A/N This should be in the same timeslot as Nacho Sampler, but there really isn't a lot of that episode to carry over into this story, which makes it a lot harder to right. I'll just have to advance other plot points for a while. And wallow in some Charah for a bit.
I also got attacked by the conclusion of my fourth novel, Ghostkiller, and had to write that down as quickly as I could, so this story is a bit off my usual schedule. Sorry about that. I have no intention of dropping this series until the season is done, so I've got a way to go yet.
"You're a spy?"
"I'm sorry, Charles Bartowski is not in right now–"
"Don't say I didn't warn you."
"'Unfair' is the mother of greatness, Charles."
"Oooh, God, that feels so good," Chuck moaned as Sarah bore down on him yet again. He was shirtless, of course, to make it easier for her to slide her fingers, slick with sweat and…other things, over the smooth skin of his torso. She still wore her top, although it was so damp and clingy from sweat and… other things, that she may as well not have. Only the sheets, covering his legs and bunched about her waist as she straddled him, offered any semblance of modesty.
The TV at the foot of the bed came to life, but neither of them was looking that way at the moment. "I hope you've at least got the blinds drawn," said General Beckman to Sarah's back.
Sarah turned her head. "I'm just giving him a massage, General." She pivoted off of her husband, dragging the sheets away to reveal Chuck, prone and smeared with oils. "Get up, honey, it's the General."
"Cruel, cruel woman," he groaned. It wasn't clear whom he was referring to. "Do I have to move?"
Beckman raised her voice. "This is not a view of you that I appreciate, Mr. Bartowski."
"Gah!" Chuck rolled over and sat up, suddenly realizing that his boss was staring at his feet, pajama bottoms, and…other things. "Sorry, General, I was…really out of it there."
Sarah took pity on them both. "Chuck's been on punishment detail ever since the incident with Shaw, General."
The general squinted at him. "Are those bruises?"
"I'll have a word with his superior."
"Don't worry about it, ma'am," said Sarah, "I'd already planned a visit of my own." They were told to take it easy on him. "He comes home very stiff and my massages are very…therapeutic."
"I'm sure they are, Agent Bartowski, but in future I would appreciate it if you would treat them with the same degree of discretion as your other bedroom activities and engage the privacy screen."
"My eyes thank you."
"Do you have a mission for us, General?" asked Chuck.
Beckman seemed relieved. "I have a mission, Mr. Bartowski, but not for you. The Ring has been active in LA–"
"Please not another flight," whispered Sarah, already regretting the massage.
"Not for you, Sarah. This time I'm dispatching Colonel Casey and Agent—what is Carina's last name, anyway?"
Sarah made a face. "Miller is safest."
Beckman gave a 'whatever' sort of sigh. "I'm sending them to LA to extract a young MIT dropout who's been receiving Ring money. The team there will apprehend him and turn him over to us."
"So you're sending Casey and his beautiful partner to LA to extract a geek who appears to be on the verge of intercepting vital government secrets, if he hasn't already?"
"Yes, Chuck, that sums up the situation admirably."
"You're still upset you missed the wedding, aren't you?"
Beckman's scowling face disappeared.
"I don't think Carina will be falling in love with him, sweetie," said Sarah, kissing him. "Sleep with him, yes, especially the way I've been going into such spectacular detail about your exploits in–"
He pulled back. "My exploits? I have exploits?" He shook his head, regained his focus. "You've been talking to the Calendar Girl about us?"
She pulled back. "Calendar Girl?"
"You know." She clearly didn't, so he explained, "Another day, another–"
Sarah clapped her hands over her ears. "La-la-la-la I'm not listening!" He grinned at her, and she dropped her hands. "And no, Chuck, I haven't said anything at all. That's the beauty of it. Everything I don't say leaves room for her to use her imagination, which I'm sure is very lurid, vivid, and more detailed than anything I could invent."
"Hmmm!" Chuck wriggled his eyebrows. "Devilish thing, imagination." He leered at her damp shirt. "Let's use some."
She peeled the top off. "I'd rather use the shower." She walked away, shedding clothes.
"For the win!"
Chuck woke the next day, feeling very pleased with himself. Something about flying left Sarah still up in the air at the end, lately, but last night he'd managed to bring her back down to Earth in spite of the pain in his back. He smiled, almost laughed, but he didn't want to disturb the naked and pleasantly damp blonde currently spread all over him. 'Therapeutic?' That was one word for it. Fortunately that was General Beckman on the line last night, otherwise he'd never have been able to roll over!
