The Odd Quadruple
Casey kept his head down as he gave the jeans a flap in the air, ironing them out. He had no right to take advantage of his asset's inebriation to get an eye full of the chest typically covered under a nerd shirt, or runner's legs in that had been hiding in cheap black khakis.
God, that was fucking not fair, but there it was. Sculpted legs of an athlete were endowed to a kid who would double over on the neighbor's lawn and puke up breakfast if he had to jog more than a mile and a half. Perturbing, since Casey had to work his ass off at the gym and run three mornings a week to keep his legs, and the rest of the package, in peak form.
As he gave the kid a cursory once over, he supposed the Intersect could've landed in worse places. Morgan Grimes, for one. Or Jeff and Lester. That last one made him shudder.
"Christ." Casey laid the jeans with the rest of the sodden mess and turned to Chuck, one hand on his belt. He snorted at his own idiocy when he accidently got another eyeful of his lean frame.
"Here," Casey said, holding out the robe and wondering why his brain asked what it would be like to brush his knuckles over his pale skin. Because he never thought of those things, and not with the moron who, for a reason Casey couldn't fathom, liked him. As in like, school kid stuff.
"You're giving me ... that?" Chuck asked after a hesitation. Brown eyes zeroed in on the robe dangling from Casey's hand, and his face screwed up in a sad frown. The puppy dog rejection was back. "I thought that ... we were ..." Not able to verbalize the simplest innuendo, the kid ran his palm over the blanket next to his hip, then passed it over his thigh and stomach. Coming here?
Admittedly, it was getting harder to block him out. Especially as Chuck, wearing only his boxers, stretched his body out and wiggled his toes, a wordless signal he wouldn't mind getting warm again.
When Casey dared to look up, Chuck softly patted the top cover one more time. "You coming?"
It took longer this time to answer. "I said take it." Casey made the brusque demand while shoving the robe in front of his nose. "Put it on before you freeze your ass off."
Forget puppy dog. A kennel full of mountain curs heading for the gas chamber had nothing on that look. "My ... bad, I guess."
Damn if he didn't just quietly take it, and with some effort and fumbling, managed to get his long arms through the sleeves with only a little help.
"Boxers off," Casey said, trying not to make it sound like an order. "Tie off the robe first and then slip them down."
Chuck's brows rose. The wounded look faded to wariness. "If that's what you want," he said slowly. "You're the boss."
Still thinking? Do your job. This can't happen.
"Just ...ah, hell." He could blame the drugs. That's it. It should've knocked him out. Then this mess wouldn't have happened.
As luck would have it, his mind-altered state did nothing for trying to tie the robe, so after a few uncoordinated crosses back and forth, Casey moved his hands away and did it for him.
"Thanks ... sorry." Chuck swallowed against Casey's sure touch on his fumbling hands. The kid had been dealing with his own drought of emptiness, and getting warmth wasn't something he would shut out. "You're being nice to me ..."
Casey searched for a response by looking up at the ceiling fixture. "God, I could've been in Kandahar," he said, because that's what he should've said. Reaching under the robe, he hauled down the boxers and tossed them off to the side with the rest of it.
"Are you ... mad at me?" Chuck licked his bottom lip, unsure of himself. "If I'm coming on to you ... too much? You don't haf to, John."
Well, that's what he needed. Now the kid was going to save his virtue for him.
The gravelly voice in his head, the one that had sent spurts of cold logic through his mind, suddenly wasn't so helpful.
It could work.
Was there something wrong with craving a little contact? Hey, if anything, the kid has proven he knows how to keep a secret.
Who was he kidding? Chuck would never let it go that way.
Hearing that bit of logic made him forget the dark eyes he knew were on him, searching over his back. Right now, they were locked in that shadow of sadness Casey had witnessed too much tonight, and he didn't need to see it.
He couldn't do anything about that. Really, he couldn't.
Casey turned, confirming he was being watched. Chuck had let his eyes settle on him in that studious head tilt Bartowski way.
"Are you going somewhere?"
"You said it yourself, kid." Casey made a point of lifting the corner of his shirt, ungluing it from his chest. "I'm soaking wet. Getting out of these things." There was a second that he cursed his lack of foresight for not stopping at his cabin to get his own dry clothes, but on the other hand, he had his hands full of squirmy nerd at the time.
"Undressin'? In the ... bathroom?"
Casey's head snapped around before he reminded himself the kid was fucked up and there was no account for his prattle. Because he thought he heard a tiny stab of disappointment.
Not turning around, Casey walked into the bathroom, clutching the matching bathrobe under his arm. "Hope the elf doesn't mind that I'm using his robe." The next thought teased him, like a finger traveling under his shirt to find skin.
The tiny short-legged elf.
Just saying it made him hold up the robe to his shoulders in front of the expansive mirror. "Hell." What he meant was hello ass cheeks if he wasn't careful. Getting into to Morgan's robe, size Med – Short, he noted from the tag, would be a bit of a squeeze.
Scratch that. Nearly indecent.
"He doesn't mind," Chuck called from the bedroom. He lowered his voice, but Casey still heard him add, "He'll ... be givin' me high fives in the morning."
High Fives? Casey looked in the mirror and saw his veneer of granite give way to a fissure. Then it went straight to dumbstruck. Throwing the robe down on the counter, he glared at it and when it didn't grow, he pinched the bridge of his nose and laughed humorlessly at his predicament. "Yeah. Just perfect."
"I think I ... have to go the bathroom."
