A/N This story is something different for me. It was inspired by another AU story and as such is an AU of an AU.

First of all I need to thank the writer for the original story for graciously letting me play in her universe. Minirix, I am humbled that you would allow me that honor. All during the posting of Beautiful Mess, we got into some great discussions about the story, our views on love, on the amazing characters and on the Charina/Charah fandoms in general. We agreed and disagreed on many things. But those discussions were always a great deal of fun for both of us.

What I loved about that story was that at no time did Minirix disparage any character to tell the story she wanted to tell. She was especially respectful to Sarah, unlike some other authors who feel the need to somehow punish her for the choices she made in order to get to the ending they wanted. That was never the case in Beautiful Mess. It's why when during the discussions we had, I suggested a story idea and even though she felt it wasn't a direction she wanted to take with the story, I couldn't get it out of my mind so I asked if I could write it. She agreed and has pre-read this chapter given her blessing to have it posted. This is not an attempt to take anything away from that story, it is just a different course with different choices and different consequences. I hope fans of both pairings can find something to enjoy here.

It will also get darker and more angsty than anything I have ever written and in many ways that is to challenge myself with writing something outside my comfort zone. There will be uncomfortable moments for me to write and probably for the reader to read, but I hope that in the end we get to a satisfying conclusion.

This story starts at the very end of chapter 10 of Beautiful Mess. The first few lines come directly from that chapter. Knowledge of that story would be very helpful and it is most definitely worth a read. But basically the story is that Sarah left with Shaw after Final Exam and Chuck was sent to Rome where he was partnered with an old friend. He works with Carina for three years and their on again off again flirting has now gotten to the point of a new relationship developing when Beckman tells them that Chuck will be assigned to work with Sarah and Casey again to finally take down the Ring. Carina is offered the chance for a new assignment but agrees to stay with Chuck and the rest of the team. Also Marc Rossi, an old "partner" of Carina makes an appearance causing Chuck to make some decisions to move things forward and not let life and love pass him by this time.

This story will explore those choices and their consequences along with what happened to Sarah during those three years Chuck was partnered with Carina.

Thanks again to Minirix, and I hope I honor your talent with my version of what might have happened to our beloved characters. Thanks also to Angus McNab and mssupertigz for their pre-reads as well. Check out their fantastic work along with Minirix's as well.

I still don't own Chuck.

Chapter 1


"Can we focus on the mission please?"

"Can't you stay and let Sarah go to Cairo instead?"

Rising from the bed, she set the papers next to him. "It's what the General wants, Chuck. She's your cover girlfriend anyway. Go through the papers, and if you flash on anything, just call Casey," she said in a professional tone. "And don't annoy her too much. She's been through a lot," she said before walking over to the door.

"You haven't answered my question."

She paused.

"What if I try harder? What then?"

All she did was shake her head, half-turned to look at him with a humorless smile. "You're just chasing rainbows, Chuck"

Her footsteps rang in his ears long after they faded away. It was strange. Whatever hopes he had should have vanished with her words. They should have died with each step she took. But it didn't.

Because he finally understood how she felt.

And he knew - he wasn't wasting his time...

Still sitting on the bed in Castle's make shift infirmary, Chuck thought back to their conversation. Carina Miller was one exasperating woman. The mixed messages she had sent him for the three years they had been partnered had not only added to his confusion but also had kept him on his toes and allowed him to finally move forward in his life. Even now with Sarah back it seemed like he had finally turned the page both with his past and his present.

Sure the first time he saw Sarah after all this time his mind had wandered, 'I really am over her... I should be.'

But now that after far too many days of avoidance they had finally had a few, small, less awkward talks and some of the stress and anxiety he felt when hearing about her return was beginning to fade. Even though he saw how tired Sarah was, how some of the light that had always been in her beautiful blue eyes was now gone, he felt they had both grown to accept the consequences of the choices and mistakes they had both made so long ago. This Sarah Walker was not the same woman who left with Daniel Shaw three years ago, but neither was he. The stresses of the lives they both had chosen had certainly taken their toll.

