A/N: It's here, the brainchild of ShinyJayne19, who graciously allowed me (Aerox) to co-author this story with her. Thus, a separate account dubbed ShinyAerox1991 was born. Get it? It's been a blast writing this first chapter, and it shows due to the fact that we've managed to plump down over 9000 (yes) words! While we are both novices in the whole 'co-authoring a story' thing, we've managed to find a way that we feel, compliments both our styles of writing. We hope that you enjoy this story and join us for the wild ride through Chuxter! (Yes, that is a new term we made up)
Disclaimer: Don't own Chuck or Dexter. If we did, we would've been writing for the show or sipping on a drink with a funny umbrella in it somewhere on a warm island.
Note: While this is a Chuck/Dexter story, the main fandom will be Chuck. The universe will be Chuck, the characters will be Chuck etc. That's why this doesn't go in the crossover section but in the Chuck section.
Tonight's the night.
Chuck heaved what could've been a miserable sigh. Despite his best efforts, it was going to happen again and again. It was like a vicious circle. Continuously in motion, never ceasing until his own life came to an abrupt end. This of course, was up to the fates to decide. Something he couldn't control. And he liked to be in control. Always. But try as he might, some things were just unavoidable. Uncontrollable. Relentless.
He grabbed the doorknob that separated him from the inevitable. There was no uncertainty of what lingered on the other side. For a few moments, he even contemplated the idea of going through with it or not. He had better places to be. His gaze floated towards the sky, becoming fixed with the darkness while he kept his hand fastened on the cold, bronze knob. There was that moon again; slung so fat and low in the wake of another autumn night. A cool breeze shot through the courtyard, teasing and molesting his mop of unruly curls. When it passed, only the soft gurgling of the fountain remained distinct among the wavering silence. His bangs fell messily on top of his forehead again, obscuring the hungry gleam in his eyes that soon was replaced with a look of longing, then finally, reluctant acceptance.
Moonlight filtered below, enveloping Chuck with its soft luminescent glow. A choir of voices urged him to forget what lay behind the door. Their awful suggestions normally were enough to penetrate his dark heart and break any resolve. But their hushed whispers weren't enough tonight. He had other things to take care of. Soon, though. Patience was a virtue. All that was asked of him was to be civil, and to refrain from killing himself in boredom…
Easier said than done, Chuck closed his eyes and twisted the knob. The door swung wide open, and he was met by a darkened room. Taking a cautious step forward, he mentally prepared himself for the onslaught.
There was a bright, near blinding flash. The lights turned on and illuminated the entire apartment, revealing to Chuck a crowd of unfamiliar people who had leapt out from their terrible hiding spaces and into view.
His poor eardrums almost succumb to deafness the instant they collectively yelled "SURPRISE!"
Twenty-Six and they're still throwing me surprise birthday parties. At this, Chuck inwardly rolled his eyes. Of course outwardly, he appeared to be genuinely shocked. This was when the nameless strangers proceeded to swarm around him. He put on his best smile. This performance had to be worthy of an Oscar.
"Whoa, Sis," he exclaimed. "I totally didn't see this coming!"
Ellie was absolutely delighted by his reaction. And why shouldn't she be? It was a near perfect rendition of the normal human response. Chuck maintained the jubilant façade as his older sister parted from Devon (her awesome boyfriend) and waded through the swarm of guests. Once they were mere inches apart, she enveloped him with a bone-crushing hug. It almost squeezed every wisp of oxygen from Chuck's lungs.
She pulled back, cupping his face with both hands. "Happy Birthday, little brother."
"I really don't think that twenty-six constitutes as being 'little' anymore, does it, El?" asked Chuck wryly. "I am a lot closer to thirty than I am to twenty…"
Ellie shook her head, giving him a slight tap on his cheek. He mock winced while she beamed. "You'll always be my little brother, Chuck. Now, would you please take a load off and try to relax? It shouldn't be too hard to have a good time."
Before Chuck could think of a witty rejoinder, Ellie dropped her voice and whispered. "I've invited some female friends—actual girls, ok? Maybe, it's time to finally get over Jill?"
Chuck saw a new look cross his sister's face, and immediately registered it as hopefulness. So instead of pursuing the topic, he merely nodded. Jill Roberts was a pretty sensitive subject with Ellie. While he honestly could care less about what happened between him and his old Stanford flame, Ellie was another story altogether. She was heartbroken. Odd, since that role should've been handed to him, the grieving victim of unimaginable betrayal. He had been the one who found his roommate in bed with his then-girlfriend. How was he supposed to respond to something like that anyway? What an unfortunate mess. He initially was going to let it go, c'est la vie. But after the fiery reaction he'd received from Ellie, he found it prudent to play the sad boyfriend card. And he'd been sticking to that part for nearly five years.
"Thanks, El," said Chuck appreciatively. "This is just what I needed. I've had a horrible day."
Quite to the contrary, this was most certainly not what he needed. What he did need however, was to get to the Herder parked just outside of the apartment complex, taking a quick detour to Encino. Then he'd be just a hop, skip and a jump away from having some long-awaited private time alone with one Jacob Williamson. Still, Chuck kept quiet. His sister earned him on his nicest behavior. She deserved it. Ellie was one of the few people who managed to get through to him in ways no one else could. She had this inherent charm that could penetrate through his perfectly constructed guise. Her ability to make him genuinely smile was just an example of her questionable otherworldly influence on him. No conscious effort necessary. Sometimes it even made him believe that he was remotely human and capable of feeling emotion and empathy. Those kinds of things. Ellie kept that hope alive. However slim the chances were at recovering that version of himself, lost so long ago. After what happened in Moscow…
As Chuck felt like he was about to tread close to the darker recesses of his mind, Ellie snapped him to the present. Her hand touching his shoulder, she motioned him towards the couch. He graciously took a seat. Now was the time to suffer through the annual routine that was the post-Jill era. He sort of missed her. Not because he felt any sort of real affection or what have you. That would be insanity. It was what she had offered relationship-wise; the perfect beard. Without Jill to guarantee an impervious cover, it left Chuck vulnerable to his sister's compulsive need play matchmaker. He wouldn't dare stop Ellie in her lifelong pursuit to finding him eternal happiness. She was a force to be reckoned with. And since Chuck knew a thing or two about impulsiveness and cravings, he relented to her wishes.
