A/N: I've gone and done it. I promised my friend brotowski a ficlet (a ficlet) for her birthday, and instead this happened. This idea grew and grew and grew and now it's an insane monster inside of my head. And it refuses to leave. So everyone drop her a PM and thank her for being born and for making me love her enough to write her a birthday present.

AU, non-canon, Chuck Bartowski and Sarah Walker are partners in crime, con artists extraordinaire. But will the lines of professionalism blur when their latest job goes terribly wrong?

Thanks to everyone who has followed me and read and reviewed everything I've posted in the last few months. You're all gems, the lot of you!

Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck but I am now the owner of all five seasons on DVD thanks to that fabulous sale on amazon a few weeks ago. ALL HAIL THE SALE!

Enjoy, you lovelies!

A loud pop sounded over the din of conversation and the orchestra softly playing the Viennese Blood Waltz. Champagne spilled over the crystal flutes, bubbling up over the rims and dribbling onto the white doily covering a silver tray.

Chuck Bartowski's eyes followed the tray and his fingers itched to take one of the glasses as the server swept past. "Ah, ah, ah…" he heard in his ear, a soft, teasing, feminine voice. It sent a bit of a thrill through him but he fought it off and frowned, knowing she was watching him.

"I wasn't going to."

"Not on the job, Bartowski."

"I wasn't going to."

He heard her soft scoff and made a face, readjusting the earwig so that it fit more snugly. "Do you see her yet?" he asked into his jacket lapel.

"No, you?"

"Mm mm." A pause. "This is my favorite waltz. Strauss, Jr. Some say his father was the better composer, but I tend to disagree. I think they both sound exactly the same, frankly."

"Chuck, focus."

"I'm focusing. You know I get bored doing these kinds of things." A couple twirled towards the center of the dancing floor, and as the fluttering skirts of the female partner swept out of the way, his partner in crime was revealed. Her long blonde hair was swept elegantly into graceful knot at her neck. She wore a silk maroon dress with thin straps, fitted along her torso, the skirt fluttering to the ground loosely. Her black flirty heels poked out from beneath the hem of her dress.

"Chuck? …Chuck?"

Chuck's eyes shot up to her face and his ears went a little red.

"Hi, Chuck," her voice chirped in his ear when their eyes met. "Try to focus, will you?"

"Sorry. You look beautiful, Sarah." He had already turned away and was walking towards the bar, so he missed her biting her lip to keep from smiling.

"Thanks, but your target is Madame Pompodoge, not me."


She scoffed again, her eyes watching his back as he moved through the throngs of attendees. She felt the weight of her Smith & Wesson against her hip, tucked into her small black handbag that hung loosely from her shoulder. And the heady feeling of her knives strapped to her thigh kept her from lowering her guard and grabbing one of those flutes of champagne that kept flying past her face. She couldn't really blame Chuck, after all.

But they had a job to do. And she had to keep him focused. That had always been his biggest problem, ever since she first caught him sneaking into her apartment those years ago. She'd been half-naked, getting ready for bed after a perfectly successful intel swipe job in Dubai. She remembered feeling his presence as he climbed into the window and she spun on him. He'd had his gun out immediately, but his eyes bugged out and he nearly dropped it, giving her enough time to throw her knife and pin him to the windowsill by his pant leg.

He thought he could steal the intel from her hotel room.

Even now, Sarah Walker scoffed. He was such an amateur, and it was kind of cute, as infuriated as she'd been at the time. Since then, he'd proven himself capable enough. He was a trustworthy partner in the con game. He had a heart of gold, which could be frustrating at times, but it meant she had him wrapped around her finger. He was as loyal as a lapdog. She knew he'd do anything for her, and she utilized it to the best of her abilities.

Her father's voice filtered into her memory. "The guy's a schnook. And you wanna bring him into the field with you? He'll get you killed. I'm tellin' ya, drop the schnook. You'll work better alone."

But Chuck was a computer genius. He'd hacked them into bank vaults, secure servers, government databases…sometimes with his damn cell phone. His technological skills were superb and he'd designed so many stellar tools for them over the last few years.

But the guy lost focus too easily. And her father was right about that; someday it might get him killed, or her killed…or both of them.

"See anything?" his deep voice asked in her ear.

She moved her fingers up to adjust her earring and spoke into the bangle on her wrist. "Nope. Oh, wait."

A tall woman who was thinner than a pixie stick swept along the side of the room. Her face was ethereal in its Roman grace, her skin flawless and pale. In all senses of the word, she was gorgeous, and resembled the type of model that might be seen on a Milan catwalk. Her cobalt dress clung to her thin waist and made her stand-out in the crowd.

"Madame Georgiana Pompodoge incoming at your three o'clock. She's about forty paces away, moving slowly."

Chuck looked up from the mahogany wood of the bar and peered over his shoulder nonchalantly. He saw the target moving across the room, gracefully nodding her head to the other guests she knew. Her smile was subdued, almost to the point of being impolite. But she was a staggeringly beautiful sight to behold. More so than in the photos he and Sarah had looked up on Google images.

Her husband was not with her. Uh oh…

"Chuck, you remember the plan?"

"Mmhmm," he mumbled, watching the woman from across the room. She'd turned so that she began to move towards the bar where he was standing and he stepped back, folding into the crowd.

