AN: Hello friends, its been a while. Apologies for being silent for so long, between Christmas, starting and then scraping several story ideas and life in general, I haven't had much time to write. Also, in the AN of my last story I had promise to write a Christmas themed Bartowski at Large story and another one shot, which I have failed to deliver. I toyed with several ideas for the Christmas one, ranging between a threesome with Ellie, to a threesome with an OC who worked at an orphanage to Chuck and Sarah volunteering at an orphanage. Nothing really seemed to flow though, so I kinda gave up (I know many people were hoping for another Chuck/Sarah/Ellie sex story, and I will eventually do another one, it just won't be BAL). And as for the other one shot story, I've realised that I've actually gotten a bit bored with writing smut. Bizarre I realise but true. Don't worry I will write more smutty one shots, because lets face it its me, but for now I'll be writing a few non-smut BAL stories.
With that in mind, this is the first fully non-smut story and once again its very experimental, so I am very eager for criticism and feedback on this. I'll even accept flames as long as they are amusing and/or constructive. Basically, this story is how the concept of the Intersect, a key concept in the show, would play in my little universe. Finally, for those who haven't read Bartowski at Large or Relationship Status, then I would recommend reading them, because otherwise this may be a little weird. That being said, I can't guarantee it won't be weird even if you have read them.
And now with all that out of the way, I hope you enjoy the story and as always, feedback is appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck.
Chuck knew something was off the moment Graham had called him and Sarah in that morning. He knew this because for once, Graham hadn't called them as they were about to or in the middle of having sex. At the time, they had been sitting on the sofa in comfortable silence, Sarah indulging in her guilty pleasure of shopping online and Chuck catching up on his comic reading, nothing that couldn't be put off for a day or two and therefore they didn't have their usual bitterness towards their boss when he called them in. Add in the fact that the weather was perfect, they didn't hit a single red light between their apartment and Langley and they managed to catch an elevator straight away and Chuck was convinced that whatever the reason for the summoning, it wasn't going to be good.
His girlfriend had laughed at him as they walked down the hallway that led to Graham's office, saying his theory was silly and that he was being paranoid again. However her laughter was cut short when they arrived at the director's office to find the Graham was already there, something that seldom happened, and he wasn't alone either.
There were three other people in the room; two men who were known to the couple as Major John Casey of the NSA and Agent Bryce Larkin of the CIA, both of whom had not long ago worked on a mission with Chuck and Sarah, as well as Chuck's sour history with Bryce. The remaining occupant in the room, a tiny red haired woman with a stern look and a uniform that identified her as an Air Force General, stood at Graham's side.
"Sarah, Carmichael," Graham greeted them in his usual gruff manner. "Thank you for coming."
For Chuck, that was the final straw. Graham never thanked them for anything, let alone answering his summons. Usually, he just made snide remarks about how they were three seconds late or something equally asinine. Something was definitely up. "What's going on Graham," he said brusquely as he and Sarah sat down in the empty seats.
While something like that would usually earn Chuck another snide comment about his lack of professionalism, Graham simply ignored it this time. "I believe you know Major Casey and Agent Larkin," the director said, gesturing to the two men, with Casey giving them a nod while Bryce had his typical bad boy smirk on his face, before the gestured to the woman beside him. "This is Brigadier General Diane Beckman, Director of the NSA."
Chuck and Sarah spared a glanced toward each other, both realising that if both directors of the NSA and CIA were here, then whatever this meeting was about was going to be big. "Director, what's this about," Sarah asked.
"Before we begin," Graham started, before shooting a look at Chuck. "I will remind Mr Carmichael that everything we will be discussing today will come under clause thirty four dash seven of his contract."
This drew three quizzical looks from the agents. "It's just some legal jargon describing all the horrible things that will happen to me if I divulge top secret information to… well anyone really," Chuck answered in a bored tone, seemingly unbothered by the possible punitive measures enshrined in his contract with the CIA.
However, rather than alleviating the confusion of the three agents, it instead added to it, as well as drawing perplexing looks from both Graham and Beckman. "You actually read the contract? In that much detail?" The CIA director questioned in disbelief.