"Hey, did you hurt yourself?" A voice asked suddenly. Chuck blinked and watched as a woman—definitely one of Ellie's friends, took a seat beside him on the couch. He shifted uncomfortably while she continued, "I'm a doctor, so maybe I could check you out sometime?" Chuck shrugged, letting his mind travel to a little over a week ago. He fondly remembered the way his last victim had struggled and thrashed, wildly flailing his arms as he'd pull the rope tight, without any restraint. Stupidly, he had forgotten to wear any protective gloves and thus received a nasty rope burn. But it was all worth it in the end. Just to feel his plaything's body go limp indefinitely.
Yeah, like I can tell her that.
"Nope, I just had a really wild night on Call of Duty. My best friend, Morgan and I had teamed up and totally destroyed these guys from Large Mart. They had been bad mouthing us for awhile, so we took them on in a two-versus-two. They had no chance," he finished brightly. The girl frowned and he added, "Can I get you a drink or something?"
"Uh, no that's ok. I'm just going to go over….there," she said and excused herself in a hurry.
"Ok, have fun!" Chuck shouted cheerfully. When she got up and mingled with the crowd, he leaned into the couch's cushions and shut his eyes.
And the award for the most convincing, gracious birthday boy goes to—
Suddenly, his internal congratulatory monologue had been cut drastically short when he felt the couch shift again. His brows knitted into mild annoyance but he kept composed.
I guess it's time for round two.
Chuck plastered a fake smile and reopened his eyes. "Hey—oh hi, Morgan."
Morgan grinned before taking a sip from his grape soda. "Hey man, how are you?"
"More stressed than usual…"
"Well," Morgan paused briefly. "Have you…you know? Done your business yet?"
Chuck snorted. What am I, some kind of animal? "Not yet, Ellie had been texting me nonstop about getting home ASAP. It was the classic set-up. So of course, I had to comply." After a beat, he finished. "He's still in the trunk."
Morgan's eyes widened. "I hear ya, about Ellie I mean. Not about…well, you know. She can be intense."
"You have no idea."
"Well, if you're in any sort of trouble, or pressed for time, I can always cover for you. We could pull a Buy More Code Purple?" he suggested.
"That'll be worst case scenario, but good thinking, buddy," said Chuck. He didn't feel like it was necessary to impose Code Purple. Not yet anyway. There was still plenty of time until the sedative wore off. "I'll just play the good birthday boy for a couple more minutes though."
"Alright dude, just let me know if plans change. I'll be ready."
Chuck smiled. "Thanks Morgan, I owe you."
Morgan shook his head and looked at Chuck with a serious expression on his face. "No you don't. I owe you my life."
Chuck patted the smaller man on the shoulder. Morgan Guillermo Grimes was a great friend; the best really. He was probably the only person other than Ellie whom he could talk to without having to rely on gimmicks to appear socially acceptable. They had been close, brotherly almost, way before the events of Moscow. Even after Chuck returned as a husk of his former self, their bond remained the same. If anything, it had been reinforced. Stronger. Unbreakable. Chuck had taken a leap of faith with Morgan. He confided in him. He told him everything and was certain that Morgan would bolt. Call him a freak. Do something. The last thing Chuck had expected was his best friend to stay, and then to even help when the darkness eventually would overpower him time and again. Loyalty was held in high regard, even for a monster like him.
That's exactly what he was.
The first step is at least admitting that you have a problem.
Although saying he had a 'problem' barely scratched the surface of what the many horrors he had to endure, entailed. There was a time long ago where he was just a pseudo-normal kid. Because even then, Chuck knew that Bartowskis weren't exactly the archetypal family you'd see on an After School Special. They were unorthodox, but whole nonetheless. The wholeness of their nuclear family shattered during one unfortunate episode, and in turn, the misfortunes continued when little Chuck suffered a greater loss. What was left of that boy was currently sitting on the couch.
It was sometime in October. Chuck remembered that the neighborhood had already begun decorating for Halloween. The houses had been covered in fake cobwebs, adorned with various other creepy ornaments, along with the standard pumpkin that sat at the foot of each doorstep. Gone was the summer of 1990, its blazing heat replaced by a welcomed chill. The trees had undergone their annual transformation; yellow, orange and brown leaves littered the sidewalks. That Friday afternoon, a nine year old Chuck Bartowski was released from school. He had busied himself by kicking piles of leaves while waiting for his mom to pick him up. Morgan had bid farewell several minutes earlier, waving clumsily as he peddled his bike down the deserted street and out of sight.
Once the campus was almost entirely vacant, Chuck had begun to worry that his mom forgot about him. Maybe she had gone on another business trip? Dad had been cooped up in his office, always at work. Chuck hadn't felt like troubling him for a ride home. He had considered going inside the school's administration building until somebody would come. Or he'd wait for the bus.
He'd find a way home somehow.
Ten minutes had passed uneventfully. Still no one had come for Chuck. That was until a sleek black van had driven inside the parking lot, rolling up to the curb where Chuck had stood. A strange feeling had overtaken him and he took a retreating step backwards whilst scanning the immediate area for an adult or a student. Someone. There had been no one. It was kind of eerie. Like this had been the plan all along. Deeply unnerved, Chuck had almost broken into a sprint the instant the van's doors slid ajar. Who knew what was going to pop out of it? Ghouls, vampires and werewolves all had come to mind. Needles to say, Chuck didn't want to find out. Shifting a backpack that was too large for his wiry frame, he had turned on his heel and ran.
He didn't make it far.
A large hand had grabbed him roughly by the collar. Chuck's first reaction had been to struggle, thrash around like his life depended on it. He had tossed elbows and screamed until a rag was placed over his mouth, muffling further protests. Chuck had made the mistake of inhaling; the sweet smelling chemicals making his eyes grow heavy. His vision soon had blurred before he finally succumbed to unconsciousness.
