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New suggestions!

[ profile] sparrow_hubris said, But I like the idea of one of them waking to hot breath on their neck. But idk, it's obviously near the end so it's getting harder to suggest things.

[ profile] wirrrn asked for, Heat- rather than cold- becomes a problem. This can actually fit in pretty close to the end. Which, this story is pretty close to the end but there are still some loose ends, and some prompts, to tie in. :D

[ profile] coudre and continue with dinfuckwad being shot. that is my suggestion. continue with him DYING UNTIL HE'S DEAD. I have to include this because "dinfuckwad" made me laugh until hot chocolate came out of my nose. (I was drinking it at the time btw.)

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 Actually? I kind of think this is going to come somewhere near the end. :) IN FACT AS OF NOW I KNOW EXACTLY HOW THIS ENDS, AND WHERE THIS FITS.

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

When I asked how I could possibly resolve this thing that's happening between them, [ profile] we_reflamingos suggested,
I wonder if, for some reason, Arthur & Eames were deep enough together again, Eames might recognise a certain ray gun or a bottle of healing.
[ profile] twilightthief added,
I have a feeling the boys need to go under again. Someone else suggested it but I love the idea that they remind each other of the deals they made and the ideas they incepted each other with.

I LOVE IT. What do you think? I hope this was what you were looking for. :)

[ profile] efcia adds, What I really want to see, though, it's more interaction between Arthur and Ann. [ profile] saigonostalker then said, Also also, for some reason I'd really like to see more interaction between Arthur and Ann. It's a brief scene, but I felt like a lot came out of it. Or at least I hope so. :)

[ 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. ^_^

Awesome. You guys have given me terrific ideas to work with. :D

The body part suggestions, lol! Lemme see if I can still get some of these in here.


[ 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?

Thanks, guys! Onward. :)

** ** ** **
Chapter 13 - "Warmest Welcome, Violent Stranger"
** ** ** **

Slowly, the cold ebbed away, leaving nothing but exhaustion in its wake. Shivering was hard work. He was hungry, too, but lacked the energy to get up. Eames had given him some warm tea with sugar. It wasn't enough, but he physically couldn't get out of the bed to get anything else.

Eames looked really bad, too. Someone had hurt him, there was blood everywhere, even on the covers. Arthur hadn't missed it. He meant to prop himself up when he thought his arms would hold him, meant to look Eames over and clean him up some, make sure nothing was broken. He couldn't move. He just needed to sleep, to reset his internal thermostat.

Curling against Eames for warmth, without any sexual or affectionate intent, he tried to form some words, to ask "are you okay" or anything at all. He wanted to ask what the situation was, where Jack and Ann had gone, how the passengers were. Nothing came out. When Eames started tugging goddamn pieces of ice out of his hair, and replacing it with his warm fingers, that was pretty much all she wrote. Arthur couldn't fight sleep any longer.

He woke up probably about an hour later, hot, hungry, and restless. Eames was still awake, breathing down the front of his neck, warm and damp. It stirred familiar heat in him. Eames's arms folded around him in a way that Arthur normally couldn't stand, but had served a purpose this time. Neither of them were big on long-term contact, the kind that limited movement. Usually they moved apart by mutual, friendly consent. And usually, the distance was only a physical thing. This time, when Eames sensed he was awake and drew away from him, he had a different intent, one Arthur didn't really understand.

He pressed Eames down to the bed and took a good long look at his face.

"...clean you up…" were the only words he managed to croak out.

"Nah, I'm okay," Eames said. "We've got work to do."

"…can wait… all bloody."

Arthur rolled aside and stood on shaky legs, retrieving Eames's first aid kit. Eames tried subtly to make a metaphorical run for it, sitting up and grabbing his discarded trousers.

"Fucksake," Arthur tried to say, "at least find clean ones."

Eames was in some kind of hurry to get away from him. Arthur pushed him back down on the bed and made him sit while he cleaned him up. He didn't do too good of a job because his hands felt shaky, and he was aching all over, all the way to his bones, to his viscera. It wasn't just a physical thing - something inside was hurting, too.

