Chapter Eight: After the Storm
An: Thank you for the lovely reviews as always, everyone. However I did notice a trend of some reviews that stated they were upset at the lack of fluff and happiness in the story. First off, I could make this story very dark, but I'm only trying to make it realistic, not by Chuck standards, but by my standards. This is a survival story. If you don't like me beating up Chuck and Sarah, well, it doesn't get much worse till the very end, so don't worry. Fortunately for most of you, these next few chapters will be pretty light and fun.
Review for the sake of Chuck's longevity (not sure how it'll help keep the show on air, but I digress). Or just review because you're the best fandom ever and it boosts my self-esteem.
He stands where the shore merges with the sea, peering into the horizon as whitewash laps gently at his feet. Fondling a smooth black stone between his fingers, he tosses it; watches it skip across the ocean caps to only end up disappearing beneath the surface. He smiles, content. Now she's beside him, and her hand takes his. They do not speak. Their lips touch and it lasts for an instant. Comfort is replaced with calamity. The earth trembles and quakes, the waves becoming violent and treacherous. There is a familiar agony that seizes his entire body and it consumes him whole. Everything in sight is devoured by a hot, relentless pain. She is swallowed by it. And he succumbs to it as well. The world goes white and no one can hear him scream for help.
"Chuck, wake up!"
Chuck opened his eyes. He was lying again on the gravelly floor of the cavern, curled next to a giant slab of rock. Morning had come but it was still fairly dark. The mouth of the cave was swathed in mist and shadow, only a sliver of sunlight peered through the entrance. The waterfall outside roared with newfound vigor from last night's torrential downpour. Chuck was sweating, his leg on fire.
"Are you alright, I heard you scream…?"
"I—uh, bad dream I guess."
"Is it your leg?"
Sarah's face was distorted by the darkness but Chuck could tell by her tone that she was worried.
"It's seen better days, but…I'll survive."
"Right," she sounded uncertain. "Anyway, we should probably be going before it gets much lighter. I don't want to give Garcia's men any advantage in finding us."
Chuck nodded stiffly, the pain in his leg (and now head) reaching a peak. "Sounds like a plan." He said gruffly then quickly suggested." While we're up, we should probably go look for some food too, I don't think we've eaten anything in the last two days…"
Chuck sat up and his stomach growled. He settled a hand on his abdomen and frowned; the mere mention of food had instilled a hunger within him that was difficult to ignore. It even exceeded the aches and discomfort of his body.
"Right, so the sooner we get out of here, the sooner we find food and hopefully rejoin civilization."
Sarah added, "And then you can get medical attention while I look for a way to try and get in touch with either Casey or Beckman. Let them know we're still alive so we can rendezvous at a safe location…"
"—then we can turn over this godforsaken thing to the CIA," Chuck averted his eyes to where the satchel lay still.
"And we can finally go home."
The sun had risen above the jungle's landscape. The cool blue light of dawn bathed the inside of the cave, revealing to the two spies that they were only inches apart. Both of them looked positively exhausted; disheveled and miserable, it further amplified their deteriorating mood. Chuck grabbed Sarah by the hand and began to massage it with slow reassurance.
"And we can finally go home," he murmured and leaned forward to capture her lips with a kiss.
They made their departure from the cave moments later. Sarah helped Chuck up to his feet, keeping him upright in casae he might fall over. He steadied himself and gave her an apologetic look.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"For what, Chuck?"
"For this," he motioned to his leg. "Or maybe just me in general. I feel like you're taking care of me again, like I'm only a useless asset instead of the spy I'm supposed to be. And being your husband…I'm supposed to protect you. But how am I supposed to do that when I can barely protect myself?"
"You're doing fine," Sarah assured him. "I know you've saved me a few times already, and that's what partners do, Chuck. When one of us is injured or in trouble, the other has to be there to back them up regardless of gender roles. It's not like we've adhered to any social norms to a T, have we?"
Chuck forced a smile, "Normalcy is overrated."
"Just a little bit," she retured his smile. "Being different is why we work together so well in the first place. Now let's get going, we have a long day ahead of us, Chuck."
He looked towards the lake. It was calm on the surface, with the exception of an occasional ripple, but he knew swimming through it would be a whole different matter. The water was thick and heavy not to mention cold from the rainfall. He was going to definitely need help, as much as he would resist the very idea.
