IV pouches and bags and pushing the stretcher to where he has finally stopped.
"Agent Bartowski, Sir, you need to let go. I'll take her from here" Chuck looks down to see the young man with him arms outstretched but he cannot seem to agree to lose all physical contact with Sarah. He can feel the man slowly lift Sarah out of his arms and he again wants to protest but stops himself knowing that he has done all he can to help and right now what she needs is the medical attention.
"It's ok Sir, Colonel Casey briefed us. We just need to do our jobs here. You can hold her hand as soon as we strap her down on the stretcher, ok?"
Chuck is amazed that the he's being shown so much empathy and just nods as he sees them work over his wife, their hands a blur as needles are pushed in and bandages and dressings are used to stem the flow of blood. Finally they cover her body with a reflective blanket. However, the one thing that stays with Chuck though is the redness of her blood, a stark contrast against her pale skin. All he hears is her faint heartbeat as one of them finally hooks up the monitor. It's the only thing he hangs onto as he collapses to his knees, his legs finally giving out.
"He BP is falling, give her oxygen now, I'm going to push a bit of epi." Chuck can hear the urgency in the voice and it's coupled with Casey's steady breathing in his ear. All his other senses though are attuned solely on Sarah as he slowly pulls himself off the ground, his footsteps unsteady. He reaches Sarah and finally holds her hand, not acknowledging that it feels so cold.
"Casey, they're working on her. Where are you?" Chuck strains to hear any response but none is forthcoming. "Casey, come in Casey, what is your status." He shouts louder such that it drowns out the sounds of the paramedics working. He knows that he's faced again with a choice that has no upside either way. Sarah always cautioned him about such times knowing that they would come. He had always joked back that both Casey and her were so good at what they did that he would not have to contemplate making such decisions.
Chuck knows though what he needs to do now as he grabs the two way radio hooked onto the side of the stretcher and addresses the paramedics, "Take care of her and give me an update every three minutes. I want to hear her heartbeat. You make sure of that." He sees them nod and again, he takes off in a run, tracing back the same path he had taken to get there.
"Casey?" The only sound coming through the link now is the ambient industrial noise from the refinery. Chuck's at least glad that there hasn't been an explosion as yet although he knows it's only a matter of minutes. He pushes himself again all the while calling out to Casey, this time at the top of his lungs as the other hand holds the radio to his ear.
Chuck can still hear Sarah's faint heartbeat though the radio as the two men work on stabilizing her. He can hear their voices but pushes it to the background, instead only concentrating on the beeping noise. The terminology they are using not exactly foreign because of his exposure to both Ellie and Devon. But now though their meaning so much more entrenched in his psyche because of their relation to Sarah. He does not care though as he only wants to count the beeps he hears.
It does not occur to him that perhaps he had been too lucky up until now. That fate had given him all the breaks he deserved and all the time he needed but time has now run out. That time is only a precious commodity when you realize that it has run out. He had been so sure in his belief that Sarah would never leave him intentionally that he never ever imagined that she could ever be taken cruelly and prematurely away. All these thoughts only suddenly coalescing in his mind as he hears the beeps slow down, only to finally stop and be replaced by the low hum of a flatline from the monitor.
Almost instantaneously, he looks in the direction of the Refinery to see the large vapour explosion light the night sky. Finally he is blown off his feet by the feedback and sound of the explosion a second later, his body hitting the ground a few feet away.
"Sarah?.....Casey?..." Chuck utters two names before the blackness finally takes over.
Thanks for reading and I would really like to know what you think of this chapter so any reviews or feedback is totally welcomed. The next Chapter (when I write it) is entitled Chuck vs The Beginning. So please click the review button as all reviews are anxiously expected :D.