A/N: Posted 6/28/2011

Yeah, I know. I should be working on The Old Man. But a funny thing happened along the way. This story. You see, I have a long drive to and from the office and it seems that Chuck plot complications have taken over as my way to deal with idiot drivers. During one of those drives, the basics of this story came to me and I wrote down some notes and went back to finish The Old Man. But this story nagged. And then it nagged some more, screwing everything up. So, I finished it up and gave it to my pre-beta, my wife, and my beta for this story, supesfan18. Go read his stuff!

Many thanks to both of them.

This story is my first attempt at Charah without the normal spy world. Chuck proves how much of a hero he really is. Not to Sarah. She already knew that. But to himself.

It is an AU that starts at the beginning of the Von Hayes mission (Chuck Versus the Break-Up).

I know I have begged for reviews that never come, but I've gotten over that. The PMs are just as good. :)


Chapter 1

Stepping off the elevator, Chuck turned down the hallway with a huge grin on his face. He had just gotten a double dose of confidence from the legend himself, Roan Montgomery. And Chuck was on a mission. A mission of seduction armed with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a single, perfect red rose in the other.

Donning a white sports coat, t-shirt and neatly pressed dress pants, he walked with a light bounce in his newest chucks towards his goal; one Sarah Walker, his kick-ass super ninja spy-girl. The grin he was sporting went even larger, his teeth peeking out from behind his lips, as he approached the door to her apartment.

Her door opened before he could even knock, she somehow knew he was there. With the door half open, Sarah stuck her head out, "Chuck, what are you doing here?" She took a quick glance back into her apartment and then back to Chuck with a slightly panicked look on her face.

"Hi Sar…" was all he got out before his face fell and his confidence drained out.

"Hey Chuck, what's up, buddy?" Bryce asked as he appeared behind Sarah. He was wearing a tux, the tie lay open around his neck and he had several buttons on his shirt already open.

Sarah turned towards Bryce and elbowed him back inside.

He glanced over at his old friend and now nemesis, "Hey, Bryce. Nothing, nothing at all."

Looking back at Sarah he said nothing. His face said it all. Betrayal. And resignation.

He quickly turned on his heels and headed back towards the elevator. Chuck hit the call button and then looked at the bottle in his hand with disgust. He'd give it away and make some stranger happy on his way out. For some reason, he couldn't part with the rose and held on to it.

He thanked God the door opened so quickly.

"Damn it, Bryce." Sarah ran out from her apartment and after Chuck. "Chuck, wait!" But, she was too late, the door closed and Chuck was gone.

How nice, he thought to himself as he hit the lobby, she gets a booty call and I can't even date. At least she's discreet. Gotta maintain that cover. He jumped into his Herder and headed home. His phone rang and he stole a peek at the display. Sarah. He hesitated a moment and then hit 'Ignore'. A moment later his phone rang again. Sarah once more. He hit 'Ignore' and turned the phone off.

It was going to be a long drive home, but nowhere near long enough to prepare himself to face Ellie.

Chuck had no idea that Sarah was pissed that Bryce had shown up unannounced and unwanted. Thirty minutes earlier and Chuck would have known the truth.

The knock startled her. She hadn't heard it his knock in quite a few months, and she was not happy to hear it now. Or the second time. She pulled her handgun from under the pillow and checked it.

Dit … dit . dit .. dit.

Sarah moved towards the door and stood to the left of it. She whispered, "Bryce?"

"Hey honey! Gonna open up, tonight?"

His double meaning was obvious and the question was obnoxious in its arrogance. She moved to the right of the door, slid the chain off and unlocked the door. She backed up as the door opened.

He saw the gun, "Happy to see me?" Bryce gave her a huge smile.

"Stuff it, Bryce. I told you before it was over. What do you want, apart from the obvious?"

"You're still mad. I thought you understood everything that's happened."

"He was your best friend, Bryce, and that has nothing to do with us. Get on with it. I'm tired and want to get to bed." She regretted that word as soon as it left her lips.

"That's better."

She rolled her eyes, backing up a step for each step he took closer to her.

He put his arm around her just as her back hit the wall behind her and drew her into a kiss.

Out of habit, she kissed him back. She pushed him away; more pissed at her self than Bryce, "Damn it. We've been through this. It's over. Now get out."

