Hello, my little ferrets. Daddy Liam is back with a new ChuckFic! It's been since February since I've posted a story. But two days ago inspiration struck for this one. Forgive me for any mistakes and the like. I rushed through this, trying to bring it to order and completion.
As you might imagine, my take on Christmas time events isn't as jovial as other. I'm not a particular fan of the season, but respect those who are. As such, I present this gift. To all those who've read my fics, responded, and given kind words, I wish to express my love and gratitude to you all. Doubley so to all those wonderful people who work on Castle Inanity. You guys are my heroes.
Peace on Earth
“Why I should go along with this?” Sarah Walker asked.
The lithe brunette turned a quick look upon her. “Come now, Miss Walker, must this conversation go the route of veiled threats?”
“Very well. If you fail to cooperate, I will burn everyone you hold dear.”
“And if I cooperate?”
“If you cooperate, then only you are at risk.”
Sarah sighed. “Tell me what you want.”
The brunette smiled tightly. “I want to talk, Miss Walker.”
From the balcony, Sarah gazed out over Los Angeles. It was a crisp, cool night in the City of Angels. A touch of winter she found refreshing. However, this wasn’t where she envisioned spending her Christmas Night…
Sarah pinpointed familiar geographic locals in an attempt to calculate her location. If she wasn’t mistaken, she was currently upon the eighth floor of the Crabtree-Windham hotel. A lovely four star. Sarah had heard good things, but this was her first opportunity to actually frequent the building.
And as a hostage, no less.
Sarah glanced at her watch. She really hoped the situation resolved itself shortly. The Bartowski family Christmas party was due to start at eight.
Sarah turned as the balcony doors swung open. The brunette appeared, pushing a small liquor cart. Atop which sat two identical bottles of Grey Goose vodka and two identical shot glasses.
“You recognize me,” the brunette said, setting the two bottles of vodka in the center of the table adorning the balcony, the two shot glasses on either side.
“I do,” Sarah answered.
She studied the attractive woman before her, dressed so prettily in a shimmering green dress that highlighted beautifully her rich brown skin tone. Her long, lush hair was elegantly braided in back, exposing a lean, graceful neck. Full lips and cheekbones, sharp eyebrows, deep brown eyes, all conveyed the appearance of a woman of mixed Anglo and Japanese decent.
“Who am I?” the woman asked.
Sarah stared hard, fighting to keep her voice neutral and calm.
“You are Noelani Kane. Age 43, born in Honolulu, Hawaii, August 13, 1967. Graduated with honors, biology, University of Cal-Berkeley, 1989. Doctorate in microbiology, Stanford University, 1994. Through your brilliance and connections, you became associated with disreputable individuals interested in modifying bacteria and neurotoxins into more lethal weapons.”
“Right so far,” Noelani Kane answered easily, seemingly unashamed of her personal nefarious history.
“Met a young man,” Sarah continued. “Robert Jacob Hollister. Associate professor of biology, Stanford University.”
Sarah hesitated, pained, unwilling or wanting to go on. Noelani Kane fixed sharp, angry eyes upon her. “Continue,” she demanded.
Sarah gulped, drew in a steadying breath. “Married Robert Jacob Hollister, March 22, 2002. Miss Kane…”
Noelani Kane smiled tightly at the desperate, pleading tone in Sarah’s voice. “Go on, Miss Walker. Say it. I know you want to.”
Another deep breath, then: “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what, Miss Walker?”
“I’m sorry…for killing your husband.”
The tight smile upon Noelani Kane’s face shifted into one of remorse. “I thank you, Miss Walker. Your apology actually means something. Not much, mind you. But I think you are truly remorseful. Are you truly remorseful, Miss Walker?”
Sarah gave a brief nod, still trying to maintain her neutral façade. “I am.”
Noelani Kane waved to the small table center of the balcony. “Please, Miss Walker, have a seat.”
Sarah hesitated a moment, weighing her options. But as Noelani Kane sat in one seat, Sarah decided to slip into the one opposite her. And thus the woman sat, only two feet of table between, two bottles and two shot glasses in reach.
“Tell me,” Noelani Kane drawled as a single dark red fingernail tapped the crisp white tablecloth, “how the CIA first became aware of me.”
Sarah shrugged. “Beautiful woman shows up at enough parties frequented by bad men, people wonder who she is.”