He and Sarah had devised a way to get into Madame Georgiana Pompodoge's room where they'd rob her blind and make like the bandits they were. Sarah's plan was virtually foolproof. Sarah was on watch. She'd make sure the socialite stayed in the ballroom while Chuck headed up to her suite, broke into her room, and took the extravagant and expensive jewelry Roger Pompodoge's significantly younger wife was known for. Sarah would meet him at the room and they'd escape together, out onto the balcony, down the fire escape, and off into the sunset in Sarah's prize Porsche.


"Sarah, her husband isn't with her."


"Mr. Roger the Pot-Bellied One did not accompany his wife to this function," he replied through his teeth. His heart raced as she was silent for a moment.

Roger Pompodoge was an incredibly confident and foolish man. He had hired protection but rarely used it, the reason being that he had military training and was comforted by his own ability to protect himself and his youthful wife. Against the wishes of his aids, he left the guard at home. Which meant tonight would be an easy take. There would be no protection, no one to stop Chuck and Sarah from taking everything Georgiana was worth.

The problem was that Roger Pompodoge was absent from the function, something neither of them had considered. He'd most likely sent her with his guard for protection in his stead.

"Chuck, don't freak out."

"I'm n—Why do you always assume I'm freaking out?"

"Because you are. I can hear it in your voice. Calm down. The plan stays the same. I've got my eye on her. But you better move out from the bar. Looks like that's where she's headed."

"Have you seen what she's married to? It's no wonder she's making a beeline for the bar."

He smiled to himself when he heard the quiet tinkle of Sarah's laughter in his ear. When he could get the usually serious Sarah Walker to emit any kind of amused sound, it set his heart to hammering in his ribcage. The beautiful con artist was hard to crack.



"What are you doing?"

He was moving a little closer to the wall, slinking slowly, rather than moving away from the bar and towards the lobby, like he knew he was supposed to be doing. "Getting a good look at her."

"Do you really need to look at her to rob her blind?" There was a tinge of something he couldn't quite place in her voice. It was brittle, grouchy. He distractedly assumed she was annoyed that he wasn't following her orders. Well, who died and made her Queen?

"Change of plans."

"What?!" she whispered through her teeth angrily.

Georgiana Pompodoge stood at the bar, surveyed the party over her shoulder, and turned back, waiting for the bartender to turn around. Chuck moved to the bar, ignoring Sarah's cursing. He stopped a few feet away and lifted two fingers.

The bartender ignored him completely and went to Madame Pompodoge. "Gin and tonic," she ordered with a slight Italian accent. Chuck watched her profile, leaning his elbow on the bar, and turned to the picturesque woman waiting for her drink.

The gin and tonic was set in front of her and she swirled the thin straw and took a sip.

"Looking for something?" she asked in a low voice, her dark brown eyes sliding towards him, then back to her drink.

"Chuck! You just made contact with the mark, you idiot!" he heard Sarah grouse. He ignored her. He had a plan.

"Mm. No. I'm just looking." He tilted his lips up in a bit of a crooked smirk.

"Oh God," he heard in his ear.

Georgiana's eyebrows shot up and she took another sip, her tongue licking her lips as she turned towards him. "Hm. Like what you see, Mister…?"

"Carmichael. Charles Carmichael."

"Carmichael, again?" came the voice in his ear.

"Can I see your invitation, Mr. Carmichael?"

"Don't have it on me, unfortunately." He snapped his fingers and the bartender appeared. "Very dry martini, Sir. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it well until it's ice-cold, then add a large slice of lemon-peel. You get all that?"

The bartender sent him an undisguised look of boredom. "We don't have Kina Lillet."

Chuck's elbow almost slipped off the bar but he recovered quickly. "Oh. Just an old-fashioned then."

Georgiana sipped her drink as Chuck moved closer to her side. "You seem to know a lot about alcohol, Mr. Carmichael. Are you a bartender?"

Sarah laughed in his ear and he fought to keep from flushing.

"No, no. I keep a full stocked bar on my yacht."

"Oh God, your yacht," Sarah scoffed. She stood across the room, watching and listening to the exchange, glad they were speaking loud enough for her to pick it up on Chuck's listening device. She watched as Madame Georgiana leaned a little closer. Was Chuck's lame James Bond act really working?

She'd picked up on Chuck's plan the moment he began to approach their mark. He would seduce her and get into her room that way. The guards would be none the wiser, as they were used to their employer's wife picking up men in bars if the tabloids were any indication. It was one of the things well-known about the Pompodoge marriage. It was one of convenience for both parties. Rich families married together, titles claimed, assets acquired, you name it.

Part of Sarah cursed herself. She knew that he never would have made this decision if she hadn't ribbed him all the time about his inability to seduce women for the job. That part of her line of work was simple. It didn't matter that she always managed to get out of actually having sex with the mark. Chuck would be flustered and upset to the point where he'd be silent for a good few hours afterwards. She enjoyed his jealousy, especially when he tried to hide it. It was flattering and it sent warmth through her that hadn't existed before Chuck's entrance into her life.

Chuck, on the other hand, couldn't seduce anyone. He'd tried a few times and they'd had to count their loss and pull out. She'd felt sorry for him, even given him a lesson or two. But those lessons usually ended a little awkwardly. The close proximity between the partners had definite effects on him, and the line between professional and personal had been blurred. She'd be lying if she said there weren't moments when his hand against her arm, or the way he swept a strand of her hair behind her ear, the feel of his breath on her ear, made her lose sight of the lesson a little.

But it was human nature. He was the only man she'd been around for the past few years, aside from when her dad would appear out of nowhere between jobs. She was bound to feel tinges of sexual attraction. Chuck was her age, he was tall and had the athletic build she found attractive in men. His eyes were this amber color that reminded her of gold or something. And his hair was dark, thick and curly—She shook her head and narrowed her eyes at the pair leaning even closer towards each other, their elbows on the bar.

