“Oh my God, Chuck! Chuck!” Morgan yelled over-excitedly as he ran over to the Nerd Herd area, ringing the bell on the counter violently.
With his head under the counter as he picked up a dropped screwdriver, Chuck proceeded to jump and smack his head as he got up.
“Geez, Morgan,” he complained, pulling the bell out of his reach, his other hand going to the top of his head where it hurt. “What’s the problem?”
“No problem,” his little buddy said with a grin as he practically bounced on the spot. “Total opposite of a problem, my friend!” he said, turning to face the same way as Chuck and pointing across the store.
Following Morgan’s gaze, Chuck spotted what had got his friend so excited. There with Big Mike, presumably being inducted into the Buy More family, was a woman that could only be described from this angle as a total babe.
“Wow!” Chuck exclaimed. “She is really hot,” he agreed with what his friend was obviously thinking. “Are we sure she’s really going to work here? In a Buy More?” he frowned a little.
“I know, man, she could totally be a model!” Morgan yelled. “Oh, maybe that should be my opening line, or maybe I could...” he continued on, but Chuck stopped listening then.
In that moment, the mysterious new employee turned around and looked their way causing the weirdest feeling to go through Chuck Bartowski. He wasn’t dumb, he knew what the thrill of a beautiful girl smiling at him felt like, hell, he got it every time he saw Sarah! No, this was different, this was like she ought to be familiar but he didn’t know why, almost like there was something in his brain about her but he couldn’t access it.
With his mind scrambling through years of memories, lists of names and photographs of girls he’d known as a kid, in college, and anywhere else, Chuck not only lost interest in all that Morgan was saying to him, but also failed to notice that Big Mike was now heading on over to the Nerd Herd desk with the same girl following behind him.
“Oh my God, they’re coming over here and... and I’m not prepared yet!” Morgan said desperately, suddenly bolting away to heaven only knew where.
His yelling at least managed to snap Chuck out of his daze, just in time to hear Big Mike speak to him.
“Bartowski!” he snapped. “Where the hell is Casey at?” he asked, looking round, unable to spot him anywhere.
It was surprising, since locating John Casey was usually such an easy task considering the size of the guy and the fact he was wearing Buy More green! Still, as Chuck craned his neck left and right, he also failed to see his ‘friend’.
“Maybe he took a bathroom break?” Chuck suggested as his eyes returned to the apparent newest member of the Buy More team, once again getting the strangest feeling like he should know her, as Big Mike muttered something Chuck failed to hear.
“Bartowski!” his boss suddenly snapped once more catching his attention. “What is wrong with you people today? Did you all eat mushrooms at lunch?” he asked, eyeing Chuck with serious suspicion that made him laugh nervously, despite the fact he’d done nothing wrong.
“Er, no, sir.” He shook his head, serious in a second when her realised the guy in front of him certainly was. “Definitely not, sir”
“Uh-huh,” Big Mike grunted. “Chuck Bartowski, this is our latest Sales Assistant, Marie Clark,” he introduced the two. “Now, can I trust you to keep Miss Clark company for five minutes whilst I drag that idiot Casey out of the damn bathroom?” he said, not waiting for an answer as he strode away.
“Er, you might not what to make him mad... oh, geez.” Chuck sighed when he realised it would’ve been too late even if Big Mike had been listening to him, and he clearly wasn’t.
“So, Chuck,” he turned at the sound of his name to find Marie smiling at him. “Any tips you can give me for fitting in here at the Buy More?” she asked conversationally as she leant on the counter in front of him, pushing mid-length brown hair back off her face.
“Er, well, I don’t know...” he said feeling flustered, not least because a beautiful woman was actually talking to him like he mattered, but also because he was fairly certain that Big Mike was about to die at the hands of Major John Casey!
On top of that there was the fact that every time Chuck looked at Marie he got that weird feeling again, like he ought to know her and yet... nothing.
“Okay, is there something on my face?” Marie checked, running her hand over one cheek. “Because you keep looking at me like there’s something wrong...”
“No, I’m sorry,” Chuck apologised immediately for making her uncomfortable. “Honestly, it's nothing, you’re nothing, I mean, not that you’re nothing because I’m sure you’re a wonderful person, beautiful, obviously, and probably very intelligent...”
“Okay, slow down, breathe,” she urged him with laughter in her voice as he seemed half way to hyper-ventilating for the sake of what ought to have been a simple apology. “Really, it’s no big.”
Chuck felt more ridiculous right now than he sometimes did in front of Sarah as he tried to gain control of his voice and his brain once again. He was being so stupid, assuming that just because Marie looked familiar in some way it had to mean badness. The Intersect and his secret agent associates were making him so paranoid, it was crazy.
“I was just wondering,” he said, leaning on the counter and looking closely at Marie now. “Do I know you from somewhere? It’s just you look familiar...”
“I doubt it.” She shook her head. “I’m not from around here, and I’m sure I’d remember if I’d met you before.” She smiled at him, making poor Chuck blush despite the fact her comment had been barely suggestive.
No more was to be said as Big Mike reappeared, followed by Casey who looked less than happy. Still, Chuck observed, that was pretty much his usual expression, so there was nothing to say any particular event today had made him mad.
“So, here’s the plan,” said Mike as he stood between his two newest employees. “We’re going to perform a little experiment, see how well the training system works in this place, and how thick your head is,” he said, glaring at the man behind him. “John Casey, meet your new shadow, Marie Clark. You’re gonna teach her everything that you’ve learnt about working here at the Buy More...” he explained, though neither of his charges were exactly listening by now.
Marie seemed entirely distracted by the sight of her mentor, as far as Chuck could tell. The smile on her lips and the twinkle in her eyes suggested that, of all unholy things, she might actually find John Casey attractive! Of course, it shouldn’t be so crazy, when Chuck gave it a little thought. Perhaps he was biased to thinking of Casey as scary and weird because he knew what he was capable of. Marie only saw a muscle-bound hero type from her perspective, he guessed, and it was obvious she liked what she saw.
For Casey’s part, Chuck was sure the guy couldn’t be quite so oblivious as he looked. Marie was obviously a hottie, a well-toned figure clear beneath her ugly regulation uniform and beautiful green eyes that a man could drown in. Were he not already head-over-heels in love with Sarah on sight, Chuck thought he’d be making the most of the fact Marie seemed to find him to be a nice guy, though quite obviously not as ‘nice’ as she found Casey.
“Thank you, sir,” she said sweetly when Big Mike finished what he was saying and turned to walk away. “Guess that just leaves you and me,” she said as she looked up at Casey who was almost a foot taller than her. “I put myself completely in your hands, John,” she said, leaning into him just a little.
Chuck couldn’t help bit stare at the odd display. He really didn’t think about Casey dating, though he must’ve done so once. Having a woman like Marie clearly coming onto him, getting all up in his personal space and using his rarely heard first name, well, Chuck wasn’t altogether sure how his agent friend would deal with that. His confusion and wondering showed on his face, and it at least caught Casey’s attention.
“You okay, kid?” he asked, with a look that suggested he wasn’t so much enquiring about his health or similar as he put a hand on Marie’s elbow and turned her around some as they moved to walk away.
“Fine.” Chuck nodded and smiled, his answer covering every possible connotation of the question. “It’s all good,” he said, with a thumbs up sign.
Casey nodded once and led Marie away across the store.
Even now as he watched them walk away, amongst all thought regarding the weirdness of anyone finding Casey attractive and dateable, a little voice bothered Chuck. He should know Marie, or something about her. He ought to be worried about her, or maybe just about her being here, but for the life of him he didn’t know why.
“Chuck!” Ellie tried again to get his attention as he sat on the couch staring unseeing at the TV. “Hey, is something wrong?” she checked when she finally got his attention.
“Wrong? Er, no, not really,” her brother quickly told her with a shake of his head.
Ellie didn’t exactly look like she believed him, but she was getting used to Chuck having his secrets these days. Maybe it had something to do with Sarah, in which case it was really none of her business. Still, she hated that they really didn’t seem to talk much anymore.
“Okay,” she said in spite of better judgement, getting up to go to the kitchen to check on dinner.
Having a sudden thought, Chuck jumped up and followed his sister.
“Hey, Ellie, did we ever know a family named Clark?” he asked her curiously, thinking that maybe Marie was familiar because she knew his sister once.
It was a long shot since the newest Buy More employee said she wasn’t from the area, and besides she surely would have recognised his last name, Bartowski wasn’t exactly common. Still, Chuck figured it was worth asking.
“Clark?” Ellie echoed with a frown. “I don’t think so” she said, looking thoughtful. “Why’d you ask?”
“It’s just there’s this new girl at work, Marie Clark,” he explained as he hopped up onto the counter beside where his sister was tossing the salad. “She looks weirdly familiar but... I don’t know, I can’t figure out why.”
“Well, maybe she just looks like someone you used to know, or someone from TV,” Ellie suggested with a shrug of her shoulders.
“Uh-huh.” Chuck nodded, accepting his sisters idea as completely plausible, and yet the niggling feeling wouldn’t go out of the back of his mind each time he thought of Marie. Maybe he was just freaked out by the girl’s apparent attraction to Casey. That was enough to make anybody uncomfortable. The very idea of the guy dating gave Chuck the wiggins - it was totally unrealistic and weird!
A knock at the door took his attention and he sub-consciously ran his hands through his hair and checked his appearance as he crossed the floor to answer it. He knew who he would find beyond the door, his regular dinner guest and pseudo-girlfriend, Sarah. As wrong as Chuck knew it was to be attracted to the CIA agent sent to protect him, it was very hard not to be, not least because her undercover mission was to act as the girlfriend he so wished he had. Sometimes she was just such a good actress, he could almost believe they were really in love, though he told himself not to. Still, a man could dream, and every night he did.
“Hey.” Sarah smiled brightly the moment he opened the door.
For a few seconds Chuck didn’t reply, just stared at her strangely as he fought to get his bearings after letting his mind wander down a path it shouldn’t. He seemed to be doing a lot of mind wandering today, he realised, as he greeted Sarah and ushered her inside. His mind flew back to the Buy More and the new girl he met today, even as he stood between Ellie and Sarah, nodding along with their conversation, he was distracted by his thoughts.
“Hey, Chuckles!” Captain Awesome ruffled his hair as he appeared from the bedroom, just in time for dinner, so Ellie said. “Tough day at the salt mines?” he asked as they all took their seats, “You look wiped”
“No, no, I’m fine.” Chuck forced a smile as he sat down, and complimented his sister on the food laid out on the table.
Anything to change the subject really, he could use his family not noticing his odd mood, even if this wasn’t like his usual state of distraction. The Intersect and all its secret had to remain just that, a secret, however hard that was to take. Of course the one person who knew about all Chuck’s secrets, perhaps even better than he did, was the woman sat beside him, looking at him now with a decidedly worried expression.
“Chuck, are you really okay?” she asked, putting a delicate forkful of food into her mouth.
“Er, yeah, sure,” he said awkwardly, making a particular effort to eat his meal and act normally.
“Are you still wondering about that girl?” Ellie checked, making Sarah’s eyes snap back to Chuck.
Whether she was worried about her cover being ruined by Chuck falling for another girl or if she were just concerned for his safety from a stranger, Chuck couldn’t be sure as they glanced at each other. In all honesty he’d like to think she was just a little jealous that there might be another woman in his life, even for a moment.
“It’s not what it sounds like,” he quickly told his pseudo-girlfriend. “There’s just, there’s this new girl at work, Marie,” he explained. “She seems so weirdly familiar but I can’t figure out why. It’s been bugging me is all.” He shrugged like it was nothing even though it was bothering him quite a bit. “And hey, creepy side-bar, I think she has a thing for Casey.”
That particular comment caused Sarah to choke a little on her food. Not that she was blind to the fact that Casey was built, but of course she knew what he was really like, what he was capable of. Some poor naive sales assistant at the Buy More could have no clue at all.
“Well, I think that’s great,” Ellie said with a bright smile. “You know he spends so much time by himself, I think he could use a lady in his life.”
“Love of a good woman is never a bad thing for a guy,” Awesome agreed as he picked up Ellie’s hand and kissed it before going back to his food.
