So I think some apologies are in order. Neither Frea or myself intended to take this long to update, but life just gets in the way, you know? So, sorry for pushing the update back so many times, but here you go!
Chuck felt like he was in fanboy heaven.
They were doing wirework today and it was pretty much the coolest thing ever.
Sydney blocked the right jab coming at her face and swept her attacker’s feet. The man tumbled into another guard, who tumbled into a third guard, and Sydney took off running down the hallway. She wasn’t fast enough.
Chuck watched in fascination as a fourth man tossed a grenade. A loud bang thundered across the soundstage and Chuck winced. But he couldn’t tear his eyes off of Sarah as she was yanked forward, soaring up and through the air almost like a superhero.
He knew they’d CGI in the explosion later, but Chuck didn’t care. He wanted to applaud after Sarah landed on a large pad nearly fifteen feet away from where she’d started—Angelica would be the one actually crashing into the wall later. Sarah climbed to her feet, grinning, and he could almost imagine her shouting “Again!” Or maybe he was just thinking about what he’d say if their roles were reversed.
The stunt coordinator and David both arrived at the pad at the same time and started discussing the sequence. Chuck hoped they’d have to do another take; he wanted to see Sarah fly again.
The excitement was almost enough to make him forget how tired he still was. He’d managed a quick shower before collapsing in Sarah’s guest bedroom the night before—or earlier this morning if he was going to get technical. He’d slept like the dead. It left him feeling sharper and more energetic, along with the coffee he was currently mainlining. He’d take what he could get and be grateful for it.
Besides, the day had been pretty interesting so far.
Chuck turned around and smiled at Jaime. She had essentially taken him under her wing, the last day or so. She was always checking up on him and making sure he had everything he needed, and she had even started explaining to him the inner workings of the set whenever she had a free moment. Without Jaime, he’d be in even more over his head than he already was. He was going to have to make sure he gave her one hell of a thank you when the mission was over.
“Your friend is here,” she said.
“Thanks. That’s, uh, great.”
Jaime nodded and took a second to listen to the chatter coming from her walkie. “Security is escorting him in.”
“Awesome,” Chuck said and reminded himself that Casey was here to do him a favor. He needed to relax. There was no reason to freak out. “If you see Vanessa, thank her again for getting him a pass.”
A voice called out for her from behind Chuck, back where the crew was setting things up for the next shot. Jaime smiled crookedly. “That’s my cue. Catch ya later, Chuck!”
He really had no idea what to expect of this meeting. Casey had only asked for the barest bones of information. The major had mumbled something about how he had interrupted a Reagan retrospective that the he really wanted to get back to and had promptly hung up. So he wasn’t even sure that Casey understood what he was getting himself into.
He wished he knew somebody else he could ask that would be willing to help him out and keep what they were doing quiet, but very few people he knew had Casey’s level of experience and expertise. And certainly none of them owed him a favor this big. He just hoped that the older man had mellowed a bit since their last encounter.
Even when Casey had tried to be nice, he still intimidated the hell out of Chuck.
Chuck finished off his coffee and aimed carefully at a trash bin. His phone vibrating in his pocket surprised him and threw off his toss.
Chuck sighed as he fished it out of his pocket; it was another missed call from Morgan. He knew that he shouldn’t duck the calls or e-mails or text messages—he half-expected Morgan to start sending out messenger pigeons soon—but he really didn’t want to deal with Morgan questioning him about his relationship with Sarah.
Morgan was almost as big a fan of Sarah as he was. When Chuck had first seen It Came From the Swamp, Morgan had been right by his side. The two of them had even gone to see Love, Reality, and Taxes opening night. Together. They had gotten more than one odd look, but neither had cared. So he could only imagine how much his friend was freaking out.
He just thanked God, the Fates, or whatever out there existed, that he’d yet to receive anything from Ellie. He imagined the resultant shriek of amazement that he was dating somebody, and a move star no less, would deafen a five mile radius. The longer he could put that off, and then have to explain that it was nothing but a façade, the better.
