`A/N I haven't used Morgan much in this series, but he's making up for that in this episode.
"Could this get any worse?"
"Hey, Martin. Miss me already?"
"If I were you I'd start feeling sorry for the assault team."
"Man, I feel sorry for that guy."
Sarah paused in the usual rituals of weapon-prepping. "She was talking to who?"
"I know, right?" Casey checked the action on his weapon of choice. "I'm surprised a gnome like Morgan could even put two words together in her presence."
He wasn't in her presence. But then…why were they talking at all? "I wonder what they were talking about."
Casey made a small retching sound. "I don't. The only thing I like less than thinking about her is thinking about him, and thinking about the two of them together involves a mathematics of disgust that only Chuck would understand."
The two of them…"'Together'? You don't suppose it was Morgan that Carina was with last night, do you?" It would certainly explain a few things.
"Hey Carmichael, I'm trying to get my kit together here, no need to make me throw up in it, even a little bit." Casey made a show of shuddering, just to emphasize the point. "But to answer your question, no, I can't imagine Carina stooping to…well I guess she'd have to stoop–"
Sarah slapped him. "I'm warning you, Casey. Do not talk about my husband's best friend that way."
Casey rubbed the spot. "Since when did you become a fan?"
She wasn't, not after that last week, but Chuck was right and it was past time for her to make the effort. "I didn't. But he's my husband's best friend and has been for over twenty years. Maybe you've served longer than that but even you can't doubt his loyalty."
He tapped the side of his head. "Believe me that's not what I was doubting."
"Stow it, Casey." She slid the magazine home with a click. "He knows his tech, he makes Chuck laugh, and makes bacon just the way I like it, what more could I want from him?"
Casey picked up a box of flash-bangs in one hand and some tag rounds-what Chuck liked to call Spider-trackers-in the other. "And what does he do with that tech? He steals video games, while your laughing husband uses it to save the free world."
"Chuck was in that position, Morgan wasn't."
Both boxes went into the bag. "Thank God for that." The But you better not tell Chuck I said so was left unstated.
"Just because his dreams are different from yours doesn't give you the right to sneer at him. Or are you just annoyed by the fact that he has dreams?"
"I had dreams too. I gave them up so people like him could have a chance to fulfill theirs, no matter how idiotic they might be."
"Then don't waste your sacrifice, and allow him to have some. Or I'll hit you again."
He watched her hands. "Save it for the bad guys, Carmichael."
"I will when you save your stupid put-downs for those who deserve them. Moron." She stuck out her tongue at him, and walked away.
He waited until she was gone before he shook his head sadly. Dammit Chuck, what have you done?
The methodical litany of command and response-and the fact that he was still pretty tired-lulled Morgan to sleep even as the search for him grew wider and more desperate. The breaking of that sequence pulled him out of it. "Unit two. Unit two, respond. Rogue Leader, send a man to check on unit two, west side."
Rogue Leader's affirmative was lost to a sharp thwack! as something hit the roof outside the bathroom window. He edged the vanity door open to watch the window, as someone climbed in through it from the outside. Only after she'd come in and the light hit her red hair did he recognize her. "Carina?" he said, pushing open the door. She watched as he tried unsuccessfully to untangle himself from the plumbing, before offering him a not-so-gentle hand. "Ow! Thanks. Ah." He stretched out in relief. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I'm saving you, what does it look like? Whatever these guys want you for they can't have it."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. They're not looking for me, they're looking for some guy named Carmichael."
She sighed. "You're Carmichael. Haven't you ever heard of call-signs?"
"Of course I've heard of – what do you mean I'm Carmichael?"
"Remember Hawaii? Same team, different players. Hold on a second." She stood back, placing her foot behind the door.
The goon coming down the hall opened the door, not all the way, and saw a short guy standing there, hands raised. "Gotcha!" he said triumphantly, and stepped through the doorway.