He looked at her, trying to read her face. He looked hurt, "Chuck, huh?"

"Bryce, that's our cover. So, unless you have something else, please go."

He backed away, "Actually, I do. I need your help." His professional demeanor came up as he loosened his tie and opened the top of his shirt. He read her into his latest mission.

...

Bryce didn't hear it, but she could swear she did. She moved quickly to the door. With the door half open, Sarah stuck her head out, "Chuck, what are you doing here?"

...

Sarah made Bryce sleep on the couch, making good on her promise to him the last time he was around that they were finished. She locked her bedroom door and had tried to call Chuck. Several times. Each time hitting his voice mail.

.

Echo Park, Bartowski Apartment - the next morning

She made the trip over to the apartment in record time. Sarah was hoping to catch Chuck before he left for work. She had to fix this mess. Looking into the rearview she saw a stray tear forming and quickly moved to wipe it away. Crap. I am compromised. She's known that for quite a while now, but didn't want everyone else to know. Least of all Chuck. Or Casey.

Sarah gave herself a moment to collect herself, then exited the Porsche and headed over to the apartment.

She knocked on the front door and waited. She heard nothing from within and tried to take a peek through the closed blinds of the window. Failing that, she moved towards the Morgan door and cupped her eyes. Sarah felt like a stalker, but it didn't bother her at the moment, she had to make things right with Chuck. Looking into his bedroom, she found that everything was in its place; his bed was made, clothes were put away, books in their place. As always, his room was neat and tidy.

But something was wrong. She couldn't put her finger on it. Then it hit her; it was as if someone had slapped her. The pictures were gone! Not all of them, just the ones that included her.

Sarah felt the buzz of her phone first and reached into her pocket for it. She answered it just as the first ring ended. It was Casey.

"Walker" she announced. "What's up, Casey?" She surprised herself that she was able to speak.

"We have a briefing in thirty."

Casey had hung up before Sarah could respond. She shoved the phone back into her pocket and headed to her Porsche.

She noticed the lid to the garbage can wasn't closed all the way. She wasn't sure why, but she decided to take a quick peek inside. Their pictures lay on top of a rose. They weren't crumbled or ripped as one might expect from a very angry or jealous lover. She had seen that once too often in the past. Instead, the pictures looked as if they were dropped in, one at a time.

She scooped them up, along with the rose and carried them back to her Porsche. She popped the trunk and put the pictures down, taking a quick smell of the rose. She didn't enjoy the smell, it was just there. She didn't feel hurt or anger. She felt nothing; just a numbness. Laying the rose down on the top of the pictures with one hand she felt for the trunk lid with the other.

It was on her trip back to Castle when Sarah tasted the salt on her lips. She looked up at the rearview and saw that her eyes were bloodshot. The little makeup she wore was a mess as tears flowed down her cheeks. She had held her conscious mind in check, but her body had betrayed her. And that's when the sobbing found a voice.

The Porsche sat in a spot in the lot, furthest from the Buy More. The car's driver sat inside it for the past ten minutes, cleaning herself up.

It was show time. This would all have to wait; the team was going to plan their mission with Bryce.

.

Echo Park, Bartowski Apartment - three days later

The Von Hayes mission was considered a success. Of sorts. Now, Sarah felt she needed to fix the emotional destruction left behind by Bryce's visit. She'd put aside all emotions for the mission and as a result, her relationships with everyone had been up-ended.

But Chuck was first. He had broken up with her again. Last night he said they didn't have a future together.

No. Nonono.

Sarah walked up to the Bartowski apartment and just as she was about to knock, Ellie opened the front door.

Ellie narrowed her eyes at Sarah, she was curt, "Sarah."

Sarah tried to smile, "Ellie, good morning! Chuck home? I thought I'd give him a ride to work."

In a forlorn voice, Ellie told her, "Sarah, Chuck told me what happened the other night." When Sarah didn't respond, she continued, "Your ex? Really? You hurt him, Sarah. You really hurt him."

Sarah froze. She was intimidated by Ellie and tried to recover. She got the first word out fine, "Ellie." What followed was a messy and tear filled ramble with only the following coherent bits. "I fucked up." "I need to talk to Chuck." "I have to make him understand that nothing happened…"

Ellie caved, "Come in. I'll get the coffee up."

