A/N Well, this chapter, at least, is moving right along. A number of glaring issues from canon that had to be fixed, as usual, and some changes due the whole nine2five context.
"Frost is alive?"
"I'm not afraid for my mother, I'm afraid of her."
"That bitch is poison."
"Hello, Chuck. It's…your mother."
"How did it go, Frost?" Volkoff was alone in the room, working on a puzzle, a little downtime from running an international criminal empire. Frost had gone off to LA, to negotiate a sale personally, since the capture of Sofia had reduced his ranks. This item was special enough to warrant his best.
"We had to abort," she said, sounding surprised. "I'm not sure what's going on here, but the Castle team has become a competent adversary. They had the meet site staked out. The next available meet is in DC, in two days time."
"You said they had a new AIC over there," said Volkoff, who heard everything she said even when it didn't look it.
"That's what I heard, but their agent roster hasn't changed, and no one got promoted."
He didn't raise his head at the correction. "You'll figure it out, Frost," he said, sounding confident and unconcerned, almost blasé. "Anything else of pitch and moment?"
"Packard and his men have all been captured, Alexei," Frost reported at her most neutral. She could never be sure how he would take any news. Without her there, she couldn't tell how he would take anything.
Alexei didn't look up from his crossword. "Just as well we never trusted those bungling incompetents with any operations of real worth." He looked up, and smiled at her through his webcam. "Good call there."
"I'm not so sure about that, sir." 'Sir' was always good. "From the information I've been able to gather, I believe their plan had some merit. I may have underestimated them."
Volkoff looked up again, scowling this time. "I'll have none of that, Frost. Don't go putting yourself down because greed motivated those…" He paused in sudden confusion. "What's another word for idiot?"
In spite of the non sequitur, Frost rose to the challenge, as usual. "Uh…dunce, cretin? Moron?"
"Ah, simpleton, that's it," shouted Volkoff joyfully, writing in his puzzle. "Now, where was I? Right. Those idiots may have surpassed themselves for greed's sake, but they did get caught, let's not forget that."
"By Mr. Charles," said Frost, looking a little unhappy.
Volkoff put down his pen and disposed of his paper, as he did all things when they ceased to serve or amuse him. "Mister Charles." His rumble had a sibilant note to it, like sand in a tornado. He turned his full attention to the monitor. "How many times have I heard that name, Frost?"
"Twice, that I know of, Alexei." She watched him carefully, wondering how many times it had been for him. She wasn't his only source of information, by any means.
"That's too many. Marco was loyal, Packard was greedy, and he defeated them both." And Boris was ambitious, but Volkoff was willing to let sleeping Borises lie. He had far larger concerns. Mr. Charles now knew about Vivian, and wanted Frost. That couldn't be allowed to happen. Even getting rid of him would be a risk. "You'll have to kill him."
Frost shook her head. "I don't want to kill him, Alexei."
Was even Frost betraying him now? "You don't?"
"He's too good, too successful. He's kept you from taking your rightful place in the world." Frost leaned close, in the monitor. "I need to destroy him."
Chuck stood in his kitchen, paralyzed. Shock? Fear? Surprise, or longing? All of those, none of those? He reacted on instinct, spinning away, moving back into the isolation of the kitchen. With one hand holding the phone by his ear, he raised the other, fumbling to press the little stud.
"I need to see you," said his mother, bringing silence to the outer room as both Sarah and Casey turned as one.
In the bedroom, Carina paused in mid-sentence, her hand going to her earpiece. She didn't need it, but she'd felt naked without it, down in Costa Gravas, and not a good naked, either.
"Agent Miller, what's the matter?" asked Beckman. Rogue nukes, even disarmed, were a matter of the highest urgency. Anything that interrupted their recovery had better be critical.
"Someone's talking on our comms."
Chuck turned in the shelter of the kitchen, saw his partners standing by, as always, his friends and family behind them, curious and concerned. He made a hand gesture, then pressed the stud again as Sarah and Casey went to check the grounds front and back. "Is this some kind of joke, Mom?"
