9.

' Hey moron! U look like u r sneaking around. Stop! '. Even with a text, Casey sounded... well... like Casey.

Chuck grimaced at the notion and texted back. ' I'm trying to look casual. Duh! '

As Chuck prepared to pocket his phone, Casey's text tone sounded again. ' Epic fail. Grrrr '

Sarah's text tone sounded. Chuck read, ' Clear and ignore Casey. '

Carrying a large plastic bag with the 'Lou's Place' logo, Chuck approached the FIA issued, nondescript surveillance van parked in a remote corner near some parking lot shrubbery. Director Graham was still upset with changes Casey had made so that the van looked less like a FIA issued surveillance vehicle and more... nondescript.

He knocked on the back door of the van, " Anybody home? "

Sarah opened the door wearing her cool, remote, field agent expression; yet there was warmth and humour in the depths of her eyes. " Funny, Chuck... "

Chuck froze. Sarah Walker really was the most incredibly beautiful woman he'd ever seen. She was wearing a blue blouse that enhanced the blue of her eyes and scooped low enough to frame a tantalizing amount of cleavage. Incredibly beautiful and incredibly sexy...

" Are you getting in or are you planing on just announcing to everyone... "

Chuck hopped into the van, all lanky length, knees and elbows. He saw her wince as he stepped on her foot. " So sorry! So sorry! I'm so... " "

" Hey, Chuck! "

Startled, he looked over at the bank of surveillance monitors and grinned at the gentleman prominently featured in one. " Hi, Augie. How is Annie doing, by the way? "

Augie nodded his head. " She's fine. The doctors just released her with a clean bill of health. Thanks for the timely intel by the way. Annie would have been hurt much worse without it. "

" Glad to help. " Chuck eased into one of the uncomfortable chairs as they generally tried to roll out from under him before he was seated. " Tell Annie I said hi, will you? "

" Will do, " Augie returned. " Sarah, we owe you guys big time. I'll get on the tech grunts to get that stuff worked out. "

Sarah nodded. " Thanks, Augie and thanks for the prescription. "

The monitor went blank and the FIA logo blinked into existence.

" So how did you know I got a text from Casey? " Chuck placed the plastic bag on an empty space of console. He pulled a recycled cardboard container out and handed it to the blond FIA agent.

" I can tell who you get a text from just by your body language. " Sarah sniffed appreciatively. " You're going to spoil me, Chuck... "

" Cool... " Chuck shot her the Bartowski eyebrow dance. " So what was that all about? "

Sarah opened her recyclable meal container and smiled at Chuck. It was 'The Liar' with no olives, Lou's homemade potato salad and a mess of pickles. " I know you suffer from severe headaches when you do a lot of flashing, so I asked Augie to look into a more effective pain med.

" He just gave me a new prescription and said he'll ask about any tweaks or adjustments the tech grunts may have made in the beta version. If they have, he's going to see if he can get that intel to us and maybe we can get it into your brain, so it won't hurt to flash... "

Chuck opened his own meal container and gave her a grateful smile. " Thanks. "

" Just looking out for you, " Sarah said. " It's my job. "

" Yeah, but, that's more than anyone else has done for me, " Chuck said quietly.

" It's a special prescription so we'll need to get it filled by a local FIA approved doctor. " Sarah shoulder bumped him. " Eat your lunch... "

Chuck nodded as he began to eat. It had been a rather chaotic couple of weeks since Sarah had become one of his handlers. He'd been dropped off the roof of a warehouse by an enormous bad guy, Mr. Colt and caught by Casey, fortunately. Mr. Colt had been looking for something called 'The Cipher'. Sarah had then kicked Mr. Colt's ass.

Team Chuck had then dealt with a seductress spy known as the Black Widow and an aging Lothario of an FIA field agent. The Black Widow had also been searching for 'The Cipher'. Roan Montgomery's legendary seduction techniques had failed; mostly as he was decades past his prime and his alcohol fueled life style had not been kind. Chuck ended up swinging off the Buy More roof to save Sarah and she had nearly kicked his ass for that one.

Eating lunch, either in the van or Castle, had quickly become an enjoyable shared pastime. Chuck regaled and entertained Sarah with his take on the various Team Chuck missions from the past several months.

And Chuck was falling in love...

