"Did you see?" Chuck waved his hands excitedly. "He was all, 'Put up your hands,' and I was all, 'Wham!' swooping in like an action hero." Chuck crashed one hand into another to demonstrate himself swinging from the cable into the Ring agent.
"Yeah, yeah, you're a regular movie star," Casey said. "Get in the car."
Sarah was hiding a smile even as she ushered Chuck into the backseat. "You practically don't need us anymore."
"I wouldn't go that far." Chuck's swan dive had been awesome, but had exposed him to two more agents, whom Casey and Sarah had taken out with their usual cool competence. Also, Chuck was pretty sure he'd strained his ankle in the landing.
"You won't be going anywhere if you don't put on your seat-belt." Casey glared significantly at Chuck in the rear-view mirror until he buckled up.
Chuck decided, not for the first time, that despite his rather scary demeanor, Casey was definitely the team's mom.
This impression was only strengthened when he contracted a cold the following day. "A cold" did not, in fact, do justice to the mutated monster virus plaguing Chuck's sinuses. There was only a minuscule chance that it was actually the virus they'd prevented from being forcibly introduced to the Los Angeles water supply, but they weren't taking any chances, and Chuck was confined to Castle for quarantine.
"What did you tell Ellie?" Chuck asked, or at least tried to ask, though it came out fairly unintelligible, more vowels and gasping sounds than anything actually approaching real words.
Casey seemed to understand him well enough. Chuck suspected either lip reading or psychic powers. One could never be too sure with Casey.
"I said you and Walker had broken up and I was keeping you out of the strip clubs and away from the tequila."
Casey just continued polishing his gun.
"Really?" Chuck asked.
Casey shot Chuck a look that not-very-gently inquired if he'd misplaced his brain. "No. She's still on honeymoon; she doesn't care where you are. I doubt she's even noticed you're gone."
"Oh," Chuck said. Even that came out sounding wrong. He eyed the heavy duty cough syrup Casey had pulled out from somewhere and wondered if he should avoid taking any more. His thoughts felt slow, but his chest still hurt and his throat was raw.
Nothing escaped Casey's notice. He put the gun and cloth aside and disappeared into the rest of Castle, returning minutes later with a steaming mug of tea. He placed it at Chuck's elbow, then returned to his cloth and gun. Chuck took a tentative sip and tasted honey, lemon, cinnamon, and something else that he couldn't quite identify. The heat soothed his throat, and even Casey's failure to acknowledge his own moment of kindness—pity?—was somewhat comforting. Casey might seem all iron and steel, but he was secretly a marshmallow deep down. Deep, deep down.
"Thanks," Chuck croaked.
"Thank me after you've had some sleep," Casey said gruffly.
Now that Chuck thought about it, sleep seemed like a good idea. Each blink seemed longer than the last, gravity dragging his eyelids steadily down. "Hey—" Chuck said. That last ingredient—
Casey was apparently the sort of team mom who drugged his children.
Chuck really did feel better when he woke up, but he didn't thank Casey a second time, even after Sarah explained that he'd contracted the bio-terrorist virus after all—the "loose ends" she'd been wrapping up had been procuring the cure—and the administration of said cure was painful enough they'd thought it for the best he be asleep. Yes, he was kind of grateful, but it was the principle of the thing. Chuck had had more than enough of people making decisions for him to last a lifetime.
The next time the team mom thing came up, Chuck was on morphine and understandably not in his right mind. Ellie had asked why Casey was in the room despite visitation being limited to family, and Chuck's answer had just sort of—slipped out, even if he hadn't been the person she was addressing.
"Team mom?" Ellie asked, turning to stare at Casey. Ellie could look very foreboding when she put her mind to it. It was an interrogation technique that had stood her well over the years. Chuck wondered if she and Casey would swap tricks of the trade, though really—
Chuck attempted to put an end to that line of thought in case he let anything else slip in another moment of inner monologue become outer dialogue. Trying to think of nothing much at all, he studied Casey's face, inscrutable as he spoke to Ellie.
"We're in a bowling league." Casey didn't so much as blink at the lie. His lips pressed together in a serious, firm line.
"Bowling?" Ellie asked. "Chuck hasn't mentioned—"
"Understandably. He's embarrassingly bad at it." Casey's voice was matter of fact. He shot Chuck a look that almost bordered on fond.
"I once threw a ball in the wrong lane," Chuck happily agreed. He was having a difficult time looking away from Casey's lips, which had quirked the tiniest bit at the corners.
"Emphasis on threw," Casey said.
"Regardless," Ellie said, "Chuck's still on limited visitation."