Georgiana reached out and touched Chuck's bicep.

"If you don't have your invitation, how'd you get in here?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"I fell out of an airplane with no parachute."

Sarah bit her lip, having a hard time not being amused. No matter how many times she'd told Chuck those 007 movies he watched during down time weren't to be used as instruction videos, he never listened.

But she was surprised when the socialite laughed, a pleasant tinkling sound. A sincere sound. And her hand was still on Chuck's arm. He gave her a Chuck grin then and Sarah clenched her jaw subconsciously. He was wasting time. They had jewelry to steal. This was such a stupid idea.

"Did you own that airplane too?" Madame Pompodoge asked.

"No. It belongs to a friend of mine. Mine is much too big to fly in for a small occasion such as this." He made a face and the socialite laughed again. Chuck was being…charming. Maybe because he was being himself?

Or maybe it's the subject, her conscience snarked. Sarah grit her teeth again.

"You must be so bored tonight, Mr. Carmichael. A man such as you. A man who jumps out of planes to make an entrance for such a small occasion," she flirted, leaning even closer so that their fronts were nearly touching.

Chuck reached over and sipped at his old-fashioned. Sarah wondered if the twitch of his lips was because he absolutely hated bourbon-whiskey. That thought gave her a small bit of satisfaction.

When he set down his glass, his hand reached up calmly swept Georgiana Pompodoge's jet black hair over her shoulder, revealing bare skin. His eyes lingered on it and a small smile graced his lips. "One rises to meet a challenge."

Sarah choked a bit, and reached out blindly to swipe a flute of champagne from the tray a startled waiter rushing by was carrying. She brought it to her lips and gulped it all down. She could almost see the way Madame Pompodoge's black eyes turned purple.

Chuck could feel the weight of the tranq gun against the small of his back where he'd tucked it while getting dressed earlier. He'd assumed then that he wouldn't have to use it. But once he managed to get Madame P into her bedchambers, he'd have to. While the guards were downstairs assuming the Mrs was engaged in…activities, Chuck would pluck the room of any and all goods capable of bringing in a profit. He assumed there would be plenty. Sarah would meet him at the door to her suite and they'd dash away richer than they'd been before.


"Hmm, well, Mr. Carmichael. It seems I've finished my drink." She lifted the gin and tonic glass and shook it, the ice clinking. She pouted flirtatiously. "Seems the party is over."

"That sounds like a dismissal, madame, and I was rather looking forward to breakfast." He heard a strange sound in his earwig and wondered if it had malfunctioned for a moment. It was…almost like a growl.

The dark eyes widened and the woman licked her lips again, her eyes dropping to Chuck's. She leaned forward even closer. She was maybe two inches taller than Sarah. He wondered for a moment why his partner had stopped muttering taunts in his ear. Perhaps she'd decided to stop distracting him.

"It was not a dismissal, Mr. Carmichael."

"Oh? In that case, it's Charles."

"Hm…Charles. You may call me Georgiana."

"I intend to." His hand slid around her waist to the small of her back, meeting the bare skin that was revealed by the plunging back line of the dress she wore.

His earwig malfunctioned again.

"Usually I have one drink at the bar and go back to my room for champagne." She leaned forward and her lips ghosted across his. "Sometimes I'm alone. But I don't always like to be alone."

"That so?"


"Well, a gentleman has no choice but to escort the lady to her room. There may be all sorts of bad men around these parts, lurking in the shadows and behind pillars." He kissed her back, tugging her closer. He pulled his lips from hers with a soft smack. "And a gentleman doesn't enter a lady's room unless he's asked."

"You kiss me like that again, Carmichael—"


She giggled. "Charles…And I'll be begging for you to come in."

"That won't be necessary." He slammed his money on the bar and rounded her waist with his arm, walking away from the bar and towards the lobby.

Sarah watched the couple leave the room, their eyes smoldering, their hands grasping, their pace quick and…almost desperate. And she fought the impulse to follow.

Five minutes. She just had to stay here for five minutes, and then she could go up.

She grabbed another flute of champagne from a passing tray and downed it, deciding again that she hated this damn stupid plan.


The champagne was rolled into the room and the door was shut promptly. Madame Pompodoge's arms were around his shoulders and she was kissing him wantonly. He kissed her back, staggering a bit.

She pulled away, and turned so that her back was to him. "I'm assuming you're a man who's good with a zipper."

Chuck thought of the listening device on his lapel and of the person listening for a moment, then bit his lip, pushing Sarah from his mind. "You assume correct, Madame." His fingers attached to the zipper at the side of her dress and slid it down, revealing black lacy underwear and lots and lots of smooth skin.

"Was that a zipper?" Sarah asked in his ear.

He ignored her and swept Georgiana's hair from her shoulder, setting his lips to her skin at the base of her neck. She let out a soft moan, then giggled.

"Chuck, tranq her already."

"Champagne?" his mark asked as his lips moved along her shoulder and his fingers slipped under the strap of her gown.

"Mm, yes, please."

"You make yourself comfortable and I'll pour."

Chuck grinned and walked to the bed and sat. He thought to take his shoes off, but then changed his mind. He and Sarah would have to make a fast escape and it'd be silly, really, if he had to spend a minute of their getaway time getting his shoes back on.

When she finished pouring the champagne, Georgiana turned and made to walk towards him, but stopped suddenly. A chill swept through Chuck. She figured it out. She was on to him. He knew it. He had to alert Sarah—

"Oh! But we can't have champagne until I get into something more comfortable."

