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"Hey, who turned off the lights?" Chuck asked the darkness as he fumbled to his feet, slamming his knee into the table by his bed. If he was listening in, Casey was going to make fun of him later. When Chuck found the switch and flipped it, nothing happened.

Chuck reached for the doorknob, which should be easy to find because of its position in relation to the lightswitch, then stopped as his fingers brushed cold metal. No matter what time of night it was, there was always light bleeding in from the courtyard. He turned, bracing himself on the door so he wouldn't lose his place in the room, and saw nothing.

"Casey," he said, feeling panic rise in his throat, "I need help."

Then he set about finding his iPhone, which he'd left connected to his computer last night. Shuffling across the floor, he nearly tripped twice—once on some unidentified piece of clothing, once on his own feet—before walking into his desk chair.

Once he had the iPhone, he pressed the button to start it up, and then realized that it had a touchscreen. He had an excellent visual memory—kind of the definition of the Intersect—but no experience with this situation. He tried to swipe the iPhone on, hit the place on the screen where the phone icon should be, hit the place where his favorites should be, and hit the place where Sarah's number should be. Then he put the phone up to his ear and waited.

Nothing, and no clue where the process had gone wrong.

Okay, sudden-onset blindness was probably a matter of national security, plus it would freak Ellie out really badly, so he needed to reach Sarah or Casey, but one of the money-saving measures for Ellie and Awesome's down payment for their planned first house had been the cancellation of their land line.

"Casey?" he asked the air again. "If you're around, buddy, I could really use your presence right now."

He knew Casey had gone home last night, and was probably just asleep, but as much as he hated the surveillance he felt profoundly alone. The world was dark, but only for him. His heart was racing as if a gun was pointed at him; he was shaking and he felt sweat pop out on his temples. This was why Bryce didn't want him to be a spy—he'd never have the cool necessary to deal with surprises with panache. Which was a really stupid thing to think when he was blind and should probably be worrying about that and not about how he compared to his dead best friend.

His sneakers were by the bed, where he'd kicked them off. He stuffed his feet in and tied the knots, which was a very different experience proceeding only by touch. Then he stood, realizing that if he thought too much about walking he was going to fall over—something that had happened to him more than once when he had his sight; Morgan still brought up that one time in tenth grade with Cissy Tenenbaum.

Sticking his hands out in front of him, he edged carefully to the window, then popped it open. He nearly unmanned himself swinging a leg over, and then tumbled the rest of the way and nearly broke his nose on the ground, scraping the heck out of his palms when he managed to get them out in time to catch his fall.

Leaving his room might have been a mistake. He could feel the warm sun on his face and arms, and hastily closed his eyes. Biology had never been his thing, so he wasn't sure if he could injure them further by staring at the sun even if he couldn't see it.

With his eyes closed, his situation was somehow more tolerable, like this was a game. Hands extended like a zombie searching for brains, he staggered forward, keeping his feet on the ground—zombie again. Maybe zombies walked like that not because they were dead, but because their optic nerves decayed before everything else.

He was able to make it to Casey's door without crippling himself, more dumb luck than anything else, and no one stopped him in the courtyard to ask what the hell he was doing, which was either because everyone was at work or because nobody wanted to confront the crazy guy.

At last, he banged on Casey's door, leaning against the cool, safe wood. He nearly fell inside when it flew open.

"What's wrong, Chuckles?" Casey snapped. Chuck bet he was brandishing a gun.

"I can't see," he gasped out.

"What?" Casey was impatient as usual, waiting for Chuck to give him actionable intel, but Chuck had nothing.

"I'm blind, Casey," he said, shaking again. It was really starting to hit him now. He was blind, and blind meant voice-only flashes, which were always rarer and less reliable because so little of the data in the Intersect was aural. He wasn't the Intersect any more, just some 10% version of it. Not civilian enough to be safe, and not useful enough to be an operative. And the BuyMore might have a poster up about ADA compliance, but he was pretty sure that the Nerd Herd didn't make any provision for computer geeks who needed to use Braille.

Whisper of air on his skin; Casey was probably waving his hand (and quite possibly his gun) in Chuck's face. Casey's hand gripped his upper arm, hard enough to hurt, but Chuck couldn't even get out the 'ow!' through the rest of his freakout.

Casey pulled him inside, grumbling about the worst job he'd ever had. But he was careful to put himself between Chuck and random pieces of furniture, pushing Chuck down on the couch to wait for Sarah.

