A/N I have realized that the only way to proceed with this season is to abandon the dross of S4 and focus on the parts that are needed. Episodes like Cubic Zirconium and Coup D'Etat are pretty useless, while Seduction Impossible are completely valueless, as far as nine2five is concerned. The first 13 episodes are a separate story from the last 11, but they are related, so I'm integrating them as best I can. While the third episode of the first 13 (CZ) is mostly useless, the third episode of the last 11 (Masquerade) is mostly not, so I'm using that one for the most part, with a few elements from CZ mixed in. Hopefully you won't be able to tell which ones without rewatching canon. As far as I can tell, my season 4 will run about 16 episodes. I may be able to work in some fluff, but no promises.
"Sarah, wake up."
"Now aren't you glad I didn't shoot you?"
"You look like the sort to buy off the rack."
"I've never been so glad to see Morgan proven wrong."
Casey never knocked. He demanded entrance, with varying degrees of lack of subtlety, and he usually got his way. "All right, Grimes, out with it," he barked as he walked through the doors of Morgan's little domain, the kitchen at the B&B where he made breakfast in the morning. "What's so important it has to cut into my range time?"
Morgan turned and shushed Casey to silence, gesturing urgently.
"What the hell is wrong with you, Grimes?"
Morgan snatched up a plate of pancakes and put it on the table. "Hear, sit down, pretend like you're my guest." He turned and watched the cutout in the wall anxiously.
"I am your guest," said Casey, taking the syrup. Grimes may be acting crazy, but he knew how to make a good pancake.
"Exactly! Just like that." He came up close, and lowered his voice. "We can't meet at the restaurant anymore."
"We haven't met at the restaurant yet." Casey shoved a huge helping of pancake into his mouth.
Morgan ignored the distinction, if he even heard it. "There's something weird going on at the restaurant, Colonel. After what you said last night I was keeping an eagle eye out. Some of my wait staff are like, outer space aliens or something."
Casey pretended to consider, while shoveling the pancakes into his mouth with a steady rhythm.
Ninety-nine percent drivel.
That CIA loony-bin doesn't allow visitors, does it?
It would break Alex' heart.
One percent brilliance.
"All right, Grimes," he said, putting his fork down on his now-empty plate. "I'll come by your place tonight. You can show me. But you know what they did to the boy who cried wolf?"
He'd never played that video game. "Um…no."
Neither did Casey. "Well, it'll be nothing compared to what I do to the nerd who cries 'alien'."
Frost never knocked. She announced herself. "You have a task for me, Alexei?" The guards outside closed the doors, quite certain that they didn't want to hear what went on in the boss' office.
Alexei Volkoff turned his chair as she stopped in front of his desk. "Yes, Frost," he said in his curious accent, part British, part…avalanche. "Our traitor is proving himself more troublesome than I'd hoped."
No surprise. "Boris was one of our best."
"Indeed," agreed Volkoff. The best, after Frost herself. He looked around his office dispassionately. "I'd expected him to be one of the few contenders for my throne after I'd gone, but his misguided strike against you has forced him out into the open." He handed her a flash drive. "Some of my lieutenants have gone dark. Take Packard and his team and find out what's happening."
She took the drive but didn't leave at the dismissal. "You think he's moving against you?"
Volkoff chuckled. "Against me? No. He knows if he did that he'd have to go up against you and he'd never win that." If only because Volkoff would send an army after him if Frost herself were killed. Then he lost his smile, wintry though it had been. "No, I think he's playing a longer game. He's not after me, he's after my future."
Volkoff wasn't that trusting. "Never you mind, Frost. My future is quite secure, and quite safe, but if Boris continues there may be no Volkoff Industries in that future, and that I just cannot allow." He smiled at her. "You'll fix that for me, won't you, Frost?"
