A/N I have to admit I'm a little afraid of doing this story, and by that I mean the whole series, not this one episode. Season 3, for all its faults, had a strong story underneath it, and my job was basically hosing off all the crap covering the diamonds. Season 4 is almost the opposite, good episodes with no real story to hold the whole thing together. I strongly feel like I should quit while I'm ahead, but S4 has its flaws, and S5 even more so. This season will be considerably less dramatic than the last, with more of a focus on family and fluff. The episodes will be kept mostly intact, but my focus will be on the parts that they don't show.
It's not my normal practice, but I really hope that you will leave a comment and tell me what you think. I can tell your feedback will be crucial to how well and how quickly this story gets finished. (Also, I don't know if you're aware of this, but you can also send tweets with links to the stories you're reading, with the share button at the bottom of the page.) So, with all that said, here begins my version of Chuck's season 4.
"Welcome home, Mrs. Bartowski."
Chuck woke before Sarah, before the alarm. For a little while he just lay there, enjoying the feeling of Sarah's warmth against his side and her even breathing as she slept, trying to let it lull him back into a doze. Instead he felt her hand move, fingers pressing 1-2-3-4 against his skin under the covers. Status?
He pressed 1-2-1-2 against her back. Green.
She sank back into sleep, trying to recover from her vacation, her long-delayed honeymoon, before she had to get back to work. The Deadly Scorpion League passed into history even as it was created, thanks to them, a terrorist network that made masterful use of public transportation to hide in plain sight. Chuck had sniffed them out and she had taken them down, and Carina and Casey had made the greatest sacrifice of all, dealing with local red tape to turn their captures over to the appropriate authorities. They had to use some name in the reports.
Chuck could not get back to sleep so easily, his body's clock still in the air somewhere between Budapest and home, thanks largely to his lovely wife and a bed that didn't sway on the tracks. With their partners still entangled elsewhere, and their boss not expecting them home for another day or two, they'd gladly put the night to good use.
A little bit. Sarah was perfectly capable of adjusting her body's clock pretty much at will, but he and the Intersect lacked that skill. Have to talk to Ellie about that. When he saw her in…what time is it, anyway?
Chuck reached out a hand, feeling around for his cell, kept off for the duration of their trip. Not that they planned it that way, it just sort of happened. Casey and Carina may have been sort of semi-on duty-ish, but he and Sarah were really into their roles as vacationing honeymooners. Anyone they might have wanted to hear from knew that. As for the rest…
The screen lit and he checked the clock. Just like he'd thought, still stupid o'clock in the morning here, even if his body insisted it was time to get up. He put the phone down and settled back to go back to sleep if he could, or feel Sarah snuggling next to him if he couldn't. A win-win if he'd ever heard of one.
His phone started beeping.
Sarah's grip tightened around his chest.
Chuck flashed, utilizing a combination of skills from three separate disciplines to get out her arms, out of his bed, out of the room with his traitor phone pressed against his chest, all without disturbing She who must not under any circumstances be disturbed. Once in the hall he held the phone away from himself to check the message that had come in.
Go to your computer.
His computer? Who the hell would be contacting him by computer at this hour?
No, really. Who would be contacting him by computer at this hour?
Only one answer came to him and he didn't much like it. Sarah would like it even less, and he really doubted Orion had staged this little meeting to let her get her hands on him. Good thing she was asleep right now. He could take the meeting and fill her in later.
Sarah Lisa Don't-call-me-Walker stalked out of their bedroom, unhappy. "Chuck!" She stomped down the hall (in spite of the bunny slippers currently padding her feet) and cornered him in their dining room/nook/piece of floor, looking boggle-eyed but not especially afraid. That would change. She had a deadly projectile in her hand and wasn't afraid to use it. "A pillow, Chuck?" she yelled, throwing it at his face. "If I'd wanted to wake up holding a pillow I would have married one."
Miracle of miracles, she got him square in the face, his Intersect-powered reflexes failing him. "Sorry," he said, catching his pillow before it could fall to the floor. "I had to act fast, and you wouldn't let go. I knew ninjitsu and acrobatics were in the intersect but the pillow-fighting was a surprise."
"'Act fast', Chuck?" she repeated, confused. "So I wouldn't wake up? Why?" When he didn't answer right away she changed her voice and tactics. "Come on, husband," she teased, sliding herself into his lap, "You should know better than to try to keep a secret from a spy."