Chuck covered a sigh of relief with his hand against his mouth, then he covered that by blowing a slightly awkward kiss at her. "You do what you gotta do, Darling. I'll wait here."

She walked to him and handed him a glass of champagne, setting hers on the bedside table. "Don't cheat and sip that while I'm gone," she said in a sultry voice, leaning down to kiss the underside of his jaw. He swallowed.

"No, no. Cheaters never prosper."

"Chuck, what are you doing?" Sarah asked.

"I'll, uh, wait here." He saluted her with the glass as she sauntered into her adjoining restroom. When she disappeared inside, he put his lips against the lapel of his jacket. "She's changing into something more comfortable."

"Are you serious? Just bust in there and tranq her already. Then get the freaking jewelry. Why are you taking so long?"

She sounded angry. Very, very angry.

"Well, yeah…but…I mean, that's not very nice. Bursting into a woman's bathroom and shooting her in the face with a tranq pistol!" he whispered back.

"I never said anything about shooting her in the face." She let out an annoyed huff. "You know what? Forget it. I'm coming up there."

"No, no. I've got this. I can do this."

"Go in there and do it then."


"Chuck, if you're waiting to see her in whatever 'comfortable' means, I swear I will kick your ass."

Chuck blanched. "That's not—"

Georgiana opened the door to the bathroom and swung around the doorframe, standing in a flimsy silk robe that was quite nearly see-through. Chuck fought back the urge to vomit or jump out of the window, or both at the same time (a messy prospect). And instead, he kept his face calm, cool, collected.

He stood from the bed and tilted his head with a raised eyebrow.

"Hmm. Well, that's a pretty little nothing you're almost wearing."

She laughed and ran her hands slowly down her sides. "You like it?"

"What's not to like?"

"Chuck, I'm coming up there," Sarah growled. "Be there in two minutes."

Madame P lifted the champagne flute from the bedside table and clinked it against Chuck's, then took a long draw from it. "Mm, champagne goes well with sex, doesn't it?"

Chuck choked a little on the champagne sliding down his throat and disguised it as a laugh. "That it does," he rasped, grinning at her. Before he could say anything else, she'd set down her flute and climbed onto his lap, pushing his back down against the bed so that he nearly spilled the rest of his champagne. "Heyo! I, uh…And I thought Christmas only came once a year."

The malfunctioning in his earwig was louder this time and he thought he heard Sarah mutter, "Are you fucking kidding me?" but he couldn't be sure.

His tranq pistol poked him in the back and it legitimately hurt like hell.

"So who are you really?"

"Haha…oh. Uh…roleplay?" he tried.

"Very funny. What do you want with me?"

"What do you mean? I thought I made that perfectly clear. I—" She reached into his ear and pulled his earwig out. His mouth felt rather fuzzy. His lips tingled…and he was…tired.

"Oh, that…right…I—"

"And those stupid James Bond quotes? What kind of a girl would ever think that was sexy?"

"Uh, I—" He swallowed thickly, his eyelids fluttering. Where was Sarah? All he could think about was Sarah. Why wasn't she here already? Her hair looked really pretty tonight. He always liked missions where they'd get to dress up fancy. She looked amazing in anything, really, but Sarah Walker in fancy gowns? It was the stuff dreams were made of.

Speaking of dreams, he was really tired. His eyelids shut and he was aware of a darkness descending over him. And then there was nothing else.


"Chuck? Chuck!" Sarah spoke into her bangle, anger and something else she wasn't willing to admit was there churned in her belly. He wasn't answering her, which meant one of two things. He was otherwise indisposed making love to a woman who was nothing short of a runway model, or he had been knocked out. If it was the former, she would kill him. And if it was the latter, she'd rescue him first…and then kill him.

She rushed up the stairs two at a time. As she reached the top landing, she leaned down and slipped a blade from where it was tucked into the heel of her right shoe. It was easier to access than the knives strapped to her thigh and her gun would draw too much attention at this point.

"Chuck, do you copy?"


With a growl, she rushed down the hallway towards Room 208, where Chuck was either pinned beneath his mark in the throes of passion, unconscious, or dead.

Sarah's heart raced as she sped up at the last thought. He couldn't be dead already. She needed him. He was her partner. Her tech guy. Her computer nerd. Everything would be so much harder for her from here on out.

Her breath hitched as she saw the door cracked open.


Pulling her S&W out of her handbag, she cocked it and put her back against the wall beside the door, shutting her eyes to take a moment to find her center. Calmly opening her eyes again, she swung into the room, ready to shoot.

The room was empty.

Chuck's tranq gun was on the floor beside the bed and his jacket was draped over the pillows.

But that wasn't what made her heart stop.

There were red smudges and drops along the carpet, going from the bed to the balcony doors. Fighting to keep from losing focus, Sarah rushed to the glass double doors and out into the cool night air.

More blood.

And Chuck was nowhere to be found.

Her eyes stung and he vision blurred, and there was a throbbing ache in her chest. She brought her wrist up to her lips. "Chuck? Chuck, can you hear me?" Her voice broke. She knew he couldn't hear her, and she felt foolish for even trying, for she'd seen the smashed earwig and listening device beside his gun.

Chuck was gone.

Swinging onto the fire escape, she rushed down the stairs to the ground and ran the rest of the way back to her Porsche, heels in hand. She'd need to change her clothes, definitely.

Because she was getting Chuck back.

She was getting her man back.


