AN: This a sequel to my previous story Chuck versus The Do Over. It probably won't make a lot of sense if you haven't read that. If you really want to jump in at this point this is what you absolutely need to know:
During a mission in 2011 (prior to Chuck versus Agent X) Chuck is zapped by an unknown man and wakes up in his own younger body the morning after his twentieth Birthday: September 19, 2001. The story than fast forwards to a little more than a month before season one begins. It's gradually revealed that, in the meantime, Chuck has attempted and failed to find a way back to his original timeline, and has since accepted his new reality and tried to do things to "fix" this timeline in a variety of ways. The most important of these changes eventually lead to Casey becoming part of Alex's life in 2002, Mary and Stephen Bartowski being reunited and making Volkoff "disappear" in 2005, Sarah and Chuck becoming a couple in late 2007 and Fulcrum being destroyed in early 2008, among other things.
For those of you who did read the previous stories, here are things that still might be helpful to know: Katie Cleary played Laura, the Volkoff employee who helped Marco hijack Casey and Sarah's plane, in Anniversary, Suitcase and Cubic Z. She is 5' 8 ½" tall.
I should also say, that this chapter involve something that has become a bit of a Chuck fan fiction trope in its own right. It didn't start out that way (the idea that it grew out of has been percolating in my head since way back when I first started the story and its gone through pretty much every permutation possible) and I hope if it bothers you, you're willing to bear with me until it leads into a more unique territory.
As always constructive criticism or comments of any kind are welcome.
Disclaimer: I do not own Chuck. I also do not own TV Tropes, which inspired the name of this story. Or Mission Impossible II.
Chuck versus The Ghost
May 12, 2008
Chuck shifted slightly, finding a more comfortable position on the towel. He had never really been a fan of sunbathing, or really any activity that required him to take off his shirt in front of more than a select few people, but with a bikini clad Sarah stretched out next to him he was beginning to see the appeal. The drinks weren't bad either.
They had decided to use their time off to take an actual vacation, setting off to somewhere warm and beachy as soon as possible. The last week and a half they'd spent alternating between the resorts various activities and their own more private activities in their room. And a cabana. And the little boat they rented one afternoon. But today Sarah had finally dragged him down to the beach with no plans in mind other than to lie out and relax.
Which is of why it shouldn't have been a surprise when, as soon as Sarah stood up and started heading towards the water, both their phones began to ring. Chuck let out a frustrated sigh and briefly contemplated simply throwing the phones into the water. It wouldn't have mattered. He knew Graham wouldn't stop until he reached them, whether it be via telephone call, a torpedo filled with self-destructing glasses or a group of armed men. And So, reluctantly he reached over and picked up his phone, and waived for Sarah to come back.
They ended up in the backroom of the nearest American consulate with both Graham and Beckman staring at them from the screen. A grumpy looking Casey was shown in an insert in the upper corner. Graham and Beckman started by pulling up a mug shot.
"That's the brunette waitress, from the Grand Saville." Chuck stated.
"Correct, Agent Bartowski. Her name is Laura Cleary. Two weeks ago she was helped to escape from prison by this man." Every muscle in Chuck's body tensed when Beckman brought up the photo. His teeth clenched.
"His name is Daniel Shaw. He was a former Special Agent with the CIA." Beckman said, looking rather sourly.
"After Mr. Shaw's wife was killed in an automobile accident three years ago he became, unstable. He believed that there was a conspiracy behind his wife's death. He became obsessed with it. When all of his leads ran dry he became even more off kilter. An order was put out to bring him into a CIA psychiatric institution for evaluation and treatment. Someone warned him, however, and he has been off the grid ever since." Graham told them. Chuck stared at the screen, slightly in shock.
He didn't know whether to believe Graham's explanation for Eve's death, but whatever had happened, something had changed. Something that had turned Shaw towards his darker tendencies earlier. Or perhaps he was being naïve. From what he had been able to tell from Shaw's case file, even in the first timeline, Shaw had been edging towards more than a few psychoses. Normal people don't burn off a man's face. The difference was that Graham had been able to harness that obsession and focus it at the Ring.
"How did he gain access to the prison?" Sarah asked, cutting short Chuck's pondering. On the screen he saw Beckman gave a short glare towards Graham.