"Don't you dare come in here," Casey growled. But since he wasn't sure the kid would listen – it had to be his condition - he closed the door. Casey hurriedly stripped out of his wet clothes and, standing naked, tossed them over a towel rack. Grimacing one more time at the teeny robe, he looked at his reflection. Geometry was a moot point when it came to calculating the area and volume required to get his not so small body in the gnome's fluffy covering.
Holding it in front of his chest, he gauged again how much would be left hanging out, and slipped it on. With difficulty. Fabric strained around the shoulders, most of his chest visible down to the low v at his waist.
Yep, the length was as bad as he expected. The robe ended somewhere in the vicinity of his upper thighs, leaving the bulge of his legs and honed calves bare. Why didn't he think to give Chuck the bearded idiot's robe? Tactical error, Major.
He took just a second to roll his eyes at himself in the mirror, half-turned to check the back, making sure the pertinent bits were covered – they were – and faced the door. It wasn't quite as bad as a naughty nightie, but damn close to indecent. And if he dropped something, it would just have to stay there until his pants dried off.
Without a plan, he took a breather to think. Okay, he would just not look at Chuck as he stepped out of the bathroom. With any luck, it wouldn't matter. Maybe the kid would be out cold by now, or too spaced out to notice the sorry excuse for a body cover borrowed from a man half his size.
Deciding nonchalance was the way out of here, he went straight for the mini-fridge to retrieve a bottle of water, knowing that no matter what the woman in red had given him, it had to get flushed out.
Turning, he expected to see the Chuck humming or staring at the ceiling.
Not giving a low wolf whistle between his teeth.
"I have to admit ... you have nice legs, Case." A lopsided smile grew over the kid's face. "I wouldn't drop that water bottle, though."
Casey blinked, quickly found composure, and gave a good tug on the terry belt. A feeling completely foreign to him washed over his cheeks. John Casey was not blushing. Blushing was for weaker beings, those who felt self-conscious by the way a pair of warm eyes roamed over the body, giving a leisurely perusal of long legs, before finally landing on his face. It didn't belong anywhere near a decorated military officer and trained killer.
He was. He was being checked-out by the nerd.
"Don't say a word, Bartowski, or I'll strangle you with the belt."
"You do realize ... that's the only thing keeping your –" and Chuck made a little hand motion, "man bits from blowing in the breeze. And I don't think it's talking if I just do this, huh?" Lying there in his matching robe, except that it fit him, the kid swept a hand out over the blanket and patted the spot next to him yet again. "You're ... shy? 'Cause I never woulda thought that about you."
"What the hell makes you think I'm shy?" Casey asked, his chin jutting out.
"But ... I think I like it. Now ... come here."
That come here came with a brilliant lazy sunshine of a smile.
Casey's mouth fell open. Reflexively, he made a grab for the opening of his robe at the collar, covering his upper chest, and gave him a scowl. He had to remind himself the kid had no idea what he was saying.
It's a job. Only that. "Here." Casey shoved the bottle of water under the kid's nose. "Drink it. As much of it as you can."
Chuck's eyes drifted down from his face, along his arm, landing on the water bottle. By the time his blurry eyes pinpointed it, the blazing grin had faded.
Casey was not sure why he felt bad about that. Or why in the hell he wished it was back.
No. No, no, no.
"All right ... if that's what ..." Chuck's voice trailed, and obediently, he took the proffered water. Casey watched as the kid downed almost half of it. "I wasn't lying when I said I have to go." Chuck nodded towards the door and extended a hand, meaning for Casey to take it. "Need to get up. Please?"
This went well beyond the bounds of asset handling, and decency, Casey thought, but what other choice did he have? He grabbed his sleeve, pulled him out of bed, and steered him by his shoulders to the bathroom. Holding him with his back turned, he closed his eyes while the kid took care of his business.
"Sorry ... Casey, for having to, well, you know," Chuck mumbled, making the agent feel like an asshole. Only Chuck could do that, but right there, he did. By apologizing, when it was him that had been sucked into a shit storm tonight. Never mind the past four months of his normal, neatly boxed-in little life being shaken like a maraca. "Not the best way to sp-spend the first date ... is it?"
"C'mon, doofus. Getting you back in bed." One arm secured him around the middle, and Casey herded him out of the bathroom. "And stop calling this a date."
"I guess ... it stops being a date when it becomes a sleepover." At the feel of Chuck's long fingers, falling loosely on his knuckles, Casey jumped. "Never ... thought it would happen like this. Or ... or ever."
It was getting harder to ignore him. It was also harder to reject the conversation with Walker in the bar a few nights ago, or what the troll had said as he left.
"Oh, God." Casey muttered. "This cannot be happening."
"What?" Chuck asked, turning around. The abruptness made him sway on his feet, his back landing against the front of Casey's robe. For some reason, he stayed there, pressed to his chest. "Did I ... say something?"
Casey took him by the biceps, pointed him around next to the mattress. "Sit. Get in."
"All ... right." Slowly, Chuck pulled away, climbed in, and scooted to the middle. "Made some room for you," he said, looking up at him with dark sleepy eyes. "I'll let you pick ... which side you want. I usually like this one," and the kid motioned to the right, "but I can switch if you need me to."
Like this was making room for something permanent?
Casey eyed him. Actually, it was his side of the bed that Chuck offered up. He still had a choice, however. He could climb into bed with his asset, or sit in the chair next to the dresser and wait for Walker.
Chuck rested his head on the pillow, closed his eyes, covered his forehead. After a long moment, his body, which had been drawn taut, seemed to unwind. His hand slid over the top cover, but even in his dazed condition, the kid seemed to know not to reach out after him. Maybe he knew enough that he didn't have to.