"He called her 'mom'," said Carina. Was this the woman she'd spent months gallivanting all over the world to find? Must be a 'son' thing, certainly the little bit of her voice that she'd heard didn't have Carina all that motivated to mount up. Distant and demanding, not a trace of warmth or affection. A spy's voice.
Beckman scrapped all of her intentions. Not something 'critical' in the grand scheme of things, but to this team…"Frost?" No way they'd let this go to another team now. On the other hand, somehow Chuck was able to make being compromised work for him, and they were all compromised as hell.
Carina nodded. "Idiot, you don't have time for that," she muttered, distracted by two conversations at once. She looked at Beckman. "She wants him to meet her in a park, one hour."
"Frost is in Washington?" Beckman considered her logistics. This rogue agent was clever, cutting the time so close. She couldn't possibly deploy backup in time.
Carina laughed, staring into space. "Tell no one? A little late for that, should have said that right off."
Beckman suddenly had to imagine the kind of contortions Chuck must be making to do what he was doing, and made a note to have comm broadcasting ability built into all agents' phones.
Carina continued heckling the air. "Oh, yeah, he's gonna come alone. Not."
"Not even for you, Mary," thought Beckman. Especially not for you. When it was clear from Carina's behavior that the call had ended, the General toggled her own mike. "Everyone, meeting in one minute."
Frost put her phone away and checked the target site again. Not that she expected Chuck to do anything except what she told him to do, but the difference between her and a lot of dead agents was that they hadn't secured their meet site at least once.
Beckman's eyes boggled when the screen lit up, but only for a second. Eight people gathered around the couch, somewhat more than half of them bona fide members of Team Bartowski. Fortunately they'd all signed all the paperwork they'd need to sign already, otherwise this would have gotten sticky. "Good evening, everyone. Chuck, my understanding is that your mother has contacted you, and demanded that you meet her in a nearby park in one hour, alone, for an unspecified reason. Is that correct?"
She wondered what kind of heat Chuck was prepared to take. "What are your plans to proceed?" Look at them squirm! All was not happy in the Bartowski household tonight.
Chuck the Analyst stepped up to the plate. "I'll take the meeting, General, but not alone. Sarah will go with me as my backup." He paused, having gotten the easy part out of the way.
No surprises there. "And the rest of your team?"
He did what he had to do. "She had my phone number, General. I can only assume she has me under some kind of surveillance. The rest of my team will escort potential hostages and non-combatants out of harm's way, until it becomes clear that any danger is past."
Beckman noted the unhappiness with that decision on a lot of faces, not just agents' faces. Tough. "I concur, Mr. Bartowski. Colonel Casey and Agent Miller will escort your friends and family to reasonably secure facilities and stand guard until the situation is resolved. You will do your part to make sure it is resolved in our favor, or at least not against us."
"Yes, General," said Sarah.
The second the screen went black all the civilians started getting ready to go, but Casey turned to Chuck. "You get killed, Bartowski, I'm gonna shoot myself and come after you."
Chuck drew back, wide-eyed. "Wow, that's incentive."
"Don't worry, Chuck," said Carina, standing to get her coat. "I'll take your in-laws home." She fluffed her hair over the collar. "That way Casey will have to choose between coming after you and leaving his daughter and Morgan alone, together, in an undisclosed and secure location for God knows how long…"
"Enough!" shouted Casey. He turned his glare on Morgan, while Ellie moved in on her brother as if he wasn't already planning to call her ASAP.
Carina flashed Casey a demure-yet-cheeky grin. "Just saying." She looked over to Ellie and Devon. "Ready to rock and roll?"
Sarah ran down the checklist before she allowed Chuck to leave. "Body armor?"
"Check. And a bulky coat to hide the fact that I'm wearing any."
He sighed. "All three." He could swear he still hurt where she'd shot the new bio-chip into him.
A miniature blowgun up his sleeve, good for one shot. A Janitor named Babyface had one and Chuck decided he liked the idea. "Yes." He tipped his hand up, and a dart flew into the ceiling. "No."