Chuck was about to argue when he realised there was little or no point. He couldn’t really explain how weird it was to consider Casey dating without letting several large cats out of bags they had no business leaving. It was better to keep his mouth shut once again - he was kind of getting used to that by not.
“Y’know the brain is a weird thing,” Awesome continued on before silence barely had a chance to reign. “As an organ, there’s so much we understand about the working of it, and yet there’s also a whole bunch of stuff we can’t figure,” he explained to his captive audience. “Y’know the average human only uses a small percentage of their brain power each day? Scientists say we have all these memories in there, right back to before we were born, we just can’t access it.”
“Are you trying to say I knew Marie before I was born, because that’s just creepy,” Chuck joked as Ellie rolled her eyes over the whole thing, both her boyfriend’s odd topic of dinner conversation and her brother’s bad attempt at humour.
“No,” said Awesome, to rhyme with ‘duh!’. “I’m just saying you have no idea how much information is stored in your head that you can’t get at, man,” he said, poking Chuck in the temple as if to impress his point.
“Oh, I believe that.” He nodded sharing a look with Sarah who shook her head almost imperceptibly as they continued on with dinner and the conversation took a new turn.
“So, this never gets any less awkward,” Chuck noted as he and Sarah came outside the apartment together at the end of the evening.
Of course Ellie and Awesome made the assumption that the other couple wanted some alone time to say goodnight in the traditional way that couples do. It was always a silent and awkward moment when Chuck and Sarah had to stand opposite each other like this, doing everything but kiss. It was safe to say Sarah looked no more comfortable than her fake boyfriend and charge, though she did her best to hide it.
“I was wondering,” she said making Chuck look up suddenly from watching his own feet shuffling on the ground, “do you think you recognise this new girl at the Buy More because of the Intersect?” she checked.
“I don’t know.” Chuck shrugged his shoulders, hands stuffed in his pockets. “I mean, I didn’t flash or anything like I usually would,” he explained, “but there’s something... I don’t know.” He shook his head, looking frustrated by the whole thing. “It’s just so weird, feeling like you know someone...”
The way Sarah looked at him and nodded so solemnly then suggested she knew what he meant exactly. She took his words in a way they were not necessarily meant of course. She thought she’d known her boyfriend, Bryce, so well and yet he had proven her wrong. Going rogue was the ultimate betrayal against the CIA, the government, the country, and perhaps more important than all this, against her. It still hurt to think about it and she was still angry at the man who duped her, despite the fact his playing with her heart should be insignificant in comparison to what he’d done to so many others, including Chuck.
“Hey, you okay?” the man himself checked as Sarah snapped out of her mini-daze and painted on a smile for his benefit alone.
“Sure.” She nodded once, back to business as usual in a second. “You know you should be careful of this Marie, just in case,” she warned him. “We don’t know who or what she might be, and with you being so special... having The Intersect in your head,” she amended quickly when she realised what she had almost implied.
Chuck blushed a little at what could be seen as a compliment, then laughed it off like he’d never considered the undertone.
“I mean, if she tries anything with you... I don’t want to make this sound insulting, but it could be a trap,” Sarah said carefully, just as mindful of bruising the fragile male ego as encouraging it.
“I’ll be careful,” Chuck assured her with a nod. “Though honestly she’s really more into Casey. Poor girl is obviously completely la-la-la,” he said, making a crazy face and spinning his finger by his head in the general way that implied she was nuts!
“Maybe.” Sarah laughed lightly at his semi-joke before an awkward silence descended once again between them.
“But y’know I like that you care,” Chuck told her, eyes more on the floor than looking at the beautiful blonde before him.
She smiled at his sentiment, before remembering herself. It took her a moment sometimes to remind herself that this was just a job, that as sweet a guy as Chuck Bartowski was, he wasn’t really her boyfriend and she could not afford to fall for another guy she worked with. Sometimes more than others it was difficult to keep herself in check.
“Well, it’s my job... to care,” she said, perhaps a little more coolly than she could’ve and immediately regretted her choice of words as pain ghosted across Chuck’s face when he glanced up at her. “Goodnight, Chuck,” she said quickly, leaning in to kiss his cheek before bolting to her car and out of sight.
“Goodnight, Sarah,” he said softly to her back as she walked away and left him standing there, just like always.
Chuck was more than a little bemused as he watched Casey and Marie from across the store. Talk about your odd couples, not that they were a couple of course, just been teamed up by Big Mike so he could show her the ropes, but still, the sight of them together was strange. Chuck never really thought about Casey dating, though at some point he supposed the great lunk must’ve done so. He liked women as much as the next guy from what Chuck could tell, he just didn’t seem to act on it. Had to be difficult with the whole undercover thing, much like it was for Sarah...
The very thought of his fake girlfriend soon had Chuck distracted from the scene on the opposite side of the BuyMore, where Casey tried to hide his discomfort as he evaded Marie’s questions.
“So, John, where did you work before the BuyMore?” she asked, supposedly innocently as she leant against the shelving in what could only be described as a deliberately sexy pose.
Never let it be said that Major John Casey was naive when it came to women, he knew how they worked, their flirtatious ways and games they played. What was confusing to the NSA agent was perhaps that Marie’s particular interest in him didn’t really make sense. She was a younger than him by a decent amount, he guessed, looked more like Chuck’s age than his own, and Casey himself hardy spent a lot of time worrying about his appearance when he was working here at the BuyMore. No-one was likely to look attractive in this shade of green, and he was quite happy about that. Drawing attention was not the idea here, in fact it was the very opposite of what he was trying to do.
“Nowhere interesting, really,” he answered her question, making eye contact, looking honest as the day was long, as he lied his ass off. “I’ve done sales before, some public relations work, security guard... nothing fancy.” He shrugged, his list only a semi-lie in some ways, he was being more economical with the truth than anything else at this point.
“Security?” Marie’s eyebrow arched at the idea. “Well, I guess that makes sense” she nodded, watching as Casey pointlessly straightened up items on the shelves. “You’re certainly built...” she told him, catching his attention as much with her words as her fingers that ran down his arm, “for that job, I mean,” she added, looking up at him through thick lashes, “and lifting all these heavy appliances must help keep you in fine shape,” she said, gesturing towards rows of white goods behind them.
“I suppose so.” Casey nodded once. “I have gym membership,” he threw in, another lie but it didn’t matter.
The character he played here, the role of BuyMore employee and neighbour to the Bartowskis, it was all planned in his head, the entire fake backstory and all. He wasn’t bothered about talking freely to this young woman about anything she wanted, so confident was John Casey that he had an answer all prepared for every eventuality.
“Oh, well, maybe we could go to the gym together some time,” she said, following him as he turned and walked further up the aisle. “Nothing like a good work out” she said, sliding up close to him, “get the blood pumping,” she practically whispered as she gazed up at him.
The moment that might have occurred on either side of this apparently mis-matched couple came to nothing as Big Mike’s voice boomed across the store. Marie moved away, faking innocence as her new boss approached, the big guy eye-balling her and moreso Casey, who didn’t even flinch.
“I’m gonna need to borrow Marie a minute, seems we missed a couple of signatures on the paperwork” he explained, looking from him to her, almost angry expression softening to a smile as she flipped her hair back off her face and nodded her head.
“No problem, boss.” She smiled, moving to follow him over to the office, turning back at the last to look at Casey. “Don’t go anywhere.” She winked in sultry fashion as she finally walked away.
Marie was almost immediately replaced in Casey’s view by Chuck who was soon turning to get a good view of the hottie’s retreating form, like any hot-blooded male would. She really was something, Chuck would go so far as to say she was in Sarah’s league of babedom. It seemed, however, that Casey either hadn’t noticed or didn’t care.
“That girl is getting on my last nerve,” he said through gritted teeth, an angry edge to his tone that Chuck had once suspected was reserved for him alone - apparently not then.
“Hey, if that’s agent talk for...” he said, as Casey glanced his way, wondering if he was misunderstanding the guy as he so often did. “I mean, she is smokin’ hot but...”
“She’s driving me crazy, Bartowski!” his ‘friend’, for lack of a better term, practically growled the words. “She’s all touchy feely, and fluttering her eyelashes...”
“Er, hello!” Chuck interrupted immediately. “You do know she likes you, right?” he explained, complete with over-the-top arm waving gestures. “The second Big Mike introduced you two, it was like instant attraction,” he tried to explain, with hand clapping and explosive-type gestures that just made Casey look at him like he’d grown three heads in a second.
“Don’t be an idiot, Chuck.” He rolled his eyes. “I’m here to do a job, I don’t have time for little girls screwing with my head,” he declared turning to walk away.
“You really think it’s your head she wants to...” his nerdy charge began, only to stop short when Casey turned back only to shoot him a warning look. “Yeah, not going there” he said, looking apologetic as he raised his hands in fake-surrender. “Seriously, Casey, she is so not a little girl” he explained, hiking a thumb over his shoulder towards the office where Marie stood with Big Mike, visible through the glass. “That is all woman my friend,” he said, as they both turned to look her way, “and she likes you, a lot! I know you’re serious about your work and all, but you’re really not going to pursue this?” he asked, a little more carefully than was perhaps necessary, but angering a guy that he knew for a fact could snap him in two with his pinky was not high on Chuck Bartowksi’s to do list.
“She’s not unattractive,” was all Casey seemed to be willing to concede as he looked at Marie properly for probably the first time today.
Honestly, he really hadn’t taken much notice of her, so fixed was he on his job and his mission. She was just another employee of the BuyMore, just another part of the cover job he must complete each day. Hell, he was actually disappointed that Chuck didn’t flash on the girl because it meant that action and adventure was on the cards. That was what John Casey lived for, his real job of work...
“Casey, geez, she’s like a Class A hottie!” declared Chuck, as Casey stared at Marie still, his mind working overtime. “I mean, if I weren’t with Sarah...” Chuck continued with his inane rambling, “not that I’m with Sarah, but y’know, whatever! Marie really likes you man” he said, taking a chance by slapping Casey across the shoulder, “and personally I...” he said with a hand on his chest, “I think you should go for it. I mean, how long has it been?” he asked, not really wanting an answer, but assuming from the way Casey behaved and the life he lived that it had to have been a while since the guy had dated or anything.
“Too long,” the agent muttered, not sure if he was ashamed of the fact or just sorry for it, after all, it was a big sacrifice, doing what he did for his country.
He could deal without a wife and family, without a whole bunch of friends and connections, but female company, going on dates, having someone to curl up to at night, that’d be nice once in a while. He was a human being after all, even if he did carry a gun and wasn’t afraid to use it.
“Then I say go with the flow, my man,” Chuck told him over-enthusiastically, which Casey was starting to find was the boy’s usual way of doing everything. “Ask her out, be a man!” he said, socking Casey in the arm and immediately regretting it, not only because his hand throbbed as if he’d just hit steel, but also because the look on the bigger guys face suggested he was about to knock him into next Thursday for the action. “Which you obviously are” he muttered as he backed away. “Big, strong man, very solid...” he said, moving over until his back hit the shelving and a few boxes clattered to the floor.
Bending down to pick them up, Chuck glanced towards the office as he straightened the fallen items back up in their places. Looking at Marie as she flipped her hair and laughed lightly at something Big Mike said, that strange feeling came over Chuck again, and the weirdness he was experience inside showed on his face.
“What’s that look for?” Casey asked, glancing at Chuck, then following his line of sight to Marie and back.
“I don’t know,” the Nerd Herder shook his head, eyes still fixed on the woman in question a moment longer, before he switched his focus to Casey. “I just, I keep getting this feeling about Marie... like she seems familiar,” he explained. “For a while I thought it was, y’know, in my head,” he gestured at his temple, “but no flashes so I guess I’m just imagining things.” He shrugged, once again trying to dismiss the odd thoughts that had been with him for three days now, and didn’t seem to be letting up at all.
“Why would she be in the Intersect, Chuck?” asked Casey, the smirk on his face proving he thought the boy was being an idiot about this. “Sometimes I think you get a little too into this, seeing stuff that isn’t there because it makes your sad little life interesting” he said, folding his arms across his chest.