He sighed and his leg prickled in agreement.
"I'm surprised…I didn't… drown…that was close," Chuck panted madly. He doubled over and started coughing up water. Sarah watched sympathetically; Chuck's injured leg was now visibly shaking; her jacket unraveling, blood seeped through the material and stained his jeans a dark crimson color.
Crossing the lake had been a lot more strenuous than she had anticipated. Chuck had shown promise, but that was before they were forced to dive into the chilly depths. It went to hell the moment he broke the surface. His body had gone into a state of shock, his leg going completely numb and useless. In his panic, Chuck was rescued by Sarah in just enough time so that he wouldn't sink to the bottom of the lake. The sheer energy exerted to keep him afloat was particularly brutal. Needless to say, the day was still early and she was already physically and emotionally drained.
"The tourniquet isn't doing you any good, it's falling apart." Sarah noted with quiet concern.
Chuck lifted his head, wiping a hand over his mouth. He was drenched to the skin, his hair plastered to his face. "Yeah, well I didn't expect it to last very long…"
She pressed her lips together in deep thought; eyes roamed the jungle outskirts. "I think I know something that can help. Wait here." Sarah spoke in the same low tone, and Chuck almost didn't hear her. He watched perplexed as she turned for the jungle's entrance while he stayed behind.
She had diverged from the dirt-ridden path, inspecting various plants and trees in the immediate area. A few seconds later, she approached an old, gnarled, and resilient-looking tree; grabbed a branch and applied enough pressure until it snapped.
Sarah returned shortly after and presented Chuck with the broken limb. He assessed it carefully, and then upon realizing that it was meant for him, he commented dryly: "A walking stick? Really? Great, now I'm going to feel like I'm a hundred years old…"
"Do you see any better alternatives?"
"No…"Chuck grumbled and took the staff, planting it into the soft earth. He took an experimental step forward and winced. "This is going to be a long day."
Sarah's eyes softened. "We'll take it slow," she said and gave him a consoling peck on the cheek. "I promise."
"Right, well just make sure to not to accidently leave me behind, ok? I'm severely handicapped."
"I won't leave you unless you're holding me back, Chuck. That's the Law of the Jungle: every man, or woman for themselves. Anything goes," She winked teasingly.*
"Ah…good old Rudyard Kipling," Chuck said, cleared his throat and then quoted: "Now this is the Law of the Jungle, as old and as true as the sky; and the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die. As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back—for the strength of the Pack is the Wolf…"
"And the strength of the Wolf is the Pack," Sarah finished. She raised a brow curiously. "How did you know all that?"
"Please Sarah, I read The Jungle Book." Chuck bragged with a crooked smile. "Plus, I'm the Intersect remember? I have a 98% retention rate or better, baby."
"Oh wow, you really are a nerd."
"And in the end, the joke's on you because you're married to said nerd."
Sarah playfully swatted him on the shoulder to which he stuck out his tongue in return. Balling her fist for another jab, Chuck used the stick to shield him from the blonde's wrath. When a carnal shriek then tore into the air, the spies were rendered petrified.
"What the hell was that?"
"I, I don't know…" Sarah answered tensely. "But whatever it is, it sounded close…we need to go, now."
"Ditto," said Chuck. With the clarity of his amped-up nerves, he judged his surroundings; a flash loomed dangerously in his eyes.
Without another word, they embarked for the path leading directly into the jungle. Neither of them strayed too far from the trail. The next several hours was spent with their hands intertwined, both unwilling to let go for fear that the darkness would whisk the other away.
Time dragged on at a pace that made molasses seem speedy. Their trek had been relatively uneventful. The newlyweds were now deep into the recesses of the jungle territory; following a stream of water until it would either empty out into the ocean, or a town (if they were lucky) was the objective. Sarah was currently in the lead with Chuck lagging at the rear. His limp had grown steadily worse over the duration of their travels; fatigue and blood loss was taking its toll.
The creek had eventually taken them down into a valley. The descent was particularly difficult for Chuck to take on without considering the chance he'd lose his balance and tumble down the hill. Once they had manage to reach level ground, he opened his mouth to ask Sarah how far they were going; but of course he knew. Until nightfall was her plan, then they'd camp out and begin their journey at the break of dawn the following day.