" Uh... Chuck? "

Chuck glanced at Sarah. " Yeah? "

She had paused in her eating and was studying him. " Are you okay? You zoned out on me... "

Chuck nodded. " I was just thinking. What's up? "

" I was wondering if you'd tell me why you and Casey went off the grid yesterday morning? "

Chuck took a bite of his sandwich.

" Chuck... "

That look of Sarah's was more effective than truth serum. " What was yesterday morning? "

" Sunday morning. " Sarah thought for a moment. " You guys went to church? "

Chuck nodded. " But it isn't one of the Fed approved religions, like the bad science fiction religion created by the hack pulp writer, as Casey put it... "

Sarah shrugged. " Okay... "

" Believe me, I'm not a religious person, Sarah, " Chuck continued. " But I do have my faith and it's important to me... "

She gave him a reassuring look. " That's fine Chuck. As long as it doesn't interfere with missions... "

" It won't. "

" Okay and changing the subject, " Sarah nodded towards a monitor that covered the area around the Nerd Herd desk. " What happened to Morgan? "

Chuck watched as Morgan slouched across the store. " Um... Yvonne Strzzz... Strezkof... "

" It's pronounced Strzechowski... " Sarah said.

" Really? "

Sarah nodded.

Chuck recalled some of the intel from his original flash on Sarah Walker. " That's right, you know Polish. "

" I picked up a couple Euro languages, while I was in college, as part of my training. So the FIA, in it's infinite wisdom, teamed me with Agent Larkin and we worked in Hispanic America quite often. "

" Just don't let Morgan know you have even a working knowledge of Polish, " Chuck recommended.

Sarah frowned. " Why? "

" Ms. Strzekov... um... Strzechowski... played Jaimie Sommers, aka the Bionic Woman, on Morgan's favorite Dixie television show. "

Sarah gave him the look of amused incomprehension she usually did when he began to talk about the pop culture from the South. Not that he blamed her. It was illegal to watch Dixie television, after all. And that very illegality had been one of the prime attractions for rebellious nerds. That and the superior entertainment value...

" Anyway, Morgan's idea of a grand romantic gesture would be to write a love sonnet to her in Polish. Morgan doesn't know Polish and is a terrible poet, so would you want to be his translator? "

Sarah shuddered. " Oh... "

" Exactly. " Chuck watched as his bearded buddy made a desultory attempt at dealing with a customer and sighed. If the store wasn't unionized and if Mrs. Grimes wasn't Big Mike's girlfriend...

" Anyway, she is on a Fed television show now. The ugly, nasty one with a serial killer for a hero? Ms. Strzechowski had a sex scene on the show recently and exposed a lot of skin, even more than she had on 'The Bionic Woman' and she wore a bikini on it often enough... "

Sarah grinned her appreciation for his attempt at humour. She seemed to do that fairly often and Chuck liked that about her. Granted, her understanding of his humour could be hit or miss...

" Morgan approved and said so. Anna did not approve of his approval and gave him the black eye... "

Sarah shook her head and returned to eating her lunch.

After taking a final bite of his sandwich, Chuck began to tap away on a keyboard. He watched the work being done on what would become the Orange Orange. The FIA sub contractors were extremely efficient and the work was proceeding at a rapid pace. They obviously were not a union construction crew.

He then activated a Castle camera to find Casey seated at the main mission table working on paperwork. He turned the sound up.

" And in the fury of this darkest hour / We will be your Light / You've asked me for my sacrifice / And I am Winter Born... "

" What in the hell is that? " Sarah asked.

" Without denying, a faith in God / That I have never known / I hear the Angels call my name / And I am Winter Born... "

" That's Casey's idea of music, " Chuck answered. " They're The Cruxshadows, from Tallahassee Florida. They're a goth filk group who do a lot of Renaissance fairs in Dixie. "

Sarah looked a little stunned as the music changed into a wild skirling of bagpipes, the martial thunder of drums and a chanting howl...

" Axes flash, broad swords swing / Shining armor's piercing ring / Horses run with polished shields / Fight those bastards till they yield!

" Midnight mare and blood red roan / Fight to keep this land your own / Sound the horn and call the cry / How many of them can we make die! "

" And that is Albannach, with their version of Heather Alexander's 'March of Cambreadth', " Chuck explained. " I burned a couple cd's of what Casey calls 'warrior music'. He grunted a thanks and then told me to stop snooping through his life... "

" Sounds like Casey, " Sarah grumbled.