“Huh, yeah,” he scoffed at that remark, “because I really want this kind of interesting in my life... not!” he declared, as he walked away, over to the Nerd Herd desk where a far less attractive woman than Marie waited for assistance with a faulty laptop.
Casey watched the boy go and shook his head. Sometimes it seemed like Chuck would make a half decent agent. Other times, he was such a kid!
“I’m back,” said a voice to his left, and he turned to see Marie stood there with a smile on her face. “All yours, John.”
Returning the expression, somewhat awkwardly, Casey didn’t say a word, just led Marie across the store and continued teaching her the ins and outs of the BuyMore. She didn’t let up much on her flirty behaviour, and that made him think. Seemed for once in his life Chuck was right about something and Marie really did like him. He shouldn’t mind, in fact he should be pleased about it, any other normal guy would be, but John Casey was no ordinary guy, and in more ways than one. Dragging some innocent woman into his dangerous world was wrong on all kinds of levels, and trying to run an existence parallel to his own was only easy whilst there was only himself to worry about. John who works at the BuyMore by day, secret agent by night or whenever a crisis occurred was fine, but when you throw a woman into the mix, things get complicated.
Casey thought then of Ilsa, the last woman he let into his life, the last mistake he had made. Now she was gone, and he’d dealt with that the only way he could, by never putting himself or his heart on the line in that way again. Dating had become foreign to him, and he kind of liked it that way, but it was true enough that nights got lonely, and days alone got long when there was no work to be done, nothing left to focus on but how singular his life had become.
“Hey, you okay?” Marie asked him suddenly and it was only then that Casey realised for the first time in a long time he’d zoned out like that.
“Of course,” he told her sharply, feeling bad for snapping within a moment and sending a smile her way which seemed to please her at least.
From across the store, one person watched the odd couple and his reaction was less than pleased.
“And I really don’t understand why John Casey gets to teach the new girl” complained Morgan from his place perched on the opposite side of the Nerd Herd counter, as Chuck beavered away at the inner workings of a computer, his customer long gone and due back tomorrow for their fixed item.
“Morgan, let it go,” his friend advised. “Marie obviously has a thing for Casey and not for you, so...”
“Oh, no way, Chuck!” Morgan shook his head, hopping down onto his feet beside him. “You did not just say that to me, man! You did not just suggest that John Casey stands more chance with that hottie than me!”
“Morgan, please, I’m trying to concentrate,” the Nerd Herder told his buddy as his elbow got bump and he very nearly screwed up his fix-up operation on the laptop. “’Sides y’know there are plenty of girls around, you don’t have to have Marie.”
“Au contraire, mon frere,” he was soon being told, though Chuck would rather not be listening at this point. “She wants me, I’m telling you, man, she’s just playing up to John to get my attention, make me jealous, make me want her more. Y’know, just like Ellie does with Devon!”
“Sure thing, buddy, whatever you say,” Chuck agreed, knowing it was the simpler option.
“Oh yeah, trust me, Chuck, that girl is going to be mine” he enthused as Anna walked behind them, smiling a little as she believed she was the topic of conversation, after all, she very often was, being the only girl around that the guys even talked to most of the time.
She pretended to hate them hitting on her, and mostly it didn’t take much effort, but she was weirdly attracted to Morgan sometimes. She never said so, after all, that would seem like she couldn’t do any better, and she could, she just didn’t necessarily want to.
“Go for it, Morgan, go sweep her off her feet, or whatever,” his friend told him, as he continued his work, hoping to be left alone a while, and for one less person to keep reminding him about Marie being there, the girl was distraction enough in both looks and the way she confused Chuck’s already muddled and over-full mind, without everyone talking about her constantly.
“That’s exactly what I’m gonna do, Chuck,” Morgan told him as he stared across the store. “Marie Clark, prepare to be Mrs Morgan Grimes,” he said, rubbing is hands together in the creepiest away.
So distracted was he by his target, he really didn’t notice Anna’s face drop at the realisation she was no longer the object of his affection, and probably would have been stunned by the revelation if he had.
“Shouldn’t be more than a minute, sir.”
Chuck smiled as he delved into the back of a customers laptop and manoeuvred wires around with a screwdriver. Here was his world, things he understood and could handle with ease. Nerd Herding was Mr Bartowki’s domain, a million miles from the world he found himself flung into since the Intersect landed up in his head.
Sure, it seemed like fun when you watched James Bond movies and all. The spy world seemed cool and fun and sexy. Mostly Chuck just found it dangerous, stressful, and confusing. Hot chicks were all well and good, til they started pretending to be your girlfriend, he noted, as a completely different beautiful woman appeared before him.
“Hey, Chuck.” Marie smiled brightly, a spring in her step as ever as she walked up to the Nerd Herd desk. “Er, do you have a pen I could borrow?” she asked, drumming her fingers on the counter top as she waited.
“Oh, sure,” said Chuck as he left the customer’s computer just a moment to turn around and grab a pen.
“Thanks,” she said, leaning over to take it just the moment he turned back, accidentally-on-purpose brushing against the young man still waiting for his laptop to be fixed. “Sorry,” she said, though she didn’t look it at all, and both Chuck and the customer found themselves just a little distracted as they watched a more than reasonable rear view walk away across the store.
Chuck stopped staring and quickly went back to his work. He could use not picking up another woman in his life that would make things complicated. Besides, Marie had no interest in him, or any other guy but John Casey, as crazy as that still sounded in Chuck’s own head! Of all the extraordinary things that he found in his head lately, the concept of Casey having a girlfriend or even going on a date of any kind, that made his brain warp in a whole new way.
Glancing across to where Marie was working, Chuck rolled his eyes at the sight of Morgan, peering at her from behind the shelving. He really had no clue when it came to women, he couldn’t even see that Marie was not interested in him. She was so all over Casey and even in the scary guy’s absence, there was no way in hell she was going to give Morgan any encouragement at all.
‘So not gonna happen, buddy,’ Chuck thought to himself as he carefully screwed the panel back down on his customer’s computer, turned it over, and switched on, to ensure it was now running correctly.
“And there we have it.” He smiled as all was right with the system and he confidently handed the computer back to its owner with a proud grin. “All fixed, sir, have a nice day,” he said chirpily as his customer gratefully thanked him and turned to walk away.
Apparently, he didn’t notice he had dropped something out of his pocket, but Chuck did and hurried around the counter to pick up the fallen piece of paper in case it should be important. A receipt maybe, or a lottery ticket perhaps...
“Sir, you dropped...” Chuck began to call after the man for all of five seconds, before his eyes focused on what he now saw to be a movie ticket stub in his hand and felt a newly familiar feeling coming over him. “Oh, God!” he gasped as he flashed, a whole mix of pictures, both relevant and not running past his eyes, though to the outside world he appeared to zone out for only a few seconds.
The moment over, Chuck shook is head to clear it, checked no-one was watching, and bolted for the door. He was across the parking lot and into the Wienerliscious as fast as his nerdy legs would take him.
“Sarah!” he yelled as he barrelled through the door, almost knocking over a leaving customer, thankfully the only one in the restaurant right now. “Sarah, I just flashed on this,” he said as he came in waving his hand madly.
“A movie ticket stub?” frowned Sarah as she plucked the item from his fingers - it didn’t make sense.
“Yes, there’s something about this place.” Chuck gestured wildly. “It’s a front for something, illegal activity, trafficking and...”
“Okay, okay,” she said, calming him down with an even hand gesture.
Glancing out of the windows to ensure no-one was watching, Sarah hopped over the counter, moving to put up the closed sign and lock the front door. With a little luck, her so-called boss wouldn’t be back until she was. It seemed another mission was about to begin, at the movies of all places!
“I’m afraid we have very little information to give you,” said General Beckman as Team Bartowski gathered around the screen in Casey’s apartment.
“The movie theatre that the ticket is from was owned by Marcus Putruvski, a well-known player in the Russian mob, a few years ago,” continued Director Graham, as pictures appeared on the computer screen, showing the man in question. “After he was killed, the theatre changed hands several times, and became what we thought was a legitimate business.”
“So Chuck’s flash could be old news?” said Sarah, venturing a guess. “He’s just seeing information you had from when Putruvski owned the theatre?”
“It’s certainly a possibility, Agent Walker,” confirmed Beckman, “but given that we’re all still learning exactly how the Intersect works within Mr Bartowki’s head, we cannot take any chances.”
Chuck nodded his agreement with the decision, not that his opinion really mattered, he knew. He was perhaps the person who had the least control over is own life, or even his own brain lately, but who was he to argue against federal agents and their bosses?
“Might not be quite what you’re used to by way of a mission, team,” Director Graham told them, “but seems to me you’re headed out to the movies tonight.”
With that the screen flipped to black and Chuck was the only one left smiling apparently.
“Cool, it’ll be like a real date,” he said as he looked to Sarah.
The look she shot back at him might just about have been called a smile, but the expression was clearly forced. Chuck didn’t like to wonder too much on why that was, but looking away from her meant facing Casey and he looked even less impressed by their latest job.
“We’ll figure out details later,” he all but growled. “I got a shift at the BuyMore,” he said, removing his black button-down shirt in which he’d faced his boss to reveal the ugly green disaster he had to wear for his cover job. “This colour ought to be outlawed,” he muttered as he went for the door, and Chuck and Sarah followed, both smirking slightly at their colleagues discomfort.
Under protest, Casey ended up driving both Chuck and Sarah back to the shopping estate. Thankfully nobody talked much in the car, except for Bartowski asking a couple of dumb questions about their latest mission, like what he should wear and if he was allowed to buy popcorn on the governments tab. It was as they were getting out of the vehicle and waiting for Casey to lock it up, that the idiot came up with his next lame brained comment.
“So, how do you think this’ll work?” he asked, just a little startled as Sarah slid her hand into his for appearances sake and walked him to the door of the store where he worked alongside Casey. “I mean, Sarah and me will be a couple on a date to this romantic little movie,” he said, waving the ticket stub that started this whole thing in Casey’s face. “If you go see this by yourself...” He gave the big guy a look, only so confident because they were in broad daylight in a public place, and Sarah was there to save his life if Casey lost his cool.
“So I’ll be like an usher.” The NSA agent shrugged.
“I’m not sure that would work.” Sarah shook her head. “You’ll only get treated like a staff member, called all over the theatre, maybe even out of the screening room where we are. It would be easier if you sat with us to watch the movie.”
“That’s what I thought.” Chuck nodded, but all Casey could do was sigh and roll his eyes.
“Yeah, ‘cause playing third wheel on your date really thrills me, Bartowski,” he said, clearly tired of this conversation, possibly even sick of this whole mission despite the fact it hadn’t started yet.
“Doesn’t have to be that way,” said Sarah, trying not to smile as she spotted Marie approaching, on her way back from lunch no doubt. “You could always double date with us, Casey.” She smiled sweetly, as if she’d just made a completely natural suggestion, but knowing just how angry she was making her partner.
“Don’t even start, Walker,” he growled at her.
Usually Chuck would have been all but petrified by now, but this was just too much fun! With Sarah in on the joke, and Marie within yelling distance, oh this was too good to miss.
“Y’know, I’ll bet Marie loves to go to the movies,” he said overly loudly, catching the brunette’s attention as he knew he would, “right, Marie?” he said, ducking behind Sarah.
Casey glared as if he wanted to kill that Intersect-brained kid.
“The movies?” Marie smiled brightly. “Wow, it’s been a while since I did that,” she said thoughtfully, as she adjusted her purse on her shoulder. “I guess it’s just not as much fun on your own,” she said as she looked sideways at Casey who refused to even glance at her, at least until Sarah kicked him swiftly in the ankle.
Casey barely winced but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt, and he knew what he needed to do here. It was for the sake of the mission, that was all, and for that he would do it.
“Uh, Chuck and Sarah were going to the movies tonight,” he said, looking as awkward as Chuck had ever seen the guy. “I was thinking, we could maybe make it a double date?” he asked the girl beside him.
Though the words seemed foreign in his mouth and the whole situation was as awkward as all hell, there was something kind of cute about how excited Marie seemed to be at the prospect of just sitting next to him and watching a movie.
“Well, are you two sure you wouldn’t mind?” she asked Chuck and Sarah, twirling her hair around her finger as she glanced between them.