"Of course I did. I wasn't about to trust a bunch of spies to write up that contract."
Graham rolled his eyes at the hacker's distrust. "It was written by the CIA's legal team. No spies, just lawyers."
"Like that's any better."
"If I may get this meeting back on track," Beckman spoke for the first time since Chuck and Sarah's arrival.
"Yes of course," Graham replied, unhappy to have been distracted by Chuck and chastised by the tiny general. "The purpose of today's meeting is to discuss Project Omaha."
While Chuck had no idea what Graham was talking about, he could see the recognition in the other's eyes. Raising a questioning eyebrow, he asked flippantly. "So what's that when its home?"
"After 9/11 the CIA and NSA were told to play nice and share their intelligence, in order to make it easier to track and eliminate threats to national security," the CIA director explained to the hacker. "Project Omaha was the designation of the operation that aimed to achieve this, and it created a supercomputer called the Intersect."
"We poured every scrap of data into that computer," his NSA counterpart continued on. "As the name suggests, it looks for patterns in the data to identify potential threats, giving a complete picture when each agency only has fragments."
"Well that explains why we're here," said Sarah, gesturing to the two male agents. "Omaha was my first assignment, as well as Bryce's, and I'm assuming Casey worked on it at one stage or another," at the major's nod, she continued on. "It doesn't explain why Chuck's here."
Eager to know the reasoning for his presence, Chuck nodded in agreement, although his stomach clenched at Graham's words. "Agent Larkin, perhaps you should explain Omaha's secondary objective."
Bryce accepted his boss's cue with his usual smugness. "So I've just recently been put in charge of the Omaha project," he said boastfully, causing almost everyone to roll their eyes. "As the Director and General Beckman have explained, Omaha's primary objective was to create the Intersect, a computer that stores and analyses data gathered by both agencies. The secondary objective is to encode this information into a series of seemingly ordinary images."
Casey's brow furrowed in confusion. "What the hell is the point of that?"
Before Bryce could answer though, it was Chuck who spoke up. "They plan to directly upload it into agents."
Once again, this drew curious looks from the other occupants in the room, save for Bryce who looked annoyed at being cut off. "And how are you aware of that little fact Mr Carmichael," Graham spoke with edging suspicion.
Chuck simply waved off the director's distrust. "I took a class at Stanford that looked at this kind of stuff," he explained to the room. "It works on the theory that if you show a person a series of images, that while the person will only be able to recall a handful of them, the person's subconscious will remember all of them. Encode the data into those images and you could technically 'upload' that data into a human being."
Graham's head nodding confirmed the hacker's explanation. "Mr Carmichael's explanation is simplified but accurate," he announced to the room. "However, we are having some difficulties with the process. So far, none of the agents we've uploaded the Intersect into have managed to retain the information, with the best case scenario that it simply doesn't work."
"What's the worst case scenario?" Sarah asked.
"They suffer permanent neural damage, brain haemorrhaging caused by sensory overload, or enter a vegetate state," responded the CIA director. "Those cases tend to occur far more regularly than the better scenarios. But we were discussing Carmichael's involvement in this project. Agent Larkin if you could continue please?"
Bryce nodded to his boss, but turning towards the hacker. "You remember Professor George Fleming don't you Chuck? The guy who taught that class you mentioned?" he asked, and continued once he received a nod from the other man who was now sporting a slight frown. "He also works with the CIA as a recruiter and a researcher. He developed a test to determine a person's retention rate, which is basically a score on how much subliminal information they can remember and by extension how suitable they are to host the Intersect. Between ninety two and eighty six percent is the minimum, although anything over ninety is ideal. Chuck here scored ninety eight percent, making him a perfect candidate for the upload."
Chuck's eyes widened when Bryce finished speaking, realising exactly why he had been summoned that day. "Whoa, whoa, whoa," he said hurriedly. "Are you saying you want me to upload this Intersect thing, which has a small chance of not working, and a much larger chance of something horrifically unpleasant happening to my brain? Yeah, pretty sure there isn't a clause in my contract that drafts me into CIA science projects."
