Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law. These aren't my characters. I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. Yeah, that's it, typing practice. This story was originally published in the fanzine Our Favorite Things #24. It's set during first season Chuck and second season She Spies.

Chuck vs. the She Spies

by Susan M. M.

Chuck/She Spies

Duncan Ballew wandered the aisle of Buy More, browsing through the video games. The brown-haired young man lifted his hand to his chin as if in thought. He gently pressed his index finger against his ring finger. The motion – slight as it was – activated the micro-camera hidden in his ring. Duncan didn't need photos of Tetris or Everquest, but the faux onyx in the ring was actually an opaque camera lens. He wanted to test how much the opaqueness affected the colors. The polychromatic packages made perfect test subjects for color and clarity. Besides, Duncan had planned to go to Buy More anyway, to pick up the latest expansion of Age of Empires.

Duncan was a stereotypical computer geek: a habitué of SF cons rather than nightclubs, a steady reader of comic books who disdained Popular Mechanics as too simplistic and boring. Slender and bespectacled, the comic book character he most resembled was Clark Kent.

A white-shirted man about his own age approached. "Hi, Duncan. Anything special I can get for you today?"

Duncan looked up and smiled. "Hi, Chuck." He activated the ring camera again, snapping a photo of Chuck Bartowski. "Nope, just picking up the expansion." He grabbed the computer game with his left hand as he spoke, matching word to deed..

If Duncan was Clark Kent, then Chuck was Peter Parker. Like Duncan, Chuck was slender, brown-haired, in his mid-twenties, about medium in size. No glasses hid his hazel eyes, but his Nerd Herd uniform proclaimed his status as a professional cybergeek.

"It's got some new features I think you'll like." Chuck spent a minute or two explaining how this upgrade was different from previous versions of the game.

A middle-aged woman approached the two of them. "Excuse me," she began hesitantly.

"Yes, ma'am?" Chuck turned and gave her his full attention.

"I'm looking for a game for my grandson. I think it's called Jewel Pokemon?"

"Pokemon Diamond and Pearl," the two cybergeeks corrected her in unison.

"I can help you find that," Chuck offered. "Excuse me, Duncan."

Duncan nodded. "See you in San Diego next month."

Chuck nodded in agreement; both of them were planning to attend the San Diego Comic-Con, one of the nation's largest comic book/SF conventions. {The only reason Duncan had failed to graduate from MIT with honors was because he'd skipped his final exams to attend a local comic book convention.} Then Chuck led the woman to the next aisle.

Duncan wandered aimlessly through the store, snapping pictures at random of DVD players, cell phones, refrigerators, employees, customers. On the way out of the store, he passed a pretty blonde wearing a Wiernerlicious uniform. She was very pretty; Duncan took two pictures of her.

Three stunningly attractive women strode down the corridor of ISD's office.

Duncan looked up from his computer when he saw them. "Got a minute?"

"Sure," replied Cassie McBain. The blonde was the leader of the trio of 'bad girls gone good' saddled with the ludicrous code-name 'She Spies.' "What have you got?"

"Pictures from my new micro-camera." Duncan handed her some photos.

"We're spying on Wal-Mart?" asked Shane Phillips, an African-American with a café-au-lait complexion. The ex-thief raised one delicately trimmed eyebrow.

"That's Buy More," DD Cummings corrected. She was blonde, too, but nearly a head shorter and a few years younger than her teammates. "See the Nerd Herd uniforms?"

Quentin Cross stepped out of his office. He observed his best analyst and gadgeteer chatting with the three criminals-turned-spies. He walked over to join them, his footsteps as silent as a shadow. In a deceptively mild baritone, he offered, "If the four of you don't have anything to do, I'll be happy to find something for you."

Duncan jumped. DD flinched slightly, but recovered almost immediately. Cassie and Shane managed to hide their reactions, although they were just as startled. They'd been career criminals before agreeing to work for the ISD in exchange for an early release from prison, and many times their lives had depended on their self-control.

"I was just showing the She Spies the pictures from my new micro-camera."