But for godsakes, Eames's cheek was bruised to hell and back, his eyebrow was split, and so was his upper lip. His chin and cheek were still bloody. Was he in such a hurry to get away from Arthur that he was going to walk around like that? Eames just stared ahead as Arthur tended to him. Like earlier, he felt like he was alone in the room.

Arthur was better with actions than with words. He pushed Eames onto his back and kissed his face, anywhere there wasn't a bruise or cut. Eames still looked away from him.

I'm trying to show you something, Arthur thought, Just let me show you that we're all right.

"I'm not sure you're up for this," Eames said.

"I'm up for it," Arthur promised. I want to make you feel better, forget for a few minutes, forget about Jack, forget everything. He didn't say those things, because giving voice to them would make them real, and right now it was just the two of them, with a precious few minutes alone.

** ** ** **

Eames was thinking of Ann's eerie, mourning cries, and of Jack's surprised eyes looking up at him as he bled out. He hadn't told Arthur yet. Arthur hadn't asked. He'd just slept, briefly. Well, he needed it, Eames reckoned. When Arthur slept this time, he didn't even seem to be dreaming. He coughed a few times, and uncomfortably tried to clear his throat. But otherwise he didn't move, and Eames was afraid to disturb him.

When Arthur started to wake again, Eames's mind was elsewhere. They had to pack their shit up, get out before the authorities took them in for questioning. It would be soon, a few hours. Was Jack even alive? And Ann, she was probably insane. Well fuck, she was insane, but by now she was probably too far gone to even protest her insanity.

Was that how dreamers ended up, when they dreamed together for too long? Getting so far into each other’s subconscious, into the labyrinth of another person, that they never got out?

But we spend time apart, Eames reminded himself. Then he realized that time together or apart didn’t matter. Intimacy did. Not sexual intimacy, but the emotional kind, where you shared too much. Jack and Ann were brother and sister. The Cobbs, husband and wife. He and Arthur? What were they? What was their intimacy?

Arthur seemed to sense this same thought. When he woke, he fussed for a while over Eames, inefficiently trying to clean him up. It was nothing more than a gesture. Finally he pushed Eames onto his back, that very familiar look in his eyes that only meant one thing. (’You have the most blatant sex-eyes I’ve ever seen,’ Eames had told him once, years ago.)

"Don’t," Eames warned him, "I’m not sure you're up for this," and in fact, he wasn’t sure if he could.

But when Arthur said, "I’m up for it," and pressed their foreheads together, it was with such desperation that Eames couldn’t say no to him. Even at the worst of times, he found it difficult to say no to Arthur.

And when he was under Arthur’s straining body a few minutes later, his mind went into overdrive, trying to figure out what he felt. Arthur kissed him, rubbed against his neck, against the inside of his thigh, touched him so fervently that Eames wondered if somewhere in the back of his mind, he thought he was saying goodbye.

That was it; Arthur was saying goodbye. He couldn't trust Eames, not with this going on. But he also couldn't just walk away from their history. He tried to give Arthur whatever he wanted, contact and groans and murmurs that Arthur wrung out of him anyway, regardless of how carved-out he felt on the inside.

Arthur hadn't even moved off of him, and was still panting against his neck when he said, "That's enough of this bullshit."

And that was it, Eames thought - that sudden. Arthur was going to walk away right now, this second. Arthur pulled away quickly, making Eames have to bite his lip at the sudden loss, and sat up, casting around for something to wear, anything, so that he could gather his shit together and walk away.

But after Arthur tugged his trousers back on, he turned back to Eames, pointing an accusatory finger and said, "That was probably the worst sex I've ever had in my life, Eames, and that's counting that one time in Kona with the compound reaction and projectile vomiting. What was this? You're not even in the room with me. Fuck this. You're upsetting me now. I'm starting to get pissed off." His voice was still shot, only every second or third word came through.

"What…" Eames began.

Arthur grabbed the PASIV and chucked it next to him on the bed. "Let's go."

"Bad idea," Eames said, surprised by this turn, but also relieved. "We'd be helpless, for one thing. For another, we have to pack everything up so we can make a quick…"

"It takes me five minutes to pack my shit up, Eames, you know that. Don't fuck with me right now, I'm not in the mood. We have five extra minutes."

