A/N: For this story, I've decided to do something different. I always wondered how Chuck's story would of went if Bryce got the Intersect without a hitch at the end of Chuck vs. The Ring, and thus this idea for a story came about. As a new writer, I welcome any constructive feedback, and I hope you enjoy.
Update: This is a revised version of chapter one, which hopefully is easier to read for some folks. Thanks goes out to jaytoyz for taking a shot at beta-ing this.
Obligatory Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck, anything to do with Chuck, or any of the random bits of pop culture that pop up. I'm broke, so don't bother suing : )
October 5, 2010 11:30 AM – Chuck's apartment
She found him sprawled on the ground, groping under his bed for something. Whatever was that soaked up Chuck's attention must have been so important that he didn't even hear her come in. His flight to the Hawaii was tomorrow, and in typical Chuck fashion, had rushed through packing everything that morning. Dr. Eleanor Woodcombe nee Bartowski took this opportunity to look around the room, taking in the mess Chuck left in his wake. Clothes, books and various pieces of computer junk were scattered everywhere, the haphazard clutter of the room making her cringe. Not too long ago, when they were living together, this would have set off a scolding that would peel paint but now resisted the nearly overpowering urge and bit her tongue. Over the past year, Chuck had been working himself to the bone in an attempt to get his software company off the ground and he was so close to having the enough saved up to follow his dream. With the economy firmly in the toilet, this was no easy feat and she was proud to admit that she admired his drive, but she wished he would take some time for himself. It was her husband Devon's idea for the trip to the island of Kahni'auka, where Chuck's friends were currently living. They hoped that visiting them would give him time to unwind and hopefully, help him avoid burning out.
"Hah! Got yah you little sucker!" Chuck exclaimed as he rose to his knees, clutching his red bathing suit. Finally noticing his sister, Chuck shot to his feet. "Oh hey Ellie, I was just looking for my bathing suit. Hope I didn't leave you waiting too long. Did Trent let you in?"
"No, I found the door open and just let myself in," Ellie admitted.
"Again? I keep telling him to lock up when goes out, but you know Trent. It's in one ear and out the other," he lamented as he stuffed his prize into his suitcase. "We're lucky we haven't been robbed yet! And he keeps going through my stuff too! I tell you El, answering that post has been a blessing and a curse," Chuck admitted as he wrestled with the suitcase`s stubborn zipper, while remembering the 'roommate wanted' ad he'd found nearly a year ago.
Ellie silently agreed with Chuck on that front. That man turned out to be the most frustrating human being she met, and that was saying something considering the creeps she met at her brother's old job. Trent was rude, often helping himself to Chuck's stuff without asking and treated laziness like an Olympic sport. His blasé attitude towards anything and everything did nothing to endear himself to either of the Bartowski siblings and Devon, a man who almost always found the best in people, had labelled him 'un-awsome'. If it wasn't for the apartment's prime location, there was no way Chuck would have stuck it out with him for so long. Instead of fueling Chuck`s rising frustration, she opted to change the topic a little, asking, "So how's the packing coming along?"
"It's going ok. I think I got everything, except the kitchen sink. Just got to send out a couple of emails, and I'm good for lunch."
Ellie pushed some of the stuff off the bed to make room. "Glad to hear it," she replied as she plopped down. "This vacation is just what you need, and I want to make sure there's no last minute hiccups."
Finishing with the suitcase, Chuck looked up and smiled. "I still can't believe you guys shelled out the cash for tickets. I mean, it's an awesome present and I'm grateful, but I thought you and the captain were saving up for a house."
"It's no problem Chuck. You've been working so hard lately, and Devon and I both figure that an opportunity for you to recharge and get out of here for awhile would make the perfect late birthday gift," Ellie said. "It'll be good for you to visit Morgan again. I know you guys do the whole instant message thing but that's not the same. How is the little guy doing? I've been so busy lately that I haven't spoken to him in ages."
