Whew, made it through this scene. Watch for typos, there are many and they are likely epic, given that I literally booked it through this entire sequence. If this were a Fates chapter, I'd do a lot of polishing, some rewriting, a lot of cutting, but...
That's the glory of this story: I can just toss it on the blog and forget about it!
P.S. - This picks up right after the scene where Sarah's in the hotel room.
All things considered, he should have picked up on the fact that she was, if not CIA, then at least well-trained. Chuck followed Agent Walker down the street, keeping to the rooftops and making a few leaps between buildings that he’d have preferred to never think about ever again. The buildings were close together here, but those jumps had been nothing short of death-defying. She walked briskly, with purpose, all the while seeming to the casual eye like a stranger—albeit a beautiful one—out on a stroll in the Spanish sunshine. And though she appeared completely relaxed, he knew she’d picked up each and every detail along her walk. She checked her surroundings constantly, and never in the same way twice: once, she tilted her head up as though to enjoy the sunshine, once she stopped at a corner and turned in a full circle, as though lost. Another time, she pulled out a digital camera to take pictures of a building, painted in the Bavarian style of a fairytale mural.
He didn’t miss how her head tilted slightly, her attention anywhere but the camera. He wondered how the picture itself would turn out.
No reason he couldn’t snag himself a copy later on when he searched her room.
She headed back to her own B & B, never spotting him, as far as he could tell. There wasn’t any instinctive shift in body language or anything to telegraph that she had, at least. Chuck was aground by this point, having shimmied down the side of a local pub half a kilometer before.
He waited two minutes in the alley before he darted across the open street. According to Tanya, her room was on the second floor, facing the street. The building across might give him a good vantage point, though he made sure to cross around the back and make his climb up that way. There was a balcony along the side, he thought, that would serve his purposes nicely. He could duck back against the building if she happened to come to the window, but it gave a mostly-clear perspective.
It was difficult finding handholds in the building, but with some stucco, torn fingertips, and only a pants-wetting moment or two, he made it to the balcony, and breathed out a sigh of relief.
The unmistakable sound of a gun cocking made him freeze.
Spoke too soon.
“Hiya, Nick,” CIA Agent Sarah Walker said. She was pointing what looked like a very nice Smith & Wesson at him from the ground.
“Ava Werner,” he said, slowly raising his hands. “Now, this is a surprise.”
“I don’t see why it would be, since you’ve been following me for quite a while. Unless you have a very short memory?” Sarah Walker’s eyes narrowed. “Going to assume Nick is an alias.”
“I’m offended that you don’t like my name.”
“I knew you didn’t look like a Nick.” This was said, Chuck realized, mostly to herself. As though she were kicking herself.
That, Chuck decided, was strange. Instead of showing his confusion, though, he gave her his biggest, possibly most sarcastic grin. “I think I look like a lot of Nicks. The face really blends, you know. Nice gun. Going to assume you weren’t really a friend of Senora Champion.”
“Champignon,” Sarah corrected. “And we’re close friends.”
“You’ve never met her in your life,” Chuck said, keeping his hands up.
“We were practically inseparable once. Don’t move.” Chuck’s hand had been creeping toward Tanya, on his wrist, but Sarah was apparently more sharp-eyed than he had suspected. “We’re going to play this nice and easy, okay?”
“What if I like it rough?”
“Then I’ll know my profile on you was lying. Get down from there.”
“Same way you got up there. You’ve got fifteen seconds.”
Chuck only used about two of them to debate. He knew how to drop safely from the balcony without more than a bit of pain and without breaking any legs or ankles, but he really didn’t want to risk finding out exactly how good a shot Sarah Walker really was. Pretty good, he had to figure. The CIA trained the agents to edge-of-the-knife-sharpness. No wonder she’d picked up his tail.
So he clambered onto the lip of the balcony and grabbed the same handholds he’d used to climb up.
“And keep your hands where I can see them, or I will shoot you,” Sarah said, her voice cold. He had no doubt she meant it.
