A/N I never really liked the terror Chuck displayed in canon, so I played it a little more for laughs here. Casey and Sarah never got gassed, either, but I think this is pretty close to what would happen.
"I'm going to teach you the real meaning of fear."
"Sarah doesn't do face-burying."
"You sound like me."
Fog rose around them, and the light grew dim. That was an automatic response of the alarm system, to dim the lights, so as to make everyone's eyesight a bit sharper. At least, that was the theory, When the enemy hazard was foggy and toxic, good eyesight didn't help so much.
"Ahh!" said Chuck, as the mist stung his eyes, burned his throat. "What have you done?" Danger! Danger, Will Robinson. Danger all around! A coffeepot! He could burn his hand on that, and whose idea was it to put chairs on wheels anyway? "Sarah, get back!" He tried to get her away, but those were swinging doors back there! They could pinch!
"Boo!" said Wheelwright in his face, grimacing, leering. Not so tough now, are you? Chuck jerked and fell to the floor, scooting backwards to the wall. Nice strong walls. Nothing could attack him there. Unless they gave way. "Ah!"
Something moved in the mist, shouting in terror. "Chuck!" she yelled, and he flinched, a mighty spasm not as effective nor as stylish as the Morgan. As a spy Sarah was well acquainted with fear. Fear wasn't something to be ignored or conquered, not in her line of work. Fear is a warning, and a good spy heeded those warnings.
Sarah was a good spy. Wasn't she?
I'm a spy, I can get through this! That's what they taught them in spy school. How to use fear, make it work for them. Chuck's never been to spy school! He had no training. Oh God, he'll fall apart. It was all up to her. Up to her. Her hands were shaking. All up to her and all she could think about was her poor husband God I'm so weak! How can I call myself a spy when I'm so weak! I have to do something! But she couldn't get herself to move, couldn't make herself do any of the things she knew she ought to be doing and that scared her even more. She couldn't even make fear work for her.
"Your hands are shaking," said Wheelwright. "That's how it begins."
He knew! Of course he knew. He knew and he'd opened the door anyway. "You exposed us all! Why would you do that?" He had to know how to beat it, how to fight it. Had to have an antidote…
"I gave in to the insanity," said Wheelwright. "Now I'm not afraid of anything. So the question is, what scares you?" He stuck his face close to Sarah's and she shrieked at the suddenness of it.
The sound cut right through Chuck, right through the fog.
Chuck didn't flash. The world flashed, a blinding light that pushed all the fear away, all the emotion.
He was in a room. He knew this place, he'd been here before. The world was a screen, a window, and he stood in the silence and the solitude, watching, analyzing, evaluating. The room rocked. Something pounded on the door.
He had to save Sarah, that's why he was here, in this place that had been so empty for so long. The room shook again. The Intersect was useful, but not enough. It was a tool, but he needed more than just a tool. Carmichael, I need you now.
Carmichael was long gone, dissolved, destroyed, absorbed into the mind that made him. Now Chuck took those parts and wrapped himself in the skin of his smallest, hardest, most durable self, a shield against the fear.
As the mists rose around them, Sarah knew that she had failed. Failed utterly.`
Who was she trying to fool?
Was she a spy, or was she a wife? She didn't know! it's all in my head. It's all in my head, and I have to fight it.
Wheelwright came back, a bag over his shoulder with his device inside. "Now, Agent Whatever your name is, if you get me out of here, I will consider taking you to the antitoxin."
An antidote! She was saved. Chuck was saved! I thought of myself first! What kind of a wife am I?
Wheelwright grabbed her arm and turned her to the door, those swinging, pinching doors, when suddenly a shape loomed up out of the darkness. "Excuse me," said Chuck, giving Wheelwright a solid push. The smaller scientist went reeling backward, but Chuck didn't care. He could move, he could act, but he didn't know how long that would last. He took his wife into his arms. "Trust me, Sarah."
Sarah couldn't move, couldn't act. Almost couldn't trust, but…this was Chuck! He was her life, her soul, the one she could trust when she could trust nothing else, not even herself. She nodded, barely noticeable over the trembling.
Chuck kissed her, one of the world's six most perfect kisses, a kiss that would put her off flying for the rest of her life. The essence of Charles Bartowski was in that kiss, the passion of his lips, the gentleness of his touch, the strength and safety of his arms.
Sarah closed her eyes against the nightmares, experienced the haven he offered in his touch, his warmth, the scent of him, so familiar. Lub-Dub. Her pulse strengthened, faster. She knew the sound of his breathing, his weight, his height, the perfection of him for her, and she molded herself into that perfection.
Together they held each other's fear at bay.
Wheelwright stumbled backward in the gloom and tripped, the weight of his device pulling him down. A leg! Oh yes, that behemoth. The owner of the leg had taken refuge under the desk. Should be a quivering hunk of jelly by now. "You'll do nicely," said the doctor, grabbing the limb. "Come on out, lummox."
A hand swung down, knife at the ready, narrowly missing Wheelwright's arm as he squeaked backward. Casey was afraid. Casey didn't like being afraid.
