Disclaimer: Chuck doesn't belong to me. I make no money off of it. In fact, they make money off of me.
Title: Old Aches
Summary: Morgan asks Chuck a question that makes him remember something he'd forgotten about Bryce. Set near the end of 2x09.
A/N: This is about a canon hole that's really been bothering me, so I decided to think about a canonical way to explain it. Unbetaed.
They were on their way to Subway for their meatball marinara. Morgan was babbling about Duck Hunt versus Paperboy, a debate Chuck had heard so many times, all he needed to do was nod whenever Morgan paused. Chuck was wavering between being thrilled and terrified about Morgan knowing he was a spy, and resolutely trying not to think about Sarah.
"Man, I bet you're going to be sore tomorrow," said Morgan. It took a few seconds for the question to register in Chuck's brain.
Morgan glanced at him. "From the crazy kung fu. You remember when I tried karate that one time, and I couldn't walk or move the day after the first lesson?"
"I always assumed that was because they beat you up."
"Yeah, but I asked on my second (and last) lesson, and it turns out everyone's sore like that 'cause you're using all these muscles you don't normally use. Chuck, buddy, you don't even exercise, and let's face it – it's not like you get a lot of exercise at the store," said Morgan. They were pulling into the Subway parking lot.
"I exercise every day," said Chuck. "And I've only been sore a few times."
"You've even been exercising in secret! Spy training's tough, huh?"
They both got out of the car. Chuck slammed his door and waited until Morgan had come around the car before answering. "Yeah, but it was Bryce who‒" he faltered, realizing he had found another piece to a puzzle he'd lost a long time ago. "Bryce taught me to exercise."
It had been during the last year when they were roommates.
Chuck woke up at the awful hour of 10am after a late night Star Wars trilogy marathon. He blearily headed to the bathroom, and was only awake enough afterwards to notice that Bryce was on the floor in the space next to their beds, doing some sort of exercise that made him look like a broken pretzel. He thought nothing of it until the next day when he came back from his one early class to find Bryce on the floor again, this time doing sit ups.
"You training for a marathon?" Chuck asked.
Bryce didn't stop the sit ups while answering. "No, but I saw a picture of Professor Linton when he was our age."
Chuck grimaced at the mental image. Professor Linton had a pot belly that could give Santa a run for his money and flabby arms that were always threatening to burst the short sleeves of his shirts.
"Get this," said Bryce, now doing some sort of leg extension. "He was fit back then – like a beanpole with muscles."
"Still not the best mental image, but okay," said Chuck.
"I asked him what happened, and he said it was because he stopped exercising. I don't want that to happen to me, so," Bryce shrugged, "exercise."
Bryce had never struck him as the vain sort, but everyone had their hang ups. Chuck didn't sleep well without a Tron poster on the wall, so he was hardly one to talk. "Ah, well, have fun," he said, wondering if he had time for a nap before lunch.
"You should try it," said Bryce.
And that would have been the end of it except having a roommate who exercised religiously for an hour each day was strangely guilt inducing. Bryce never suggested he join in again, but his exercise hour was right before lunch so Chuck invariably walked in on it. Bryce's exercise felt like a two pronged attack on Chuck's complacency (the other prong being Ellie's lectures on healthy living. He was certain she tested them out on him for effectiveness before springing them on her patients). The final straw was when he complained about this to Jill, she admired Bryce's dedication, rather than sympathizing with her boyfriend.
Feeling put upon, but curious, Chuck asked Bryce to teach him the routine one evening before they headed out for a midnight viewing of Dune. It was an eclectic mix of exercises Chuck was very familiar with like sit ups and push ups, and moves he'd never heard of or seen that used muscles Chuck was fairly certain he'd never moved in his life. He was feeling beaten up, but strangely euphoric by the end of it.
"You're going to be sore tomorrow, Chuck. But I promise that if you do the routine with me for a few days to get used to it, then continue doing it on your own every day, you'll be in top shape and ready for anything."
"Where did you learn this?" asked Chuck. He was still panting from the exercise.
"Going to the gym wastes a lot of time so I found this instead. It's a mix of exercises from around the world, designed to be done anywhere, especially in a small, confined area like a jail cell." Bryce's face looked unreadable for a second before he laughed and gestured to their room, "or a dorm room."
"I better see results in fifteen days or I want my money back," said Chuck. They both changed into fresh t-shirts, though it took Chuck a minute to find one that passed the sniff test. Bryce was fussing with his hair in their tiny mirror. Chuck lurched towards the door in his best zombie impersonation, "Duuune! Duuune!"
Bryce chuckled, and followed him out the door. "If a zombie eats the brains of a spice addict, do they get addicted to spice?" Bryce asked. They debated the topic all the way to the lecture hall that doubled as the midnight theatre.
Chuck continued exercising because the endorphins made him feel good and because he did see results – knowing he had the beginnings of a six pack to show off made him more confident. He stopped for awhile after Jill and Bryce and being expelled. But one day, he vacuumed up the cheese ball crumbs from his carpet and started exercising again. Awesome dragged him to a yoga class a year later, and he learnt that a lot of the stretches he'd been doing for years were advanced yoga moves. When he performed that first kung fu kick, there hadn't been the stretch of unused muscles, but the familiar ache he felt every morning when he exercised.
"Bryce, huh?" asked Morgan, as they pushed through the Subway doors. "Do you think he was‒"
"Yes," said Chuck, not wanting Morgan to blurt out any secrets in such a public place. "I think he knew exactly what he was doing. But that was Bryce for you." There was a hint of the old bitterness in his tone. He decided to change the subject. "Hey, if a zombie ate a spice addict's brain, would the zombie become addicted to spice?" he asked with a fake smile. Despite everything, he missed Bryce.
"No way, buddy. You'd need a living brain for the spice to effect it. How cool would a zombie sandworm be though?"
Chuck smiled a more genuine smile, and nodded agreement. "It'd be awesome."
Bryce would have agreed.