Something hit him on the back of the head. Morgan grabbed the barrel of his silenced gun and pushed back, hitting him in the nose. A quick grab and shove by Carina and he went out the window to join unit two on the ground below.
"You bet your ass I've heard of call signs!" shouted Morgan in his excitement.
Carina took the gun. "That was awesome, Martin. Two down…"
"And two to go," said a voice from above, through the hole with the pistol sticking through it. There really was a hatch to the attic in the bathroom, who knew? "Rogue Leader, I have Carmich-aagghh!"
Bullets tend to do that.
Wow! "Where'd you learn to shoot like that, Carina?"
"Morgan, quick, haul him down!"
"Is that guy really dead?"
"Of course. If it's him or you, I pick you." Together, they pulled Rogue Three, or maybe it was Four, out of the hole and heaved him after his fellows. Carina put her hands together. "Up you go."
"Can't we just go out the window?"
"It's too late for that." Outside they could hear the bodies being discovered.
Morgan listened as Leader tightened his net. "Great. When you came in here did you have a plan for getting out?"
"Nope, just winging it. You want to get up there?"
"Hey, ladies first!"
"And then how are you getting up? I can at least stand on the toilet."
Grumbling in the face of ineluctable biological reality, Morgan hoisted himself into the attic, and then her.
"Thanks." She looked around, but the only light was from the hole and it wasn't much. "Where's the secret passage?"
"You know about that?"
"It's an old house in Washington, Martin. Of course it's got a secret passage."
"No answer." She didn't have to say it, they'd both heard the voicemail announcement.
"She turned it off." Casey sighed. "She went in on her own."
No point in denying it. "And they used to call me a wildcard."
"Good thing Chuck's not there or you'd be racing her to the top."
Morgan looked at the fresh tracks in the dust. "Damn, they've found it already."
"How is that great? What's the point of hiding in a secret room that isn't secret anymore?"
Duh! "Because in the back of their minds they've already found it and checked it. It's the last place they're going to look. You should be safe until this all blows over."
"Me? What about you?"
She had responsibilities. She had secrets. "Martin." She gestured at the small space. "You. Me. Storage closet. How long do you think that hiding place will stay a secret?" She'd twigged to the Bobbsey Twins that first day in Castle.
"But then where will you go?"
Huh. Wasn't expecting that. Most men would have followed that line of thought into sex-fantasy-land and she could have shoved them into the closet. She was beginning to appreciate what Sarah'd gone through, except she couldn't even tell Martin it was her job. "I'll just go and surrender. They're looking for you."
"Not once they get a look at you!"
That's what I'm counting on. "If these guys were going to be distracted by me I wouldn't have been able to shoot that last one, now would I? Stay in the closet, Martin. I'll be fine."
"We're down three men, sir, and no closer to finding Carmichael. He's a ghost."
Leader considered the problem in his control vehicle. Carmichael had outwitted them at every turn. He'd been fiendishly clever, taking out unit two and then going back inside to wait for the inevitable backup to arrive, so he could take them out as well. Three were acceptable losses, more than that was incompetence.
"Start torturing the others. They'll give him up."
Sarah's phoned buzzed, and she picked it up and started reading.
"You're checking email now?"
"Hmm. Interesting. It's from Hannah. Remember the museum, how I was hearing the Ring communications? She's figured it out…"
"We can't let them start torturing people, not even that guy with the feet!"
She almost lost her train of thought with that last comment. "No, you're right. There's only one thing we can do–"
"Exactly. I'll give myself up, and you'll stay safe in the closet."
"And that's not it. Martin, you don't understand, these people are here to kill you."
"No, you don't understand! My last girlfriend let me make a fool of myself, acting all heroic while she did all the work. I'm not gonna let that happen again, even if it kills me. I have to prove myself."
Something went click! somewhere in the dark. "Oh, don't worry, Mr. Carmichael. We believe you."