Sarah entered without knocking, just as if she were home, which, in a way, she was. Chuck was her home, and this place was built around him, for him. Protective and protected, just like her. The woman at its heart was just like–well, not just like her. Ellie was devoted to Chuck, too. Ellie had made him the man he was today, and she stood by him just as Sarah did, keeping him at his best in every way possible.
"Hey, Sarah," said her sister-in-law, turning at the sound of the door, striking a pose that emphasized a figure that was no longer as slim and trim as it used to be.
Ellie was a wife, and Ellie was…not a spy. Sarah mustered a smile she did not feel. "You wanted to see me, Ellie?"
"Yeah." Ellie completed her turn, hiding her body's changes from those who weren't looking for it. "I just wanted to let you know that this upload will include the first files from Dad's repository." The ones he'd bothered to type out, before he realized he wasn't writing for anyone but himself. Later files were in longhand and would have to be transcribed.
For a second Sarah stopped, wondering if one of those files would have a list of Orion's secret hideouts, but then she realized that Ellie probably wasn't bringing it up for that reason. "How do you think he'll take it?"
Ellie shrugged. "No way to tell. He was nine when our mother left, and most of these files will be about her, and Dad's search for her. He could take heart from that, or it could…"
"It could destroy whatever heart he has left, is that what you're saying?"
Ellie sought refuge behind her desk, sitting in her chair. "What I'm saying is that this would be a really good time for him to be reminded how much family he has with him right now."
"When will you do it?"
"After the briefing. If there's one thing Chuck's experience with Carmichael taught us, it's that his emotional state affects the upload." Ellie paused, and Sarah nodded confirmation. "The briefings get him in a professional mood, which is good by itself, and possibly he may be primed to flash on items relevant to them."
Sarah smiled at the thought of a lab rat with a little General's hat on. "Are you scripting them, too?"
"Not yet," drawled Ellie, looking down. "Oh, God, I have to go to the bathroom again." She looked up at Sarah, and scrambled to get out of her chair. "I swear it has to be psychological, she's a peanut, she can't be really causing me this much trouble so soon." She walked around the desk and Sarah, who hastily backed out of her path as she raced for the door. "See you at the briefing."
Sarah waved, a little, then went to leave and go back to her–man, who would want to hear the latest about his sister. But what else could she do?
Casey lifted his hand, too late. Another second, and he might have been able to brace his arm, but as it was Sarah's kick pushed his padded forearm in as easily as Casey was trying to push it out. More easily in fact, since it moved right past his elbow and clouted him hard on the cheek.
"You're in a mood," he said over the sound of bells.
"Combat is supposed to be realistic."
Casey thought back to the last time he'd seen her angry. "So now I'm Heather Chandler?"
"Hyah!" she yelled, the only warning he got as she launched a blizzard of strikes that quickly drove him outside the practice circle. "I'm nothing like her!" she yelled before she realized what she'd just done, and stood down. "Not anymore."
Casey grunted. "Touched a nerve though, didn't I?" He stepped back into the circle.
"She had a husband who loved her, and now he's in Witness Protection while she's at Yucca Mountain."
"You reprioritized," said Casey, launching his own attack, which she easily blocked. "She didn't."
She stepped back. "You really think so?"
He stepped forward. "I know the signs."
"Signs of what?" Kick-strike-punch. "Oh, you mean the way you reprioritized Alex?"
"My priorities are the same." Punch-block-strike-ow! "God, country, duty, Corps. I call, but she's a grown woman. I don't know where I fit in her life."
"Would it have been easier if you'd been in her life from the beginning?"
Casey blocked that punch too. "Is that what this is about, you and the nerd, spawning?"
Casey snorted, and moved in. "And he's gonna be thinking about his own. That what you're worried about?"
"Are you kidding?" kick-punch. "He owes me twenty."
Casey's face twisted in disgust. "Twenty little nerdlings? How'd you get him to commit to that?"
How high can Casey count? "I'll tell you sometime." When he was old and arthritic, significantly reducing the chances of killing her or her husband for holding him to ransom.
