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I think I've got one chapter after this. If it gets to be too long, then it'll be one chapter and an epilogue. I actually know exactly how I want to end this. ^_^

There are, believe it or not, still a handful of suggestions that I will, will, will fit into this before it's over. One of them is actually from the very first chapter! I couldn't find a place for it until the next chapter or even the epilogue, where it will go perfectly (that's the spider one.)

Again, I have to limit the suggestions I'm taking as the plot of the story is actually complete, and it's really just "what happens to them after this" that comes next. HOWEVER, if there's still something small that you really want to see, comment and I will do my best.

New suggestions!

[ profile] efcia asked for, Arthur, squinting his eyes in the sunlight and Eames watching him with a simple and pure joy. This is sweet and I have the perfect place for this in the next chapter. :D

[ profile] wirrrn suggested, physical appearance to Arthur by Baba Yaga?! I kind of love it when things can possibly be supernatural, but can be explained by reality, but then still left a little bit open to interpretation. That's why I had fun with this suggestion and I really hope you like what I was trying to do. :D

These are older suggestions, some of them even from the beginning! But eventually I will get to them.

[ profile] twisted_ream there's this huge spider on eames' back and he can't get it off and arthur just laughs AS OF NOW I KNOW EXACTLY HOW THIS ENDS, AND WHERE THIS FITS. :D

[ profile] gelbwax's suggestion with Arthur's badass fedora getting swept away and then returning later... FINALLY!

[ profile] enoughglittersays, My one and only request for this story is that after this is all over, and they come through the other side of whatever you've got planned for them, I would love to see an epilogue or something where they finally get to go on vacation, and no one tries to kill them or torture them or torture-then-kill-them. Just...vacation. Aww, I agree. That would be nice. ^_^ Also? OMG, the art that you did really makes me want to put Arthur somewhere warm. :D

[ profile] wirrrn asked for, Heat- rather than cold- becomes a problem. This can actually fit in pretty close to the end. Iiiiiinteresting. ^_^

And let's not forget:


[ profile] hockey_joy Eames' nose to Arthur's ribcage. This is going in here for sure. Later though. :)

[ profile] xkatchy - Arthur's face to Eames's ass. In a completely non-sexual way. OR Arthur's elbow to Eames's crotch. Not on purpose of course =) Oddly, [ profile] gelbwax seconded that one. Poor Eames! ^_^

[ profile] mydeerfriend Maybe a hand and the back of a knee or lips!

[ profile] spndreamz Arthur's hair Eames' nose?

So obviously, I still need a chapter or two to tie these all in. ^_^

Anyway, STORY. :D

** ** ** **
14 - What If This Storm Ends

** ** ** **

Of course, Arthur had everything in the room packed up and ready to go in about seven minutes. He then went to the compartment that Ann and Jack had been staying in and collected their PASIV. They didn't need the militsiya to find that. He took Ann's purse, he compounds, her Moleskin, her notebook. Jack hadn't brought much aside from clothes. He swept through the Fenderlyns' room too, and took all their papers, cell phones, electronics.

He did this with practiced calm and a clear head. He'd had his little moment, and maybe he'd have another at some time, but for then, it was time to work.

In the communal shower he washed the blood off, scrubbed under his fingernails, and stood under the warm water for three minutes, letting his mind go blank.

When he came back to their room, Eames was packing up his work station. The compartment smelled of metal and chemicals, vaguely of smoke. Eames had engraved something.

"What are you working on?" Arthur asked. Something to get them the fuck out of Russia with ease, he hoped.

Eames turned and held up a chain with two separate dog tags on it: an American one and a British one. "I think Michelle deserves these," he said.

"Isn't that a little risky?" Arthur asked.

"Please tell me you don't think that these contain any real information. Forger?"

"Oh. Right."

Arthur sat down on the bed. He almost let everything crash down on him, just for a second. It was 4 AM. Just a few hours of sleep, that was all he wanted. And some food. And an aspirin. And sex, the good kind. But none of those things were really practical yet. He rubbed his hand across his forehead.

"It's going to be chaos when the train stops," he said.

Eames grunted in reply.

"We'll need to flash some cred and then get away quick, make a clean sneak if we can."

"We thrive in chaos," Eames said. He leaned back in the small chair and stretched, pulling his arms over his head and arching. Even battered as he was, he looked to Arthur the same as he always had: like a piece of art. And he didn't even realize.

"It's not going to take them long to figure out that we weren't who we said we were," Arthur went on. "Then they're going to start searching. And they'll be looking for two men traveling together."

Eames rested his arms on his legs, leaning forward. The chain dangled from his fingers and he regarded Arthur with calm, with ease. "The usual," he said.

'The usual' was them leaving a country separately, lying low on different continents and keeping contact through disposable cell phones for a few weeks, and then meeting in some other country to pool their data and clean up any lingering details they had found. As yet, there was no one set place where they could do this.

"It's all right," Eames said. "I'll be fine, at any rate. I need some time to go over things in my head."

"I do, too," Arthur said. He wanted to do some research into their past, into the missing four months, and find out how it had all begun, how it had ended, and most especially, if there were still any stragglers from Project Voodoo who might pop up in their future.

He didn't necessarily need Eames's skill set for that sort of work, and he did these things better without emotional distractions.

"You'll be all right?" Eames asked.

"Yeah, I'm okay," Arthur said.

"I'll hold onto the PASIV devices and lie low in Russia for a bit. Think I'll go to the states once I can get out of here," Eames said. "No one will look for me there. It's a quiet place for me. You?"

"Don't know yet," Arthur said. "Somewhere warm. Hawai'i seems an unlikely place for this business. Never did a job there, only a lockdown that one time."

"Kona again?" Eames asked, smiling.

"Nah. Bad memories." He smiled back. "I want to hear from you the second you're able to reach me and there's no elbows tagging along. If I don't get the wire on you in two days, I'm coming after you, you hear?"

Eames's smile turned a little knowing; Arthur had seen that look many times and still didn't know what it meant. "I hear you, Arthur," he said.