****

Eight hours later, Dr. Barnett (deep voice, but emanating from several feet below Chuck's head when Chuck was standing) gave them the diagnosis. "Your brain isn't like ordinary brains," he said. Casey snorted, and Chuck actually was happy to hear it—Casey insulting him meant that something was normal. "You appear to have had a minor stroke."

"I'm sorry, what?" Sarah said, just as Chuck contributed his own, "I don't think those two words really fit together."

"The Intersect was designed for human storage," Dr. Barnett continued, "but Chuck has had more than one Intersect uploaded into his brain. It's like you're running multiple operating systems on the same software."

"You're telling me I have Windows Rot?" Chuck wondered.

Dr. Barnett ignored that. "The stress was too much for your system."

"Will he recover, Dr. Barnett?" Sarah asked. Chuck felt better hearing her concern. He reached out towards her and, after a second, she squeezed his hand.

"I won't lie to you," Dr. Barnett said. "Because of the unique configuration of Chuck's brain, the only alternative I can see is to operate. If we make the proper connections, we may be able to essentially reboot him, leaving only one iteration of the Intersect with all the data in place. If we do that, it's possible that he'll recover at least limited vision."

Sarah's fingers tightened like steel bands. "What are the risks of surgery, Doctor?" Chuck wasn't sure he'd have been brave enough to ask.

Dr. Barnett was silent. Chuck heard Casey shift on his feet.

Yeah, pretty much as bad as he'd expected.

****

Sarah dialed for him, and Chuck told Ellie that they'd decided to take an impromptu vacation. "Enjoy having the apartment to yourselves, you crazy kids!" he said and smiled when Ellie squealed, happy for him as much as for herself.

There was nowhere for him to stay except one of the holding cells in the bunker below the Orange Orange; at least it was clean and spartan enough that he wasn't going to trip over anything and scramble his brains further. Sarah snuck into his room to pack a bag for him.

This meant that Casey had to listen to Chuck talk about how scared he was. Or maybe Casey snuck out for a relaxing round of target practice. With Casey it was hard to tell.

"Shut up," Casey said at last, which at least meant he hadn't left.

"Sorry, sorry." Chuck managed to keep silent for another minute. "I'm just—I'm not really used to being helpless."

Casey grumbled something that sounded like "useless," but then he shoved an object into Chuck's hand. It was hard and angular and—

"Casey, I can't even shoot straight when my eyes work!"

"I'm not asking you to shoot it, Chuck," Casey said with the controlled anger that was the closest he got to smoothness.

So, unbelievably, Casey started to teach him how to break down and reassemble a gun. Doing it blindfolded was a regular training exercise, he said, and after Chuck dropped key parts on the floor about a dozen times and Casey worked his way back up to calling Chuck an idiot with or without his vision, Chuck began to find the task relaxing. It was like Casey was telling him that he wasn't entirely worthless even without his flashes, not that Casey would ever say anything like that out loud or even think it, but Chuck liked to pretend.

After Sarah returned and showed him where she'd put his toothbrush et cetera, she and Casey went out into the main room, leaving Chuck to fiddle with his iPod's touchwheel—at least he could listen to music—and pace the room, trying to learn its contours. That whole 'counting steps' thing was not nearly as easy as the books made it sound; he kept getting different results and either running into the wall or stopping well short of it.

"Chuck?" Sarah asked from the doorway. He felt himself blush hot, turning towards her so fast he almost lost his balance.

"I'm good! Well, not really, but—"

"Casey and I," she hesitated, long enough that Chuck wondered whether he was supposed to say something. "We think that it's likely that they'll use the surgery as an opportunity to download the Intersect. Especially given your—condition, having you the sole repository is likely to be deemed dangerous to national security."

"Yeah, I figured," he said. He was getting the hang of this spy thing at least that far.

"Chuck. Your safety isn't going to be the priority in this operation."

For some reason, that surprised him. It really shouldn't have, given all the records in his head detailing exactly what his government had allowed to happen to its own agents in the name of the greater good.

"Oh." Even knowing Sarah was right there, he felt alone in the darkness.

"We agreed," she said, and again there was something about the 'we' that was pinging Chuck's weirdness radar, but he was too busy with other concerns to think hard about it, "we aren't going to let that happen."

He blinked out of pure habit. "Okay," he said. "Uh, thanks. But, you know, stroke, and I don't know if you've ever worked, or tried to work, with a computer deep in the throes of Windows Rot, but—"

Sarah could move fast, this he knew, but it seemed like she was instantly pressed against him, hugging him with her cheek against his shoulder. His arms came up reflexively, holding her loosely. "I know. We have to let the doctors operate. But when you're in surgery, we're going to explain to them that the mission objectives have changed."

