A/N With thanks to Michael66 for his comments and advice. And Shakespeare, too.
I don't own Chuck, Chuck owns me.
He which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
I'm not going anywhere.
John Casey tested his bonds covertly, not wanting to let any of his captors know that he was awake when an advantage might be found in their ignorance. The guy who tied these knots must have been a Boy Scout, though.
It hadn't been Muffin, that was for sure. He knew he'd broken at least one of the guy's fingers, not that a little thing like that had kept him down. He just led with his left instead of his right, until his reinforcements arrived.
Ironic that Casey's job now was to hold out until his reinforcements left. Casey appreciated irony. For a brief second, he wondered if Shakespeare had ever written a play about Horatius at the bridge. That would have been a text worth studying!
Except that Casey much preferred taking the battle to the enemy, not making dramatic stands, last or otherwise. This whole protective thing chafed at him a bit, not his thing at all. He'd walked away from a fiancée to do battle. Now, here he was.
Hooray for irony.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
"How's the hand, Muffin?"
Muffin dropped his hand from the salute, looked at his taped fingers. "Doc said it was a clean break, sir, should heal up in a couple of weeks. Guess I'm off mop detail, though."
"I could give you the toilets, except we have Tough Guy covering those. Bet you'd love to give him a swirlie, eh?"
"The thought never entered my mind, sir."
Dimples grunted a dubious acknowledgement. "Good job soldier."
"Begging your pardon, sir, but I lost the package."
"You were up against superior numbers, and struck from behind. No fault of yours."
"Thank you, sir. Do we know where the package went?"
Dimples frowned, and sat down heavily. "We do not. We had eyes on your 'hot brunette' from the moment she left the stairwell until this point–" Rather than fast forward through the footage he tapped a map of the building "–where she vanished. Probably looped footage, which means a confederate in the building."
"Tough Guy, sir?"
"Most likely. He was spotted on the west side, I've dispatched Babyface and Sweetcheeks to get him. As for the brunette, the only woman in that area with even a passing resemblance was Miss Walker."
"I didn't know she was in the building. Did anyone see her enter?" Anyone else, that'd be suspicion talking. Muffin was just a fan.
"No. Does this surprise you?"
Not at all. "Is it true she got married, sir?"
How did I ever guess? "Yeah, some super-agent named Carmichael. Lotta strange rumors going around about him. Jumps off of buildings to say hello, that sort of thing."
Muffin grinned. "Sounds like her type."
"Maybe not, I heard some things," said Dimples dismissively. Enough chit-chat. "You got anything else on this brunette, maybe we can track her down?"
"Just a few words. 'Chu–', 'bar', moron, and Eagle-eye. It sounded like they were all referring to the same person."
"Tough Guy again, I'm betting. We get him, we'll probably get her too. Okay." Dimples stood again. "Let's go talk to Agent Casey."
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."
"All right, wake him up." Dimples sat down, facing the prisoner.
At the command, an underling stepped forward and threw the contents of a glass of water in Casey's face, carefully aimed so that the spillage would go down his shirt rather than onto the floor. Just because they had an abundance of mops didn't mean they wanted to use them.
"Rise and shine, sleepy-head." Dimples smiled. "I'd say 'on your feet, soldier,' but you know what they say about giving orders that can't be obeyed."
Casey adopted an innocent expression. "Just a humble janitor here, boss. What do they say?"
Dimples leaned in close, spewing cheap-cigar breath into his victim's face. "Don't do it." He sat back, and Casey allowed himself to breathe again. "Just a janitor, eh? Didn't know the 82nd Airborne had a janitorial brigade."
"Only for mopping up, boss."
Dimples laughed, and his men allowed themselves to smile. Casey did neither, waiting for any kind of opening to present itself.
"You're a funny guy, Ladyfeelings. It's really gonna hurt me to have to torture you."
"Not as much as it'll hurt me, I'm thinking."
Dimples nodded. "That's true, you got me there. Of course, you could just tell us what we want to know and save us making a mess."
"But you have all these wonderful mops…"
Dimples sighed. "Okay, fine. Have it your way." He nodded to his subordinates. "Take him to the Ring."
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say "These wounds I had on Crispian's day."
This was the strangest torture Casey had ever experienced.
For a minute there, when they'd mentioned 'the Ring', he'd gotten his hopes up. Then he found out they meant an actual ring, a clear space well in the back of Interiors Maintenance, defined by a circle of ordinary folding metal chairs.
