Possibility for SWP: Stronger than Fates, not as likely as Banality
Flantering Rating: Closer to Greater than R&J
Movie Influences: The Italian Job, Sniper
Synopsis: Months ago, Morgan Grimes intercepted an email meant for one Chuck Bartowski and since then, life has never been the same for our gangly nerd. To start off, things just get stranger and stranger around the Burbank Buy More, until one day Morgan disappears completely.
Now, armed only with the idea that something just isn't right with John Casey and Morgan's girlfriend Sarah, Chuck launches a one-man investigation. His search will take him around the world, gaining him the oddest of companions and uncovering years of secrets. Will he and the mysterious Sarah be able to bust the bearded Intersect out of his hiding place? And who is this equally-mysterious benefactor?
Author's Notes: I know we all groaned when Morgan put on the sunglasses in Chuck vs. the Cliffhanger and that the term “Morgan’s girlfriend Sarah” probably made quite a few of you give out a short scream of horror, but things are never as they seem in a Frea story. Lots of quality Sarah and Chuck time in this one.
My Best Friend’s Girlfriend is a Spy
She slipped into the bar through a side entrance, threading her way through the hedge funders in their too-expensive jeans and the young politicos in their khakis as though she belonged nowhere else, though Sarah Walker was still dressed for a day at the office and should have therefore stood out like a sore thumb. She didn’t tug self-consciously at her skirt or hunch forward. Instead, she calmly ordered a white wine and took a seat, alone, at a booth, though there were plenty of spots open at the bar.
Her body language could have frozen a man to his seat at fifty paces. It also couldn’t have screamed “leave me alone” any louder. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the men from trying.
By the time her drink arrived, she’d sent two men away with bruised egos.
She foisted off the third with a threat of a certain bruised body part to match.
It wasn’t usually a chore to play the ice queen—it was a mantle she could slip easily into when the situation sufficed—and tonight, the demeanor completely matched her mood. Receiving cryptic messages was pretty much the norm in her line of work. She was more annoyed, in this case, by the fact that the message had been even more mysterious than usual, and it had intruded on what was supposed to be her night to visit the Facility.
Her Asset would have to see her tomorrow night. She doubted he would notice, in the haze of video game oblivion they kept him in, but she hated having her plans altered at the last minute. She also hated D.C. traffic, and taking the Metro both. She’d picked the first, so she was a little later than the message said to be, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to care.
She sipped her wine and stared out the window. The message had said to watch the hostel across the street.
If it was Carina getting her to bust up a drug deal, she was going to be pissed. She’d had enough of the redhead’s antics back in Burbank. Carina had spent the entire week flirting and causing trouble in her Asset’s life, and hers by extension.
Outside the bar, a light rain began to fall, hopefully washing the beginnings of late-spring humidity from the evening. Sarah kept her vigil on the front doors of the hostel, which weren’t very well-lit. Cheap accommodation, she figured, but it didn’t really seem like drug deal territory. There was quite a bit of pedestrian traffic outside, even in the rain, and cabs and other cars went by regularly.
Speaking of rain, Sarah thought, narrowing her eyes. There was a cab in front of the hostel, parked half a block down. The driver was standing next to the driver’s side door, leaning back against his wet taxi and feet crossed at the ankles. Several times, people stopped to talk to him; each time, he shook his head, and the people hurried on.
What sort of cabbie was turning down fares on a night like this? He could make a killing.
The cabbie shifted, and Sarah saw the way his stance changed. Agency training kicked in: the driver was armed, likely something small caliber, but he was packing on the right side for sure. Given the angle, he also had a clear view of the hostel doorway.
Sarah set her wine down and swept her gaze over the rest of the street. An upscale hotel stood next to the bar. Through the windows to her left, she could see a man standing at the valet stand. His jacket didn’t fit right.
A man stood reading a folded up newspaper under an awning two buildings down. His gaze wasn’t entirely focused on the paper.
Two tourists stood talking in the rain.
This was definitely a stake-out. What the hell had she gotten herself into? And more importantly, what were they looking for?