"You think it's amusing?" Another punch to Chuck's jaw. He let out a gasping breath and dropped to his knees.

"I don't remember laughing," he muttered. "I'm just a playboy…got in over his…head."

"Pretty fancy gear you had in that ear of yours, Mister Bond," the other henchman said, tugging at Chuck's ear and wrenching him back to his feet. They'd taken to calling him Mister Bond for the last two hours of relentless taunting and beating.

As long as they didn't figure out that he'd meant to steal every last bit of their employer's valuables, he figured all he'd get was a good beating and get tossed out into the alleyway. He'd paid attention to where they were taking him. It was a talent he was mightily proud of. When he was a kid, he was fascinated with Sherlock Holmes. Holmes was always aware of his surroundings; every bump in the road, every window and every squeaking pub sign, every splash through a puddle. If he was kidnapped, he'd be able to tell where he was just by smelling, feeling, and listening.

He was in the basement of a well-known pub. Il Bacio Divino. Roger Pompodoge owned it. Sarah would find him here. It also helped that he'd activated his tracking device on the sole of his shoe.

Then again, there was a chance Sarah would count her losses and split. It was the smart thing to do. Or maybe she could take advantage of the empty room, take the jewelry like they'd planned, and then split.

Chuck didn't want to think that way about her. It was unfair. True, she was cunning and sometimes ruthless. She had no qualms about using the piece she kept with her at all times. And she sometimes had such a potty mouth.

But she wouldn't abandon a partner.


Another fist slammed into his gut and he doubled over, fighting to keep standing.

As the third man of the violent threesome stepped closer, Chuck was overcome by a near debilitating amount of anger. It descended over him like a fiery hot blanket.

He straightened, bringing his fist up to connect with the man's jaw, then swung around to block the second man's attack. He smacked the fist away with one arm and brought his other around to connect with his attacker's nose.

Blood spurted from the broken face as he spun around to meet the third henchman. He barely saw the two by four by the time it crashed into his shoulder.

Giving out a ragged cry of pain, Chuck Bartowski sunk to his knees and plopped face first into the dust. He felt it cake onto his bleeding face and he lay there, gasping in pain for a few seconds.

"You stupid fuck. You broke Mario's nose. And Mario doesn't like havin' his nose broken."

"Oh yeah? I'm sorry, Mario," Chuck rasped with a small smile on his face. "Maybe we can find you a fire flower and you can shoot little fireballs at me." Chuck laughed at his own joke. Apparently, even though he hadn't understood what Chuck had said, the small beefy Italian knew a mocking laugh when he heard one, so he swung a foot and it landed squarely against Chuck's ribcage.

He cried out, coughing and clutching at his chest. There had been some sort of cracking feeling and he was certain one of his ribs was cracked or broken.

"We gotta funny guy here, boys," the first henchman said, leaning down and looking into Chuck's face. "I like to laugh. You like to laugh, Johnny?"

"Oh, I love to laugh, Benno."

"Mhm. Mario loves to laugh, too," Benno said. He reached down and grabbed Chuck by his hair, tugging him painfully back to his feet and laughing in his face. The other two laughed as well and Chuck's body was met with another barrage of painful punches and kicks.

As he lie on the ground, blinking up at the swinging lightbulb, the only source of light in the room, he was struck by how incredibly Boondock Saints this scene was. He was most likely bleeding to death from the stab wound in his leg that he'd obtained in Pompodoge's suite when he'd attempted to escape. Compliments of Madame Pompodoge herself. Where she'd stashed the damn thing, Chuck couldn't know.

Sarah had an uncanny skill at hiding weapons on her person as well.

It was something Chuck would never understand.

And it seemed like he didn't have much longer to worry about it, really.

The swinging bulb cast dancing shadows over his three attackers' menacing faces. He thought at least Mario might look ridiculous with his screwed up nose and the blood on his face. But no, of course not.

Instead he looked even more terrifying. And a lot angrier.

This was such a bummer.

He inwardly scoffed at the understatement as Mario, who was standing between his fellow thugs, turned around, bent, and stood with the two by four clutched tightly in his fist.

"We're letting Mario here finish you off." "You guys won't kill me," Chuck mumbled. "I didn't do anything."

"You were planning on it. Wasn't he, boys? You were gonna take Mrs. Pompodoge's jewelry. That's enough for us. Then you broke Mario here's nose. You just keep digging a deeper hole for yourself, buddy boy." Benno nodded to Mario who raised the long plank of wood over his head.

Well, this wasn't the best way to go. Getting your head smashed in by a plank of wood.

All of the fear and tension suddenly left his body as he thought of Sarah Walker. He thought of the last three years of working by her side. The look on her face in the morning when he was much too chipper for her—her tired eyes narrowed at him and the pout that made her look like a little girl again, the whining voice that told him to stop it. Or the times they'd be researching their next job, Chuck tapping away on the keyboard of his laptop while she cleaned her weapons. They never had to speak or even look at each other. Almost as one, they'd known what to do, and just being in the same room with her felt so good. The sound of her laugh, those rare times he'd gotten her to laugh, that is. The way she'd screw her mouth to the side and look down to keep herself from smiling at his teasing remarks. The times they'd gone into a job undercover as a couple, married or otherwise, and she'd clung to his arm, whispered in his ear, kissed him…Oh, especially the kisses. The dancing…

A dreamy smile overcame his lips as he thought of the one time he'd gotten pretty beaten up after jumping out of a two-story window and landing in some bushes. Sarah had forced him to lie in bed while she massaged the pain out of his limbs. He'd never forgotten it.

