A/N The important stuff first: This story was vetted by atcDave, Thinkling, and BDaddyDL and they helped it become much better than it had been. Thanks, guys.
"And whatever Chuck wants, Chuck gets?"
"So why aren't we riding to the rescue?"
The Porsche was humming, doing what it was made to do, look good, go very fast, and get there in the nick of time.
The Blonde driving the Porsche was humming, too.
"If you're going to insist on humming off key, can you pick a different song, please?" said Carina. "That one's depressing."
Sarah jerked out of her focus. She'd picked the song for its power and passion. "What's depressing about it?"
"Don't you listen to the words?" Carina doubted it. The iPhone in Sarah's kitchen had the volume turned way down.
"I find music I like, I keep it," said Sarah. "I don't listen to the words anyway." She liked to move to it, not sing along. Chuck was the singer. She loved it when he took showers, not only because she liked to imagine him naked but also because he sang in there and she liked the sound.
A phone rang, with the chorus of 'Girls Just Wanna have Fun'. Carina put her musical concerns to one side and answered, putting it on speaker.
"You know I hate speakerphones, smooshie, anybody can hear."
Carina adopted a strange, air-headed voice. "But smoosh, I'm driving, and they have that whole 'hands-free' thing now."
He immediately backed down. "Alright, alright. You got my bag?"
"Right beside me, smoosh." She patted Sarah's leg. "I'm so sorry. Can you ever forgive me for running away? I was just so surprised! But really, what's a girl to think when you tell her something like that?"
"I was hopin' you'd think I loved you and wanted to give you everything I treasure in my life," he grumbled. "But I can see where I might have made a mistake in that. Can you forgive me, smooshie, for not telling you about my little transgressions?"
"Of course I can, smoosh." Carina blew a kiss into her phone. "I realize now you were only trying to protect me."
"Er, yeah! I lead a hard life, and I wanted to keep you safe. I love you."
"I love you more, smoosh. But really, Karl, you didn't have to kidnap my friend's husband like that!"
"Well it wasn't my idea, was it? I wanted the boys to snatch you, but you didn't have the bag and he was right there. Tell you what, you meet me, with the bag, as agreed, and I'll let you punish the lot of them."
Carina actually seemed intrigued by the possibilities. "Oh, you say the sweetest things, smoosh."
"And if you don't meet me, or you don't have my bag, I'll let them punish him."
"Now, smoosh," she scolded, "There's no need for such talk, none at all."
"I know there isn't." The screen went black.
Carina made sure all the functions were shut down. "That was very strange."
"You're telling me? I don't know which of you made me want to throw up more." Her phone chimed. "Telescope, secure."
"What's your ETA, Telescope?"
"Think you can bring DEA up to speed in one minute? North Star gave the go-ahead."
"I'll use small words, Kaleidoscope. Carina, you've heard of the Intersect project?"
"Eagle Eye's the CPU. How's that, Kaleidoscope?"
His impressed grunt carried over the speakers. "I'll inform North Star."
"Good God," said Carina, honestly shocked for once. "You don't suppose Karl knows, do you?"
Sarah laughed evilly. "When they feel the ton of bricks about to land on them they might figure it out, but by then it won't matter."
Twenty seconds later they were standing in a cloud of dust in a fenced-in parking lot. Casey was already there with a group of men armed to the teeth. "Glad you could make it, Telescope. Bad guys are in there—" he pointed to a building on the other side of the fence "—we've cut holes to flank. You take the Lensman twins that way, I'll take my guys this way, incursion in thirty."
"Where's Eagle Eye?"
"Don't worry, we've tapped their camera, got eyes inside. They're centered. There's only a perimeter, unfortunately, not even enough for a training exercise, so this shouldn't take long. Go." They went, mostly silent except for a muttered complaint from Carina about high heels and gravel. No one cared. The hole in the back fence opened behind some debris, giving them cover as they crawled out to get the lay of the land.
"Target spotted," said Lensman One.
"Target spotted," said Two.
"Crap," said Carina.
"Drop your—ow!" said the sentry, as Sarah's knife sank into the back of the hand he had clamped around Carina's throat. She dropped and rolled, allowing Sarah to finish him off with her usual dispatch.
Carina stood, wiping the dirt off her hands on the crumpled lump of sentry. "You enjoyed that."
"Only a lot," said the team leader. "I like having enemies I can fight."
"Yeah, you do."
The radio on the unconscious sentry's shoulder squawked. "Unit two?"
"Crap, we're blown." Sarah raised her own mike. "Casey, action now!"
The two Lensmen fired, and their targets dropped like sacks of meat. The team sprinted across the lot as shots rang out on the far side of the building.
"Nobody move or I blow his brains out!"
Sarah risked a peek inside. The boss was right behind Chuck, a gun to his head, glaring at Casey's men.
"I have an idea," said Carina, handing over her gun. "Take me hostage."
"Right." Sarah grabbed her by her arm and dragged her through the door. "Not so fast, Stromberg!"
"Smooshie!" He glared at Carina's dishevelment. "Have they hurt you?"
"Not really, smoosh."
'Not really' meant 'some'. "You bastards!" He fired wildly at Sarah. She easily dodged but Carina took the opportunity to 'escape' and ran to her husband's side.
"Smoosh! You saved me!" She kissed him full on the lips, one hand holding him close while the other was outstretched. Finally she broke off.
"Did you miss me, smooshie?"
"Not a bit," she said, hitting him with the brick Casey had put in her hand. He fell like a sack of meat, but still breathing.
Sarah ran over, reaching Chuck before anyone else. "Don't move or speak, Eagle Eye. I'll cut you free but don't remove the hood. Most of these people aren't cleared for your identity." Chuck nodded, and merely gripped her hand as she put her knives to work.