Another mile passed by and Chuck seemed to taste blood in his saliva with every breath he drew, twice he had to brush his sweat-soaked hair out of his face. He felt his body failing him, he had to succumb. Adrenaline could only do so much in circumstances such as these, he realized sadly.
I think I should just sit down, Chuck told himself when his vision began to blur. If I sit and rest, I'll be good to go for maybe another couple miles or so…
But what would happen after a couple of miles?
He shuddered at the thought.
"Chuck, I think if we make it over those next two hills we'll be in good shape for tomorrow." Sarah announced. Her back was still faced to him, and so she could not see her ailing husband. With no response, she whirled around and repeated his name with a sense of urgency. "Chuck?"
With a strained attempt at a lopsided smile, Chuck replied: "Now would be a good time for a break…" Then he promptly fell backwards, unconscious before he even hit the ground.
He was revived by water being dumped over his head in the bucketfuls. Chuck groaned, blinking furiously as he became reacquainted with his surroundings. The sun was at the highest point in the cloudless sky. It bore down on the earth with its hot rays, almost too bright for Chuck to keep his eyes open. He used a hand to shield his face while he looked around.
"Oh thank god you're awake," he heard a voice exclaim with relief. It was Sarah. She was kneeling before him, holding what appeared to be a hollowed-out coconut. She handed it to him, "Drink it, you'll feel better." He hesitated. "Chuck, please. You're dehydrated, you need water."
Chuck held the coconut with both hands and took a tentative sip. The cool water dripped into his open mouth, eliciting a pleased sound from his throat. He quickly emptied the bowl and gave it to Sarah, who smiled.
"There, you feel better?" She asked.
He licked his lips thoughtfully. "I passed out, didn't I?"
"You don't remember?"
"Yes, you did," Sarah admitted and sounded guilty. "I should've been paying better attention to your condition. It was my fault. I'm supposed to have your back…"
Tilting his head, Chuck grabbed Sarah by the nape of the neck and silenced her with a cool, wet kiss. He pulled away and said, "Its ok, Sarah, trust me. You always have my back. One careles mistake won't of this change that."
Sarah averted her gaze, looking sheepish. She quickly changed the subject, "While you were asleep, I took the liberty to see if I could scrounge up something to eat. I found these," she picked up a small, bright red berry and dropped it into Chuck's open palm.
"What is it?" He inspected the fruit, feeling its thin glossy skin and inhaling its delectable scent. "Smells good…"
"It goes by a lot of names, but it's most commonly known as the Barbados Cherry," Sarah explained. "They're indigenous to Central America…sweet or sour depending on how ripe they are, and they have a high percentage of vitamin C, which will benefit you in your current state, Chuck."
Chuck popped the tiny fruit into his mouth. He chewed a few times before swallowing. He beamed. "Wow, these are great! Where did you find them?"
Sarah reached for a handful of the berries she had piled beside her. Giving some to Chuck, he woofed them down in a blink of an eye. At least he still has an appetite, she thoguht, then spoke: "There were a lot of fruit bushes in the valley, probably because it provides a natural irrigation system since its rains frequently here. So I went searching for awhile, remembered from some of my more covert missions about which fruits are edible and went from there." Pausing, she added. "Don't worry, I ate one to check if it was poisonous long before you woke up."
Chuck was impressed. "What about the coconut shells?"
"Found them already split open and sitting on the ground by some palm trees. I think some animals had gotten to them…monkeys maybe."
"Monkeys, huh?" He said with a mouthful of cherries. "That's a lot better than seeing tiger or a mercenary."
"I would tend to agree," Sarah finally relaxed and took a seat next to Chuck. She picked nonchalantly at the berries while she stared at the rolling hills covered with jungle undergrowth and beautiful, wild flowers. She sighed. "I did see a sloth though, and a toucan."
"Awesome, oh and by the way, do you have the satchel? I'm sure I had it with me last before I fainted, but now it's gone."
Sarah froze and traded apprehensive glances with Chuck. The satchel was nowhere to be seen. She had left it on Chuck's person when she went searching for food more than an hour ago. Now it was missing. There was no trace for where it could've disappeared to.
