A/N This episode occupies the same timeslot as Chuck vs. First Class. I expect the story will diverge widely, although I will try to keep what I can from the original. Shaw is not in charge, Chuck is not an agent.
Chuck walked into the Buy More, his home away from home, his domain, his castle…his shirt kept coming untucked! Dammit! He was assistant manager now. How could he command respect when his shirt kept untucking itself? He fumbled, trying to get the unruly ends below the beltline, but his oversized assistant manager's vest kept getting in the way.
No one saw. No one was watching. No one was there.
The break room. A cup of coffee sat on the table, right in front of his favorite chair. He sat, and instantly felt the squelch of super glue soaking through his pants and sticking to his legs. He couldn't stand. "Chuck!" he called, and then remembered that he was Chuck. Morgan was in Hawaii. He had no one–
Through the window he saw Sarah, Casey, and Shaw looking in at him. Shaw shook his head. Casey sneered. Sarah…Sarah…this was her plan! She glued him to the seat! How could he get out of the car when he couldn't get out of the chair?
"Sorry, Chuck," he heard her say, though her lips didn't move. "I'm having drinks with the Sultan later and I need to keep you safe." She turned and walked away in her fancy gown.
Sarah sat next to Chuck's bed in the recovery room, as she had for the last three hours and would for the next three, or as many as need be. He wasn't moving, hadn't so much as twitched as she and Ellie had to practically pour him onto the gurney. Usually he was so stiff after a download but today he collapsed in a boneless heap even as the door opened.
And now…nothing. Ellie had left her on watch as she contacted the General. Ellie had brought her the recordings of their mission and she had listened to them all. Ellie analyzed the telemetry and called the General again.
Sarah waited, and watched. Sarah saw the screen blip. Sarah saw the eyes twitch.
"Sarah!" he called weakly. "Sarah!"
"On my way!"
Ellie barreled through the door, taking in all the monitors as she crossed the floor to Chuck's bedside.
"He called my name."
"Chuck! Chuck, I'm here."
His eyes snapped open. "Sarah! You didn't–! Don't–! I—I…"
Sarah watched as his face lost that panicked look, his voice winding down as he became aware of the two women watching over him. "I'm right here, Chuck, I'm not going anywhere."
He looked at her. Saw her.
"What are you afraid of?"
Lied to her. "I—don't remember."
"General, he's awake."
Beckman clasped her hands in front of her, and favored Ellie with her most attentive scowl. "Yes, Doctor, I gathered that from the fact that you're calling me, and I told you to call me back when he's awake. The question is, is he Chuck?"
"Who else would he be?"
The General was clearly trying to use small words. "Someone who isn't Chuck, presumably."
"Well, I'm pretty sure it is Chuck in there, General. He woke up straight out of a nightmare, and the first thing he did was ask Sarah if she's okay."
Beckman smiled. "That certainly sounds like him to me. But if that's the case, who–more importantly where–is Charles Carmichael?"
Ellie shrugged. "Exactly what he was created to be, the person my brother always wanted to be. Suave, successful, powerful, confident. He's a role that Chuck plays when he wants–or needs–to be more than he thinks he already is."
"That sounded like much more than a role today, Doctor."
"So do you, General. And so does Doctor Bartowski. We have our uniforms to add to the illusion, Chuck had a whole screen to hide himself behind. You should have seen his Perchik, and that was on stage, with just makeup."
"Did he do the dance, too?" Beckman shook her head to clear it of the image. "Regardless, I still want it looked into."
"Of course. I will be going over the telemetry very carefully, General, as well as interviewing Casey and Sarah."
"They're the only ones with any prior experience with the Carmichael persona, back when they were his handlers, unless you count the bad guys he put away."
"Yes, it's unfortunate that Mr. Colt died recently, his experience with Carmichael was most direct. You can review his interrogations at least. There's another that comes to my mind, but he's in Witness Protection and unavailable to us."
"I don't think we'll need him, General. I'm pretty certain that this was all about Sarah, and Chuck was simply rising to the occasion."
"Mrs. Bartowski, for the purposes of this interview I am Dr. Woodcombe, please address me as such. I am the head researcher of the Intersect Project and primary caregiver to the man you yourself described as its CPU. I need to know what caused the extraordinary personality shift of this morning and your assistance is both requested and required. Is that clear?"
"Very clear, Doctor Woodcombe."
"What is your full name?"
Pride plus pleasure equals joy. "I am Sarah Lisa Bartowski."
"Mrs. Bartowski, you are aware that this interview is being recorded?"
"Yes, I am."
"You told Agent Shaw you were Sarah Carmichael?"
"Charles told me to."
"You were simply doing what he told you?"