"It's going to be a madhouse once we leave this room," Arthur said. "And it's not going to end until we're in two different places. Say goodbye to me now."

It took Eames two strides to cross the room and join Arthur on the bed. There wasn't enough time for anything more than a kiss, so Arthur made sure it counted.

** ** ** **

Eames had expected some looks when they went back into the dining car, where all the passengers had locked themselves down. (Or where Daniel and Helen had locked them down, perhaps.) He'd expected questions, crying, maybe a few shouts, of "When can we get off?" and "someone tell us what's going on!" demands.

He had not expected a round of applause.

So he stood behind Arthur, his head throbbing, his hands curled into fists, and just let his jaw drop. Arthur, for his part, turned to look at Eames with a similar expression.

"We almost got them all killed," Eames said. "They don't understand."

"They don't," Arthur said, "but they'll take our side when we disappear. Come on, take care of this." He shoved Eames in front of him.

Eames wanted to scowl at Arthur for that, but instead he put on his best game face. All right. If this was what the people on the train wanted, then that's what they would get. And after all, there hadn't been a single civilian casualty.

And yes, Arthur had in fact gone out into a blizzard to rescue a group of stranded tourists. And Eames had actually used himself as a human shield. So, maybe they weren't as bad as all that, but really? Applause?

He jumped up onto one of the tables and held his hands up for silence. He felt ridiculous, but what else was his life if not a series of events wherein he had to do adapt to ridiculousness? He thought he played these things off fairly well.

"All right," Eames said, "yes, all right, very good."

They quieted at the sound of his voice. A few people were weeping softly. None of this could be easy for them, and emotions were running high; every emotion. Eames had to put up his hardest shield or he would never last in this environment.

"We'll be coming to the stop, I imagine, as soon as the train is in a hospitable enough place. They're not going to wait for the station because this has been a terrorist attack, or at least that's what it's going to look like. So we'll all be off this train in a short time."

Another burst of applause, but he had expected this one.

"Here's what you need to know," he went on. "There were four people involved in this, who bought out or replaced most of the crew. Those four people are dead and we had no civilian casualties. But…" He waited out a cheer, at this. "But you also need to know that they were coming after my partner and I. Not any of you. We didn't foresee this. This was not a business trip and there was no intrigue involved. We just happened to be here, like the rest of you. I wish more than anything—and so does my partner—that we hadn't come. We were the ones who put you in danger, here. That's on us.

"Years ago we were both assigned to breaking up an international crime ring, and this, this whole situation here, with these people, seems to have been related to that." He felt no guilt at this lie of self-preservation. "The danger you were in was the result of our involvement in this case." That, at least, was the truth. Lies were always easiest when they weren't exactly lies.

"So, for what it's worth, we're both very sorry," he concluded. "And we both owe you our gratitude, for your bravery." That part was also true, and it came out easily.

He looked back at Arthur, who was nodding in agreement and approval.

He added, "I think it's safe for you to go to your compartments if you want, and collect up your valuables. I'm sure they're going to tear the train apart, so I would carry on my person anything I didn't want to lose. Umm. I guess that's it."

He jumped back down from the table.

The relief was palpable, as if they had all been set free of this claustrophobic room that smelled of fear. It transferred to Eames as well and he sighed, feeling some of the tension drain from him. The relief was illogical, because he and Arthur still had so much work to do just to get out. To have a "clean sneak" as Arthur would say.

The Nelsons made their way to them. They shook Eames's hand and thanked him, but really they were looking for Arthur.

"Anthony, Miranda," Arthur said. "Good work out there."

Miranda answered by throwing her arms around Arthur's neck and sobbing. To Eames's probably obvious shock, Anthony did the same thing. The couple clung to Arthur, who seemed to take this patiently, if a little awkwardly, patting them both and saying, "Good job, good job, well done." Arthur had the good sense not to direct their attention to Eames, as he might otherwise have done. He must have sensed that Eames was very nearly done with human contact for a while.

Everyone else seemed to want to touch them as they went by, to crowd around, shake hands, hug, kiss, thank. Did you not hear a word I said? Eames thought. Did you not get that we almost got you killed because our pasts followed us? Was I not clear on that part? But the weepy smiles just kept coming, and hands patted his back and clasped his arm. They were grateful, stupidly grateful to be alive.

Eames didn't like things like this, high-strung emotions in general didn't sit well with him and his walls were already most of the way down from everything that had happened. He couldn't seem to call up his usual defense.

Then he felt a more familiar hand low on his back, a well-known pressure. He glanced at Arthur, who gave him a small smile. Eames remembered the first day on the train, only a few short days ago, but which seemed now like months past. Back then, these same people had gotten in his space, only they had been annoyed, irksome, pushy. Arthur had defused his mounting tension with the same gesture that day, too.

He nodded his thanks.

That was about all that either of them were getting. The train shifted and slowed, knocking people around them both. Relief changed quickly to surprise, and then a mild panic as the train ground to a stop.

It's now, we're stopping, we can leave, we're rescued, everyone seemed to murmur in different ways. Then they all went rushing, dashing to their rooms to collect their belongings as he had told them to. In their haste and panic, finally, Arthur and Eames were forgotten.

Eames looked around, but didn't see Michelle or her parents anywhere. He needed to catch them before the authorities broke them all up. Before they made their clean sneak.

"Let's get our stuff out of the room," Arthur said, "and be the first ones out."

"Right," Eames said. He took a breath and cleared the lingering haze from his mind, dispelled all of those different touches, words, and emotions that swirled around like so much dust.

Right. Clean sneak.

** ** ** **

Arthur leaned up against the side of the train, clutching his many bags. For the moment, everyone was leaving him alone. The first rays of dawn were just beginning to spread their fingers over the white hills. Sunrise did nothing to soften the glare of the militsiya's flashing lights, and the hard contrast of spotlights on the snow. Makeshift shelters, erected in haste and with military efficiency, dotted the otherwise blank landscape: red medical tents, and a few that were closed on three sides with the fronts open.

This was obviously A Very Big Deal. This would go national.