He trusted her with everything in him, even at the beginning when he could almost see at times when her blue eyes were gray and stormy as she struggled to decide whether to kill him and be done with it, or trust him. Whether she'd ever learned to trust him or not, he trusted her. God, did he trust her.

The board came down on his head, but in a much pleasanter fashion than he'd assumed. Almost like it'd been dropped accidentally instead of swung down to crack open his skull.

Then a body fell onto him and a trickle of blood came from Mario's mouth and pooled on Chuck's shirt. "UGH!" He shoved the body off with his remaining strength and sat up. A knife he recognized protruded out of the man's back.

Sarah Walker was dressed in her preferred black leather cat suit, easily catching Benno's arm as he made to hit her and twisting it around behind his back. Her other arm swung around and she pulled the knife across his throat with a violent jerk.

His body dropped at her feet and she glared dangerously at Johnny. He whimpered in fear as she pulled her gun out from its holster at her hip, her blue eyes flashing red. She pointed it at his forehead, her finger tightening a bit on the trigger.

Johnny crumpled to the ground. Sarah blinked, the cloud of vengeful rage dissipating as she saw Chuck, broken and bleeding, standing over Johnny's unconscious body, the two by four clutched in his hands.

He dropped it and brought his arm across his mouth, smudging the blood from the corner of his lip.

Sarah stared at him in awe. He'd always overextended himself to keep a person alive if it could be helped. And for once, Sarah was glad he'd interceded. She'd been in a whirlwind of intense anger and fear.

When she'd entered the basement from the outer doors and had seen Chuck lying prone on the ground, unmoving…She thought he was dead. Her breath hitched as she thought of it again. The pain, anguish, terror—it was all there again, swirling through her gut.

She fought back the nausea and focused on the fact that Chuck was standing, he was alive. She'd arrived in time.

"Sarah…" His knees wobbled a bit and he pitched forward.

She caught him securely in her arms, keeping him standing and shifting his weight so that his arm was over her shoulders and he was leaning heavily on her. "Come on, Chuck. Let's get you out of here before someone hears."

"Sarah…" She bit her lip to keep from crying when he turned his face into her hair and breathed out in utter relief.

"It's okay, Chuck. I'm here. You're okay."

She got him safely to her Porsche and eased him into the passenger seat, buckling him in and hurrying to her side. During the drive back to their hotel room across the city, she'd checked the rearview mirrors every two or three minutes to look for any tails. When she wasn't doing that or focusing on the tiny cobblestone streets and oncoming cars, she was looking over to Chuck who grimaced at every bump. He was caked in dirt and blood and his brow was furrowed in pain.

But the worst of it was when she realized he'd been wounded pretty badly. They'd passed under the street lamp and she saw the dark stain of blood against his pant leg. Had he been shot? Stabbed?

That must have been what had produced all of the blood she saw in the Pompodoge suite.

Twenty minutes later, Sarah skillfully snuck Chuck back into their hotel room and helped him lie back against the pillows of their bed. She had spread towels beneath him to keep from getting blood on the hotel sheets, and felt ridiculous for doing so. They'd stolen this hotel room with someone else's credit card anyways.

And her hands were shaking as she wet the wash cloth in the bathroom with warm water. They were still shaking as she undid his belt and pants, tugging them down to his ankles and revealing an angry gash on his outer left thigh.

Tears rushed out of her eyes as she pressed her lips tightly together, sniffling but keeping her head enough to wipe at the wound to clear the blood. "Chuck, how you doing? You okay?" she asked in a strong voice.

"Mm, yep." A tight smile crossed his face and he went back to grimacing, his blood-stained hands tangling in the towels to resist the pain. "Is that, uh…That very deep or…a mere flesh wound?" he finished in a silly British accent.

Sarah let out a wet laugh, recognizing the line from the stupid Monty Python movie he'd made her watch once. He'd found it on pay per view and caught her at a weak moment, and they'd had a few hours to kill.

"You'll live, Chuck. I just have to stitch it up."


"I'm sorry, but we can't go to a hospital. You know I can do this better than a doctor anyways." She sniffed again and began threading the needle from the first aid kit. Sarah wondered if he'd passed out when he didn't answer, so she snuck a look up at him.

Chuck reclined back, his bruised face almost making her cry again, but his swirling brown eyes were staring at her softly. Almost tenderly. She'd seen the look before, and she'd hid from it. She hadn't wanted their partnership sullied by such an empty, paltry thing like love. She couldn't afford to have Chuck feel that way about her.

But she realized at this moment, as their eyes met, tears dripping down her cheeks again, that the love had always been there. She'd just never known it.

She'd pretended it wasn't there.

"Chuck, this is going to hurt. A lot. But you gotta trust me, okay?"

He nodded, forcing a smile on his face. "Always."

When she grinned back, his smile seemed easier, and he nodded again, stuffing a clean washcloth between his teeth and bracing his hands against the headrest as well as he could with the way his shoulder ached. It took awhile for her to stitch his leg wound and his boxer shorts ended up stained with his blood, as well as the towels beneath and Sarah's hands.

She'd blinked away a great many tears as Chuck made muffled sounds that relayed just how much pain he was in. He'd always had a very low threshold for pain. And she remembered the time he'd dislocated his shoulder making a bad land when he'd been forced to bail out of a car. He'd argued with her for an hour, refusing to let her set it. And when she had, he'd had tears in his eyes, but tried in vain to hide them.

Now, his pained, ragged whimpers that forced out between his clenched teeth were understandable, and she hated how much they hurt her. Focusing on the task at hand, she finally finished, wiping the leftover blood from his leg, bandaging the wound, and going to the bathroom to wash her hands and arms.

