A/N It looks like this story is beginning to diverge from canon just a little bit. Sorry about that, but it's not my fault if they didn't give the Ring a better Evil Plot.

"I wish they'd wake up."

"What the hell even happened?"


"Carmichael. Charles Carmichael."

John Casey sat and surveyed the wreckage.

Carina was asleep in his bed, carried there gently and tucked up nicely by a man who had nothing against compassion as long as no one saw him doing it. Sure, he knew where she lived and could have taken her there, but he didn't trust her security like he trusted his own. After getting tranqed twice, with a dose of antagonist in between, she wasn't going to be in the game for a while, so he just put up every layer of protection he had and left her behind.

Now he sat in his car outside the B&B, wondering what he should say, and who he should say it to. He had a mission. Chuck was missing, again, and he'd been tasked to get him back. Again. Without a chip that was gonna be tough, and Grimes could be an ally in that effort, but…she would be with him. Probably. Almost certainly. Well, 'probably' enough.

He was afraid. The master of strategy and tactics didn't know what to do, and he was afraid. He could admit that. As long as no one was around to hear him doing it.

"You kicked him where?" Morgan shook his head in wonder and winced in sympathetic pain. "Wow, you must really want to be an only child." He brought a plate and a cup. "Here you go. One slice of apple pie, and one cup of coffee, black and bitter."

She really wasn't hungry, but the coffee suited her mood. It burnt her tongue and it tasted bad and it was just what she wanted. "How'd you know?"

"Easy," he said, smiling as he sat opposite her. "You're a Casey. Or a Coburn."

"I am not that man's daughter!" She slammed the cup down, spilling the coffee and burning her hand too. "Ow!"

"That's gotta sting." Morgan picked up his towel and took her hand, patting it dry gently. "Alex. Like it or not, he's your father, not 'that man.' Whatever else he may be, John Casey is Uncle Sam's most faithful servant. I can't think of anything else that could have taken him away from your mother, or you."

She watched him care for her. "He didn't know about me," she whispered. "Mom never got a chance to tell him. Not that it would have mattered."

"Of course it would have," said Morgan. "it would have made a painful decision more painful, but I think he would have made the same one. That's just the kind of man he is." He got his little bottle of Vitamin E oil, for minor burns, and started smearing it over her reddened skin. "What about your mother?"

Alex sighed. "Yeah, that's what she'd say too."

"No, I meant, are you gonna tell her?"

Alex flexed her fingers, "I don't think there's anything I could tell her that she doesn't already know." Her fiancé is still dead. She touched the fork. "The pie looks good."

"Here, let me get that for you," said Morgan, picking up the fork and cutting off a bite of pie. "Huh? Huh?" he said, smiling as she enjoyed her food. His food.

Someone knocked on the door.


"Orion. Always a pleasure."

"Nice glasses."

"They don't go with the uniform but they get the job done as well as any Marine." His purple pixels weren't nearly so purple or stomach-churning as usual.

Her screen changed, smears of color replaced by tiny rotating cubes, shifting from black to white as they matched his movements at three-quarter speed. "I was wondering when-or more precisely if-you'd get clever."

Keep wondering.

"Where are my children?"

Beckman allowed her sorrow to show. It was perfectly genuine but she knew Orion wouldn't believe that. "I'm sorry, but we haven't made much progress yet. The ambulance was recovered but the crew was not. We aren't getting our hopes up for them, but you can never tell. Chuck's chip is not giving us a signal."

"They got him underground quickly."

"Unlikely," she said, enjoying the feeling of being one up on Orion, even for such a small thing under these circumstances. "Unless they raided the facility with a large truck, the insulation wouldn't be enough to hide the chip and they'd have to travel quite a distance to get a safe house."

No way a large truck could just roll up to the front door unnoticed. "I'm going to guess that even a CIA facility takes more precautions than that."

She wasn't technically CIA but he lumped all the clandestine services together, so she took his slight personally. "We believe we have two separate attacks here, Orion. Chuck was kidnapped after a daring daylight assault on a heavily fortified structure, not at all the Ring's style. They rely much more on stealth."

"Like stolen ambulances."

"Exactly. If you–"

"General, I'm going to pursue the Ring connection. Stealth is what I do best."

"Thank you," she said, mainly to confuse him but also because she meant it. "With you on the job, hopefully we can get there before Sarah wakes up and they find out who they kidnapped the hard way. It would be nice to take someone into custody for a change."

"Don't thank me, General, I'm not doing this for you. The sooner I can get my children back and out from under the sieve you call an umbrella, the happier we'll be." The screen went black.

General Beckman picked up her phone and walked away from her desk. In a little side room, free of any electronics, she said, "You heard all that." He'd better have. She couldn't hope to have Orion call at a known time ever again. Fear for his children had the old trouble-maker rattled.

"Yes, General."

"Then you should know that his interests are not your interests. It's time for you to decide which side your bread is buttered on, Mr. Depak."

Morgan answered the door. "Devon? What are you doing here?"

"Ellie's missing, dude," said the nervous husband, walking in without waiting for an invitation. "I spoke to her–" he noticed Alex sitting there "Uh…"

"Don't worry, she's one of us," said Morgan, closing the door. "And she's FBI."

"FBI?" Devon looked hopeful. "You guys do kidnappings, right?"

Alex covered her confusion by swallowing the lump of apple pie that had been so nice just a second ago. "We…solve them, we don't commit them…"

"Kidnapped?" said Morgan. "What do you mean, kidnapped?"

"I talked to Ellie's boss, bro. She and Sarah were supposed to go to the hospital but they were taken away in a stolen ambulance. Casey hung up on me and I can't find Chuck, so you're my only hope."

