"Tell me, Bartowski, how I'm supposed to look at that girl and expect her to understand how I could choose that life over being the father she never got to have."

I'm cutting it kinda close, aren't I? After last Monday's episode—which was awesome—I wanted to write about Casey in the few days after his little clusterfuck before the next episode comes out to disprove any ideas I've got. it's Monday and I've got two hours, so hurrah.

Hooray, angst. I don't know how to write angst, so wish me luck.

(I disclaim all rights to Chuck)

Casey usually is not an indecisive man. Pepsi or Coke, apples or oranges, blondes or brunettes, Kathleen or America.

There are a thousand things he wants to do with the pictures Chuck had left him with, but he can't choose. He wants to burn them, wants to watch the ink melt and smear, wants to watch the white blaze orange and char to black. He wants to rip them, tear them, shove them in a wood-chipper. He wants to stick them in a bottle and hurl it away to sea. He wants to bury them, he wants to lock them away in a safe, he wants to keep them forever in his back pocket—

He sets them aside when his fingers start to shake. He forces his attention on his bonsai tree.

Chuck's eyes are big and brown and confused, and Casey has never been so aware of how different they are than right now.

"You know I made my decision between love and love of country a long time ago. And it was the right decision for me."

How could you make that decision? How is that kind of sacrifice possible? Chuck doesn't say it, but Casey sees it all there on his face. He doesn't expect Chuck to understand. He's made plenty of sacrifices—huge sacrifices—but Casey knows him well enough to know that there's no way to shut off that kid's heart. Chuck's not like Casey. Chuck's not like anybody. There isn't a person on the planet that could ask him to stop loving somebody for the greater good. There's no way to tell him to get rid of his love, to squash it, to shove it down into the furthest regions of his being, because there's too damn much of it.

"Now you have to make a decision whether it's the right one for you."

I can't.

Casey knows. And part of him is glad.

Scotch scorches its way familiarly down his throat, dulling down the sharp edges of all the thoughts that stab and hurt and won't go away.

It tastes like fire, and he wants to burn those pictures. Wants to look at them one last time and say he's sorry and throw it in the fireplace. Strike a match, fold the pictures into one square and burn a hole straight through them.

Another searing shot reminds him of the heat. One more reminds him of the crackle of flames. He'd like to burn those pictures and burn those memories and burn that past away.

Casey wonders if it took Chuck a while to find him or if it automatically occurred to him that he might find him on the roof of his apartment, trying to count the stars. He's up to 207, plus three shooting stars.

Chuck peers down at him, and Casey curls his lip because Chuck's head is blocking his view.

"Hey, Casey," Chuck greets him in that cautious-but-friendly tone one uses to talk to a drunk person. Casey is sober, but his little tree and his empty little apartment can only provide so many distractions, so he meandered his way up here. "...What'cha up to, buddy?"

"What's it look like?"


"Then that's what I'm doing."

Chuck nods, glancing around. After a moment, he settles down beside Casey and asks, "Mind if I join you?" Casey doesn't care.

"Are you okay, Casey?" Chuck asks after a while. Casey doesn't answer, because he's not going to talk about his lady-feelings with Chuck Bartowski, God no. But Chuck takes his silence as his answer and doesn't pester him for once. The kid's learning.

Another meteorite lights up and burns across the sky. Chuck perks up. "Oh, dude, look! A shooting star!" He laughs, pointing. "Make a wish! I know I've got tons."

"Wishing is for wussies," Casey says darkly. Chuck's smile fades and he lowers his arm. He looks back up at the sky contemplatively.

"I'll make one for you, then," he states plainly, like Casey actually deserves that.

Casey can't find the last star he counted, and even if he could, he can't focus on counting anymore after Chuck's statement. Silently, he stands up and scales down the side of the building when Chuck closes his eyes to wish.

Chuck is having dinner with his sister and Devon. It's silent. That's his fault.

"You're quiet, bro," Devon notes after several minutes of Chuck nudging his food around on his plate.

Chuck looks up, startled at being addressed. "Huh? Oh, sorry, I'm just...tired, I guess."

Ellie doesn't buy it. "What's wrong, Chuck? Do you need to talk?"

He's not opposed to it, but Ellie is out of the question. Still, Chuck sighs and glances swiftly at Devon and says, "Just worried about Casey."

Devon already knows about that, and he nods and returns to his meal, but Ellie tilts her head.

"Why? What's wrong with him?"

"Nothing," Chuck sighs—lies. "Just issues he's got. I don't think he's really...grasped what's happened."

Casey actually seems to be doing fine. He goes to work. He goes home. He's silent and stiff. Chuck doesn't buy it.

Ellie squeezes his hand—proud of her brother for caring about his friend—and says, "He's got you. He'll get through it."

There's a crashing sound from across the complex, from Casey's apartment. Something loud and valuable, probably. Glass breaks. Casey's voice roars wordlessly and then there's silence. Ellie and Devon look alarmed and hurriedly make to stand up, but Chuck rises and waves for them to stay.

"I think it finally hit home," he says glumly. "Thanks for inviting me over, guys."

He leaves them, trying not to seem in a hurry as crosses the complex, preparing to pick up the pieces.

He stands on the beach and shoves a cork into the bottle before rearing back and letting it fly. It plunks into the ocean in the midst of a flock of seagulls floating on the surface. They scatter, squawking indignantly, and Casey hears a different sort of screech.