She half-staggered out of the bathroom after splashing water on her face and sat beside him again, wiping his face, hurrying to the ice machine down the hallway and coming back with a bucket of ice for the swollen knot on his head, his aching jaw, and what she'd diagnosed to be a bruised rib rather than cracked or broken.

She wrapped some ice in an extra pillowcase she found on the shelf in the closet and held it to the injured rib. "Make sure you breathe normally. Don't breathe shallow to avoid the pain because you may get an infection if you do that."

"Thanks, Doctor Walker," he chuckled, then winced painfully.

Sarah smiled.

Without realizing what she was doing, she reached over and pushed a stray curl away from his forehead. She gave him painkillers and helped him sit up a bit in the bed so that he was more comfortable, propping the pillows behind him. He suffered through it all, his only response being the hissing noises he emitted when his rib or leg were jolted by the movement.

"You okay? Need anything else? Water?"

"Nah, I'm good. Actually, I don't feel as bad as I ought to, maybe." He paused, looking down at his hands that she'd cleaned while she washed the rest of the blood off of him from his ordeal. Again, he'd been utterly surprised by her tears while she'd cared for him. A few times, he would open his mouth to say something, then change his mind when he realized he had no idea what to say.

When she finished cleaning him down, she eased the soiled towels out from under him and discarded them, leaving him on the bedspread in his boxers, still stained with his own dried blood.

"Well, I'm getting out of this and into something more comfortable."

Chuck laughed outright, ignoring the shooting pain in his ribcage. Sarah turned to give him an odd look, realized what she'd just said, and laughed as well. "Oh, shut up, you freakin' nerd." She walked over to her suitcase, the suitcase she never unpacked, and pulled a pair of exercise pants out. She kicked off her boots and socks, unzipped the cat suit, peeled it off of her body, and went to the closet wearing nothing but her bra and underwear. As she hung the cat suit in the closet, she felt the hair on the back of her neck standing up.

She was close to naked and Chuck was just a couple of feet away. She'd undressed in front of him thousands of times. In desperate situations, when a disguise is needed, sexual attraction is the last thing on your mind when you're in close quarters, shedding clothes and sweating bullets.

But now, especially after he'd almost been taken from her, and with the realization that she truly and sincerely loved him, being like this in front of him felt different. And she was suddenly a little embarrassed. She quickly pulled her pants on and grabbed the first t-shirt she could from a hanger in the closet. It was one of Chuck's. She slipped it on and looked at it for a moment, rolling her eyes. It said "Battletoads" and had a musclebound frog standing on its hind legs like a human, gritting its teeth viciously. Stupid, stupid shirt.

He was such a nerd.

She loved him so much.

"Sarah, thank you."

She almost started at his voice and turned to smile at him, pulling her hairband out and letting her hair fall over her shoulders in waves. "Don't mention it."

"No, I mean it."

She padded over to him in her bare feet and sat on the edge of the bed next to him. "You're welcome, Chuck."

"You saved my life."

A shrug. "I know. You would've done the same for me."

"Because we're partners." He gave her a small smile and she thought it seemed a little melancholy. "Through thick and thin."

"We're more than that, Chuck."

"Right, we're friends."

Sarah rolled her eyes and bit her lip, feeling a spike of nerves that she immediately bashed out of her system as though she wielded Thor's hammer. Oh God, Sarah Walker. He's making a nerd out of you. She paused, looking into his eyes, her hand reaching out to readjust the ice on his rib. I don't even care, she answered herself.

"Chuck, you idiot. That's not what I mean."

His small smile died down as his eyes widened in wonder. This man had braved gunfire, knife fights, running through labyrinthian buildings at breakneck speed with feds at his heels. He'd cracked codes to servers set up by the smartest computer scientists in the world, hacked into encrypted databases, stolen from banks, well-known government officials, priceless art collectors. He'd gone head to head with some of the worst Colombian crime lords, drug smugglers and traffickers.

And yet in moments like this, when he looked at her, all of that faded away. He was just a man. A man who cared about her. The only person in the world she could say truly cared for her. He saw her at her weakest, and at her strongest. And he yearned for her. She could almost feel it some nights when they lie in bed and she felt his eyes on her even when her own eyes were shut. She felt safe and warm, like nothing could touch her. Invincible. He made her feel that way.

She'd mistreated him, she knew. Purposefully making him jealous, dismissing his feelings, shrugging off his kind gestures at times, raising walls around her to protect herself from him when he'd never do anything to hurt her. She'd always known that, from the very beginning when he couldn't shoot that tranq gun at her the first moment they'd met. Chuck would never hurt her. And yet she'd protected herself from him anyways. She wondered if it had hurt him.

Of course it had.

Sarah made a decision.

"I love you."

The room was deathly silent.

"Ch-Chuck, did you hear me?"

He shook his head, as if trying to get himself out of a stupor, then sat up a bit more, wincing. "Y-Yeah, I—" He swallowed, eyes wider than saucers. "I heard you." His face melted into one of his signature Chuck Bartowski grins and her heart began to beat madly against her chest.

"You mean everything in the world to me, Chuck. Everything. And tonight when I went into the Pompodoge suite and saw that they'd taken you, I felt my whole life crashing down around my ears. I cou—" Her next breath came out in a semi-sob and his hand immediately shot out to wrap hers in a snug embrace. She felt him squeeze and everything from the past few hours, the terror, the blinding anger, the regret…it all seeped out of her as though it was never there.