“Of course not.” Chuck grinned, enjoying this moment altogether too much. “It’d be so great to see John with a nice girl.” He tried his best not to laugh as Sarah grabbed his arm and manoeuvred him into the BuyMore before poor Casey exploded with frustration and anger both.
“Don’t listen to them, John,” advised Marie, as she watched him watching them disappear from sight, then leant in close to his ear. “I don’t have to be a nice girl if you don’t want me to.”
That was enough to grab Casey’s attention away from his so-called friends, as he watched Marie walk into the store with a swing in her step. If Bartowski and his stupid behaviour wasn’t the death of him, John Casey was damn sure that young woman would be.
Casey usually loved his job, but tonight he kind of hated it. Most guys would be thrilled at the prospect of using a date with a hot woman as a cover, and he couldn’t deny the scenery was not to be scoffed at since Marie had shown up in an outfit that showed off all her attributes to the very highest standard. Still, he would have preferred this particular assignment if his date knew what the hell was going on here. Bringing another civilian into the mix (he refused to think of Chuck as anything else) was just asking for trouble, but once Walker and Bartowski had offered Marie the chance to come along and she’d seemed so damn excited about it, there was little John Casey could do.
“So.” Chuck clapped his hands as the four of them stood in front of the movies listings. “What do we all want to see?”
“I really don’t mind.” Marie shrugged, looking to her date. “What do like, John?”
“Anything where people don’t talk about their mushy feelings is fine with me,” he told her, taking a moment to survey the layout of the building, and trying not to be too obvious about it.
He knew Sarah was doing the same thing, eyeing the guy at the ticket booth suspiciously, and any fellow patrons that looked at all out of place. This was why she heard not a word, when Chuck asked her opinion on the various movies available to view.
An awkward ten minutes later, the four had their tickets to the latest horror movie to hit the US, none of them really expecting to be scared by anything they saw on screen. Casey and Sarah experienced events almost every day that were as real and terrifying as a person could imagine. No made up nonsense of a movie was going to bother them. Chuck built up a resilience over the years to things that went bump in the night, and understood technology so well he saw only CGI and models when he watched monster movies or anything with special effects. Marie was the unknown quantity and yet assured the rest she would not be scared, and even if she was she had Casey to protect her. That didn’t seem to thrill the big guy much, especially when Chuck over did the ‘aaaw’ moment on purpose!
Settling down a few rows from the front, complete with a bucket of popcorn between each ‘couple’, the four waited for the movie to start and soon became engrossed in it.
Though four pairs of eyes appeared transfixed by the events on the big screen, Sarah wasn’t quite so unaware of what was happening around her. There was someone to her left, two rows back. He was alone, wearing a trench coat and a hat that made her suspiscious from the get go, and she was pretty sure his eyes were not on the movie.
Leaning in close to Chuck, she put her head on his shoulder, startling him just a little until he realised why she was doing so.
“We may have trouble,” she whispered near his ear. “I’m going to check it out,” she added, sliding out of her seat.
Casey and Marie looked across at the movement, both looking concerned in different ways and for very different reasons.
“Bathroom,” said Chuck easily, until Marie glanced away, then gave Casey a knowing look that made the agent react.
“Um, I should...” he started to mutter, just as something dramatic and nasty occurred on the screen, causing Marie to let out a scream nearly as loud as the movies heroine as she grabbed onto Casey’s arm tight and buried her face in his shoulder.
John Casey honestly wasn’t sure how to react. It bugged him that he couldn’t run after Sarah without chancing blowing his cover, yet at the same time, a woman throwing herself all over him, looking for comfort and protection, certainly had its perks. He hadn’t been lying when he told Bartowski it had been too long, and at the end of the day, super secret agent or not, Casey was just a man.
Chuck making noises meant to catch his attention did just that and glancing sideways he caught the boy making wild gestures in the semi-dark that supposedly meant he thought he should be doing something by way of comforting his so-called date.
“Hey, er, you okay?” he asked, considering putting his arm around her or something and not really getting a choice in the matter as she pushed herself further into his personal space.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I just... I know it’s just a movie and I’m being such a kid but... oh God!” she gasped at the very next thing that came on screen and turned her face away once again.
“Ooh, that is just nasty.” Even Chuck winced a little at the horror on screen, but Casey only smiled.
“Seen that before,” he said with an odd air of nostalgia that made Chuck do a double take and glare at the guy who may be about to blow his cover with Marie.
Of course it would be the kid’s fault if this whole thing went south, he was the idiot who had invited another civilian. Still, Casey could use getting through tonight without too much trouble, if only it were possible. Chuck already knew it was unlikely as Marie stayed up close to Casey even when the horror on the screen was over for now, and the head of the Nerd Herd realised he was not the only one watching the odd couple. Two rows back, looking like a complete goof in a brown trench coat, over-sized hat and sunglasses was his little buddy, Morgan.
“That is all we need,” he said through gritted teeth, catching the attention of Casey and unfortunately Marie as well. “Uh, I’m gonna go check on Sarah, she’s been a while so...” he got up from his seat then, making to scramble away.
With the pair watching him he was unable to detour into the row behind to confront Morgan about his crappy attempts at spying. Chuck actually had to head in the general direction of the bathrooms, not even sure where he would find Sarah exactly even if he wanted to do so.
“Is he really going to follow her into the girls’ bathroom?” asked Marie with a frown, as Casey craned his neck to watch where that idiot Bartowksi was headed.
“Probably,” he sighed, before getting an idea and glancing down at Marie. “I should go after him, make sure he doesn’t make a fool of himself,” he said in a quick whisper, as he disentangled himself easily from her arms, got up and practically ran away.
No sooner had Casey left her side than Marie turned around and found the seat filled again. She yelped as she realised she was not alone as she thought, and more so because no ordinary guy was beside her. She recoiled, making to run away, until Morgan removed his hat and glasses so she could make out his face in the dark. No longer was Marie afraid, but she sure wasn’t impressed to have her hunk of a date replaced by this guy.
“I gotta go,” she said fast, getting up out of her seat and leaving before Morgan even had a chance to speak.
Elsewhere in the theatre, Casey caught the Staff Only door on the back swing and crept in behind an usher who soon disappeared through the next door down that turned out to be a bathroom. Casey pulled his gun from its hiding place and made his way carefully through the halls, hoping not to be seen before he had a chance to find his partner and the asset, and figure out what the hell was going on.
“Walker, Bartowski, talk to me,” he barked the order into the communications device on his watch.
“Casey!” Sarah’s voice came back loud and clear. “Try the blue door, next to the vending machine,” she instructed, and within a moment all three agents were in the same room, the late arrival looking curiously at his team-mates.
“Morgan was sitting two rows back, but thankfully didn’t give us any trouble, then one of the ushers looked like he was acing suspiciously,” explained Sarah from her place at Chuck’s shoulder, as he sat at a lone desk, hammering away on a computer keyboard. “Turns out his only secret is that he sneaks off to make out with his girlfriend in the supply closet.” She rolled her eyes, as Casey looked aggravated and re-holstered his gun.
“So what’s the nerd doing?” he asked, causing Chuck to look quite annoyed.
“Er, the nerd has ears, y’know?” he complained. “And for your information, I’m currently hacking into the staff files and downloading a list of all current employees to hand over to the bosses. What d’ya think of my spy skills now?” He grinned, but Casey remained unmoved.
“Just get the job done, Bartowski,” he snapped. “I’ll make sure our cover’s not completely blown.”
As he turned to leave, Sarah called to him.
“Hit the communicator when you talk to Marie,” she advised. “It’s best we hear the excuses you have to make to her so we can back you up later if she gets suspicious.”
Casey only turned slightly and nodded once to show his agreement before leaving. He made it all the way back to the original ‘staff only’ door without being seen, but didn’t quite make it back to the screening room before running right into his so-called date.
“There you are.” She smiled at the sight of him. “I wasn’t so into the movie, and when you guys didn’t come back...”
“Sarah wasn’t feeling so good,” he lied easily, holding the button down on his watch so Walker and Bartowski would hear, as arranged. “Chuck had to take her home.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” sympathised Marie, though there was something about the way she was trying not to smile that made Casey wonder how sorry she really felt. “Still, I have to admit being alone together could be fun too,” she said in that suggestive tone she only seemed to get when nobody else was around.
“Wish it were possible, Marie,” he said, seemingly lying like a pro as he put a hand to her arm, turning her around and manoeuvring her towards the door, “but unfortunately, I seem to be getting a headache myself, and I have the early shift at the store tomorrow, so maybe I should just take you home...” he suggested.
Marie went along with it, she probably felt she didn’t have much of a choice. Casey almost wished she’d argued, just a little bit.
“We have run the list of staff at the movie theatre through our systems and found no results beyond the usual speeding tickets and a couple of drunk and disorderlies,” Director Graham explained to Team Bartowski as they stood before the screens in Casey’s apartment next morning. “Given that Chuck didn’t flash on anyone or anything whilst there, it’s likely that the original information he saw is now null and void.”
“Well, that’s good, right?” checked the Intersect himself. “I mean, sure, kind of a time waster, but the double-date was cool while it lasted.” He grinned Casey’s way, receiving only a growl in response.
“A double-date?” General Beckman looked unimpressed by the term as the NSA Agent knew she would. “Casey, did you bring a civilian on this mission?”
“Not deliberately, ma’am,” Sarah cut in fast, feeling the need to defend her partner.
After all it was she and Chuck that had fast shuffled him into bringing Marie along, a rash and stupid decision in retrospect, she knew.
“Explain to me how a person goes on a double-date by accident, Agent Walker?” demanded Director Graham, making her swallow hard before she could answer.
“Y’know, sir, ma’am,” came the interruption from Chuck this time, getting between his handlers and the monitors that displayed their bosses. “This was really all my fault, a rookie mistake. I thought it’d be a better cover for Casey to have a date last night, and I should’ve realised that was a dumb idea, and I’m sorry, I really am,” he said, hands held up in apparent surrender.
Graham and Beckman shared a look before turning their attention back to Chuck.
“Since the mission was a false alarm anyway,” he said, “and I trust the young lady in question saw nothing that might arouse any suspicion...”
“She didn’t, sir,” Sarah quickly threw in.
“Fair enough.” Nodded Beckman. “In this case we will proceed no further.”
With that the connection was severed and the screen went black, leaving Team Bartowski alone at last. With a large exhale of breath that was borne almost entirely out of relief, Chuck let his arms drop to his side and turned to face his handlers.
“Well, that wasn’t so bad, right?” he said, looking at Sarah with a hopeful smile and then towards Casey, his grin cracking into a frown all too easily as the agent growled at him.
“You’re an idiot, Bartowski!” he snapped, looking ready to break the boy in two. “You ever pull something like that again, and so help me...”
He didn’t finish the threat, he didn’t have to, Chuck knew exactly what he meant and was adequately quaking with fear as Casey strode away into the next room, slamming the door behind him.
“Seriously, Sarah, help me out here,” said Chuck with a shake of his head. “How in the hell does Marie think Casey is boyfriend material?”
Sarah honestly wished she had an answer to that, but nothing obvious came to mind.
“Hey, Chuck,” said Morgan somewhat coldly as he came into the staff room of the BuyMore and found his so-called friend at the lockers. “How was the double date last night?” he asked.
“Er, like you don’t know, Morgan,” said Chuck cuttingly, lowering his voice so as not to be overhead by the other green shirts milling around and Anna who was sat at the table with a magazine. “You were totally spying on us!” he complained.
“Yeah, well, can you blame me?” his little buddy shot back, attempting to get up on his toes and into Chuck’s face. “You screwed me over, man! You actually set Marie up with Casey!”
Chuck sighed then, feeling less angry now and more sorry for his poor friend. Morgan believed that Chuck himself had landed a hottie like Sarah, and that gave him the confidence and belief that if he tried it with Marie he might get someplace. Of course, the chances were unlikely to impossible, given Miss Clark’s major ass crush on one Major John Casey.
“Morgan, buddy,” he said putting his hands on his friend’s shoulders. “I’d love to tell you that you stand a chance, man, but Marie, she’s just totally head over heels for Casey.” He shook his head. “I wish to God I understood why, and please believe me when I tell you I have no clue, but she likes him and only him,” he explained, at least looking sorry about it, as he made his sympathetic apology and left the room.