Chuck had awoken sometime later. The unfathomable cold had startled him back to life. He had found himself trapped in a cramped space. It wasn't until he had spotted a giant beast of a man obscured in the shadows that Chuck was hit with a splitting headache. A series of weird images assaulted his brain, emphasizing to him that this was a really, really bad man. Yuri the Gobbler; warrant extreme caution.
The giant cannibal (Chuck had always wanted to meet a cannibal, but not like this) initially had tried being pleasant. Chuck however, wouldn't trust anybody that enjoyed human flesh as a kind of delicacy, and had cowered into the farthest corner of the cell. His mother had always admonished him to not talk to strangers and Chuck felt that if said strangers were fond of eating other human beings he should definitely not try and engage it in idle chatter. The Gobbler eventually had left and an older looking man took his place. He had surprised Chuck by being kind and polite. He even played several rounds of 'Go Fish" with him. Just when Chuck had begun to feel comfortable and less fearful, the pleasantries ended with a hail of gunfire. The nice man had fled; replaced by a handful of armed guards blockading the cell. There had been no match however, for when his mother stormed inside like a woman possessed. He had marveled while the bad men fell like dominos. His mom was so…cool.
Mary Bartowski had taken out the opposition while hardly breaking a sweat. She had holstered her gun when making contact with Chuck. Rushing towards him, she had wrenched the cell open. She had crouched to her knees and beckoned for her son to come:
"It's alright sweetheart, everything's going to be ok. It's over."
Chuck had cried out her name, "Mommy!" before launching himself right into her loving arms. Mary had held onto him tightly, stroking his head while she consoled him. Their reunion had brought joyous tears to both mother and son. It wasn't until Mary had whispered "Let's go home," that Chuck's world came crashing down.
There had been a single shot. Then a slick, hot substance splattered onto his face. Chuck could still recall the look of terror shining in the depths of his ever widening doe eyes. He instinctively pulled out from his mother's limp embrace only to find a large gaping hole replacing much of her forehead. Chuck had tried to scream but his throat swelled shut. Mary had continued to stare at him with that same loving gaze, then crumpling forward with her hand still resting on the nape of his neck.
The absence of sound had been deafening. Only the sickening drip drip of his mother's oozing wound hitting the hard floor disrupted the silence. It had echoed in the expanse of the cell, creating a pool of blood in which Chuck sat motionlessly. Tears were silently streaming down his ashen face as he glared at his mother's killer. The giant had merely smiled and said nothing. He then had turned his back on the boy, confirming to whoever was on the receiving end of the walkie talkie that Frost had been dealt with.
Days had passed with Chuck making no attempt to leave his mother's side. It felt like an eternity (though in actuality, it had been forty-eight hours) had passed before he saw any change. The stench of the decomposing bodies had been overpowering, putrid and toxic to the senses, and the cold bit relentlessly. Chuck had endured the harsh conditions until his miraculous rescue. He'd been in a daze when an alarm began wailing, startling him from a near catatonic state. While he should've been ecstatic that his dad had come to save him, it'd been too late for him. He had stared unblinkingly as Stephen found him amongst the dead. His heart encased by black ice, and eyes vacant.
Stephen had separated Chuck from Mary gingerly, Chuck's hand still linked with hers. He'd made sure to remove the charm bracelet that had adorned his wife's paling arm and slid it around Chuck's wrist for safekeeping. He then had collected his son into his arms and escaped the base while the EMP he'd deployed still had security offline. For the entire time, Chuck had been unusually despondent; his mother's blood still clinging to his face like a second skin. His eyes were bloodshot but dry as a bone. He had remained unresponsive for the entire flight home from Moscow. Stephen had spent countless of those hours trying to reconcile that his son was gone, just like Mary. What had replaced him was something yet to be determined.
The night they returned home was the first time Chuck had ever seen his father cry.
The Bartowskis hadn't been the same since then. Ellie had noticed a drastic change in her baby brother. She'd been devastated by her mother's death, and like Chuck, she'd undergone a transformation. Hers had yielded positive results; turning the twelve year old into the independent woman she'd soon grow to be. Chuck had figured that it was because of the Moscow incident that pushed Ellie into a career in Neurology. In the medical field she had the opportunity to save people daily. She also promised to focus on a way to "fix" Chuck. He'd been glad that at least some good came out of such a bad predicament.
The years had dragged on with the family still left in shambles. Mary's death had taken a serious toll on everyone. It had driven Stephen to drink and cut himself off completely from reality. He'd spend most of his time locked in his office. Ellie had taken her mother's role, forcing her to grow up at an alarming rate. Meanwhile Chuck had by far suffered the worst.
It began with solidarity. He'd barely speak and kept to himself. His reclusiveness had been mistaken for a coping mechanism. What derived from this strange behavior was senseless aggression. Chuck's quite nature had been replaced with violent burst of rage that used to be so unlike him. By age eleven, he'd frequently get into fights, mostly in defense of Morgan who had a habit of being bullied relentlessly by the older kids. Stephen again had confused his son's troublesome attitude with something that could be remedied. He had put Chuck in a Jujitsu class with the hope it'd act as a cathartic release for his pent of anger. Chuck had unsurprisingly stormed through the ranks, earning his black belt in record time. His sensei had voiced his concerns to Stephen after his son mastered the art of Jujitsu at thirteen. While Chuck had been a star pupil, he'd been confident borderline cocky, turning decidedly vicious at a moment's notice. This had been enough to withdraw him from taking any more martial arts.
It had gotten much worse when Chuck seemingly lost compassion and a sense of empathy for people. The only select few he had remotely cared for were Ellie, Morgan and Stephen. The human condition, his need to connect with others had fallen by the wayside. Other needs had begun to surface. Strange urges. Dinnertime often had consisted in him flipping his steak knife into random objects. Tables, food, cutting boards, even his leg once by accident…
Though the pain was all he'd ever feel. It had at least proved that deep down he was still very much alive. And as the blood would continually seep from his open wound, rather than crying or shouting for help, he'd stare at it—mesmerized. The warm crimson spot had blossomed and drip dripped like his mother's had on the day she had died. Chuck would not be able to erase the images from his mind. They'd remain and fester in that addled brain if his. Till the urges would eventually grow to where it consumed him entirely.