"What the hell is wrong with you people?" shouted Wheelwright, backing off as Casey came out to drive his demons away. The fearmonger fled past Chuck and Sarah, still wrapped in each other and oblivious to all else. Casey followed, but when he caught sight of the two lovers entwined, he flinched, hands raised against the naked emotion, and retreated back to his cave.
Wheelwright fell through the swinging doors, jumping back as they flapped back and forth menacingly, and looked down the hall. Empty, white, with a few doors to check. Something had to lead out of here! He crept down the hall, and tried the first door he came to, but it was locked, beyond locked.
Something moved in the window, something not human! He jerked back, shouting, and ran away down the hall.
Ellie muttered something unladylike under her breath as the faceplate of her suit whacked into the door yet again, not wanting to hear herself use such language. The bad guy was loose. Probably staged some kind of gas attack and she was stuck in here while everyone else was probably shaking themselves to death! She had to get out, had to do…what?
Really, what could she do? She couldn't even keep her hair out of her eyes. God, she hated hazmat suits. She blew out and up, trying to get it out of her face.
Well, whatever she could do, she'd better be ready to do it when that door opened. She had the notes, the raw materials. She'd think of something.
Where the hell was Manoosh?
Wheelwright eventually discovered a lounge area, and a soda machine that looked more heavily protected than Fort Knox. Who does this? He spent a few moments checking it for surprises, but finally decided someone just wanted their soda kept safe. Really, really safe.
No wonder his toxin wasn't working as expected. What a bunch of weirdoes.
He heard a sound, a familiar one. An elevator! Someone was using the elevator. He had to hide! The lounge was no good, everything snug against walls. Had to go back. Back!
He jerked to a halt when the door came in sight, the one with the monster, but there was another door here, standing open. Tiled walls and floor, no cover, no one waiting to pounce. He slipped inside, and shut the door.
The screens started to flicker as Chuck's program resumed.
Carina came out of the elevator, suited up and gun at the ready. The alarms were on, the lights were low, but nothing looked out of place. Like that mattered. The damn helmet obscured her side-vision, though, but they had training in how to move under those conditions. She just had to move slowly and carefully, sticking close to the walls. She tugged on the doors to Ellie's office but they were sealed as they should have been. She knocked.
Ellie's masked face came to the window, like some alien monster. "Carina! The others are in Manoosh's lab, They were trying to disarm the device but I guess it went off somehow. I saw Wheelwright creeping around, too."
"You think he's got an antidote?" Ellie tapped her ear. Carina upped her volume and repeated herself.
"I hope so, but his notes don't mention one. He went to a lot of trouble to suppress the body's natural response mechanisms, though, so that might help."
Help her, maybe. "What does that mean?"
Ellie used short words. "When you're afraid your body reacts, mostly with adrenaline. You want to run, you want to fight, so it gears up to do either one. This toxin suppresses that. The victim experiences all the fear and the stress of fear with no normal way to relieve it. They just stand there and shake, or go insane."
Better than up and shooting, if this was supposed to be a combat gas. "How do I get them adrenaline?"
Ellie thought about what she would have available out there, since all the adrenaline and syringes were locked in here with her. "Um, coffee or soda, anything with caffeine in it."
Hazmat suits don't have pockets for spare change. "Have you seen that soda machine?" Plus good luck getting them to drink it.
"I made the soda machine, Manoosh likes to get clever." Dammit. "Make them mad, if you can."
Carina shifted the gun to her left hand, so she could gesture at herself with the right. "You're asking me if I can make Casey mad?" The only person she could never make mad was Chuck, which bothered her a bit.
"Okay, stupid question. Try to survive your incredible success."
Carina looked less smug. "Good point." She hurried away, less concerned now about Wainwright, Cartwright, whatever his name was, than she was about the rest of her team.
She pushed through the doors and stopped, struck speechless by the sight of Chuck and Sarah, practically melted into each other and completely ignoring her. Looks like they found their own solution.
Now, where was Casey?
She followed the growling, but she didn't follow it far.
"Hey, Casey," she said loudly, pulling up a chair some distance away. "Good for you, getting in touch with your inner cave-Marine." That went over like a lead balloon. The small kind. Chuck had once told her the large ones could fly, as if she'd ever wanted to know. "I know! While we're here, how about I tell you all about our–" her voice slowed down, drawing out ever delicious syllable "–wonderful adventure in Costa Gravas. Not that petty little story of betrayal and the revolution, of course, but the real danger," Oh, the throaty purr she put behind 'real', "When Alex gave Morgan that verrry private showing of all her exxtra-special bikinis, the small ones, you know, not that burqa she wore to the beach, in his ssspecial private luxurious room."
"Graahh!" Casey exploded out of his cave. Carina kicked her wheeled chair at him, but he batted it aside and kept coming, taking her neck in his hands.