"Says the woman whose bridal shower was held in the middle of an FBI sting operation."
"That was Carina's fault, not mine," grumped Sarah. "Stop stalling."
Repeated exposure to Sarah's seductive wiles did not render him more immune, rather the opposite. "I, um, yeah," he said, dropping his gaze to see what his hands were doing, which was no improvement. He looked up again, at her face, her eyes, her beautiful blue eyes that were even better than cleavage for holding his attention. "No, no secrets, not from me. Not a spy, no sir, uh, ma'am." He crossed his heart. "No secrets, no lies."
She frowned at him. "I hope you're not implying that you think I would keep secrets from you, or lie to you."
"Of course not," he blurted out, "Except, you know, national security and all…"
"Being a spy is my job, Chuck." She put her arms around him and snuggled in close. "You're my life now. I have no secrets from you, no lies to tell, and thank you for that."
"Uh, Sarah?" he said in her ear, sounding breathless. "You. Lap. Rationality…slipping away…"
She got off his lap and walked away down the hall. Chuck's wits returned to him but she was faster, now clad in a floor-length fluffy robe that left everything to the imagination. "No secrets, no lies. Feminine wiles are optional. Now spill."
Chuck reached out to the table and picked up his cell phone. "I got a message from Dad last night."
"Tell me you got a hit on his location."
"Um…about six feet underground." He handed her the phone. "I knew you'd want to see it, so I got it on video."
She sat next to him, called up the video app.
"Hello Chuck. If you're seeing this, that means I wasn't able to stop this message from sending. Which also means, I'm dead."
She paused the recording. "You think he really is?"
Chuck sighed, fiddling with a salt shaker. "I…don't know. I mean, you've chased him so far underground that he might as well be, but…I would have trouble believing he was dead if enemy agents shot him in front of me." His hand twitched, salt flying everywhere.
She nodded, taking the salt shaker out of his hand. "He did blow himself up in a helicopter right in front of us, and that was fake."
"Yeah, boys who cry wolf have nothing on spies who play dead, but mainly it's just that he's Orion, you know? He's too cool to die."
She looked at the screen and saw Stephen Bartowski, a very flawed man, not a dream. Definitely not an icon. "Everyone dies, Chuck."
"Doesn't mean I have to believe it." Suddenly he looked boggle-eyed again. "Or maybe there's an apprentice Orion out there, carrying on the legacy."
"Maybe I should listen to the rest of the message," she said, starting the video again.
"What do I say about that? Um, I- I'm sorry. And - and - well I hope you and your sister know how much I love you - loved you. Now I need you to do something for me. Something secret. You better get a pen."
She stopped the video again, shaking her head. "First he tells you it's secret, then he tells you to write it down?" said the spy, amazed. 'He tells you it's secret and the first thing you do is tell me', thought the wife, pleased.
"Well, he wasn't about to trust electronic recorders, too easy to hack, but really he should have had more faith in me and my magic memory." He needed coffee for this next part, and distance, so he got up to get both.
" I never wanted you to be a spy."
"Well, that makes three of us," muttered Sarah quite audibly. Chuck had only wanted to be worthy of her, and she was a spy.
"I knew how dangerous this world is, what it does to the people in it. Boy, do I know that."
Chuck gave Sarah one of those looks, and she gave him one right back. Apart, they'd almost lost themselves in the spy world. Together they'd saved each other from it.
"That's why I kept something from you. Something about me -about Orion. I've been a spy for the last twenty years, working for myself. Doing things governments have been afraid to do."
Facepalm. "Not afraid, you idiot," snarled Sarah, fingers white from squeezing the phone as hard as she wanted to squeeze Orion's neck right now. Trying to avoid chaos. God, the harm that one lone rogue operative could wreak, especially one of Orion's abilities. A twenty-year history of potential international incidents, with no known cause. Beckman would plotz.
"Maybe being a spy is - is in our blood. And - and maybe I should have... told you all of this long ago."
"Yeah," thought Sarah, "Because that would have just cleared everything right up, wouldn't it?" She dropped the phone on the table, letting it play as she cradled her head in her arms.
"But Chuck, your story is only just beginning. It's time you knew the truth about my work, and the people who tried to destroy me. Because if I'm gone, then you're not safe from them anymore. Neither is Ellie. These people they are ruthless, cunning and - Chuck, it's - it's time you learned the truth about your family. 'Cause I did all this for her."