"Stoneface, this is Dirtnap, come in."
Shaw lifted the phone. "Who came up with these codenames?"
"You'll have to talk to Graboid about that, Stoneface."
Shaw looked over at the driver, who wasn't bothering to hide his grin. "Am I ever likely to speak with, uh, Graboid?"
"Probably not. Where are you?"
"I'm all done with my Christmas shopping for the missus. How about you?" Two could play at that game.
"Almost there ourselves. We're just gonna go pick up Stampede's watch."
"How about I meet you at the jewelry store?"
"Sounds like a plan. Out."
Leader turned down the volume on the speaker, refusing to be annoyed. With no time for analysis, the only thing he could get from it was that they had gotten close enough to develop local codes. 'Christmas shopping' might mean the Mall, which was nowhere near him. This much activity, so soon after his incursion, had they caught on to him? Have to assume so. Watches, jewelry stores…'Stoneface' was funny, though.
"Leader, we've captured Carmichael."
"Finally." Who was Stampede? "Keep the link open, I want to hear this."
Carina sat on the floor back to back with Morgan, keeping track of the movements of the guards as the Rogue Leader made a show of stropping his razor. Mrs. Pendergast's eyes were huge just looking at it, and Carina could sympathize. The kind of bloodstains one of those things could leave in her carpet would be a nightmare to clean.
Rogue Leader knelt in front of Morgan. "Anything to say before I begin, Mr. Carmichael?"
Morgan stared at the razor. "Uh, one, yeah, I do have one thing to say." He cleared his throat. "My name's not Carmichael."
"I would expect you to say nothing else, Agent Carmichael." Rogue Leader smiled. "You've really been quite the adversary, hunting you was good sport. Breaking you should be even better."
Suddenly, Morgan smiled. "Go ahead, punk. Make my day."
Rogue Leader smirked. "Oh, I'm not going to make your day, Agent Carmichael. An agent of your caliber would only enjoy the challenge." He reached over Morgan's shoulder and pulled some of Carina's long red hair into his view, fingering it suggestively. "I'm going to make your girlfriend's day."
He stood up and moved around, out of Morgan's sight, ignoring the threats and especially the insults which, to be honest, were either amusing or true.
Carina eyed the razor. "You'd better not be planning to use that on me."
He humored her. "And why would that be?"
"My Facial Technician is very expensive, and very territorial."
"Well, if your boyfriend there isn't a bit more forthcoming, your Facial Technician will have a job for the rest of her life." He held up the razor against her nose.
"Hey! Get that away from me, that's real!"
"Of course it's real."
"I meant my nose, you idiot!"
Rogue Leader sighed. "You know what, Carmichael, if you don't start talking I'm going to let her live."
"Don't say a word, Martin."
The boss goon's head came up, and the blade. "Martin?"
"Yes." She was staring at the blade, finally looking scared. "Martin. Martin Carmichael."
Leader hit the mute button just in time. "Bloody Hell!"
The razor moved away and the wielder moved closer. "Your boyfriend is the famously elusive Charles Carmichael."
"His name is Martin, but you're right about the elusive part." She turned her head away, and elbowed Morgan in the back. "Where were you last Tuesday, Martin?"
Rogue Leader pulled her head back around. "Your boyfriend is a spy."
"No I'm not," said Morgan.
"No, he isn't." Carina laughed in his face. "I am." Her arms whipped out from behind her back, grabbing the arm with the razor at the end of it while the dangling handcuffs hit him in the face. He flinched, falling back and coincidentally pulling her to her feet. Carina pulled the razor from his hand and flung it up into the ceiling, scarring the wood.
