...Okay, that's a lie. I'm not twitching yet. But mxpw might be. I distinctly heard some Gollum-like crooning over the precious, which I'm going to take to mean SWP. Don't worry, that's normal.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank everybody for taking the time to vote and give feedback. I know we probably didn't make it easy on you: the nature of the game with the choices is that you were voting based on your faith in us. Thankfully, there are an abundance of good Chuck fanfic writers providing excellent stories of all AU types (hi, Tally! Sorde! ninja!) that should make up for the lack of the other four stories.
So I'm sure you're dying to know which story won. I could probably prattle on for a couple more paragraphs (I'm talented that way), but the winner is after the break!
Title: Curtain Call
Synopsis: Sarah Walker is all set to be Hollywood's Next Big Thing. She's done her time on the D-list, has a few stinkers under her belt, has earned critical acclaim, and now casting directors are calling her, not the other way around. But even having one of Hollywood's most famous faces can't always save you from a case of mistaken identity. When a mixup lands her in trouble , the CIA sends their best agent for protection. Well, they meant to...but those agents are all unavailable. So they send Chuck Bartowski instead. Now it's a fish out of water tale in the fishbowl of Beverly Hills, and the only thing scarier than the bad guys are the Paparazzi.
Where we left off: Chuck just saw Sarah for the first time...dun dun dunnnn....
“Vanessa,” Sarah said as she stepped into the living room of her trailer, “I don’t need a bodyguard.”
Vanessa held up her hands. “Sorry, Sarah, but Neil was pretty insistent. You know how he is.”
Sarah did know and so she just sighed. She made her robe a little more secure and then turned her attention to the tall man standing next to Vanessa. He looked out of place in her trailer, tall enough that he had to duck forward. And he lacked about 50 pounds on any other bodyguard Sarah had ever seen. Most times, the firms sent ex-military types with the buzzcuts and the bad attitudes that hid behind permanent scowls and sunglasses.
None of them had ever looked completely gobsmacked, or had been this lanky. None of them had certainly ever worn canvas sneakers like that, not unless they were going for a run with her out by the pier. And even then, they’d always had earwigs to counter the casual look.
This man simply didn’t look like a bodyguard. If she had to quantify him at all, he looked like a nerd.
But Neil’s orders were Neil’s orders. She’d put up with it...for now. So she stuck out a hand. “Hi. I’m Sarah Walker.”
“Uh,” was all he said.
She waited a few more seconds, her hand still out. She tried to motion with her eyes for him to take her hand, but he just maintained that stunned into silence look.
She pulled her hand back and twisted around to look at Vanessa. “Are you sure he’s supposed to be my bodyguard?”
Vanessa looked perplexed as well. She glanced at her clipboard and then shrugged. “Said he was with Bullworth and that’s who Neil said was sending somebody over.”
“And he speaks English?”
“Seemed to be speaking it just fine a minute ago, Sarah.”
Sarah looked from the producer to the erstwhile bodyguard. “I see,” she said, and wasn’t sure what to do next. She’d never actually broken anybody before. Sure, there were the fans that embarrassed themselves horribly in front of her. She’d had one person drop to his knee on the spot and propose marriage to Carly Banks, a chemist she’d played a few years before that had netted her first accolades. Some people went suddenly shy. But never before had there been this sort of stunned-stupid expression.
“Can we see about maybe getting me a new one?” she asked Vanessa. “I appear to have broken this one.”
The producer looked puzzled for a minute, shrugged to herself, and then delivered a solid smack right between the shoulder blades of the stuck man. Unlikely Bodyguard jerked forward with a noise that was somewhere between a shout and a yelp, blinked as though coming out of a long sleep. In an instant, his face went from slack to smile, and the change was so quicksilver that Sarah nearly blinked.
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking from Vanessa to her and then around the trailer as though in confusion. “I think I just hallucinated something. Where am I? Never mind that, actually. Sorry, if this is a dream, it’s an incredibly rude one. I’m Chuck Bartowski. Bullworth sent me.”
This was said very, very quickly.
Sarah did blink then, but stuck out her hand. “Like I said earlier, I’m Sarah Walker.”
“No you’re not.”
“"I...beg your pardon?"
"You can't be Sarah Walker. Because if you're Sarah Walker, that means I'm standing in Sarah Walker's trailer and...oh, god, you're Sarah Walker."
Sarah had dealt with a lot of strange requests from Neil over the years, but this was the first time he’d ever made her deal with a crazy person. “I see,” she said. “Vanessa, can you get Neil for me?”
Vanessa was already reaching for the cell phone clipped to her belt. She pressed the phone against her ear.