It wasn't just the possibly life ruining experiment that Chuck had a problem with, although that was definitely at the forefront of his thoughts. It was also the mention of Fleming and his class at Stanford, and how the fond feelings he had towards the man and the place had been tainted by the events that had followed after Bryce's betrayal. However, Graham didn't seem too concerned about Chuck's feelings on the matter. "Carmichael, this is a matter of national importance," he said, beginning what Chuck just knew was going to be a rousing patriotic recruitment speech. "You are the only one who could be able to handle the Intersect. You need to do this for your country."
"Save your nationalistic chest pounding Graham, it's boring," Chuck said with a roll of his eyes. "I'm here to help people, real people, not the vague blob of ambiguity you call the greater good. If the Intersect upload doesn't work, then I die and become another statistic for you to work with and if it does work, then I become the property of the US government and the CIA and if that's going to happen then I'm going to need a much better reason than god and country."
The director of the CIA glared at the hacker as the other occupants in the room stared at the two arguing men. "Carmichael, there is a lot more at stake here than your petty trust issues. Your test results prove that you are one of a few who can safely upload the Intersect."
Chuck scowled at his boss. He really disliked these overly patriotic types who felt that any sacrifice was worth the security of the national, even more so when it wasn't them doing the sacrificing. It was one of the reasons why he locked horns with Graham so often, as well as Casey when they first met. However, there was something niggling at the back of Chuck's mind, something that didn't sit right with the whole thing, and a suspicion he needed to confirm. "What test exactly is this?" he asked.
Graham frowned as he shuffled some papers on his desk around until he found the group of stapled papers, handing them to the younger man. Chuck's eyes noticeable narrowed as he read the test's title, and his mood seemed to sour considerably as he spent several seconds flicking between the sheets, briefly looking over the contents of each page. He flipped the pages back, and handed the test back to his boss seemingly satisfied, yet all could see an unusual dark look in his eyes. "Hate to break it to you boss, but your intel about my test results is wrong," Chuck said, his flippant tone of voice mismatched with the outrage visible in his eyes. "You see I cheated on this test."
Graham snorted in disbelief as eye brows were raised and eyes widened around the room. "You are many things Carmichael, but a cheater isn't one of them," he said patronisingly. "You're too prideful in your academic prowess to cheat on a test."
The hacker's eyes narrowed at Graham. "Ok first of all, don't talk as if you know me, because you don't. Second of all, I lie and cheat for a living so me cheating on a test shouldn't be that unbelievable. And finally, in case you've forgotten, I was expelled for cheating on a test, when they found copies of said test in my dorm room by my roommate. This exact test, to be accurate."
"Is this true," hissed General Beckman, unhappy with what she felt was already a waste of her time.
"Of course not," said Graham dismissively, earning a frown from the tiny general. "Carmichael's roommate was Agent Larkin at the time, who put the tests under his bed."
"Its true general," admitted Bryce easily. "I framed him for cheating to exercise my skills."
When Bryce admitted this, Sarah had never wanted to punch that smug look off his face more. "And was sleeping with his girlfriend also part of your 'exercise'," she said with no small amount of derision.
His arrogant and what he probably thought was seductive smirk that he sent her way made her vibrate with rage. "Of course."
"Larkin's actions are irrelevant here," Graham interrupted what would have been a vehement dressing down of Bryce's character by Sarah. "The fact is Carmichael's test score proves he is an ideal candidate for Project Omaha's secondary objective."
"That's where you're wrong Graham," spat Chuck. "Because first of all, Charles Carmichael didn't take this test, Chuck Bartowski did. It's very important that you, and everyone in this room, knows the difference Graham. And while Chuck Bartowski did score ninety-eight on that test, because of Bryce's actions, it's worth less than a pile of shit. All you've got to prove that I am the 'ideal candidate' is the heresy of a backstabbing douchebag."
Graham just levelled the younger man another glare, who was unfazed by how his boss was looking at him. "The security of the nation is far more important than your trivial issues."
"Depends on who you ask," Chuck scoffed. "But the fact remains; officially, I cheated on that test. And you're making a lot of assumptions based off the word of one man, especially one who lies for a living. I imagine your bosses wouldn't be too impressed to learn all this if the worst happened." Graham frowned at his words, unable to refute them. "And then there's the other reason why putting the Intersect is a bad idea."