"It's hard to say no to Charles Carmichael."
"But you can easily say no to your husband."
"Ellie, that's not what I meant and you know it."
"Sorry. Doctor Woodcombe. Or should I call you Carmichael too?"
"Eleanor Woodcombe is a person, a friend, a wife, a sister, a mother. But here we have a threat to Chuck and all of that is gone. Is it any surprise that Chuck would do the same, only in a spy mode rather than a scientist mode?"
"So his behavior doesn't strike you as in any way unusual?"
"God, no. I've been seeing Charles Carmichael in him from the moment I met him, although it was for the sake of a young ballerina, not me. He shushed Casey with a gesture and faced us both down for the sake of his sister, that first mission. I participated in the interrogation of Colt, so I'm not surprised to see it come out so full-blown today, any more than I am to see you so purposeful right now."
"Have you ever interacted with Charles Carmichael?"
"No I have not, except by radio this morning, nor do I wish to."
"I love Chuck Bartowski. I married Chuck Bartowski. Charles Carmichael is very focused, and very cold." Too much like me. She shivered. I need warm Chuck.
Ellie hid her smile at the motion. Thank you, Sarah."This concludes the interview." She leaned forward and turned off the recording. "We still on for the weekend?"
"Sure." Sarah stood. "Will you be releasing Chuck soon?"
"Uh…no, I have to interview Casey yet. Due diligence, and all that."
"Good. Keep me informed, will you? I have his punishment to arrange. Those take time."
Punishment? "Do I want to know?"
"As his sister, probably not. As his primary caregiver…"
Hands flew to cover ears. "TMI!"
"State your name and rank for the record, please."
He'd been expecting something like this. "Colonel John Casey, United States Marine Corps."
"Colonel, I am conducting a semi-unofficial inquiry on behalf of General Beckman, into the events of this morning and your assistance is requested. This conversation is being recorded. Do you understand?"
"Colonel, state the nature of your relationship with 'Mad Dog' Carmichael."
Casey grunted. "It started out as a joke, I guess it still is. In the course of a mission in his own identity, the asset Chuck Bartowski prevented his cover from being blown by expanding on his cover as Charles Carmichael."
"Bartowski revealed himself to the target as a Special Agent of the CIA. I was forced to go along with this charade, and embellished it further by creating the nickname, 'Mad Dog', in an attempt to convince the target of Special Agent Carmichael's ability. This was all mentioned in my report of the mission."
"Yes, Colonel, we found the reference. In a footnote. On page twelve."
She could hear him shrug. "It didn't seem important."
"It wasn't. Then. It is now."
"For what it's worth, Doctor, I didn't see anything at the time to indicate that Bartowski was doing anything other than playing a role. The way he acted yesterday is new to me, although I remember the Colt interrogations mentioning it."
"Yes, I reviewed the tapes of those. It must have been quite the performance, too bad there are no recordings."
"You think it was just a performance, then?"
"You think otherwise?"
"I never thought he was a killer, but I think he was awfully quick to abandon those men to their fates. You heard what he said to Shaw."
"He knew his wife, and the others, knew what they could and would do in that situation. He didn't know the Ring agents or order those deaths, he just accepted them as inevitable. He's sympathetic to a fault but I can understand his apparent callousness in this context."
Casey grunted. It could have meant anything, or nothing.
"Your analysis, Doctor?"
"Good news, General. I've interviewed Casey and Sarah, and reviewed the interrogation of Colt. My analysis of the telemetry is only begun, and I have seen some signs of unusual brain activity, but nothing that would indicate any serious or permanent alterations. I released Chuck a few minutes ago, to complete his cover duties and return home, hopefully to rest."
"Sarah had plans of some kind."
"Hmm. Yes. I reviewed Carina's report of the mission already. Hopefully Chuck will be fit for duty tomorrow."
"You're a doctor. Suck it up."
Sigh. "Yes, ma'am." Her cell buzzed. She glanced at the text. "General, stay on the line, please. I have to make a call." Without waiting for an acknowledgement she flipped through her contacts. "Sarah, what's the emergency?"
On the screen, Beckman suddenly focused.
"Yes, I'm still onsite. Who? Dimples? No. I don't know anyone named–what you mean Chuck's been detained?"
Beckman picked up her phone.
"Okay, Sarah, we're on it. We'll see you when you get back." She ended the call, looked up to see the General on the phone but waiting for her. "General, Chuck's been arrested for assault!"
Beckman's face went completely still. "Who?"
"Special Agent Daniel Shaw. Chuck knocked him out cold!"
A/N2 Okay, maybe it's diverging more than I planned. Everyone who feels sorry for Agent Shaw, raise your hands. The rest of you leave comments.