"I understand." Casey leaned close to Chuck, breath warm against Chuck's ear as he said, "Walker will be along shortly, and I'll be within shouting distance. Try not to get in any trouble in the next five minutes."
Chuck managed a whole ten before an agent posing as a doctor snuck into his room. Sarah was right there, but it was kind of reassuring that Casey appeared within seconds, entering the room through the window. Never let it be said that Casey was not a total bad-ass.
"About this team mom thing," Casey said, putting his binoculars down to favor Chuck with an unamused stare.
"Hm?" Casey tried to look attentive, but it was kind of difficult to give Casey 100% of his attention while deciding if the distance between Bryce and Sarah below was a "we are undercover as a couple to provide a tempting target" sort of distance, or if it was more like "we actually are a couple since that kiss after Bryce turned out to somehow be alive yet again," not to mention that whole keeping an eye out for anyone or anything Chuck might flash on.
"I don't want to be your mother," Casey said.
"What?" Was all that caressing really necessary? And it wasn't even Bryce being touchy. Sarah was doing the touching; Bryce was merely leaning in.
Casey growled something low that sounded like, "Why do you always lead to bad judgment calls?" and then Chuck was a lot less concerned with the position of Sarah's hands and a lot more with Casey's. One moved to enclose Chuck's wrist and gently guided Chuck's binoculars down. His other hand pressed lightly, lightly against the side of Chuck's neck, and Casey drew close, so close that if Chuck had licked his lips, he'd have bumped Casey's, too. Chuck swallowed hard and let out something that could probably be classified as a squeak.
"I don't want," Casey spoke emphatically, "to be your mother."
He released Chuck abruptly and picked back up his own binoculars.
"What—?" Chuck started, but Casey shook his head.
"Eyes on the prize, Bartowski. It looks like our suspect is closing in."
And then things were kind of hectic, because the woman approaching Bryce and Sarah wasn't who they were expecting, but she had been in charge of CIA's weapon's training until she'd gone rogue five months ago. By the time everything was over, the moment was so far gone Chuck had trouble deciding if it had ever happened at all.
"You've cursed us all," Chuck said bitterly, hefting the bowling ball awkwardly.
"Shut it, Bartowski. You'll distract Walker."
Chuck was pretty sure nothing could ruin Sarah or Casey's practice turns. They had the same smooth grace with bowling balls they did with knives, guns, and heavy ordinance, like there was some sort of government training course focused on unusual sports and they'd both passed it with flying colors. For all Chuck knew, this was actually the case. There was little point to them practicing at all.
"Can't I be a, a ball polisher or something? Bring you your bowling shoes? Surely you can sneak me into the tournament some other way," Chuck argued desperately. He had a sneaking suspicion the lie about flinging a ball into the wrong lane was in actuality accidental prophecy.
"It's the only way you'll be able to socialize properly with the other players," Sarah said, shooting Chuck a sympathetic smile before updating her score.
Casey heaved a sigh and placed his ball down on the return rack. He grabbed the bottom of Chuck's ball for support and gripped Chuck's hand, directing his fingers from one awkward position to a different, still awkward position. "It's all in the release," he advised.
When Casey took his position at the end of the lane, Sarah came to stand at Chuck's side. "Take heart," she told Chuck quietly. "He wouldn't actually know." Her smile was impish, and she patted Chuck's shoulder. "Of course, you could always help him with that."
It took Chuck a moment, but only a moment. He had to fake a coughing fit to cover the resultant choking sound. He needn't have bothered. Casey's expression as he moved past to mark his score suggested that weird behavior from Chuck was nothing more than the norm.
Three missions later, Chuck needed to go undercover as one half of an extremely happy couple with upcoming wedding vows. Things with Sarah were not so much complicated as nonexistent, but the idea of playing her fiance shot a frisson of discomfort through Chuck's heart. He couldn't help but think of Sarah's hand reaching out, of Bryce leaning in. Bryce was off somewhere being a solo agent once more, but—
Sarah's eyes met Casey's, and she nodded as if a whole conversation had passed and reached some satisfactory conclusion.
"I'd prefer a fall wedding," Casey told Chuck almost conversationally. "We should argue colors with the planner, but we'll ultimately settle on carmine and gold." It wasn't a suggestion.
"And will I wear white to the wedding?" Chuck asked sarcastically, accepting his ring.
Casey paused and looked Chuck up and down. He was very—thorough in his appraisal. "Not if I can help it."
By the time Chuck had absorbed that, and before he could form anything like a reply, Sarah was discussing exit strategies and back-up plans.