"Thinking about Beckman?"
No surprise that she was awake, but— "How'd you guess?"
She put her hand on the center of his chest. "Your heart rate hasn't gone down, but something else has."
"You know me so well."
She slid her hand down his body. "Some things are harder to miss than others."
"Hello?" groaned Chuck. "Work day?"
He rolled out of bed before she could tighten her grip. "I have to take a shower."
She lay there, uncovered, watching him move stiffly away from her. "We just took a shower last night."
"I know, and when we take a shower I end up all sweaty again." He sniffed at himself. "Plus I smell like vanilla." He got some new clothes and headed for the bathroom. She lay there, amazed, until she heard him start to sing. She didn't recognize the song, no surprise there, but it seemed to have a lot of 'forever's in it.
She got up, swooped on a robe, and left to make noise in the kitchen.
Chuck strolled into the kitchen, fully dressed in his workday casual-est, to find her still in her robe with his breakfast in hand. "Wow. Either you're taking casual Friday a little too far, which I doubt, since today's not Friday, or I need to find out where you get your schedules from."
She placed his food on the table. "No new schedule. I'm on escort duty today."
"You have a mission? Ow!" He rubbed his arm where she hit him as he sat.
"Not that type of escort, doofus, especially not now that I'm married." Something else to be thankful for. "I'm escorting the new girl, Hannah, getting her settled in around the office." A familiar face for her first day.
"She decided to join?"
"Better than WitSec. Plus it seems she got a personal recommendation from Charles Carmichael."
He shrugged. "Well, if I ever see her around, I'll say hi."
"You'd better not," said Sarah sharply.
"You're getting jealous now?"
Of course not! "The less reason she has to connect Chuck Bartowski and Charles Carmichael, the better."
"I'm not saying anything, Agent Walker."
She ran her fingers through his hair. "I know you're not, Chuck. Good boy."
"Well, this good boy's gonna be late if he doesn't get a move on." He started eating faster, while still making sure to enjoy every bite as required by his ferocious cook.
He needn't have hurried. "What do you mean we're not doing an upload today? I'm the Intersect, that's my job."
Ellie gave him a sympathetic look. "I know, Chuck, but I'm concerned about the calibration of my equipment. I figured since the only mission anyone's on right now is a simple pick-up, this would be a good time to check the system."
"A simple pick-up? You remember what happened with the last 'simple pick-up' we did? What if they need back-up? Sarah got back-up. What kind of a message does that send?"
"It sends a message that you think Casey is a big boy and can take care of himself."
"The answer is 'No', Chuck."
Chuck knew better than to argue with her in Big Sister mode. When he cleared the facility her screen lit up. "Well, Doctor?"
"He wasn't happy about it. I'm not happy about it."
"That makes three of us, Ellie, but this was your idea in the first place. I can only give you a few days. We need him online."
Not for the first time Ellie wondered about the arrangement they had. "Yes, General." Beckman clicked off, and Ellie got to work.
Sarah got to work a bit after Chuck, timing it so he would not be in the room when she got there.
A polite tap on the door got Dimples' attention the way nothing else could have. None of his guys would do that. "What can I do for you, Agent Carmichael?" He raised his head to look at her.
Sarah bristled. "That's Bar—right, yes. Carmichael will do. Moving on." She took a breath. "I was hoping to talk to you about Chuck's punishment duty."
"That's good, Agent Carmichael, I wanted to talk to you about it as well." Dimples looked at her with an expression of grave concern. "I know you and your husband want to keep him safe, but do you think you can get Tough Guy to take it easy? He's beginning to wear out the rest of the guys."
When Bartowskis are upset, they clean. Barred from the lab, Chuck took out his anxieties on the rooms full of helpless porcelain awaiting his attentions. In the second floor west men's, his phone went off. "Bartowski."
"Hey, Tough Guy, you tackle that stain in the second floor west men's yet?"
"Casey! How'd you know?"
"This is what you called me for?"
"No. I called to tell you that I have a renewed appreciation of your skills, Bartowski. I just saw two losers who were even worse than you used to be today, and I didn't think that was possible."
"You went back to the Buy More?"
"They thought it was a good site for the seduction. I could have told them the error of their ways, but who asks the old-timers…"
"We still love you, Ladyfeelings."