Oh, God, when the family got wind of this, they were never going to let him live it down. Son of two CIA agents, tricked by a CIA agent. And, Chuck thought with a sour look over his shoulder at the balcony, all but treed by one, too.
“What else does it say in my profile?” he asked, keeping his voice conversational as he struggled to find a new handhold.
“That you talk too much,” Sarah said without missing a beat. “To your left there, a bit, good spot to grab.”
“Thanks. So what does the mysterious Ava Werner want with little old me, anyway?”
“I think you already know that.”
Chuck was only a few feet off the ground now, well able to jump down. He kept clinging to the wall, however, until he was only a foot off the ground before he stepped down and very slowly turned, hands in the air. No need to speed things along, after all. Thankfully, he’d gotten a good feel for how Sarah could move during their dance the night before, so there was always that. Right now, she was tense as a whipcord, finger actually resting on the trigger rather than above the guard. Clearly, she was serious about this.
Good. So was he. And he wasn’t about to be taken down by what was apparently a supermodel turned CIA agent. Not if he wanted his dignity intact after his mother’s warnings that morning.
“Keep your hands up, and face the wall,” Sarah said, gun aimed at center mass. “I’m going to frisk you.”
“Isn’t it a bit soon for second base?” Chuck asked as he complied and she stepped forward. He all but heard her roll her eyes—and struck.
He had fast feet, an advantage of height and the daily workouts he struggled through to keep from being ungainly, and thanks to a lifetime of paranoia, excellent peripheral vision. His right elbow chopped down, glancing off the side of the gun (and whapping her across the knuckles, which would make him wince later) and sending Sarah’s gun arm down and across her body. She swung an open-palmed hit at him with her other arm, possibly reflex, but Chuck threw up a block with his own left arm and dodged to the side, all but springing. Legs as endless as hers, she had to use them well. He didn’t give her the opportunity.
By the time he’d landed from his jump, he had his modified Ruger in hand and raised.
It was cocky, and stupid, but he smirked. If anybody had walked past their alley, they would have seen two combatants, stances squared, guns aimed right where there wasn’t a possible hope of missing. “Sorry, sweetheart. No getting handsy until the third date.”
“Did you really just call me sweetheart? And is that...” Sarah blinked at the elongated barrel of the Ruger, which resembled a silencer. “Is that a tranquilizer gun?”
The reaction made him roll his eyes. Why was that the thing everybody concentrated on? “Yes, but it still leaves a hell of a bruise. Why’s the CIA after me, Sarah?”
Her eyes narrowed, but she didn’t seem particularly afraid of the Ruger or of him. Unsurprising, given that the weapon in her hand was far more lethal and she was likelier the more ruthless of the two of them. “When’d you make me?”
When my freaking mother showed up to lecture me like some idiot teenager, Chuck thought, but he shrugged a shoulder. “You know how it is with the CIA. You wash and wash but you just can’t get rid of the smell.”
“First sweetheart, and now I stink? I should just shoot you.”
“Be awful loud without a silencer.”
“At this point, I’m willing to risk it.” Sarah adjusted her gun; he mirrored the move. “Drop the gun.”
“You’ve got a lot of people after you. You come with me, I can at least promise you a cell with a view.”
“Before your cop-faced NSA buddy comes and takes me away? Again: no thanks.” He recognized old-school killers when he saw them, thanks to his time in the Cold Country. “I’ve been avoiding your types my whole life, no reason to stop now.”
“Uh-huh. You know, you know my name. Seems unfair I don’t know yours.”
“Doesn’t it, though? You can just call me Nick, I don’t mind.”
“Get used to disappointment,” Chuck said, and when Sarah’s eyes didn’t show even the smallest spark of recognition, he almost groaned. Why did nobody appreciate the classics anymore? And to think he’d been convinced, floating home the night before on the power of that kiss alone, that she was absolutely perfect. First, a CIA agent and now not a fan of The Princess Bride? The morning after really did reveal everybody’s flaws. He nearly sighed to himself; it was time to deploy the Watson, apparently. What a disappointing way to end this relationship. Still, he mustered up a smile for her sake. “Don’t worry, you won’t ever see me again, so my name’s not important.”