Noelani Kane nodded. “And when were you…assigned…to me?”
Sarah shifted nervously in her seat. She glanced away, looking out into the night as she answered, “In time to attend your wedding.”
With a curious cock of the head, “You attended my wedding?”
Sarah scratched the back of her head, a bit chagrined. “If you call through a telephoto lens from half a mile away ‘attending’. Your dress was lovely.”
“Again, thank you. Now, please, tell me your orders regarding your assignment."
"Initially my assignment was merely tracking and surveillance. Information gathering."
"Is it safe to assume you were there our entire honeymoon? Cancun, Monte Carlo, Hong Kong?"
"Yes. And I know you used each stop to meet with various clients."
Noelani Kane laughed ruefully. "Robert always said I worked too hard." She noticed how Sarah's eyebrows raised slightly. "He was unaware of my sideline job. I told him I was meeting with various legitimate business representatives."
"I know," was Sarah's simple reply.
"Ah. Because no doubt you posed as housekeeping and planted electronic surveillance in our rooms."
"Something like that, yeah."
That single deep red digit ceased to tap upon the table. Noelani Kane fixed Sarah with the coldest gaze she'd ever encountered. "And when did you receive the order to kill me?"
That single word conveyed every emotion Noelani Kane felt. Hate, rage, love, sorrow. In this moment, Sarah Walker felt a remorse she'd rarely ever felt before. This despite knowing the woman across the table had developed weapons used in terror attacks, weapons that had killed scores of innocent lives.
"You mean the morning of the very day in which you made me a widow?"
A deep, tortured sigh. "Miss Kane..."
"You watched us for a month. You listened to our most intimate moments. As we whispered our love to each other. As we dreamed of a life together. And then...you ended his life. And mine, as it turns out. Though I didn't die that night, I desperately wanted to." Noelani Kane cocked her head and gazed curiously at Sarah. "Now if all that doesn't facilitate the familiarity to the use of first names, I don't know what does. Don't you agree...Sarah?"
Noelani lightly slapped the table, the decision made. To the next point of conversation:
"Now I must give you credit, Sarah. One might expect an assassin to come with a gun or knife, but you... You were brilliant. The way you came at me... Heh. You had room service deliver it. From a purely objective viewpoint, I am in awe."
Sarah gulped. "Noelani, I swear, in that month I found no evidence that Robert drank. It’s why I…chose the method I did."
"Oh, well!" Noelani cried out, her voice cracking a touch. "That makes it okay then. Because you did your research." Sarah turned her gaze downward, to her hands in her lap. Noelani felt a touch of sympathy. "To be fair, he rarely did. But on that night, I convinced him to partake in a few martinis."
"Noelani...I'm so sorry."
"So you've said. And I believe you. However, that will not dissuade me. I've put eight years of thought into this."
"And what is this exactly?"
"This...is how it ends. One way or another. You may notice the bottles upon the table." Sarah's eyes found the bottles of Grey Goose. "What I'm going to do is give you the same chance you gave me and Robert."
"What do you mean?"
"One of these bottles is simple vodka. Untouched, untainted, smooth drinking."
"And the other?"
"Laced with the same poisonous compound that killed Robert. I synthesized it myself." Noelani watched as Sarah considered the situation. She recognized the moment of clarity, of understanding flashing in her eyes. "Get it now, don't you?"
"I must choose which bottle to drink from."
Noelani smiled. "Indeed." She pointed a dark red finger at Sarah and leaned back in her chair. "But here's the best part. The fair part, in my estimation. When you choose your bottle, I shall take the other." She detected the slight frown. "Didn't see that coming, did you?"
"So you propose..."
"That we each take a bottle, pour, and then...drink to our health."
Sarah's breath caught for a moment, stunned disbelief. "That's...insane."
"I think that is a fair adjective to describe it."
"If I refuse?"
Noelani simply waved to the door. "Then you are free to leave."
Sarah blinked. "Leave? Just like that?"
"Just like that."
Sarah nodded, thinking, remembering. "But if our earlier conversation gives indication, Chuck and his family will pay the price."
"Egh..." Noelani cringed, a touch embarrassed. "I may have mislead you on that point."
"There is no biological bomb ready to detonate and kill everyone you love."
Sarah tried to read the other woman. Strangely enough, she felt inclined to her. "You're not going to kill them?"