Then, once they'd carried the chair with him on it into the center of this space, they untied him, and stood back. When he stood up, he could hear someone take the chair away but that was all. Warily, he eyed the circle of men, waiting for someone to bring out the trays of drugs, and other implements of a more corporal nature.
Dimples pointed. "Pebbles, you go first." Everyone sat.
Gotta give him credit, the kid was good, but John Casey was an enthusiast. The fight didn't last long, but victory didn't come as easily as it should have, either. His previous fight in the stairwell was slowing him down.
His adversaries were all fresh, expecting him to fall to one of them, sooner or later. That was their mistake.
John Casey fought for a lot of reasons. He fought because he liked it. That carried him through the first couple of bouts, until the pain overwhelmed the pleasure of combat.
"Who are you?" they would ask.
He only had one answer. "No."
John Casey fought for work. He'd trained in a variety of martial arts in his youth, but he preferred the less disciplined styles. When it was no longer fun it became work, and he dragged out his formal training, settling into the angry center that Chuck had helped him to find. He had to protect Chuck, that was his job. Anger got him past the pain, skill kept him from getting any more. Until he began to tire. No amount of anger could carry him past that.
"Who are you?"
John Casey fought for time. Time for Chuck, time for Sarah. She would protect Chuck when he could not. He wouldn't be able to much longer.
"Who are you?"
John Casey fought for honor. They'd have to kill him first, because John Casey wasn't fighting for his life.
"Who are you?"
Dimples stood at last. He eyed John Casey with sad respect. "Just tell me who you are, why you're here, and I'll make this quick and easy."
Casey turned to watch out of the eye that still opened, and gestured him on, smiling.
Dimples came on. A lightning jab to the elbow paralyzed Casey's arm. Another to his throat left him choking. A knee broke some ribs and spun him about. Another jab to the back of his knee brought him down hard on the wooden floor.
"Who are you?"
Casey could not speak, but shook his head in mute denial.
Dimples eyed his fallen opponent. "You've done well, Major Casey of the NSA, but it ends now."
All for nothing. No. Not for nothing. Casey rose to one knee, forcing himself to move around the pain. "My name…is…Ladyfeelings."
Dimples nodded. "Ladyfeelings it is." He dropped the fighting stance and held out his hand.
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.
A janitor named Showtunes distributed coldpacks to all the walking wounded in the room, starting with Casey. He accepted his with thanks. "So you knew all along? Your DDO was under orders not to tell anyone who we were, or even that we were here." He took a sip of his fruit juice, and made a face at the bitterness. No one else seemed to notice.
"Yeah, well, that's how we knew. Nobody is just assigned to this detail, Major. I hand pick my men. Only the best of the best are chosen for this duty."
No wonder he went along with it so easily. Casey winced, putting the coldpack in place. "Cleaning toilets?"
"It looks that way, doesn't it? Gentlemen." Every man in the room snapped to attention, even the ones who could barely stand. "We are Interiors Maintenance, Major Casey." Casey saluted automatically, and they settled into their former positions. "We defend this building and the people in it from all attacks, both within and without. No biological or chemical attack has ever succeeded–"
"What about that anthrax scare?"
"Staged. By us, so no one would notice that we were the only ones not affected. We also deal with internal espionage. We caught that phone call this morning–"
"Imagine our surprise that you caught it first and fastest. That was Tough Guy, I'm guessing. He's been quite the busy little bee today."
They didn't know the half of it, and Casey couldn't tell them. "We didn't know–"
"No one knows, Major. No one is allowed to know, unless they're one of us. Ladyfeelings."
Casey smiled. "I see."
"What happened to the package?"
Something landed on the table with a thump, and all eyes turned to see what it was. The flashbang exploded, blinding them, although Casey could hear the sound of multiple shots being fired. Darts of some kind. He felt a prick in his own chest, followed by a pins-and-needles sensation that quickly faded.
"Exactly what I want to know, gentlemen," said someone, presumably the tosser and shooter. "The prickling you are feeling will soon become something much more unpleasant, to be followed by a slow and prolonged death. There is no cure, but if you answer my question now I will give you a quicker death before I leave." He held up his gun, in promise.
Casey tried to rise, but the pain of his injuries stopped him."Who the hell are you?"
"I am Falcon, Mister…Ladyfeelings. Ah. I believe Miss Ross mentioned you, before I gave her ease."
"What's…in the…package?" panted Dimples.