He had killed their dog, Peaches two days later.
Ellie had been sick with the flu and complained about their tiny Cocker Spaniel yapping to where she couldn't sleep. Peaches had begun acting odd ever since Chuck returned from Moscow. It was said that dogs had a sort of sixth sense for sniffing out evil. That evil in question was Chuck of course. Man's best friend was a title exclusive to man only. Not to monsters like him. And Peaches had been such a good companion. But that had been before his master's soul became one that was simply hypothetical. A quick slash of a kitchen knife had been all it took for young Chuck to silence the pup and give his sister her much deserved rest.
As he'd revel in the blood as it flowed so freely, giving a brilliant shine to his small hands, there came a sound that broke his fixation with the blade dyed crimson red. It was a loud gasp and then the shattering of something else hitting the tile floor. Chuck had seen his father in the knife's reflection. He'd turn around and prepare for a scolding; one that in all honesty felt unwarranted.
But there would be no reprimanding. Stephen had wordlessly guided Chuck away from the dog and the blood, motioning him to his bedroom while he'd clean up the mess. After he'd buried Peaches in the backyard, Stephen returned to where he finally confronted his little monster. He had set the pretense that if Ellie ever asked, Peaches had run away. While Chuck nodded like he fully understood, his expression gave off an air of wariness.
He had asked curiously, "Are you mad at me?"
Stephen had shaken his head, responding in a gentle voice. "No, Charles, I'm not mad. This wasn't your fault."
Chuck had trouble believing him. Even though he couldn't feel remorse for killing the family dog, he still had some semblance of morality. He knew right from wrong, but was indifferent to it. Why would his dad let him slide?
The point of no return had come when Morgan lost his lunch money to a bigger kid who'd been constantly antagonizing him. Chuck had watched his best friend being shoved into the lockers repeatedly until he dropped the measly few dollars. When the first drop of blood had erupted from a gash on Morgan's temple—that drip drip—Chuck felt something stir inside of him. Like a snake coiled, ready to strike. He calmly approached the bully who immediately lunged forward to attack him as well. Chuck had quickly sidestepped the boy and grabbed the protruding arm; twisting it at an awkward angle till there was a sickening crack, followed by a terrible wail.
Chuck was then sent straight to the principal's office, forced to wait for his father to collect him. He hadn't resisted, but instead complied with an unapologetic smile. That snake occupying the empty shell that was now Chuck Bartowski had been thoroughly pleased. It had slithered under his skin eliciting shivers of delight. Then it went silent once more. Chuck had wondered if his father would let him slide again.
After Stephen had sat through another meaningless conference with the school principal, he took his "delinquent" son home. During the car ride, he'd ask Chuck about the fight.
"Do you understand what you did wrong, Chuck?"
Staring absently out of the window, his twelve year old had simply shrugged. "Yeah, fighting is wrong."
"Right, but do you feel bad for breaking that boy's arm?"
"What about Peaches? Don't you miss him at all?"
He'd shake his head. "No."
Drip drip. What Chuck did miss was his mom.
Stephen had pulled the 1969 Mustang to the front driveway. With a sigh, he looked to his son. "Charles…you're special."
"You mean I'm a freak?"
"No son." There'd been another sigh. "I've been neglecting this for awhile now, hoping it was just a phase. But it's not. I want to help you the best way I can, Charles. So I need you to listen to me very carefully…"
Stephen Bartowski had then gone to tell his story. That he'd been a government scientist: Orion. His handler, a beautiful spy named Mary Gunter. They had fallen in love during their time with the CIA, eventually marrying once they discovered that Mary was pregnant with Ellie. Up till then, they'd been working on a secret assignment, the Intersect Project. The Intersect in layman's terms was a supercomputer designed to upload skill sets and information into a human host via encoded images. That had been the general theory anyway. Chuck was initially skeptical about such a fabled program, questioning its authenticity. Stephen had revealed then that a day prior to his kidnapping, Chuck had inadvertently uploaded an Alpha version of the Intersect. That was why Chuck had recognized Yuri the Gobbler in Moscow while also being on the receiving end of a splitting headache.
But Chuck wasn't the only Intersect.
Stephen's voice had turned decidedly quiet as he continued his story. There had been a man, a Doctor Hartley Winterbottom who was his best friend. Hartley had uploaded a version of the Intersect as well. This one had differed in design; as it was a downloadable cover identity. The host would be the cover. The mission that Hartley had eagerly joined had been an overall success. Until the expiration day. When the assignment ended, so would the cover. Something had gone terribly wrong and the cover never broke. Hartley Winterbottom had effectively been erased and Alexei Volkoff remained.
The Agent X Project had been a colossal failure. Stephen had blamed himself for all of it. At the time, Mary had been pregnant with Chuck. She promised once the kids were old enough, and once they were prepared, she'd find Hartley and bring him back to the States. They would fix this. That's why in October of 1990, Mary planned to go undercover in Volkoff Industries—Hartley's alter ego's empire. Somehow Mary's affiliation with the CIA had been leaked. That was why Chuck had been abducted from school and flown to Moscow per Volkoff's orders. He was the honey pot. Of course Mary had gone off to save her son. She'd go to the ends of the earth for her family. Maybe she had known there was no such thing as a happy ending for what she was about to do. Stephen would never know the truth. The end result would always be the same regardless.
Mary had died a martyr.
Chuck had listened to the story, his face a mask of indifference. Even as Stephen had tearfully recounted his mother's demise, there'd been no real change in his countenance. His eyes had given no glimmer of empathy. There had been unrequited apathy and nothing more.
His dad had muttered. "I figured as much."
At Chuck's frown, he continued. "You suffered from a very traumatic experience, son. I don't know how much you remember—"
"All of it," cut in Chuck.
"—but what usually happens to those who go through something so horrible is forever changing. Some experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among other things, but then in rare cases, sometimes the pain is too deep and the scars become permanent."