But now he was frustrated by another beautiful woman. She was as complex as Sarah, similar in so many ways but completely different in many others. But one thing was very similar; a real relationship with Carina Miller was just as difficult to start as it was with Sarah Walker.

Chuck closed his eyes and took a breath. His heart shuddered just a bit at the idea of speaking both names in the same thought, and now here together in the same apartment. It had been that way ever since they all moved in together.

"What if I try harder?"

What if he did? What if he made a choice to move things along? Things couldn't keep going the way they had been. What if they needed to be pushed? Carina didn't seem like she was going to so maybe it was time for him to step up to the plate and swing for the fences.

Plus there was the appearance of Marc Rossi, who Chuck knew that no matter how many times she denied it, Marc Rossi was not just 'a nobody'. There was definitely a history there and maybe it was time for Chuck not to simply back away like he always had before. He had done that too many times with Bryce, Cole, and finally Shaw. Maybe it was time for Chuck to be the man that other guys backed away for. Before Sarah left for DC he didn't try hard enough to win her back after he realized his terrible mistake with Hannah and how miserably he treated her. He just watched Sarah's relationship grow with Shaw and let her walk away. He didn't act like the Bartowski his sister had raised him to be and he wasn't going to let that happen twice. If Carina chose Marc over him, it wasn't going to be for lack of trying. He had a choice to make and he was going to chose to keep her around and find out just what the hell was going on in that complicated redhead's brain.

Chuck knew that what he was going to ask for was risky on many levels. He had no idea how each of the three women involved would react to him taking such a bold step. First, the General would not like him challenging her decision. She never liked it when an agent questioned her orders. But Chuck had always been something different. He wasn't a typical agent and his relationship with his boss was never cast entirely in the traditional sense of the chain of command. It was his out of the box thinking that had caused him to be so successful as both an asset and an agent. So he was allowed a certain leeway that others would never even dream of asking for. He hoped she would grant him that same leeway here.

He was also concerned how Carina would react when she found out he went behind her back. Carina may like to improvise on missions but she was not someone to question her assignments. Would she be upset that he asked for this change or would she be flattered and excited to spend a week playing nursemaid with Chuck? Of course, she would probably never let him see that.

The real unknown however, would be Sarah. How would she react to Chuck in effect sending her away? He thought that they both had come to accept that what they once had, whatever that might have been, was now in the past and that trying to get back there was simply a bridge too far. That the decision Sarah made three years ago to leave with Shaw was just the final nail in the coffin of Chuck and Sarah that he had begun building when he downloaded the 2.0.

There were many nights during these past almost four years, especially early on, where he lay in bed desperately wishing he had gotten on that train in Prague or at least respected her feelings enough to have explained to her why he was choosing to become a spy instead of running with her. That he was doing it as much for her as he was for himself. But that day on the platform in Prague it was like he was a different person. He had already started to become closed off and he came across as only being concerned for himself and what the CIA had built for him. He screwed up, told her nothing about why he was really doing this and all Sarah could see it as was betrayal. Chuck Bartowski broke the heart of the woman he loved that day because instead of seeing how far she was putting herself out there for him, he came across as rejecting her for the life she no longer wanted.

Both of them had made mistakes, terrible mistakes. But sometimes even the best of intentions can't undo the mistakes of the past. The future he once dreamed of with Sarah was beyond his reach and he hoped that in the infinite number of alternate universes physics tells him might be out there, in at least one of them he got on that train.

He didn't want to hurt Sarah. He had done that enough in the past and that was the last thing he wanted to do. But just as Sarah was his past, maybe, just maybe Carina was his future. This time he wouldn't be passive. This time he would mold the future he wanted. He wouldn't let happenstance determine his life or his happiness. He would be in charge of his life or at least his love life.

As one door closes, another one opens and he was damn sure he was going to walk through that door this time and not wait for it to come to him.

