Here we go! It's that time again!
Yeah, I really have nothing funnier or wittier to say than that.
Enjoy the story.
Frea and Maximus
Chuck had tried to sleep, he really had. He’d counted sheep, he’d counted bytes, he’d stared at the ceiling in vain for over an hour. He’d recited Riemann’s zeta-function as a Mellin transformation backward and forward. When that hadn’t worked, he’d listed all of the primitive and reference types in every single computer language he’d studied.
None of it helped. He had just been too full of nervous energy to sleep, despite how exhausted with everything he really was.
He was in Sarah Walker’s house, staying in her guest bedroom.
She was sleeping in her own bedroom. Her own bedroom, he corrected himself, that was no more than 20 feet away and he was supposed to sleep, knowing that?
So after trying and failing to fall asleep, he had given up and decided that if he couldn’t sleep, he’d at least try to be productive.
The first thing he did was log into the CIA mainframe, using his own account for once. Most of the nerds in the office played a game where they hacked each others’ accounts and ran idiotic searches in the database for the sheer hell of it, but tonight, he wanted to keep his facts to himself. He ran a search on Sarah, the movie she was working on, and the studio, to see if the Agency had red-flagged anything that might explain the attack. The more he thought about her attacker calling her the Cat, the less of a coincidence he believed the attack to be. Unfortunately, he didn’t expect to find anything. As amazing as Sarah was, the Agency wasn’t in the habit of keeping tabs on Hollywood starlets.
While the search ran, he brought up his work e-mail, hoping for some kind of message from Bullworth or at least one of his friends in the office. Preferably one thanking him for handling things, but another agent would be taking things over from now on.
No such luck. The only thing in his inbox were the usual work e-mails. As they were routine, it took only a few minutes to deal with them, and a couple minutes more to remote into Jenkins’s computer, fix a bug, and leave a memo on the desktop that perhaps Jenkins should avoid exploring his fetishes at work in the future. By the time he had finished, his search on Sarah popped up. No results. No surprise there.
Undeterred, he shot off an e-mail to a friend at the FBI who owed him a favor, asking him to run their own search. A simple insinuation that it was for a bet, and that there might be a case of Glenfiddich in it for the winner, should keep said FBI snoop from putting together that Chuck Bartowski had somehow landed himself the enviable role of bodyguard to a woman on People’s Sexiest Actresses list.
By that point, it was only two in the morning, a couple of hours to go before Sarah had told him they had to leave. They hadn’t even made him wake up at four in the morning at Camp Peary. Perhaps acting wasn’t as glamorous as he’d thought.
Still full of too much energy to try sleeping again, he used his access to the DST mainframe to download a PDF of the specs and manual for Sarah’s security system. He really was a nerd, he mused, as he settled in to read.
Over twelve hours later, Chuck found out that something he had never thought possible could indeed be true: he was bored. He was on the set of a major motion picture; a movie starring his favorite celebrity and the woman he’d been crushing on for years, and he was bored.
If something didn’t happen soon, he might actually pass out from sheer boredom.
He just had nothing to do. They wouldn’t let him look at the cameras or the lights or anything, really, so he couldn’t sate in his innate curiosity whenever around new technology. They wouldn’t let him get closer to the set when Sarah was filming, so he had to stand back with the rest of the nonessential members of the crew, and could only see Sarah perform from afar. All he had done pretty much the entire day was follow Sarah around—after, of course, he had signed about an entire ream’s worth of paperwork saying he wouldn’t say anything about what he saw. They’d been thorough, covering every type of media source from CNN to Facebook. At one point, Chuck was positive they’d asked him to sign away his firstborn. He’d signed.
He was pretty sure for Sarah Walker, he’d sign anything, as pathetic as that probably made him.
As for Sarah—she was certainly beautiful, and they’d gotten along a little better than they had the day before, but there just wasn’t enough time for conversation. Sarah, he learned, was almost always in motion. She even ate lunch on the move, between costume changes and getting rigged up into stunt gear. He had no idea how she did it.
He considered himself to be relatively in shape. He knew he could do better, but after his time at Camp Peary, he’d made an effort to do what he could to keep himself fit in case he ever got his transfer. Yet, after ten hours of following Sarah around, he was exhausted. He knew part of that was because he hadn’t slept at all the night before, but still, he had no idea being a bodyguard could be such tiring work.