“Life is so unfair!” complained Morgan, kicking out at the vending machine in frustration
Since the only people left in the room now were himself and Anna, the girl in question felt free to talk and offer her help. She hated to see Morgan falling all over the BuyMore’s newest employee. Marie Clark thought too much of herself already, as far as Anna could tell, and taking Morgan’s attention away from her was not something she appreciated.
“Y’know, Morgan,” she said getting up from her seat and walking over to him, “you shouldn’t worry so much about getting Marie’s attention,” she told him, reaching out a hand to run her fingers down the length of his arm. “She’s really not worth it.”
“You don’t understand, Anna.” He shook his head as he braced himself against the vending machine looking overdramatically sad. “She was supposed to be my goddess. How can John Casey deserve her?”
“Maybe he doesn’t,” she agreed, moving to lean against the wall facing him, deliberately striking a pose, “but she’s not the only girl in the world, Morgan. She’s not even the only girl in the BuyMore,” she told him in what passed for sultry fashion, though Morgan seemed oblivious.
Anna walked away then, swinging her hips and hoping Morgan was watching her exit. She barely flinched when she realised Jeff and Lester had in fact been eavesdropping, practically falling in through the door the moment she opened it. She only rolled her eyes as she walked away and left the boys alone.
“Oh my God!” declared Lester as he rushed at Morgan and poked him violently in the shoulder. “You are such a moron!”
“I know, I know.” The little bearded man sighed sadly, turning to drop into a seat by the table. “I should’ve made my move with Marie sooner!” he said, slamming one fist into the other hand and immediately regretting the violent action, shaking his fingers to get the feeling back.
“What?” said Lester, before shaking his head. “No, no. Screw Marie!”
“Yes, please!” was Jeff’s response, coupled with a decidedly dirty look, not that anyone was paying attention to the guy who had shoved Morgan aside to get to the sweet treats in the vending machine.
“Grimes, are you blind as well as stupid?” Lester asked him, practically shaking him by the shoulders. “Anna was, without question, coming onto you!” he told him loudly.
Morgan looked confused by those words, as if they’d been spoken in a foreign language. He chuckled at the very concept of someone like Anna finding him attractive, strange when it seemed he had been expecting Marie to like him, and she was equally as hot, though in a different way.
“You’re crazy.” He shook his head. “No way, Anna would never be into me. She hates me!” he declared, though Lester continued to shake his head and Jeff threw in his opinion.
“No, Anna hates me,” he said definitely, biting down hard on his newly-purchased chocolate bar and continuing to talk even when he started to chew on the food. “Pretty sure she’s starting to like you,” he added, firing tiny pieces of chocolate out as he spoke, much to his friends annoyance
Lester winced as he wiped spit from near his eye, shooting Jeff a disgusted look and then turning his attention back to a highly confused Morgan.
“He may be gross, but he is right, my friend,” he told the bearded little man. “It was as if as soon as you started paying attention to Marie, Anna went into some kind of jealous hyperdrive,” he explained. “It’s clear you can’t have the new girl, John Casey has her in some kind of hypnosis...”
“Really?” Jeff spat some more crumbs at his friend. “Wow, I wonder if he’d teach me that...” he wondered aloud, clearly taking Lester’s words far too seriously.
“Marie is gone, taken, no chance with her,” he said, making a cutting motion with his hand, “but Morgan, Anna is available, hotter than the sun, and she’s paying attention to you!”
“Oh my God!” the realisation dawned in Morgan as he really took in what Lester was telling him.
Okay, so he’d missed out on getting it together with Marie, but Anna, she was incredible. He’d been trying to get with her on some level since he started work at the BuyMore and almost given up hope on her. Now it was as if she might actually like him and… and his brain just could not cope with the concept.
“What do I do?” he asked his friends. “I mean, I know what I could do but… this is Anna, man, this is a big deal!”
“It’s okay, Morgan,” Lester assured him with a smile that was less kind and more sinister when you really looked at him. “We’re here to help.”
Never had more frightening words been spoken.
Casey knew he couldn’t avoid Marie forever. They worked in the same place, and as big as the BuyMore was it was pretty easy to hunt somebody down, especially when they were wearing a luminous green shirt! He could’ve tried to switch shifts and ensure he was never around when she was, but it was hard enough balancing his cover job with his actual job of keeping the Intersect safe, hell, that was pretty much a full-time job all on its own!
The point was, any minute now Marie would come creeping up on him, no doubt asking if he was okay after last night and making moon eyes at him. He didn’t mind so much that she liked him, he’d actually got quite used to being adored in such a way and found it was far from a bad feeling. Still, he had to be careful not to let her too close, if only for the sake of keeping his real life under wraps. It was hard enough trying to keep Bartowski from spilling every secret he had in his head.
“Hey, John” that familiar voice behind him told Casey he hadn’t got away this time, and he forced his best attempt at a smile as he turned around to face her.
“Marie,” he greeted her. “I’m a little busy right now,” he said quickly, hoping to get away.
“Oh, I know, and me too,” she told him. “I just wanted to check you were okay, that your headache was gone and all,” she asked, twirling her hair around her finger.
She was somewhere between sweet and innocent, and the flip side of the coin which was far less pure. John Casey was good at reading people, he had to be, but Marie was a whole different story. He tried to take her for what she was, an ordinary young woman who liked a guy and was trying to find the best way to get close to him, alternating between good girl and borderline bad girl in an attempt to figure out what he liked better. It was flattering that she’d go to the trouble but annoying as hell to try and deal with when he had so much else in his life that was already too complicated.
“I’m fine.” He nodded once. “Er, thanks for asking,” he added as an afterthought, not really knowing what else he was supposed to say.
Thankfully, Marie seemed pleased with the response he gave, flashing him a bright smile, before glancing around as if checking no-one was looking at them. Before Casey had a chance to react she was up on her toes, planting a kiss on his cheek.
“Until things went wrong, I was having a great time last night,” she told him. “You ever wanna go out again, well, you know where to find me,” she told him, before turning to walk away.
The base instinct in Casey meant he watched her well-made form walking away from him with a smile on his face. Women were not made to be understood as far as he was concerned, but he wasn’t about to argue with the fact that God knew what he was doing when he made them look the way they did.
Chuck wandered over to the Weinerliscious in kind of a daze. He couldn’t help it, it was the sight of Marie and Casey that was doing this to him on a regular basis. She was just so into the guy, and no matter how comfortable Chuck tried to be with the idea of his handler as boyfriend material for the hottest girl ever to work at a BuyMore, he couldn’t deal. Add to that the fact that even now Marie triggered some kind of synapses in his brain, making him think he ought to know something about her or remember her face somehow, and that left Chuck in brain overload. Hence the very odd look on his face as he wandered into Sarah’s place of work.
“Chuck?” she said, looking worried as he approached the counter without even looking where he was going. “Chuck, are you okay? Did you flash?” she asked quickly and quietly as the only customer in the place finally left.
“Flash?” he echoed as he came to and looked at his pseudo-girlfriend. “Oh no, I didn’t, no crisis, I swear.” He forced a smile. “I was just thinking is all.”
“Well, you shouldn’t think so hard. You’ll hurt yourself,” she joked good-naturedly as she got him a hotdog on the house.
“Maybe,” he said absently, accepting the food she offered him and encouraging her to join him at a table. “Sarah, on a scale of one to ten, how weird do you think it’d be if a spy dated a normal person?” he asked her seriously.
Sarah tried to hide her surprise at the question and quickly and carefully thought of the best answer to give.
“Well, I don’t know, Chuck,” she said eventually, barely meeting his eyes as she continued. “Spy life is hard, and most civilians wouldn’t understand or cope with the life style. Plus before you could tell them the truth you’d have to tell a lot of lies, and so by the time you explained yourself, there’s a chance they’d never trust you again,” she rattled off a million thoughts she’d had on the subject over the years, making Chuck’s head spin some as he listened intently. “I really don’t know if I could deal with it...” She shook her head, taking a breath to continue but unable to do so as she found herself interrupted.
“None of that was really what I asked,” he pointed out before she could ramble any further. “I was talking about a weirdness factor and you’re talking about… Are we still talking about Casey and Marie?” he asked then, feeling as if he’d turned over two pages at once in this conversation.
“Casey and Marie,” she echoed, suddenly realising what a totally stupid mistake she’d made. “Yeah, of course that’s what we’re talking about. Who else?” she asked, shaking her head as she cleared away the empty plates and took them over to the counter.
Her smile failed the moment her back was turned and Chuck could not see her. She had been convinced he was talking about the two of them and what might happen if they got close. When she’d started this mission she considered the idea preposterous, but the more she got to know Chuck Bartowski, the more she couldn’t help but love him. Of course, Sarah was not going to tell him that and hoped the thought would never occur to him. That plan might have worked out better if she hadn’t just practically suggested the very idea herself. Yep, she was a fool.
It took a couple of days for Morgan to really believe what Lester had told him about Anna liking him. Though he had long since given up on getting anywhere with Marie, that didn’t stop him making a big deal about talking to her and hanging around her when she was there at the BuyMore for her shift. He stood no chance at all next to a guy like John Casey and he wasn’t fool enough to believe he did, but playing up to Marie would certainly get Anna’s attention, if she really was jealous.
Of course, trying to look as if he were still interested in Marie whilst keeping an eye on the only female Nerd Herder was far from easy, and though he got the feeling that the looks Anna was sending his way were at least a little suggestive of jealousy and interest both, Morgan refused to make a move. He could do nothing without first getting the opinion of his good buddy, Chuck. Unfortunately, the guy hadn’t been around much today, out on an install apparently, but he’d been gone for hours. Having returned just two minutes before, Morgan chased after Chuck straight into the home theatre room where he found his friend sat on the couch with his head in his hands.
“Hey, Chuck!” he came in yelling, closing the door behind him. “I need to... hey, you okay?” he stopped and checked the moment he noticed something might be wrong. “You look kinda wiped.”
“It’s been a long day,” said Chuck tiredly. “I was just taking a minute to myself before I head home... it’s fine,” he said, forcing a smile.
The mission he’d just returned from had given him more than a headache with too many multiple flashes and a very close call with the business end of a terrorist’s gun. Thankfully that was all over now but more stress lie ahead as Sarah, his pseudo-girlfriend who he was actually already kind of in love with, was going out to dinner with himself, Ellie and Awesome tonight. God, he hated lying to them.
“So, I need to ask you something,” Morgan rambled on in the way he was wont to do no matter what the situation. “Lester and Jeff have this theory that Anna might kind of have a thing for yours truly.” he smiled in cocky fashion even when Chuck looked amused by the very suggestion.
“Are you serious?” he checked. “I mean, Morgan, she always acts like she hates you.” He shook his head. “In fact, hasn’t she actually said, ‘Morgan, I hate you,’ on more than one occasion?”
“This is true.” His buddy nodded once. “But, see, things changed when Marie walked in here. Chuck, I got all swept up in her beauty and her eyes and those legs and...” He shook his head to force himself out of the mini daze that had come over him. “Thing is, since then, Anna has been acting, I dunno, kinda starey and different, like nice to me and stuff, and maybe even jealous,” he explained. “So I was thinking, should I go for it? With Anna, I mean?”
Chuck opened his mouth, meaning to answer the question, but not really knowing where to begin. Thankfully he was saved from the awkwardness by a tapping on the door and Marie walking in, looking worried.
“Hey, Chuck.” She forced a smile. “I was wondering if you’d seen John?” she asked the worry returning to her features then. “I haven’t seen him in a couple of days and I was positive we had the same shift today...”
“Oh, right, yeah.” Chuck snapped his fingers and pointed. “Y’know what, you’re right, you did, but...er... see, Casey said something came up and he needed to switch shifts so he won’t be around until, like, tomorrow, I think,” he rambled through what he meant to say, hoping it sounded right.
With all the stuff in his head, real facts and cover stories and missions and the Intersect and all, it was hard to keep track of who was supposed to know what these days.