The slowing blades of the helicopter whipped the snow into a frenzy, and for a second it was like being in the white-out again.

The shouted orders of the militsiya carried above the whirring copter blades and the wind, probably frightening the rest of the passengers. 'Poshli za nime', Arthur heard, which he thought meant 'get him' or 'grab him'. It told him that there had indeed been more hired guns hiding out on the train, ones who had simply tried to duck away somewhere, probably the engine room. At least he didn't have to deal with them.

Chaos, Arthur thought. But he'd handled chaos before, and he could handle it now. Even on two hours of sleep and no food. He'd gone through worse, with less resources. In a few hours, with any luck and most of his skill, he'd be on a plane, and this would seem like a different world. Then, he could sleep.

He about how he would settle into the airplane seat, leaving behind this country, this train, and all the people on it. Michelle, Helen, Daniel, Eartha, everyone he had been stranded with. The bodies of Ann and Jack; a past he hadn't even reconciled yet. The endless snow and cold of this morning, the business he and Eames had not finished.

And Eames, of course. He'd be leaving him behind, too. This morning, this entire trip, would be another piece of his past. Soon. It would be over soon. And he would be alone, to deal with it.

Arthur was okay with being alone. He needed it.

His eyes snapped open and he realized that he'd been sleeping on his feet. He pushed himself away from the train where he'd been leaning and turned to the right, looking for Eames. Before he turned completely, something caught his eye, to his left. Something in the sky, something soundless, not a helicopter. It left a trail of black in his vision as it flew towards him.

Baba Yaga, his mind supplied, slightly hysterically.

By the time he had his head turned around to see what it was, Eartha was standing directly in front of him.

Arthur dropped his suitcases and staggered back, hand clutching his chest much the same way that Francis had been doing out in the cold.

"I'm sorry, Arthur," she said. "Oh, honey. I didn't mean to sneak. I've got a way of being too quiet. Frank says so all the time."

And Francis, speaking of, came up behind her holding two cups of coffee and a brown paper bag. "That's god's honest truth," he said. They stood side by side, with their matching tweed coats. "She flies on silent wings."

"It's okay," Arthur said, feeling like an idiot because he had stuttered on the first word about three times before getting it out. "It's, I'm fine, just startled." It had taken Arthur years not to punch things that leapt out at him from nowhere. That control was hard-won and he was thankful for it.

Frank held out the two cups, and the bag. "Eartha snuck away and got you and Mr. Eames some bagels and coffee," he said. "Wherever Mr. Eames is. You can give him some breakfast."

Arthur looked at Eartha. Her lined face looked coy and knowing. He shook his head to clear it. "You snuck away?" He waved his hand towards the many cars, vans, lights, helicopter, and officers. Fuck, and here he was wondering how he was going to get out of all of this. She only kept smiling at him. Arthur took the cardboard holder with the coffees, and the paper bag. He was so hungry he almost couldn't stand it.

Which explained him seeing dark streaks darting through the sky towards him, and the way he was jumping at shadows. No sleep, no blood sugar, of course he was hallucinating Baba Yaga and falling asleep against the outside of the train during a raid.

"Thank you," he said. "God, just, yeah. Thank you. I'm so hungry I could, I could…" Eat children, was what he very nearly said. Then he had to take a moment to stifle the hysterical laughter that threatened to come bursting out. What came out instead was a ridiculous giggle, too giddy. He dug into the bag and retrieved a bagel which, bless them, was still warm.

Eartha laughed along with him and indulgently watched him take a bite.

"Arthur," she said after a moment or two, "I think I may have something of yours."

"Fum-fing o'mine?" was what came out of his mouth, along with some crumbs. "Sorry," he said. "You have something of mine?"

Her hands, which, he noticed belatedly, had been behind her back the whole time (he really was in a bad way, he guessed,) produced a crumpled black and brown fedora.

"That is mine!" Arthur said, unable to stop the embarrassing break in his voice, which was still pretty fucked up from being choked out. "Where? How?"

"I found it iced to the outside of the train, just stuck to one of the windows." She straightened it out as well as she could and placed it on his head. "Strangest thing."

It was a strange thing. Not the strangest, by any stretch, but still strange. Arthur looked down to the bagel in his hand, the cardboard holder of coffee in the other. He thought about her scratchy gloves on the back of his head, in the snow. "Thank you," he said to both of them.

"You saved us," she said. "A bit of breakfast and a crumpled hat that was already yours is a small payment."

"But you're nice," he said, and realized how stupidly tired he sounded, how little sense he was making. "You were brave, you… You have strength." He glanced at the wig she wore, then dropped his gaze to the ground.

"Yeah, I reckon she can make it through about anything," Francis said, slipping his arm around her frail shoulders. "And we're going to have us some stories to tell when we get back home. Guess we'll be on the news."

"I guess we will," Eartha said. "I must start practicing my autograph."

Arthur laughed politely and tried to picture their northeast hometown, maybe their little house decorated with all maritime knick-knacks, like glass balls in nets, ships in bottles, seashells in the bathroom.

Eartha put her hand on his arm and said, "Take care of yourself, Arthur."

"You do the same," he said.

She leaned up and kissed his cheek and he actually felt himself blush and go a little stupid. He didn't normally deal with people like this. Didn't really deal with people outside of his business in general, he guessed. Or hadn't, in a long time.

Francis shook his hand and wished him a safe trip home. Eartha's hand lingered briefly on his arm before she turned away.

Arthur felt chilled and a little stunned, as if he'd been thrown back into a noisy world of helicopter blades, shouting, and whirling snow drifts.

He heard Eames's voice and looked across the field to see him casually chatting with one of the uniformed militsiya. Arthur's Russian was for shit, but he did catch the word 'comrade' a few times. And the ease with which Eames was talking to this guy said volumes. He'd already convinced them that he and Arthur were the good guys. They had both produced some ID, but that would never be enough to last, once the real digging started.

No, this was something more than that. Eames had connections everywhere. Arthur remembered their first night on the train, how Eames had told him about his time here. Of course he knew people. He'd probably done some favors.