Sarah remembered the surveillance tapes a little too late. It doesn't matter. I'll just tell Casey I had to fix the cover.

Complicated was the word. Was. Complicated was simple compared to this. A cover under a cover under a cover. The whole thing was falling apart; she was a mess and she knew it. Damn him. Damn those eyes. Damn that hair. Damn Burbank and damn the damn CIA.

And Ellie's advice to her was simple. Don't push him too hard.

Bryce Larkin, I hate you.

.

Buy More – a few hours later

"Hey moron, let's go, we have a meeting with Beckman in ten." Casey didn't wait for a response as he headed towards Castle.

Chuck's daydream of golden hair dissolved with an almost audible pop and he was back at the Nerd Herd counter. He pushed down on the desktop, stood up and headed off after Casey. He almost dreaded having to see her again. He'd told her they could never have a future together; he'd said it, desperately wanting to get off the endless Sarah merry-go-round. But his heart still argued with him.

Bryce Larkin, I hate you.

.

Castle

He realized he must have been a little slow, as Casey had already disappeared. Chuck quickened his pace and slipped through the secret entrance to Castle from the Buy More. He made his way down the steps into Castle and walked into the briefing room where he caught sight of Sarah's head above the top of the chair.

She was working on something, most likely mission reports he surmised. He pulled out the farthest seat away from her on the right side of the table and flopped down, carefully smoothing out his tie and a making a quick adjustment to his collar. She would have done that for him if she'd been upstairs getting him for the meeting. I guess the cover didn't require it.

"Hi Chuck," she called over to him.

"Hey Sarah, " he gave her a quick look and a half smile, turning to look up at the monitor just as General Beckman appeared. He heard Casey behind him stepping into the room and taking the seat between them.

In, what seemed to Chuck, an almost cheerful tone, the General began, "Good morning, team." Someone has had their coffee. "We've been asked to help out our Australian counter parts with a troubling problem they are having in the waters to their North, specifically Timor-Leste or East Timor. It seems that the Triad has expanded their operations southward."

She paused a moment, expecting the usual interruption from Chuck, and continued when he was silent. "It was thought that bringing this team's experience with the Triad to bear, we could help eliminate the threat and possibly curtail their operations in and around Australia."

Sarah leaned over and stole a look past Casey at Chuck hoping for one of his usually humorous interjections. "Will you want us to head down there to use the Intersect?" Sarah asked when Chuck was still silent. She sat back and silently cursed Bryce.

"Yes, but just you and the Intersect. The Major..."

"The name is Chuck."

"Excuse me?" The General gave him a quizzical look.

"My name. It's Chuck. Is that really so difficult to remember? It's just five letters." His tone was calm, but the tension in the room shot up for his partners.

The General sat back a bit, her brows scrunched up, her lips still in that permanent frown. So much for that coffee. "Very well, Chuck. Chuck and Sarah will head out tonight. The Major will join up with you when he finishes another project he's working on. If there are no questions…" The monitor went dark before there could be a response.

Typical. Chuck thought. He expected as much from the General, but Sarah? Referring to him as the Intersect? That really hurt.

Casey let out a rarely heard 'good for you' grunt.

Sarah leaned over and looked at Chuck with a strained face, "Are you out of your mind?"

"Why? Because I want my name to be used as opposed to being referred to as an object? Even Casey, calling me 'moron' all the time, shows me more respect." He slowly slid his chair back and stood. In a tone that was noticeably softer, "I have to go get ready for the mission. I've never been to Australia, so it might be fun." He put on a smile and added, "Meet you here, later?"

"Sure, Chuck." Sarah slumped back into her chair. She listened as Chuck's footfalls went up the stairs. Oh great, now he doesn't even want to be alone with me?

Once Chuck had left, she turned to her partner, "Casey, is he okay? Did he say anything to you?"

He shrugged, "I don't see a problem. Actually, I'm proud of the boy. He stuck up for himself." Casey headed off to the armory, adding, over his shoulder, "Walker, he's your boyfriend, go talk to him if it bothers you." He was not going to get involved in his compromised partner's affairs.

.

