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the secret you don't know how to tell

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"'You're so sweet you give me a toothache'?" Casey held an ice pack to his jaw, scowling.

"Hey, it's a time-honored pickup line. So cool because it's old-school." Chuck bumped his shoulder against Sarah's, as Sarah tried, mostly successfully, to hold in a snort.

"You sure that thing's working?" Casey swung over with his deceptively lazy gait and thumped Chuck hard on the temple, sending Chuck tripping into Sarah, his arm brushing her breast. She was in a tight dress made of sage-green silk, her back bare.

He kind of wished more of their missions required her to dress as a bellhop. Or a nun. Nun would be good.

"You mean since I've always been so good at the scissor-kicks?"

Casey rolled his eyes in response. "Besides, what are you two doing here? I'm fine." He pulled the ice pack away from his jaw, sweeping his arms.

And Chuck slowed to a stop in front of the fountain just outside Ellie and Awesome's place, the place that was not actually his anymore. When Chuck got tired, or lonely, or just wanted to sleep on a bed instead of the couch, he swung by and climbed through his old window and crashed on what was now the guest bed, and Ellie didn't say anything because she looked at him with those sympathetic brown eyes, thinking he and Sarah were having a fight.

And Chuck always remembered earplugs, especially after that second time he'd snuck in and, well, he doesn't think about what he heard.

He'd never pegged Devon as being into cosplay, although it somehow made sense.

Casey was staring at Chuck like he'd finally lost his mind. "Did you flash?" he said gruffly, tentatively.

"No, no. Just... well, yes. Something about Batman."

Casey threw his icepack directly at Chuck's head. Chuck caught it without looking.

"Go home, you two."

Ahh. The problem. The reason Chuck prayed for nun costumes and missions that didn't involve Sarah being unable to wear a bra.

The CIA, in its infinite wisdom, had decided that now, since Chuck was far more capable than he'd ever been of defending himself, he needed round-the-clock protection.

By moving in with his cover girlfriend.

Who was a) definitely not a nun and b) far too comfortable lounging around their apartment in a t-shirt and panties.

He'd had a nightmare last week that she was a double agent, sent to drive him crazy.

So far, that plan was definitely working.


"He's right, you know."

Chuck turned in his seat to look at Sarah, who was driving. Sarah always drove. So what if he responded to danger with the occasional bout of fleeting panic? It didn't mean he couldn't drive.

"How come I never--"

"Casey may not be the--"

They stopped and Chuck held her gaze for a second before she turned back to face the road. "I guess the Intersect upload didn't include seduction school."

"Well, it was meant for Bryce. They were sure he didn't need it." Chuck picked at a loose thread, stretching his legs. Her car had no leg room. Nothing had leg room.

When they were in the apartment together there was no air. He had to grin and act comfortable for the cameras and Ellie while inside he was trying not to come out of his skin.

They were going to slip. They both knew it. It was only a question of when.

"Besides, I seem to remember that when Roan was giving me his crash course on the female psyche, you said I was charming."

"And you are." She ducked her head, one strand of her hair falling loose from her twist, brushing her cheek. "Chuck is. Carmichael, though... it's like everything fits, but that."

"And we need to work on that." He said it with absolutely no tone in his voice, his mouth dry.

She shrugged a little. "We've got time tonight."

He didn't look at her breasts, that all too flimsy silk, because that would have been cheating.


He had to give it to Sarah; she didn't do things halfway. She pushed the couch out of the way, shoved the chairs behind the table, and left a wide square on the floor for them. And changed into a faded black dress that managed to drape or cling in all the right places.

She crossed her legs. He lost the bet with himself that she'd opted for the royal-blue-lime-green striped boyshorts.

"Really? I wish I'd seen that."

"No, no you don't." He chuckled a little, his hands clasped nervously between his knees. His shirt was half unbuttoned, untucked, his shoes kicked off beside the door. She had turned one lamp on, and her makeup had softened, leaving her looking a little less invincible.

"If you'd come to me I'd have taught you to lead."

"No you wouldn't've, you would've raised your eyebrow and said 'Casey said what?'" His voice rose as he falsettoed to mimic her voice, and she covered her mouth, her eyes dancing. "And then I would've felt like an idiot but then at least I wouldn't have had Awesome grabbing my ass while he was dressed in a towel. In a towel, Sarah."

By the end of it she was doubled over, laughing. The one thing he had learned was how to make her laugh. When they had first moved in together she had been just as afraid of what was going to happen between them.