Silence had taken over the car. Chuck had looked straight into his father's eyes and spoke. "I'm going to be this way forever, aren't I?"
"Just know this, Charles," Stephen had said. "You are my son, you are not alone, and you will always be loved."
Chuck would never forget that conversation because that's where it all began. Talk therapy had been useless. The psychiatrist diagnosed him as having sociopathic tendencies that'd sometimes teeter towards the psychopathic scale. The prescription for Lithium supplements was supposed to help with the bouts where his darker personality would take over. The personality that demanded blood to flow. While it did improve his symptoms, they'd never fully go away. They were fleeting, but always came back with a vengeance. There were instances where he had felt like he was possessed. It'd become more frequent as he grew older. He had likened the experience to videogames, where he was a playable character and some invisible force dictated his every thought or move. It was his Controller. Not as ominous as some of the other names you'd expect to come across, but he was just a kid and that's how he rationalized his darkness.
Stephen had been aware of his son's dark impulses. He knew there was no amount of therapy or drugs that could stop it. If Chuck couldn't control the urges, he'd become a danger to society and either would find himself in a padded cell or dead. There was a way around this though. He could do something for his son.
"Channel it?" A teenage Chuck had inquired one afternoon in July. He would pick the baseball out of it his glove and then toss it back at his father.
Stephen had caught the ball and nodded. "Yes, and use it for good."
It had given him chills when Chuck laughed. It sounded hollow and empty. "Sounds like the perfect premise for a comic book or television show," he remarked sarcastically. "How could it ever be good?"
Chuck's questioned was left unanswered until his father stopped their game of catch a bit early (he was always the advocate for Chuck engaging in normal activities) and led him inside the house. He had flicked the light switch by his office until Bruce Wayne's Batcave had opened up from below. It was a glorified basement; over encumbered high-end security, rows upon rows of boxes stacked neatly in assorted racks, and hallways that led to nowhere.
Stephen had watched his son bounce around in excitement as he toured the underground base. He had followed Chuck to make sure he wouldn't get himself into trouble (like he was often inclined to do) while explaining how the Intersect operated. The one in Chuck's brain (with a few more tweaks) would be able to identify anyone in its database through visual or audio stimuli. They had eventually come upon the old computer, its screen displayed with "Activate?" in large bold print. There, Stephen instructed Chuck to accept the question. In a flash, he was updated with nearly thousands of new data, all of which had been accumulated secretly from the CIA mainframes.
Afterward, they had talked.
The plan had been one of vengeance. Stephen had asked Chuck if he'd want to track down the people who had his mother executed. Chuck of course was enthusiastic in his response. If there had been one emotion he could ever feel, it was hatred. Utter loathing and resentment for those who had betrayed his mom, and had turned him into an unfeeling monster. He had wanted to hunt them down immediately. Make them pay. Fortunately, his father stopped him. Told him he was too young, inexperienced. Soon though, he'd be ready.
Until then, Chuck followed his father's word without question. There had been rules set in place—a strict code to adhere to. Rule one was Chuck could never harm an innocent person.
Chuck had just rolled his eyes. "Duh."
Rule two: Chuck would have to work on his attitude. That meant he'd practice to be the embodiment of normality. Stephen had already begun teaching him the ins and outs of subtlety, charm while he'd rely on the art of stealth. He learned how to put up a believable façade; moving among the masses without attracting suspicion. By college, he had mastered the art of being human. However his "act" had changed over time, fake openness was shoved aside for social insecurity and a general sense of awkwardness that had Chuck wincing. If anything, his flawed personality just further impressed upon him that a piece of his old self remained. And he'd use every ounce of his disarming persona to his advantage.
That's how he had "acquired" Jill Roberts as his girlfriend, and he used that term loosely. It was also how he got in his fraternity's good graces, making friends everywhere he'd go. Like Bryce. He had felt a weird sort of kinship with Bryce Larkin from Connecticut. He couldn't discern why exactly, but he knew that there was more behind those icy-blue eyes than one would initially assume. But all weird, damaged relationships eventually would come to an end. Bryce had crossed the line when he stole Jill and gotten him expelled from Stanford.
Rule three had been to develop a cover. Before his expulsion, sometime during his freshman year, Chuck had been studying astrology in an awfully boring humanities class. He had to identify every single constellation in the big black expanse of the cosmos. To his surprise, he'd rather enjoyed it. He remembered locating the constellation of the hunter, Orion. Then his sights caught eleven stars aligned together, a constellation called Corvus. The crow. A trickster. It was perfect.
Since then, he had gone by that codename while contacting with his father. Stephen had left Chuck and Ellie towards the end of the summer of 1996. Chuck had been fifteen, Ellie three years his senior, about ready to enroll at UCLA. Their father's parting words had been pancakes. Pancakes. Chuck hadn't shed a tear when Stephen—now Orion went rogue. But Ellie had and that didn't sit right with him no matter the reasoning behind his dad's departure.
Their communication since then had been relatively sparse; a few exchanges by telephone or email, and maybe only one face-to-face meeting every six months or so. Orion must've been confident in Chuck's—Corvus' abilities to handle himself alone. He hadn't killed anyone yet. In fact, he'd been productive. Chuck had invented tranquilizer gloves for the stealthy ambush. He had a predisposed phobia for needles, so syringes were out of the question. Guns too. They were too impersonal, too cold. They just reminded him of his mom and that constant drip drip. Orion had seen his son's latest invention before he'd taken off to his first year at Stanford. It had been at the city park, midnight. It was dark but Chuck had seen his father smile like a proud parent.
"I don't know when it will be safe for us to meet again," Orion had said that night. The two sat on a bench beneath a broken streetlamp. The light flickered dimly. "This is why I need to tell you about Fulcrum and their involvement with your mother's death."
Corvus' eyes had fluttered with a flash. "There's no a lot about them in the Intersect. Says Fulcrum is a rogue faction and is suspected of having its members integrated in each of the United States' intelligence agencies."
"They claim to be patriots but it's just a ploy," added Orion. "Their motive is still to be determined, but it has to do with a takeover over the US government starting with the CIA. I believe it starts with them, Charles. They're the first step."