"And that is?" queried the CIA director, unhappy with the direction this meeting was going.
"That I'm basically a mercenary," the hacker stated plainly. "Sarah, Casey and Bryce are all trained and dedicated agents. They are loyal to their country, but more importantly, they are loyal to their respective agencies. Me? I'm a consultant, my loyalty to the CIA doesn't really go much further than my last pay check. It just seems like a bad idea to put that much top secret info into someone whose loyalty can't be guaranteed."
"That's the exact argument I made not half an hour before you showed up," Beckman said, cutting off whatever Graham was about to say. She turned her attention to her CIA counterpart. "Not offense meant to Mr Carmichael but as he said, he is merely a consultant. We would be far better off having our own agents take the test and search them for a suitable candidate."
The look on Langston Graham's face showed that this meeting hadn't gone the way he intended. "Fine then," he grunted with no small amount of annoyance. "Seeing as you've refused to participate in Project Omaha, then I'll have to ask you to leave so we can discuss how to proceed from here."
Shrugging his shoulders in compliance, Chuck stood up from his seat. Turning towards his girlfriend, he said "I'll wait down stairs in the lobby for you spy types to finish up."
Before Sarah could respond, Graham interjected. "You would be better off heading home then waiting around. It's likely this discussion will take us well into the afternoon."
Chuck narrowed his eyes at his boss and his 'suggestion'. He was pretty sure the other man was just being petty, and knew that Chuck had arrived with Sarah and therefore didn't have his own transportation, forcing him to get a cab. "Fine then," he grunted, turning back to Sarah. "I guess I'll see you at home then."
As always though, Sarah had his back. Digging into her pockets she pulled out the keys to her Porsche and handed them to her boyfriend. "You can take my car home, I'll grab a cab when I leave," she told him, ignoring her ex-boyfriend's look of astonishment and jealous and her boss's disapproving scowl. "But don't you dare scratch it."
"Wouldn't dream of it," he stated honestly, before leaning down and giving her a small peck on the cheek. "See you at home."
Giving a farewell nod to the rest of the room, Chuck walked out the door, leaving the professionals to their business.
It was almost five in the evening when Sarah finally returned home, and she had never loathed her boss more than she did at that particular moment. Sure he had given her missions which had required her to do some pretty crappy things but that was the job she signed up for. What he had asked/ordered her to do this time crossed a line, and she found herself wishing she stuck him in the eye with one of her knives.
After Chuck left, she had wanted to laugh at the on Bryce's face. He looked more jealous at the fact that she let Chuck drive her beloved Porsche than he did when he heard the hacker had a threesome with her and Carina. However that's as far as her amusement went. From there Graham, Beckman and Bryce discussed plans to being testing agents, to try and see if there was a suitable candidate for Project Omaha, Sarah and Casey having very little to contribute given their periphery involvement in the project.
However, once they had finalised some details of how to proceed, Graham decided to assign her an informal mission. His words still made her quiver in anger. "While I'm glad we have some plans on how to move forward with Omaha, I do not believe it would be wise to dismiss Carmichael as a possible host. With that in mind, Agent Walker, I want you to cultivate Carmichael. Do what you have to in order to make him more susceptible to the idea of uploading the Intersect."
While Beckman had repeated her concerns about uploading the Intersect into a mercenary, in the end she too agreed with Graham, stating that regardless of what Chuck's official test score was, it would be wise to have a backup if they couldn't find an agent who fit the bill. Sarah had wanted to throttle both of them and Bryce for good measure, for their suggestion. Chuck was her boyfriend, not her asset.
Pausing her angry thoughts for a moment, she was amazed her how attached and protective she had become of him. They had only been dating for a little less than six months, yet she couldn't imagine her life without him, and perhaps even more significantly, didn't want to. And although her cagey nature had prevented her from fully opening up to him, she tried to let little things slip, a task made easier by Chuck's hyper-observant nature. And gradually, it was becoming easier. They had not long ago celebrated his birthday and after they had finished the first of many rounds of birthday sex, she had told him her birthday, something that only her parents knew. Not even the agency knew her real birthday. He knew more about her past than anyone, and treated every nugget she gave him like a priceless treasure.
