Set almost three years after 'Chuck vs. the Final Exam'. After Sarah left with Shaw, Chuck went to Rome; vowing to leave his past behind him. But fate has a different plan for him when he was partnered with a familiar face from his past.
(A huge thanks to fAteD LOvE for being such an awesome beta reader. Anything that you might find even remotely interesting in here is all due to FL – she pointed me in the right direction. But every other cringe inducing and eyeball-rolling moment: that's all me. I'll take the blame for that and more ;D )
Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck but if I did, I'd be happy to share him with Sarah. But as for Zach Levi... that's another matter :)
He knew that she would come looking for him. She always did.
And judging by the abrupt manner in which he'd left her side – it was only a matter of time.
Chuck hugged his knees to his chest, just contented to soak in the sight of the pristine beach; the undesired fury that burned a shade of green inside him had long been quelled by the cool night breeze. A triumphant smile bloomed slowly on his lips when he finally heard her footfalls on the deserted stretch of white sand.
"Am I that easy to read?"
The question was soon followed by her disbelieving scoff.
"Like a book."
His companion seated herself next to him, imitating his seating position.
"Halfway around the world and I still don't need a tracking device to know just exactly where you'd be," she added.
"Is that so?"
"Two years, seven months and eighteen days, partner. Need I say more?"
Chuck rubbed his chin thoughtfully with his palm, "I didn't know you were counting. Was I that bad a partner?"
Chuck felt rather than saw her narrowing her eyes at him and considering that he had yet to look at her fully in the face, Chuck knew that her annoyance was more than warranted.
He also realized that aggravating an already irate agent who probably knew more than a hundred different ways to kill him was definitely not the wisest thing that Chuck Bartowski should be doing – not to mention immature.
However, the nerd was more than willing to annoy rather than address an emotional issue he'd neither understood nor brave enough to confront. Hence avoidance of the topic by any means necessary seemed to be the order of the day.
And so far, so good...
"Well that really depends, doesn't it? When an agent," she grabbed his arm, "decided to become a jackass and ditched his partner at a club when it was clearly his idea of an evening of fun before we fly off tomorrow, 'bad' sounds like a gross understatement, doesn't it?"
... However the laws of the universe dictate that all good things must come to an end. Clearly his partner was beyond agitated: she was pissed. Chuck was just glad that she was not a shouter – no matter how furious she got.
Deciding to thread lightly, Chuck pulled his infamous puppy dog look, "Aww...come on," he pleaded, bumping her shoulder, "the place was called the Banana Club. How could you possibly enjoy yourself at a club named after a fruit? It's tacky."
"Save it, agent Romeo." She glared at him, folding her arms. "That look might have melted many a female agent's heart but not this one."
"Not even a bit?" Chuck asked hopefully, indicating it with the space between his thumb and index finger. "Okay... fine."
"That's it?" She asked incredulously, "That's all you have to say? An admittance of your aversion to the phallic fruit is all I'm going to get?"
Chuck grimaced slightly, comprehending that he shouldn't be pushing his luck too far.
"Look," he started, looking at her apologetically, "I'm sorry. Really, I am. I know it was my idea to have a night out but doing so at a club... was not what I had in mind. I thought..."
"I uh," Chuck stammered, scratching the back of his head, "I thought it would just be a quiet night out, you know, the usual stuff; just the two of us, sight seeing, dinner," he blurted out, "and- What? What's with that look?"
She regarded him thoughtfully, a sly smirk spreading across her features, "Why, Chuck..." she rested her forearm on his shoulder, "that sounds an awful lot like a date to me."
"Wha- Date?" he gasped, eyes bulging. "Ah," Chuck chuckled nervously, "no... no, no, no... date? No, nooo. Aha...you kill me with your humour."
"Wow," her smirk broadening, "six nos. Methinks this human intersect doth protest too much. But of course," she reached for his hand with her right one, "a quiet dinner for two obviously doesn't sound like a date, does it?"
Clearing his throat, he wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans, knowing the pointlessness of dissuading her.
"Guess you're not mad at me anymo- Oooww!" he cried, rubbing the back of his head, "Why did you smack me for?"
"You were still a jackass for leaving, but... I figured out why you did it."
The hammering in his heart quickened significantly as she fixed her electric blue orbs at him and added huskily, "Don't have to be jealous, Chuck. I threw away his number as soon as his back was turned. You know I'm yours for the taking."
It didn't matter how long they'd been partners or how much he'd grown to trust her but Chuck have never really gotten rid of his nervousness whenever those blue eyes bored into his like so.
"Nooo... I'm irresistible," she beamed, "and the fact that you're not denying it says a lot, doesn't it?"
"I happen to know the futility of arguing against you. Do you always have to have the last say?"
"Do you always have to be such a whiner?"
"I do not whine. When did I ever?'
She raised an eyebrow in amusement.