" He likes to play this stuff before we go out on a mission. He says it gets him in the right frame of mind. "

Sarah shivered and looked slightly ill. " I so don't want to think about what is in Casey's mind or why that music would appeal to him. "

" Well, we never have figured out what kind of music you like, " Chuck said slyly.

" You just don't give up, do you? " Sarah's expression turned wistful. " I haven't thought about this in years, but when I was in high school, I hung out with a couple of beatnik radical wannabes who listened to Nina Simone and Billy Holliday... "

" More of that illegal and inappropriate Dixie music, awesome, " Chuck chuckled. " Y' know if the Feds didn't subsidize the northern music groups, they'd starve. Seriously though, who wants to hear paeans to the workers paradise, or to Dictator praise and worship music... "

" I won't tell if you won't. " Sarah finished her lunch and gathered the detritus together for Chuck to dispose when he returned to work.

They realized that there was silence coming from the speakers. They looked at a monitor to see Casey glaring at them.

" I know you and Walker are watching, " Casey snarled dangerously. " You will stop. Now... "

" How does he do that, " Chuck muttered as he hit a couple of keys and the monitor changed back to the Buy More and killed the speakers.

" I think it is his Marine sniper training, " Sarah said, with professional admiration. " He knows when he's being watched. I can sense it too, but not like Casey. And if I know Casey, he has the van monitored. "

" Point. At least he seems happy that he'll no longer work at the Weinerliscious. "

Sarah chuckled. " He took a lot of pleasure in burning that ass man uniform. "

" Oh yeah and I still think that grunt was Casey's version of a happy dance. " Chuck smiled at the memory. " What do you think Carina's reaction will be to the OO being her new cover job? "

Sarah shook her head. " Carina likes the kind of cover job where she is arm candy to some power broker wannabe, or a model... "

" Oh crap... " Chuck stared at one of the Buy More monitors.

Something in his voice had Sarah glaring at the bank of monitors. " Did you just flash? "

Chuck nodded and pointed at a scar faced man who was walking through the store. The stranger had dark hair and empty, dark eyes and was wearing an expensive suit. " I just flashed on him. That's Tommy Delgado, a Fulcrum agent. "

As they watched, Delgado stopped at the Nerd Herd desk. Chuck quickly turned the mics up.

" ...looking for Bryce Larkin? " the scar faced man asked.

Nerd Herder Lester looked up with his usual sneer. Something in Delgado's eyes caused Lester to take a hasty step back. " I... I can't help you, sir and I have no idea where Bryce is... "

" Try the loading dock, dude, " Nerd Herder Jeff said without taking his eyes from his monitor.

Lester turned to glare at his co-worker. " Jeffrey... "

" What? " Jeff finally looked at Lester.

Delgado smiled, an expression that held all the warmth and personality of a prowling predator. " Gentlemen... "

Jeff jerked a thumb over his shoulder. " That way. "

As Delgado turned and stalked away, Lester shrugged. " Never mind... "

Sarah sent a fast warning text to Larkin and then one to Casey.

" What is so interesting? " Lester glanced over Jeff's beefy shoulder.

" I'm reading, man, " Jeff mumbled.

Lester flinched and looked away. " You need help, Jeffrey... "

The surveillance monitor covering the old Weinerliscious changed to Castle and Casey's scowling face. " What's going on? "

" We have a Fulcrum agent in the Buy More, looking for Larkin, " Sarah said.

Casey grunted. " Stay in the van with Bartowski and monitor the situation. I'll head for the Buy More, in case Larkin needs backup... "

" Casey, I can... " Sarah began.

" Stay with Chuck, Walker! He's the priority, " Casey interrupted. " Are you certain the Fulcrum agent is alone? "

Sarah shook her head and looked slightly embarrassed. " I'm sorry, Casey... "

The monitor went dark in the middle of her apology, but not before Casey got in a parting grunt.

" you're right. " Sarah took a deep breath.

At Casey's words, Chuck began to look over the monitors, studying the other customers in the store. He saw several men, all dark menace and dark suits, wandering around as though looking for something, or someone. As one thug turned, his suit jacket flapped and exposed a belt holstered gun.

He zoomed a near by camera in for a closer look and flashed. " Oh crap! "

" What? "

Chuck began typing away on his cell phone. ' Pineapple! '