"What are you doing!?" An angry, betrayed face flashes before him, looking so much like Kathleen but with a startling amount of himself staring right back, and Alex splashes out into the tide after the bottle. She cracks the glass open on a piece of driftwood and clutches the pictures close to her chest, and suddenly she's as Casey's side again.

"This is the only thing you have left of that life, and you're just throwing it away?" she says, her voice quaking and her lips shaking, and it's like the vibrations are buzzing right through Casey because he feels so unsteady as he tries to say, "I'm sorry..."

He remembers the times in the first year of Operation Moron when Chuck would wake up shrieking in horror, nightmares of a particularly violent mission jarring him into consciousness, and Casey would roll his eyes and mentally tell Chuck to man up. He has a lot more respect for Bartowski now, as he screams himself awake and sits there in his bed, gasping in the darkness.

"General Beckman is giving you a second chance, Casey," Chuck says with an almost pleading tone to his voice. "You made your decision to become a spy, sure...but now you can make the decision to go back."

Casey whirls with his eyes blazing furiously, and Chuck takes a quick step back. Through his teeth, Casey says, "It's not as simple as that. Kathleen thinks I'm dead. She's been thinking that for twenty years. You want me to knock on her door and say, 'Honey, I'm home,' and we'll live happily ever after?"

"Casey, you've been serving your country in the noblest way possible!" Chuck insists. "You gave up a safe civilian life so people like her could have one. I'm sure she would understand eventually."

Casey's hands are shaking and it takes all his strength not to clobber Chuck on the spot. "Kathleen might. But—" his mouth goes very dry and it's hard for him to say her name—"Alex won't. She can't be more than sixteen, Chuck, and she's probably already accepted that her dad died before she was even born. Because I chose protecting my country over having a family." He pokes Chuck hard in the chest, hissing, "Tell me, Bartowski, how I'm supposed to look at that girl and expect her to understand how I could choose that life over being the father she never got to have."

Chuck swallows. "You made a brave choice, Casey. Alex might..."

"I'm not going to complicate something that's already so simple for her. I'm not going to ask her to understand. I'm not going to ask her to forgive me."

He knocks back another shot and even though it burns and fire still sounds great, he changes his mind. He wants to tear those pictures apart. Wants to rip them, shred them, tear them viciously until they're nothing but confetti. He doesn't want to see his own face, young and open. He can't bear to see Kathleen curled up so close to him, happy and smiling and unaware of the pain he would put her through.

The pictures are next to his bonsai tree, and Casey wants them destroyed. He hauls himself up from his chair. He teeters dangerously and staggers to the table, but when his hand closes around the paper he doesn't want to rip them anymore. His head is spinning and the aching thoughts of Kathleen and Alex and the job he's lost are stabbing again. The scotch was supposed to fix that.

He gets halfway back to his chair before his face meets the cold wooden floor, and he doesn't bother trying to get back up. He turns onto his back and stares blearily up at the ceiling, running the pad of his thumb over the glossy surface of the pictures.

Everything is whirling, his head and his thoughts and the entire room—

A familiar face—warm and soft and everything Casey doesn't deserve to have—swims into view above him. He greets Chuck with a hoarse, "Hey," and Chuck sighs as he bends down to help Casey up.

"Maybe you should sleep," Chuck suggests, trying to keep Casey steady and on his feet, leading him back to his lonely chair and sitting him down in it. Casey's face twists—sleep means dreams, and he hasn't been having the best dreams lately—and Chuck seems to understand that. He sighs again, squeezing Casey's arm in sympathy, and corrects himself, "Or maybe you just need a friend," and Casey thinks he's heard that in a song somewhere, and he dully remembers that Kathleen's favorite song was something by the Beatles, and since he can't remember the name of it, maybe he can forget everything else, too, starting with the pictures, because he wants to burn them—

rip them—

throw them in the sea—

dig a hole, toss them in—

hide them forever in a safe—

His hand encircles Chuck's scrawny little wrist, squeezing tight, and he fumbles drunkenly with the pictures, folding them until they're one little square, and he presses them into Chuck's palm. It's better than burning or shredding or throwing in the ocean or burying or locking in a safe, he doesn't know why, it just is because it's Chuck.

"What are you—"

"Keep 'em," Casey says, folding Chuck's fingers down around the paper.

"Casey, this is all you have of Kathleen," Chuck says gently, and he doesn't mention how Casey hasn't released his hand, how his fingernails are cutting into his skin because he might be holding on for dear life.

"And they'll be gone forever, but they'll be safe," Casey slurs intensely, and it makes sense in his head but Chuck doesn't seem to get it. "Keep 'em, Bartowski. Just...keep 'em for me, Chuck."

Beneath Casey's big hand, Chuck's fingers tighten on their own around the pictures, and Casey knows that means "I will" and suddenly the weight of his memories and the stab of Alex's existence and the ache of losing his livelihood feel a lot less painful, because when Chuck's not making someone feel good, he's making them feel better, and Casey won't ever say he appreciates that even if Chuck knows he does.

"Get some sleep, Casey. It'll be better in the morning."

Casey closes his eyes, and he hears nothing that indicates Chuck leaving, and he thinks he might be right this time.

I was surprised that last Monday's ep didn't have any Casey angst. I don't like angst, but when there's no angst where there should be angst, then I start imagining shit.

So yeah. Snippets of Casey angst and out-of-characterness because I very clearly cannot write angst for shit. Please forgive me for this utter crapfest that I call a fanfic.