"You're doing it now. And everytime you lost a bet against me. Or at a game," she made a show of ticking off the list of his failures with her finger. "Or who could reach for-
"Hey," he protested, "I do not lose at games. I'll have you know that I'd once saved the world by just playing Missile Command."
"Chuck, honey," she turned to face him, as if talking to a small boy, "how many times do I have to tell you: I don't speak nerd and FYI, you even lost to me at rock-paper-scissors. So much for being a gamer," she ended smugly.
"What! That's because you cheated," he pointed accusingly at her, "and you're beginning to sound like Casey."
"What are you, twelve?" She enquired in ridicule before flipping her hair, "That wasn't cheating. It was an optimal use of my assets. And I definitely do not sound like that thick necked brute."
The light in his eyes fade slowly into the night as they fell on her exposed neck. Extending his hand toward it, Chuck pushed gingerly at the stray hair that was covering the small scar with his fingers.
For the first time that night, a flash of uneasiness clouded her strong features. She quickly pushed his hand away dismissively, pursing her lips.
He gazed at her in contemplative silence, feeling the guilt weighing heavy at the bottom of his heart: the events from two years back still vivid in his memory. It was the painful realisation that he was a hair's breath away from losing a partner and someone he had come to see as a friend. Her near brush with death had forced Chuck to reassess his life.
It was a turning point for him – both professionally and personally. It was the last time he'd ever let his emotion got the better of his ability to flash.
Chuck didn't know what he would have done if he were to lose a partner who had become a pillar of strength for him - especially in the first few months of their partnership. She definitely had to deal with a lot of his crap and bouts of depression. It was a miracle that she had decided to stick around despite all of that.
They had certainly come a long way, he thought.
"I'm sorry," Chuck murmured wistfully, "I'm sorry, Carina."
Chuck saw her shoulders tensed, her eyes still refusing to meet his. It was as if she was bracing herself – against what, he didn't know. But then she exhaled slowly, looking down at her hands clasping her knees.
"You should be," Carina muttered quietly before looking up at him with a small smile that belied the silent pleading in her eyes. "It saved you the trouble of looking for a new partner. Not to mention the paperwork."
Chuck just nodded grimly, deciding to let the matter rest. It was typical of her. A rare flicker of vulnerability was all Carina would ever allow to peek through her defences.
Yet, it was those isolated glimpses of emotional honesty that had made him suspect that there might be more to her devil-may-care attitude. Those slip-ups had compelled him to question if it was in fact merely a mask that she'd on all these while; which even the super agent had forgotten she'd put on in the first place.
Chuck had to wonder if it was simply easier to live with such reckless abandon. That it was more bearable to live in pretension in the often less than honourable and cutthroat world of spying.
As he glanced at his partner one more time, Chuck couldn't help thanking the fate that brought them together in a partnership.
And to think that initially, he was less than enthusiastic and a little more than apprehensive about having Carina in his life again.
Chuck wanted a fresh start, distancing himself as far away from any parts of his past as possible. So when he packed his bag for Rome and fully embraced his destiny as a spy, he made a resolution to never look back or work with anyone from his previous spy life. Most importantly, he'd vowed to adhere to the cardinal rule of spying. His heart had been broken more than he thought he could endure.
But fate it seemed had a different plan for him.
The powers that be thought that it was a good idea to pair him up with a familiar face. The added fact that Beckman gave a favourable review of their successful albeit brief working relationship while in Burbank was a bonus that factored into the director's decision. The directors thought that the two would make a formidable team.
Chuck had begged to differ.
But now, as erratic or strange her improvisation might be during some of their missions, Chuck felt certain that he wouldn't want any other as his partner.
Even with the sarcasm she'd thrown at him, or the sometimes graphic details she'd given him of her past missions that have rendered him speechless and staring in abject horror and her constant teasing and flirtations: he still wanted her by his side.
"You're staring." Her voice broke him out of his reverie. "Didn't your mom tell you not to stare? It's rude... and freaky."
"Wha- No I'm not..." he sputtered, before recognizing the devilish glint in her eyes. Chuck narrowed his eyes, "Gee, I don't know," a teasing smile touching his lips, "Mom had to leave before she got to that part."
"Really? But I bet your mom did tell you one thing before she left."
"And what would that be?"
Carina leaned in and whispered in his ears, "That you shouldn't lie... because you sucked at it." The sexy super-agent then pulled away, stretching her limbs. "Gawking's not a crime, Chuck. This sex-on-heels is a feast for the eyes."
"You're..." he blushed slightly, "... insufferable." It was all he could muster.
And that was how Carina had always been with him
But Chuck had noticed a slight shift in her demeanour for the last few months or so. He had caught her staring at him more often these days; sometimes in quiet contemplation and other times in plain confusion but every time Carina saw his questioning look, she would turn away quickly with a smile.