"When we realized that Shaw was not going to be located, we made a decision to keep his situation confidential." Graham said. He cleared his throat somewhat uncomfortably. "Shaw was privy to a number of very classified operations. We hoped to minimize the number of people aware of his, condition, in hopes of avoiding someone taking advantage of it."
"You didn't want the criminals to know one of your golden boys was running around with a screw loose and a bunch of secrets ready for them to shake free." Casey said, somewhat uncharacteristically. Apparently his deference to authority figures had been overruled by his dislike of the CIA in general and the CIA doing something stupid in particular. Chuck couldn't help but agree.
"Due to Director Graham's decision, not all of Mr. Shaw's former contacts and colleagues were aware of his status. He convinced one of them to grant him access to Ms. Cleary, under the guise of a top secret operation." Beckman shot another glare towards Graham.
"Why bring this to our attention now?" Sarah asked. Graham's sour lips manages to stretch just a tad into a frown before she reached over, bringing up a photograph to replace her section of the screen. Chuck had to swallow down the gorge that came up his throat. It was Shaw. A very dead and slightly decayed Shaw.
"His body was found early this morning at a resort in Italy. Preliminary reports place his time of death at close to a week ago."
"What was the cause of death?" Chuck found himself asking.
"His carotid artery was severed." Graham answered.
"Our current theory is that Cleary turned on him after he helped her get out of the country." Beckman told them. "We want you to find Cleary. And to find out what she and Shaw were up to." Chuck thought a moment before addressing the screen.
"We're going to need his file, and Cleary's." Chuck said.
"Very well." Beckman stated.
"And his wife's, to see if the connection is through her." He added, watching Graham's reaction carefully.
"Of course." The director spoke with even a momentary pause. As the briefing finished up all Chuck could think was, what the frak had happened?
Chuck's thoughts and emotions were swirling. While he couldn't help but feel some relief that he wouldn't have to deal with Shaw or his betrayal, that relief was overshadowed by anxiety. Most people might have been relieved that this universe's doppelganger of the man who killed his father was dead, but Chuck knew that every change created ripples and this could potentially create a new danger for his family. One he hadn't anticipated and wouldn't be able to predict or control. He could have gotten his father to wear a bullet proof vest when they went to confront the Ring. He couldn't get him to stay inside a bubble for the rest of his life. Those were concerns for the future, however. Chuck's main source of anxiety in the present was Sarah.
Chuck couldn't stop himself from glancing over towards his girlfriend as they sat, waiting for the CIA plane to take off. Each time he wondered if she would suddenly show some reaction to the files they were combing through. They had rushed back to the hotel to pack, before leaving for Italy. While a CIA team had taken care of the body, Beckman and Graham wanted them to sweep the room, searching for something that the team might have missed.
By the time they had gotten back to their hotel room, the electronic version of the three files had already been sent. He opened Evelyn's first in hopes of getting the inevitable over with as quickly as possible. But there had been no reaction. He hadn't been sure how to stop Eve's death. Unlike with Amy, he wasn't in a position to act as an analyst on her files. He had ended up sending an anonymous tip, but he hadn't expected Graham to actually act on it at that point. Especially since, after going through Eve's files himself, he wasn't entirely convinced she wasn't working for the Ring. When Sarah was promoted to being a full agent around the time she would have been in the original timeline, he had assumed he had failed and reconciled himself to that fact.
While Chuck had tried to answers Sarah's many, many questions about his other timeline during their vacation, between all the various distractions they had found at the resort and with each other he had only gotten through telling her the aftermath of Ellie's wedding. And so, he had been bracing himself since Graham agreed to send over the files.
Sarah hadn't reacted, at all. No gasp, no look of recognition, nothing. During their time wrapped up in each other on the train leaving Paris, the Other Sarah had shared with him that she remembered everything about her red test. It had been burned into her mind, including the only thing she had been given to identify her victim: a photograph. Chuck couldn't image that this Sarah wouldn't feel the same way. Now, Chuck wasn't sure what had happened, or why.
He had hurried to pack, hurried as he checked out of the room and hurried as he headed towards the airport. He hurried in hopes of appearing too busy for Sarah to have a chance to ask her inevitable questions.
He knew that he had told Sarah he wouldn't lie to her, but he couldn't help but wonder, would it really be in her best interest to tell her exactly what had happened? To burden her with a mistake she hadn't actually made? Especially when the only people that would be involved were already dead.