“Huh,” was Marie’s initial response, looking disappointed. “You think he’s avoiding me?” she asked, making Chuck feel bad for the poor girl.
Here she was, a total babe, could have any guy in the BuyMore, hell, probably in the whole of Burbank, even the whole of the US, and she wanted John Casey. It was like Mission Impossible times a thousand to get that guy to admit he was human, never mind show an emotion. Even if he did like Marie there was little to no chance he’d tell her that.
“I’m sure Casey meant to tell you he wouldn’t be around today,” said Chuck as he got up to move past Marie and leave. “He’s just... a complicated guy,,” he said in explanation, not sure what else he could say to be honest.
“Hey, Chuck, what about me?!” Morgan called behind his friend, getting up to run after him.
Marie watched them go and sighed. She didn’t care what these people said. Seemed to her that John Casey was trying to avoid her, and if there was one thing Marie Clark would not stand for it was being ignored.
It was late in the evening, and for once Casey got a night off. Chuck’s latest flash had led them on a dangerous mission that meant ditching the BuyMore in order to clear up the admin that followed. However, with that done and no more intel coming across from the bosses, there was really nothing left for him to do, not even keep watch over Bartowski since he was on a double date with Sarah, Ellie, and Devon tonight.
There wasn’t a lot of downtime in Casey’s job and despite the fact he loved what he did for a living, it was nice to get a little space and time to do his own thing once in a while. He’d just settled down into his recliner with a stiff drink and a cigar, got the lighter halfway to his face when some idiot knocked on his door.
For a few seconds, Casey thought about ignoring it, but there was no telling who it might be. Sure, it could be one of his stupid neighbours asking to borrow a cup of sugar, or that bearded freak Grimes trying to track down Chuck. On the other hand, there was every chance it was actually somebody important in an official government capacity, with a solo mission for him to undertake.
Getting up from his chair, Casey abandoned his drink and smoke on the table and moved over to the door with some caution. Checking the in-built screen to see who was there, he sighed when he realised it was only Marie. She wasn’t a threat but she wasn’t someone he would easily be able to get rid of either, which didn’t exactly thrill him at all. Of course, when he actually opened the door and bothered to take a proper a look at the woman, and moreover what she was wearing, the base emotion in him said maybe he didn’t want her to leave anyway.
“Hey, John,” said Marie in sultry fashion as she stood there in his doorway in a figure hugging little black dress and heels, one hand occupied by a bottle of decent wine, and the other flipping brunette waves over her shoulder.
“Marie,” he replied, not sure exactly how he was going to play this, trying to stay neutral and non-agenty even as he asked his next question. “How’d you know where I live?”
“I may have done a little snooping at work,” she admitted with an almost shy smile that did not belong on her face right now, given the way the rest of her looked.
She had a hell of a body, Casey had been aware of that from day one, but he saw a lot of well-built women in his line of work and figured he’d got a little immune to it. Of course, it was a whole different situation when these women turned up on your doorstep in very deliberately alluring clothes and with alcohol in their hand. He didn’t have to be an agent to see the signs of a seduction being set up. Now came the question, did he mind being seduced?
“So, you gonna invite me in?” she asked after a long moment of almost awkward silence.
“Come in.” He nodded once, stepping aside and giving her plenty of room to walk by.
Of course, that didn’t stop her from letting her body slide against his as she came into the apartment and looked around some. Casey was only glad she hadn’t shown up a half hour earlier when he was cleaning his guns or checking up on Chuck via his hi-tech listening equipment. That might have been a little tough to explain to a civilian like her.
“Y’know, I keep getting this feeling, John,” she told him as he closed the door and followed her into the living room, getting one step behind her and suddenly finding she’d turned around to look back at him; it left the two of them incredibly close. “I feel like you might be avoiding me,” she explained as she looked up at him through her long lashes. “Why would you do that?”
“I’m not,” he told her, keeping his self-control for now at least, as he had been taught as an agent. “I’ve just been busy lately and...”
“And ever since we went out to the movies you’ve been busy,” she pointed out. “We didn’t even get to see the whole thing.”
“I had a headache,” he reminded her, knowing how dumb that sounded even in his own head but it was the excuse he had made and not sticking to it would only mean he had to come up with an even more elaborate lie - right now it didn’t seem worth it.
She laughed like a bell at that, moving away to sit down on the arm of his leather recliner, crossing her legs just so.
“And here was me thinking that was a woman’s excuse not to... participate,” she said slyly, making Casey wonder on the moment outside the BuyMore, right after Bartowski and Walker fast-shuffled him into the very date she spoke of.
Marie had said something then about being a bad girl if that was what he wanted. It had stunned him then, though he hadn’t shown it, and made him wonder how much of the sweet giggly girl he saw at the BuyMore was a front for the woman that lie underneath. She seemed to be neither one thing nor the other so completely, but one thing was clear. Whichever side of her personality was out to play, she always wanted him. Casey wasn’t quite so sure what to do with that.
“I’ll find a corkscrew and glasses,” he said with a slight nod towards the bottle of wine she’d parked on the coffee table.
So much for a quiet night in, he thought, as he headed into the kitchenette, although it seemed that was just what Marie had in mind. Casey wasn’t sure that going through with this, spending the night with her, was really fair, and yet in had been a long time and it wasn’t as if she wasn’t very willing apparently.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he heard her say behind him and turned to see her stood there, head tilted as she observed him. “It’s kind of sudden, I know. We haven’t known each other that long and I guess I can come off as kind of intense,” she admitted, handing him the bottle of wine that she’d brought with her and watching as he worked to get the cork out. “It’s just, I know what I want, John. Is there really anything wrong with that?” she asked in earnest. “A woman who knows what she wants and how to get it...” she said, popping open the first of three fasteners that kept the top of her dress closed across her chest, just at the moment the cork popped out of the bottle of wine.
When she walked carefully backwards into the room, Casey followed without even thinking about it much. Usually everything was so precise in his head, so calculated. Every move, every shot, every word. He never lost control, never felt anything, never allowed himself to give in. Unfortunately for him, he was fighting the laws of nature right now, going against man’s base instincts if he thought he could resist such a temptation.
So much for the bottle of wine, that was easily abandoned on the table and forgotten as he stood before Marie, looking up at him with bright emerald eyes that shone with a want that he hadn’t seen directed at him in years. His brain ran with a million thoughts that came all at once, including what an idiot he must be to be stood here wondering what to do next when it was so damn obvious. Doing the right thing was what he lived for, but once in a while that right thing had to be for you alone, forget everybody else.
It was perhaps the last truly coherent thought Casey bothered to have before his arm went around right around Marie’s waist pulling her to him and kissing her long and hard.
She seemed surprised only for a moment that he had acted so suddenly, and quickly fell into the moment she’d waited too long for. Fingers sought out fasteners and ran through hair as they stumbled past furniture and he landed unceremoniously in his recliner with her body on top of his. She giggled briefly at the way they landed but was serious again in a moment as she caught his gaze and put her lips to his once more.
Marie had been in two minds about how far to go with this tonight. She needed to show John she would not be pushed aside and ignored, wanted him to believe how much she felt for him. This was perhaps not the most romantic of ways to be together, but she’d go with it because Heaven help her she didn’t want this to end.
Unfortunately, through a haze of passion, both Marie and Casey heard the beeping of an alarm in the distance, and though she seemed willing to ignore the phone, watch, doorbell, whatever the hell it was in favour of seeking out further pleasure, he was not so willing. He was polite enough to excuse himself, but not so much that he didn’t pretty much throw the woman aside in order to get out of the chair and practically run away.
Marie had barely got her breath when he returned a moment later and announced he had to go out, so she would have to leave.
“I don’t understand.” She shook her head as she watched him re-fasten the shirt she had deftly undone a moment ago and almost had completely off when the interruption had occurred. “I thought...”
“Yeah, sorry,” he said quickly. “I have to go, it’s a... friend of mine,” he said, knowing damn well he couldn’t tell her the real truth and that at least this was only a twist on it rather than a lie. “He’s in some trouble, needs me to get him out of a jam,” he said with a forced smile as he practically pushed Marie out of the door. “Maybe some other time,” he added as he closed the door in her face before she could say another word or ask another question.
Leaning his back against the closed door a moment, Casey took a deep breath and collected himself before rushing back into agent mode. Losing himself with Marie was more than pleasant, way more in fact, but he had a job to do. Of course when he’d finished saving Bartowki’s life, he was going to have to kill him for this, at least he was going to make the dumb kid think so!
Seething, Casey grabbed up his gun and hurried out the back door to save the day... again!
“Something is not right here!” said Casey definitely as he stormed in through his apartment door with a face like thunder.
Sarah and Chuck were quick to follow, closing the door behind them as they followed their team-mate inside. They had to agree with his sentiment if not his anger. Something was not right at all, though what exactly the problem was they’d yet to discover.
On their double-date with Ellie and Awesome, Chuck had alerted Sarah to the fact he’d flashed on a waiter at the restaurant as he clocked off his shift. Convinced something was wrong, the pair had made an excuse and headed off after the guy, deciding to call Casey when things appeared to get serious. The car they were tailing drove erratically and too fast to its destination as Sarah fought to control the Nerd Herder and get it where she needed it to be.
Casey took a different route and caught up to the chase just as it ended. The team were stunned to realise this man who had seemed suspicious was nothing more than a late arrival to his parents anniversary party. A background check showed his reason for being in the Intersect; he had once been a potential candidate for the CIA when in college, but the officials had changed their minds when he developed a problem with drugs. Seemed he was well over that now, and Chuck’s flash had been somewhat of a garbled message that meant no problem tonight.
Of course, that now counted as two ‘rogue’ flashes for want of a better term. Two false alarms recently that had meant mobilising Team Bartowski for nothing. One was weird, two was either a serious coincidence or something far more sinister than they ever suspected was going on.
“All I know is every time I go on a date now, something crazy seems to be happening... only it’s not,” said Chuck thoughtfully as he pulled his jacket from over his shoulder and flung it over the back of a vacant chair.
“Yeah, ‘cause that’s the latest international terrorist plot; screw up Bartowski’s fake love life” sneered Casey in his usual way, pleased with the barb he’d thrown for a few moments til Sarah spoke.
“What if it is?” she asked, making her fellow agent frown. “Not literally,” she clarified, “but Casey, think about this a minute. Two false alarms in a week, that can’t just be a coincidence,” she said, catching Chuck’s attention too by now. “Look...” she said, picking up a marker pen and drawing a vertical line down the centre of a piece of paper on the table. “That trip to the movie theatre was a bust,” she said, writing ‘movie theatre’ as a column heading, “and tonight was yet another false alarm at the restaurant,” she went on, writing ‘restaurant’ at the top of the second column.
Sarah then began to add facts under each heading, like location of the places, what Chuck flashed on, even the dates and times of the incidents.
“Anything you can think of that I missed?” she asked, looking to Chuck on her left then Casey to her right. “Anything about the guy that dropped the movie ticket stub, Chuck? Any little details? And Casey, where were you tonight when we called? Did you get any other messages? See anyone hanging around?”
“Er, the guy came in for me to fix his laptop.” the Asset recalled. “It was an easy fix, I screwed the back on, handed it back, he said thanks and walked away... Oh I remember thinking he was kind of a perv, ‘cause when Marie came over to borrow a pen, he was totally checking her out when she leant over the counter, and hello, he was old enough to be like her grandfather!” he declared as Casey’s expression got extra serious. “Oh, but it was fine, he wasn’t moving in on your woman or anything...” Chuck added quickly, mindful of possibly getting hit in the face by his handler.
“Shut up!” he commanded before moving his gaze to a confused Sarah. “Marie’s the connection,” he told her as realisation dawned. “All this started when she showed up at the BuyMore,” he went on to explain. “She was there a second before this guy dropped the movie ticket, the same guy who didn’t turn back when Bartowski called after him.”
“Are you saying maybe Marie planted the ticket so Chuck would see it after this guy walked away?” asked Sarah, wondering how he came to such a conclusion.
“Maybe.” He nodded once. “Think about it, she was all over me at the movie theatre, didn’t want me to follow you when you went after the supposed threats,” he went on, “and tonight...”