And he wasn’t even doing anything. There’d been no attacks, no crazy fans, nothing. After around hour five of trying to keep an eye on everybody who came near Sarah, he gave up. There were too many people, too much was going on, and his brain was fried. She talked to anybody and everybody that came near, and she always seemed to have a smile and know names, whereas he was sure that life had become something like an old Scooby-Doo cartoon, except that the people revolved and the scenery never did.
How had everything become routine to him already?
His phone vibrated, breaking the boredom and making him jolt. Bullworth’s name on the viewscreen nearly made him weep with relief, but he kept it together as he answered. “Hello?”
“Bartowski, how are things going with whatever her name is, the actress?”
“Sarah Walker, sir.” Finally, he was going to get some answers.
“Yeah, I don’t care what her name is. Report, Bartowski.”
Chuck frowned and walked off to the side, into a more secluded part of the soundstage. “Sir, didn’t you read my e-mail? I sent you my preliminary findings earlier this morning.”
“Bartowski, just give me the damn sitrep.”
Chuck almost sighed. Of course Bullworth hadn’t read his report. “Well, sir, as I said in my report, I haven’t been able to identify Miss Walker’s attacker, but she did report that the man called her the Cat at some point during the attack.”
Anything else? He had just said that Sarah had possibly been called a rather infamous spy codename. That seemed like a pretty serious issue for the Agency, high profile victim or no. “I’ve been watching over Miss Walker almost every minute since I arrived, sir. I’m doing what I can to find her attacker and I’ve already taken some steps to improve her security.”
He could just imagine Bullworth nodding his head. “That’s good work, Bartowski.”
“Yes, sir, thank you, sir. But back to what I was saying about the Cat, you do know I mean—”
“Keep me posted,” Bullworth said, and hung up.
Chuck pulled his phone back and stared at it. What the hell? Had that really just happened?
Apparently, it had. He was just as lost as he had been for nearly twenty-four hours now, and there seemed to be no way out. Frustrated, he shook his head and wandered back over to the crew.
The woman who’d greeted him the day before jogged up, still bearing the same clipboard and frazzled expression. “Hey, you’re Sarah’s new bodyguard, right?”
She smiled at him. “I am.”
Chuck smiled back. “And I am, too. Sarah’s bodyguard, I mean.”
“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you look exhausted. Rough day?”
Chuck ran a hand through his hair and then yawned. “However could you tell?”
“Come on, Sarah’s got a chair that she uses when she’s not filming. You can rest for a bit. I don’t think she’ll mind.”
Normally, he would have objected, but he was too tired to put up much of a fight. So after she pointed the chair out to him, he just walked over and collapsed onto it. “You’re a lifesaver,” he said. He let out a little moan as his body finally had a chance to rest. Sarah had good taste in chairs.
Jaime laughed again and said, “No problem.” Her walkie squawked. “That’s my cue, you gonna be alright here?”
“Oh yeah,” Chuck said, “I’m gonna be fine.”
He watched the hustle and bustle of the crew and felt himself slowly being lulled to sleep. His eyes closed and he almost managed to nod off when he heard, “Sleeping on the job, huh?”
For a minute, he was tempted to fake sleep and not answer. It seemed impossible that he would ever want Sarah Walker—Sarah Walker—to leave him alone, but right now, all he wanted was to nap. Possibly for a year. So he put his hands over his face and just mumbled, over and over again, “I need a new boss, I need a new job, I need a new boss, this isn’t happening.”
“You know, a lesser person might take offense at that.”
Chuck lifted his head and peered at Sarah. “Good thing you’re Sarah Walker, then.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “Come on, let’s go.”
“We caught a break. They want to get some shots of extras without the leads, so we’ve got a couple of hours before they need us back and I don’t know about you, but I seriously need to get out of here. Also, I’m hungry and Neil dictates what I can eat from craft services.”
At the mention of food, Chuck’s stomach rumbled. Loudly. He flushed and Sarah nodded. “Ready to bust loose, bodyguard?”
“Should we really just leave?”
Sarah’s eyes sparkled with fun. “Nobody’ll miss us. And you really need some new clothes. We’ll do that after dinner.”
“Food does sound like a good—wait, what?”
But Sarah was already striding away, and he had to hurry to scramble out of her chair to catch up.
“Look, Sarah Wal—Sarah. I told you, I’ve got my own clothes.”