The officer clasped Eames's shoulder, smiling, gesturing with his other hand as he talked. Pointing towards the train, towards the vehicles, towards the parked helicopter. Then Eames turned, as if sensing out where Arthur was (which he usually could do, even when Arthur was trying to stay undercover,) and pointed towards him. The officer looked concerned for a moment. They exchanged a few more words, a few more gestures, and then suddenly, the two of them were hurrying toward Arthur.

Arthur snapped to attention and held onto the suitcases.

"Vrach, vrach," the officer said, as he came in towards Arthur way too fast.

"What?" Arthur asked, looking over the guy's shoulder at Eames. "What, what's he saying?"

"It's all right," Eames said, "he's saying he's a medic. I told him you'd gotten locked out of the train, he wanted to look you over. Not a bad idea, Arthur. Where the hell did you get coffee? And biscuits?"

"Bagels," Arthur said, handing him the bag and eyeing this medic who was Eames's comrade. "I got them from…" He turned to point to where Eartha and Francis had been standing. They were gone, no trace of them. He scanned the crowd and didn't see them anywhere. "Where did… Did you just see…" He turned to Eames. "Eartha?"

"Who?" Eames said.

Arthur's stomach did a flip. He reached into his pocket and gripped onto the die. It assured him he was in reality - they were real, this had happened, he was certain of it, how could Eames not know? "Eartha and Francis. The old couple?"

"Oh!" Eames said. "Right. Matching coats. Just saw them walking about."

Arthur released a sigh of immense relief.

"Let this man take a quick look at you," Eames said. "I'm not convinced yet."

"I'm okay," Arthur said. And goddamnit, he was, he'd be more okay if people would leave him alone to get his thoughts together. But now that the guy was here, he didn't want to rock the boat. He glared at Eames, who shrugged helplessly. Then he just kept still and quiet, while the medic checked his hands, pressed on his fingernails, looked at his eyes, and finally, checked the ring of bruises around his throat.

The medic asked him something in fast Russian. Arthur glanced at Eames for a translation.

Eames looked down at the ground. "He wants to know if one of the hijackers attacked you."

"Yes," Arthur said quickly. "Da. Eames, tell him yes. Tell him we subdued a few of them."

"Told him already," Eames said.

The medic smiled, a young, friendly look, and tapped Arthur's forehead with his gloved forefinger, speaking another phrase he didn't know. Arthur was too surprised to ask what he meant.

"You," the medic clarified in his heavy accent, "shell shock, comrade."

"Who even says that anymore?" Arthur asked, looking at Eames. "Tell him I'm fine. Just tired." He looked back to the medic and tried for a smile. "Just tired. No sleep."

"Need to get help," the medic said, tapping his own head this time.

For some reason, this alarmed the hell out of Arthur. He didn't need help. He didn't like to be told he needed help. He really, really hated when people insinuated that he was going crazy. Even if he did think he was seeing things flying around, and momentarily not believing that normal human people had actually brought him breakfast.

"I just need to go home," he said. "Just home."

"Bone weary," the medic said, still smiling.


"But no frostbite, yes?"

"Yes," Arthur said. "I mean, no. No frostbite. Thanks. I'm fine. Check him," he added, jerking his chin towards Eames. "Look, he got his ass kicked pretty bad." And he's really the one with the 'shell shock' in case you're interested, he thought. It was going to be tough to split up, to leave Eames like this. But they didn't have a choice this time.

"He's looked me over," Eames said. "We go back a few years. Comrades."

"I got that," Arthur said.

"He's helping us out here," Eames said, with meaning in his voice. "Clean sneak."

Arthur's eyes darted to the medic's face. His smile now looked more sly than open. Arthur nodded. "Got it. Spasiba, really, spasiba."

"Finish your business and go," the medic said, in English. Then he added something in Russian to Eames, speaking slowly. Eames listened carefully, nodding and saying 'mm-hmm, uh-huh, da, da, spasiba.'

The medic gave Arthur another clap on the shoulder, clasped Eames's hand, and then he was gone.

Eames turned to him, his eyes wide and exhausted. "Your hat," he said. "It looks a bit crushed."

"Oh. I lost it in the snow and then Eartha found it for me. It was important. You gave me this hat."

"That's right." Eames leaned against the train, next to him. For a few moments they just stood side by side, watching the chaos, the news vans, the lights. "Unbelievable," Eames said.

Arthur grunted in agreement.

"We've got one more thing to do. Then we separate." He turned to Arthur and pulled the dog tags he had forged out of his coat pocket.

"Right," Arthur said.

They both pushed off the side of the train, slow and weary, and made their way through the throng.

Eames had a way of finding anyone he needed to find in a crowd. It was a gift of his, Arthur noted. He could sense them out, or something. Michelle and her parents were, thankfully, not being shaken down or filmed or questioned when Eames found them. They stood together, the three of them, under one of the open makeshift shelters.

Michelle brightened when she saw them both coming. She didn't seem to know which of them she wanted first, so she threw her arms around both of them at once. Arthur looked over her shoulder at her parents. Helen, who'd been so suspicious of him but had trusted Eames right away. Who'd held down a base with a gun in her hand, on a hijacked train. And Daniel, who'd come out in the snow looking for him. Their eyes showed a look he'd seen a thousand times before, that civilian 'What the fuck just happened, when do I wake up?' look.

You won't, he thought. But when you get on the plane out of here, you'll feel like it was a dream.

Michelle let go of them and backed away, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her purposely ratty coat. "Sorry," she said. "Just glad you're both alive because I was afraid you wouldn't be."

"The two of us being alive," Eames said, "is due in large part to you."

Her eyes widened for a second, before brimming with tears. Because she was, after all, just a kid, the tears ran unchecked down her face. Helen put her hand on Michelle's shoulder and gripped hard. Michelle let her, instead of swatting her away.

"I was really scared though," Michelle said. "Like, really really scared, but it was so weird, I didn't realize how scared I was until it was over. I mean I was scared while it was all happening, but it was a different kind of scared, like a not-thinking kind."