"And if someone comes in?" Eames was trying to be practical. Arthur was confused, emotional, and probably already mourning their impending separation.

Arthur huffed and opened the door, still in nothing but his trousers. He peered both ways down the hall and then gestured with his hand. After a moment, Eames heard Daniel asking, with concern, if everything was all right.

"We're okay," Arthur said. "You have a gun?"

"Yes, Mr. Eames gave me…"

"Can you give me a sit-rep?"

"A what?"

"Tell me what's going on out here. Is everything quiet? No bad guys?"

"Mr. Eames said he'd taken care of them for the time being. But eventually…"

"Great," Arthur said. "Quick favor. I don't know who else to ask. Can you watch the door for six minutes? Exactly six. We have to do a wipe-down of the room and take down all our security measures. It leaves us exposed."

"Oh. Yes, of course!" Eames could hear some small hint of pride under Daniel's own exhaustion. He liked the man better for it.

"Oh, hey," Arthur said, before coming back inside, "how are Michelle and Helen holding up?"

"Like troopers," Daniel said.

"And the people I was outside with?"

"Worried about you, actually," Daniel said.

"Tell them I'm fine. I'll see them in a bit," was Arthur's reply. Eames could hear his smile. He longed to see it.

But when Arthur closed the door and turned back to him, his lips were pressed together and his jaw was set tight. Eames sat up on the bed, naked, and still with that just-fucked buzz, even though his heart had ached through the whole thing.

"I've seen inception before, Eames," Arthur rasped, opening the PASIV and starting to set up. "I saw Mal before she died. I checked up on Fischer. I know the signs and I know that Jack took you pretty far down. We need to do this."

Eames sat back against the wall, stunned. Yes, true, he knew that Jack had taken him under, deep. Jack had told him the truth about himself, and about Arthur. About their betrayal of each other. But that was the truth. Could you incept someone with what was already real? And anyway…

"You can't undo inception," Eames said. Exhaustion weighed him down. He dropped his head into his hand.

"Don't tell me what I can and can't do," Arthur snapped. He grabbed Eames's wrist, startling him. Eames looked up at him.

Arthur's eyes softened. His lips parted a little. He looked surprised and pained. "Eames," he whispered, "will you please go under with me?"

"Yes," Eames said, because that was always his answer when Arthur came to him in fairness and sincerity.

"Thank you," was Arthur's reply.

He set them both up and pressed the button. Eames fell quickly.

** ** ** **

Arthur found him three levels down. Eames was sitting on a stone bench, in the middle of a park, in the dead of winter. He was very young, in his early twenties, dressed shabbily in a ripped sweater and jeans. His fingerless gloves were also torn. He had obviously been badly beaten. He looked like a kid who had been wandering around for a long time, looking for home, when he realized he couldn't go any further. He kept spasmodically clutching something in his hands. Arthur couldn't see what it was.

Eames flinched when Arthur sat down next to him. Blood matted his long, light-colored hair to his head. A few of his fingernails were missing.

"Two weeks," Eames said. He swallowed thickly. "And it wasn't the beatings or the, anything else. It was that room. That room they put me in, alone."

"I didn't know," Arthur said. The words tore the scab from the wound; guilt flowed to the surface. "Eames, I had no idea. They asked me to find a guy named Luke Bishop. I found him. If I had known what they did to people, I wouldn't have even been working for them. You have to know that about me. I'm not saying that it wasn't my fault. It totally was. But even if it hadn't been you? If it had been some other random guy who I'd never see again, who would never have my back and be my best comrade, some random guy who would never take a bullet for me, who I'd never fall in love with, I still wouldn't have done it if I'd known. I know I've done some bad things. But I'm not evil. At least I don't think I am. I don't like cruelty, I know I'm violent, but I hate the idea of sadistic… Eames. Please, you know this."