"Gimme a sec, El. Just got to boot the system up and I'm all yours. "Chuck ducked down to turn his computer on, and took his seat at his computer before saying, "Pretty well actually. Morgan is making some good progress at the hibachi school. He's got the cooking part down, by the shrimp flipping is tricky. Last time he tried it, he managed to flip it right into his eye. Thankfully the shrimp was kept at a consistent temperature of lukewarm. Also, he got a part time job at the local Buy More thanks to the good work Big Mike put in. Good thing Emmett was out when they called for references. Man, can that guy carry a grudge! "
Ignoring that last part, Ellie chimed in, "He's certainly come a long way. When Morgan was in Burbank, you made it sound like he went out of his way to avoid work. I'm surprised he's managed to stick out for so long."
"He didn't want to let Anna down. At first he was panicking about the bulk of the responsibility he gotten during the first few weeks, but you know what, he was worried about her even more. He was worried that he'd let her down if he flunked out, and that they'd end up broke in no time. Thankfully, I was able to give him a pep talk. "
This ought to be good, Ellie thought to herself. "So what did you do to calm him down?"
"I told him that if you want to succeed, you got to treat your life like a game of Call of Duty. Oh sure, you might scoff, but there are important things to gleam from playing. For example, you've got to stop fixating on the big picture and break it down into small objectives to accomplish. That way, it doesn't seem like it's impossible to succeed, and it makes it easier to think about getting those smaller but still important achievements. Also, you got to learn to communicate and work with your partner, because you're a team, and if you're not working with your team you're working against them. You both want the same thing and being on the same page makes it so much easier for you to gets what you want instead of just blindly guessing and making things worse." I just wish that Sarah and I learned that sooner, Chuck silently added to himself. For the longest time we were hurting each when we had.
Ellie chuckled to herself. "Leave it to my nerdy brother to find wisdom in video games. You could write a book."
"The Tao of Mario, huh? I've got to remember that one once I'm rolling in the dough. "The talks about relationships brought up memories of his onetime fake girlfriend Sarah. He missed her like crazy but he didn't feel like talking about her, something he knew Ellie always seemed to want to do whenever relationships were mentioned. Instead, Chuck quickly spun his chair around to enter in his login info and spun back to face her before pressing on. "Right, so moving back to current news. Anna is working as the web admin at one of the local businesses when she's not working on our current project. Also, she's been sleeping better since they moved into the new apartment. Being constantly reminded about the parasailing incident was giving her nightmares, and the new place has given her some piece of mind, especially since it's not as close to the beach. "
This immediately got Ellie's attention, causing her to lean in. "Wait, what was that about a sailing incident? Are they ok?"
"It was a parasail, not a sailboat involved El. It was the freakiest thing!" Chuck to a moment to take a sip from an open can on his desk before continuing. "Apparently, some of the resorts cut corners on their equipment, and the one not too far from Morgan and Anna's place never bothered to replace the rope used to attach the parasail to the boat pulling it during the whole time they've been open. So anyways, a one of the guests went up on a drafty day, and while being pulled by the boat, the rope just snaps. The winds were so strong that day that it pushed the parasail inland, and the poor guy ended up crashing right through their window. There was glass and blood everywhere!"
Noticing Ellie's 'worried doctor' expression, Chuck quickly added, "Don't worry El, despite the scary number of cuts he got from crashing through their living room window, the guy survived. Morgan and Anna, thankfully, were in the bedroom at the time and they were able to get him to the hospital."
