If, while reading this, you feel like you're on the outside of an inside joke--well, you are, even though it's not really my joke either, so: just Google it. Google is wise. Google knows all. Google is the thing without which I would not have been able to write this. All hail Google.
And now, the main event.
Domach 'a chIy ghoS 'epagh?
Pairing: Bryce/Chuck, one-sided
Rating: PG-13 for vague references
Spoilers: Through Chuck vs. The Nemesis
It would have been considerably easier if the universe had just let him have his dramatic self-sacrificial death and be done with it.
Bryce wanted to, of course; that’s the entire point of a self-sacrifice. There was no way out and he couldn’t let anyone get their hands on the Intersect, so he threw himself on his sword and made his last actions on this earth mean something. But now he’s alive again, which might mean that the universe likes him, or it might mean that the universe doesn’t want him to get a nice, dramatically-appropriate death. Bryce has decided not to trust the universe any more. Clearly, it’s gone mad.
The worst thing about being alive again, Bryce has decided, is that now he actually has to deal with all the stuff he set in motion when he died. He can’t just let it all play out on its own—no, now he has to explain and talk and deal with Sarah, which is awkward if reasonably enjoyable, and Casey, which is awkward and about as far from enjoyable as you can get, and Chuck, which is, well. Well. Dealing with Chuck, of course, is not something Bryce wants to do at all; he suspects he would prefer getting shot again, or wrestling with the 400-pound bodyguard he had to get through in order to save the Liechtensteinian diplomat (never underestimate Liechtenstein—a country that unnoticeable must be hiding something), or even having a heart-to-heart talk with, well, anybody besides Chuck. Bryce doesn’t do heart-to-heart talks, but if he had to have one, he’d choose just about anybody before Chuck. Sarah. Casey, though Bryce isn’t sure Casey actually has a heart to talk to. His parents. Jill. Random people on the street. He’d rather go in for deep psychological analysis, except they would probably force him to talk to Chuck, so that would backfire rather quickly.
But there was a reason Bryce sent Chuck the Intersect in the first place, which is why Bryce refused to talk to anyone but him; the life Bryce desperately tried to get out of for good isn’t a life that leads to happy, trusting relationships, and Chuck was the only one he had left, so he had to talk to him if he was going to have any chance of escaping. Besides, it was nice to hear some good old tlhIngan Hol again. Back at Stanford, he and Chuck would speak it if they didn’t want anyone else to hear about the pranks the comp-sci department was going to pull on, variously, the basketball team, the physics professor who kept assigning 50-page research papers on topics he never covered, the entire English department (Bryce never forgave them for requiring him to take a poetry class for his art credit), or some fraternity or sorority or another. There were rather a lot of pranks pulled during the years he went to Stanford, most of which he and/or Chuck were responsible for; he still considers the one where they managed to change the screensavers of every computer on campus into a facsimile of the Blue Screen of Death as one of his finest achievements. That language was their Navajo code—through it, they could say anything without anyone else having the faintest chance of understanding them.
Bryce wrote Chuck a note in it once, but he decided not to send it; qamuSHa’ just doesn’t come out right without the growls, and it wouldn’t have been a smart idea to say it anyway.
Also, muttering “ghuy’cha’ ” under your breath when you get sent to do something particularly stupid may be fun, but it’s more fun when there’s somebody else to snrk at it.
Not that Bryce particularly wanted Chuck to be there when he had to say things like that, of course, but it would have been nice.
Sometimes, Bryce wondered what it would be like if he hadn’t kicked Chuck off the fast-track program to the CIA. They might have gotten a chance to work together—hell, maybe Chuck would have been his Q (the James Bond one, not the Star Trek one), and then they would have shared the geeky bond of being the only people in the Agency who knew the difference between the two. And maybe Chuck would start to deteriorate like everyone else who worked there, but maybe he wouldn’t; maybe being able to have each other around would have saved both of them. Maybe Chuck would have figured out a way to steal the Intersect without getting shot for their troubles. Maybe they’d both be on the run from Fulcrum and the CIA right now, using wireless cafés to hack into the enemy’s secret databases (there are always secret databases) and rigging ATMs for a cash supply and eating crappy fast food and finding out that the only room the hotel has available is a single.
It’s a nice thought, actually, and Bryce spent a long time thinking along similar lines before the whole Intersect business; being a CIA agent involves a surprising amount of “hurry up and wait”, and developing long and detailed fantasies about the many interesting uses for those complimentary mini-bottles of shampoo and conditioner beats staring at the walls.
But now Bryce sees all the other people Chuck has, and he can’t wish for Chuck to have lost all that, so he’s stopped wondering about it.
It was bad enough with Sarah, anyway. He doesn’t want to think about how much of a mess it could have been with Chuck.
(Could have been, his mind insists; could doesn’t mean would.)
So Bryce absolutely, definitely doesn’t tell Chuck anything he doesn’t need to know, or even some things he probably should know, because it’s easier that way. If Chuck knew that particular interesting facet of Bryce’s life, either this entire business would become even more awkward than it already is (and that would be quite an impressive thing) or something would actually happen about it, which, while being nice to think about, would only end up increasing the awkwardness by a factor of n where n equals a (the level of Chuck’s interest in Sarah and vice versa) plus b (the level of how much Chuck had previously assumed himself to be straight) plus c (the level of how much Bryce really, really sucks at the whole relationship thing) times d (the inevitability that Bryce will have to leave again, possibly forever, and definitely soon).
At this particular moment, Bryce decides that he hates algebra and would rather go back to geometry, thank you very much, where an angle is an angle is an angle and does not get all wobbly and complicated and change its value entirely when you’re not looking.