He grunted. "So he wants them, and you want them. I don't see the problem."
"I'm at my peak!" Strike-kick-punch-block-strike.
"I hate peaks." Casey shook his head to clear the ringing. "Only two things you can do when you've reached the top of the ladder, Bartowski. Go back down, or step off and start climbing a different ladder. Me, I'd rather go out while I'm on top." 'Cause going back down'll get you killed. A bell rang. "Time."
"Team, we have a situation in Eastern Europe," said Beckman. "Last night, the CIA and NSA were supposed to coordinate with Interpol to take down three of Volkoff's top lieutenants. By the time we got their locations, they were already dead." The faces of the victims appeared on screen two.
"Suspects?" asked Carina over the speakerphone, because there were always suspects.
A face appeared on the second screen. "Interpol suspects this man, Boris Kaminsky, a top Volkoff enforcer, but it's unlikely that he's operating under orders in this matter. The three victims appear to have been key pieces in the Volkoff network."
"So he's a traitor?" Casey really hated traitors.
"Apparently so, although no one is quite sure why. Interpol is asking our help in this matter. They were impressed with the work we did for them regarding Miss Stefanova. Even though Sarah and Carina captured her, Chuck also provided a great deal of intel on her operations that they had somehow managed to miss." Beckman gave them a smug little smile of approval.
Chuck smiled back, naturally. "Glad I could help, General."
"Hopefully you'll be able to do even better this, time, Chuck. They haven't been able to provide us with any new information about their latest operations, so anything we can give them will show us in a very good light, internationally."
That prospect pleased Casey. "Show 'em how it's done, Bartowski."
"This looks like a good test scenario for the new procedure, General," said Ellie.
"What new procedure?" asked Carina.
"Uploads after the briefing, Agent Miller," said Beckman. "We've had some successes with flashes during the briefings, but we're hoping to increase that ratio."
"Dad said the flashes need a seed to form around, so hopefully the same holds true for the upload."
"So you're what, aiming him? Are you sure that's safe?"
"We're map-making, Carina," said Ellie. "That's never safe."
Beckman almost smiled that Ellie remembered her own analogy. "Make yourself ready to leave your current assignment at a moment's notice, Agent Miller; Monaco will just have to live without you and your fashion contributions. It all depends on Chuck, now."
One side of Chuck's mouth twitched upward nervously. "But no pressure, right, General?"
"Didn't you hear me, Chuck? Of course there's pressure. Don't let your country down." She moved her hand and the screen went black.
"Wow, she has, like, no sense of humor, does she?"
"You just figured that out now, Bartowski?" sneered Casey. "The free world is doomed."
One Intersect upload later…
"How do you feel, Chuck?"
Chuck sat staring at his hands, not immediately entering his correlations in the log as was his wont. "It feels a little strange, sis."
'Strange' did not necessarily mean 'bad'. "How so, Chuck? Do we need to remove it?"
He moved his hands to the keyboard, and they started typing. "I don't think so, El. I'm not sure if it's me focusing the upload, or the fact that these are Dad's notes, but…I feel like I wrote them. It's all very familiar to me, somehow."
Ellie hit the mute button to avoid distracting him, and pressed the intercom. "Manoosh, bring up the brain scan."
"You got it, boss."
"Why am I thinking of Somerset?" asked Chuck.
She unmuted him. "Where is that, Chuck?"
He typed quickly, recognized the map when he saw it. "Near Wales."
She skyped the names to Manoosh. "We'll start searching the dataset, especially Dad's additions. Probably it's nothing more than you knowing how Dad thinks, plus he coded the Intersect in the first place. Keep working. We've got the scanner on."
"Anything I should be doing in particular?"
"Nope, just lie back, and…think of England."
A/N2 An oldie, but a goodie. Let me know what you think of my approach. I'll try to keep the mixing and matching to a minimum, but I have a lot of changes, no matter what.