"Then there's no time to waste, huh?" remarked Corvus. Dark eyes had long settled towards the sky, relishing in the glorious reddish moon as it leered at them down below. "I'm taking the train to Palo Alto tomorrow morning. Just four more years of faking it and then I'll be ready."
Orion had squeezed his son's shoulder. "You're aces, Charles."
And then he had vanished into the darkness once again.
Chuck had yawned, bringing himself back to reality. He was still sitting on the same couch, no longer spacing out, but rather engaging in meaningless conversations with dozens of female partygoers. He hadn't even noticed he was doing it either. His mouth was moving mechanically the entire time.
This was his life.
Ellie must've seen him scare off another one of her friends because she gave Devon a quick peck on the cheek before bounding through the masses towards the couch. She wore a giant smile that reflected anything but.
"Having fun, baby brother?"
Chuck snorted. "I thought we just went over the fact that I'm twenty-six, Sis." He glanced down to his hands that rested in his lap. They were trembling. Great, now he was going into withdrawals like some kind of drug addict. He felt that viper curled inside him strike, its venom now coursing into his veins, driving him absolutely crazy with need.
"Hey, I don't really feel so hot right now, sis." He half-lied. "I'm gonna go to the bathroom for a bit."
Ellie gasped and sprung up. The happy go-lucky sister was instantly replaced by Doctor Bartowski MD. If Chuck had a heart, he would've felt touched by her concern. "Are you ok? What's wrong, Chuck? Talk to me. Where do you feel bad?"
Not ok, dear sister. I just have a bad case of bloodlust that's all. It's starting to spill over and as much as I "love" you, if you don't let me go right now, I'm afraid they're be quite the news story for tomorrow's paper. 'Birthday Party Massacre! Over fifty guests had been brutally murdered in what could be a…'
"Chuck?" asked Ellie, breaking him from his reverie. "You do look ill; maybe it was something you ate? Look, just go to your room and take a breather. When you feel up to it, join the party. After all, it is yours…"
Chuck nodded. "Thanks sis. You don't have to remind me."
With that, he stood up and stalked off to his bedroom while keeping the sickly facade intact. He knocked on his door.
"It's open," Morgan called from the other side. Chuck sighed and walked into his room, eyeing the television screen warily. Morgan had been right in the middle of playing the Gears of War campaign.
"How's it going, buddy?" Chuck asked flopping on his bed. He glanced outside and noticed the moon's glow cascading over the tiger-striped fountain. Sighing, he realized that his restlessness had become problematic. The color red in all its natural beauty popped into his head. Drip drip, Chuck shivered slightly.
Morgan paused the game in mid-chainsaw take down. He studied Chuck's faraway expression and said. "I guess it's about time, huh?"
Chuck nodded mutely.
"Alright, well just hop out of the window and I'll take care of the rest." As Morgan spoke, he turned off the console and moved to the closet. He grabbed a bundle of clothes and tossed it at Chuck. "Just try and be back soon, ok? I really don't want to get a full dose of Ellie's rage if she finds out that you've been faking sick and are mysteriously not in bed."
"You're the best, buddy." Smiled Chuck and he took the clothes before leaping out of the Morgan Door and into the night. The instant his Converse shoes hit the pavement; he took off in a full blown sprint. He felt his heart start to thump at an alarming rate. The false bravado he had worn the entire day was all but gone. The mask was slipping, revealing the wolf underneath the sheep's clothing. The wolf that had now been unleashed into the darkness with only the pale light of the crimson moon to lead the way.
He reached the Herder and nearly flung the door off its hinges in excitement. Stabbing the key in the ignition, music blasted from the speakers at every angle.
"I can't decide whether you should live or die.
Oh you'll probably go to Heaven, please don't hang your head and cry.
No wonder why my heart feels dead inside. It's cold and hard and petrified. Lock the doors and close the blinds.
We're going for a ride."
Chuck grinned and couldn't make himself stay still. His nails dug into the steering wheel when he turned onto the freeway. Tonight was most definitely the night. He heard a slight ruckus in the trunk, indicating that his not-so-voluntary passenger had woken up. Let the man enjoy his last few minutes on this mortal coil. He quietly snickered as he heard muffled groaning, prompting him to push the gas pedal down even harder.
There was no time to waste.
Not much later and Chuck rolled up to the garage of his former house. He shut down the car as he leaned over to the glove box and retrieved his tranq gloves. They evoked the memory of one of their last father/son meetings. Sure, Chuck had connected with Orion on a few separate occasions throughout the last seven years, but they'd been brief. Like the mere blink of an eye. The last he'd talked to his dad was sometime in 2005. Two years after Stanford. Chuck had begun working at the Buy More like he had when he was a teenager looking for a summer job. This time, it had become more of a permanent vocation. He didn't mind seeing how it was so easy to pencil in installs that never existed; acquiring some proper free time with his playmates. Los Angeles was crawling with evil doers, namely Fulcrum.
Tonight for example…
Chuck exited the car and breathed deeply. Eyes closed he mentally prepared himself for what would happened next. What always happened. Had to happen. The darkness clouded his thoughts and again, that chorus of hidden voices chanted. It filled him up graciously; full like that moon leering from above.
He reopened his eyes, ready. Circling around to the back of the car, he popped trunk. His victim, his plaything for the evening, greeted him with a muffled scream. Jacob Williamson as his handy Intersect had informed him, was a low level Fulcrum analyst who he'd been lucky enough to spot while getting a coffee. It was pure luck but Chuck never looked a gift horse in the mouth. Especially one such as this.
Chuck grabbed Williamson by the throat. "Sorry, it's not time for you to wake up yet," he whispered playfully. "So back to sleep with you," and with a light tap against the analyst's cheek, he was rendered unconscious. Satisfied, Chuck rubbed his palms together before slinging the other man over his shoulder.
At the front door, Chuck smiled nostalgically and murmured. "Home, sweet home."
Jacob Williamson was a deep sleeper. If Chuck hadn't known any better, he would've sworn that the man sitting strapped to a chair before him was in fact, dead. But that of course was impossible. He had been the one to tranq him in the first place. Williamson may sleep like the dead, but he wouldn't meet his maker until Chuck was through with him. Depending on when he'd wake up.