"I felt the same way," Arthur said. "It's always like that. You never get used to it. And you never should." He looked to Daniel and to Helen and said, "You raised a brave girl. Guess it's no surprise since you two are the same. The two of you held everything together in our absence. You both did a tremendous job."

Daniel allowed a few tears to slip down his face.

"Umm," Eames said, opening his palm and showing the dog tags on the chain. He addressed Helen for this one. "Is it all right if we give these to your daughter? One's mine and one's Arthur's. Just as a small 'thank you.'"

Helen nodded, smiling with tightly reined emotion.

"You're kidding me," Michelle said. "You can't. Your names… all your information. I'll wear them. I'll show them to people. You can't trust me with this."

Eames laughed as he slipped the chain over her head. "Show them all you want, the names haven't been used in years and none of this information exists in any databases. They are unrecognizable."

Which was partly true, Arthur mused. When Michelle held the tags in her gloved hand, Arthur noted that Eames had taken the time to distress them, to make them look hard-worn. Certainly at a time like this, it was the intention behind the gift that counted. If this forgery would make a kid proud, if it would serve as gratitude for her service, then it was all fine by Arthur.

"And stop stealing things," Eames said. "It'll only lead you to trouble such as this. Even the best of thieves get caught sometimes and you don't want to deal with the fallout."

"Please, spare me the lecture and let me have my moment," Michelle said. "Also, whatever."

Eames turned his attention back to her parents. Arthur felt it best to let him do the talking, because human contact was Eames's area of expertise.

"I hope you can forgive us for putting you into such danger," Eames said.

Daniel spoke up, saying, "We were proud to help."

"And it's not as if you asked them to come after you," Helen said. "It was just the wrong time and place. We were frightened, but we lived." She gave a high-pitched, little laugh. "And I for one feel stronger for it. I never knew I could handle myself that way. I do wonder if we'll all suffer some lingering nightmares and stress." She stopped to consider this. "Yes, I expect we will," she decided. "But we're certainly not going to let it destroy us. We're not going to cower in our homes, afraid of the next danger."

"No way," Michelle said. "My disaster quota is filled. The chances of something bad happening after this are, like, stupidly low if you think about it. How often does this kind of thing happen to people? Pretty much never. I'm good."

Arthur would have loved to agree with her. As it was, he didn't tell her she was wrong.

"Will you two be all right?" Daniel asked. "You've both been hurt pretty badly."

"I'm all right," Arthur said. He felt like he'd done nothing but insist that he was fine for the last two days. Or maybe even for most of his life; he didn't know.

"Been banged up worse," Eames said. "I foresee my survival."

"Well, look, here's my card," Daniel said, handing it over to him. "We're in New York. If you need anything, from a medical standpoint, I can help you. If you need counseling, I can refer you to someone."

"Appreciate it," Eames said.

"Thank you," Arthur said. He noted that Daniel only gave one card, probably assuming that they were going to continue traveling together.

And speaking of, he knew that they had to start moving. Eames's comrade had only given them a small window of time. Yet, this goodbye was also where he and Eames parted ways for the time being. Maybe that was why they were stalling.

"Take care of yourselves," Arthur said.

Michelle hugged him again, pressing her face into his coat and sniffling into the wool. Then she did the same to Eames again.

"Bye, you guys," she said as she pulled away, ducking her head and trying to hide her tears, which she probably thought were stupid.

"Farewell, Dollymop," Eames said.

He turned to leave, and Arthur took his cue and followed him.

"Hey," Michelle called after them. They turned back. "Hey, don't forget, Mr. Eames. Call a fig a fig. Not an olive. Remember? It's a fig you have there."

Arthur had no idea what this babble meant, but Eames's jaw dropped an inch or so before he smiled, rolled his eyes good-naturedly, and kept walking.

"A fig?" Arthur asked.

"Long story, I'll tell it to you when we meet up again. You're short on time."

"I know," Arthur said. "Are you good to go?"

"I'm good. Going to lie low here with old friends until I look fit to travel. You?"

"All set."

"The moment you land, all right?" Eames said, "the usual."

"I'll let you know where I am when the dust settles," Arthur said. "If you need me before then, get me."

Eames took a furtive look around, saw that no eyes were on them, then leaned in for a quick kiss. "Good luck. See you 'round the bend."

"Take care, Mr. Eames."

And then they parted, Eames on one side of the train tracks, Arthur on the other. Neither looked back.

It wasn't until an after exhausting two hour bus ride, then a hitched ride that lasted three hours and a fifty minute airport wait, that Arthur finally settled into his seat on a small, private plane and breathed for what felt like the first time in days.

When the plane took off, he shifted in his seat and reached into his carry-on for more water. His hand came into contact with a bit of cold metal, an unfamiliar shape among the many known items. His mind felt slow; he should know what this was, but didn't until he drew it out of the backpack.

It was the gold pocket-watch that Eames had stolen for him on the first night, with the train carved onto the front. Arthur hadn't put it into his backpack; he had actually lost track of it. Holding it in his hand again threw the entire trip into reality. And as he had expected, it seemed like ages ago that they had boarded the train together. Ages ago that Eames had handed this to him and said, 'My pleasure' in the low purr that went straight through Arthur's spine.

He swallowed hard and clicked it open. The inside now had an engraving on it: a simple, neatly written "A", and ampersand, and then an "E".

Arthur clicked it shut again, laughing. "Jesus, Eames," he said to no one.

He needed some time to either work through whatever leftover issues lurked in his mind from hist past, and from Ann, or to compartmentalize them so that he could work. He needed this time alone.

As the plane ascended and the clouds over Siberia broke, Arthur looked out of the window. White, some forest, more white, and then a lake, the biggest and deepest of all. He would have been there, with Eames, probably by tomorrow if all had gone according to plan. He could even see the railroad tracks, splitting the pristine snow in two.

He needed the time alone, and Eames needed it also. But, Arthur mused, looking down at the dark line of train tracks bisecting the snow - it was going to be a long, dull few weeks alone.