"I know," Eames whispered. Even his voice sounded young. "I know that. A few years after this I'll change my name to Robert and I'll get mixed up with a bunch of criminals. I'll steal a few large and get two brothers sent in for a five-stretch. I have no room to pass judgment. I'm just afraid. I've never been afraid like this before. I'm not Eames yet."

Arthur sat a little closer. "What are you holding?"

Eames looked down at his hands, with their missing fingernails. Slowly, he unclenched his fingers. In his hand was a glass bottle, rounded at the bottom and stopped with a cork. The liquid inside was an ethereal mix of green, silver and blue. It flowed and shifted, swirling around in the glass.

"Something from you," Eames said. "I don't have this yet. I don't have an Arthur yet."

"Well you have me now," Arthur said.

Eames turned to him. He was Eames again now, still bloody, still bruised, but Eames, at 37, with a few gleaming lines of silver in his darker hair. Arthur wanted to touch those threads. The same patrician nose, same rainy-day eyes, and, Arthur was always pleased to note, the same mouth. He was bigger, broader with muscle and strength. Arthur liked him so much better this way than the pretty boy he used to be.

"You still have what I gave you?" Eames asked.

"The weapon, yeah. I guess we should forget about those when we wake up. But let's not forget this, okay? Let's not forget that we're all right. If we are, I mean. Are we?"

Eames took a long time to look him over. Without a word, he reached out and skimmed his fingers over Arthur's throat, gently rubbing, over and over again.

"It's all right," Arthur said. "How many times have I woken up taking a swing at someone?"

"Only once or twice," Eames said.

"So, it happens. Forget it. Well, I don't mean forget it, I just mean, I'm okay, I'm alive, I'm over it. Let's not let this fuck us up, we can't afford it. I need you in my life. I don't mean I need to own you or that you have to be there all the time or whatever. I just need someone I can trust, who I know I can work with, without the distraction of wondering if they're going to leave be bleeding in an alley, you know? I have that with you. I don't want to lose that. I'm too far into this business to start over."

"I don't want anyone else," Eames said.

"Yeah, well I don't either."

Eames's fingers left Arthur's neck and cupped his jaw instead. "I mean in my life," Eames said. "In my work, in my hotel room, in my bed, in my mind. Everyone else bores me. When I work with other teams, I compare them to you, and they all come up shabby and incompetent. It's uninspiring, you know."

"I know," Arthur said. "We're pretty good together."

"Hush," Eames said, pressing his thumb against Arthur's lips.

Arthur closed his eyes and waited. He slid his tongue out a bit, prodding Eames's thumb with it, and waited some more. And waited. Finally he got annoyed and opened his eyes. "Eames, what…"

"Hush, I said." Eames was frowning into the distance. "Hear that?"

"I don't hear anything." But Eames was still listening, so Arthur closed his eyes and listened, too.

From what seemed like an unthinkable distance came a thunderous, drawn-out sound. War-drums, or a volcano erupting; a long, enduring rumble.

"Time to go," Eames said, standing. "Someone's banging at the door."

"Fuck," Arthur said. "You'll be naked when we wake up. Be ready for anything."

"You too," Eames said.

Arthur pulled his gun out of the holster and pressed it to his temple.

"Wait," Eames said. "Just one second. I want to do this while we're down here. You're quick, Arthur. Your reflexes are beyond compare. The next time someone has a gun pointed at you, or you're in any kind of danger, you'll make the correct split-second decision. Do you understand me?"

Arthur felt the corners of his mouth pulling into a smile. "God damn you," he said. "You are too, Eames. You read people's motives without fail. You'll know when someone's about to hurt you and you'll act to protect yourself."

"We have to stop doing this to each other," Eames said. He was smiling now, too. Then he kissed Arthur quickly, and pulled his own gun. "Let's get up there."

** ** ** **


The last gunshot tore Eames out of the last level. The lingering sound of it turned into the heavy banging on the door.

"Mr. Eames! Arthur! It's Daniel!"

Arthur was already at the door, pulling a sweater over his head while Eames grabbed his trousers and tugged them quickly on. Arthur glanced over his shoulder to make sure Eames was prepared. Not dressed, just prepared. Eames grabbed his pistol from the nightstand. Arthur opened the door.

