A/N the Frea Version: This story started as an allusion Carina made in What Fates Impose. That chapter? Chapter 13, the Dark and the Damned, and the hardest one to write. Why was it such a hard chapter to write? Well, one, there's Bryce Larkin. He makes everything difficult. Then there's Carina Miller, a character I enjoy only in small doses. Oh, and there's a gunfight in a warehouse, a freak-out, killing, a possible murder, Sarah nearly kicking Chuck in the face, Casey punching through a wall, and, oh yeah, I give Chuck a gun for the first time. But it has one of my favorite: Carina figures out exactly who Chuck is—he's Bunker Boy! And this is the story of that.
I've been pestering mxpw to write this story for ages since he's actually written a Carina I can stand. And then I came onto the project as a co-writer because even though mpxw is writing the "Boogey Man" of all Sarah Walkers, also known as Boogey Sarah, he didn't think there was enough Sarina flirting.
So I decided to help. I should probably apologize for that, but we had such a good time, and mxpw is such a great author to work with, and I have so much respect for him, both as a beta reader and a co-writer, that I regret none of it. None of it, you hear me? :) Enjoy!
A/N the mxpw Version: So apparently I have a "scary" fascination with Carina. To that I say, if being fascinated by nearly six feet tall Swedish models with legs that go on forever and an attitude to match is "scary," then by golly, I don't want to be…damn it, what's the opposite of scary? Nice? Safe? Non-frightening doesn't really pack any oomph. Crap. This whole bit is falling apart around me. Where was I going with things? I have no idea.
I like Carina. I like Sarah. I like putting them together, and no, not just in that way, but letting them play off of each other is just plain fun. As you'll soon see. I have to thank Frea for A) Letting me play in her playground, B) Letting me play with her Sarah (sounds so dirty), perhaps my favorite Sarah in all of fanficdom, C) Trusting me enough not to screw up her universe too badly (now you know why I called her in off the bench, I needed the insurance), and D) For being my friend and supporting me, even if she is a very demanding overlord.
Oh, and for the record people, just so you know, the Sarina flirting? I only did, at most, 50% of it in this chapter. And don't even get me started on what she did to Chapter Two. Though I take all the credit for Chapter Three. Especially when Sarah embraces her inner…well, I can't tell you that, as that would be spoiling. Chapter Four is more of a joint effort, though the kiss at the end is all Frea.
The Bank Job
Yin and Yang
13 APRIL 2006
THE DESERT JEWEL, SUITE 1802
The amber liquid burned as it slid down her throat and settled in her midsection. She had lost track of how many shots she'd had. At the moment, she didn't particularly care. As long as there was something still in the bottle, she'd drink whatever Carina gave her.
"A few more of these and you won't be able to stop me when I try to have my way with you."
Sarah merely rolled her eyes and held out her shot glass. She glared at Carina when the redhead hesitated to refill her glass, and shook the glass insistently in her friend's face.
Carina sighed and took the hint. "So are you ever going to tell me what's got your panties in such a bunch?"
"You know," Sarah started to say, but she paused to take a drink. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "I really hate that saying."
Carina snorted and poured herself a shot.
Sarah raised a single finger. "For one thing, it's sexist." A second finger. "Another, it's crude." She peered really hard at her two fingers and abruptly added a third. "And what happens when you're not wearing panties? What then, huh?"
Sarah watched Carina smirk faintly, her eyes crinkling in amusement. "Is that some kind of not-so-subtle hint?"
Sarah's eyes widened. "What? No!" She groaned and placed her head on the table. "Why are we friends? All you think about is sex."
"Yin and yang, dear."
"I really don't want to think about sex right now."
"Ah," Carina said. She capped the whiskey bottle and tossed it onto the couch behind her. Sarah let out a feeble protest as the bottle soared through the air, but made no move to scramble after it.
Frankly, she was busy waiting for the room to stop spinning. And then she could focus on things like moving.
"So this is about Bryce."
Sarah inwardly smacked her forehead. She had walked right into that one. It really was true what they taught at the Farm: alcohol and secret keeping? Not a good mix.
"I don't wanna talk about it."
Carina shrugged and slid down until she was lying mostly horizontal on the thick carpet of the hotel room. She ran a hand through her hair and leaned on one elbow. She leveled a steady gaze at her and pursed her lips. "Okay, so then maybe we can discuss what you're doing here instead of wherever the hell Bryce is."
"I don't wanna talk about that either." Sarah hoped she wasn't pouting, but all bets were off the table these days—had been for months.
It didn't help that she was more than a little pissed about the CIA's decision to toss her into the DEA's lap. She thought it was ridiculous and unjustified. And she resented the implication. Bryce got to stay with the Agency. Bryce got to request a reassignment. Bryce got to have his choice of missions while the brass dealt with their little tiff. Was she or was she not the CIA's golden girl? What the hell was going on?