"'Her'? Her who?" asked Ellie, pausing the app. They'd broken radio silence to contact her, of course they had. Any 'truth about their family' would affect her too, how could it not? If anyone deserved their loyalty, their trust, she did.
"Who do you think, El?" said Chuck from where he leaned against the wall, anything but casual. "He sure as hell didn't do anything for us."
"Chuck…" Ellie looked at him, brown eyes wide, lips pursed, as they always were when she had some overwhelming emotion she wanted to keep contained.
"He's right, Ellie," said Sarah, making breakfast. "Your father left you, when you were barely able to look after your brother alone."
"He left us to protect us."
"From what?" Sarah completely botched the flip, ruining the perfect symmetry of her pancakes. "From enemies that he made, people trying to destroy him. Running away may have been for you, but it didn't help you, it just avoided doing any more harm than he'd already done."
"Sarah, I know that you're mad at him for what he tried to do to Chuck, but that doesn't make him a bad man."
Sarah brought her imperfect products to the table. "I didn't say he was a bad man, Ellie, but he's a pretty lousy father."
Ellie picked up her fork out of a sense of duty, but her father wasn't here so she left the phone where it lay. "Is there anything else on that video?"
"Just an address and some other directions, sis, but they're for LA, not here."
Ellie gulped down the piece of pancake in her mouth. "You're going to LA? You just got in."
Chuck sat at the table, taking her hands in his. "We are going to LA, Ellie, I can't do this without you."
"We can't go to LA, Chuck, we've got work to do."
"You're kidding, right?" asked Sarah, pouring another batch. "Orion's spy will? Beckman will fly you there herself."
"You're absolutely right, Sarah," said Beckman, post-plotz. "Ruse or not, we can't afford to ignore any possible revelations about Orion and his schemes. Chuck and Ellie will go to LA immediately and report their findings."
"I'm sorry, Agent Bartowski, but I have need of you elsewhere. Disturbing evidence has come to light from your excellent work in Europe. Interrogations of the members of the DSL–" no way she was going to call it the Deadly Scorpion League, especially since she'd been the one to use the name first "–have revealed the growing influence of new players in the wake of the Ring's collapse. Colonel Casey and Agent Miller will brief you in Prague."
"Chuck, is that what I think it is?" asked Ellie as they pulled up in front of the address in LA, later that night. A brother and sister on compassionate leave had no trouble getting a westbound flight.
Chuck parked the car, sat and stared. "Yeah, El. It's our old house. I thought I recognized the address."
"You and your magic memory. I haven't thought about this place since we had to sell it."
They got out. "Looks like Dad kept it in the family anyway," said Chuck. "Maybe he did something for us after all." He looked at the house critically, as it blended in perfectly with the neighborhood in spite of being uninhabited. A spy's house. "Remember how surprised the realtor was when we got more than our asking price?"
It got her through Med School, although they ate a lot of beans and rice as well. "You think that was Dad?"
"I think–" He pushed the lockplate under the doorknob to one side, revealing a scanner, and pressed his thumb to it. The door made a noise, and opened easily. "Anything's possible, sis." The rooms they peeked into on their way to the den looked mostly unchanged, with lots of drop cloths everywhere. He flipped the light switch in the proper sequence, and they watched as the floor moved, revealing a secret basement.
"Can this get any weirder?" whispered Ellie.
Chuck gave her a nudge. "Go on, Alice, it's just a rabbit hole. Wait a minute, that makes me the rabbit. I'll go first."
The space at the bottom of the stairs was a warren of shelves and boxes, hardcopy remnants of ancient missions, organized in a fashion that had to make sense only to Orion. Names–Hydra, Cygnus, the Triangulum–that not even the Intersect could recognize. At the far end something made a light, so they went that way.
As they walked along the main aisle, Ellie said, "We've only got three days, Chuck."
"I couldn't even index this place in three days. Let's hope Dad did that for us, otherwise this stuff'll rot before we read half of it."
The light came from inside a table, with some things on it that they couldn't see very well until they got close. Chuck picked up some metal fragments, while Ellie checked the label on a box of papers.
"Chuck!" said Ellie, shifting the box and pointing at the label.
"Ellie!" said Chuck, holding out a stamped metal figure of a boy.
A/N2 Yes, I know, it's really the end of S3, but a lot of S4 won't make much sense in the nine2five universe, so I'll take whatever material I can get. Please review. I respond to them all, by the way, usually behind the scenes. Thanks.