He supposed he could tell her everything but the fact that she had been Graham's trigger man. He could simply allow her to infer that Shaw had taken her hostage because of her ties to the agency and her recent rejection. If he simply avoided saying anything about it specifically, that wouldn't be lying, right?
Of course, as she had pointed out to him repeatedly, Sarah and the Other Sarah, weren't the same person. There was no reason to believe she would feel any kind of guilt or burden from finding out the truth. And, while Sarah, both Sarahs, had forgiven him for keeping secrets, they had only done so under the belief that he wouldn't continue to lie. Would it really be worth betraying that trust to protect Sarah from the knowledge of a choice she could have made, but didn't? He knew firsthand how it felt when people kept the truth from him for his own good. It was condescending. It made him doubt his own strength. At the same time, as resilient as Sarah was, she had already taken on a burden in knowing all his secrets. Wouldn't it be better if she didn't have to carry this as well?
"Spit it out."
"What." Chuck said, startled. He turned and looked towards his girlfriend. She was giving him a knowing, and slightly annoyed look.
"I saw the way you reacted to Shaw's picture. You obviously knew him, and if it was in this timeline you would have said something during the briefing. So whatever it is from the other timeline that has you so worked up you've barely said a word to me since we left the consulate, just tell me. I'll even ignore the fact that you obviously were contemplating not telling me, despite your promise to be honest. Then we can deal with it, and deal with this mission." She told him, disappointingly logically. He bit his lip, studying her expectant, slightly exasperated, face. Then he let out a long breath.
"Right. So, remember how I said Awesome found out I was a spy?"
Casey was not happy. He had been enjoying his time off. He had spent some time with Alex. Even gotten a chance to talk some with Kathleen. And now, because of a couple of CIA idiots he was flying out of the country instead of helping his daughter with last minute studying for her AP Economic tests. Sure his help mostly involved keeping Alex supplied with caffeine and snacks, and shuffling her off to bed at a reasonable hour, but he hadn't exactly had a lot of opportunities to act like a real father. If this mission meant he missed the end- of testing celebration dinner he'd been planning for this weekend, Shaw had better be grateful he was already dead.
Walker and Bartowski met him at the air field. He gave them a nod of acknowledgement, then grabbed his bag, following the pair out towards a waiting car.
"Find anything?" He asked. Casey wasn't a slouch in the brain department, but that just meant he was all the more aware of just how much better suited Bartowski was to analysis work than he was.
"We haven't been able to find anything in the files that connects either of the Shaws with Laura or Volkoff. " Bartowski told him, clearly frustrated.
"We even checked into whether Shaw might have been working for someone else, but the only major transactions on any of his accounts recently were withdrawals." Sarah added. Casey gave grunt of his mutual frustration, and allowed the two of them to bounce around theories as they headed out towards the resort.
When Beckman and Graham had told them that they would be searching through Shaw and Cleary's room after the CIA cleaners, he had assumed that they would have actually cleaned. Whether due to Beckman's and Graham's instructions, or not when they arrived it was apparent that the only thing that the cleaners had done was remove Shaw's body. Everything else appeared mostly still in place, although they had, thankfully, removed the white comforter from the bed that Chuck had originally mistook for being died brownish red in the pictures of the scene.
The three of them split up, searching the room. There was glass covering the floor. Picking up a piece to exam it, Chuck realized that it was from a bottle. He glanced around, and noticed the champagne cooler still sitting in the corner. Walking over towards the bed, he noticed something sticking out from underneath. He leaned down, and pulled out the bottom of a blue box. After a bit of searching he found the matching top. Tiffany & Co. was written in black across the top.
"I think I know what the connection was between Laura and Shaw." He said, standing and holding up the box. Casey simply stared at him.
"You think she was his girlfriend?" Sarah asked, glancing around the room.
"She was sort of his type. Tall. Good looking. Able to kick butt if needed. " Chuck pointed out, then quickly added, "The evil version of his type." Before Sarah could comment on his assessment, Casey let out an annoyed grunt.
"So I got dragged away from my vacation time to deal with a lover's spat?"
"A spat between a rogue CIA agent and an arms dealer." Chuck pointed out. "Maybe he was a mark?"
Sarah crouched down, picking up something from the floor. "No." Sarah shook her head. "She might have taken a piece of jewelry a mark gave her, but I doubt she would have taken these." Sarah said, standing up. Chuck moved towards her, taking the album. It had been emptied, leaving lighter outlines of not only photographs, but also what looked like ticket stubs and cards.