Chuck slipped his phone back into his pocket and told himself he’d get back to Morgan soon. Probably.
Casey should have made it to the soundstage from the gate by now, and it wasn’t like Casey to be late. And that probably meant he was lost, which would mean he’d soon be getting an earful. Wonderful.
Chuck picked his coffee cup up, threw it in the bin, and set off in search of Casey.
He’d barely taken two steps toward the soundstage exit before Sarah suddenly appeared by his side. “Gah!” he said in surprise and flailed away from her.
“You know, when you do that, it doesn’t exactly instill me with a lot of confidence.”
Chuck scowled at Sarah. “Maybe I wasn’t expecting you to sneak up on me like you did in—” When he realized what he was about to say, he cut himself off.
If he made it out of this assignment without giving away that he was a complete and total fanboy, it would be a miracle. It was a constant struggle not to sit Sarah down and gush to her about the awesome freighter scene in Call of Midnight or ask her if she agreed that It Came From the Swamp was one big metaphor for humanity’s search for truth in the Universe. She already thought he was strange enough.
“Like I did in what?” Sarah asked.
“Nothing. I wasn’t going to say anything,” he said a little quicker than he would have liked. “Aren’t you supposed to be filming right now?”
“On a break,” she said. She looked amused. “I wanted to tell you that my publicist is mad at me.”
Well, that was random. “Uh, okay?”
“She’s upset I didn’t tell her about us. My agent thinks it’s great news. But they both agree you need to go with me to the ‘Harmony and the Bees’ premiere tonight.”
“A movie premiere?” Chuck flashed back to the paparazzi flashbulb’s exploding in his face, and hoped he didn’t look as unenthusiastic as he felt. “That’s, uh…I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
Sarah shrugged and looked behind him, where a flurry of activity was taking place. No doubt the crew was hard at work making the hallway look like a grenade had just gone off. In fact, out of the corner of his eye, he watched as people walked by, carrying bits of rubble they would no doubt sprinkle around the hallway and Sydney’s body.
“It’s the job,” Sarah said.
Chuck just sighed and nodded. She smirked at him and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”
“My hero,” Chuck said.
“I know,” she said, and looked behind him again. “Anyway, David is giving me the evil eye, I should probably get back. We should wrap early today, so we’ll leave at five, okay?” She spun around on her heel and walked back to the set just as silently as she arrived.
Chuck stood there for a minute and let everything wash over him. He was going to a movie premiere, with Sarah as his date. Well, fake date. And he was really only there to protect her. But still, it was both exciting and terrifying. And oh God, this was only going to make Morgan freak out even more.
But news of the movie premiere made talking to Casey all the more important, and just where was the other man anyway?
It didn’t take Chuck long to find him. John Casey was not an easy man to miss. The Marine was currently surrounded by a group of people, several of which were in full tactical gear—Chuck recognized them as members of the security force trying to stop Sydney Dunham from escaping—and having a rather lively discussion about something.
“…not a gun. This is an AK-47, the finest piece of Commie engineering you will ever find.” Chuck heard the group of people murmuring, and he realized that he needed to break things up soon before Casey got himself thrown out of the studio. “And secondly, you’re supposed to hold it like this.”
Casey placed the butt of the rifle squarely against his shoulder and then lined up the sights. “Whoever decided shooting from the hip was a good idea was a moron.”
“Excuse me, people, excuse me,” Chuck said and pushed his way through the milling crowd. When they saw who he was, they parted. He doubted many of them knew his name, but his identity as Sarah’s new boyfriend had already been widely whispered around set.
“There you are, Bartowski. I’ve been looking for you.” Casey glared at him and handed back the rifle to one of the people surrounding him. Chuck suddenly felt like a little boy about to be chastised by his father. Casey just had that way about him.
When they were a good distance away the crowd, in a little corner off to the side of the soundstage exit, Casey spun around to face him. “About time you showed up.”
“I’m sorry, Major, I didn’t—”
“Save it. Why am I here?”
“It’s like I told you last night, I need your help.”