Chuck reached for his phone and dialed a long memorized number. It amazed him that the diminutive General always seemed to be in her office no matter what time of day or night he called.

"Hello, General."

"Hello, Agent Bartowski. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"If I may I'd like to ask you something and I hope you will hear me out before responding." Chuck held his breath waiting for a response.

"I'm listening."

"You did what?!"

"Carina, I'm sorry. You said this was just a simple surveillance mission. I thought it might be just the thing for Sarah to get back on her game. You yourself said she has been through a lot and that I shouldn't annoy her. I think spending a week babysitting me would be about as annoying a mission as she could possibly have." Chuck tried to smile that self-deprecating smile that had worked on his partner many times these past three years.

It didn't.

"But you went behind our backs and got our orders changed. How could you do that? I'm an agent, we don't get to pick and chose the missions we go on."

"I know, it's just I... ah..." he voice stumbled awkwardly before continuing. "Okay, it wasn't just to help Sarah get back in the field,"

"Spit it out, Bartowski." Carina stood there with her arms folded under her breasts. He didn't dare break her gaze but he could have sworn he heard her tapping her foot waiting for his answer. No one had done that to him since Ellie found him coming in through the Morgan door at 5 am after a long night of gaming with his best friend when he was sixteen.

Carina's stare didn't waver.

"Okay fine... Carina you said maybe I have to try harder. Well this is me trying harder. I didn't want to spend a week with you thousands of miles away. Something's happening here and if I'm going to be out of action for a week, then I want to spend that time trying to figure out what this is between us."

"It's just a cover, Chuck."


"What?" Carina was a bit shocked at Chuck's language. Sometimes she thought he was a too much of a boy scout. She kind of liked the more vulgar, assertive Chuck.

"Look Carina, I heard that 'It's just a cover' line way too many times from Sarah. It was bullshit then and its bullshit now. Maybe this is going nowhere and maybe this is a mistake but I'm not going to just let you go hide behind that gorgeous Agent facade this time."

"And what makes you think I want to spend the week babysitting you? I've been doing that for three years, maybe I wanted a break. Did you ever think of that?"

"Ahhh. well." Chuck was dumbfounded. His shoulders slumped a bit in defeat.

Carina decided to give him a break. "Chuck look at me," His eyes cautiously found his partner's. "The new more assertive Chuck is kind of hot but you had no right to go messing around with our assignments. We do what we're ordered to do and we like it that way."

"But you are always improvising on missions; I'm just following your lead like Marc said."

Chuck noticed something flash in Carina's eyes for a second but then it was gone. He was more convinced than ever that there was a definite story to his partner/fake/non-fake girlfriend and the handsome agent.

Carina ignored the comment and decided to change the subject instead. "Beckman agreed to the change?"

"Yea, it is a simple op and I was able to convince her that working a mission alone with Casey might be just what Sarah needed. Once he got himself reinstated to the Marine Corps after Sarah left with Shaw and we went to Rome, he did a two year tour in Afghanistan. The General kept tabs on him as he had always been her best agent. After reading the reports of his missions there, she decided to reinstate him as an NSA agent. With our success against Fulcrum and the revelations about the Ring, she wants to partner him with Sarah again and thought this might be a good chance to rebuild that relationship. He always said Sarah was the best partner he ever had."

"Gee, and I thought it was me." Carina smugly grinned.

"Well handcuffing your partner to a bed not once but twice can have a definite impact on your standing." Chuck chuckled.

Carina grinned that sassy grin he had come to really enjoy seeing. "Ok, maybe it is a good idea but I'm still pissed you did this behind my back."

"Well, I'll just have to spend the week convincing you it was the right thing to do; and you actually do want to spend time with me."

"Hmmpf. Don't flatter yourself. You're not that great."

"Remember, this is me trying harder and I can be irresistible when I try harder." Chuck wiggled his eyebrows in the distinctive dance that seemed to work on two agents he knew.