"They're worthless, unless you count sentimental value."
"So, he smugglers her out of jail, takes her on vacation, then they fight about, something." Chuck said, working through what they had found. He turned his eyes following the pattern of glass along the floor, to one blood tinted piece beside the bed. "Then the champagne bottle is smashed. Somehow. And she uses the glass to stab him."
"Sounds about right. Which means we know what happened, but not how they met or where she is now." Sarah said, annoyed.
"Great." Casey grumbled.
Sarah had never met Evelyn Shaw. She had never seen her picture before today and she definitely had never killed her. Despite Chuck's obvious worries, she didn't feel guilty for the choices of her other self. She wasn't that girl, and, quite honestly didn't know if she could have made the choices she had made. And in some cases hoped she wouldn't have. Unlike Chuck, any differences caused by her actions were changes. Just her own decisions.
That would be different now. She knew one possible outcome for the timeline and if she purposely changed something which altered that outcome, she would be responsible for those changes, whether good or bad. It made her head hurt, a bit, to consider and she couldn't help but feel a little impressed that Chuck had been able to not only to keep the two timeline separate in his mind, but also dealt with repercussions caused by the changes he had made to this timeline on his own for so long.
She did think it was interesting that even without Eve as her red test, Eve had died less than a week later. Sarah didn't particularly want to believe in fate, but the evidence so far certainly suggested that whatever was causing this timeline to drift closer or farther away from the one Chuck had left hadn't wanted Eve to live long after her mission in Paris.
When the door to their safe house opened, Sarah looked up to see her frustrated looking boyfriend. Without knowing who precisely Cleary had been working for, or how she and Shaw had met, they really had no place to even start looking for her. Chuck had eventually offered to contact the one contact he had that might have known Cleary. His mother.
"Anything?" Sarah asked.
"Whoever Cleary was working for, my contact's never heard of her. Cleary most likely didn't come into the picture until after Volkoff disappeared." Casey gave them a gruff look but didn't say anything. They hadn't explained who Chuck was calling, only that they might have answers. While Casey might be their partner, he also was very loyal to Beckman. They didn't want to have to put him a position where he might have to choose between the two.
"How about you?" Chuck asked. Sarah let out a sigh.
"We didn't find any footage of Cleary at any of the local airports, so we've been going through video from the various train stations along the routes that run through the local station. There were a few partial matches, but nothing we can be positive were her. Beckman and Graham will probably still have teams to look into the more recent ones. "
"Where were the partial matches?" Looking back over the most recent data she had received, Sarah began listing the various locations, only for Chuck to stop her when she reached Melun. Curious, she watched as Chuck rushed over towards his computer. After a flurry of typing, he brought the laptop to them, showing them one page of Eve Shaw's electronic file.
"Evelyn Shaw had a safe house near Melun she used when she was undercover with the Ring. Daniel Shaw visited her there."
"Chuck, that's a bit of a stretch. Not only was that picture from two days ago, but even if Shaw did share the house's location with Cleary, why would she choose the house of her exes ex to stay at of all places?"
"Because anyone who thought of it would ask that question." Beside her Casey gave a grunt that she suspected meant "touché".
"We don't exactly have a lot of other leads here." Chuck finally pointed out.
May 13, 2008
Melun wasn't very large. It was too small, in Sarah's opinion, to be a good site for a safe house. One thing it did have going for it in that regard, though, was that it connected with a number of different rail lines which ran both into and away from Paris. Despite the amount of traffic it received because of these lines, they had only been asking around a relatively short amount of time when they found someone who remembered an unusually attractive brunette who arrived in town a few days ago.
If it wasn't for the fact that Sarah knew where most of Chuck's previous hunches came from, she might have simply attributed his latest success to whatever skill or intuition had led to the many others that had baffled his superiors and colleagues alike during his career. Now she knew that this was a singular moment of good luck. Luckily Chuck knew enough not to be smug, as they plotted out their approach to the safe house.
They decided to spread out, with Casey as lookout and backup, much to his chagrin, while she and Chuck took point inside. After entering the house, Chuck began to search downstairs, while she headed up. A few feet down the upstairs hallway, she paused. She just barely heard movement behind one of the doors. Carefully turning the knob, she pushed open the door slowly.