Casey moved up a little more slowly. "What happened, Telescope?"
"They had their SIC doing perimeter duty. Karl here called him right after we took him out."
Casey grunted in disbelief at the amateurishness that was causing them so much trouble. He looked over at Carina. "You know, we could have taken him out easily." He wouldn't have minded a chance to shoot something.
Carina shrugged. "I know, but my way was more fun. And believe me, after that wedding night, he really needed to get hit in the head with a brick. Hey, do I get a cool cover name too?"
Casey rolled his eyes. "Yeah, sure, why not?" He looked at her dress. "How about 'Microscope'?"
A couple of days later, Carina dropped by again for a surprise visit, and to get a proper read-in on the project that was soon to engulf every aspect of her life. At least Sarah hoped so. "No one told you to get in the car, you know."
On the way out, Carina paused by the door. "I have something for you, Bartowski. I'm not sure you're ready for it, but I'm not sure you'll ever be ready for it. For Chuck's sake I'll give it to you, but only on one condition."
"You must listen to everything on this drive, in order. No weaseling out or stopping in the middle, got it?"
You think I'm a coward? "I promise."
Carina stared at her a moment more, then reached out, grabbed Sarah's hand, and slapped a flash drive into it. "Watch it alone." She turned and walked away.
Watch it alone, she says. Like Sarah ever wanted to be alone. She'd done the 'alone' thing, swallowed it until she almost choked on the stuff. Secrets and lies, she had no stomach for them anymore. But she'd made a promise. "Chuck?"
"Would you mind…going to bed a little ahead of me tonight. Carina gave me some files and I promised her I'd review them."
He shrugged. "We can look at them together."
She shook her head, already regretting it. "No, she…she suggested I watch them alone. Believe me, if it's something that needs to be shared I will share it. I promise."
"I'm gonna hold you to that." It wasn't quite a joke.
She waited until the door to their room closed, then got out her laptop and headphones. Carina'd said 'listen', and the walls were thin. The drive had three files on it, none very big, labeled in sequence. She pressed the first one.
A static image came onto her screen, and music played. She didn't recognize the melody. Then words started appearing on the screen, lyrics to the song being sung.
"How can you see into my eyes, like open doors,
Leading you down into my core, where I've become so numb…"
The music became more intense, and she knew the song now. She'd picked it for its power and passion. It's words were too true, painful to hear, and she reached out more than once to stop the file, but she'd made a promise. Only that kept her in her seat, hands clenched white around each other as she forced herself to read the blurred words through tearing eyes.
At last it was over, and Sarah was free to wipe the tears from her eyes before starting the next file. I hate you, Carina. Is this what you think I am?
The second file was the same song, but not static. The music video panned in to a building, an apartment, a woman sleeping as life went on around her. It only got worse from there, images giving the words meaning beyond their mere definitions.
An enemy she could fight.
At last the nightmare ended, leaving Sarah bolt wide awake and desperate for rest at the same time, her emotions bruised and torn. One file to go, but if it was like the last two she'd break a promise for the first time, and then she'd break the former friend who'd made her promise.
With that resolve firmly in mind, she opened the last file.
No music, already a plus. Homemade, too. A large hand blocked the screen for a moment, but the owner walked away and she could see an empty warehouse, and a man on a chair, his head covered with a cloth bag. Chuck.
"You think she believed me?" She recognized the voice, the man on the phone, sounding much more human. Clearly he didn't know the camera was on.
"I would have," said Chuck, his voice muffled, but even so a balm to her no longer quite so frozen soul, thank you very much Carina. "You sounded very fierce."
"Well I am fierce," said the man in conversational tones. "I'm fiercely in love with her, and I fiercely want her back, and my bag. Do you think that came across?"
Sarah almost laughed. He's coming to my man for advice! Chuck beat him while bagged and tied to a chair! God, she loved him.
"It's exactly how I would want to sound if I thought I was losing my wife. Carina showed me that."
"She did?" asked the man.
How?, wondered the wife.
"This morning, Carina asked me how come my wife was out in the sticks with a Boy Scout when she should have been out in the world, dining with kings."
Sarah growled. She knew Carina'd said something stupid.
"And she was right. That's absolutely where my wife belongs, and I have no idea why she's with me. She chose to be with me, and every day I lived in terror that she'd change her mind, that she would realize her mistake, and go back to those kings and leave me and my girlish screams and absurd fear of needles behind here in the sticks, where I belong."
Sarah shook her head Nonono, tears streaming.
"But then Carina came along, and what she said made me imagine a life without my wife in it, sir, and that frightened me more than anything I've had to face to get her in it in the first place. That wasn't the end, just the beginning. She deserves the best, so I have to man up and become that, to be worthy of the priceless gift she's given me. And I am not fierce, so I can only hope to sound like someone who is, if that time should ever come."
The big man clapped a hand on Chuck's shoulder. "You just say that to her, mate, and you'll never have to worry about sounding fierce. You're a good man, Chuck, and I wish you all the best. I just have to get my missus back and I'll get you home to yours." He lifted a radio to his mouth. "Unit two?"
Sarah shut the file.
She crept into bed, thinking he might be asleep. She was never more grateful for anything in her life when she nestled into his side and felt his arm go around her. Hold me to that. You promised.
1-2-3-4, his fingers pressed into her back.
1-3-1-3, she pressed back. Yellow.
His other arm came up. "Somebody needs a hug."
She held him tightly in response, even though she didn't quite agree. I just need you.
A/N2 The song, in case you care, is 'Bring Me to Life' by Evanescence. It's a perfect song for the Sarah that once was. Hopefully now that I've finished this episode it'll stop playing in my head. So, where to next? Devon? Morgan and Anna? or everyone's favorite guest star, Daniel Shaw? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, please. Thanks so much for reading.