"Hopefully, I'll forget you said that by the time I get back. Which could be a while. Carina came on so strong that your little geek clone ran squealing into the night. It was the most pathetic thing I've ever seen."
"Time to strut your stuff, big man, show those whippersnappers how it's done."
"Can it, Bartowski. Marines don't strut. We get the job done. Leave the strutting for those slackers in the army."
Casey's parting grunt got cut off.
"Hannah! You look marvelous!"
Hannah smiled at her friend. "Yes, well, one thing about working for a private investor, you always have to look your best. I also had to pay for it all myself, but I least I get to keep it."
Sarah opened the door. "Your stuff all made it?"
"Yes, if the CIA ever wanted to change businesses they make excellent movers."
"And we already know where you live!" Somehow Hannah didn't find that as funny as Sarah did. "Do you know where you'll be working?"
"Given my background, they're splitting the difference between analytical and technical, to see which suits me best" She turned, putting a hand on Sarah's arm. Sarah suppressed her reflex to counterattack. "I got a recommendation from none other than Charles Carmichael himself!"
Sarah turned left, heading for a section of the building she didn't know very well. "I know."
"You told him?"
"He was already there, watching over me. Apparently when the pen shorted out it was because you got it to work long enough to show him I was all right. He was impressed."
"And that doesn't creep you out?"
"That he was impressed?"
"That he was watching you."
Sarah shrugged. "You get used to it. I've watched over him often enough. We're together even when we're apart."
"You think so?"
"Togetherness by satellite hook-up? How can you hug him by telephone? I'm sure seeing a picture of you on his monitor was a thrill, but wouldn't he have rather held you? Or you him?"
The spy-cam had been Sarah's idea. He would, and he does.
Hannah continued on. "When was the last time you made him breakfast, or him you?"
"And that doesn't sound strange to you? Are your wedding photos classified too?"
"We don't–" have any.
"I know you don't, Sarah, I just think that you should."
Sarah frowned. "Should what?"
"Should something! Obviously this marriage of yours means a lot to you, but it sounds awfully virtual to me. Someone somewhere could flip a switch and it'd be gone, like an ebook. You're my friend, I don't want that to happen to you."
Sarah didn't either. It wouldn't. "It won't."
Chuck knocked on Dimples' door, not as lightly as Sarah but lighter than anyone else. "Here I am, boss. Who am I sparring with today?"
Dimples moved the cigar from one side of his mouth to the other. "No one, Tough Guy. I'm taking you off punishment detail as of now. In fact, go home, take a few days off and get back in shape."
"But I'm in shape–"
"That's an order, Tough Guy. Get out, go home, go anywhere but here. I'll see you Monday."
Chuck pulled up in front of Devon's house. He wasn't home, which Chuck more or less expected, and of course Ellie wasn't there either. It didn't matter; he wasn't there to socialize, he was there to use Devon's awesome collection of exercise equipment while his own house sat empty of everything that mattered to him. Sarah would be home soon. Until then he would use Devon's equipment and while he was at it, fold the laundry and vacuum the floor. It was messy.
But first, some lunch. He looked in the refrigerator. Lots of things to cook, but saw nothing ready to go except for a bottle of Devon's green goo. He poured himself a glass and drank it down.
"Ellie, can I talk to you?"
Ellie was more than willing to put down the results of her calibration tests. "Sure. What's up?"
"Is Chuck around?" Sarah whispered, as if Chuck would hear her through the walls if he was.
"No, we're doing calibration tests right now so I sent him back to IM. The equipment misbehaved during your last mission and I won't let that happen again."
"Didn't Chuck rip apart his console?"
"Yes! While my sensors were flatlining! According to this equipment my brother was brain-dead while he was saving your life. I don't want to risk another upload until I know why."
"What can I do to help?"
"Me? Nothing. But keep an eye on Chuck for me. Let me know if starts acting unusual in any way."
We don't do 'normal.' "Is beating up his sparring partners unusual?"
Ellie thought it over. "It could just be the fighting skills kicking in. He might just need to learn control."
Sarah nodded, relieved. "I can help with that." An enemy she could fight.
"Of course you can, you're awesome! Was that what you wanted to talk about?"
"Uh-uh. I wanted to ask you for a favor, but now I'm not sure I should."
"Shoot. You can't know 'til you try."
Sarah took a deep breath. "I want to get married."
A/N2 Comments welcome as always.