"John ...? Whatever you're doing ... whatever you're thinking, just shut up and get in here, okay?"
Casey didn't answer. He stood there with his arms folded over the robe, staying undecided until Chuck shifted his arm to peek up at him.
"I don't understand you," the kid went on, "and maybe I never will. But you shouldn't turn away ... when someone likes you ... and you might like them."
"I never said that, Bartowski."
"So you don't?" Chuck managed. He shifted his arm slightly over his eyes, keeping them hidden, and the other hand began to fiddle with the edge of the blanket. "Because ... I thought maybe -"
"Just shut up and scoot over," Casey muttered under his breath. When the kid poked his head out again with a questioning look, the larger man tapped his knees. "Make some damn room, will you?"
Chuck didn't reply. He didn't have to. His eyes always said volumes, and as he scooted over a bit more, Casey could tell he had flustered the kid by suddenly giving in. The look ratcheted up to mystified when he slipped into the space next to his lanky body, their calves accidently brushing as he moved his legs.
"Flat or fluffy?"
"The pillows. One's kind of flat, and one's fluffy. Morgan and I debated on -"
"Flat," Casey broke in, holding out his hand. "Just give it to me."
"Perfect." Chuck's lashes swept down, eyes lingering over him. It was as if he needed to verify that his handler had stretched out next to him. "Lift up."
Casey turned his head and raised a brow. "Now what?"
The kid rolled on his side and rose on an elbow, looking down at him. He smiled again. "Lift your head."
Casey was slow to catch on, and that alone was not familiar territory for him. It was not his fault, though. It was Chuck's. Did he know that when he moved on his side, Casey could feel every point of contact between their bodies? And there were plenty to think about.
The kid was still waiting for him to move. Casey never pegged him for a demanding little shit in the sack.
Okay, now he was seriously pissed at himself for even noticing that.
"Your head?" Chuck squeezed down on the pillow and shuffled it closer. "You want this, don't you?"
Casey felt himself nodding dumbly before he closed his eyes. "Ah ... fuck ..."
"No, just ... give it to me ..." he said, huffing. Jesus. Where the hell was Walker, anyway? And the results of the tox screening?
When he reached over to slide it beneath his head, Chuck's hand somehow landed on the front of Casey's robe, fingers curling around the low v. Casey looked up, wondering what the hell he thought he was doing, and that was the last thing he knew before reality bent and snapped in his ears.
It happened at a warm press of lips to his.
Never had anyone taken him by surprise, at least not in a damn long time. Until Chuck Bartowski. Because everything he knew to be true dissolved right at the time the kid leaned down to lay that light kiss on his mouth.
He's kissing me? Yes, he was. An honest to God kiss. Unsure, hesitant, like the kiss of a man who thought he might die in his next breath. It was chaste, lips closed, yet slow and burning. Chuck's hand moved up to cup his jaw, and then framed his face. It was to keep him there, though the kid had to know it would do no good. Casey could get out of this. He could. Toss him off and flatten him to the floor. Kill him for this.
Except plain as day he heard him speak. Hold still and let me do this, he seemed to say. Please?
Casey made a growl deep in his chest. He had ordered it to sound disapproving, to say get off now, so it surprised him when it got lost in translation. Somehow, it had sounded ... like he was starving and the kid was offering prime rib. Hungry, needy. When Chuck increased the pressure behind the kiss, the need behind it, it wasn't enough to open him up. It was still an ask, giving him a simple taste of his lips and mouth, not going further, not sliding in to take more or to bite down on his bottom lip. And if his life wasn't filled enough with the young man, now Chuck's aroma was in his nose, the damp curls on Chuck's temple brushing his, then his cheek and jaw.
He gave up fighting it, too tired to even try. Couldn't do a damn thing with it, but for just a second – maybe just a little while – he returned it. Only enough to kiss him back and let him know he wasn't going to die for this.
The warmth and softness left him, and when Casey opened his eyes, he let out a breath. The whole thing left him aching, but in a good stupid way, like a kid who got his first kiss.
No. Just his imagination.
Chuck doesn't know what's he's doing. He could make it go away.
Staring into Chuck's face, seeing the way the kid looked at him as he gently caressed his jaw, his forehead, tracing the line of his nose, Casey tensed. He figured it would be ten times worse to elbow him off the bed in his condition.
Neither said a word. There was only the feel of a long body aligned with his, and he couldn't deny he was now cuddling with the asset. No, he should think it at least. He was cuddling with Chuck. And it wasn't unpleasant.
"Such a straight nose. It fits with you." Chuck dipped his head down, settling it in the nook of Casey's shoulder. Casey was shocked that he let him, but fighting him was still useless in this second. "Like everything does."
"Tomorrow, Bartowski, when I play this back for you, just remember, you're the one who came up with this. Not me."
"Mm ... Are you going to kill me?" the kid asked, sounding half out of it.
"No." Casey swallowed when he realized it was true.
"Don't ... be mad," Chuck said, wrapping a long arm around Casey's middle. "Tomorrow ... you can go back to being invincible, okay? But for tonight, why ... don't you let the guy who likes you ... enough to kiss you ... hold onto you. Just for now ... John?"
"Kid, I don't know why you're doing this," Casey said quietly. He angled his head to the side to look at him, a hundred thoughts passing between his ears. Most notably, why wasn't he moving or shoving the kid away?
"You saved me ... tonight. Didn't you?" His bare feet grazed Casey's. "Now ... maybe you'll let me save you."