"You must have pissed in somebody's Froot Loops to get stuck with me."
Sarah's sour expression softened and she placed her hand atop Carina's. "I requested you." Carina was her friend. If she was going to be forced to work with some other member of the government alphabet soup for the foreseeable future, why not do so with a familiar face? Why not make the best of a crappy situation? When they told her that they were transferring her out of the CIA for what they were calling "re-certification," she had requested the DEA. It would be perfect. If she couldn't be partnered with Bryce, Carina was the next best thing.
Or so she had thought. She was not so sure now. Things had gone well for the first few hours. Until Carina had talked her into having a drink with her. One drink had turned into five. And five had somehow become ten. She could hold her alcohol better than most women—hell, she could drink Bryce under the table—but even she had trouble maintaining her wits after ten shots of Johnnie Walker Black. And, naturally, it had only gone downhill from there.
Carina beamed triumphantly like she had when she aced their class on Game Theory at the Point (the only class she'd scored higher marks in). Her hand flipped underneath Sarah's splayed palm and entwined their fingers. "I knew you'd give in eventually. So my bed or yours?"
Sarah extracted her hand from Carina's warm grip and sat up, wrapping her arms around her knees. Still, she had to laugh. "You're ridiculous."
"Made you laugh, didn't I?"
The redhead always flirted with her, whether she needed comforting or not. It was just Carina's nature. Sarah once watched Carina shamelessly flirt with an obviously gay fashion designer in Milan for thirty minutes because, as she had put it once Sarah had finally managed to pull her away, she wanted to see if she could change his mind. He had mouthed "Thank you" at Sarah as she'd dragged Carina back to work.
"So are we going to dispense with the foreplay and get down to it or do I need to continue getting you lubricated before you finally give me what I want?"
Sarah avoided locking eyes with her friend. "I said I don't wanna talk—"
"Yeah, yeah, you don't want to talk about it." Carina sat up until she was more or less at eye-level with Sarah. Like everything else the redhead did, the movement was fluid, silky. And vaguely predatory, though Sarah wasn't worried. "The problem is, I need to know if this is going to be an issue. This op could potentially make Pakistan look like a day at the spa—which you totally need, by the way, and when was the last time you got laid?"
Trying to follow Carina's thought process while sober was next to impossible, and sobriety had vanished hours ago. Sarah latched onto the one thing she understood. "I can do the job, okay? God."
"I just said I could, didn't I?" A mulish scowl overtook Sarah's face.
"If you're not sure, we could get Bryce here, give you a quick workover, screw you back into fighting shape. Hell. I could finally get that threesome I've been hinting at for years."
"Shut the hell up about Bryce."
It didn't matter if she knew why Carina was pushing so hard—the job had to come first, after all—Sarah still hated it when people questioned her professionalism, especially in conjunction with her personal life. She was her own damn woman. Bryce Larkin didn't dictate her thoughts, and actions, and the fact that he had his so-called panties in a bunch wouldn't screw this up for her. She wouldn't let her emotions affect the damned mission. She wasn't some compromised, lovesick fool. And Bryce Larkin could shove it if he really thought otherwise.
In fact, screw Bryce Larkin. This was his fault, anyway.
It didn't matter that she understood his position, and truthfully, she felt awful about it. Somewhere inside, in that locked part of her that being a field operative would never be able to touch, she knew that them being on the rocks was completely her fault. She'd handled it badly. She should have done more.
But damn it, they were partners. Didn't that mean anything to the jerk? You didn't give up on your damn partner just because of rocks in the freaking relationship. Partners were closer than friends, than family, than blood. It wasn't something you could just give up on. When you entrusted your life into the hands of another, when you became so in-sync that you could communicate without speaking, the partnership became a part of you, and Sarah felt like she'd lost half a step.
There was nobody she trusted more than Bryce. Well, that wasn't entirely true, a voice in her head pointed out, but she didn't dwell on that because it was just absurd. She needed to figure out some way to fix things with Bryce. She couldn't help how she felt, and she had tried, so many times, over the last five months to make those thoughts disappear, but no matter how many times she locked them away in the corners of her mind, they always came back. And that was worrying.
If she was obvious enough now that Bryce had picked up on things, what would she be like in another six months? A year?
There had to be something she could do, right? She knew Bryce had real, strong feelings for her. And that was a problem. But it wasn't insurmountable, and she didn't know why Bryce couldn't see that. They could still work together. They could still kick ass and be the best team in the CIA. Certain things would have to change, that's all. She had to have hope that Bryce would eventually realize that.
"Hmm," Carina said, drawing Sarah's attention back to her. She was eying Sarah very much like a cat studied a sumptuously fat mouse. "Touchy, touchy. Does this mean Bryce is on the open market?"
"Is Bryce fair game?"