"Construction documents and expense reports for something called an intersection chamber. Not my business really, but my superiors will be so glad that I have found out why we've had so much trouble getting information out of this building." He pulled a tube out of his pocket, started screwing it onto his gun. "Useful information, that is. We've gotten quite a bit of the…less helpful sort. Now gentlemen, before you become too agonized to talk and I am forced to leave you: where is my package?"
"Right here," said a voice in a different part of the room.
The gunman looked away, just in time to see a heavy and clumsily-made ceramic ashtray as it flew towards his head. They both fell to the floor.
Dimples and crew rose, in no apparent pain. "Good job with the ashtray, Pebbles."
"My daughter's ashtray?" said another man–Lilywhite, if Casey recalled correctly–in mild distress. "Tell me it's not broken!"
"Relax, Lily, we couldn't break one of her craft projects if we tried. Everybody get more juice, just in case. Especially the Major. It's got all sorts of anti-toxins mixed in, that's why it tastes so bad," he commented to Casey. He looked down at the stunned Ring agent, grunted in satisfaction. "Monologuing ploy gets 'em every time."
"You call it what?" asked Casey, drinking his bitter juice gratefully.
"The monologuing ploy. You pretend to be defeated, and the bad guy rants about his evil plot while making grandiose gestures." He toed the silenced gun to one side, and Lilywhite picked it up. "Better than torture. It works more often than you think."
Casey grunted. "Sounds like something from a comic book."
"Hey!" said Showtunes sharply. "Don't go dissing The Incredibles, it's a great movie!"
"You obviously haven't seen Finding Nemo yet."
"Here we go," said Dimples to Casey, sotto voce. Raising his voice, he said, "Save it for break time, gentlemen. In case you haven't noticed, we still have a spy to take care of."
Casey looked down at the semi-conscious man. "How do you 'take care of' spies if you're so secret?"
Dimples shrugged. "We're the Janitors. We clean up all the messes. Kill him, Pebbles."
"Sir." Pebbles stepped forward, grabbing the spy by the throat. With one hand he lifted the man into the air. Falcon choked and gurgled, all his weight hanging off his neck, suffocating slowly.
"Showoff," muttered Dimples. "Speed it up."
Pebbles hit him, a right cross that took his head where his neck couldn't follow, and the man sagged. Showtunes was right on hand with a wheelbarrow, and Pebbles dropped the body into it. "Next stop, the Pit of Flaming Doom."
"I'm guessing you mean the incinerator," said Casey.
"Of course," said Showtunes, "But it's more fun my way."
"You mind if I search the body first?"
Dimples shrugged and waved him on. "Knock yourself out."
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
Ugly ashtrays called for ugly cigars, and Dimples had shared out his personal stock with his latest crewman, i.e., Casey, who couldn't honorably refuse, when Babyface walked into the room, an unconscious Tough Guy slung over his shoulder.
"Took you long enough. What the hell happened to you?"
The big man gestured over his shoulder, the one without Chuck on it. "She did."
He stepped aside, revealing Sarah Walker/Bartowski/Carmichael as he put his burden carefully in a chair. She didn't look happy. All the men in the room sat up straighter.
"You had two other guys with you," said Dimples. "Where are they?"
"They're in the infirmary," she replied.
"What happened to 'em?"
"I did. My protectee took a trang dart meant for me. I returned the favor."
"Sorry about that."
"Not as sorry as they will be, when they wake up." She looked at John, leg braced, cuts bandaged, bruises purpling. "What the hell happened to you?"
Everyone flinched. "We, uh, we made him swim to the top of Mount Wannahockaloogie and swim through the Ring of Fire."
She looked enlightened. "Ah. Finding Nemo." She'd seen the movie at least once with Ellie and Devon. They didn't have any children yet but they were still vetting the movies she'd be allowed to watch. "The Fight Club version."
They were all quick to agree.
"And does any one of you nice people want to explain why my protectee here was getting hazed in the cafeteria, of all places?"
Eyes shifted all around.
"Agent Walker," said Casey, with curious emphasis, "It's complicated."
She considered this. "Does it affect our mission?"
Casey smiled. "Not anymore." He blew a ring of foul-smelling cigar smoke at her and she stepped back. "Take Tough Guy home. I want to hang here for a while."
"Can you hold on a second? I got someone who'd love to meet you." At her quick nod, he turned and raised his voice. "Hey, Muffin!"
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.