I've talked a time or two that Chapter 33 kicked my butt while writing it. Maybe I'll talk about why at some other point, but I've got to hand it to mxpw here. The poor guy. He's in the middle of a major move, and every time he gets online, it's to a message from me with the gist being, "I think I'm going to change what happens in 33."
In fact, mxpw is STILL probably suffering from whiplash, days later, and that'll be my fault, too. Well, to be fair, he usually suffers from whiplash. Having a conversation online with me is a little like dumping sugar and a cut up thesaurus into a barrel of monkeys and watching the carnage unfold (while it travels along a roller coaster - mxpw). This chapter was just worse than usual because I swear, every day was a new change for him to hear about.
I'm including the original first scene from 33 because I still like it, even if it didn't fit.
Outtake #8: "Just Say the Word Trouble"
Takes place in the motel room
“Heh,” he said without meaning to.
“What is it?”
“Apparently they do have housekeeping here. Guess it might not be a bad thing to jump into bed with these sheets.”
“Just say the word, Chuck.”
“Wha-huh?” Chuck, the sheets halfway off an oddly-clean mattress, whirled.
Sarah tossed one single, searing look over her shoulder. “The sheets,” she said, nodding at them. “She’s waking up, and I want to tie her up before she’s too coherent. Chuck. Chuck! Hey, focus.”
The sharp tone brought him crashing back to earth. Belatedly, Chuck hurried to finish the job, tugging the last corner of the bundle off of the mattress, tripping over his feet the whole time. Had that really—had she really…Was his ex-girlfriend really Fulcrum? Had Sarah just announced that she would like to…
He dropped to his knees beside Sarah and Jill, the bundle in hand. “Um, got them, now what?”
“Tear me off long strips, about six inches wide.” On the ground, Jill stirred, moving her head back and forth and groaning. Sarah, in a display of strength that had Chuck pausing in his ministrations with the sheets, levered an arm under Jill and pulled the other woman to her feet. She hauled the other woman over to the desk chair and dropped her there. Jill’s head lolled back against the back of the seat.
Sarah snapped her fingers and Chuck tossed the first strip her way. She caught it without looking.
Chuck’s hands shook as he tore the next few strips. His mind whirled, ten thousand rotations per minute and still revving. Jill worked for the enemy. Jill was the enemy, and she’d had him fooled this entire time. He’d sat outside her apartment for countless hours, and he hadn’t had the first clue that she was evidently employed by the devil. Sarah had spent less than four hours in her company and had picked up on that.
Sarah wanted to have sex with him. Just say the word.
Oh, God. Was that why…
A thousand things filtered through his brain. Jill was Fulcrum. Sarah always seemed to be touching his arm, running her hand over his shoulder. Ruffling his hair. Jill worked for the same people that wanted to torture him for the computer in his brain. Sarah had pressed against him, their bodies centered perfectly, in the security console outside of Sergei Ezersky’s estate.
Had that been a dare?
How long had Jill been Fulcrum? Had everything been a lie?
How did Sarah know?
“Chuck.” His name, said softly, returned him to the present. He blinked sluggishly to see Sarah kneeling in front of him, looking concerned. “I think you got it.”
Gently, Sarah reached down and pulled his hands away from the ground. He had decimated the last strip of the sheets into shreds and his fingers were still busily tearing. Behind Sarah, Jill had been bound to the desk chair by long strips of off-white material. Chuck had apparently torn all of the sheets up, though he had no memory of doing so.
He looked down at Sarah’s hands. They were resting on his own. Ten minutes before, it would have been an innocent gesture, just Sarah being Sarah, but now…
Either move, or don’t.
Oh, God, it all made sense.
Sarah must have caught his expression. She slowly withdrew her hands and took a deep breath. “Why don’t you go get some ice?”
“Jill’s jaw is going to be killing her when she comes round. You should go get some ice out of the machine by the office, and hurry. I don’t like you out there alone for too long.”
Chuck gave her a puzzled look. “Because you want to sleep with me?”
He didn’t expect Sarah to smile, but she did, and she shook her head. “Because you’re a magnet for trouble.”
“Oh. That. Right. Yeah, I can see how that would be…problematic.” Chuck pushed to his feet and shook his head a little to shake loose some of the cobwebs making thinking difficult. He stared at Jill, studying the way her head lolled as she fought consciousness, just how pale, and delicate, and tiny she seemed tied to the chair. “How long do you think she’s been Fulcrum?”
“Long enough to have a good cover story in place.” Sarah went over to Jill. Ruthlessly, she pried up one of the woman’s eyelids and shone the penlight from the stolen Fulcrum car keys into Jill’s eye. She nodded to herself when Jill, half-conscious, automatically tried to pull her head from Sarah’s grip. “Chuck, you should get that ice.”
“Right,” Chuck said again, and opened the door. He reared back at the daylight, as Sarah had kept the hotel room curtains drawn, pitching the room into darkness.
“Chuck?” Sarah’s voice stopped him in the doorway, and he turned. With his eyes possibly destroyed by sunlight and in need of regeneration, he couldn’t make out more than her shape, standing over the lump in the chair that was Jill. She shuffled her feet. “Take your time, okay?”
“You just said—”
“No, not about the ice. About…” Another shuffle of the feet, bringing Sarah closer to him and back away. “Look, you’re not responsible for my feelings at all, and I shouldn’t have brought it up right now, so don’t feel…obligated or anything.”
“Okay,” Chuck said, and shut the door behind him.
The ice machine was by the office, Sarah had told him. Keeping an eye out for dust flumes in the distance that would signal the approach of Casey, bad guys, or just a hooker and a john looking for a nondescript, dirty hotel, he headed toward the office. Sarah had made him paranoid enough to keep checking over his shoulder.
She had also confused the hell out of him. She was Sarah freaking Walker. He’d seen her do about ten million epic things in their short time together, and not just when he’d been monitoring and doctoring surveillance for the Walker-Larkin Wonder Team. She flew planes through Eastern Europe, she knocked him unconscious in the middle of one of the busiest sites in Athens and she got away with it, she baked meringue pies, she could single-handedly take on the entire cast of Mortal Kombat.
Chuck grabbed the ice scoop and dumped ice into one of the plastic bags available on the side of the ice machine.
And that Sarah Walker, the same one that could do everything he’d thought about and more, wanted him.
That was funny. She hadn’t seemed crazy before.
Look, you’re not responsible for my feelings at all, and I shouldn’t have brought it up right now, so don’t feel…obligated or anything.
Hah. Time to suggest a CAT scan.
She’d been nervous, Chuck recalled with a frown. She fidgeted a lot in socially awkward situations, and when she’d informed him that he wasn’t obligated, she’d been close to jumping around like a boxer in the ring. And since she had taken out the Fulcrum agent in the room without breaking a sweat, the only thing there that would have possibly made her nervous had been…him.
Chuck nearly dropped the ice.
Okay, so what would have followed this, if I'd kept going in this direction, is that Chuck would have realized that Sarah put her heart on the line for him, and he just kind of idiotically shut the door in her face. He would have raced back to the room, babbling about how he's really not a jerk, he promises, but by then, Jill would be awake, and Fulcrum hijinks ensue. But I scrapped all of this and went with the version of the scene that made it into the chapter, now available on ff.net.
Hope you enjoyed both versions!