"When you say changed—"

"Walker wants to fake new orders, tell them to fix you and not waste any time on the download." Casey's voice was much closer; Chuck jumped, because for such a big guy Casey was awfully light on his feet. "I say gun in the face trumps orders every time, but she doesn't like the idea of making them nervous."

Casey had taken a position just behind Chuck, which ordinarily would have made Chuck freak out—probably why Casey did it. The blindness should have made his discomfort worse, but instead Chuck relaxed, because he couldn't have seen anything even if Casey had been right in front of him, and Casey wouldn't let anything harm him. "I think I'm with Sarah. Not everyone has your sangfroid."

"Nothing French about me, Bartowski," Casey said, inches from Chuck's ear. "I'm one hundred percent American."

He sensed the two of them look at each other, and he knew Sarah was feeling his reaction to her closeness (and, to be honest, Casey's, but nobody ever took him seriously about that and he was beginning to treat his reaction the same way Casey did, which was to say derisively).

"Chuck," Sarah's hands were smoothing down his shirt now. Chuck remembered that he was still in his BIG FUN T-shirt and pajama pants, and he couldn't believe that Casey hadn't made fun of him for that. "You know this might be the last straw."

He gulped, because he'd rebelled before, but those times had been to save other people, to implement a mission. This was just about protecting himself.

He nearly fell back into Casey when he felt Sarah's lips on his. Not that it was shocking that she'd kiss him—they were kind of working the life-threatening situations vibe when it came to that sort of contact—but: Casey, right there. As it turned out, the non-brain portions of Chuck were at worst indifferent to that, but Chuck still fought the kiss and flailed his hands for a couple of seconds, at which point Casey's hands clamped down on his biceps and Casey's mouth descended, hot and wet, on the back of Chuck's neck.

Chuck squeaked even as every part of him—yes, every part—stiffened.

"Is this gonna be a problem?" Casey asked, speaking into Chuck's nape. Sarah pulled back just enough that he could feel her breath, and had to fight not to lean forward and try to kiss her again. He really, really wanted to see her face, whether this was actually okay with her and with Casey.

But no, Casey had chosen them before, with Chuck's dad, and he probably would have done the same thing now without the sexual advances if Sarah had objected. So as insane as it sounded, this was voluntary on everyone's part. "Are you kidding me?" Chuck said, and realized when Casey's fingers tightened that he might not have been sufficiently clear. "No! No problem, I am on board, I am so on board that I'm actually writing postcards that say 'wish you were here.' Just keep in mind that while I'm not inexperienced, this particular scenario is actually somewhat new to me and also I'm blind, so I really hope you'll consider grading on a—"

Sarah sealed her mouth over his while Casey bit down on his nape, hard enough to sting, and licked the marks, so that was pretty much it for talking as far as Chuck was concerned.

The best thing about pajama pants is that they're really easy to remove, even when you're pressed in the middle of a secret agent sandwich. He fumbled at Sarah's shirt, pulling it over her head and stopping to moan when he got to cup her beautiful, beautiful breasts in his hands. His useless eyes rolled back in his head, and then Casey reached around and ran a hand from the top of his chest all the way down, tangling in the hair on his belly and only then, slowly, wrapping around his extremely happy dick.

So, basically, what he needed to do was hang on and not embarrass himself, which was going to be a heroic endeavor.

Sarah took the lead, drawing them back to the bed. She sat, and Chuck struggled briefly to follow her until he realized that Casey was pulling his T-shirt over his head, which was worth waiting for. Then Sarah's hands were on his hips, guiding him down into a kiss. He could feel Casey near, but they weren't touching any more, which was so sad that only Sarah's awesome naked body made him feel better. He had to trust that Casey would intervene when he felt the situation warranted, so Chuck decided to taste his way down, licking and sucking as he went, letting Sarah's hands push him over her belly and between her legs. God, he'd thought he was upset to have lost his sight before; tasting and touching her was the best thing ever but he wanted to see.

She was sweet and wild, better than he'd imagined, her hair coarse and real against his tongue, her smoothly muscled thighs trembling under his hands as he held her open. Even wishing he could turn on the lights, this was something he didn't need to see to get right. He wanted to be perfect for her, the way she was perfect, slick and gently furled and full of secrets he could spend a lifetime searching out.

Casey's hand on his ass surprised him so much he shoved his face forward, which fortunately Sarah seemed to appreciate. "Supplies," Casey said, and Chuck heard the blessed sound of foil tearing. Casey's hand snaked between his legs, as efficient rolling the condom on as he'd been guiding Chuck's hands on the gun. Chuck was pretty sure that the gun thing was a bigger sign of trust, the sex only an echoing confirmation.