She squeezed his hand back.

"I could almost feel my life fading. I never knew just how important you were to me until I thought I'd lost you. I'm so stupid. And after everything we've been through since we met, everything we've been to each other…Chuck, you're my family. My father doesn't count. I'm—I love you. I love you so much. And when I saw you on the ground under those fucking bastards, and I thought you were dead—I wanted to die. I know I'm supposed to be tough…" Tears began flooding out of her eyes again, dripping down her cheeks, falling from her chin onto her lap. He just watched, his hand holding hers tightly, the other one moving to rest warmly on her hand that held the ice to his ribs. "I'm not supposed to feel this way about anybody. That's what Dad always said when I was a little girl, you know. The people you trust fail you in the end, he said." She sniffled, and let out a small cough. "But that's not true. He was lying to me. He never trusted anyone, not even me, and now he's out there alone. He thought he was protecting himself by doing that, and protecting me by trying to make me just like him. But you—"

He sat up and leaned forward, lifting his hand from the ice pack and gently pushing her hair back behind her ear, his thumb wiping the tears from her cheek. She sniffled and looked into his eyes.

"Chuck, I have you, and I'm so much stronger because of it. I'm safer than my dad will ever be because I love you. I trust you. You protect me," she breathed, reaching up to stroke his jaw where a nasty bruise had already formed.

"I'll always protect you, Sarah," he said reverently, his amber eyes swimming with emotion.

"I know." She grinned through her tears. "God, I didn't mean to say all of that. I'm turning into you, babbling like an idiot," she giggled.

"Hey now. Don't you think I've been through enough tonight?"

"Oh come on, Bartowski. Man up."

A pillow swung into her face and she nearly toppled off the bed. She giggled and stared flabbergasted at him, her mouth open wide. "Oh, that's it." As gently as she could, she straddled him and pushed him back against the pillows. "You're lucky you've got a bruised rib."

"And I got stabbed in the leg."

"That too." She rested her forehead against his and set her hands on his shoulders, keeping her weight from resting all the way on his lap to keep from hurting him. "Chuck, you scared me so bad."

"I know. I'm sorry."

She nodded, shutting her eyes as she felt emotions bubble up from her chest again. She clamped her lips together to keep them from trembling, one hand moving up to gently cup his face.

"Sarah, I love you too. You know that, right? I have from the moment I first saw you."

She giggled, looking into his eyes in the low lamplight and raising an eyebrow. "You sure that wasn't me being naked?"

"Mm, maybe."

They laughed and he gingerly reached up to wrap his arms around her, tugging her closer. "I don't wanna hurt you," she breathed, resisting his pull.

"You won't. C'mere."

She carefully laid against him and set her lips to the bruises on his face, moving slowly along his discolored skin before settling on his mouth. She kissed him softly at first, but when his arms tightened around her, she deepened the kiss with a soft moan, and an identical thrill shot through each of their bodies.

When she pulled her lips from hers, he let out a soft whistle. "Sarah Walker, you're better than painkillers."

"You're such a fucking sap."

He laughed, his chest bouncing against hers, and she was suddenly aware of the fact that he wore nothing but his stained boxer shorts. Her hand lowered to run along his torso, feeling his muscles twitch.

He kissed her again and she pulled away to sit up, tugging his Battletoads shirt up over her head and tossing it to the end of the bed. Chuck's eyes nearly popped out of his head as she leaned forward to languidly kiss his neck.

His eyelids fluttered and he groaned. "S-Sarah, we—I mean, three years. I-I trust you too. I always have. You saved my life. And you're beautiful, the most gorgeous woman in the world. And I love you. Not just because of that. You're such a bad ass. And that's really sexy. I don't know how many people have told you that. But the fact that you can kick my ass to Timbuktu and back is so incredibly sexy."

"Chuck, why don't you try the James Bond thing and maybe be a little less babbly, huh?" She kissed up to his jaw and ran her hands up his chest.

"Uh, right. Right. James Bond. What would 007 do?"

"I've never seen a full 007 movie, Chuck, and I still know exactly what 007 would do. Why don't you try it?"

"Uh, okay."

"What was that about one rising to meet a challenge?" she asked, resting her weight on his lap.

He bit back a groan.

"Pierce Brosnan said that in—"



"Shut up and love me."

His grin exploded onto his face, and her entire body erupted with butterflies and fire and that probably wasn't very safe for the butterflies, but…

God, she really was becoming a nerd.

They fell back against the pillows as Sarah tugged the sheets down with one arm. Night was slowly melding into morning, but with the curtains drawn tightly, neither would have known it.

The mission wasn't a successful one, though Chuck had managed to slip Georgiana's diamond bracelet off of her wrist at the bar. He'd give it to Sarah in the morning. It wasn't the millions of dollars they'd expected to walk away with, but it was something.

Besides, none of the money would have meant anything if they weren't together to share it…really share it. For the rest of their lives, they'd never split their take down the middle. It would be theirs…together.

A/N: So I invented story-breaks that look like TIE fighters. If you squint.

Because it amuses me.

Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. It all happened spur of the moment, in one crazy, mind-blowing, face-hurting day. And I felt a little stir crazy and tingly all over when it was done.

Don't be surprised if another "ficlet" (scoffs) pops up in here that takes place in this same world. I can see myself wanting to mess around with con artist Chuck and Sarah. It won't follow an overarching plot, exactly. Just snippets of time in the world. It'll be something fun for me to work on, to play with characterizations, and the world I've created. Keep your eyes open!

'Til next time, my friends!