"Sarah," Chuck asked nervously. "Please tell me that the satchel did not vanish into thin air?"
Her throat went dry. Completely speechless, she looked hopelessly around the valley landscape, positive that the satchel and bioweapon was long gone. To her pleasant surprise (and amazement) it was not. The satchel was hanging from the branch of a tree. It swayed tauntingly in the warm breeze.
"There it is."
Chuck followed her gaze. "Uh, how did it get up there?"
"I…uh," she frowned, shaking her head. "It doesn't matter; I'm going to go get it."
Rising to her feet, Sarah walked towards the hulking tree. She elevated herself onto the tips of her toes and swiped for the strap of the bag to no avail. The second attempt yielded the same results. Annoyed, Sarah leapt into the air, grabbing the satchel with a tight, vice-like grip.
There we go, and she tugged on the bag with all her might, trying to dislodge it free. But it appeared to be stuck. She yanked harder again and again; something or someone was definitely keeping her from obtaining the satchel at any cost.
"Hey, babe…?" Chuck piped up to get her attention. Sarah glanced over her shoulder, nostrils flaring with impatience. He gulped, but went on to say. "You should know that the reason why you're having so much trouble with the satchel is because there is literally a family of monkeys holding onto it for dear life."
"Chuck, what are you talking about?" Sarah snapped angrily. She lifted her gaze to where the satchel rested and beheld at least five monkeys circling the branches, each with their grubby hands clutching the bag. Ten pairs of beady eyes locked on to Sarah, their mouths revealing sets of sharp teeth; they proceeded to howl and scream at her.
Sarah let go of the bag immediately. She watched them jump up and down in an angry tirade in attempt to ward her off. She buried her face into her hands and suppressed a scream, "What the hell is going on?"
"It's like we were dropped off into an episode of the Twilight Zone or something," Chuck said and laughed out loud. He was standing by her side, watching the monkeys with an amused grin.
"Do you really think this is funny?" Sarah scowled. "It's unbelievably pathetic…I thought it was bad when Beckman had sent us on that mission to rescue that stupid dog."
"That was pretty bad," Chuck agreed. "But I'm pretty sure when things get as outrageous as this; all you can really do is laugh it off."
Sarah scoffed in disbelief.
"I know you're frustrated, so do me a favor and go sit down and let me take care of this one."
She threw her hands up in surrender. "Be my guest."
Chuck smirked. Rubbing his hands together, he gazed up at the monkeys. He then went cross-eyed, the Intersect overwhelming his senses with a flash. Adrenaline flowing through his veins, his pain had been temporarily assuaged to a dull throb. And like a monkey himself, he agilely scaled up the tree; seized a branch and proceeded to swing limb to limb until he landed onto the very place where the monkeys had taken the satchel.
Almost immediately, the family of monkeys scattered up further into the bushel of leaves above. They left the satchel behind, as well as one of their own. The black and white furred scoundrel stood his ground, hugging the bag to its tiny body. It hissed.
"Hey, I don't want to hurt you, buddy," Chuck told the monkey. "Just hand it over and go back to your family."
The monkey gnashed its teeth in an intimidating fashion. Its resolve was pretty impressive. Chuck sighed. He plucked the satchel out of the mammal's clutches with ease. He smiled wryly, "See, that wasn't so bad now, was it?"
Sarah watched the entire instance unfold with astonishment. But once she saw the monkey rear back and leap at Chuck's face with a terrible screech, her expression changed into that of sheer terror. Chuck lost his balance and fell, but managed to keep his legs hooked around the branch's length, now hanging upside down. He held the satchel by the strap as he dangled in suspended air.
Sarah came rushing towards him. "Chuck, oh my god, are you alright?"
"Hey, Sarah." He said and grinned stupidly. "How about that Spider-Man kiss you still owe me?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Sometimes, you make me question your intelligence. That was extremely reckless, Chuck! You're seriously injured, why the hell would you think it'd be okay to climb a tree?"
Chuck shrugged his shoulders, "I thought it was a good idea at the time."
"—a good idea?"
"Yeah, so uh, can you do me a big favor and catch this for me. I'm going to drop it…can't hold on much longer."
Sarah grumbled, "Fine."
