Pickpocket Your Battles
22 NOVEMBER 2007
"Um, wow. I didn't realize how much Ellie gets into Thanksgiving dinner."
Chuck joined Sarah at the trashcan and peered inside. "What? Just because you saw her trash an entire turkey? That's nothing."
“Apparently not.” Sarah rested a hand on her hip. “It’s such a waste, though.”
Chuck grinned. “Sounds like someone’s lamenting the demise of the turkey. It’s probably happy that we’re not eating it, you know. Or getting stuffing shoved up its butt. I hear it’s a very unpleasant experience.”
Sarah’s face crinkled in disgust. “Just the kind of image I need right before lunch. Thanks.”
“Chuck Bartowski, mental image extraordinaire,” he said with a dramatic bow. He barely caught the sponge Sarah threw at his face. “Hey! That’s dirty!”
“Not yet it isn’t. Hurry up and toss it back, I need to do the dishes.”
“Aye, aye, boss.” Chuck sidled up next to her and turned on the faucet. “It’s a shame Morgan isn’t here, actually. Knowing him, he’d probably take that entire turkey home and have it for dinner for the next week and a half.”
“Before or after it went into the trash?”
“Doesn’t matter, really. It’s Ellie’s special Thanksgiving turkey. Awesome and his frat boys could use it as a football during one of their pre-gamers and Morgan would still try to salvage enough for a couple of turkey sandwiches.”
Sarah’s scrubbing slowed. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“It’s that good, Sarah. Frat-boy sweat and all.”
“Ew.” Her eyes squeezed shut. “Okay, I think that picture has been permanently seared into my brain. That’s just disgusting.”
For some reason, the memory chose that exact moment to sucker punch him in the face. Suddenly, all Chuck could see were intense blue eyes reflecting the dim glow of a laptop, the feeling of limb against limb; so little space, and there was heat, lots of it, everywhere—
He blinked and shook the image away. The soapy cup clenched in his hand was about a foot away from the running water. Meanwhile, Sarah was looking at him like he’d accidentally shot himself with a tranq dart.
“Are you okay?” Her eyes were slightly narrowed in concern, the beginnings of a frown etched in her face. “You spaced out there for a minute.”
Chuck shoved the cup under the water. “Ah, yeah, sorry. I see what you mean now, that’s all. Apparently the mental image of playing drunken football with a turkey does wonders to the mind.”
Sarah nodded silently, but the look on her face screamed skepticism. He chose to play oblivious and turned his attention back to the sink, hoping she’d follow suit. She did.
He hadn’t brought up the episode in the security console since they’d unwittingly stumbled upon the army of insane toy robots, but he certainly hadn’t forgotten about it. As if he could. Chuck shifted uncomfortably and forced himself not to glance in Sarah’s direction. The woman could have the perception of a wildcat when she wanted to. One look and she’d start asking questions, and he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to answer any of them at the moment.
“What’s bothering you, Chuck?”
He knew he had to bring it up at some point, of course. It was either that or risk driving himself insane with an onslaught of unanswered questions. Instead, the first thing that came out of his mouth was, “Can you teach me how to pick-pocket?”
Apparently Sarah shared the same sentiments. She stopped scrubbing altogether and fixed him with an odd look. “I’m sorry?”
Oh, what the hell. Chuck gave a half-hearted shrug. “Pick-pocketing. It’s not like I’d ever use it to steal anything, and you and Casey would likely snap my fingers off before I even came within two feet of you.” He turned off the faucet and shook the water from his hands. “But who knows, I may be able to use it on a mission or something.” Sarah raised an eyebrow at that. “Someday? Maybe? Okay, unlikely, but still. It seems like a neat thing to learn.”
Why he’d chosen now to bring it up, Chuck had no idea, although he vaguely remembered the look on her face when he’d made an offhand comment about the origins of her pick-pocketing expertise. And there it was again—a hint of sadness tingeing her now carefully guarded expression. Something told him that now really wasn’t the right time to ask her about it. He offered an encouraging smile instead.
“Come on, Sarah. Just one lesson?” He saw her hesitate and surged on. “You can just tell me the basics while we finish the dishes. No snarky comments, I promise.” He waggled his eyebrows for emphasis, the trump card that would hopefully seal the deal.
It worked. Sarah rolled her eyes and finally broke into a smile.
“Okay, why not.” She dried her hands on a dishrag before bumping his hip, expression turning serious. “Pay attention, because this is the most important thing you’re ever going to need to know when it comes to pick-pocketing…”
Without finishing her sentence, Sarah turned away from the counter and leaned in tantalizingly close. Chuck froze. All brain activity ceased to function as Sarah pinned him down with what was fast becoming a trademark intense gaze. She held the look for all of three seconds before straightening, an easy smile on her lips.
“Distraction is key.”
She lifted her hand as she said it; dangling from her fingertips, just as it had more than a week earlier, were his keys. It was practically déjà vu, except this time his Darth Vader keychain swung right alongside the rest of them.
Chuck’s hands immediately went to his pockets. “Okay, first of all, that was a horrible pun. And second, how the hell did you do that?”