Sarah held up a black button-down in front of his chest and tilted her head to the side as she considered. He really wished she’d stop doing that, as his system was already overloading as it was. It turned out Sarah Walker being adorable for two hours on end really could break one’s brain. This was possibly one of the reasons he had a rule about not watching Love, Reality, and Taxes more than twice in a six-week period. Sarah’s eyes cut up to his now. “With you?”
Chuck squirmed. “Well, no, not with me, with me. They’re back in D.C. You know that.”
“Uh-huh,” Sarah said and held up another shirt. It was obvious that she wasn’t listening.
He had quickly discovered that when Sarah set her mind to something, she did what was necessary to make her want come true. He had objected during the ride to the restaurant, during dinner, and on the way to the shop they were currently tearing through, and it had been like talking to a particularly stubborn brand of brick wall the whole time.
“It would take me an hour tops to go get my stuff from my sister’s,” Chuck said. “I told you I brought some nicer clothes with me. There’s no need for us to go shopping.”
“Neil said that you had to be with me 24/7. How can you do that and go get your stuff?”
“Come on, surely he didn’t mean it quite so literally.”
“He did. And no, I don’t know why. I stopped trying to figure out the inner workings of Neil’s mind the first time I took on Syd.” She added another shirt to the pile in her arms. “Besides, you said that you only brought one nice outfit with you.”
She held up another shirt and just as quickly discarded it. “A single outfit isn’t good enough, Chuck. You can’t wear it every day and who knows how long you’ll be here? We’ve still got weeks of filming left.” Sarah shook her head and started walking toward the changing rooms. “I told you that I’m buying, it’s the least I could do for ruining your vacation. Or Neil is, once I send him the bill.”
He couldn’t help it, he smiled back when she grinned, though his was not as genuine as hers. This whole situation was still a little too bizarre for him, like he had accidentally stepped into the Twilight Zone. “It doesn’t really matter what I say, you’re not going to listen, are you?”
“Now he gets it.”
Chuck sighed and gave up. “Can I at least pick out my own clothes? I’m not six, you know.”
She looked over her shoulder at him, eyeing him from head to toe in a way that made him want to turn red all over. “The nerd clothes are cute, don’t get me wrong, but if your current outfit is any indication, I’m not exactly confident in your choices.”
“Hey, what’s wrong with my clothes? Not everybody can pull this look off, you know,” he said. He tugged the front of his fake Bass Pro shirt out to emphasize his point.
Sarah smirked and raised an eyebrow. “Well, I hear nerd chic is in these days, so maybe you have a point.”
“Ha. So what you’re saying is that maybe I know what I’m doing after all.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.” She foisted her pile of clothes off on him. “Come on, let’s go try this stuff on. We’ve only got about an hour before we have to head back, and there are still so many departments we need to hit.”
Chuck dutifully followed, watching in dismay as Sarah added still more clothes to the pile. It was quickly approaching a point where she was simply buying him a whole new wardrobe. He wondered if she was even aware of what she was doing. The last time he’d gone through this sort of thing, it had been at Stanford, and Ellie had taken the train up to see him and drag him suit-shopping for interviews. She’d trusted him to buy his own clothing ever since.
Sarah, however, was tearing through the store with a glee he hadn’t seen since he and Morgan had come across a box of SNES games at a yard sale, marked at a quarter per game.
He didn’t think Sarah would appreciate the comparison. Even if she didn’t even know Morgan.
“Oh, this looks cute,” Sarah said.
Chuck looked up. They were in the women’s section now, thank God, so that meant whatever had caught her eye was for her and not for him.
Even though she’d no doubt look fabulous in whatever had caught her eye, his arms burned from holding the mountain of clothes that he would shortly be expected to try on. He was about to pointedly remind Sarah that they needed to keep going, when he spotted them.
At first he thought they were fans. It wouldn’t have been the first time people had approached Sarah to ask for an autograph or to tell her how much they liked Sydney Dunham. But something about the this pair walked set off alarm bells. They just didn’t look right. Maybe it was profiling, but the leather jacket and the stubby ponytail, and oh, yeah, the fact that the guy on the left looked like he could be on the defensive line of the Raiders, told Chuck something might be up.
“Uh, Sarah,” he said, and instinctively moved to get between her and the men.
“Hmm?” She was still preoccupied with whatever had caught her eye.
“I think it would be a good idea if you were to maybe run for—”
He never finished his thought: a knife appeared in the hand of the man on the right, and both men leapt forward.