Cross frowned. For the 700th or 800th time since being promoted to director of the ISD's west coast division, he wondered what bureaucratic idiot had picked the name 'She Spies' for the con artist, the thief, and the hacker. They weren't the first women recruited into espionage for their beauty as well as their brains, and neither the first nor the last to be encouraged to use their feminine wiles in the line of duty. They certainly weren't the first criminals offered a 'creative sentencing' arrangement to use their felonious skills in their country's service. But they were probably the first to have such a ridiculous code name. Even worse, Duncan seemed to think their code name was neat, and used it at every opportunity when referring to them.

"I'd be interested in seeing those myself," Cross admitted. In his early forties, his dark hair was going prematurely gray. Beneath his three piece suit, his body was still muscular and fit …at least, as fit as anyone who'd been shot in the line of duty as many times as he had could be.

Cassie handed him the photos. Cross tried not to let his brown eyes shine when their hands touched for an instant. The ISD had a strict non-fraternization policy, and his personal feelings for the blonde con artist were decidedly non-professional.

The pictures showed a Buy More store and its green-shirted employees. Lots of computers, VCRs, DVD players, etc. Some customers. One or two employees in white shirts and dark ties – members of Buy More's Nerd Herd. Cross shuffled through the pictures, impressed by their clarity, if not the subject matter. Suddenly he stopped. He stared at one of the photos.

"I know him," Cross announced.

"Did he sell you your TV?" DD asked.

Cross shook his head. "He's NSA." He looked at the rest of the pictures more carefully. "And this woman, the one dressed like Heidi – if I'm not mistaken, she's CIA. What are the NSA and the CIA doing at Buy More?"

Unsure if it was meant to be a rhetorical question, neither Duncan nor the three women answered.

"Ladies, you're going on a shopping trip," Cross announced. "Duncan, do you have any more of those micro-cameras, or is there just the one prototype?"

Duncan held up his hand, displaying an onyx ring. "I've got the parts. I just need to insert them into jewelry."

"Do so." Cross nodded a dismissal and returned to his office.

The next afternoon the She Spies and Duncan were in Cross' office. Cassie pointed to a picture of Casey.

Cross glanced from it to his desktop computer. The monitor was showing Major John Casey's Special Forces record, before he'd left the army to join the NSA.

"He works for Buy More," Cassie confirmed."And she is working full-time at the mall. Comes to Buy More pretty often; she's the girlfriend of one of the Nerd Herd guys." She handed Cross a picture of Sarah Walker and Chuck Bartowski together.

"Chuck's got a girlfriend that looks like that?" Duncan asked in surprise.

DD commented, " He's kinda cute."

"Cute?" Shane echoed.

DD shrugged. "Well, he's not drop dead gorgeous, but some girls prefer a guy with brains -- especially if he's got good manners or a sense of humor -- to one who looks like George Clooney or Orlando Bloom, but is a crashing boor."

Duncan dared to raise his eyes to DD, a glimmer of hope shining from them.

"You know him?" asked Cross, pretending not to notice Duncan's reaction to DD's statement.

Duncan nodded. "He's the leader of the Nerd Herd, knows techno-toys and gear really well." He paused a moment, then added, "Also comic books and TV."

Cross raised one eyebrow and looked at Duncan. "How do you feel about some undercover work?"

"Me?" the technogeek replied, his voice half excited, half scared.

Cross nodded. He turned to DD. "Can you play dumb?"

DD batted her eyelashes, looking innocent. "Who, me?"

Cross approved, "That'll do. You two go to Buy More. DD, you pretend you don't knowthe first thing about electronics or computers. Duncan, you go with her to help her. Pretend she's your sister, or your girlfriend." His feelings for Cassie were strictly off-limits, but Duncan wasn't DD's supervisor. And Cross was the only one who knew of Duncan's crush on the pretty computer hacker. "Get him," he pointed at the picture of Casey, "to help you. See if he knows what he's talking about. Cassie, Shane, think your diets can stand lunch at Wienerlicious?"

Shane retorted, "Our diets, yes, our taste buds, no."

"Then just get a drink, but check her out, discreetly." Cross pointed to the picture of Sarah Walker, "Then go window shopping at Buy More, in case Duncan and DD need back up."

"Backup?" Duncan repeated. "What could happen at a Buy More?"