This time Graham had put her in a difficult position. She could either go with what her employer wanted, or what her boyfriend wanted, and there was no way to have both. Therefore there was only one deciding factor; what she wanted.
Entering their apartment, Sarah quickly made her way through it, searching for the man that currently occupied her thoughts. She found him where he had been before they had been summoned to Langley; sitting on the sofa, reading comics. However, as she approached him, she noticed that Chuck was tenser, his manner reflecting that of someone in deep thought rather than someone relaxing with a comic book. Hearing her approach, he turned his head away from his current reading material. "Hey," he greeted with a smile, although it was slightly more wary than usual.
Sarah's smile had no such hesitation. It was sad to admit, but she truly hated being separated from him, even for the few hours she was meeting with Graham and Beckman. He was that ingrained into her life. "Hey yourself," she returned his greeting as she sat down next to him, noticing his cautious demeanour. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he said almost too quickly. Her raised eyebrow informed him that he hadn't succeeded in convincing her. Sighing in defeat, he relented. "Ok, I guess I'm preparing myself for your next mission."
"Which is?" Sarah questioned him, although she felt fairly confident that he'd figured it out.
"Come on Sarah it's pretty obvious," said Chuck. "Given what happened today, I'm betting Graham assigned you to convince me to say yes to the Intersect if they ask again."
Knowing her boyfriend was too smart to believe any lie, and really having no inclination to lie about it anyway, Sarah nodded in confirmation. "You're right, that is my next mission," she told him, before grinning amusedly. "So Chuck, when they ask you again, will you agree to be the Intersect?"
Chuck was surprised at her grin and her blunt question, and it showed with raised eyebrows. "No Sarah I won't," he answered, still confused by Sarah's directness. "I don't trust the CIA to act in my best interest."
"And it's not like I don't trust you or anything. I do, more than I've ever trusted anyone ever, it's just…" he paused his speech as Sarah's words caught up with his brain. "Wait what?"
Sarah couldn't help but giggle at how adorable her boyfriend looked with his perplexed expression. "Graham told me to make you compliant, he wasn't really specific as to how," she explained light-heartedly before frowning. "I think he was expecting me to withhold sex or something like that. But instead, I decided to take the direct approach, although it has so far been unsuccessful and is unlikely to prove otherwise. Part of being a good agent is knowing when to give up."
As she spoke, Chuck's confusion ebbed away and was replaced by a goofy grin when he realised what she was doing. "Somehow I don't think Graham is going to buy that."
"Probably not," she agreed. "But I don't really care. What Graham doesn't realise is that you're not an asset, you're a consultant. We can't just make you compliant. And another thing he doesn't seem to realise that I'm not your handler, I'm your girlfriend. He can't start ordering me who I can or can't have sex with, regardless of what he's trying to do. This time, what I want is more important."
"And what do you want Agent Walker," Chuck asked, placing an arm over her shoulders and bringing her closer to him. "I want nothing to do with Omaha and Graham wants to turn me into the plot of a crappy spy show. What do you want?"
Sarah paused for a moment as she gently caressed his cheek, a look of adoration on her face as she searched for the right words. Finally, she broke her silence. "I want you Chuck. I want the sweet, wonderful man who always thinks of others before himself and goes out of his way to not hurt anyone. If Graham gets his way, he'll do everything to destroy all the things that make you great and turn you into a perfect spy, cold and emotionless, and I don't want that."
Her words were soft and tender, yet managed to elicit a brilliant smile from her boyfriend. "Thank you," he whispered softly.
She returned his smile with one of her own, just as dazzling. "You're welcome," she replied, before continuing on. "Now if you don't mind be asking, what happened to you back at Graham's office. I don't think I've ever seen you that hostile."
Chuck's mood altered considerably, becoming slightly more forlorn. Quickly, Sarah added in. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," when she realised that Chuck had shared far more about himself than she had with him and therefore she had no place asking questions about his past.