Mercifully for Ellie, Chuck glossed over what exactly the two of them were doing in bed right in the middle of the day and continued on before she had the chance to make the connection. "Last I heard, he ended up getting a bunch of stitches. Now I don't know if you know but Anna doesn't usually scare that easily, so it's a big deal to say that this really shook her up. She thought the poor guy was dead when he first crashed through the window, and it's been giving her nightmares since. It got so bad that. He agreed, and they've been looking for a new place since. "
"I can't say I blame Anna. Lord knows I wouldn't want to be reminded about that every day, "Ellie conceded. "But why didn't you tell me about this sooner? "
"I did. I mentioned it when I was helping you clean the place up for Devon's folks. "
Ellie thought back to that weekend, when her in-laws announced that they'd be coming be the following week to visit. She was so focused on impressing Devon's parents that she must have blanked out whatever Chuck was saying at the time. Realizing this, Ellie's face went flush with embarrassment. She knew that Chuck always had a hard time making friends, and here she was, so wrapped up in impressing her 'awesome' in-laws that she practically blow off some of the few he's managed to have had since Stanford. True, Morgan could be grating at times and something about the Goth chick he'd moved to Hawaii with just rubbed her the wrong way, but both of them had gone out of their way for her brother in the past and Chuck valued their friendship greatly.
Chuck spoke up at that moment. "Don't worry about it sis. I told Morgan that you sent your best wishes, and Devon sent them a nice card from the both of you. Besides, I'm sure they had other thing s to worry about at the time."
""I bet," Ellie said. "Moving to a new place isn't cheap, and most landlords aren't willing to refund the rental deposit you put up, even if the damage wasn't your fault."
"I wouldn't worry about it. Anna's parents joined the class action lawsuit against the resort, so money shouldn't be a problem there. " Turning around to look at the computer's clock, Chuck jumped to his feet, a panicked look on his face. "Ah crap, it's 11:50 already! Sorry Ellie, I got to get these emails out before lunch or the client is going to have a cow."
"Go ahead, I can wait" Ellie replied, getting to her feet once her brother turned back to his computer. Chuck muttered his thanks, leaving Ellie time to slowly look around her. The room looked like a tornado had blown through and it desperately needed to be cleaned up. Since Ellie was a clean freak by nature, and the very existence of clutter was an affront to her fastidious nature, she volunteered to help tidy her brother's room up while he vigorously typed away at his computer.
Starting out small, she straightened out Chuck's prized Tron poster. She always found it tacky looking, but it was a gift from their previously missing father Stephen, so she never brought it up. Both she and Chuck loved their father, even if his leaving had hurt them. He's been gone for 11 years, and then one day Chuck shows up with him in tow. It was a surprise to see him show up for her wedding, and an even bigger one when he didn't run off afterwards. He told her later that he had developed mental problems a few years after their mother walked out on them and like many men of his generation was too stubborn to get help. Fearing the stigma that having a crazy father would bring his children, he opted to leave, believing that would shield his children from the shame. It was only thanks to the efforts of Chuck and his girlfriend Sarah that he finally agreed to seek psychiatric care, where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. With proper medication, her father was struggling to recreate his life and his relationship with his children. Even with their father back in their lives, Chuck was still very protective of the poster. She figured that certain things were hard to let go of and that one day he would have the heart to finally put the ugly looking thing away.
Moving away from the poster, Ellie started to pick up the clothes piled on the bed and fold them. It was sort of busy work that she used to favor when she was younger; since it kept her busy and off the million and one worries that her father had dumped on her. Putting laundry away was therapeutic in a way, as you were always in control and you never had to worry that someone was going to take your socks away and put them in some dark closet never to be seen again. Nope, the clothes were exactly where you left them and their problems were always simple to deal with. All too soon for her taste, the job was done and the various shirts, pants and socks were sitting there waiting to be put away.
Not wanting to bother Chuck, she moved to his dresser and checked which drawer the socks went into. Back when he was living with her and Devon, she knew that Chuck preferred to keep the socks on the top drawer, and pulled it open. Sticking out amongst the few socks was a lone envelope. It's been years since she's seen anyone mail a letter and she wondered who it was from. Ellie didn't like to spy on others usually but her curiosity got the better of her and she flipped the envelope onto its front to look at the return address. She secretly hoped it was from Sarah but instead the return address was for her old neighbor John Casey. She hadn't heard from John since he got that job offer from that security firm in Washington but she was glad that he kept in touch with Chuck. She knew he'd never admit it but Chuck had looked up to the older man and was missing him as much as he did with Morgan. John always struck her as the lonely type, since he rarely seemed to leave his apartment save for work and errands, and she was glad that Chuck had gone out of his way to befriend him. He never struck her as sentimental type, but Ellie guessed that was just how much Chuck meant to the man.