Carina rolled her eyes. "Well as punishment for going behind my back, you're going to have to be the one to tell Sarah, alone. No way am I going to be there for that one….. partner"

"Uhhm." Chuck hesitated. That was something he had hoped to avoid.

"Look Chuck, I don't know what went on these past three years and she will never tell me but it's obvious that Sarah has been through hell. Over these last couple of weeks she's been here its obvious she's not the same person she was the last time I saw her with you back in snoresville. She seems like the years she spent after leaving you have worn her down. She's not the same agent and she's not the same girl or friend I once knew. I know seeing you again must have been hard on her even with the choice was she made three years ago. No matter what happened after I left between you two, I definitely know she loved you Chuck and maybe a part of her still does. And no matter how hard you try to deny it, I know a part of you still loves her too."

"Carina... I"

The redheaded beauty held up her hand to stop his denial.

"Chuck, it's ok. I get it. I may live by the rule that spies don't fall in love, but I know it happens. This is just an example as to why it shouldn't. It changes you and many times you are not the same agent you once were. You two may be great actors trying to make everyone think you have moved on and maybe you have, but the pain is still there down deep. I'm a good spy but I'm also a good friend to both of you and I can see it in your eyes when you look at each other or more accurately, try to avoid looking at each other. I care about Sarah. She's as close to a best friend as I have ever had and I just don't want to see her get any more hurt ok?"

"Wow Carina, that is the most ahhh... human thing I think I've ever heard you say to me."

"Don't get used to it, nerd boy."

"Annnnd you're back." he said, with a slight lopsided grin, before once again sobering, "Look Carina, I won't deny that a part of me still loves Sarah, I probably always will. But sometimes you have to live with the consequences of the choices you make. Sometimes you can't go back and fix all the mistakes. I know it will sound corny to you but I once thought there was one true love out there for everyone. A soul mate if you will. But the two times I thought maybe I had found mine, it turned out the spy life got in the way and I must have been mistaken because nothing, nothing in this world should be able to defeat that kind of love. But I've seen a lot of darkness in this life ever since Bryce sent me that email. From what I've experienced I'm not so sure that those things exist for me anymore. But I have to move forward and that's what I'm trying to do. Maybe I can't have it all and maybe it all doesn't even exist. I just want to find whatever happiness I can in this life and ridiculous as it may sound, being around you makes me happy,... sort of." Chuck grinned.

"Ok fine. But you better tell her soon as we were supposed to be leaving tomorrow. She's going to need as much time as possible to go over the mission directives, get geared up and then head to the airport."

"I know. I'm just going to go through these files for Casey and then call you. The doctors said you could take me home tonight. I'll go talk to her then."

Carina reached out and grabbed his hand, holding it gently. "Chuck, I know you're not a great liar especially where Sarah is concerned, but leave out the part about wanting me to stay, ok? I just don't want to cause Sarah any more pain."

"Ok. I promise."

Carina got up and headed up the stairs out of Castle but before she got to the top she turned back to her dorky partner. "And Chuck? You better have something special planned for us this week besides some stupid movie marathon or comic book night."

"I'm recovering from being wounded Carina so I can't promise anything." He said with a smirk.

The redhead rolled her eyes and headed up to her room shaking her head. Once out of Chuck's view, a small smile took over her beautiful face.

Chuck lay back in his hospital bed and opened up the folders Casey had given him seeing if he flashed on anything. But he also needed time to think about how he was going to tell Sarah that she was going to Cairo and not Carina.