She still was. And he still was, really, when he was honest with himself. If Morgan hadn't stolen that condom, at least now he wouldn't be dreaming about it five nights a week.

"So Casey flunked out of seduction school. I'm guessing you passed on your first try."

She gave him that faint smile that wasn't quite a confirmation. "It's easier for girls," she said apologetically. "Wear something low-cut, bat your eyelashes, there you are."

He scoffed. "Seems like you had to work a little harder on it with Cole."

"Cole's guard was up." Sarah shifted her crossed legs and hooked a finger just inside the low neckline of her dress, traced it back up to her shoulder and down again. Her eyes didn't flicker.

Chuck's definitely did.

"So Roan was right? Make sure all the attention in the room is on me, take charge, be a bastard if I have to?"

"Depends on the girl."

"What if the girl is you?"

She let her hand drop back to her lap. "One of the best ways to get a woman's attention is to be a great dancer."

"So you're saying I could've avoided having a knife thrown at my nads in La Ciudad's hotel room if I'd just kept my incredibly lame tango skills to myself."

He earned a smile for that one. "Want me to teach you to tango, Chuck?" She stood, the hem of her dress falling a good few inches above her knee, barefoot. In that moment he could sure as hell believe that another half-inch of cleavage and the bat of her black lashes was all it would take.

"Not the tango," he found himself saying. "The lambada."

Chuck didn't bother getting to his feet. He just watched her, carefully, to see if her gaze dropped, to see if she gave that little shake of the shoulders before breezily informing him that it was no problem at all.

Chuck had never been able to actually taste jealousy before, not until he had seen Sarah dancing with Bryce, her hips rolling against his, his hands all over her. All over her.

And Bryce was gone now, and Chuck had the feeling that the moment he had put his palm against that panel in the white room where Bryce had died, he had agreed to be, if not Bryce, then the next closest thing.

That was what he dreamed about, when it wasn't coming back to the apartment to find Sarah dressed in fishnets and heels and nothing else. He dreamed about Bryce slumped against a white wall, incredibly disappointed that Chuck hadn't granted his dying wish. To destroy the new Intersect. To go on and have a normal life.

This was not a normal life. Not by a long shot.

"You sure you can handle it?" Her eyes had that distant look, the one that meant she was being someone else, not who she was but the person she thought she was supposed to be. The place where Sarah Walker and whoever Jenny Burton had been didn't overlap anymore.

"Can you?"

"Try me."


She cued it up on his iPod. "The main thing about this is that you have to trust me."

"Sure it's not the other way around?"

"Eventually." Sarah sauntered up to him. "This is practice."

Which meant this is fake.

Chuck was almost able to use learning the dance to distract himself, save for that one thing, the fact his brain kept reminding him about, approximately five times a second. Her hips were against his. Her hips.

He almost said, right there, that he'd tell her anything she wanted to hear, because nothing was worth denying himself this. He didn't care if the North Koreans or if Skynet or if zombie robot Hitler had sent her.

Except it was worse because no one sent her, and this was all supposed to be just another day in his life. Another agonizing hour of blue balls and a thousand thoughts he couldn't act on.

"Lower, Chuck." She repositioned his hand on her ass.

And Chuck clamped his mouth shut, his ears turning faintly red. A beautiful woman puts your hand on her ass, that means she wants you.

Even the increasingly intrusive Intersect wasn't enough to help him now.

"Sarah," he began to stammer out. Their hips were snug. Her face was glistening. Her eyes an inch from his.

"Dip me."

He did, just a beat too long, the hard bulge of his erection rubbing against the join of her thighs, catching on the hem of her dress so that only his clothes and her panties were between them.

"Chuck, you're too stiff. You have to relax."

Chuck's mouth fell open and he just gazed at her in speechless shock, until she gave that one specific tilt of her head, the one that meant we're on camera, and put her hands on his hips.

"You have to just go with it, or it'll never come."

She twirled back into his arms, and he had her tight, and the music kept going but she didn't. She let her head fall back and brought it up slowly, her cheeks flushed, her skirt hiked up and her hips angled against his.

The forbidden dance.

Their forbidden dance.

He backed her up against the back of the couch, her legs already so loose that they parted to straddle his hips. He held his mouth the width of a breath from hers, and deliberately, without dropping her gaze, ran his nails down the line of her spine, cupping her ass to pull her harder against him.

We may be on camera but I don't care.

He held it just a beat too long and when he released her she was panting, her eyes hazed and low-lidded.

By the time she could say his name he was already gone.


She had promised that the apartment would have two bedrooms, but then the economy crashed and CIA was looking for ways to cut corners and, well, they could figure something out.