After putting the envelope on top of the dresser, she proceeded to start putting the rest of the clothes away. Ellie was just placing the last of the shirts away when Chuck spun around. "Sorry about that sis" Chuck said with an apologetic shrug, " I didn't expect the client to get back to me so soon. He had some questions but nothing too complex. I'm sure the documentation should cover the rest. Oh, and thanks for putting away the spare clothes that I really was planning on putting away later. "
"Sure, like right before you get on your plane tomorrow" Ellie said with a knowing smirk. " Well, I figured that it'd be best if I gave you a hand...this time." Picking up the letter she'd put down on the top of the dresser, Ellie waited until she was sure her brother had noticed what she was holding before speaking. "By the way, I came across this while I was putting the socks away. I wasn't snooping, I swear, at least not intentionally."
"It's ok El, it's just a letter from Casey. He said that the job at the security firm is going well, he's missing the warm weather and your cooking, and he wished me luck with the new software company. There wasn't more to it than that" Chuck explained while taking the letter from his sister's grasp. That was the truth except for a few details, such as the warning about avoiding suspicious emails or intrusive ex-roommates. There were a few other items in the letter, but Chuck couldn't reveal more for fear of violating the non-disclosure agreement he signed after his time in the spy life was done. He was no longer the host of the Intersect program-database-framework-computer thingie (he wasn't sure how to describe the freaky thing that was once in his head) but it can't hurt to be careful. Thankfully, Casey was cautious to not include anything sensitive, and had even remembered to stick to the cover story about getting a new job in Washington, so the letter wasn't as anxiety inducing. If anything, it was a nice surprise to hear from the Colonel. "Guess he really didn't hate my guts after all,"Chuck thought to himself.
Looking up from the envelope in his hands, Chuck noticed the worried look on Ellie's face and that could only mean one thing, she was going to ask about Sarah. He was sure that Ellie thought she had to walk on egg shells around him when it came to the subject of Sarah and, for the life of him, he couldn't understand why. After the wedding, the two of them were FINALLY able to have an honest-to-Cthulu talk about their relationship without having to worry about Casey bursting through the wall like Macho Man Randy Savage and arresting them for treason, or worst, displaying lady feelings. Sarah had explained that she did want to be with him, but that she still had a little over a year left on her contract with the CIA. Chuck had been reeling from the news that Sarah wanted him and she'd had to repeat herself, explaining that when it was up, she'd consider remaining with the agency as long as she got a transfer to Los Angeles where she'd gladly work as an instructor or even take a desk job but that if the transfer wasn't an option, she'd quit.
He remembered the look on her face when she asked him if he willing to wait for her and then again afterwards when he gave his reply. He remembered telling her that he would wait as long as it took if it meant that they would be together. The transformation from uncertain and vulnerable to a wonderful mix of relief, joy, and hope and those other feel good emotions, well Chuck would call that magical. Chuck felt awestruck and honored at the same time that he could somehow bring such happiness to someone, especially to Sarah, and he realized that he would do everything in his power to never let her down again. So when Sarah had packed up and left, he refused to let their impending separation drive him into a depression. He knew this was nothing like his break with Jill and even a year without Sarah in his arms wouldn't hurt like Jill's betrayal had. Instead of allowing himself to dwell on who wasn't in his life, he opted to throw himself into his plans for his own business by taking some ideas he'd had kicking around since Stanford, and combined them with the work from the Orion search engine and run with it. Armed with his recently awarded degree and the freedom of no longer being shackled to the Buy More, Chuck had been eagerly putting together the resources needed to create something shiny and new. He knew that he was far from being done, but that the progress he made would be a welcome surprise for Sarah when she got back. The problem was that she was due back over a month ago, and nobody at the CIA was willing to talk.