Casey closed his eyes, because there were no words. Leaving it at that, he let a few minutes pass. He listened to the voices of late night partygoers in the hallway, a sultry jazz song coming from the upper deck, and finally, the soft snoring of the young man whose hard body was lined up to his. None of it bothered him. It wasn't like he was going to sleep anyway, not when he was still technicality on duty. Certainly not with his asset sprawled over him, smiling in his sleep.
Casey was out two minutes later, Chuck's head on his upper arm, one arm wrapped around the kid's shoulders.
"Freeze! Hands in the air where I can see them."
The figure, a black silhouette against the dim light from bathroom, raised its hands in surrender. "Stand down, Casey," came a distinctly female and decidedly droll voice. "I'm sure you don't want to have to explain this in the report."
"God, Walker." Casey tried to sit up until he realized he was pinned down. Lowering his SIG, he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "What the hell. I almost capped you in the head."
"Next time, I'll be more careful." Sarah stepped in closer and her brows rose. "Now, that would be an interesting recount of events. How do you explain to the director that you didn't ascertain the threat first ... because you were awoken abruptly from the arms of your sleeping asset?" Her eyes traveled over them and she made a hm noise. "Nice legs, by the way."
"Can it, Walker," Casey told her, reaching over to set down the gun on the night table. "Kid was acting crazy – more than normal. The only way I could I get him to sleep was -"
"-to wrap your big strong, arms around him?" she finished, obviously amused. "I'm just sorry you didn't give me enough time to get my phone out. You both looked ... comfortable. Love to add that picture to the collection."
God, he did not want to deal with that smart-ass smile. But seeing that Chuck had managed to sleep through this, he let it go without moving. "Just protecting the Intersect. While you're making enough noise to wake the dead."
"Is that what they call it?" The light chuckle burned his ears. "He does look protected though, I must admit."
"Were you here for a purpose, Walker?" He asked it gruffly, wanting to remind her that they were still on a mission. "Where's the dick head?"
Casey gave her a shrug: does it matter?
"Point," Sarah said. "Well, Bryce and Blosjo are in a helicopter on their way to the Air Force base in El Segundo to hop a flight to DC."
"Don't know which one I'm happier to see go."
"Uh-huh," Sarah answered, distracted. When she glanced down, it seemed prudent to give a discreet tug on the robe, but it didn't keep her from smiling. "Is there a reason you're not under the blankets? And where did you get that nightie anyway -"
"Not a fucking nightie."
"- because, I hate to tell you this, John, but that doesn't leave much to the imag -"
"Imagining, eh, Walker?" Casey hissed quietly. "Well, not interested. Besides, do you really think I wouldn't have tried, once I got him here? I couldn't move the blankets with his lanky ass on them without waking him up."
"Wouldn't want to do that," she said, flashing a wicked grin.
"Can we talk about the mission, Walker? What about Larkin? I thought you'd kill the little asshole for the stunt he pulled."
"I considered it," Sarah admitted, careful to keep her voice to a whisper. She studied them a bit longer, then stepped over to the side of the bed, "But when I thought of the ramifications, I decided he would get to live another day."
"Yeah, bye-bye Burbank," Casey said. "Hello, inter-agency investigation behind closed doors. Dragging on for months." And no more Team Bartowski. No more Chuck.
"Just tell me you removed the GQ arrogance from his mug."
"GQ? Wow, Casey, I didn't know your interest in periodicals veered off from Shooting Times & Country. Expanding your horizons?"
"Hell, no. And keep your CIA drones out of my mail. So is your boy still pretty?"
"He's not my boy, and only if you have an attraction for broken teeth."
"Heh. Bet he could pass for Gomer Pyle."
"Is he in the agency?"
Casey sent her an ironic look and shook his head. He was getting too old for this shit. "What else?"
"Two black eyes ... and his first stop at DC will be the hospital. They want to take X-Rays of his jaw and nose."
"Speaking of adding to your collection –"
"I might've caught one as they loaded him on the helicopter."
"Heh." Just visualizing it, a smile curled Casey's lips until he thought of his boss. "How did Beckman take the news that her analysts screwed the pooch on this one? I'm sure she had a few choice words when she found out what Blosjo was really after. Not to mention that she has agents on the inside selling our secrets."
"As well as you would expect." Sarah's gaze scoured over Chuck, at least what she could see of the kid. Most of him was happily buried in the fluffy robe, curled up next to Casey. "How is he?"
Casey tipped his chin down. Oh, hell. It was too late to push him away because she already saw it. The arm over Casey's middle, clinging tightly – and no doubt she was wondering why Casey allowed it there. It bothered him that he didn't know the answer to that.
"Babbling nonsense and stoned," he grumbled, figuring the best thing to do would be to ignore it. "You missed all the fun."
"I see that," she murmured back at him.
Casey immediately hated the speculative look and the smile that came with it. "What did the woman give him?"
"You were right about that. Benzodiazepines." Sarah knelt by Chuck and checked his pulse by lifting the arm draped over Casey. When she was done, she tucked it back where it was. "Nothing that would permanently hurt him." Her tone became flat, angry. "Bastards. How could they do that?"
Casey shrugged because he had spent the past twenty years eradicating the bottom feeders of civilization. Nothing surprised him anymore. "Where's the rookie courier, anyway? I gave him orders to call me as soon as he knew."
Sarah walked over to the night table and held up his phone. "Seven missed calls," she said, waggling it playfully in front of him. "Looks like someone was sleeping too soundly to hear his phone."
"Keep your damn voice down. Trust me, you don't want him waking up again. You don't know which Bartowski you'll get."
"Looks like you got the one that is ... quite fond of his handler," Sarah said.