Two Hours later

Sarah sat at the desk in her bedroom at the CIA apartment that Team Bartowski called home. She was looking at a few pictures from long ago that she could never quite get herself to remove from her phone. Over these past three years far too many times she had the "delete pic?" button displayed but just couldn't make herself press it. One time shortly after she got to DC, Shaw had come to the apartment she had moved back into after three years in LA. He found her sitting on the couch that was still covered by the sheet her cleaners had placed there when she went to Burbank, looking at them. He had asked her to move into his DC penthouse with him but just like she told Chuck that last night on the stake out, it was different with Shaw and she just wasn't ready to say yes. Ultimately, she never did. He saw the look in her eyes as she gazed at the screen and smugly laughed at her sentimentality and his apparent victory. She had chosen him after all. When she saw the look on his face she winced. It wasn't professional and she knew it but the Chuck she had once known and loved was gone and not just physically. He'd changed into something she never wanted him to become and it was all her fault. She would have to live with that guilt the rest of her life. Shaw had used her to force Chuck into making the choice to complete his Red Test or wash out as a field agent, and he chose to kill. As she ran after him on the tracks after hearing the shot, she witnessed the final death of the kind, lovable nerd she had fallen so hard for. Her heart shattered as she saw Chuck standing over the dead mole with a gun in his hand. She quickly turned away to hide her shock, called Shaw and left. It was the last time she ever saw him till they all returned to Burbank a few weeks ago. It was a memory that haunted her dreams to this day.

But she still longed for those days when a simple smile from Chuck would brighten her whole day. When she walked into the BuyMore and his face would light up like a child on Christmas morning, or at least what she thought a normal child would do unless she and her father had been in their town that year. No one in her life had ever looked at her like that. The looks she normally got were usually filled with either fear, betrayal or lust. Shaw never looked at her like Chuck did and maybe that was for the best. He was cold but he was safe or at least she once thought so. She knew where she stood with him and the life she once dreamed of with Chuck was just that, a mere dream for someone like her. She had changed Chuck into a copy of herself and she couldn't bear to witness it first hand anymore. So she left for DC with Shaw before Chuck even returned with his new badge. She never did say goodbye. She couldn't trust him any more. He had killed someone and become just another spy like her. Sarah Walker had completed her mission perfectly and so she did what spies do. She left without a word. She rationalized that it didn't really matter anyway. Kind, nerdy, wonderful Chuck was gone too.

Shaw was exactly that same kind of man but had never pretended to be anything else. He was a spy, professional, cold and always looking for an edge. She knew when she told him her real name and he said he wanted to know more, he was just pretending. He was doing what all good spies did, exploiting a weakness and seducing a vulnerable mark telling her what he thought she had wanted to hear. And she foolishly fell for it. Then she just watched as Shaw beat the crap out of Chuck and did nothing. But telling Shaw her name had never been about him. It was about a lonely girl grasping for anything she could hold on to. That night when she returned to Castle with all the things Chuck had taught her about, like sizzling shrimp, she let her guard down and woke up in his arms. They were the wrong arms her heart knew, but the right arms were on a man who didn't exist anymore.

The next two years would prove how little she really knew Daniel Shaw, how easily she had let him play her, till it all came crashing down.

And now it was all too late. She had to live with the consequences of her choice. The couple she saw in those pictures was from a different life. A life that was just a dream back then and now she was certain it was a life that never could be. It was too far out of reach, never really hers and she needed to move on.

But could she?

Now back here with him, as she looked at the pictures she could never make herself delete, she felt a new pain. She had known that when she got on that plane to DC with Shaw that she was closing the door forever on a relationship with Chuck. But seeing him with Carina hurt. She couldn't deny it. Seeing him everyday with her was her own personal hell for all the mistakes she had made in her life. This was worse than seeing him with Lou, Jill or Hannah. They were all something she could never be, normal. Well maybe not Jill but the others were. But Carina was just like her and she couldn't deny seeing them together made her long for what once was and what could have been.

Though maybe now at least when she got to spend this week with him while Casey and Carina were in Cairo, it would finally let her get the closure she needed to accept the consequences of the choices she made. Their talk the other day had finally broken the ice that both of them had danced around since her return. She hoped that now away from the distractions of a mission or the gorgeous redhead Chuck obviously had developed feelings for, he would have to stop avoiding her. And hopefully she might be able to once again call Chuck Bartowski or sadly she realized, more appropriately Charles Carmichael, a friend.