Should I kick him?
Chuck sighed. Well, this was excruciatingly boring and unexpected. He yawned and glanced at the clock hanging by the entrance. It was just after nine pm. From his place on the desk, he contented himself by swinging his feet and twiddling his thumbs in boredom. Again, he was getting antsy.
All work and no play makes Chuck a dull boy…this is getting ridiculous.
Sufficiently frustrated, Chuck decided he had enough. He leapt off the desk and stomped towards the unconscious body. Grabbing another chair, he placed it in front of Williamson but faced backwards. Chuck sat down and promptly slapped the other man in the face. Hard.
The man stirred, eyelids fluttering to signal he was slowly but surely waking up. Chuck gave his playmate an earnest grin, waving his hand when Williamson finally gained full consciousness.
"Good morning, sunshine."
A pair of heavy lidded eyes landed on Chuck, widening considerably. "You!" He shouted.
Chuck pressed his index finger to his lips and shushed him. "Like in space, no one can here you scream, Jacob." And for that moment he actually looked serious. Then a beat passed and a giant smile erupted on his face. "I've always wanted to use that line."
Jacob Williamson blinked confusedly.
Aghast, Chuck exclaimed. "Oh come on! You can't tell me you've never seen Aliens? It was a classic! You know a big black alien running around killing unfortunate space marines?" He gauged for some kind of a reaction before adding. "Ridley Scott? Seriously?"
Williamson had the decency to look apologetic. Chuck sort of appreciated the honesty, shrugging. "Oh well, your loss."
"What's going to happen?" The analyst finally summed up the courage to speak, his voice wavering as his gaze never left Chuck. He saw his captor's eyes turn a much darker shade.
"Well, that's up to you, really," replied Chuck evenly. "Either you can tell me what I want to know or you can die. And if I can be perfectly honest, I'm not sure as to what I'm rooting for more."
"W-what do you want to know? I know…I know nothing. I swear I'm just a banker."
"—and I'm just a Nerd Herd supervisor," mocked Chuck. "Do you know how ridiculous you sound right now?"
"I…I don't know what I'm supposed to tell you!"
Chuck stared at him unblinkingly. "Tell me the honest to god truth or I will make this extremely unpleasant. Don't underestimate what I'm capable of; I'm sure you've heard of me."
Williamson's face went pale. "You're him, aren't you? The one who's been killing our agents…Corvus?"
Chuck perked up. "Oh, so you have heard of me? Also, way to sell yourself out with that little slip-up. You're not very good at your job are you, Jacob?"
"Dammit, look I'm just an analyst for Fulcrum. They hardly tell me anything."
"Uh huh," said Chuck dubiously. He began fiddling with the knife in his hand. "I'm only going to ask this once, and if you keep playing coy with me, well then evidently it just proves that diplomacy doesn't work for everyone now, does it?"
"Ok, ok, I'll tell you everything I know!"
"Let's hear it, Jacob."
"Fulcrum is an organization with ties to the government and…"
"Trust me when I say I know all of this already," Chuck used the tip of the blade and indicated his temple. "Look, I'm going to make it easy on you. How can I find more Fulcrum members?"
"We…uh we have an office…office building somewhere off of Mulholland. It's um, 1600 Destefano Court….it's uh…um…oh God please don't kill me!" Williamson pleaded as tears sprung from his eyes.
Chuck's eyes shot up. Wow, talk about taking a shot in the dark. Had this analyst really just told him the location of the Fulcrum HQ? Or was it only a trap? Without his latest update for the Intersect, he couldn't be positively sure. Nevertheless, this was great progress.
He stood up and placed the knife back in its holster. Then he approached Jacob Williamson who had lost his composure and was sobbing uncontrollably. "Don't worry, Jacob…can I call you Jacob? I mean, I guess we're way past formalities at this point," trailed Chuck as he reached into the man's front pocket and pulled out a wallet. He began searching through the various items until he came to the standard CIA identification card. "Bingo, anyway, you did everything you were supposed to do. And now I'm supposed to let you go…"
Jacob nodded wildly.
"Unfortunately," Chuck started and almost laughed when Jacob's face once briefly held a glimmer of hope, fell back into the pit of despair. "I don't think that's going to happen for obvious reasons."
"Please, I have a wife…kids…a family."
"No you don't," said Chuck. "But I'll forgive your white lie. Seeing as I do it time from time, that'd just be hypocritical of me. Plus, you're desperate and will say absolutely anything to save your life."
Jacob panted heavily, still crying.
"But there is good news for you, Jacob." Chuck mentioned offhandedly. "It's my birthday. I'm officially twenty-six years old. And in honor of my special day, I'd like you to share in on the fun."
"Are you…going to…release me?"
Chuck dissolved into fits of laughter. "Are you serious? Why would I—" he snorted again. "Actually, you're kind of my birthday present. That's what I was trying to get around to saying. The bright side is that you get to choose how you want to die? Isn't that awesome?"
It was like watching a Jenga tower collapse. Jacob closed his eyes for a solid minute before glancing at Chuck again. There was no fear now; that happened sometimes. He realized his fate. There would be no getting out alive.
"Come on, it's not fun if you don't play," whined Chuck like a petulant child. He walked over to his table where a collection of various weapons lay. They were all neatly arranged by size. He pushed the moveable tray towards Jacob who tried to abstain from looking at it.
"Seeing as I'm a pretty big nerd and all, I decided to invest in some of pop culture's more popular signature tools," explained Chuck with the same casualness of a kid showing off his baseball card collection. "So, we've got the old Norman Bates axe lying here. Then the butcher knife the Ghostface killer used in Scream. Oh, I even bought a movie replica of Freddy Krueger's claw glove off of EBay. I haven't gotten a chance to use it yet, but I'm saving it for a special occasion…"
The moonlight filtered through cracks of the single window. It flooded down across the underground base and bringing joy, joy, joy. It was calling to the need. It was a harmonious chant of a thousand disembodied voices crying out to that thing that's not-Chuck, coaxing it to the surface. It was very strong now, very cold coiled creeping crackly cocked and ready.