Frankly, the one that would have the balls to nail John Casey with a roguish kiss was the version he still couldn't wipe out of his mind.
Deciding she'd had enough enjoyment, he squinted up at his partner. "You look like hell, Walker."
"Thanks, Casey." Sarah made a face at him and moved away from the bed. Casey had to struggle to see her in the dark, but she seemed to be looking for something. "Which one is Chuck's?" she asked.
"His duffle." Sarah squatted, digging around, making rustling noises. "Is his the one with the Chewbacca name tag?"
"Think about it, Walker. It could be either of the nerds."
"Well, you have a point –"
"Yes, it's the damn Chewbacca one!" He winced at the acknowledgement, but hell, he was a spy. Professionals noticed those things. "Why is it important?"
There was a zipper sound and more rustling. "Dry clothes."
"Mm ... Case – what's going on?" Chuck mumbled, not opening his eyes.
"You wake him, you take him," Casey mouthed urgently at her. "And put away that damn smile." Because hell, yes, he could see that toothy grin, like a dazzling night light poking holes in his retinas. "What are you doing, anyway?"
"New orders," Sarah said, quieter this time. She tucked a few items of clothing under her arm and stood. "We can't let him out of our sight until we're back in Burbank and have a full report to the General. By then, they'll have ... interrogated Blosjo, and we'll know the extent of the security breech."
"Typical great timing," Casey muttered. "I wanted to be the one to interrogate the little prick."
"Sorry, Casey." Coming to a standstill at the bathroom doorway, she gave them a long sweep of her eyes, not looking a damn bit sorry. Casey pegged it more as curious glee. "We have our orders. And I must say, you're fulfilling yours quite admirably. Chuck seems very content and safe where he is."
Before Casey could return the volley, she closed the door. Looking down at the crazy head of hair, he frowned and settled back on the pillows.
Chuck made another snuffle and lifted his head. After a few seconds, his eyes drifted open. "Hum?"
What? After all of that damn noise Walker made, and now he wakes up?
"Go back to sleep."
"Put your head down."
"What's ... going on?"
"Nothing." Casey brought up a hand and placed it on the side of his head, pressing his head back down. "We're trying to sleep."
Chuck's head popped back up, eyes blinking at him. He seemed to focus, first on Casey's mouth, and then up to his eyes. After that, his lips made a self-conscious smile, and Casey noticed it wasn't quite as loopy as the earlier ones. How long they had slept, he didn't know, but the drug had to be wearing off.
"I have to say something ... but please don't kill me." Chuck cleared his throat. "Did ... we ...? I mean, did you let me kiss you?"
"Don't be an idiot," Casey said, looking at the door and not at him. The kid's attention had weight and heat on every square inch of his face. "You're still alive aren't you? Now go to sleep."
Keeping his eyes fixed on his a little longer, the kid finally put his head down. Casey stared up at the ceiling, listening to his own heartbeat in his ears, knowing Chuck could hear it just as well.
But whatever went thought his head, Chuck stayed quiet.
So much of the night had been instinct, no thought. The silence gave Casey a chance to sort out his ruminations.
Or admitting he needed a stiff drink. The good stuff, not the piss water. Talisker Single Malt. Foolish, really, to keep something that smoky and perfect in the gun case behind his Bushmaster. But that was the one. He had saved it for the most singularly shitty occasion. And hell, what could be more appropriate than now?
Those simple pleasures could make a man forget what he's giving up, everything he might want to do for himself, forgetting everything but that one goal.
Still, it could never drown out the hurt look he had put in those dark eyes.
Casey broke his concentration on the ceiling when the bathroom door opened. His partner stood there in the doorway wearing a baggy pair of sleep pants and a t-shirt that ended at her thighs. After a second of hesitation, she left the light on and the door open a crack. It was enough light for Casey to discern things he didn't want to face right now. Or ever. But the blonde seemed to know it and didn't give a shit.
Footsteps barely making a noise, Sarah stopped at the foot of the bed. The bathroom light cast a sliver of a beam across her face. Casey watched her expression closely, waiting for her to move or say something so he could give her the grumpy response. Seeming to know that, she made a play of folding her clothes and adjusting the pants.
"What the hell, Walker," he griped. "Think I can sleep with you standing over the bed like the zombie apocalypse?"
"Just debating if I should take the couch or the floor."
Casey rolled his eyes, only that, because he couldn't disturb the dark head on his chest. "Have you seen the size of the bed the nerds have? If it had runway lights, jetliners would be circling." He breathed out in exasperation. "Not gonna make you sleep on the floor."
Sarah wavered yet again, not certain what to say to that, but eventually she settled on a weary shrug. "Thanks. I guess this leaves Chuck in the middle."
"Yeah, unless you want to try and move him." Her hovering made Casey take a moment to adjust the ridiculous robe. "Good luck."
"No, he's fine where he is." The glint of humor in her eyes slowly subsided. Contemplating them, she then went to the closet. "I'm sure there are a few extra blankets around here."
"And extra pants?" he muttered.
"Sorry, I think I took the last clean pair."
Sarah shushed him, and when she returned, she had two blankets. "Here we go." Taking one for herself, she held out the other for him and shot a smile. "Might as well share it."
Casey did his best to spread it out over both of them without lifting up. While he did, Sarah climbed in on the other side and smashed down the pillow, then lay down on her back.
After a few minutes, he thought that was the end of it. Maybe he would finally get some sleep.
He should've known better.
When Casey turned his head, he found that even in the shadows, her eyes had been scrutinizing his profile. He also noticed she had cleaned up a bit. She smelled good, like a light perfumed soap, and not like salt water and wet hair. Not that he minded that either, the smell of the ocean in Chuck's brown waves.