“Tonight?” Chuck echoed when Casey stopped mid-sentence. “What happened tonight? Was Marie here?” he asked, not sure whether he found that more weird or amusing really.
“What if she was a decoy? A distraction to stop me coming when you called?” he asked, making Sarah put the lid back on her marker and twist the pen thoughtfully in her hands.
“But if she set up a false alarm why would she want to distract you?” she asked seriously, before her expression changed. “How exactly was she trying to distract you?” she asked then, a smirk invading her lips that she just couldn’t help.
“How do you think, Walker?” he asked her with a look. “The old-fashioned way,” was all the explanation he would give, though it was clear what he meant. “I’m not saying I have all the answers in this,” he said snippily, “but something weird is going on and it all comes back to her,” he pointed a finger definitely at the page where Sarah had Marie’s name written
“It’s almost as if she’s testing us,” his fellow agent replied thoughtfully, “or maybe just you, Casey.”
“One thing’s for certain,” he said definitely, “I think we can rule out the fact she’s just some random civilian who makes BuyMore green look hot.” The comment came out without his really processing the thought, he knew it the moment Chuck started grinning. “You talk, Bartowski, I’ll take your head clean off,” he threatened, and Chuck’s hands were immediately up in surrender.
“Not a word,” he promised.
Though it almost killed Chuck on the inside not make some comment in the region of ‘Casey’s in love’ or ‘Casey and Marie sitting in a tree’, he knew he would be dead for real if he didn’t keep his mouth zipped tight shut on the subject.
“Okay,” Sarah’s voice called attention back to the matter at hand and thankfully stopped Casey from glaring at Chuck until he cried or something. “We suspect Marie of suspicious activity. We need to start by running her name through...”
“Already done,” her partner told her sharply. “There’s nothing.”
Sarah stopped a moment thinking on what Casey had just said. Had he run a background check on Marie because she might be a danger to the Asset, just like every other person at the BuyMore, or did he want to ensure she was safe and legit before he let himself like her? The second one seemed unlikely, so did the first in some ways since Casey made his dislike for Chuck abundantly clear. Still, there was no time for wondering too long on such things right now.
“Then we bring her in, question her,” she suggested. “It’s the only way to know for sure what’s happening here, and we can’t afford to wait too long. She could easily compromise the Asset, or worse disappear before we get a chance to figure out exactly who or what she is,” she explained, as Casey nodded his agreement.
Chuck was by now barely listening, and instead checking out the pictures on Casey’s wall and his bonsai that was always an intriguing addition to the decor.
“I could lend her my watch,” he said absently, a semi-joke accompanied by an almost painful laugh, “you always know where I am,” it was just this side of a complaint and a criticism, but his subtle tone was hardly noticeable to his handlers who were only listening to the words he said.
“Congratulations, Bartwoski,” said Casey, stunning Chuck to the core as he turned and looked back at the other guy. “You just had your first smart idea.” He grinned in such a way as to make Chuck even more nervous than when his handler was glaring and growling.
For her part, Sarah just looked confused, but apparently Casey had some kind of plan. She trusted him enough to believe that it would work if nothing else.
Marie headed for break room in a hurry. Sneaking off five minutes before her shift ended had its risks, but at least the room was almost guaranteed to be empty. She could be in and out without incident, or so she hoped. Unfortunately, it seemed her plan was not going to run as smoothly as she thought, and she realised it the moment she opened the door.
“Oh!” She was genuinely stunned to be met by the sight of two pairs of legs flailing around in front of her, and even more overwhelmed to realise that this was not just two random co-workers but Morgan and Anna, making out on the table. “I’m sorry, I...” she began, turning away, trying not to laugh at the whole ridiculous situation.
“Marie!” Morgan was yelling as he untangled himself from Anna and left her still sprawled on the table as he fought to tuck his shirt back into his pants. “This is not what it looks like. I mean, this just happened recently, very recent, today actually, like a half hour ago...” he rambled on, as Marie peeked back into the room, looking suitably awkward. “I was not with her when I was... when you and I...” he tried to explain, waving his hands in random gestures that meant little or nothing to anyone else.
“Morgan!” Anna interrupted him as she appeared at his side, indignant and clearly mad at him. “You and her were never together!” she said, shooting Marie a sneer. “Why are you apologising?” she said with some disgust.
Marie was about to open her mouth and say she couldn’t care less what was going on, and back up the shorter girl in what she was saying, but she never quite got the chance.
“I don’t know, I just...” the little bearded guy began, stopping just as fast as he began when his newly-found girlfriend stalked past him and Marie, and flew out of the door.
Only a moments deliberation followed before Morgan went after her, calling her name and asking her to wait. He was such an idiot, and he knew it. It had taken too long for him to realise Anna was into him and today it had been all but miraculous when he tried to talk to her about it and they ended up making out. Now it seemed as if he’d screwed it up again, and he hated that he could be such a fool.
Marie honestly couldn’t care less about the whole situation. She wasn’t blind, of course. She knew Grimes had been trying to get with her from Day One, but that was never going to happen. He was far removed from her type and she would be way too much for him to handle anyhow.
With a smile on her face, the unlikely BuyMore employee shook her head, pushing the door all but closed behind her. Now she was alone and she needed to concentrate. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done as she turned to the locker that bore her name and got another surprise.
“What do we have here?” she said to herself, frowning slightly at the envelope taped to her locker door.
Removing said envelope, she turned it over and opened it up, smiling slightly as she pulled out a pretty gold pendant on a long chain, and a note:
So sorry we got interrupted last night, it was unavoidable.
I hope the necklace is to your taste. I know it doesn’t change the fact I ran out on you but I have an idea about that.
Come to my place, tonight at 8 - I’ll make it up to you.
“What’s a girl to do?” Marie smiled to herself as she pushed the note into her pocket and fastened the gold chain around her neck. The heart-shaped pendant glittered under the fluorescent lights and she felt a strange sensation got through her as she thought about what could happen tonight. She had plans of her own, but they could be sacrificed for John Casey’s sake. She was almost certain he could make it more than worth her while.
Casey turned around to survey the state of his apartment. He had the perfect set-up, the ultimate plan for tonight. God only knew exactly who or what Marie Clarke was, but he planned to be in on the secret before the night was out. The lighting in the room was purposefully romantic, all ‘spy gadgets’ as Bartowski called them expertly hidden from view. Marie could not be at all suspicious of anything here, and given the way she’d been acting last night, Casey had no doubts at all she would show up and be a willing participant in his fake seduction.
No sooner had he checked the clock and noted it was 8:01 than there was a light tapping on his front door; it was show time.
Beyond the door, Marie was ready for whatever this night brought, looking as hot as the night before and yet playing just a little more coy, Casey noticed as he opened the door and looked her over.
“Hi.” She smiled, one hand very deliberately going to the chain that hung around her neck.
“You found my gift,” he said somewhat pointlessly but she didn’t seem to mind - he was sure she wouldn’t.
“Yes, thank you.” She nodded. “But you should know, I thought about not showing up tonight,” she told him, eyes going to the ground as she seemed a great deal more sweet and shy than twenty-four hours before when she’d been practically ripping his clothes off.
“But you’re here,” he said, moving aside from the door and hoping to encourage her inside, not that it really mattered if she didn’t.
What Marie couldn’t possibly know was that the little trinket around her neck that she seemed to like so much was so much more than a piece of heart-shaped gold. Inside, it held a microchip, similar to the one that lived in Chuck’s watch. That chip emitted a signal, a GPS signal that could be tracked no matter where she ran too. Of course, despite her considering the fact she might do that, she’d changed her mind and showed up. Casey wasn’t sure whether to be disappointed on missing out on a possible car chase, or grateful for another chance to get up close and personal with a beautiful woman.
“You’re a tough man to turn down, John Casey.” She slowly shook her head as she stepped into the apartment, keeping her back to him until he’d closed the door. “I guess, in the end, my coming here was inevitable,” she said with a sigh as she dropped her purse into the chair and turned around to face him.
“You know I didn’t exactly invite you here to talk,” he told her, leaning back against the closed door, waiting to see what she did next before he reacted.
There was a beat before a smile curved her lips and she spoke again.
“All I wanted to hear,” she told him, clearing the space between them in two small steps and crushing her lips to his.
Marie had meant what she said, she had other plans for tonight and she seriously had considered not showing up. Now she knew exactly why she had come to change her mind as she found herself wrapped completely in the arms of a real man that earned that title fully and completely. She’d known a few guys in her life that knew how to please a woman, but John Casey had her losing herself already and all he’d done so far was kiss her.
Casey himself had to force his mind to stay alert and keep his mind on the job at hand, not an easy task when a gorgeous young woman was throwing herself into really getting someplace with him. Marie was a hell of a woman and she knew exactly what she was doing. Far from the sweet little act she pulled at the BuyMore to get around Big Mike or encourage the other male staff members to do her a favour, she was all woman who knew what she wanted right now, and what she wanted was him. Casey hadn’t got a chance like this in a good long while, and despite his attempts to be a professional, he couldn’t help but make the most of the situation. After all, he couldn’t blow his cover, he had to be convincing, and he had no better way of doing that than throwing himself full force into the moment.
Chuck’s eyes were wide as saucers as he stared at the viewing screen. As if watching Casey and Marie dance around each other at the store hadn’t been weird enough, now he just felt both strange and dirty watching what passed for porn in his eyes. Of course, this was part of a mission, all professional and everything, but that didn’t make Chuck any more comfortable seeing his fellow BuyMoreian wrapping her legs around the waist of his usually angry handler as they kissed and grabbed at each other’s clothing.
“Chuck, could you please be an adult.” Sarah sighed, rolling her eyes at his behaviour.
He was wincing as if pained, watching the screen only through half-shut eyes and shifting the headphones awkwardly on his head as moans and sighs came over the frequency. Sarah herself appeared unmoved as she glanced between the screen and the Asset. This was just another day at the office for a CIA agent, feeling next to nothing as she saw her agent partner do his job. She would admit to a little surprise that Casey was so good at this, she had heard he failed seduction school several times. Now she was wondering how the hell that happened as the couple before her eyes continued their making out, Casey expertly manoeuvring Marie towards the bedroom down the hall. She was in no way protesting, which made Sarah wonder on the brunette’s intentions. They had suspected her of being trouble, it was possible that was true and why she was going along with this, but as things went further, as far as the bedroom in fact, Sarah would have expected her to make some kind of attack.
One thing was for certain, much like Casey, they knew Marie couldn’t be packing any weapons. Guns, knives, anything of the kind would have been found by now, given all the places his hands had been on her body, and hers on his truth be told. Chuck had been trying to focus on these important facts, think about this whole situation as an agent would. He lost hold of that concentration and professionalism all over again as he heard what it was that Marie whispered in Casey’s ear that practically made his eyes roll up.
“Oh, no!” the Asset gasped, throwing the headphones off, practically convulsing in disgust. “I cannot hear that,” he said definitely. “Not when she’s saying it to Casey, that is just wrong Sarah!”
The blonde beside him couldn’t help but smirk as she pulled her own headphones down to hang around her neck.
“C’mon, Chuck.” She smiled. “You’re a man of the world, you never heard a woman say that before?” she was clearly teasing him, and he wasn’t amused by it.
“That’s not the point,” he said snippily. “Spying is one thing, but not when it’s like this. I mean, would you be comfortable saying that to a me... to a guy,” he quickly amended, “knowing that Casey was watching and listening in?”
Sarah tried to ignore the change he’d made to his sentence and focus on the point of the question. She thought about reminding Chuck that her fellow agent most likely had heard and seen pretty much everything they’d done, under cover or otherwise, but that had the potential to make matters worse.
“It’s just the job, Chuck,” she told him instead, “and right now we don’t have time to talk about this,” she said with a more serious look as she concentrated her eyes back on the view screen, specifically on the shot of the bedroom where Casey and Marie continued to get up close and personal.
Now was the moment they’d been waiting for.