“Fine, then who’s Orion?”
Chuck twitched. He’d heard Cop-Face Casey mention his father at the café, but to hear Stephen Bartowski’s old code name aloud was just strange.
And Sarah hadn’t missed the instinctive reaction. Frak. Really time to deploy the Watson.
“Don’t know who you mean,” Chuck said, and, grateful that he’d switched Tanya to his right wrist, where the movement would be blocked by the gun, dropped the small disk he’d worked free from the interface. “Ciao!”
It hit the ground with a crack, the chemicals split by a wafer-thin layer joining with enough force to dent stone. Chuck didn’t wait to see if the Watson worked as advertised; he held his breath and ran for it, as fast as his legs could carry him.
He heard Sarah’s shout of surprise, but she didn’t follow.
He’d have to tell Ellie and his father that the Watson was successful, after all. Still, he didn’t stop running until he’d reached the car he’d registered under another name, and even then, it took two hours for his heart to stop pounding.
That had been awful damned close.
Waking from true unconsciousness—not just sleep, which was technically just an altered state of consciousness—was never the same thing twice, so when Sarah surfaced like a diver with a malfunctioning air pipe, gasping and sucking for breath, she didn’t immediately know where she was. A few blinks was all it took to bring in details, thanks to a lifetime of training: sunlight, midafternoon variety. She was outdoors, on uneven paved stones rather than regular asphalt or grass. And kneeling over her was Major John Casey of the NSA. He was scowling.
“What the hell happened to you? I know the CIA’s lazy, but taking naps outside is a new low.”
Sarah coughed. Her throat felt dry and rusty, like she’d gone for ages without water, but she knew better than to ask for any. Casey would just scoff. At least her head wasn’t pounding overmuch, but it did take her a few seconds longer than normal to put it all together.
“Tucker made me,” she said, and coughed. “Tried to subdue him. He threw some kind of chemical agent down, got away. I didn’t hold my breath quickly enough. What time is it?”
Casey told her.
“Damn it!” She fought off the final dregs of lethargy and headache. “He’s long gone by now!”
“How’d he make you?”
“I don’t know. I think he was watching the café and made you.” Sarah added a healthy dollop of accusation to her tone.
Indeed, Casey bristled. “Don’t blame me for your screwups, Walker. Any idea where he might have gone?”
“Somewhere that’s not here,” Sarah said, and coughed again. As she coughed, she tried to put together what she knew of the man called Nick Tucker. He’d called her sweetheart, sarcastically of course, and she’d seen his instinctive flinch when he’d elbowed her hand—which hurt, thanks to the force of that blow, but it wasn’t anything she hadn’t lived with before. So, a gentleman, a con artist, and somebody well trained in both surveillance and counter-surveillance?
A Ghost, indeed.
She’d been lucky to have caught him tailing her at all. He hadn’t realized that one of the buildings she had been passing by had had a mirror in the doorway; if her glance had been a split-second sooner or later, she would have missed him completely.
But he was fast, and wily. And given that he’d thrown some kind of chemical weapon down, well-equipped.
“Found it, sir.” One of Casey’s agents—whom she’d knocked out the night before and who skirted her cautiously. Poor rookie—held up a flat object that looked almost like transparent tissue paper. “Should I get this back to the lab for analysis?”
“Put a rush on it. Anything you can tell me about this guy, Walker?”
“He’s smart, and he’s fast.” Sarah pushed herself warily to her feet and tested her balance. Nick Tucker hadn’t returned to take her gun or her purse, apparently. She couldn’t be sure he hadn’t come back and searched through, but maybe he wasn’t sure his device would work. She looked at the NSA team sweeping the alley for any clue about where Nick would have gone. “Beyond that, can’t tell you much. Good luck finding him.”
And, dignity barely intact, she marched off.
Back to square damn one.