"Okay, now you're scaring me…"

"Come on, Morgan, you've worked with these guys, you got Chuck back, you've gotta have some idea…"

Morgan snapped his fingers. "I just had an idea. I know exactly where to go!"


"Your place. Let's move."

Someone knocked on the door, and Ellie jerked at the suddenness of it.

"Doctor Woodcombe, Mrs. Bartowski, please stand away from the door so I can enter."

Like they aren't watching us. Sarah was glad for the cloth over her eyes, hiding her face, her reactions.

"We are," said Ellie.

Keys rattled, and the door opened, letting in some light, some sounds, some fresher air, and a young man, carrying two purses. "I believe these are yours?" he said, handing them to Ellie.

She took them, resisting the urge to rummage.

"Everything should be there," said the man, pointing. "We just needed to verify your identities before we could plan our next steps."

And check for weapons. Sarah would have rolled her eyes but they still hurt.

Ellie took a firm grip on the strap, in case she needed to swing. "What next steps? Who are you?"

Someone else tapped on the door, and the man turned and opened it, accepting a box from someone outside before closing it again. "Doctor Woodcombe, since your friend is injured, even if only slightly-at least I hope so-I had them bring you this so you could treat her injuries." He handed over the box, white with a red cross on it. "I'll be glad to answer any questions you may have, although I can't guarantee you'll like the answers." He pulled up a stool and sat down, reducing the obvious threat but still between them and the door.

Ellie moved the gurney Sarah was on she could treat the wounds and keep him in view. "How about the ones I already asked?"

"Who am I? Well, if it'll make you feel better, you can call me Justin." He smiled. "It's even my real name."

Ellie gave 'Justin' a funny look as she carefully dabbed at Sarah's wound with a moistened cloth. "Why wouldn't it be?"

He looked pained. "Because…well, I hate to tell you this, but you ladies have somehow gotten mixed up in some pretty bad business, and I'm, we're just trying to–" he made a crushing gesture that Ellie didn't find terribly reassuring "–contain the damage before it spirals out of control and sucks you in any farther than it already has. A lot of people here will be giving you false names , if you meet anyone other than me at all. We'll try to keep that to a minimum, though. The less you know the better off you are."

"What kind of 'business'?" She swabbed on some disinfectant, and it stung, making her patient gasp. "I'm sorry, Sarah. Try to hold still." She flicked a glance up at Justin. "Well? What business?"

"Do either of you know a man named Daniel Shaw?"

"No," said Ellie, who was fortunately telling the truth. "Sarah?"

Sarah shook her head, then gasped in pain.

"I told you not to move. Who's this Shaw guy, and why do you think I would know him?"

"You've been getting some threatening phone calls, haven't you, Dr. Woodcombe? A late night visitor?"

Ellie glared at him. "How do you know that?"

"We have eyes and ears everywhere, Doctor. Daniel Shaw was the man in your house. Are you sure you have no idea why he would be there?"

"What? No, I have no idea why he'd be stalking me! Or you, with your fake names and your eyes and ears! Who the hell are you?"

Justin sighed. "We're the government, Doctor. I work for the CIA, and Daniel Shaw used to be one of ours."

Chuck shifted his grip, holding Carmichael's head in place as he slammed his own head forward, hitting Carmichael at the bridge of his nose. As Carmichael fell back, Chuck pulled his legs in, braced his feet against the other man's chest and pushed, throwing his attacker onto the floor. "Liar!" he said, allowing momentum to bring him to his feet. "What are you really, Shaw? Some kind of Ring double agent, you faked your own death?"

Carmichael's eyes fluttered. "Death. In a lab, strapped to a table. Needles in my back."

Oh crap. "No, death in a pit, the floor collapsing under you as you saved my life."

The fluttering stopped and Carmichael frowned. "You don't deserve to live."

Chuck flashed. Fire and razor blades tore into his brain, his body, as the knowledge he needed flooded his mind with pain. Carmichael saw his enemy writhing in pain and rolled to his feet, springing to the attack. Chuck felt the impact as a distant thing, and his new reflexes shrugged it off, but he could not focus on an attack.

The phone rang.

Neither of the men in the room took time out to answer it. Carmichael got in a few hits, early on, while Chuck was still seeing double and tried to block the wrong phantom limb. Chuck, for his part, wasn't trying to kill Carmichael so much as stop him before too many of Sarah's most precious mementos got damaged. He wasn't sure but it sure sounded like they'd already taken out the end table, with her favorite photo, and he knew she was going to blame him.

Which meant he'd need to keep the couch intact, since he'd be sleeping on it for a while.

The damn phone kept ringing, distracting him with an almost instinctive urge to–the answering machine kicked in. Finally. "Chuck!" said the phone in Morgan's voice, "Sarah and Ellie have been kidnapped–"

Both men stopped, turning to stare at the phone.

"I'm with Devon and Alex, we're going to talk to the General, I have an idea. Call me when you get this."

Chuck threw up his hands. He had no more time for this. "Shaw, listen to me, we have to stop this! My wife is in danger!"

"No, Bartowski, my wife is in danger. My…wife…" Carmichael stopped, shaking his head, blinking furiously.

"That's right, uh, Charles," said Chuck, stepping further out onto their common ground. "Sarah, our Sarah, is in danger. We have to find her, we have to help her."

Carmichael kicked out, sweeping Chuck's legs out from under him as he grabbed him by the neck and slammed his body through the coffee table.

"You're partly right, Chuck," said Daniel Shaw. "We have to find her. Then I can kill her. Agent Walker killed my wife. Now I get to return the favor."

A/N2 Please review, tell me what you think of this monster.