Sarah shrugged and tossed him his keys. “Like I said, it’s all about distraction. Psychology says that the human mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. If your mind’s not on your wallet, then your wallet’s up for grabs. Here you go, by the way.”
Chuck’s jaw dropped open as she nonchalantly handed over his wallet. “What the—when did you—”
Sarah’s smile widened. “It’s all about knowing how to divert attention. An expert pick-pocket knows how to create a distraction long enough to steal whatever valuables they’ve located on their mark.” She invaded his personal bubble again; if she noticed the subtle hitch of breath and the way his shoulders tensed, she ignored it.
“Take this, for example.” Sarah ran her hands down his arms—excruciatingly slowly, he noticed—from the elbow to the wrist, her eyes locked on his the entire time. “This is a deliberate distraction. So, as the mark, obviously the most important thing you need to do right now is to try your best to avoid it.”
Chuck couldn’t look away even if he tried. “Honestly, Sarah, you’re sort of making it downright impossible.”
Sarah dropped his arms and stepped away. “Well, that’s kind of the point. You make it impossible for them to concentrate on anything else, and just like that, your watch is gone.”
It took a moment for her words to register. When they finally did, Chuck closed his eyes and ran his hands down his face. He could practically feel her humming with anticipation.
“Sarah,” he drawled, “what time is it?”
He opened his eyes just in time to see Sarah glance at the bulky watch attached to her wrist, the all-too innocent smile threatening to split her face. “Why, it’s 11:22 and thirty three seconds, Chuck.”
“Thank you. Now give me my watch back, you freaking magician.”
“Or,” Sarah said, her smile shifting into something that was decidedly much more devious, “we could continue your pick-pocketing lesson, because really, Chuck, where’s the fun in just watching and learning?”
Chuck’s face dropped as he watched Sarah pull off his beloved watch and slip it into the pocket of her nearly skintight jeans. “Oh, that’s cruel. You’re kidding me, right?”
Sarah cocked her head to the side and shrugged. “Hey, you said you wanted to learn.”
She was clearly toying with him.
Chuck inwardly cursed at the fact that someone who could look so ridiculously adorable could be so evil. He folded his arms across his chest. “Right. How exactly do you expect me to distract you, Miss crazy-perceptive CIA Agent? And even if I could, how do I know you won’t get caught off-guard and accidentally kung fu my ass into the fountain outside?”
Sarah blinked at him, and for a moment, Chuck swore he caught the faintest hint of a blush on her cheeks. Then she snorted—a very Casey-like snort, actually, which threw him off for a moment—and rolled her eyes.
“Fine, we’ll make it easier. How about this?”
She took out the watch and placed it on the windowsill above the sink. “There. If you can distract me long enough to take—hey!”
Chuck had already leapt forward, hands outstretched. Sarah whacked his arm away just as his fingers brushed the strap; the watch went flying, skidding across the counter.
“Cheater! I didn’t say you could start yet!” Sarah said as they both scrambled for the watch.
“Hey, it was a distraction!”
“A totally unfair one!”
“Yeah, says the person who cheated at cards for over half an hour!”
Despite the fact that Chuck was closer to the fallen watch, Sarah beat him to it. She snatched it from the ground a split second before him and straightened with a triumphant smirk.
Judging by her subsequent reaction, it was safe to say that she wasn’t expecting his tackle to her midsection. And okay, it probably wasn’t the most appropriate course of action, but it served its purpose. With a startled gasp, Sarah dropped the watch. Chuck lunged forward and caught it just before it hit the ground. He barely had time to heave a sigh of relief before Sarah crashed unceremoniously on top of him.
And they most definitely did not have time to get off of each other before Ellie and Awesome breezed through the door less than a second later.
Whatever his sister had been saying to her boyfriend was immediately cut off as the couple gaped at the scene before them. Chuck counted three seconds before the awkwardness exploded into the apartment, and another four before the occupants in said apartment started breathing again.
Sarah was the first to move. She sprang to her feet with the exact kind of grace that Chuck didn’t have, her face a deep scarlet. “I-it’s not what you think! We were cleaning up after you left—”
Chuck stumbled up next to her and joined in with her stuttering. “Sis, she was just teaching me how to—”
“I tripped, he tried to catch me, but—”
“—completely an accident, we weren’t doing—”
“—nothing like that at all—”
Ellie held up a hand. Both Chuck and Sarah fell silent. She stared at them wordlessly for a long moment, her expression indecipherable. Finally, she shook her head and made her way towards her room.
“Honestly, I’m probably better off not knowing.”
With one last fleeting look in Chuck’s direction, Sarah hurried after her roommate. Awesome strode over, a wide grin spreading across his face. He clapped Chuck on the back, the other hand raised high.
“Up top, bro. Awesome.”
“Devon, we weren’t—I wasn’t—”
He let out a resigned sigh and returned the gesture.
And you wanna see how awesome Crystal really is? Read Chuck Vs. the Closet Gleek and Adorable Psycho Versus Disneyland, or watch some of her greatest hits. Yes, she'll make you listen to Britney Spears and Ke$ha or whatever, but you'll have such a good time, you won't care!
Anyway, a HUGE THANK YOU to her for being so flipping fantastic.