Daniel looked concerned but not in a panic. "We have a situation," he said. "It's Ann. She's wandering around crazy, she's got a gun. She's - she's just crying, and calling for you."

"For me?" Arthur said.

Daniel didn't have to answer. Her voice carried down the corridor, a weepy, lost sound. arrrthurrrr… Repeated mindlessly.

"Jesus," Eames said, pulling his shirt on. "It's Jack. It's got to be." In his frantic search for Arthur in the snow, in his worry that he would freeze to death even inside the train, he'd forgotten about what he'd seen before the train had reversed. "She shot him," he explained to Arthur.

"Ann shot him?" Arthur looked stunned, confused.

"She did it for you," Eames said. "Come on, let's go."

They swept out of the room. Eames told Daniel to gather everyone he could find, the stragglers who had left the safe-car, and herd them all back in. Daniel nodded and stuck the gun down the back of his trousers. Eames wished he wouldn't do that.

Arthur was sprinting through the corridor, following Ann's calls of distress. Eames went after him.

They found her in the lounge, terrifying a small group of passengers who were huddling behind the bar. Ann stood in the center of the room, her cheek almost black from where Jack had struck her. She was holding a gun, flailing both her hands around, casting her eyes about the room as if Arthur might appear anywhere at any given moment. When she finally did see him, she held her arms out like a mother asking her child to run to her.

Arthur went slowly, both hands held up, showing he wasn't armed, even though Ann clearly didn't care. He only moved faster when she started to topple towards him. He caught her easily, looking over his shoulder at Eames, his face showing something near panic.

She threw her arms around him and pet his hair and his back. "Arthur, I stopped the train for you Arthur, I made it go backwards. I did it. I did."

"Thank you," Arthur said. He reached down and took the gun from her, tucking it carefully away in the back of his trousers. Arthur knew enough not to shoot his own arse off, and Eames was behind him so no one could take the gun from him.

"He was going to let you die but I killed him for you. Oh Arthur, he's dead, my Jack, I watched him die. I did it. I did it. I did it for you."

Eames felt like the air had been sucked out of his lungs. Jack was dead. Ann had shot him, he'd seen this happen, but now he was dead, he had bled out in the few short hours that Eames had spent with Arthur.

"It's all right," Arthur said. Finally he put his arms around her. "Yes, you did it. You saved me. You saved me back then and you did it tonight, too. Thank you." He clearly knew he was dealing with someone who was unhinged and probably very limited in her emotional range, but the few emotions she felt—rage, obsession, grief—were magnified.

And, Eames thought, Arthur had to feel something for her. Gratitude, or pity, or empathy. Or maybe he even felt something like what Eames felt for Jack. Some kind mourning for something he hadn't even realized he'd lost.

"Thank you for saving me," Arthur murmured into her platinum, blood-streaked hair.

She hitched in a few restless sobs and rubbed her face into his sweater. "Will you come with me?" she asked. "Can I take you with me, Arthur? Can you be that boy again, in school?"

Arthur just shut his eyes and kept shushing her. He knew well enough that there was no right answer to that. Anything would set her off again.

"When the morning comes, the train will stop," she said. "At least stay until morning. Let's have it the way it was, until then. You and me and Jackie. We can stay together one more night. Come with me. Come with me. Let me show you. Jack wants to tell you he's sorry."

Eames wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and finally caught Arthur's eye. Arthur looked, for once, completely out of his depth. What the fuck do we do? he asked without words.

They never got to decide. First, a feeling of intuition prickled at the base of Eames's spine. They weren't going to be allowed a choice. Something was coming. Someone. He reached for his gun.

Kenzie Fenderlyn came in through the door behind Ann. Eames was the first to see him, and then Arthur. Kenzie's nose was crusted with blood and skewed to the side. His front tooth was missing, probably from Eames's knee, or maybe one of his improvised projectile bottles.

"Five fucking years, Robert," Kenzie said. He aimed the gun at Eames.

"No," Arthur said, and shoved Ann aside, diving for Kenzie. His reflexes were quicker than ever; he wasn't going to let Eames get shot. He made the split second decision, the one that he obviously thought was correct.