I don't know what to do, Chuck wrote in his third e-mail draft to Morgan. I didn't think this would be a problem, but I'm tempted, but it feels kind of disturbingly Oedipal because of the team mom thing, and it's all ridiculous, because he's Casey and would never actually—
Chuck sighed, backspaced again, and finally just sent a simple: I miss you. p.s. Do you think I have mother issues?
Morgan's reply included more pictures of his new apartment in Hawai'i with Anna; a slew of beach photos; and one picture of Morgan and Anna standing together, arms around each other, in front of Morgan's restaurant. The text read: I miss you, too. ;_; p.s. Not really? And you seem to be over your dad issues.
Chuck blinked hard a few times at the main text and pictures, unexpectedly choked up at Morgan's beaming face half an ocean away. Chuck sent one last message for the evening, then shut off his computer and left to take his own advice.
(Keep living the dream.)
It wasn't that simple. His new kung fu Intersect upgrade didn't come with an extra shot of bravery, and Chuck stalled at the door. After a few minutes standing in the cool night air, unsure of himself, Chuck turned on his heel to go home.
"You remember you're under surveillance, right?" Casey's voice sounded quietly behind him.
The most important thing Chuck had forgotten was this: Casey was a freaking ninja.
Chuck turned back. Casey stood casually in the now open doorway, inscrutable as ever. His lips twitched briefly, before he said, "Coming in? Or did you just want to wear a hole in my walkway?"
Chuck went in, smiling awkwardly. "Is, um, is your apartment under surveillance, too?"
"It's bugged," Casey said, closing and bolting the door behind Chuck, "but if you're concerned, the government's given up on sending a 49B for any of us since the last performance review. We're too good at getting results to change things up."
That was probably as good a declaration of intent as Chuck would get. It deserved an answer, but—
"You let them bug your apartment?" Chuck couldn't help the horror in his voice.
"I installed them myself." Casey's response was almost amused. "It doesn't extend to the bedroom."
Chuck swallowed. "I see," he said faintly.
"Do you?" Casey asked, voice low. He took a step forward.
Chuck thought very, very hard. It was difficult with Casey looking at him like that.
"Casey," Chuck said, voice coming out firmer and more confident than he actually felt, "I don't actually want you to be anything like my mother."
"Are you sure?" Casey was definitely amused. He took another step closer, inches away.
"My—my feelings—for you are nothing like family," Chuck said, though this came out nowhere near as steady. Casey moved no further, but Chuck thought it was past time to make his own choices clear.
Casey's lips were softer than they looked, but just as fascinating as when Chuck had been on the morphine. Casey was—careful, unexpectedly gentle. He drew Chuck closer, opening his mouth and letting Chuck in.
Totally a marshmallow past the steel, Chuck thought. Then Casey was leading Chuck toward the bedroom, and Chuck didn't do much requiring complex thought for a long while.
Chuck leaned against Ellie's counter and asked, as casually as he could, "Would you mind if I brought Casey to the housewarming party?" He took a quick sip of water to cover his nervousness. Ellie had finally accepted that he and Sarah were only friends now, but he hadn't found a way to explain his new relationship with Casey quite yet.
Ellie raised her eyebrows. "You want to bring your team mom?"
Chuck choked. "Where did you hear—?" he managed to sputter as she patted him on the back.
"You mentioned it a long time ago, after that—the mugging," Ellie explained. "Are you okay?"
Chuck waved her off. "I, uh. I'm fine." He cleared his throat. "He's not my team mom."
Ellie only looked more concerned. "I know that bowling tournament was something of a disaster—I saw the news about the fire—but I didn't think it was so bad you'd quit the team for good."
Chuck wondered briefly what other missions had made the news in some way before mentally waving it off as unimportant at the moment. "The team is fine, on a bit of a hiatus, but—Casey. Our relationship, it's not like that."
Chuck supposed the time had arrived to explain that. "It's, um, it's complicated. But very definitely not paternal," he stressed. "Or maternal."
Ellie smiled. "I know."
"You know?" Chuck asked, startled.
"Please. I'm your sister. I can sense these things. I don't see why you waited so long to tell me." Chuck supposed he had been rather transparent the past few weeks, even if two-thirds of the time he was actually out on a mission instead of at Casey's. Ellie reached past to take Chuck's glass to the sink. "I mean, yes, I was oblivious at first, but it was obvious when I saw you together at the hospital."
Chuck choked again.
Chuck, Morgan wrote.
Ellie told me everything. It's not what I expected, but—it makes sense. Sarah was incredibly hot, but so is Casey, and he seems like he's good for you, even if he scared the shit out of me. Tell him if he hurts you, I'll kick his ass.
p.s. Please don't actually tell him that. He still scares the shit out of me.
p.p.s. RE: The dream—You, too, bro.