But Chuck simply shook his head. "No it's not that, it's just that thing with the test and Stanford," he explained. "Stanford was my home you know and because of that test, a bored spy in training and a two faced professor, I lost it. And now, Bryce and the CIA are using those things against me once again and it hits a little too close to home, you know?"
Sarah was silent, as she waited Chuck to continue. She knew that what happened to him at Stanford hurt him, but she had no idea it still affected him this deeply. She gently rubbed his shoulder in comfort, letting him know he wasn't alone. "Have you ever lost your home Sarah? Had it ripped away from you when you were powerless to stop it? It happened to me twice; when my parents left and again at Stanford."
He paused again, taking a deep breath and gathered his thoughts. "People think that a home is just four walls and furniture, but they couldn't be more wrong. Home is people, people who love you and make the place feel as if nothing can hurt you; the physical structure doesn't matter. My childhood home was like that, but when my parents left, it hurt, you know. Within one year that house no longer felt like the safe haven it had been. Ellie and Morgan tried to make it better and it worked to a point, but it wasn't the same anymore. Too many reminders of what I'd lost."
"It wasn't until Stanford that I found somewhere that felt like home again. I had so much fun at that place, with an awesome best friend and a woman I loved. Then just like my parents it was all ripped away from me. Even today, the memory of catching Bryce and Jill still stings."
The sadness in Chuck's voice made Sarah want to find Bryce and Jill and slowly cut pieces off them until they begged for mercy. Despite what she knew about Bryce, she still found it difficult to believe that anyone could do this to such a nice guy. And while she didn't know Jill, almost six months of dating Chuck had taught her that any woman would be lucky to have him as her boyfriend. Still, a small part of her was happy that Jill had betrayed Chuck, because she may not have met him otherwise. She just wished he hadn't been hurt so badly in the process.
Chuck's words about home also struck a chord with Sarah. Her early childhood on the run with her dad meant she always had her guard up, never feeling safe or relaxed, regardless of where they were and although she knew her dad loved her in his own way, he was never able to create the environment that Chuck had described. However, during the time she had known Chuck, for the first time in her life since her parents got divorced, she was being to feel like she had a home again.
She broke away from her thoughts to find Chuck gazing adoringly at her. "After so long travelling, I have that feeling again," he told her, making her heart skip a beat to hear he felt the same way. "When I'm with you, I feel like nothing can touch me."
It warmed Sarah's heart to hear his words, to know that the best person she knew felt so safe and secure when he was with her. The smile she sent him conveyed her own affections for him, trying to tell him, in her own way, that she felt that same way. Although she still had trouble expressing her feelings, her boyfriend was well adept at reading her body language, and listening to what she says with her actions as well as her words. The gentle squeezing of her hand lets her that he received her silent message. "Is that why you don't want to be involved with the Intersect?"
"Yeah," Chuck sighed in confirmation. "Don't get me wrong, Stanford almost destroyed me so there is no way in hell I'm letting someone like Bryce get a promotion because of my suffering, and I don't want to start introducing myself as 'Charles Carmichael, human computer and government property' but ultimately, I… I don't want to lose what we have. I don't want to lose my home again. I don't know if I could take it."
"I don't want to lose it either," she whispered, finally overcoming her fears and telling him how she felt, albeit very vaguely. His brilliant smile though was worth it.
After a moment of silence, just enjoying the contact they shared, Chuck spoke again. "So what happened now? Because I seriously doubt Graham's going to let this go."
Sarah nodded to confirm his statement. "You're right in that he won't let this drop, but fortunately for us, there's not a lot he can do about it. Project Omaha is a CIA/NSA operation, which means Graham can't do anything in regards to the project without informing Beckman and she seemed pretty intent on not uploading the Intersect into you. Hopefully, they'll manage to find someone else to upload it. And while he can't legally make you do something against your will, stuff like that hasn't stopped the CIA before. All we can really do is adapt as the situation develops."
"So business as usual then," he said with a grin, eliciting one from her as well.
"Pretty much," Sarah confirmed before shifting her body so she sat in his lap. "But in the meantime… let's just enjoy our home."
Chuck smiled earnestly at her choice and emphasis of words. "Yeah, our home."
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the story and please review.