Showing up at Chuck’s apartment—Ellie’s apartment, which makes Bryce feel vaguely disappointed until he decides it’s better than living completely alone and unwanted—is easier than he thought it would be, but actually getting a glimpse of domesticity—Christ, when was the last time he left the marshmallows in the car or, in fact, had marshmallows to leave anywhere at all—twists up his stomach a little. That’s what you let Chuck’s life become, he reminds himself.
Bryce should find it a little unusual that Chuck apparently has a friend who’s used the window route so often he’s left tracks on the roof, but Morgan’s not something you forget, so he finds it completely reasonable, if somewhat enviable. Chuck promises to send up Sarah as soon as he can, and leaves; Bryce hopes “as soon as he can” means in at least a few minutes’ time, because the sight of movie posters and action figures is strangely comforting.
He had to give up an original one-sheet from Wrath of Khan signed by the entire cast plus Gene Roddenberry when he went full-time for the CIA. He’s still bitter about it.
Chuck’s room looks pretty much like their dorm room did, only bigger and with only one bed. Which is honestly what Bryce wanted their dorm room to look like, but that probably would have required an apartment rather than a dorm, and apartments are expensive when you’re on scholarship. Besides, he liked living in the fraternity house. It was almost like having actual friends.
He hears footsteps, and he decides the best way to greet Sarah would be from the ceiling. Bryce hasn’t had fun in a while.
Bryce hasn’t had a lot of things in a while, actually, and he seriously needs something to distract him from the entire Chuck situation, so he can’t be blamed for what happens next. Really, he can’t.
He probably can be blamed for letting it go on long enough for Chuck to see it, though, and he can possibly be blamed on Chuck being upset about it enough to call in Casey, so in the end there’s a considerable chance he’s responsible for what would have been his second and final death if he hadn’t been, you know, smart. Kevlar might be heavy and uncomfortable, but by god if it isn’t useful.
(He also wishes Chuck would’ve been upset about Sarah rather than him, but such thoughts are well-established at this point.)
Every time Bryce sees Chuck flash on something, he wonders what it’s like; the Intersect is supposed to be a large string of seemingly random images (he did get to see some of it when he stole it, but he still has no idea what that damn hummingbird is supposed to signify), but how does it feel to have all those images go screeching by in your brain? From what he can tell, Chuck’s primary reaction is just surprise, but that’s only from what he can tell. How does it feel? Dizzying? Confusing? Does having all those images in your brain crowd out everything else? Are there any side effects? Bryce has seen implants, nanites, endless experiments on improving the human capacity for memory, sight, hearing, reaction time—and he knew enough to refuse every single offer they made to try one out on him, because messing with your brain is bad news with a capital B and there’s far, far too much that can be done wrong.
There’s no opportunity to say it to Chuck directly, but Bryce makes sure to tell Sarah that if Chuck ever mentions any headaches, she needs to talk to her superiors about it immediately, and if they don’t do anything, she needs to find a way to do something herself. Nosebleeds, too. Excessive nose bleeding is always the first sign.
Waiting for the CIA pick-up is about as tense and uneasy as could be expected, so Bryce lets his eyes wander over the store to distract him. HDTV, ooh, that’s nice—he wanted one the moment they came out, the moment before they came out, but he never lived in any one place long enough to make purchasing one feasible. And a Wii is just out of the question. Is that a new Guitar Hero? Christ, it is. This is just unfair.
Bryce never got a chance to say a proper goodbye when he got Chuck kicked out of Stanford, because he couldn’t run the risk of looking like he wasn’t a total asshole—Chuck needed to forget all about him, to never want to see him again, and it would have been too much of a risk to try to be friendly one last time. When the CIA pick-up comes and Chuck gives them the all-clear, Bryce gets as much of a real goodbye as could be hoped for, and he doesn’t complain to himself about it not being enough, because at this point he’s getting used to that.
When all those hard months of studying the transitive and intransitive verbs of a fictional language pay off again, Bryce mentally gives the finger to the fraternity brothers who laughed at them and said they should be looking for girls instead. He bets they’re all working at insurance companies and car dealerships these days. Who’s the loser now, huh? Not that they called him a loser—his presence on the basketball team tended to confuse their labeling—but they definitely didn’t think Chuck was the coolest kid on the block, and, hah, look at the kid now—bortaS bIr jablu'DI' reH QaQqu' nay', bitches, and there’s few things colder than the empty soul of a homogenous corporate drone.
Bryce gets a second real goodbye after that, and it’s about the same as the first, but it’s nice to repeat it anyway. And then it’s off and out and onwards and okay, maybe he still can’t help it if he wants some companionship that doesn’t make him feel as guilty as hell, but it’s only the weakest of an attempt to get it, and he’ll be fine without it. He will. Sarah can keep doing whatever it is exactly that she’s doing, and she can get over him—she’s stronger than that—and then Chuck can forget about him again, and if Sarah and Chuck can get over him together, well, that’s fine too. He’d like them to be happy. They deserve it.
But that didn’t quite stop him from making a third goodbye, ahead of time, before he lost the nerve to do it.
The note he left in Chuck’s room still doesn’t say qamuSHa’, because it still doesn’t come out right without the growls and it’s still not a smart idea to say it, but bomDI' 'IwwIj qaqaw is just odd enough to maybe maybe hint at something that might, just might, at least make Chuck think about it. And, okay, that goes completely against his entire decision to skip right out of Chuck’s life again, but he’s only human, dammit, and maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if Chuck didn’t forget everything about him. Just one little piece of the puzzle. That’s all. Not enough to put it all together immediately, but enough to know that there might be something to put together.
So maybe, Bryce decides, remembering how good it felt to see that Chuck didn’t hate him any more, not being able to have a complete dramatic self-sacrificial death isn’t quite that bad after all.It may be that Heghlu'meH QaQ javjam, but really, the days after it can be pretty good too.