“Wait!” Chuck blurted out into the trailer. “I’m sorry,” he said and took a step forward, then stopped. “This is just a huge shock to me and not what I was expecting at all. I mean, two hours ago I was supposed to be on vacation and eating dinner at my sister’s and suddenly I’m in Sarah Walker’s trailer and oh my God, I still can’t believe you’re standing in front of me right now.”
Thankfully he paused then and took a breath. She was about to tell him that it was alright, she understood, and perhaps it would be better for all of them if this Bullworth sent somebody else, when he started up again.
“But just out of curiosity, I noticed on my way in that this studio is still using the PTX-90s and I wondered why you hadn’t made the change to the 91s? They have much better nightvision and motion capture capabilities than the 90s, allowing for much faster processing. Also, do you store your media on site or by proxy, because I’d really like to go over the footage for the last six hours and see if we can’t find who attacked you, Miss Walker.”
Vanessa held out her phone. “I’ve got Neil, Sarah.”
Sarah locked eyes with Chuck.
“I can speak with him if you like,” Chuck said, surprising her. “I’m sure there’s just been a mix—”
“Yes, sir?” Vanessa asked into the phone, interrupting Chuck and making both actress and bodyguard look at her in surprise. The tone had gone from grudging to businesslike, always a clue that something had happened on set. With the way things had been going lately, Sarah had to figure out that something had David’s name all over it. He was a brilliant director, not too hands-on, letting her do a lot of the work, but he could be temperamental as hell when the issue had nothing to do with his actors. She didn’t envy Vanessa for being the producer to run interference; the rest had washed their hands of David early on in the project. “Yes, sir, I’ll be right there.”
She snapped the phone closed. “Bad news, kids. One of the 2ks blew, David’s pitching a fit, and we’re going to just wrap early for the day and hope to make up some of the shots tomorrow. I’ll double security around the trailer, you stay in here, and we’ll sort this out in awhile?”
“Sure, Vanessa,” Sarah said, but the producer had already hurried away, letting in a blast of California heat and leaving the trailer door swinging shut behind her. Left alone with Chuck Bartowski, Sarah realized just how very, very awkward this whole situation was.
He was doing that thing where he was trying to look at her without staring, and he was doing it poorly. Right now, with Vanessa dealing with other things, he was her problem. And her grandmother hadn’t raised her to be impolite—hadn’t really raised her to be anything, at all, but that was neither here nor there—so Sarah cleared her throat. “Do you need a drink or anything?”
He looked startled. “You’re letting me stay?”
“Vanessa’s orders. I’ve got, um....I think there’s some Cokes? I know there’s water, sparkling, still, whatever.”
His adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed, hard. “A Coke would be nice. I can get it, though. You should, um, sit down or something. Are you feeling okay? They said you got attacked?”
“It was nothing. I’ve had worse on set.” That was mostly the truth, she had suffered worse injuries on set before, though nothing had ever captured the sheer mind numbing spike of fear that had stabbed into her stomach when the new PA had assaulted her. She still wasn’t sure how she had fought him off. The only thing she could think of was that the hours of fight training she’d received over the course of her career had ingrained some kind of instinctual response inside of her.
Chuck peered at her closely and she looked away. “Look, I’m fine,” she said. “Just a few bumps and bruises, I really think Neil’s overreacting.”
“Still,” Chuck said, and he didn’t sound remotely convinced, “maybe you could go over exactly what happened?”
“You should probably sign an NDA first,” Sarah said, uncertain. She had kept most of the details of her life out of the press only by sheer determination, and she wasn’t about to start babbling all of them off now.
“You can trust me,” Chuck said, and crossed to the mini-fridge in the corner to pull out a Coke and a water.
“And how do I know that?”
“Because I’m more afraid of my boss than I am of you.”
That was not the answer she was expecting, especially since Chuck Bartowski had basically shut down like a robot right in front of her not five minutes before. But he seemed sincere now as he perched carefully, putting as much distance between him and the other side of the sofa as he could. Warily, Sarah sat down on the opposite side. “I’m not sure if I believe that, Mr. Bartowski.”
“I’d meet my boss before you make claims like that. Look, I’ll give you my...” Chuck patted his pockets, searching for something. “I’ll give you my contact information, you can call references that’ll tell you that not only am I trustworthy, but I’m also fantastic at...” He stopped talking, abruptly, in the middle of his sentence and just stared.
Oh, crap, Sarah thought. I broke him again.
She let out a sigh. Put that way, Chuck did sound more trustworthy than most of the slimy Hollywood types she stepped over every day on her way to work. And she had no idea what else they could possibly talk about while waiting for Vanessa’s orders to lift and for the new bodyguard to arrive. So she started from the beginning.
When we have a better idea of the schedule, we'll post that. Remember, we've got from now until September or October to tell this story in small increments that promise to be fun, flirty, fascinating, fraught with danger, and fantastic.
— mxpw and Frea
PS — Here are the results in case you wanted to know how everybody voted!