Just a head's up: this is where the story differentiates a lot from canon (not that it hasn't already). Let's face it: Chuck shows at 8/7c on NBC, which means there's not a lot of things like blood spatter or brutal violence, and they skirt a lot of the unseemlier topics, choosing to do the lighthearted instead.
Too bad I didn't get the memo. Parts of this next segment may not be for the faint of heart, as they say. Or, you know, people with taste. But I'm still going to post it anyway.
He knew that smell. Even though he was gasping for air, his chest burning hotter than the fires of hell and sucking his existence into one single, sharp, focused point of agony just above his center, Chuck knew the smell of death. It took him back seven years in a blink, left him standing and clutching the door of that damned butcher shop, staring and staring as his worst nightmare covered the walls and floor. Another blink, and he was back in some nasty old shed on the Boston waterfront with Tanya shrilling and Sarah Walker standing over him like a vengeful angel. He wasn’t sure which was worse.
“Oh my God,” Sarah said again, a faint whisper. She couldn’t seem to say anything else, except: “Bryce.”
Chuck yanked in another gasp and couldn’t tear his eyes away from the interior of the shed. Whoever this Bryce person was, his last days on this earth must have sucked. That was the first, dispassionate thought that crossed Chuck’s mind before the full reality of it all followed Sarah’s example and kicked him in the gut.
He was staring at a dead man. Again.
Bryce, the dead man, dangled from the ceiling of the shed by a chain, his wrists chained together. Because he’d been stripped of a shirt, Chuck could see a healed bullet wound scar, and a whole hell of a lot more. Rigor mortis had come and gone, and pallor mortis had set in, bleaching the dead man of all color, except the darkness of his lank hair and oddly, the bright blue of his remaining eye as he stared forward, forever suspended, forever awake in death.
That was far more disconcerting, Chuck decided in what felt almost like hysteria, than the fact that there were pieces of Bryce all over the place. Torture, he saw immediately. Bryce had had something, and somebody had wanted it badly enough to shatter the Geneva Convention into tiny, bloody pieces. In fact, the whole shed seemed to be some sort of black site, the walls covered with crude, bloody instruments. A small table behind the dead man, barely visible in the low light, held more of the same.
Sarah’s breathing, labored from the fight, began to quicken and she actually staggered, going backwards into the space of wall between the shelf and the door. “No,” Chuck heard her say. “No, no, no, no, he’s supposed to be dead. He was shot. They shot him in DC. He’s dead.”
Warily, feeling even more like he might lose not only his lunch but his kidneys, lungs, and major organs right there on the disgusting, insect-infested floor of that shed, Chuck climbed to his feet. He couldn’t stop staring at that one eye, so eerily blue that it seemed to glow out of the darkness.
“No, no, no...”
“Sarah,” Chuck said. It came out a wheeze.
She didn’t hear him. She just continued to stay in that one spot, ignoring him, ignoring Tanya’s shrilling, ignoring the shed around them.
“Sarah.” He tried again. It sounded like a noise a dying pig would make, and he had no idea if it was because of the dead man in the center of the shed or if he’d just had his ass handed to him by a fully-trained CIA agent. It took a mammoth effort, like slogging through molasses, but he forced himself to look away from the eyeball and at Sarah, who had gone the color of bone. “Sarah.”
“This isn’t happening, this isn’t real...”
Tanya shrilled. Chuck wheezed and hit a button.
Tanya shrilled again. The tone was different.
“Sarah.” The world felt out of time, distorted in ways he couldn’t begin to describe, but even so, Chuck recognized this alarm tone. He’d set Tanya himself. The hair rose along his arms and up the back of his neck, but still, he couldn’t do much more than wheeze. “Sarah, we have to go.”
“No,” Sarah said again, and Chuck wasn’t sure she was replying to him, or if she was still trapped in that shocky state of self-denial. “No.”
“We have to go. We have to go now.” The woman had beaten him to within an inch of his lung capacity, but all he knew was that bad things were going to come down on their heads if they stayed. And right now, she was stuck in this horror story, same as him. So he grabbed her arm, just as he had earlier, to push her away. He grabbed her arm and pulled.
She fought him, but there wasn’t any precision this time. Her elbow came at him, catching him in the shoulder. Chuck grimaced, but at least it hadn’t been his chest. “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” he heard himself say, and it felt disconnected that it should be his arm wrapping around Sarah’s midsection, and his body yanking hers from the shed. Tanya’s alarm continued to shrill: the site was actively being pinged, there was some sort of alert network. He didn’t have time to find out more. If whoever had done this to Bryce was still around, Chuck and Sarah needed to be gone.
They hit open air, Chuck stooping only to grab his backpack and continuing to yank, pull, haul, babbling his apologies the whole time. Sarah’s struggles were half-hearted, almost feeble in their way.
Tanya beeped: intruders, incoming.
It hurt to run. Hell, it hurt to do anything. He hadn’t been beaten so thoroughly since Volkoff’s cronies had left him on the floor of that warehouse ten years before. Of course, then it had led to months of rehab. Now, he would have to run, and to pull an unwilling woman along with him. The same woman that was the reason he felt so awful in the first place.
He didn’t have the first clue what he was running from. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know, though he figured it would be important later, to have any idea at all what his enemies were. Part of it was that he just wanted to be away from the vision of a dead man named Bryce. Most of it was because he knew staying was just bad, that he was in no condition to fight. He loped along, gasping and panting, waves of pain crashing through him with every footfall. Sarah seemed to wake from her daze, and it became less a matter of pulling her along than keeping up. She gave him one assessing look as they hurried away from the scene of a vicious crime, the dirty mechanic and the hooker. Her eyes were unreadable as she wordlessly slipped a shoulder under arm and helped him along.
Neither of them spoke until they reached Chuck’s rental car. Sarah’s face, still milk-white, slid behind some sort of Sarah-Walker-shaped impenetrable mask. She looked like she might never speak again. Chuck felt like he might never be able to. When Sarah slid into the driver’s seat, he didn’t protest, instead collapsing into the passenger seat and staring at the ceiling of the car, wondering if the pain would ever end. He needed to breathe deeper. It hurt to even suck in the smallest of breaths.
The car fishtailed as Sarah slammed it into gear and hit the accelerator.
That far-too-blue eye stayed on them the whole time.