Casa Bartowski

"Ellie?" Chuck called out, as he entered the apartment. When he didn't get a response, he headed toward his bedroom and called her name again. That's when he saw her note taped to his door. 'Had to work another shift. I made lasagna for dinner. Help yourself.'

I have to go on a mission in a few hours, what will I tell Ellie? Hell, when am I going to talk to Ellie?

He pulled out his phone to call Sarah and hesitated. If he were ever going to be taken seriously, he would have to come up with his own cover stories. He smiled at the beginnings of an plan. He opened his bedroom door, went to his computer and brought up his 'friend'; Google. It amused him at times how he could often find things with nothing more than a vanilla search engine that even the CIA failed to notice.

And there it was; a Linux conference in Darwin, the northern most point of Australia. And one of his heroes was going to be there; Maddog. He just needed to have Buy More corporate order him to attend as a last minute replacement. Using his CIA account, he checked military flights to Australia and found an Aussie C130J headed home. Perfect. Just in case they needed STOL. From previous missions he wrote up a list of things he thought they would need, such as transportation, currency and hotel. They would also want local backup and a means to contact them.

He sat back and stilled his hands; he still got nervous talking to the General. He wasn't sure where he got his courage earlier, but he tried to conjure it back. Well, this was business. He looked up at the web cam and said the magic words, "General Beckman."

The familiar image of the General, looking quite concerned, appeared on the screen, "Chuck? Is there a problem?"

"No, ma'am, I just need a little help getting my cover secured."

"Have you spoken with Agents Walker or Casey?"

"No, but I'd like to take the initiative here, unless they've already made arrangements."

"Very well, Chuck." She decided to humor him. He could pick up on the protocols later. "I have not heard anything from them yet. What did you have in mind?"

"There is a small Linux conference in Darwin. I would just need to be 'ordered' to go by 'corporate', if you get my meaning."

The General looked at the monitor to her right and nodded her head. "Close proximity with an airport. ASIS should be able to get a base of operation set up by the time you get there." She looked back at Chuck, "Well done, Chuck. Anything else?"

"Uh, accommodations, currency and ground transportation. I think a two room suite would suffice and two vehicles, preferably all terrain. I'll check with the team to see if they need anything else. But I think they've done this enough to know what to bring or ask for."

"Standard ops package. And as I understand it, Land Rovers are standard issue down there. I'll take care of 'corporate' for you." She then hinted to Chuck about protocol, "You can speak with my aide to arrange credentials." The General actually smiled, "Good work and good luck."

As the monitor darkened, he said aloud, "Wow, she can actually be nice."

He reached over to the far side of his desk and grabbed his iPod, hooked it up to his personal system and got an update started. Moving to the floor he pulled his 'spy box' out from under the bed. I really should get this into a lock box. Another grab under the bed brought out his 'extended' mission bag. He'd never had to use it before, but this mission would be his longest away from home. He thought about it and smiled, it would be the longest time that he would be away from Ellie since school. And she'll be happy that Sarah is going too.

Casey had told him, months ago, what to pack in the mission bag and to just leave it in Castle, but he'd forgotten to bring it to Castle. It really would be a lot easier and more secure to leave his spy world gear in Castle. The place was built for them, for the Intersect. He's a part of that team so he should act the part. He glanced up and noticed the travel book for Australia, next to one for France and the Czech Republic, leaning against the monitor. He took it and placed it under his iPod.

He grabbed a smaller bag from his closet and stuffed his 'spy box' in it. After a quick glance around the room for last minute additions he might need, he decided he had everything. His only non-spy items were his iPod and travel book. He disconnected the player, picked up the travel book and tossed them in his bag.

Just as Chuck was about to leave the apartment, his phone rang. It was Ellie. "Hey sis, I was just going to call you. … Don't worry about dinner, really. … I'm going away for a few days. … Australia!" He held the phone away from his ear as she squealed. "Yeah, seriously. Buy More corporate is sending me to a Linux conference and I'll take a few days of vacation. … Yes, she's coming." And yet another squeal. He laughed, "I'll call again when we get there. We are leaving in a few hours and the flight time will be about 24 hours. … I love you too."

He hung up and stared at the phone. I hate all this lying I do to Ellie, especially about Sarah. I thought we were getting close. I don't know what to believe anymore, I guess I just can't trust her any more.