Sarah pulled and Casey pushed and Chuck slid back up her body. He propped himself up on trembling arms, needing one last reassurance. "This is okay, right? You gotta tell me, because I can't—"

"It's more than okay," she said, and he loved her more than ever; loved, too, Casey's disgruntled noise and his, "What do you want, Bartowski, a Braille invitation?" He was going to tell them how he felt very, very soon, but right now he was otherwise occupied.

"Nnngh," he said instead. Sarah was so hot and soft around him, heaven and then some, pressing up to kiss him again. The shock of being inside her was so intense that the press of Casey's fingers, slick and wet, was just another part of the overload.

He broke the kiss, panting, as Casey did something that Chuck was pretty sure was some kind of sexual special forces secret. Chuck's arms and legs jittered and he was rhythmless, not acquitting himself at all well, but Sarah was surging under him as if it didn't matter.

And then—

"Oh my God," he said, or thought he said, but his brain was as far offline as his eyes. John Casey, who could probably kill him with any appendage including the one that was now inside him, was inside him. He could tell he was eventually going to be in some pain, but right now the only signals making it through the fog were 'yes more yes more please.'

Casey's hands settled on his hips, pulling Chuck up and back, Casey's thrusts sending him down into Sarah. In an amazing feat of coordination, Chuck had managed to find her breasts with his hands again, so basically every nerve in his body was firing in ecstasy. Sarah undulated, her short punched breaths driving Chuck even crazier as she moved in counterrhythm to Casey.

Chuck decided to let the trained, highly conditioned agents set the pace—well, not so much decided as surrendered to them with the grace of a tasered rioter, but how much difference was there between those two things, anyway?

He thought he might be begging, somewhere underneath all the frenzy. Sarah cried out and squeezed her legs around him, hard—he was probably going to have bruises, and the thought was enough to finish him off. His orgasm was white light, invading the darkness with a force that blew all thoughts out of his head.

And Casey just kept riding him, pushing him through the aftershocks, so sensitive that he was on the edge of pain, Sarah murmuring below him. One last thrust and Casey collapsed, hips stuttering, so heavy that the breath whooshed from Chuck's lungs.

Chuck looked forward to passing out, sleepy smile already mortared to his face.

"Can't … breathe …!" Sarah's protest put the kibosh on the 'sleep now' plan, so Chuck dutifully tried to put some weight back on his elbows and knees, and winced when Casey pulled out in one smooth motion. Chuck rolled onto his back, mashed against the wall—these beds were not exactly big enough for two people, let alone three, no matter how friendly they all were. And once he was there, the thought of moving was too daunting to contemplate. It was dark (or at least it was dark to him) and warm and he'd just had several new kinds of sex, so—

As he drifted off, he heard Casey and Sarah whispering, Sarah concerned and Casey brash in the way that Chuck used to think meant indifference. Those were the most reassuring sounds he could imagine; sleep came easy.

****

In the morning, Casey took him into the little shower attached to the facility and showed him a few more tricks that left Chuck staggering, sore and blissful. Then, declaring his job done, Casey let Sarah help Chuck get dressed, which should have been infantilizing, but Chuck's feelings for her were very, very adult and so it balanced out.

"You ready?" Sarah asked him, reaching up to comb her fingers through his hair.

"If you are." He tried to sound as confident and prepared as they were. Sarah and Casey knew his weaknesses better than anyone else, and they'd still chosen him, which meant that he could handle anything. At least if he could get around the whole 'stroke' problem.

"We're in this together," Sarah said, following his thoughts.

Chuck liked that idea, a lot. "All for one and one for all," he said, hoping his expression was resolute and manly.

Casey made one of his usual unclassifiable but unflattering noises. "Isn't nyuck-nyuck-nyuck a better motto for you?"

"Whatever you say, Moe," he shot back, because he wasn't going to tell Casey what a true comedy geek knew: Curly had suffered a debilitating, career-ending stroke. He was beginning to think that Casey might just have a soft, chewy center after all. Kind of like a porcupine, really. If porcupines had soft, chewy centers, which Chuck actually didn't know.

"Come on, you two," Sarah said, voice filled with exasperated affection. "We've got doctors to fool."

"Still say we should just threaten 'em," Casey said, and Chuck's heart jumped with love and terror for both of them. If—when—they were caught, they'd have the full might of the US military down on their heads, and Chuck still might not be any help. But he couldn't make himself tell them not to take the risk, and he thought that even if he did they probably wouldn't listen to him any more than they ever did.

"Let's just leave that as Plan B," he suggested, and let them lead him out.

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