** ** ** **

15 - Ku'u Aloha

Date: 2011-04-15 05:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]








♥ ♥ ♥

Date: 2011-04-16 02:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hehe, yes, finally! I Thought that was such a great suggestion, I really loved that.

I also just love it when people find specific things that they liked. So cool, thank you for that! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-15 05:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Awesome! Loved how all the passengers gave them applause, and both A & E don't think they deserve it, which they do :) Loved Michelle, and Baba Yaga's not-quite- appearance. Hope the boys don;t stay apart for too long! Ace!

Date: 2011-04-16 02:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That part surprised me, with the applause. :D I'm really glad you liked the part with Baba Yaga too. I kind of like the idea of her being benevolent. And I was thinking of the stories where she has to give the hero a certain item so that he can carry on. In this case, breakfast. Or the hat. ^_^

I do plan to reunite them. Hope you'll like the ending! :D

As always, thank you!

Date: 2011-04-16 02:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I was waiting for Eartha to go off in a mortar and pestle :) Love the return of the hat :)

Date: 2011-04-15 05:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm so sad that this is winding down but it's been such a great ride, Tabi, thank you for writing this.

The dogtags!!! <333 Eames and his connections and the pocketwatch with the engraving. So many feelings. <33

Date: 2011-04-16 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm sad too, I really hate ending fics, tbh. :D I'm so glad that you liked the tags and the pocket watch. I had totally forgotten about the watch actually. But when I remembered, I figured it would be a nice way to wrap up the whole train thing. ^_^

Thank you, as always!

Date: 2011-04-15 06:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Huzzah for sneaky old people who are made of win. And the dog tags were so sweet! It has been bliss reading this story Arthur and Eames are so sweet with their furtive kisses and engraved pocket watches. Beautifully done

Date: 2011-04-16 02:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh, so glad you liked that part. Old people can sneak around like none other. ^_^

This is such a lovely comment, thank you so much! :D

Date: 2011-04-15 08:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
asldjfhsjgfshgadfhsg... >___< This is still so fucking amazing! I'm really sad that it's almost over, but it's wrapping up so nicely that I'm already getting that deep sense of satisfaction. I loved everything about this chapter. Even though it's the resolution, it's still so alive! Eartha and Baba Yaga were awesome. I really enjoyed Eames living on the edge of that raging tide of emotions.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful and super fun story! I look forward to the last chapter (and possibly epilogue) cheerfully.

Date: 2011-04-16 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! That means a lot, that it feels like closure. It kind of does for me, too.

Eames needs some time to calm the hell down. I think I have just the thing. ^_^;;

Also, your icon never fails to make me smile. :D

Date: 2011-04-16 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
=^^= I'm glad!

Date: 2011-04-15 08:18 pm (UTC)
ashoakandthorn: A noose makes a fine tie (Default)
From: [personal profile] ashoakandthorn
I love how things are wrapping up, it has been a heck of a journey either way. And yeah, a good breakfast can help loads when it comes to things. Well, simple things really.

"Anthony, Miranda," Arthur said. "Good work out there."

Miranda answered by throwing her arms around Arthur's neck and sobbing. To Eames's probably obvious shock, Daniel did the same thing.

Do you mean Anthony there rather than Daniel?

Date: 2011-04-16 02:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I just love breakfast, can't even lie. It's so important. :D

Also, YES, YES, THANK YOU. Thank you so much for catching that. I went back and fixed it. ^_^

Date: 2011-04-15 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
UM. UM UM UM. I don't know why but the thing that stuck with me most was when Arthur said, "Say goodbye to me now," to Eames because in that moment I had the brief and completely irrational fear that this was goodbye forever and ever Arthur and Eames would separate and somehow never find each other again. I think the ending to this chapter was so beautiful because it absolutely trumped that fear. And the characterization! Amazing. Of course Arthur would be the introverted type who needs time alone to process info. And the Russian! And Michelle! And Baba Yaga! Wow.

Date: 2011-04-16 02:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
WHen I was writing that, I felt a little like "goodbye" too. Then I was thinking, well, with the way they live, every "goodbye" is possibly forever. And then I realized, that goes for everyone. And then I got depressed, LOL.

So now I have to write a fluffy ending to undo that. ^_^

I'm so glad you liked this chaoter! Thank you! :D

Date: 2011-04-15 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My brain is full of SQUEE. <3

That Russian medic is so right. I hope Arthur realizes it before long. Not that I can see him talking to a psychologist (Arthur on the couch... that'd just be weird, and I speak from a lot of patient experience), but. Something.

All the goodbyes were so good. Just. The DOG TAGS. <3. Michelle. Eartha with her bagels and her Arthur-is-sleep-deprived-or-is-he hijinks. The cleanup afterwards. Oh god.

Never stop writing, d'you hear me? Never stop.

Date: 2011-04-16 02:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Arthur needs so much help, it's true. :D But traditional "help" wouldn't work for someone in their business.

So glad you liked the part with the dog tags! And the part with Eartha. I love when things can be interpreted either way, so I tried to throw that in. :D

I hope to never stop writing. Because I get a lot of joy out of it. So it makes me even happier when others enjoy it, too. Thank you! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 12:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I just read this entire fic, from chapter 2 on, all afternoon today, starting at about noon. It was like watching a movie; I had to know what happened next. Ahhh I want there to be moreeee... I love your Arthur and Eames, and I can't wait to see their reunion.

Also the Baba Yaga thing, totally creepy. Like wow. This whole thing, so many twists and turns- I had to concentrate to keep up! And I am now very sad that it r probly too late to make requests. Can they eat the rest of the truffles, if they still have them? Preferably naked in bed after just having had mind-blowingly fantastic make-up/reunion sex?

Date: 2011-04-16 02:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow, that's so awesome that you read it in one sitting like that. What an honor for me! Thank you. :D I'm going to try to start writing the next part tonight, if I can.

Oh, the chocolates! I totally forgot about those. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. It doesn't do to forget about chocolates. ^_^

Date: 2011-04-18 05:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yay! I am so happy I got to make a suggestion, even this late in the game :) I have been reading through your other stories, leading up to Plenty of Good Thieves, and they are really good. I love the relationship between your Eames and Arthur, especially having read the last installment first, ha ha.