Except that 'figuring something out,' more often than not, meant he was sleeping on the couch, because Chuck had woken up more than once rock-hard, a split second from yanking her damn panties off and finding out if that morning in the motel in Barstow had just been a fluke.

He'd always wanted to be living with Sarah. Just not in a way that meant touching her would serve as irrefutable proof that their relationship had finally compromised her as his handler.

There were no cameras in the bedroom, but they both knew there might as well have been.

He was sitting on the bed when she walked in, the music still on in the other room, her face half in shadow. She pulled her dress off and stood before him naked save an incredibly brief pair of lavender lace panties.


The rest of it was swallowed in her, her mouth suddenly on his, his hands coming up to trace every inch of her bare skin. He half-rose and she shoved him backward, and then she was straddling him, rubbing her hips deliberately against the bulge of his erection.

She leaned down and sucked his earlobe, her breath catching when he cupped her bare breasts, his thumbs finding her nipples.

"If you talk, it's over."

She said it so faintly, but he had never expected anything else. Not really.

She slid her hand between them, and a second later his zipper was down and she was gently pulling his cock free, and just like that morning, she was climbing off him, heading for the bathroom. When she came back in he stopped unbuttoning his shirt, transfixed by the sight of her bare breasts, the reddened welcoming pout of her mouth. She slid in beside him, on her knees, still in those damn lace panties, and ripped open the condom wrapper. But she made no move to put it on him, just held his gaze, unable to even mouthe anything.

If he was another spy, really another spy, there would be no question. This would just be burning off energy after a mission, meaningless, another way to push back the growing certainty that life was an endless series of suitcases and hotel rooms and nights spent wondering if the next bullet was going to be the last.

And no matter what else, Chuck wasn't Bryce. Chuck wasn't a spy. He was just the one who'd happened to be there, just then, who made the choice that if this was the only way, if he could do what was right and keep Sarah safe, then that was all he could do.

And this, for all those reasons, this would mean something.

He led her hand to his cock, closing his eyes as she slid the condom on.


He knew he was doing a good job when she put her face into the pillow so she could muffle her scream, when she cupped her hand hard over his, when she rolled her hips, her inner flesh stroking, urging his cock.

She was doing all three, on all fours, stifling her groans in the pillow, her hand pressing his to cup between her legs as he gently stroked her clit, and oh God, she was so slick and tight, her hips moving in sharp counterpoint to his thrusts.

He wanted to say her name, to scream it. Instead he grazed his teeth over her shoulder blades, traced his tongue up to the back of her neck, her hair warm against his mouth. She gasped out something between a sob and his name, pushing her face even deeper into the pillow.

"Show me," he whispered into her skin, feeling her stiffen under him, but before she could push him away he had slid his hand from under hers, reversing so he was cupping her own hand between her legs. When she shuddered and arched, stroking her own clit, he cupped her breasts and stroked her nipples in time with his thrusts, keeping them smooth and steady, until she was bucking and sobbing, every jerk of her inner flesh against his cock driving him harder and harder, until he was buried to the hilt inside her and she was frantically stroking her clit, the shivering waves of her orgasm bringing him to final incredible release inside her.

"Hmm," he murmured, brushing his lips over her skin one last time before he gently slid his still-wet finger between her legs and found her clit again. She had almost collapsed to the bed in sated bliss, but at the brush of his finger against her sensitive skin, she writhed, her agonized groan only half caught by the pillow. Giving up, she flipped onto her back, her brow furrowed as she held his gaze, and he rubbed his thumb over her clit, sliding three fingers where his cock had just been, watching her undulate, panting, under him, baring her neck, the only sound the long rough sighs of her breath and the wet sound of his fingers thrusting in her. He stretched out beside her and she buried her hands in his hair, setting her forehead against his neck and her mouth against his collarbone, sobbing in a gasp as he curved his fingers in her. When she had come again, trembling, jerking against him, he put his mouth against her ear, still feeling her wet inner flesh ripple and suck against his fingers.

"I see now why it's forbidden."

Her eyes were too wide, but she smiled, then, a little crookedly, her legs still loose and open and Chuck still fully dressed, his shirt slid halfway down his shoulders, still on its last button.

"Yeah," she agreed, cupping her hand over his, still holding his gaze.

By the time Chuck drifted off to sleep, he realized his iPod had shuffled to Arcade Fire, and Sarah, still naked and cuddled to him, was holding his palm flat against her belly.

Thank God the CIA had been too cheap to shell out for a two-bedroom.