He casted a dark, lust filled glance at his playmate. "I don't really figure you as the kind of guy who wants a lot of pain, am I right?"
"A simple slice to the carotid, you'd bleed out in seconds and won't feel a thing," mused the thing that took Chuck's place. "That'd get the blood flowing in more ways than one."
Corvus traced a leather clad fingertip over the first blade he could find. A scalpel, excellent. He lifted it up and stared in wonder as the fluorescent light bounced off the blade, shining in his midnight eyes. The end was fast approaching; a hunter and its prey, the butcher and its cattle, the executioner and its victim. There came no noise from Jacob and the only sound in the room had been the soft hum of the ceiling lamps.
He lowered the blade and rested it against Jacob's neck. The artery was exposed and bulging. Months of practice had made finding the correct location for an incision effortless. Ellie would never know why her little monster of a brother would ask where the carotid artery was in the first place. A simple feather light stroke, like a painter adding the final touches to his greatest work, was enough.
It was sweet release. Blood blossoming and crimson ribbons flowing freely over his hands and of course, drip dripping onto the hard floor beneath. Corvus, the silent watcher receded in the depths again; no more Chuck with a knife, or Chuck the Avenger. The voices became quiet and happy-go-lucky, dead-inside Chuck returned.
Jacob Williamson slumped beneath his grasp and he sighed.
"Well, that was anticlimactic," Chuck told the empty room. "And now I'm talking to myself…"
Chuck had wiped the scalpel clean and the room was spotless. The only thing that came out of tonight was a strangely unsatisfying kill coupled with new information regarding Fulcrum. The prospects of this address being credible were promising. Visualizing a den of Fulcrum agents ripe for the picking made Chuck feel more hopeful about his next get-together with his playmates. Soon this organization would fall and he'd learn the truth about Moscow and more importantly, why.
He spared a glance to the clock again.
"Shit!" He cursed.
It was already half-past ten.
Time flies when you're having fun.
His nimble hands started working overtime, quickly packing up the tools of his trade with speed and dexterity that years of honing his skills had made possible. He discarded them all in a drawer of the table before running to the lifeless body of Jacob Williamson. Once more he hauled him over his shoulder, feeling the warm blood spill onto his shirt, staining it beyond further use. It was no matter; he had plenty of clothes to replace it.
Chuck flew to the end of the hallway where a secret door awaited him. He kicked it open to a separate room annexed by the base. It was pristinely clean with the smell of bleach hanging in the air. He spent no time tossing the body into a storage cell where he'd come back and properly dispose of it later. When it didn't feel like time was breathing down his damn neck.
He had to be fast.
If Ellie checked on him before he was back, he'd have some mighty fun explaining to do. Somehow divulging that he moonlighted as a serial killer hardly seemed prudent.
On his way up the stairs, Chuck stopped at the laundry room and deposited his bloody shirt. He proceeded to run to the Herder and sped off into the night. For the twenty minutes it took him to get back to Echo Park, Chuck managed to change into his spare clothes that Morgan gave him while being lucky enough to confront minimum amount of traffic in the meantime.
A few blocks away and his phone beeped. Chuck spared a glance.
Party is still going. Are you gonna be back soon?
Chuck quickly thumbed a reply as he drove down the street. He was so close, he could taste victory. Once he was safely back to his apartment, he could just revel in getting away scot free. Then it'd be sleep time for Chuck and Ellie would never suspect a thing.
He raced up to the courtyard, passing the gurgling fountain. The Morgan Door was still wide open, its curtains billowing in the wind. He literally dove through, shedding his clothes rather clumsily until he face-planted right into his safe haven. His bed. Sneaking beneath the covers, he blew out a sigh of relief. Chuck Bartowski lived to see another day. Soon, he heard the clicks of Ellie's high heels as they collided with the hardwood floor. He mentally counted down to zero as his bedroom door creaked ajar.
"Chuck," she whispered. "Are you still up?"
"Yeah…"he croaked in his best attempt to sound sick. She walked inside and he felt the mattress shift as she took a seat beside him.
Ellie put her hand on his forehead and almost immediately retracted it. "God, you're burning up!"
No kidding. Talk about close calls.
Chuck made a sickly whimper that had always managed to turn his sister into maternal-mode. It had the desired effect. "I'm going to go get you something. Don't you dare get out of this bed, Charles Irving Bartowski. I'll make sure that everyone leaves you in peace."
"No," he rasped. "I…want them to stay if you're having fun."
Now, where's my award? Do I get an Oscar? How about an Emmy? I at least deserve a pat on the back or a gold star.
"It's ok, it's getting late anyway. I'll be right back." She walked out without another word. Chuck sank further into the bed and groaned with content. It had been a long, rough day and he was glad it had come to an end. Birthdays were tiring.
Ellie returned moments later. "Here you go," she said and dropped several ibuprofen along with a glass of water in his open hands. Kissing him on the forehead, she wished him goodnight.
When the door softly closed, Chuck stared through his lashes and saw the glow of the moon bathing his bedroom with soft luminescence. Just has he begun to fall victim to his own fatigue, his computer bleeped. Chuck silently cursed, sitting up while rubbing his eyes tiredly.
Crap, forgot to turn my computer off.
He crawled out of bed and towards his desk.
Hey, one new message…from Bryce Larkin?
Chuck's brows furrowed in puzzled annoyance. If this is some stupid e-card, I swear to God I'll…. He double clicked the attachment and his screen went black.
A stream of text appeared.
The terrible troll raises its sword.
"Hmm, what's this?"
A/N2: We truly hope you enjoyed the first chapter. If you did, please let us know with a review. Also, because we both have our own projects we work on, we would like to know if it's even worth continuing this story. So click that button and let us know on whether or not to continue. From both of us, a heartfelt thank you for taking the time to read and an even bigger one if you do decide to drop us a review. Until the (hopefully) next chapter! (Where you'll probably get an A/N from ShinyJayne19 to let us know her thoughts on things!)