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Wisdom in Whiskey

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Chuck really hated to leave Sarah alone. After everything that had happened he didn’t want to let her out of his sight, but he managed to make it downstairs to the hotel bar, as ordered, with only a few stops and starts. He paused at the entrance, his eyes scanning the dim, smoky interior for more than just the familiar, hulking figure at the bar, then he moved through the dimly lit room and took a seat next to Casey at the bar. Before he’d even fully settled on the stool the other man was pushing a glass of amber liquid toward him. Chuck wrapped his hand around it. Wordlessly, he lifted the drink to his lips and took a sip, feeling the whiskey burn down his throat and pool warm in his stomach.

“How’s Walker?” Casey asked, after several moments.

Chuck tore a corner off his napkin and twisted it with restless fingers. “Still unconscious,” he said, worry coloring his tone. “But her breathing is regular and her pulse is steady.”

Casey’s response was a grunt Chuck recognized as an affirmation that this was a good sign. “Based on the tranqs I took off the Ring Agents, that sounds about right. She’ll probably be out till late this morning, early afternoon.” Chuck merely nodded and took another drink. He could see Casey watching him out of the corner of his eye and the words he wanted to say clogged in his throat. He swallowed, trying to force out something, anything that would help relieve the weight pressing on his chest or the ugly twisting in the pit of his stomach. He closed his eyes but snapped them back open immediately when all he could see was Shaw, his body jerking as the bullets impacted his chest.

After another stretch of silence Casey spoke again, “You did good, Bartowski.” His voice was sincere, his gaze focused on the bottles lined up on the wall across from them. Chuck turned and looked at him, frowning deeply.

“What?” he muttered.

“Four shots, center mass,” Casey said simply. “It was good shooting. Hell, I’m almost proud.”

“Casey,” Chuck turned away, his stomach twisting again. For a moment he wasn’t sure the whiskey was going to stay down.

“You feel like shit because you took another man’s life. Good.” Chuck’s head snapped back around to find Casey looking back at him intently. “Don’t ever take it lightly, but you did what had to be done and don’t forget it. Walker, you, hell, maybe even me, we’d all be dead right now if you hadn’t.”

Chuck just stared, frowning into the middle distance, Casey’s words repeating in his mind. He picked up his glass and shot back the rest of his drink, squinting against the burn.

“She is going to understand that too,” Casey added and Chuck focused on him again, the worry evident in his dark eyes.

Casey pushed another glass of whiskey toward him and Chuck looked at it in surprise. “Now, you’ve got until you finish this drink to wallow, then you’re done. Put it behind you, got me?”

Chuck nodded before he spoke. “Yeah... yeah.”

“Alright, I’ve gotta head back, get the Director outta here before the frogs figure out what’s actually going on.” It was obvious by his smile that he really liked the idea of pulling one over on the French. “Take care of our girl.”

Chuck’s smirk was a shadow of its usual self. “I won’t tell her you said that.”

“Good,” Casey said before slipping some money onto the bar and walking away. Chuck didn’t watch him leave, but instead focused his attention on the full glass of whiskey. After a long moment he glanced upward, as if somehow he could see through the floors to his room where Sarah lay unconscious and unaware. He pushed the whiskey away and stood slowly to his feet.

He didn’t need another drink, he just needed Sarah.