Thank you for having such awesome fic, you are giving me great excuses for sanity-breaks while grad school murders me. Lolz.

Date: 2011-04-16 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, Tabi. I really need to know that Eames has been able to deal with the trust issues Jack left him. And that Arthur can forgive past-Eames for fucking about with Emily in his head. I mean, I know it all looks good here and now, but there's always fallout after the immediate danger's been dealt with. ;_;

Also, Eartha's TOTALLY my fave OC right now. I just want to love her and hug her and let her take care of me after a rough time. I hope you have an Eartha in your life right now. :)

Date: 2011-04-16 02:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm glad you brought that up, because I kind of have something (maybe a bit fluffy) in mind to deal with their lingering issues. I just hope it's not too cheesy, hehe. ^_^;;

I had so much fun with Eartha. I kind of wish I had one tbh. Maybe that's why I wrote her. I'm so glad you liked her too!

Thank you for sticking with this fic, and all the comments! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
:D :D :D I'm so happy about how everything is right now, even though they had to part! I can't wait for them to get back together! ^_______________________^ and the intention behind the dog tags was lovely~ ♥ :D

Date: 2011-04-16 02:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I kind of can't wait to get started writing them back together, honestly. :D Glad you liked the part with the dog tags, too. Eames's skills come in handy. Hehe. :)

Thank you! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 01:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
OH, TABI. Everything was spot on. I am still in awe of you and your amazing ability to create this story AND use all the suggestions that came your way! This is by far one of my most favourite stories ever. And ever.

Date: 2011-04-16 02:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Awesome, I'm glad to hear that! THank you so much. I really had fun with the suggestions. It was a nice challenge, and it made me have to think a bit. It's fun to write stuff without plotting it out.

I'm so honored that this is one of your favorites! Thank you for that! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 01:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The hat. OK, I love Eartha even more now, and I'm kinda wondering about her a little... Baba Yaga. :)

Cute engraving, Eames. I like the giving dog tags to Michelle, it's the gesture that's relevant after all.

Date: 2011-04-16 02:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hehe, I love to leave little things like that open to interpretation. And I had so much fun with Eartha. :D

I was originally worried that the dog tags might be overdoing it, but since they're just fake and all, I figured I could get away with it. It's the thought that counts. :)

And as always, thank you! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 01:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Crying, grinning, general emotion caddywhompus. You are fantastic, mi amor.

Date: 2011-04-16 02:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
hehe, wow, I have no idea what a caddywhompus is but it sounds like a hell of a lot of fun! :D

Thank you SO MUCH. I'm glad you enjoyed this! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 02:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
AWWW TABI ITS ALMOST OVER, THIS IS SO SAD. It's so good, though, goddddd. Reminds me of the twilight zone, that one episode with the apocalypse and the dude's glasses break, "I had TIME now!" But like, saying goodbye to everyone, Arthur being so tenderly sentimental and vulnerable with Eartha, all these loose ends getting tied up, Eames' Russian doctor friend that Arthur is like 'DO NOT WANT.' So excited to see the big reunion. :)

Date: 2011-04-16 02:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's kind of making me sad, too! I don't know where I'll go after this, tbh. :D

OMG THAT EPISODE. It's the only Twilight Zone episode I honestly can't watch; it is too heartbreaking! I actually have to turn that one off. I'm so lame. :)

I am so thrilled that you chose to comment on those specific things. WHen I get comments like this, I actually go back and re-read the parts that were mentioned like, "Oh, cool, really?" Like seeing it through someone else's eyes. I love that.

Thank you! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 03:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Dude, I do that too! like, 'hmm, they liked THIS part? eh, yea, i guess I wrote that part ok...' ;p

Date: 2011-04-16 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, it's like reading it for the first time, right? I love that. :D

Date: 2011-04-16 04:50 am (UTC)
ext_10275: (rpf - it's t.hard to be batman)
From: [identity profile]

x it is not an olive it's a fig xx <-- all I could think after they sad goodbye to Michelle, hahaha

Date: 2011-04-20 02:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
THANK YOU! Ha, OMG your comment. T-hard is beautifully ridic, I love him so. :)

I hope to post another chapter tonight. Looks like there will be two more parts instead of one. ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 05:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really like how their issues aren't being magically resolved, and they actually do need time alone, and that's okay, because they're grownups and they have faith in their relationship.


Date: 2011-04-20 02:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! That's how I see things, too. But then, I'm mostly a loner; I know I always need space, so I just imagine they might, too. I project a lot. ^_^;;

Looks like I've got two more chapters instead of one. Will be posting tonight! Again, thanks! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 05:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is what happens when I work a 10-hour shift - I manage to miss an update! Well, having finally had a chance to read through it:

What an Arthur thing to do, setting aside his own natural emotional and mental responses to everything that's happened to him in the interests of practicality - cleaning and gathering up all the illicit little bits and pieces, making sure Eames and he are able to make a 'clean sneak' - setting it all aside again and again every time it tries to force itself back to the forefront, letting Eames take control of the 'people' portion of the situation, and it's just so obvious that they're both exhausted.

"It's going to be a madhouse once we leave this room," Arthur said. "And it's not going to end until we're in two different places. Say goodbye to me now."

I love these little bits of dialogue - you have a real strength in your writing in being able to establish such human, flawed, true characters without needing to explicitly state things about them. That's a skill that really marks the divide between mediocre writers and good ones, and it's obviously something that comes naturally to you. Did I mention that you are my fandom canon? Because you really have set a benchmark here with your writing by which I judge other stories.

I wonder, though, will Eames and Arthur ever really have a conversation about all of these

Eames's smile turned a little knowing; Arthur had seen that look many times and still didn't know what it meant. "I hear you, Arthur," he said.

little exchanges they've had over the years? I'm honestly still not even sure if I'd want them to or not.

I love the way you incorporated Baba Yaga into the story, especially here in this chapter, and I love love loved the interaction between Arthur and Eames and Eames' medic comrade. "Who even says that anymore?" had me laughing out loud because I'd just thought the exact same thing.