Morgan fell backwards, watching Carina explode into violence upside down. Come on, dude! He tried a trick he'd seen in the movies, slipping his cuffed wrists over his ass and around front…and got stuck. He rolled over…
And cleverly tripped a goon heading for Carina from behind with his face. "Thanks, Martin," she said, and kicked him, dislodging the handcuffs. They slid behind his knees. He'd tried to pull his feet through them…and got stuck. He tried to roll over a second time, but came up against the inert body of Rogue Something-or-other. He flung himself to the other side, just as Carina stepped into the space where he'd been, backing away from the Rogue Leader's second blade. Morgan looked at her face, her eyes, her empty hands. Do something! He pulled harder.
His foot slipped out of the cuffs, shooting ceiling-ward at full strength, catching the Rogue Leader in the crotch and lifting him off the ground.
Even Carina winced.
Morgan rose to his knees, looked at all the fallen men, Carina standing victorious over them all. "Yeah," he said, nodding stupidly to the other dumbstruck hostages. "That's my girlfriend!"
The door flew open. "Police, freeze!"
Carina held up her hands. "It's all right, officers. We're all good here."
The lead man stepped up to them as his fellows took over the room. "We heard a scream."
"That was him." She pointed at the man writhing on the ground.
"What happened to him?" The officer saw a knife, but no blood.
Carina went to Morgan and helped him up by pulling on the cuffs. "He did. My hero!" She kissed his cheek. One of the helmeted troops turned his head away and made a noise.
"And the rest?"
"I had to help him, didn't I? I mean, look at him, he's still cuffed!" She lifted Morgan's hands. "Speaking of which, I don't suppose you could do us a favor…?"
"Sure, let me get those for you." He pulled out his keys.
"Thank you, Officer…?" Carina looked his badge, but the name and even the All-Seeing Eye had been covered over with tape.
"Believe me, Miss Single. It's nothing. Nothing at all."
The policeman wandered away, and they were left alone.
Morgan rubbed his wrists. "You're a spy?"
"Federal Agent is the term we prefer, Martin, but yes, I'm a spy."
Wow! My girlfriend's a spy! He looked up. "Does Sarah know?"
Carina looked at the three 'officers' waiting more-or-less patiently for her to blow this pineapple stand. "Let's just keep this between us for the time being. Why don't you go help Mrs. Pendergast?"
He went one way, she went her own way. "Keep the helmets down," she said when she got close enough. "He doesn't know, don't ask me how."
"We have to get back and report–"
She started fussing with her hair, using the reflection in his visor as a mirror. "Don't wait on my account." She turned as Morgan walked up behind her. "There you are. What do you say we go back to my place for your debriefing?"
He blushed. "Come on, you know I'm a boxers man."
"Yes, I know." She waggled her fingers at the 'officers'. "Toodles."
Shaw handed her back her card once they were safely under cover. "Your Officer Davis was most helpful."
She took the card. "He's not my officer, but thank you for fetching him. I figured we'd need backup the Ring wasn't watching, but I wasn't expecting all of that."
"The 'Dustbin Patrol' was his idea. I didn't know this group even existed."
Neither did I. Now she did. Now they all did.
"Oh, and Carina's watch. You said you were going back to the hotel to get it."
"You realize that that was just a convenient code, right?"
"Arrested?" The vocal distortion covered what might have been amusement or scorn.
"Unknown at this time. They were processed through the local precinct-as sex offenders-but there is no other paper trail. I had them bailed out. The bodies were recovered."
"Very easily, I'm sure."
"There will be no coverage of this event, no reports filed. Officially this event never happened." The footage reversed back to the scene of the troops entering the house. An arrow appeared. "That is a woman, disguised as a man, trying to walk like a man."
"Their SWAT forces have no female officers."
"My point exactly." Images of the two women on Shaw's new team appeared, with vital statistics. Estimates of the trooper's size and weight appeared, and the redhead's image was dismissed, the blonde remained. "She is your new target."
The operative had his doubts, but you don't openly express doubts about Leader to Leader. "If you are sure."
"Trust me. I'm sure."
A/N2 I know, it's weird. I suppose I could have ended this some other way but this was fun.