"What is it, Walker?" he whispered back at her.
It surprised him, what he saw, but he kept it to himself. An austere, never-flustered and entirely too serious girl for her age, she actually appeared uncomfortable, giving it away by avoiding his eyes.
"Contingency plan," she said at last.
A couple of words, and he already knew he wasn't going to like this. "Contingency plan?" Casey eased a hand over the blanket, shifted uncomfortably, careful not to jostle Chuck's head. "I take it ... this isn't about one in the books, Walker."
"I think they're getting ready to put Chuck away," she said, and laid her hand awfully close to Chuck's back. "Or ask you to do your job."
Casey's cool look to her confirmed they were both thinking the same thing. Hell, she's smart. She's seen his records. Of course, she would figure it out.
"And I haven't admitted this in a long time, to anyone. But ... I'm afraid." Though the darkness in the room half hid her face, Casey knew this line of thought was bringing moisture to her eyes. He had never seen her cry, and hoped to hell she could hold it back. "I know you would never acknowledge the existence of an emotion coursing through your body, but I should tell you, I am." She reached over, and this time she touched Chuck's shoulder. "Afraid."
Well, he couldn't allow himself to feel it. "What are you saying?" Casey asked.
"We need a plan. Nothing can happen to Chuck. If we have to -"
"You're talking about treason. That's a bit more than having to explain to the brass why it was a good idea to let your asset sleep in the same bed with you." Now that was scary, but the truth. The Director forgave the exploitation of an attraction, but showed no leniency in disobeying orders to kill an innocent man.
"Are you in or not?" she asked bluntly.
He wouldn't look at her. If he agreed just like that, it would keep him up for a week. "What's your second point?"
Sarah looked at him over the top of Chuck's head. "Don't lie to him about the kiss."
His lips tightened at her wry smile. A still moment, broken up only by the squeak of a cart being wheeled outside the door, gave him the chance to push it away. "Better get checked out by the shrinks next time you're in DC, Walker. I think you're losing it. You're hearing things."
"You heard me."
Casey opened his mouth, angry retort on his lips, but Sarah's shrewd blue eyes blew it all back at him.
"Don't," the blonde said quietly. "Don't lie to me about what I heard. If you don't want to tell me, just don't tell me. Let it sit with ... your other fears, okay?"
"It probably has more to do with being a woman than a 'damn spook', but did you really expect me not to hear what Chuck said when I was in there?" She nodded towards the bathroom.
"So the strung out idiot kissed me." He looked away. "No big deal."
"Interesting that your first reaction was to deny it. Something bother you about the kiss? Maybe ... that you liked it?"
"Bite me, Walker." Casey set his teeth and brooded at the ceiling, hoping she'd take the signal that he was done with this.
"Pardon the expression," Sarah continued, brushing off his body language, "but you're the idiot here."
Despite the fact they had been quiet, Chuck picked that moment to talk in his sleep, and then slid his arm lower on Casey's middle, tucked it in. Watching him without a word, Sarah smirked at the way their asset had positioned his body.
"Cozy?" she mouthed when the kid had stopped rambling.
"Keep your voice down," Casey hissed over the top of Chuck's head at her. What he really meant was shut the fuck up.
"You're going to listen - because right now, you don't have a choice," Sarah assured him before muttering, "You're a stubborn asshole."
"Took you this long?" Casey responded. "Just get it over with, Walker."
"Okay, man of steel, here you go." Sarah glanced at him. She'd gone to one elbow, cradling the side of her head in her hand. "People like you and I? We don't get these kinds of chances."
"Think I don't know that?" he sneered.
"Then don't ruin the one chance you have."
"Like you did?"
The problem was, he actually liked Walker. She was smart, driven, and could shoot a man through the heart without blinking. In fact, he thought he'd never find another partner as decent. But she knew how to press a button. And now he went ahead and did it to her, kindling an aggrieved expression across her features.
Way to go, John. Hurt two people you care about in the same night.
"Christ," Casey said after it got quiet, taking a second to drag a hand through his hair. "The next time we're sparring, CIA, if you want to get a good kick in for that, I'll let you."
"Just not the nuts, eh?"
"I'd have my cup on if I were you," Sarah warned, yet something shifted in in her demeanor. "But you're right."
Casey slanted a glance at her. "Kills you to admit it, huh?"
"Listen. Yes. I ruined it. Because of ... a lot of things ... well, it was my fault. And I'm not letting you do it."
Casey heaved a breath. He didn't want to think it. Since when did he need anyone? "Do our mission objectives ring a bell for you?" he inquired dryly.
Sarah examined the tilt of his face, giving him the eerie sense she could see under the flesh and bone. And when she spoke, her voice barely emitted a sound. "Does losing your soul mean anything to you? Or finding the person who might be holding it?"
Womanly shit. Casey had nothing to say to that. What could he? So he lowered one of his arms and it accidently crossed the kid's. He kept it there, not to disturb him.
"Tell him the truth," she said. "You're smart. You already know he loves you. I'm telling you not to screw it up."
She was interrupted by Chuck snoring in an amusingly offensive way, and he kicked out with one leg, draping it over Casey's.
"Meddlesome bitch. You think you have the right to handle us?"
Sarah smiled at that, sweet as pie, proving once again that his formidable size and steely front never fazed her. "When you need handling, yes," she said. "And right now, you're being a royal pain in the ass."
"Are you done?" he grit out, not knowing why he didn't just get out of bed and leave them.