Oh, God, just what she didn't need, Carina the Vixen making things more complicated than they were. "I don't think that's a good idea, so no."
"Why not?" Carina pouted and gave her big doe eyes.
Sarah was not going to fall for it. "Because those kind of issues get in the way of the job."
Carina scoffed and twirled some hair around a finger. "Oh fine. You twisted my arm. I'll have sex with you. That way, when I sleep with Bryce there won't be any problems. Everybody's equal!"
It should have made Sarah laugh. After all, Carina was just an incorrigible flirt. Psychologists that weren't "persuaded" by Carina to write otherwise would claim that the woman had a jaundiced view on sex and its utilization to assert dominance, as well as just a really fun pastime. She didn't mean anything by her advances like these. Bryce's refusal to work with Sarah anymore, his anger at her, however, was a bruise that just wouldn't heal. Sarah squeezed her legs closer to her chest and propped her chin on her knee. "Just stop, okay? Bryce was—is my partner. Leave it alone. For me. Please."
Carina fell silent. Sarah didn't look at her. She'd ruined the night. It shouldn't have been a big deal, Carina's words. She didn't mean them, except when she did. And Carina could just be so damn frustrating sometimes. The redhead insinuating herself into their private matter would only make things worse.
This was precisely why Carina could never, ever, not even under threat of bamboo shoots under the fingernails, find out about Chuck, Sarah thought. If Carina found out that Sarah sometimes thought about a guy she'd only met once, and not for very long, it would be like the chaotic side of Carina's birthday and Christmas come early. Sure, there would be real concern, but Carina…just couldn't help herself sometimes.
Stupid Chuck Bartowski.
She often wished she'd never met the man.
The way Chuck had effectively disarmed her emotions within forty-eight hours had been nothing but an aberration. After all, she'd been in control ever since, hadn't she? The occasional lapses she'd had with Bryce had been little more than necessary tension relief…sex, and that was it. And that was the problem. To her, it was only sex. To Bryce, it was supposed to mean more, but she hadn't had it in her to give him anything but the physical, not since he had tricked her out of Cabo.
Not when she spent so much time thinking about Chuck. It wasn't fair to Bryce, it wasn't fair to her, and it didn't matter to Chuck. Chuck was in Siberia. Sarah was in Dubai.
The worst part was that it was all self-delusion. She knew that. She'd only spoken to Chuck once in the four months since he wished her Merry Christmas, and after thirty seconds of conversation, probably less, she was back to square damn one with the feelings. Some aberration indeed.
And those thirty seconds screwed everything up. She was supposed to be a spy, but one look at her and Bryce had known. And that was when the trouble had started, damn it all.
And now here she was, stumbling toward drunk with an omnisexual redhead in their hotel suite in Dubai, dealing with the damned consequences. Or at least attempting to drown them.
Carina made a disgusted noise, drawing Sarah out of her musings. "Bored now. I'm going out to the hot tub," she said. "You're welcome to join me, but you have to leave the girly emotions inside. You're a mess, Sarah Walker."
"You're not kidding," Sarah said, meaning every word.
Carina softened just enough to let her see the human being beneath the diamond-hard DEA agent. "You should get some sleep."
"I think I will."
"Good. Because there's always the hope that tomorrow you'll stop resisting my advances, and if you do…you'll want to be well-rested." Carina's smirk took on a feline smugness as she pushed herself to her feet and extended a hand to help Sarah up as well.
Sarah laughed and pushed the hand away before she climbed to her feet on her own volition. "You wish," she said.
"Hell yeah I do." One final grin and Carina headed toward the balcony of their suite, which housed the Jacuzzi, shedding her dress on the way.
Sarah didn't bother to wait around and see if it was the red lingerie or the black today. She stumbled a little as she headed toward her room in the suite. It was useless to lock the door—even drunk, Carina could pick a lock faster than anybody in any of the agencies, and she would have no compulsions about climbing into bed with Sarah simply to mess with the blonde's head—but it was habit. She stripped out of her own dress, let it fall to the floor, and climbed into bed, collapsing face-first into the mattress. She groped blindly for her sleep-mask with her hand.
Tomorrow's another day, she thought, fitting the mask over her eyes. I'll get over Bryce's pissy feelings then.
Chuck Bartowski, not so much. But then, she'd been doomed from the start there.
A/N the Second: So what did y'all think? Exciting, huh? Well, just in case that wasn't enough to keep you sticking around (and if not, what's wrong with you?), here's a little something more to whet your appetite:
Carina smirked. "You do have a plan, right?"
"Do I have a plan? It's your op!"
"Sarah dear, do I strike you as the kind of woman who plans things?"
"This is a surprise. Is everything okay?"
She swallowed slightly. Everything was not fine, she didn't know what was happening between her and Bryce, she really needed somebody to talk to. Of course, all she said was, "Everything's fine." Her voice never wavered.