Marie was hardly aware of her surroundings anymore, though she had been doing her level-best to concentrate. John Casey had a way of overwhelming a woman and it was all she could do to remember her own name right now as she was suddenly lowered onto his bed. His shirt had been abandoned somewhere between the front door and here, hers was undone but still on up to now. She had a feeling he was about to remedy that as he eased her arms from around his back and pushed them above her head. Marie’s eyes fell shut of their own accord once again at the feel of his lips against her skin. She was losing herself again, at least for a moment, until the feel of cold metal against her wrists and the all too familiar clicking sound of handcuffs brought her back to reality with a thud. She hid her surprise well, at least she hoped so as she looked up at John Casey hovering over her.
“If I’d known this was your deal, I’d’ve come a little better prepared,” she told him with a dirty look that almost made him forget what he was doing here.
Still when Marie moved to kiss him again, Casey backed off, getting up of the bed before he did something really dumb. Now she knew this wasn’t the kind of game she’d hand in mind; she really was busted.
“Don’t go anywhere,” he told her, an almost nasty joke delivered with a smirk as Casey backed out of the room.
The second he was gone, Marie’s face hardened and she took a deep breath, stealing herself against the pain that came next. She contorted her body, forced one hand against the other and increased pressure until the bone in her wrist finally gave with an audible click. Fighting the urge to yell, she expertly slid out of the handcuffs that held her down to the headboard of the bed.
Leaving her purse in the living room had been a foolish move, she knew that now, but it was too late for regrets. She just had time to scramble to her feet, still on the bed, before Casey came rushing back in, now with his shirt back on but not fastened, Sarah at his side and Chuck hovering behind them.
“Wow,” said Marie, holding her hands up some as she found herself at the business end of two guns. “This is getting kinkier by the second, John,” she joked as she hopped down to the floor and pulled the zipper of her skirt back up from half way down, apparently not caring so much that her chest, clad in a black lacy affair, was still on display.
“Hands on your head!” demanded Sarah, and though Marie complied it was with a sigh and an eye-roll, not a hint of fear.
“Guys, chill out,” she told them. “I’m on your side, mostly anyway,” she explained vaguely. “You think maybe somebody could get my purse for me, I left it in the chair in the next room.” She removed one hand from her head just briefly to gesture out through the door.
“You’re not pulling that crap with us,” warned Casey. “You tell us who and what you are before I...”
“Before you what, John?” she asked him with an amused look. “Y’know, you probably stood better chance getting answers out of me the other way.” She gave him a look that Chuck was sure he’d never seen outside of a porn movie, and really wasn’t very comfortable seeing now since it was aimed at Casey!
“Enough!” demanded Sarah. “Answer the question, who are you?” she said firmly, cocking her gun and really meaning business apparently.
“Okay, okay.” Marie shrugged. “I guess it’s time to come clean, but Graham and Beckman are not gonna be happy about this.” She sighed, making all three members of Team Bartowski look beyond shocked. “Yeah, I’m CIA,” she confessed. “I’m a Trouble Shooter.”
“Like I said,” repeated Marie, now tied to a wooden chair in the living room of Casey’s apartment and still with Sarah’s gun trained on her. “I’m a Trouble Shooter. Chuck should understand that term better than most, I guess,” she remarked with a shrug. “Being the computer guy and all.”
Casey sat at the table, not even looking at the suspect as he was now calling her in his head, as he went through the contents of her purse, checking the validity of the ID she carried and such, finding she had indeed been carrying a badge and gun that proved some of what she said.
“A trouble shooter, like the software,” considered Chuck as he stared at the now fully dressed woman before him. “Asks a series of questions, eliminating all the possibilities, trying to solve a problem from every angle,” he rattled off, causing Sarah to take her eye off Marie a moment to glance at her fake-boyfriend.
“Solve a problem,” she echoed. “What problem would you be here to solve?” she checked.
“I don’t know exactly, I never do,” admitted Marie. “All I know is the mission I’m given. I came here because the CIA wanted to make sure they could trust the NSA’s man,” she admitted, catching Casey’s attention now even if she hadn’t before. “Yeah, they weren’t so sure about you.” She smiled playfully as he looked her way.
“You were testing Casey, pushing him to his limits,” said Sarah, feeling she was understanding this now, and letting her guard down just a little as she sat down on the arm of the couch Chuck was occupying, still with her gun ready in her hand.
“I had to make sure nothing was distracting him, that nothing could,” explained Marie. “A couple of times in the past there have been problems with his concentration when it came to women stealing his attention...”
“That’s crap!” cut in Casey, clearly not happy at his work ethic being questioned, especially since it was making Chuck want to laugh at him.
“I don’t make the rules.” Marie would have raised her arms in surrender if not for the fact she was tied to the chair at her upper arms, therefore only the portion from her elbows down came up slightly.
“Ouch,” remarked Chuck as he caught sight of the underside of her left arm, the bruise forming at her wrist already turning every colour of the rainbow.
“It’s nothing,” she lied, tough spy exterior firmly in place despite the fact she was most likely screaming inside from the pain, both Sarah and Casey were sure of it.
She seemed to be honest enough, the story she told was plausible and the ID she carried appeared to be genuine. Neither agent had any reason to doubt her right now and it wasn’t as if she could do much with two of them armed and ready, and her wearing a GPS tracker.
“I’ll get some ice,” offered Sarah, holstering her gun in the back of her pants and getting up to go to the kitchen.
“Hey, I have a question,” said Chuck, raising his hand as if in class, “If you’re CIA, how come we didn’t know?” he asked curiously, mindful of mentioning his identity as the Intersect and his ability to ‘flash’.
After all, Marie had suggested she didn’t really know who or what he was, only that she was sent here with the mission of testing Casey. He didn’t like the idea of giving her more info than she already had, even if she was just exactly who she claimed to be.
“That was another part of the test, so they tell me,” she explained. “Bosses said you guys had extensive resources, access to records that nobody else does.” She shook her head, a sign she knew precisely no more or less than what she was telling them. “I was taken out of all the government records, my identity totally deleted. Not just me, but all the agents they switched to the department, all the Trouble Shooters,” she explained, stopping to spare a grateful smile at Sarah as she wrapped a dishtowel packed with ice around her painful wrist. “If you guys couldn’t ID me, which you couldn’t, that meant the delete was permanent, no trace left behind.”
Sarah looked at Casey then but he didn’t meet her eyes, just kept staring at Marie as she shifted awkwardly against her bonds and clearly tried to ignore the pain at her wrist. As crazy as it seemed, the blonde could’ve sworn Casey was actually developing feelings for Marie. Maybe not love, she wondered if he was quite capable of that, but definitely feelings of some kind, a weird mix of lust and affection perhaps.
“Okay,” said Casey too suddenly, making all three other people in the room look at him oddly.
He was up and across the room in a second, undoing the bonds that held Marie still, eliciting a sigh of relief as she could finally move her body.
“Do we think this is a good idea?” said Chuck, quietly but with panic evident in his tone as he scooted along the couch some as if to hide behind Sarah.
“Relax, Chuck,” Marie told him as she stood up and bent her body one way then the other, one hand still holding the ice to her opposite wrist. “Right now I wouldn’t be great in a fight, not until this heals some,” she complained, her purple arm still throbbing tremendously. “You hear about this handcuff escape theory, but having tested it? So not worth it!” she complained. “Considering I was pretty sure you were not gonna shoot me,” she said to Casey who only sneered.
Marie tried not to laugh at his attitude. The guy got played and he didn’t like it, she couldn’t understand that. It didn’t thrill her to be busted, but she was a woman and she could take it. Men and their delicate egos, you had to love them. He thought he got himself a woman, now he was proven wrong as she was all a set up just to screw him over. Yeah, Marie couldn’t blame the guy for being pissed about that, she was pretty frustrated about the way this evening had gone herself. For a while there she actually thought she was gonna get some - it really had been too long.
“What are you doing?” asked Sarah, snapping Marie from her thoughts as she looked to the blonde, then back at Casey as he stood before the large television screen on the other side of the room.
“Getting the answers we need once and for all,” he snapped.
“Y’know a few more hours and this would’ve been over anyway.” Marie sighed, looking towards Sarah and Chuck now as Casey attempted to get his superiors on the feed. “My report is almost done, I had plans to be gone tomorrow,” she explained, as Chuck peered around Sarah just in time to see the screen flash and flicker, and finally connect to a picture of General Beckman and Director Graham as it so often did.
“Major Casey,” his boss greeted him. “Can we make this brief, I have a meeting in ten minutes.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The agent nodded once, practically standing to attention, as he always did. “Might have a situation here, just checking that Marie Clarke is who she says she is.”
“Sir. Ma’am.” The supposed-agent he spoke of suddenly appeared at his side, nodding her greeting to the pair on the screen. “It seems my cover has become compromised, I’m afraid I had to confess all.”
“You did a good job, Clarke,” the CIA Director told her as she took a moment to look proud of her work.
“Yes, indeed,” agreed Beckman. “Though there is one detail I’m unclear on.” She frowned, picking up a sheaf of papers from the desk and pushing it towards the camera lens. “We received your report early this morning, Agent Clarke,” she pointed out. “What exactly are you still doing there in Burbank?” she asked, one eyebrow raised as Marie fought every expression that desperately wanted to show on her face, especially when Casey turned to glare at her.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, sir,” she apologised genuinely. “Let’s just say I... got an offer I couldn’t refuse,” she said with a half a smile as she shifted her eyes to glance Casey’s way.
Even he couldn’t quite manage to look mad at the sound of those words.
Since they now knew who she was and how come she was leaving so suddenly, Marie got a chance to say a proper goodbye to Team Bartowski, not a situation she often found herself in given the nature of her work. Now properly dressed and with her wrist bound up to ease the pain, the Trouble Shooter faced the three people she had spent the past couple of weeks fooling.
“So, I guess this is it,” she said, adjusting the strap of her purse on her shoulder. “What can I say, Chuck? Sarah? It’s been fun.” She shrugged, offering to shake hands with one and then the other.
“What happens with the BuyMore, and your job and everything?” asked the Nerd Herder, still so oblivious to how all this spy stuff worked after only a few months of having to deal with it so far.
“I left a note on Big Mike’s desk,” explained Marie. “Big tearful affair about how I have to leave, go back where I came from, take care of a dying relative... least I think that’s the story I used this time,” she said after a moment’s thought. “Whatever!” She waved her hand in an uncaring gesture, then turned to face Casey who was quite clearly trying to look bored.
Marie couldn’t help but smile. The guy thought he was so damn smart, and it was true, he was, but she could see through him. Yeah, he’d played her tonight and she’d fallen hook, like and sinker for it, but she wasn’t so stupid. She knew he’d been feeling it too, just the same as her. If he hadn’t loved his job so much, if he thought he could get away from it, Casey would’ve gone all the way, just the same as she would.
“Major John Casey,” she said with a sigh as she looked up at him. “What can I say? It was kind of a race to see who would break first, huh?” She laughed lightly as he almost broke a smile.
“Pretty damn sure it was always going to be you,” he told her with an annoying smirk that Marie so wanted to remove in all kinds of ways, but she kept her distance.
“Yeah, well,” she said, lifting her chin and looking determined, “next time I won’t go so easy on you,” she said flirtatiously, sparing him a wink and kiss she blew off her hand as she turned to walk away.
“I’m countin’ on it,” replied Casey as he made his exit too, heading back to his apartment and slamming the door shut before Bartowksi had a chance to say anything stupid.
“Did you hear that?” Chuck immediately asked Sarah, who looked a little surprised herself.
“Yeah.” She nodded. “Not exactly what I expected, but I guess underneath it all, Casey is human too. He has... needs,” she said awkwardly, as Chuck shuddered at the thought, unable to help but picture the scenes he’d witnessed over the hidden cameras just an hour or two before.
“How about you?” he asked then as Sarah moved to walk away.
“How about me, what?” she asked, looking back over her shoulder.
“What do you need, Sarah?” was Chuck’s reply, the words she’d anticipated and yet wished he wouldn’t say, because honestly, she did not know how to answer.
“I’ll let you know when I figure it out,” she told him with an almost-smile, before she turned and walked away for real this time.
“I think you just did,” he told the empty space left behind, smiling to himself as he headed back to his own apartment.
Chuck knew what he wanted and if the world just gave him his one wish, he and Sarah would be happy together one day. He figured if even Casey could get a girlfriend, or close enough anyway, things were definitely looking up for him!