"Nope. No bomb. No dark assassin. I have absolutely no means to destroy your family. Nor do I have any desire to. You could walk out that door and live happily forever after with your man. And I couldn't do a thing to stop you."
"Maybe I'll arrest you while I'm at it."
"That would be wise. Though eight years have passed and I've spent that time underground, I'm sure the CIA still wants my head."
"And with you being a highly trained field operative and myself being little more than a lab geek, I couldn't hope to stop you."
Sarah blinked, confused. "So what's the catch?"
"The catch, Sarah," Noelani said, a chesire grin in place, "is that you won't do any of that."
"You won't." Noelani then leaned forward to impart a great secret. "Because, deep down, you truly believe you must face this. Guilt won't let you walk away."
"I made a mistake," Sarah defended. "But I am not a monster."
Noelani nodded slightly, agreement. "No, you are not. There is but one monster at this table and that designation does not suit you."
"Your weapons have killed untold scores of people. That cargo ship in the Indian Ocean. The subway station in Prague. That village in Kenya."
"Oh, the things I've done, Sarah, there is no repentance for. Upon my death I've no illusions as to my fate."
"And if I walk out this door, you'll kill everyone I love."
"I don't believe you."
"If I wanted you and your family dead, you all would long since had your insides turned to soup," Noelani snarled. Then, regaining her composure: "Do you know what happened that night, Sarah? As I watched my husband convulse and succumb to the poison you inflicted upon him? As I watched the only soul upon this mortal coil that I gave a damn about slip into the ether?"
Sarah said nothing.
"I had an epiphany."
Stone faced, Sarah could only murmur, "Oh?"
"Yes. Suddenly, in that moment, as I saw the life leave my beloved's eyes, I thought of them all. Those men on the cargo ship. Those people in the subway station. Those poor folks in that little African village. And I wept for them all. A moment of clarity, Sarah Walker, as I understood that an act which I had committed upon so many others had now been committed upon me."
Sarah knew not what to say, so she merely listened.
"How many husbands had my work killed? How many mothers? How many sons and daughters? How many had lost their soul mates because of the evil I perpetrated?" Noelani Kane paused, stared into the distance at something only she could see. Perhaps the specters of her victims. "Can you fathom, Sarah, what it's like to be a killer...with a conscience?" Noelani Kane then turned back to Sarah. Whatever she saw reflected on the young blonde's face prompted her to say, "I can see that you do."
Noelani Kane raised a hand, interrupting her, begging for the floor. "Please, Sarah, I offer the following proposal. Drink with me. And tonight, one of us shall pay for our sins."
"This is madness."
"Yet you remain here."
Sarah looked down and was actually surprised to find that, indeed, she was still seated. She would have thought her feet would carry her as fast and as far as possible. And before she realized it, she said, "I chose?"
Noelani Kane nodded.
Sarah examined both bottles. They were identical in every manner. No evidence of tampering, the safety seals in place. Yet Sarah had no doubt that one of these bottles brought death.
She chose the bottle closest to her. Noelani Kane took the other.
The women twisted off the caps. Sarah spared a glance at Noelani, trying to discern who had which bottle. But the woman's features offered no clue.
They poured. Raised their shots glasses in salute.
"To peace on earth," Noelani Kane toasted.
"And good will toward...women," Sarah finished. Noelani Kane nodded in approval.
They drank. And for several long moments, Sarah was left to wonder if the burn in the throat could be solely attributed to alcohol...or if it were a portent to her demise.
Then Noelani Kane coughed. A hard, tortured hack.
And then Noelani Kane shuddered. The muscle of her hand spasmed, the shot glass slipping from her grasp.
And for a moment, the briefest of moments, as Sarah Walker glanced at her glass and realized it was the "good" bottle, she felt...disappointment.
Sarah slowly stood, circled the table. She helped the dying, convulsing woman and gently laid her upon the floor.
"I wish you the best," Noelani Kane managed to uttered between tortured gasps.
Sarah felt tears roll down her cheeks. "Do you forgive me?"
Noelani Kane nodded, or so Sarah thought. The woman's death throes made either action indistinguishable from the other. But doubt was removed when she gasped, "Yes."
And then, Noelani Kane died.
Sarah Walker was left to make two phone calls. The first to General Beckman, requesting a cleaner team. The second to her boyfriend, expressing her love and informing him she would be slightly late to the party.
And then, Sarah Walker cried.