Chuck didn't quite know what to make of it and seeing that he had his own inner conflict to mull over; Chuck had decided to dismiss it as a result of his hyperactive imagination.
He darted a quick look at his partner again, wishing he could unravel the enigma that was Carina Miller. Chuck sighed. Baby steps, he thought as his gaze settled back on the stars sprinkled across Phuket's night sky.
Chuck didn't know if it was the setting of the exotic land, or the calming atmosphere that soothed his tired soul but that moment made him realised what he was afraid to admit for quite some time:
Charles Irving Bartowski was compromised. He'd vow to never form an attachment or developed any sort of affection for the people that he worked with but Carina Miller had made that promise quite impossible to commit to.
Chuck cared for her – that much he was willing to admit. But Chuck couldn't explain the streak of jealousy he'd felt when he thought he saw Carina flirting with another man.
Yet, he had to question whether it was even jealousy to begin with or was it merely a display of his protectiveness of a partner that he cared about. Would that then clarify his fury? Or did it in fact pointed to something more? Would he even dare to act upon it if it were true?
Was he prepared to risk his heart all over again when the ache had yet to properly heal?
Chuck let out a frustrated groan, shaking away the cobwebs of his wandering thoughts. He didn't need these distractions. Distractions could get an agent killed. But it was getting harder to ignore the gnawing confusion the more time he was around her.
He jolted out of his ruminations at the sound of her voice. "Yeah?"
Carina's eyes settled searchingly on his for a while but as if sensing his discomfort, she decided against pushing him for more information. Instead she winked mischievously at him, "Wanna skinny dip, Chuck?"
Chuck had to blink twice before burying his face in his hands with an exasperated laughter. Even before he managed a response, Carina was already running gleefully toward the oncoming waves, stopping only to beckon him with her best come-hither look, her eyes smouldering.
Supporting his chin against his knuckles, Chuck shook his head laughingly as he regarded the unpredictable force of nature.
"You do know we're in Asia, don't you?" He got to his feet, walking slowly to where she was already knee-deep in the inviting water - her dress still attached, thankfully. "As gorgeous as you are, it is still criminal for you to swim in your birthday suit."
Chuck could see her Cheshire cat-like grin. "So you do admit that I'm gorgeous."
People say that time heals all wounds. But nobody ever told him about the scar that would serve as a daily reminder of what would happen if he were to let someone into his heart again.
Then, there was her, appearing before him for the third time in his life: this time working as his partner.
Chuck looked at her, glowing ethereally under the pale moonlight and felt the anguish in his heart dissolving significantly. Maybe, he thought, the risk might be worth taking after all. As they say, the third time's the charm. Someday, he might just take the plunge.
Chuck reached for her hand and pulled her towards the shore. "Come on. We wouldn't want the cops arresting you now, would we?"
"Concern," Chuck corrected. "It'd also save me the trouble of looking for a new partner."
Carina shot him a knowing smile, "Can't survive without me, can you?"
"Well... you did save my life more times than you know," he mused holding her hand just a little tighter.
"Don't even think I'm doing it for free, Chuck Bartowski," she declared sultrily. "In fact... why don't you pay me back tonight?'
His head swivelled quickly to look down at her with curious trepidation. "O-kaayy..." Chuck uttered cautiously, "... as long as it doesn't involve me doing something... unnatural."
"Sex's not unnatural," Carina stated, widening her eyes in mock innocence.
"Jeez," she cried in laughter, punching his arm playfully with her free hand, "relax, Chuckie. You're acting like I'm gonna deflower you or something." Carina pondered for a second, "You're not a v-
"I am not!"
"Fine, fine. No need to blush. I just need a body – your body." Off his looks, Carina rolled her eyes, mildly peeved, "For shopping, Chuck. You know those night markets that we'd pass by yesterday? I want to buy some stuff and I need you," she poked him in the chest, "to carry them for me."
"Shopping?" Chuck groaned.
"Got a problem with that?"
Chuck gazed intently at her, the beginning of a smile materializing across his features.
"Can we eat something first? I'm kinda starved."
"Sure and I'll even promise that it will be a quiet dinner for two."
"Then no, agent Miller," Chuck chuckled good-naturedly, "I absolutely do not have a problem with that."
"Come on, then," she grinned, tugging at his hand.
Chuck had to marvel at the way their fingers linked. He didn't think that another hand would ever again feel right in his. Yet, hers strangely did.
Chuck didn't know what it meant or if he was even prepared to face the possibilities it presented. But one thing he knew, was that he cared about Carina; enough to risk his life for hers, just like she'd done for him.
So maybe, someday he will. Just not today.
For those taking the time out to read, thanks for reading. Can't believe you guys stuck around till the last line seeing that it's my first ever attempt at writing a fanfic of any kind – hence the lack of... 'polishness'. I think this will be just a one-shot since I don't think people are interested in the pairing anyways. Was just writing this for fun because I heart Carina :D