As soon as she had entered, the door slammed shut, and Sarah turned around to find herself facing Cleary as she kicked Sarah's gun out of her hand. She had expected Cleary to fight her in the same style as she had Ilsa at the airport. She didn't. It took a moment for Sarah to readjust and fall into a rhythm of kicks, punches and blocks. She finally threw a kick at Cleary which sent her onto the ground. When Cleary looked up, she seemed to freeze momentarily. Cleary's odd expression threw Sarah slightly off guard for a second.
They were both brought back into the moment by the sound of Chuck's footstep coming down the hall. Just as her boyfriend kicked opened the door again, Cleary landed another vicious kick at Sarah, and she found herself on the floor. In the same movement Cleary threw something that looked like a coin at Chuck. Sarah pushed herself up, but before she could move towards Cleary, she found another one of the coins hurdled in her direction. It landed just shy of her, but as she stepped over it a high pitched weal filled her ears and her stomach rolled. The last thing that registered before she slipped into unconsciousness was that Chuck had already collapsed onto the floor behind Cleary.
Chuck woke up on a bed in what he assumed to be a CIA safe house. Most likely in Paris. Casey, at least, didn't seem to be acting as if they were in danger.
"Sarah?" He asked.
"She's fine. She's in the next room. I've been going back and forth between the two of you." Casey told him, before quickly added. "Just to make sure you don't swallow your tongue or anything. Wouldn't want to deal with the paperwork." Chuck managed a small smile at his partner's attempt to hide his concern.
"I was hoping you could tell me." Casey said. He handed Chuck a baggy within which was two silver objects about the same size and shape of a quarter, but thicker.
"They aren't in The Intersect." He said shaking his head. "I've never seen them before." He told Casey, truthfully. He was beginning to feel a knot of anxiety twisting in his gut. Casey gave a disappointed grunt.
"Whatever they are, they knocked you and Walker out for almost five hours for no apparent reason. The CIA doctor that looked you two over didn't find anything in your blood work or any other side effects, which is something. At least we do know she only had two of them. When I showed up, she high tailed it out the window."
"So Cleary's long gone." Casey gave a affirmative grunt.
"Beckman and Graham want us to head back to Burbank. Cleary is obviously more connected than they realized. They want us to regroup."
"In other words they don't know where she is either." Casey gave what, on him, passed as a slight smirk.
"Pretty much." Chuck swung his legs over the bed, and pushed himself up. He braced himself on the wall as he rode out the bit of residual dizziness before turning to face Casey.
"You said Sarah's in the other room." Casey nodded. "The next door over."
Chuck made his way out of his room. Sarah was just blinking awake herself when he opened the door. He sat down on the bed, pushing her hair away from her face before giving her a slight smile.
"I guess we have Casey to thank for not being dead?" She asked.
"Yeah." He really didn't want to consider what Cleary might have done to them if Casey hadn't arrived when he did. Instead, he pulled back the covers and slide in next to Sarah, wrapping his arm around her.
"She got away." Sarah said. It was a statement, not a question, but he still nodded in answer. "What were those things." She asked.
"I don't know. I haven't seen them in either timeline."
"You haven't seen them or you don't think they were created by either timeline." Chuck tilted his head slightly, looking down at Sarah. He had been thinking something similar, but he had hoped it was simply because he was a nerd and had a tendency to jump to the science fiction conclusion. The knot in his stomach tightened.
"I hope not. I really don't want to contemplate what would happen if someone like Cleary's employer got access to that kind of technology." Instead of answering, Sarah simply pressed herself tighter against him.
Actually, he almost hoped that the strange devices were by-products of a random bleed-over. He wasn't sure he wanted to contemplate whoever had taken over Volkoff industries having the ability to create such technology from scratch. The only thing worse, was if it wasn't just a random bleed-over. Despite his parent's research, if the new head of Volkoff had access to technology similar to Leeryder he wasn't sure they would be able to stop them. Both he and Sarah were still worn out by whatever Cleary had done to them.
Sarah lay her head on his chest, her breathing become more slow and regular as she drifted off. He tried to push away his thoughts of inter-dimensional weapons and focus on watching her as she fell asleep.
AN2: I realized I should probably state that the weapon used on Chuck and Sarah isn't related to the Norseman. It was actually inspired by the BB gun used by the animated version of Ted Kord. I hoped a weapon which disabled an opponent with sound waves would be science fictiony enough that it would cause Chuck to be concerned, but not so out there that it didn't felt like it couldn't fit into the Chuck world at all.