Sarah quickly closed the pictures when she heard a soft knock on the door. She checked herself in the mirror to make sure that she was presentable and that there was no trace of what she had just been doing. Chuck was a spy now and a damn good one. If he and Carina found each other and found a way to be happy then she didn't want to be the focus of any discontent for either. She cared about them both and she would continue to put on the happy agent facade she had been wearing ever since she returned to Chuck's life.

The knocking became a little louder the second time.

"Sarah,? it's me Chuck. Are you busy?"

"No, just a sec." Sarah turned her head slightly to each side as she looked in the mirror for one final check. Comfortable that no evidence of what she had been doing the past hour and practically every night since she returned was showing, she went to open the door.

"Hi Chuck, glad you're back. Come on in." She said just a little too cheerily.

"Thanks. I..." Chuck stumbled a bit as he stepped into the room. This was going to be a difficult conversation but if he was going to follow through on his promise to himself, he had to get through it. Things had been awkward between them since her return but in recent days it had gotten better. He hoped that would continue.

"Are you feeling better? Can I get you anything?"

"No, much better, thank you. I'll only be a minute." Chuck took a deep breath. "I spoke to the General before I left Castle and she asked me to tell you something." He said with his back to those piercing sapphire eyes. He knew that even though they were not as deep and full of life these days, he could never really hide anything from her. So he hoped he could avoid them, deliver the message and hide his true intent. No matter that he was moving ahead with his life and she still represented so many difficult emotions, he could never bear the thought of knowingly hurting this beautiful woman. He had done that to her too often in the past, a past he needed to move away from.

"Okay. What is it?" Her voice cracked ever so slightly. It would have been imperceptible to anyone else but that voice was something that had been music to his ears for so long and something he studied with more dedication than any vocal student at Julliard. It was still the voice of an angel but it sounded weary.

Chuck turned around and glanced briefly at those sad eyes but looked away in hopes he didn't give himself away before continuing. "There's been a change of plans. The General has decided she wants to alter the assignments for Cairo. Your familiarity with the Ring and the mission is greater than Carina's and she hopes that partnering you with Casey on this mission will bring back some of the success you two used to have." He tried to put on the small humble smile he used to use with her and keep the mood light.

"Oh." this time it was Sarah's turn to look away in hopes of hiding her disappointment. Taking a quick breath she recovered. "Actually Chuck, most of our success was because of you." She turned and flashed him a soft sincere smile. He knew she really meant it.

"Well, I had the finest teachers and they did all the work." The honest smile he gave back to her was the most beautiful thing she had seen in a very long time. It recalled in her mind why he had always been so special. It was something she hadn't realized she missed so very much. It was the first time she had seen even a glimpse of the old Chuck directed at her in far too long. Since before he stood over the dead body of his target on those dark and lonely train tracks. The innocence he once had, gone forever.

Realizing that this was heading into some territory she couldn't let herself venture into, she changed the subject back to the mission. "So when do Casey and I leave?"

"Your flight to Cairo leaves at 11 am."

"Ok, I better get started packing then. Did you look at the mission profiles? Did you flash on anything?"

"No, nothing major. Just a few small time mercenaries."

"Okay, well it's just surveillance but let's hope we get lucky."

"Yea, if there is anything you need, you know where to find me."

"Ok, but you need your rest. If it's something important I can contact Carina. I assume she will be with you the whole time?" Chuck heard that small hitch in her voice once again.

"Yes, the General has assigned her to be my babysitter. She wasn't too happy about spending a week playing nursemaid to a nerd. She thinks you got the better end of the deal."

Sarah chuckled and tried to react to his humble attempt at humor. He still had a way of making her laugh like no one else.

"I think she can suffer through it" They both looked at each other for a split second in recognition of something long ago but quickly turned away. They couldn't go there.

"Well I best be going before Nurse Ratched comes looking for me." He smiled again and quickly headed towards the door. Just as he was about to leave he glanced over his shoulder and saw Sarah with her eyes closed for a brief second. He frowned but said nothing and headed back to his room.