Given Buy More's reputation for customer service, it took DD and Duncan a little work to avoid the other salesclerks and maneuver their way over to Casey. He was a big man, with a strong jaw and icy cold blue eyes. His shoulders were as broad as a river. The green polo shirt displayed his muscles. His brown hair was cut military-short.

"Put him in dress blues and give him a saber, and he'd look like he stepped down from a Marine Corps recruiting poster," DD murmured.

Duncan, all too aware of his ectomorphic physique, said nothing.

Casey was pushing a dolly with a flatscreen TV past the DVD aisle. DD stepped up and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Excuse me," she said in her sweetest voice.

"Yeah," Casey started to growl. Then he realized that the person accosting him was neither a KGB operative nor a Columbian cocaine dealer, but a pretty, petite blonde. In a much different tone, he asked, "Yes, ma'am?"

"Could you help me? I have a question about this DVD player." DD looked up at him appealingly.

Casey was about to say, 'not my department, lady,' when DD batted her eyelashes at him. She let her hand slide down his arm, her fingers languorously descending from his shoulder to his hand. Her fingers curled around his hand, removing it from the dolly handle. Like a lemming summoned to the sea, he followed her into the DVD aisle.

"How does this work?" DD pointed to a Toshiba.

"Fine. It works just fine," Casey replied.

"My VCR has 4 heads. How many heads does this DVD player have?"

Duncan blinked. DVD players didn't have heads.

"Um, eight," Casey guessed.

"Can I play CDs in it, too?"

Chuck saw Duncan and went over to say hi. He looked at DD, impressed by her good looks. Then he flashed on her. A series of quick images flashed through his mind: her college transcript, her police record, her recruitment by the ISD.

A few months ago, his former college roommate had sent him an e-mail. When he opened it, it had seemed gibberish at first, but it was subliminally encoded with government secrets. Chuck had unwittingly downloaded an entire server of sensitive data into his brain, all the contents of the Cortex, the shared data files of the NSA and the CIA. Now, at random intervals, if he saw something he recognized from the Cortex's databanks, he got a quick mental flash.

Chuck pulled Casey aside. "Excuse us a minute."

"What is it?" Casey growled.

"I just flashed on her," Chuck told his guard. "She's a crook. She's a spy."

"Well, which is it? Crook or spy?" Casey demanded.

"Both. She's an ISD agent." Chuck paused. "What's the ISD?" His flashes were rarely complete, just pictures and bits of data devoid of context.

Casey thought a second. He couldn't remember the acronym. Was it International Security Division or Intelligence [State] Detectives? "It's the sun glasses and dark suit division of the State Department. Let me handle her."

"Duncan's a regular customer," Chuck protested quietly. "Maybe he doesn't know who she is, what she does."

"Don't worry. I won't kill the pretty spy in front of the customer."

Reluctantly, Chuck followed Casey back to Duncan and DD. Duncan was a regular at Buy More, and if not someone he invited over for pizza and beers, at least an acquaintance, someone with whom he could discuss videogames and comic books. One of the hardest parts of becoming an unwilling government asset was the strain it put on his family and friends, keeping his secret from them.

Cassie and Shane entered the Buy More. They strolled through the aisles, trying to look like they were window shopping, while they kept their eyes open for DD and Duncan.

"This is ridiculous," Shane muttered. "What kind of back-up could they possibly need in a Buy More?"

"There they are, in the back." Cassie nodded her head in their direction. "Looks like they found the NSA guy."

Slowly, the two began heading toward their associates.

Chuck saw Cassie and Shane. He flashed on them, too. "Uh, Casey?" He tilted his head at the ISD agents approaching them.

Casey caught their eyes. He gestured to them, two fingers beckoning 'come here.' The stern expression on his face made it clear he wasn't happy to see them.

Cassie and Shane exchanged worried glances. They increased their pace, still doing their best to look like two ordinary customers.

Casey waited until they were closer. Then he pulled a gun on them, to Chuck's dismay and Duncan's shock

Shane kicked the gun out of his hand.

Simultaneously Chuck warned, "You can't do this in Buy More. Harry will see you. You'll get fired. I'll get fired."

Moving in tandem, Cassie and Shane struck out at Casey. Cassie grabbed his arm, then almost immediately let go. Casey had started to brace against her attack, so he was knocked off balance when she rleleased him unexpectedly. Shane kicked him again, knocking the NSA agent to the ground. DD grabbed Duncan's hand, and the four ISD employees started to flee.