She popped his elbows and jabbed him in the throat, kicking him in the nuts for good measure as he staggered back. "You're welcome!" She ran away, and he chased after her, dodging around the Statue of the Entwined Lovers in the middle of the room. She ran through the swinging doors and he was right behind her–
The doors caught him in the face as they closed. He hit them back and plowed into the hallway, just in time to get shot. Two darts in the chest, courtesy of Carina's tranq gun. "You'll thank me in the morning, Casey."
Behind her, the door to the Intersect room flew open, and Wheelwright ran out behind her, screaming, "Ballroom dancing! Public speeches! AAAhh!"
He ran right past Carina, not even noticing her, and Casey clotheslined him, dropping him flat on his back on the linoleum.
Carina winced. "That's gonna hurt."
Casey reached up and pulled the two darts from his chest. "Thanks."
Carina backed away, not quite pointing her gun at him, but not ready to shake hands and make friends yet either. As she approached the door it opened again, and she raised her gun, but it was only Manoosh, yawning. Possibly the least threatening figure she'd ever seen in her life. "Where the hell have you been?"
The sudden appearance of a helmeted apparition didn't faze him in the slightest. "They kicked me out of my lab, so I took a nap. Chuck's got a cot in there." He looked her up and down. "What are you dressed up as?"
"There's toxic vapor all over your lab, doofus, can't you hear the alarms?"
He looked up, suddenly noticing the claxons and the lights. "Toxic vapor? Cool!" He tried to edge past her, eager to see.
"And Chuck and Sarah kissing," she added.
"Uhh…" He drew up short. "Maybe I'll wait for that."
Manoosh appeared in the entrance to the little lounge area. "More coffee, people, drink up. Doctor's orders."
"What happened to you?" asked Chuck, noticing the band-aid on his thumb.
"Burnt my hand on the coffee-maker," said the younger nerd, shrugging. "I wouldn't have bothered, but the Boss insisted on the bandage."
Chuck looked up as Ellie appeared in the doorway, tray in hand. "Yeah, my sister can be like that."
"She's more of a mom than my mom ever was."
"Here, Manoosh, let me get that for you," said Sarah, taking the pot. Ellie took advantage of all the fuss and clatter to vanish for a bit. "You've done enough. If you hadn't reversed the air conditioning and unsealed the doors, we'd still be in there kissing."
Chuck spluttered into his cup, spraying warm coffee everywhere. "Hey!"
She poured him some more. "Sorry, sweetie, but my lips are really sore."
Chuck would have smiled, but his lips were sore too. "Maybe we can rub noses, like the Eskimos do."
"Maybe you can let that wait a few minutes, little brother," said Ellie coming into the room, eyes glistening. She sniffed. "I have to get some more blood samples, for the breakdown study." She pulled out the needle and Chuck fainted. "Again?"
"He reversed the air conditioning?" asked Beckman.
"Yes, ma'am," said Carina. "Once the gas was mostly gone the alarm shut off and Ellie was able to give everyone their shots." She hadn't gotten a visual but she would treasure the memory of Chuck braying like a mule forever.
Beckman had other concerns. "So now that toxin is in the open?"
"No, ma'am," said Casey. "The filtration on the air handler system caught it." Those filters caught everything.
Check. "And Wheelwright?"
"Raving about corsages, don't ask. Casey had to tranq him so the straitjacket team could work."
Beckman looked like she was about to ask anyway, but contented herself with, "Good work, team."
Carina stood up when the screen blanked, but Casey didn't. "Miller. You meet with my contact?"
She kept her back turned. "You could have told me he would come in hot and heavy. Fortunately I used Martin as a magnet and got the drop on him."
Heh. Bet he loved that. "You got the file?"
"Yeah, I got the file. Chuck's mother is as dirty as they come, went rogue twenty years ago. Wait until I leave the building before you tell him." She started walking.
"Miller. How much of what you said to me in there was true?"
She didn't stop. "Is that any of your business?"
"Yes, Chuck, it's the last one."
He rolled down his sleeves with much rejoicing.
"You've had worse," sneered Manoosh.
"Had worse?" Chuck protested. "My arm's off!"
"It's just a flesh wound."
Chuck laughed. "Yeah, the real butchery is what we just did to that scene."
Manoosh accepted the critique with a sigh. "Yeah, I used to know all the cheeses before I came down here."
"Boys, take it outside," said Ellie.
"Yes, Mother," said the two grown nerds in unison. Ellie smiled.
Sarah came in. "You ready to go, Chuck?"
"Just a second." He pulled on his coat.
"Can we take your car?"
She didn't want to drive? "Are you all right, Sarah?" asked Ellie.
"I'm okay, Ellie," said Sarah, nodding. "I don't want to be alone just now."
The doctor gave her the once over, and smiled. "I can understand that. And this way you can cover for each other if any sudden symptoms hit. Let me know if anything happens."
Yes. Great. Thanks. "Can we go now?"
"Anything you want, wife."
Sarah kept her hands in her pockets, gripping her keys tightly. They began to shake. That's how it began.
A/N2 Why on Earth would Wheelwright have made an antitoxin? That tossed-off line at the end of the episode in canon just cried out for an improvement, plus it really sets up the rest of the season nicely. This is the end of part 1.