Now that the tough part was done, he had to come up with a plan for what he was going to do with the other woman in his life with no missions and no other partners for eight days.

Once Chuck left, Sarah closed the door and leaned her back against it. She knew him too well. He may not be Chuck Bartowski anymore but even Charles Carmichael was someone she could always read. The irony hit her like a ton of bricks. This time it wasn't her running away from him to be with Shaw, it was Chuck sending her away so he could be with Carina. The heart she thought she had walled up so high and couldn't be hurt again was breaking all the same.

Six Days Later

"Awe, come on. Just one more and that's it, I promise."

"No way, you have corrupted my brain for the last time. If I have to sit through one more of those stupid episodes I swear I'm going to shoot you again myself."

"Please, we're just getting to Exodus and the big battle ending the Occupation."

"Enough Bartowski! If I see one more episode where that hot Apollo guy got all fat I'm going to scream. What was up with that anyway? Nope, don't tell me. I don't want to know."

"A ha! You are enjoying them!"

"Hot pilot, yes. Fat Captain no."

Chuck leaned over and tried to sneak a small kiss from his redheaded partner. The playful banter that he had missed since DC was back now that it was just the two of them. Sure he hadn't got much further in his try harder plan but he had missed this. Add in an occasional kiss like he was trying to steal now and things were looking up. Sure it wasn't anything like the two she had laid on him a couple weeks back. But still this felt comfortable and he knew she felt it too, or at least as much as she would ever let on with him.

Just as he pulled away there was a chirp on the big screen they had been watching the DVD's on and the symbol of the NSA appeared for a few seconds before the image of an obviously concerned General appeared.

"Ahh General we were just..." Chuck straightened himself up and moved away from his partner on the couch.

Ignoring him she got down to business. "Agent Miller, Agent Carmichael." Chuck knew something big was up in how she addressed them both.

"Yes, General?" Carina said before Chuck could stumble again.

"I'm afraid we have a serious problem. Agent Walker and Colonel Casey have not reported in, in 2 days. We have no GPS on their phones or any signals from any trackers. Nothing. Checking footage from all the cameras we could get access to in a fifty mile radius of their last location got us this footage. It's not much but we hope you can help us with this, Agent Carmichael. It may be our only lead."

Suddenly a dark grainy black and white image appeared on the screen. The image was from a camera in an ATM machine about thirty feet away. There was no way to tell for certain what they were seeing.

"General, there really isn't much there. What should we be seeing?" Carina asked.

"It's not what you should be seeing exactly but there is an audio file that goes with it. It's very low but our experts have processed and filtered it. It's not very long but you can clearly hear a man talking to Agent Walker." The General then pressed a button on her keyboard and a very poor quality, noisy recording began to play.

"Well, ...Agent Walker, you gssh... getting sloppy. I ne... would have been able gssh... sneak up ... gssh... like that a ... years ago. I guess what hap... gssh in Dhamar shook you up more than you let on...B... it's going... gssh ... be fun getting reacquainted, don't you think?" Carina then heard the sounds of bodies being thrown into a vehicle and speeding away but Chuck never did. As soon as he heard the name Dhamar, he flashed.

Chuck shook out of the flash and his face looked horrified at what he had seen.

"General, oh shit...oh shit… oh shit. Oh my God"

"What is it Chuck?" Carina asked. Her face was showing grave concern at the sight of her partner almost hyperventilating.

Chuck stood up and ran his hand nervously through his hair. He turned around, hurriedly walked a few steps before taking a breath and returning his gaze towards the screen. "Oh God... General, Sarah is in grave danger and we need to find her and Casey fast or I just... we can't..." His eyes closed in anguish.

"Oh God, what have I done?!"

A/N2 Yes, no, maybe? Your thoughts would be appreciated. Next chapter is about half finished and after that is posted I will be updating LL&L. I just really have been consumed by this idea and I hope I don't loose many of my loyal readers by taking a different track with my writing choices.