"Fine, I'm done." Sarah's cool blue eyes remained level. "Answer the first question. The contingency ... what are you going to do? Are you in?" Or are you afraid?
Casey remained silent, ignoring the tension in his shoulders. Here she was, asking him to throw away a sterling record, asking him to unburden himself by not being the perfect soldier for once. To abandon his vow to his country and God.
When he turned his stare on her, he saw that she had begun to play with a few locks of Chuck's hair. "I know. And I know you'll never break the code, for anyone. Or anything. But I wanted to make you aware, at least, that when it happens ... I'm sorry you're going to left to deal with the after-"
"-math of – wh- " Her head snapped to the side. "What did you say?"
Casey let out a breath as he considered the trade-off. The kid's life. Loyal, smart, frustrating – and he was ready to make this all into fucking mess. He wasn't sure what made him say it. "You heard me. I said yes."
Sarah took a second to chew on her lip. "Are you going to take a chance for once? Afraid of losing everything?"
It was unclear which chance she was referring to, or at least it was easy enough to pretend.
Hell yes, he was afraid. In this instant, heat and frustration waged a jousting match in his lower belly. Chuck, nothing else, scared the living shit out of him.
"Put the damn plan together. We'll talk ... next week. After this fiasco is over."
"Casey?" he heard.
At that, Casey applied pressure along one arm, crooked around something toasty, hoping the disturbance would go away.
"Ah ... okay, tighter ... ow ... wasn't exactly what I expected." Now the annoyance tapped his cheek. "Casey. You should lift your arm. I'm only saying it because you're going to kill me if you wake up like this."
Casey shifted his right shoulder, just a small movement, not intended to remove the stubbly cheek that had settled there. Unruly brown hair brushed against his chin when he looked down. "Bartowski." The agent noticed his voice was rough from weariness. "Go back to sleep."
"John?" The wiry muscled thighs shifted over his as Chuck tried to reposition his limbs. "I'm awake now."
"Really, Intersect. I thought there was a fly buzzing around my head."
"Hah." In spite of the fact Casey hadn't opened his eyes, he knew the kid had his focus pinned to him. There was a nervous laugh close to his ear. "And I think I'm ... I'm going to be okay, so if you want to – I mean, don't get me wrong, you don't have to let go if you don't –"
"M fine, Bartowski. Just go back to sleep."
Casey heaved a breath, and when he cracked one eye open, he got a face full of concerned brown eyes, very close. "All right, new rule. If you're going to talk, keep your voice down because I don't want Walker waking up and hearing this."
Chuck slanted a look to the side. "When did she get here? Is she ... okay?"
"Shh. She's fine."
"Why – why am I in bed with my handlers? Not that I'm complaining or -"
"Twenty-four hour surveillance until we find out who the weasel talked to."
Chuck rubbed his eyes. "I know that will mean something in the morning, but right now ... everything's a little fuzzy."
"Go back to sleep," Casey said, putting a hand on his head to press him down, knowing he was a selfish bastard because he really didn't want to deal with those eyes.
It didn't work. Instead, Chuck lifted up on one elbow to get a view into his face, immediately filling Casey with the memory of a few hours ago. The same way he positioned his head, right before he kissed him. "You weren't sleeping," Chuck said.
"Yes, I was."
"No, you weren't."
"Really, Bartowski?" he asked. "We're gonna play this game now?"
"Your breathing gave it away." Chuck drew his eyes sheepishly to the place his head had rested. "And I pretty much could tell, considering I could feel it."
"Yeah, fine, I was awake," Casey conceded in a growl. He brought a hand down to find the edge of the blanket. "Big deal. Now will you go back to sleep?"
Chuck frowned. Casey recognized the look as the precursor to nervous babbling and rationalization. "Well, first, I have to say something," he faltered, then cleared his throat. "It seemed real – what I said before? And I don't think it was a dream -" Taking a pause to scrub at one of his cheeks made him think twice. "You know what? Never mind."
"Good," Casey said, though the spurt of raw emotion told him it was anything but. "It'll be morning soon. Get some sleep before the next debrief."
The kid's lips twisted as he chose his words. After another second or two of fidgeting, he said, "John ... I think I kissed you."
"Again, Bartowski – shh." Casey lifted his head to look past Chuck's head, but Walker hadn't moved. That didn't mean much, because she could be a tricky little bitch. Casey swallowed heavily and got busy flattening out the blanket, since the kid had mussed it all up. "Stop saying that."
"You're right ..." Chuck moved his hand as if the stab of rejection reminded him where he had left it. "It was ... a dream – and I owe you an apology, Casey, for even thinking it – this also seems like a pertinent time to tell you, you can't kill the Intersect, because, well, it's your job to ..." He left it at that. Let out a breath and squeezed his eyes shut.
Headache, Casey thought. That was all. He'll get over it.
"Wow, am I an idiot." Chuck put his head down, this time on the pillow. "I'll never bring it up again."
He whispered it, but that wasn't what he said.
Say something now. Or its time to let go.
Casey swiveled his attention to the space over his head. He tried to take his mind off the eyes watching him, the shift of his hip that allowed a gentle bump.
Okay, sorry you wouldn't let me get to you.
Let me get to you? Shit. It almost made him forget he never lost full control. Even if he was pissed, he never lost sight of the ultimate goal. Never had a Goddamn reason to.
Lying there, Casey opened his eyes and turned his head. To watch the kid hiding his hurt, trying to sleep, was like a knot drawing tighter and tighter. He couldn't help but sweep a look over his face, his lips.
Damn, he couldn't do this, could he?
