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[ a whole lotta hurry up and wait ] The thing is, when it started it wasn’t personal. It’s not like Casey had any kind of deep, emotional feelings about it. It was more like a ferret in his stomach chewing up his insides kind of thing. It just felt… wrong, somehow. In a way he couldn’t explain it. Like when you’re watching porn and there’s no money shot: It’s just wrong. That’s all it was. What the agency wanted him to do was just wrong. Period. Except Chuck’s the type of person who grew up post-Doctor Spock (the we-must-coddle-our-children doctor, not the weird-eared-has-no-emotions one) so he wound up being a touchy-feely, clingy, emotionally starved kind of guy and he just wouldn’t shut up about it. “Why,” he kept asking, no matter what state they were in, no matter how disgusting the blankets were, no matter how many times Casey pointed his gun at him and growled at him to shut his mealy little trap and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth. “Why are you doing this?” He also said: “If anyone’s mealy-mouthed here it’s you, you’re the one mincing words and being all secretive.” Turns out, according to dictionary.com, Chuck is right. God that’s annoying. So Chuck asks “why?” and Casey says “bite me.” Chuck asks “why?” and Casey says “are you gonna eat that or not, I just paid five bucks for your stupid combo number five, hold the mayo.” Chuck asks “why” and Casey says “oh, for God’s sake, go to sleep.” “Go to sleep, Chuck” became Casey’s mantra until one night they’re in Tulsa and Casey had gotten sunburned to hell and back and not been able to find any damned aloe vera at the corner store, and he’d had just about enough. “I just mean, you uprooted me from my life, took me away from my sister, told me you were saving my life, and explained nothing,” Chuck yells, hands flailing every which way, and normally Casey’s amused by this. Not because he finds Chuck amusing, but because my God, could the kid be any more melodramatic? “Look it, Chuck, they gave me an assignment I wasn’t prepared to do, so I’m not doing it,” Casey says through gritted teeth. “Now drop it and trust me.” “So what, you’re on the run and you’re using me as some sort of leverage,” Chuck asks, sitting on the edge of Casey’s bed despite Casey’s best you-sit-there-and-you-die glare. “What the hell kind of assignment could they possibly have given you that you’d say no to? I thought you were the pinnacle of who the phrase Company Man was invented for.” “Drop it,” Casey says, eyes flicking towards the television, a small smile coming to his face as Heather Locklear flashes across the screen. There’s just something about that woman that makes it impossible for a man to not smile. “You don’t want to know.” “Fine,” Chuck says, standing up and walking towards the door. “I’m thinking two weeks of this is quite enough, so if you don’t mind I’m going to go to the nearest Western Union, call my sister, and get enough cash to take the next bus out of here.” “Do and you die,” Casey says softly, eyes never leaving the screen. Melrose Place is a god awful show, but good God do they have some fine ass women on there. “What, I step one foot in that hallway and you gun me down in broad daylight,” Chuck asks, and he laughs but he also swallows nervously and Casey gets a thrill out of the fact that after all these months, Chuck’s still terrified of him. Means he’s doing it right. “Nah,” he says, shoveling half a fist-full of fries into his mouth and shrugging. “I’ll let you go. I’ll even give you the money. Consider it a goodbye gift. Give you enough for a last meal even, if you ask nice enough.” Chuck’s blink is so overdone Casey can see it out of the corner of his eyes without even turning his head. “What?” “You wanna go,” Casey asks, finally looking over at Chuck. “Go.” Chuck swallows again, hand on the doorknob. “This is a trick.” “No trick,” Casey says, shooing him a handwave. “Go on, now. Occurs to me though, your sister would probably rather you be missing than dead, but hey… your choice.” He reaches for his wallet, opening it and pulling out a couple of hundreds. “You think three hundred’ll get you where you’re going?” Chuck slowly makes his way over to the bed opposite Casey, sitting shakily down on it. “Why do you keep saying that I’m going to die?” Casey rolls his eyes. “I don’t know, Chuck. Let’s go over the facts: I bust into your room at midnight, tell you to pack a bag in thirty seconds or less, haul you out to my car, tell you I’m saving your life, and take you to ten different cities in less than two weeks.” He tilts his head to the side. “It’s not exactly what I’d call a family vacation, would you?” Chuck goes even paler than he was to begin with, which is pretty damned pale in Casey’s book, and looks like he just might throw up. “I was your assignment,” he says in a monotone, blinking slowly. “They told you to kill me.” “Bingo,” Casey says, looking back at the television. “Now shut up, I think someone’s about to go in the pool. That chick from Desperate Housewives looks really mad.” For once, Chuck actually does shut up. In their fourteenth city Casey realizes that he almost misses Chuck’s incessant hand-wringing. Chuck’s taken to staying on his side of the room, moodily staring out of the window and barely eating anything. The fact that Casey finds himself trying to get Chuck to start talking again, even if it’s only to complain about the lack of seriously good sizzling shrimp, is the last straw. “Here,” Casey says one afternoon, handing Chuck a cell phone he’d bought at the Circle K in town twenty minutes before. Chuck looks at the phone and then up at him, not reaching for it. “What?” “Call your sister,” Casey says, dropping the phone on Chuck’s leg. “We’re leaving, so it’s safe.” Chuck picks up the phone and stares at it. “What,” he asks again, his voice barely audible. “You’ve been moping around for the past two weeks hardly saying two words, and as much as I’m enjoying the blissful silence I think it’s probably because you miss your sister. So call her. Tell her you’re alright.” Chuck looks up at him, hand clutching around the phone. “I can’t put her in danger.” “It’s been a month, Chuck, they’ve given up on your sister, I can almost guarantee it. They’ll have her phone tapped, yeah, but like I said… we’re leaving. They’ll trace the signal, find it in Dallas, but by the time they get here we’ll be long gone.” He nods, stuffing the burrito he’d bought in his mouth and leaving the take away back for Chuck. “It’s safe. And when you’re done, eat something.” Chuck’s dialing before the words are even fully out of Casey’s mouth, so Casey turns around and starts throwing his clothes back into his bag. He finishes off two burritos and tries very hard to not listen to the conversation happening behind him. He still catches the guilt in Chuck’s voice as he tells his sister that he’s sorry he can’t tell her anything, hears the knot in his throat when he says he misses her, wishes he could come back. When Chuck hangs up Casey goes into the bathroom and takes a shower because he can already hear Chuck sniffling and that’s the last god damn thing he’s going to put up with. Least of all because he kind of feels responsible for it, for having to put Chuck and Ellie through this, even if he is trying to save the kid’s life by doing this. When he gets out he walks into the living space to see Chuck zipping up his suitcase. “All done,” he asks, facing away from him to pull on his shirt. “Yeah,” Chuck says, and there’s a relief in his voice that hasn’t been there since this whole thing started. “Casey?” “What,” he grunts, wishing they could just skip this part and get back on the road. “Thanks,” Chuck says from behind him, and then there are arms around his neck and a body behind him, and good god, is Chuck really hugging him? “I really needed that.” “Get the hell off me,” Casey growls, twisting away from the hug. When he looks at Chuck, Chuck is smiling, laughing even, and it just pisses him off more. “Now get your shit, we’re leaving.” They leave the phone on the bed, a note written on the hotel’s pastel yellow stationary sitting next to it. It says, in Chuck’s scrawling handwriting, You didn’t think we were that stupid did you? Casey finds it pretty hard to not at least chuckle at that.

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