Casey grabbed his back up piece from his ankle holster. "Hold it right there."

Duncan stopped at the sight of the gun. A second later, the three women did likewise.

Casey ordered, "Chuck, get my other gun."

"Me?" Chuck squeaked. Sarah and Casey didn't let him use a weapon, and on the rare occasions he was permitted out in the field, he was normally ordered to stay in the car, with the doors locked.

In a betrayed tone, Duncan said, "Chuck?"

Cassie pointed out, "You're not gonna shoot us in the middle of Buy More. Too many witnesses."

Casey gave her a mean grin. "Didn't anyone tell you about our new shoplifting policy?"

The NSA agent started to steer them to the back of the store. There was a holding cage there, the sort sometimes found in older zoos, where equipment brought in for repair was stored. Chuck's co-worker and best friend, Morgan Grimes, had been locked in it once. It would do for holding the ISD agents for interrogation.

"Isn't that Harry?" Duncan asked. He didn't know who Harry was, just that Chuck didn't want him to know what was going on.

Chuck stopped short, looking around for Buy More's tyrannical assistant manager. Cassie shoved him into Casey, knocking both men off balance.

"Don't run," Cassie told Duncan. "It'll attract attention." Nevertheless, she started walking very quickly indeed. Casey and Chuck followed them, also not running.

DD saw someone browsing through the CDs. She recognized him. "Wait a minute, isn't that Yuri Svetlanov?"

Shane stopped dead in her tracks. "Where?"

"Yuri Svetlanov," Chuck repeated the name. He had a flash – immigration records, KGB files the CIA had stolen, grand jury indictment for weapons dealing, drugs, and prostitution -- but also remembered the case from TV news. Yuri was part of the Russian mafia. He'd broken out of the courthouse at gunpoint a few months ago; two policemen were killed trying to stop his escape.

Cassie turned to Casey. "Yuri Svetlanov, that's why you're here?"

Lying, Casey nodded.

"And the CIA chick at Wiernerlicious?" asked Shane. "Is she trying to catch him or is she planning to let him loose to trade information?"

DD added, "They did that on TV last week, on the cop show with the redhead."

"No, no," Chuck insisted, "nobody wants to let a bad guy like that loose."

Casey gave Chuck a dirty look, as he'd just admitted knowing Sarah.

"We caught him the first time, we'll fetch him back again," Cassie declared. She turned to her partner. "Deeds?"

DD sauntered up to Yuri, oozing sex appeal. "Yuri! What are you doing here, darling?" She threw herself upon him, hugging him enthusiastically, speaking Russian so quickly that Casey could only catch a word or two here and there.

"Anoushka?" He looked around frantically, hoping no one had heard her call him by his real name. Then he was too distracted by the fervor of her greeting to do anything.

A minute later, Cassie stuck her knuckle in his back. "I have a gun," she lied. "You're under arrest, Svetlanov."

He turned his head, but Shane was at his other side. "Remember what I did to you last time?" she asked menacingly. "I'll be happy to do it again."

Yuri's eyes widened. He remembered all too well the bruises Shane had given him last time. He looked around frantically, seeking an escape. He turned to his Anoushka. But another woman stood in her place. It was the same female: same face, same body, but she no longer stared at him with bedroom eyes, and when she spoke, her accent was American.

"Creep," DD sneered.

Casey approached. Yuri opened his mouth, about to appeal for help, when Casey discreetly displayed his gun.

"You don't wanna give these ladies any trouble, do you?"

Defeated, Yuri shook his head.

Leaving Buy More, Duncan and Chuck exchanged glances. Neither knew what to say. Both wondered how much the other one knew. Both realized that something had happened that they could neither ignore nor undo.

Cassie concluded, "They were after Svetlanov, same as we were. End of story."

"I'll want your written reports on my desk by 5:00." Cross nodded in dismissal.

Duncan waited until the three woman had left Cross' office. His blue eyes had a hurt look, and with a regretful tone to his voice, he said, "Maybe I'd better shop at a different Buy More from now on."

Cross nodded again. "That might be a good idea."