Loved Michelle's line to Eames about figs and olives, and her 'whatever's continue to be endearing. Love that Eartha and Frank managed to find Arthur and bring him delicious bagels and coffee - they really are an adorable, sneaky little couple, startling the wits out of poor Arthur. Although I loved the farewells the boys had with Eartha and Frank and Helen and David and Michelle, I have to say I'll really miss these characters when the story is over.

If we do end up getting an epilogue where Arthur and Eames finally get to have a real vacation, would it be asking too much for some little snippets where Eartha and Frank finally get their I-am-in-the-last-quarter-of-my-life-and-want-to-spend-it-quietly-with-the-person-I-love vacation? And of course Helen and David and Michelle off somewhere being a touristy but still off-handedly badass sort of family, but obviously much closer than when we were originally introduced to them?

PS Eames engraving Arthur's silly little pocket-watch = <3 <3 <3 <3 all over my eyes.

Date: 2011-04-20 02:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
UGH, ten hour shift! DOES NOT COMPUTE (anymore.) :)

Thank you so much for this really encouraging comment. I really love writing dialogue, I'd probably write it all damn day if I could get away with it. ^_^ Fandom canon! That's such an honor. What an awesome comment, thank you for that. It's so nice to hear!

Re: Arthur's little fugues, I think maybe they talked about it, at least in my own mind, at the end of RO,BO when they were in the car. I think Arthur told him about his past. But I also think that Arthur doesn't know what to make of Eames when he's doing that thing again, and Eames is just like, "Oh, it's you."

I will kind of miss those characters, too. I did add a little something about all of them in the chapter I'm going to put up tonight. It ends up that I have two more chapters instead of one. hehe, I just cannot stfu. :D

Thank you for this comment, it was awesome! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 05:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, this chapter is so bittersweet. It feels like a resolution, and yet they have so much more to deal with. Everything will rear it's ugly head once they aren't suppressing it due to being in mortal danger!

I really hope they come out of this better, with a better relationship. It would break my heart if the multiple inceptions ruined something they had.

I loved the weariness of the travelers translating into gratitude. They really are happy to be alive.

I was reading some weird comments on tumblr the other day wherein a couple people seemed to just realize that Nolan made you root for the bad guys in the movie. I like that you addressed that the entire situation was their fault and that no one seemed to understand that. That they were siding with thieves who toy with people's lives.

This fic was so much fun to read and participate in. I can't wait for the final chapter(s)

Date: 2011-04-20 02:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hi hi! yeah, a bit of a resolution, I think. But they do have more to deal with, and I have a bit more to throw at them.

YES, the heroes were the bad guys! I totally agree with that. Also, there really were no antagonists, either. Well, aside from Cobb's traitorous subconscious. I think the movie asked strange things of its audience. :)

It looks like I've got two more chapters instead of just one. I can't stop! hehe. I'll be posting one up tonight. Again and again, thank you! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 02:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I read this part yesterday, but, since I have a cold and yestarday was horrible, I decided to read this chapter once again today. Surprisingly, my general impression doesn't change: I still think it's horribly sad. I can feel how both Arthur and Eames aren't really sure how things will go, even tough they definitely want to get back what was taken from them: the trust and easiness of being with each other. I love this part with people giving them ovations: it seems real for me, the mystery of human nature won't ever be resolved, but that's how people work. It doesn't matter that if they wouldn't be in this train nothing would happen at all. What does matter it's that they helped everybody in saving their lifes.
I still wonder how it's possible that I actually really like Michelle. Usually that kind of characters irritates me a lot, but somehow Michelle is one of the brightest parts of this story (along with many others). I also love the comeback of fedora! I'm sure it'll be useful, since Eames has this fetish thing for this hat;)
It's also very nice to hear that my small prompt will find its place!
All in all: great chapter. The only bad thing is to hear that there's not much of this story left.
Looking forward for next chapter.

Date: 2011-04-20 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ugh, sorry you had a cold! I hope you're feeling better.

I agree, I think that there was some sadness and some bitterness to this chapter. I've felt that happen in real life too, when you think everything should be fine and dandy with the other person, but there are still some leftover issues, and it changes things.

It looks like I've got two chapters left after all. This fic is so ridiculously long, I'm shocked at myself. :)

As always, I'm glad you liked it. Thank you! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-16 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's almost over!?

My heart like clenched and dropped knowing that this awesome fic is coming to a close.

Please tell me/us that you'll continue to write more? Pretty please?

I REALLY want/have this urge to have Eartha and Michelle and company to show up again! Is that why you made a point to have Daniel give them his card and tell them where they're from? I hope they show up again even just as a cameo! :)

"We thrive in chaos," YES! Love it!

The hat came back! Oh my goodness-thank you so much for bringing the pocket watch back! I was hoping that it would show up again and I loved that you took that suggestion of mine back in the beginning of this!

I kind of feel like Arthur-that the adventure/ride you took us on was really long and lasted much longer than what we bargained for which is good! I loved every minute of it and I know I'll be sniffling when it's over.

Edited Date: 2011-04-16 06:23 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-04-20 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It is almost over! But it looks like there will be two more chapters instead of just the one. I can't seem to quit. ^_^

Okay, I have put the side-characters in the next chapter, too. :D I'll be posting that tonight.

I think I'll be a little sad when it's over, too. It's always so hard to finish a story. But, I'm really glad you enjoyed this and THANK YOU for that gif! ^_^

Date: 2011-04-17 01:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
EEEEEEEEE so I spent this afternoon and tonight getting caught up on the last 4 chapters or so.


Looking forward to (but will be really sad to read) the final part!

Date: 2011-04-20 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
OH HI! ^_^ Glad you caught up! And thank you so much, as always. I guess it's not two more chapters instead of one, but yeah, it's almost over and I'm feeling a bit sad, too. :D But it's still so awesome that people like/d this fic. It's still a lot of fun. :)

Looks like I'll be posting the next part tonight. Hope you like! ^_^
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