When Ellie finally gathered the courage to ask, she said, "Any new from Sarah yet?"
"No, nothing yet Ellie. I'm sure that if there was anything serious that the people at the Peace Corps offices would have been called me by now. I bet that they asked her to stay a bit longer and she said yes. Sarah probably sent me a letter and it got lost somewhere. I heard that Rwanda's postal service can be unreliable at times." Chuck did feel bad about lying to the woman that practically raised him since he was 9 but honesty in this case would not have helped matters. He really was certain that if, heaven forbid, something happened to Sarah on this last mission (oh please let this one not fall victim to the "one last job that goes bad" action movie cliché) that he would of gotten the call by now. His name was filled in the previously empty next-of-kin portion of her file, and he was certain that the CIA wouldn't withhold knowledge of her death. When it got closer to the date of the trip, Chuck considered postponing his trip but the voice of reason spoke up that spy missions don't have timetables to stick to and any time spent moping about wouldn't help Sarah out at all. The fact that the voice sounded like her helped matters and he caught himself smiling as he thought of her scolding him if she caught him worrying about her ability to do her job.
"I just wished she decided to do something closer to home," Ellie said, dragging him back from his thoughts of a certain blonde. "I kind of understand her decision to want to give back but she was so young when she did some of those rotten things with her father. I just worry that something could happen to her over there."
Chuck had been surprised when Sarah had revealed part of her checkered past to his sister as part of her cover story for her leaving for a year. Sarah explained that the best covers usually contain some truth, and that by willingly talking about the past she would help erase any doubts in Ellie's mind about her intentions towards her brother. It didn't hurt that it would also offer good damage control in case her father was to drop in on her again in the future.
"Me too El. But I just keep reminding myself that she's pretty damn smart and that she's one of the toughest people I've ever met, present company excluded of course." Chuck's stomach had finally lost patience, and had chosen that opportunity to speak up. "Whoops, looks like the boss is getting restless," he joked.
"Can't have that now, can we. You finally ready to go?"
October 5, 2010 14:20 – Undisclosed Location
The ragged man stared at the safe, confused for a moment about where he was. Rooting through the ruined pair of pants he'd stolen ages ago, he pulled out a yellow notebook. The notebook always kept him on track, even when the head pains got bad, and it was the one constant in his life for what seemed like years. Or was it months? When you had the lights in your head, it was hard to remember. It made thoughts slippery and they had the tendency to bounce loose up there. Where was he... ah yes, the safe. Glancing around the room, he recalled how he got there. Setting the fire in the janitor's closet had caused everyone to flee the building, leaving him alone in the office with 'The Safe', the very safe that could very well hold the key to making him right. The office that he broke into belonged to some very bad men that had some information that they shouldn't have.
The problem was remembering if these were the bad men that wanted him dead or were the ones he worked for. The risk was well worth it though, as his head felt heavier by the day, and it might lead to the big D: Dysentery! No wait, that wasn't right... oh shoot, he should have written that down. "Ah well, guess it can't be that important," the man muttered to himself. "Now, let's see what's inside." After making short work of the lock, he pulled the door open. Inside was a set of folders, each stamped with the word "CLASSIFIED". Sorting through them, he saw none that looked familiar. However, when he was starting to give up, the lights had spoken. Usually, this would cause the man to get confused again, but this time, the knowledge they offered helped jar something familiar. "Omaha, of course!" he exclaimed. "That was its name! Finally, maybe I can find him now." Looking through the file, he was disappointed to find no information on the man, Orion (His name, he had to write that down!) or to his friend, the equally mysterious Carmichael. However, it pointed to one of Omaha's base of operations, an island called Kahni'auka. Finally, some hope! Scribbling the important details into his book, the man scooped the files up and shoved them back into the safe. He hurried down the stairs, absentmindedly passing confused firefighters on his way out. He knew he should use more care, but couldn't muster the enthusiasm to browbeat himself. He'd found his salvation, and there was nothing that would stop him now from getting to it.