Sarah helped him put on the spare. "FRODO Junior?"
"Yes. You know, these fake fingerprints really itch."
"You noticed that, did you? Maybe if you put them in gloves like Carina suggested, that wouldn't happen."
"Lightbulb," said Chuck, in lieu of snapping his fingers. "You know, if I put these in gloves…"
Sarah shook her head in wonder. "I knew you'd think of something. Okay, let's go."
"Hey wait a minute!" said Chuck. "What about you?"
"What, you mean my thermally-opaque bodysuit, matte body armor, government issue sidearm, night vision scope, signal tracker, and multiple braces of knives?"
"I'm good." Sarah opened the door. "Let's go meet my mother-in-law."
Frost watched the car as it drove up to the parking lot. Only one person got out, walking from the car to the nearest picnic table. As she expected, he sat on the table itself, something he'd been doing since he was old enough to climb up there. She turned her vision on the woods around the picnic area, the logical place for watchers to hide. Nothing human-sized appeared, but with the trees and bushes that meant very little.
Phase one was complete. She pulled out her phone.
Sarah was in position long before Chuck ever got there. She'd driven them to the entrance very early, and gotten out to move stealthily into her position behind a tree. Only when she was set did she signal him to drive into the park, his hands barely touching the wheel. She listened as Chuck spoke with his mother, his phone equipped with a spare watch, placed so he could press the stud while holding it normally, in case she was watching. No 'in case' about it.
Something moved into the open on Chuck's far side. "Look to your three o'clock."
Sarah raised her scope, and got her first live look at the woman who defined her husband's life by her absence. Average height for a woman, definitely recognizable from the photos she'd seen. Very much in control of herself and her surroundings.
"Meet me by the playground."
Dammit. The playground had no cover. The slide was the best she could hope for. Hopefully the visual chaos of the area should make it harder to pick her out.
Frost watched the playground, not any piece in particular but the pattern as a whole. The area was deliberately a place of patterns with an appearance of clutter and confusion, attractive to a child's mind, less so to a spy on the job. At night the colors were muted, the shapes still, and a person watching carefully could see shadows that weren't really shadows at all. Female, another one. Tall and blonde. Oh, Chuck.
A mother's work is never done.
Something went click, and it wasn't a twig.
"And who are you?"
Sarah could have said a lot of things. Your daughter-in-law. Chuck's wife. But the voice was Frost-y in more ways than one and that put her hackles up immediately. She'd sounded like that once herself. "Wow, I didn't even hear a twig snap. You must have been doing this a long time." Chuck was nine when you left. You don't get to talk to him like that.
"You're calling me old." Aw, such a sweet little thing, has it learned to walk yet?
"Not old," said Sarah, dropping her scope. Frost had to look at it, if only to determine it wasn't a threat, and when she did, Sarah had her gun in hand. "Just slow."
Frost upped her assessment of her opponent, but didn't drop her guard or her gun. "Government-issued sidearm. What are you, CIA? FBI?" Not that she expected to get an answer this time either, not if either organization was training its agents to any kind of standard.
"Why did Volkoff send you here?" asked the blonde.
CIA. Of course. "Jumping to conclusions, are we?"
CIA didn't buy it. "Oh, I think my conclusions are pretty justified."
Let's see if she can see through the truth. "I am here because I need to see my–"
Then she was seeing him. Tall, like his father. Kind eyes, gentle soul. Motor mouth. Some things never change. "I told you to come alone."
"Yeah, about that, well, technically I did come alone. Let me explain." He turned to the blonde. "Sarah, this is my mother, Mary Bartowski." He turned back to his mother. "Mom, this is Sarah. Sarah Bartowski, my wife."
The blonde–Sarah shook her head, made her blonde hair dance Ta-Da! and then Mary noticed the ring on her left hand. Oh.
"Please don't kill each other."
A/N2 In canon they went from "I just talked to one" to a coyote howling. I found a lot more stuff to talk about in there.