"Jesus," he murmured. Casey slanted a long glance at him, his blue eyes focused on his face, and nudged him in the ribs.
"What?" Chuck asked, jumping at the feel of his elbow.
"Chicken piccata," Casey said, keeping his voice low.
"Hm?" From the flick of his eyes, alert, baffled, Casey knew he was now wide awake. "Did you say something?"
Chuck's forehead creased. "Is that code? Chicken piccata?" He raised his head from the pillow. "Is Morgan ... in danger?"
"No." Casey's eyes narrowed at him. "Code for sautéed chicken."
As Chuck studied his face, he rolled on his side again, got up on one elbow to rest his chin in his hand. "I'm ... confused," he whispered. "What does that mean?"
Sometimes when it was like this, faced with another man's fragility – or maybe his own – he didn't need to see his eyes. So Casey avoided that for now and lifted his hips, because the robe had bunched up a little with all the shifting. "Lemon ... butter. Capers. If you don't mind 'em. Easy enough to leave them off."
When he finally turned to survey Chuck's face, he found himself eye to eye with a confounded young man. "I thought ... didn't you say I was the one who was drugged?" He mumbled it though, not really remembering, but the kid leaned down closer yet, filling Casey's vision with all dark eyes and wild hair. "Are you ... okay?"
Casey drew in a breath, his nostrils flaring as his chest expanded. It was impossible to shift his gaze to stare up at the ceiling again, considering the proximity of his face. Warm breath brushed his jaw. "Numb nuts. Dinner. You do eat, don't you?"
"Yes, I ... guess I do," Chuck replied haltingly.
"You guess? You don't remember?"
The kid blinked several more times before shaking his head. "You're ... going to have to start over and maybe not talk as fast? Maybe my head is still a bit -"
"Friday. I'm making chicken piccata." Not able to deal with that look any longer, Casey took the kid's head and gently but firmly put it back where it had been before all this damn talking started. "Thought you ... might want to come to dinner."
Chuck tried to lift up. Casey kept his hand where it was, fingers threaded through curls. "Okay ... okay, I get it. You don't mind if I use your shoulder for a pillow. But are you only being nice to me because we have a mission on Friday?"
"Not a mission." Hearing his own voice sound hoarse, he wet his throat. "It's just dinner ... only if you want to. Because ... if you don't, I can –"
"No, no, no."
Chuck managed to slip his head out from under Casey's hand, looking down at him, still. His face went through several inexplicable transformations, dictated by a situation, Casey supposed, that he wasn't prepared to fathom. Surprise fought with hopeful until they were both beaten down by plain dumbstruck.
He wet his lips, thick brown hair falling ruffled over his brow, his brown eyes clear. "Are you ... did you just ask me on a date?"
"It's not a date, either," Casey mumbled, fixing the front of his robe when he noticed the kid's look briefly wandered down to get a glimpse of pale skin. "Just dinner."
"Dinner ... at your apartment?"
"Yeah." Casey cocked a brow. "Is that a problem?"
"Not ...at all. I think I can clear my calendar," Chuck answered. He just stared down stupidly at him. "Friday night ...?"
"Will I have to repeat everything?"
Chuck pursed his lips and shook his head. "Alone? Just ... you and me?"
"Your life mate? The troll isn't allowed within a twenty-foot radius of my apartment."
The kid continued his wide-eyed assessment of him for a long moment, making Casey wonder if it really was the drugs still pounding through him that caused the lack of cognizance. "So no Morgan?"
"Are you sure you're okay?" Casey asked, tapping one of the kid's cheeks.
"Are you sure this isn't a date?"
"What makes you think it's a damn date?"
"Me, you, alone? Dinner?" His nose crinkled with the thought, but then he flashed that smile. "Friday night?"
"Yes." With Chuck still watching his face like that, it was hard to think, so he gently pushed his head into the folds of his robe at the shoulder, hopefully for the last time tonight. "So?"
"Um, can I bring something?"
"Are you sure?"
"You ... could help, I guess. Might need ... I don't know, a salad or something. Do you know how to cut up tomatoes?
"I've been told I have good hands." As soon as he said it, he slid one of them over Casey's chest and glanced up shyly. Casey had to admire the bravery, because the kid had to think there was still a chance he would lose that arm.
Casey snorted softly and left it there.
"I meant, fixing computers," the kid added hastily. "It's a date. Our ... first date."
"Now will you go to sleep?"
It took a few minutes for Chuck's breathing to even out, his body to go lax against him. It also gave Casey a quiet pause to ask himself what the hell he had just done.
Casey closed his eyes and touched the sleeve of the kid's robe, skimmed a big thumb over the top of his smooth hand. Who was he kidding? He knew why he did it, why he threw all caution and common sense away right then. It was all there. And even more. Heat, warmth. A damn temptation wrapped around a high wattage smile, smarts, and a good heart.
It was the first time in forever since he had felt another human. He had to make peace with it. What he wanted.
The truth of it was, maybe he wouldn't mind another one of those kisses.
And maybe he'd like to see where it could take them.
-x- The Odd Quadruple –x-
A/N: Woo hoo! I knew that this story wouldn't end with love and roses, but I hoped it to be at least happy for now for the three of them.
I want to thank heartily and with hugs those of you who stuck around and read this, or commented and kept me going. It's your words of encouragement that get me up for writing time before the day goes crazy.
And holy hell. Thank you to my beta reader, asphaltcowgrrl. Always supportive, always smart and funny. Yeah, I hate her, too ;)
If you enjoyed this, (and don't have an aversion to m/m Chuck), my livejournal can be found at .com.
Love and thanks to you.