Casey grunted and seemed to scan the immediate area methodically, cataloguing everything he saw for later recall. Chuck had seen Kellerman do the same thing before; it was a skill he knew he’d have to master if he wanted to be a real field agent.
“Where’s your girlfriend?”
Startled, Chuck coughed. He still didn’t know how to feel about the world thinking he was Sarah Walker’s boyfriend and wait—“How do you even know about that?”
“Because TMZ is my homepage, obviously,” Casey said.
“No, you idiot, I did my homework. Like a professional.” Chuck probably deserved that comment. “Apparently it’s vitally important the world knows who’s dating who.” Casey shook his head and mumbled under his breath.
“For the record, she’s not actually my girlfriend.”
Casey grunted again. It sounded distinctly like “Thanks for stating the obvious.”
“Anyway, she’s filming now, so I figured that this would be a good time for us to discuss things.” Chuck paused and looked over his shoulder to see Sarah talking to Angelica, her stunt double. It always threw him exactly how different and yet how alike they seemed. “Sarah isn’t exactly, uh, fond of strangers, so we’ll probably need to be quick.”
“Fine by me, the less time I have to spend around this place, with all of these…actors, the better.”
“Right,” Chuck said. He could do this. “I need you to teach me how to keep Sarah safe. And I need you to do it quietly. Nobody can know about this.”
Casey didn’t say anything for several seconds and Chuck just knew that he was going to say no. Not that he could blame Casey; he probably wouldn’t want to teach himself either. He wasn’t even a real field agent, didn’t have any experience, barely knew what he was doing, was just a computer nerd, didn’t even think Casey liked him all that—
“Didn’t they teach you this stuff at Peary?”
“Um, sort of. But it was years ago and, well,” Chuck swallowed and then blurted out, “I have to keep her safe, Casey. I promised her I would do whatever it took and you were the only person I could think of who would be able to help me and I know we don’t really know each other and I’m sure you have a very busy life but you have to help me. She’s depending on me and I can’t let her down.” His jaw clicked shut when he finished and he sucked in a breath.
Casey actually looked vaguely amused. “You done?”
Casey grunted and slipped his hands into his pockets. “Look around and tell me what you see, Bartowski.”
“Uh, it’s a soundstage.”
Being near the exit afforded him a view of the bulk of the soundstage, and they were still setting up Sarah’s next scene, so the place was in constant motion. There was a steady stream of people entering and exiting the soundstage, most of them carrying everything from more weapons to one guy carrying a collection of balloons—he’d have to ask Sarah about that later. A camera crew was being hoisted high up into the air, the makeup people were working on Sarah, and the PAs were doing whatever PAs did. All of it was hectic, but none of it seemed out of the ordinary to him. Was this a trick question?
“I see a tactical nightmare, Bartowski. All this open space, all these people. How many of them do you know? What about the guys walking around with weapons?” He jerked his thumb at the same extras he’d been talking to earlier. “Sure, the weapons aren’t real, but you could walk into this place with a real one and how would you even know? You sure your girl can’t just do a nice romantic comedy?”
“Sydney Dunham,” Chuck said, his back going up, “is a fine character that—”
“And look at you.”
Chuck blinked and looked down automatically. The clothing Neil’s assistant had picked out was nondescript at best: a button-up shirt and slacks. He looked like he could be any one of the numerous producers, vendors, or extras wandering around. “What about me?”
“Your situational awareness is lacking, you have no backup, and you’re not even carrying a weapon. What you need would take weeks of dedicated training. You’ll need a team, equipment, and since she’s already been attacked here once, you’ll need to find some way to minimize her exposure. That’s a huge order, and not exactly easy to keep quiet.”
Chuck sighed and knew that everything that Casey had just said was nothing new, but he had meant what he said when he told Sarah he’d do whatever it took to keep her safe.
“I understand if you don’t want to help.”
Casey sighed loudly. “I didn’t say that. Look, Bartowski, you reunited me with my daughter and for that I told you I owed you a favor, no matter what it was. And despite how much it pains me to get involved, I am a man of my word.”
“So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying let’s get to work.”