Chuck let the satchel drop into Sarah's ready arms. She made sure that the contents inside were unharmed, then looked up to see Chuck back-flip from off the tree branch and land gracefully on the ground.
They exchanged looks; Chuck was pleased while Sarah looked rightfully upset.
"So, I think that went well."
"You're delusional and need medical attention."
"Don't be mad, Sarah. It was a team effort."
Sarah crossed her arms over her chest. She pointed to Chuck, saying casually. "There's a monkey sitting on top of your head."
Chuck raised his gaze to find a white-tipped tail swishing in front of his face. He blindly reached above his head and grabbed a small furry body with both hands. It squirmed relentlessly; Chuck brought it down to eye level. It was the same monkey who had caused him to fall not minutes earlier.
"So we meet again, my furry little nemesis."
"Don't be mean; you're the one who clawed at my face."
"Chuck, I think it's hungry. That's why its family stole the satchel in the first place," Sarah told him, her contempt now gone. She dug a hand into her pocket and revealed a handful of Barbados Cherries. "Here, let it eat this."
The monkey wriggled in Chuck's grasp once it saw that berries Sarah was offering. Chuck turned the little guy to her open palm and allowed it access. It engulfed the berries in a matter of seconds. Its muzzle was now stained in the color of the fruit juice. It made a content noise, perhaps a sign that it was full. Feeding it appeared to have vastly improve its mood.
"They're delicious, aren't they?"Chuck asked the monkey happily. "Now that we fed you, I'm going to let you go…but don't try anything funny."
The monkey gave him a blank stare.
Chuck crouched to his knees (feeling the effects of the flash wear off, he winced in pain) and released the monkey. It went onto all fours and shook its furry pelt, followed by scrubbing its face with its tiny hands. Then it looked up at Chuck, then to Sarah. It squealed and dashed up Chuck's body, settling itself once more on top of his head.
"I think it likes you," Sarah giggled, resigning herself to the ridiculousness of the situation.
Chuck took a seat on the grass. He let the monkey do as it pleased; chuckling as it crawled down onto his shoulder, wrapping its tail around his neck. "What should we name him?" he asked his wife.
Sarah frowned, "Name him? Chuck, that monkey is a wild animal, not a pet. It can have diseases."
"Capuchin monkeys can be trained as pets," Chuck informed her. "They're basically little butlers. Very smart….I think I'll call him Ampersand."
"Ampersand…you're naming him after the 'and' symbol?"
Chuck shook his head, "No. I'm naming him after the Capuchin monkey from Y the Last Man, who happens to be named after the 'and' symbol."
Sarah did not know how to respond to this and so she decided it wa better not to question her husband's quirky behavior. She instead satisfied him with an overdue kiss.
"We should stock up on some more berries and water before we get back on the road," Chuck said when they ended the kiss. His demeanor suddenly shifted into complete seriousness. He looked at her weakly. "I want to get out of here as quickly as we possibly can... I don't know if I can make it another day, Sarah."
Ampersand leapt off of Chuck and sat in between him and Sarah. She stared at Chuck, now noticing how pale he had become; his eyes were half-lidded and bloodshot. Worry panged in her chest. His leg wound was what frightened her the most. The tourniquet was in tatters. The fabric was crusted with old and new blood.
It was safe to say that Chuck Bartowski did not look particularly well. The need to find help was paramount. And if they couldn't find some soon, Sarah feared that an end of some kind would be inevitable. From now to sundown it was a race against time.
Sarah just hoped that luck would be on their side.
Next Chapter: Si Se Puede!
*The Law of the Jungle is actually my University's motto, for those who want to know why the hell I included it in the story. Go Wolfpack!
An: See, I tried to make it lighthearted and goofy fun times for all. I TRIED DAMMIT. But I had to remind everyone that once again, the jungle isn't a nice place. There are monkeys, which are awesome, but there is also disease and Chuck can totally die if he's not saved by some kind of godly force…or a giant blonde she-male.
Also, don't tell me that Chuck was OOC in this chapter. He's under a lot of stress and pain and has a concussion, so he's a little loopy.
As always, Review! Review and vote for the Hulu Best in Show Finale! It's Chuck versus Dexter and we need all the votes we can get to secure the win!