An hour passed. She ordered sparkling water while the cabbie grew more and more tense, giving in to angry pacing a time or two. The tourists circled the block a few times. The valet had to park a few cars, and he never looked happy about the prospect, which made Sarah grin secretly to herself every time. And still, their target never came in or out of the hostel. Sarah tried to categorize their movements, see if she could detect which agency and nationality these men were, but she didn’t come up with much more than a couple were ex-military.
It was the man with the newspaper (though he’d moved on to playing with his cell phone by this point) that tipped her off. He nodded over at the valet, and Sarah instinctively looked in the same direction. She couldn’t get a good bead on the target yet, though she figured it was a man based on build and height alone. Tall, she thought. Lanky, didn’t really look like that much of a threat.
She slapped money down on her table and sidled out of the bar, keeping an eye on the approaching stranger through the windows the whole time. The rest of the stake-out team began to slowly converge on the hostel. She moved outside, opened her umbrella.
The target hadn’t had the luxury of an umbrella, it appeared. From this distance, she could see that his shirt and pants were soaked, and that his hair was flattened to his—
Wait a second.
What the hell was he doing here?
Another day of nothing.
Screw all of this. In fact, Chuck thought, scowling as he stalked down the street after a day of being turned away at the front desk of every single senatorial office he could find, screw America and all of its politicians, too. The whole country could crash and burn for all he cared.
And great, it had started to rain.
“Friggin’ perfect,” he groused as he stepped up out of the Metro stop by his hostel and into the downpour. “This whole thing was a waste, just like Bryce freaking said it was going to be. Still, couldn’t leave it alone, could you, Chuck? Could you, huh? Had to go peddling around Washington frakking DC like some idiot boy scout, campaigning for a cause that doesn’t really exist because nobody gives a damn about a person anymore.”
He kept up the rant under his breath as he moved along at a rapid clip, hoping to get out of the rain. Why, he had no idea. It would just mean another miserable night of staring at the stained bunk above his in the hostel, wondering how this had become his life.
He thought of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which had always been one of Ellie’s favorite movies. Well, he had Jimmy Stewart’s height and build and his ideals, too, but he was one thing Jimmy Stewart’s character hadn’t been in the end: screwed.
And thanks to this little expenditure, several hundred dollars in debt, too. And hell, he felt like he’d filibustered for twenty-four hours straight without food or water on top of everything else, so that was just swell.
Thirty-six hours ago, he thought as he approached the hostel, he’d been staying at a resort near Rio, staring at the sea that was an unnatural blue and unable to believe he was finally somewhere other than California. And now, here he was, world inside out, soaked to the bone and likely looking like a drowned rat in Washington D.C. In a way, he almost wished he could take back what Bryce had told him in Rio, that he didn’t have that tangible proof that drove him onward like Don Quixote tilting at his damned windmills. But every word was seared into his brain. Hope wasn’t lost. It was just so, so deeply buried in layers and layers of secrecy that Chuck would be better off going home and forgetting all about the existence of one Morgan Guillermo Grimes.
That was what they wanted him to do, after all.
Chuck yelped. He hadn’t seen the man, who was hulking and scary and vaguely resembled Bane, approach. He’d actually seemed to melt from the shadows themselves.
The use of his name, however, told Chuck that just like in the Batman verse, Bane was not a good dude. Chuck had registered at the hostel as Fernando Johnson.
“Uh, I think you’ve got the wrong guy,” Chuck said, backing up a step. “I’m Fernando Johnson, but I can help you look for this guy if you want.”
“Mr. Bartowski,” the man said again, and this time a smirk curled across his face. “Please don’t play games with us.”
“U-us?” Chuck asked, and only just then noticed that Bane was not alone. Several others had joined him, slinking out of the rain. Each was more hulking than the next until Chuck was sure one was actually the half-brother of the Hulk himself.
What the hell had he gotten himself into?
“Seriously, dudes,” he said, backing up again. He glanced back and winced when he realized they were actually backing him into an alley. Thanks, again, to Batman, he knew exactly how bad alleys were. “I really think you’ve got the wrong guy here. I’m Fernando. Fernando Johnson! Just a lowly computer programmer from, uh, Georgia.”
“Nice accent, then,” said a new voice, and this one was definitely female.
He knew that voice.