The gun was aimed at Eames, but Eames had already moved aside and drawn his weapon, he had this. Arthur was right in the trajectory. Kenzie pulled the trigger.

Eames heard himself shout, heard his own voice yelling "NO" because this time it wouldn't be a shot to the arm, a few stitches and a bandage. They wouldn't tell stories about it later. It wasn't going to be a close call.

Arthur hit the floor first. Eames felt his own legs give out for a second, but only a second. Arthur landed on his side - he hadn't been knocked back by a bullet.

That had been Ann. Eames saw a flash of her blond hair as she shoved Arthur away, and then she was gone, flung back a few steps, tottering. There was a hole the size of an American quarter on her blue shirt. It didn't spread or darken, didn't spurt or even bleed.

"Arthur?" she said, looking down at him as he lay on the floor. "Are you all right?" Then she fell like a top. The surprise on her face hadn't even faded when she hit the floor.

The people huddled behind the bar were screaming, but Eames blocked that out as peripheral noise. Kenzie still had the gun, but was looking at Ann.

Eames put a bullet in his forehead.

Then Arthur sat up, Glock in hand, took aim past Eames, and fired. Eames whirled around to see Giles Fenderlyn fall in the other doorway, opposite Kenzie.

The two brothers had meant to trap them in this car and open fire.

Eames's arm felt suddenly heavy. His entire body felt heavy, actually. The adrenaline kept him on his feet; he looked around for more killers, more targets, other people who wanted to kill him, or kill Arthur. There weren't any. The four of them were gone.

Arthur dropped his gun arm with a shaking sigh. He looked at Eames first, pale save for the hectic flush in his cheeks. He got up on his knees and looked down at Ann. There was no reason to check for a pulse or call her name. He'd seen enough death to know what it looked like.

"All right," Eames said, or tried to say. At first no sound came out. He cleared his throat and tried again, addressing the small crowd hiding behind the bar. "All right, hey, hey. It's over. All right? It's over, go to the dining car and wait. The train driver's radioed for help."

Slowly, one by one, they rose from their crouched positions. Eames saw their faces, but couldn't put names to them. They all looked somewhat alike, but then his vision was a little hazy. They could all have been the same terrified person, for all that he knew. Or cared, at the moment.

"Go on, do as I say," he added.

They did, as people often tended to. They filed out slowly, gingerly, a few weeping and a few giving squeamish, hysterical cries as they had to step over Giles's body.

When finally the only sound was the rumble of the train on the rails, Eames went over to where Arthur was kneeling by Ann. He put his hand on Arthur's shoulder.

"I'm okay," Arthur said. "You okay?"


"Okay." He slid his arms under her body and got to his feet.

"Arthur? What are you…"

"Where'd you leave Jack?" he asked.

"Ah. In the Silver compartment."

"We should… we should…"

"Yeah," Eames said. "I'll. Yes. Follow."

He led Arthur to the compartment where he had brought both Jack and Ann after she had shot him. The door was already open and Jack lay on the bed, his blue eyes only slightly lighter than they'd been earlier. His skin had already gone waxy and livid. Eames thought he must have died even before Ann woke from the sedation he'd given them. Maybe the sedation had finished Jack off, now that he thought of it.

Jack's head was turned to the side (maybe Ann had turned it, to look at him,) and his sightless eyes seemed to look at Eames. He'd seen dead bodies before. More than any man ever should. It never got easier, not ever.

Arthur put Ann down on the small bed beside her brother. He stumbled a little, and his breath hitched in what might have been a restrained sob. Eames gave him a minute because he didn't know what else to do. He didn't know what Arthur needed to cope with this. He didn't even know what he needed. They hadn't known these people for long, and had forgotten about them for years. Jack and Ann had done nothing but get into their heads and fuck around, cause them grief, cause them to question themselves and each other.

Yet Jack had done it out of what he thought was love. And Ann had acted out of loyalty. Such loyalty that she'd taken on herself the honor of dying for Arthur.

Jack's obsession had been so like Cobb's, using people, putting others in harm's way because it was the only way he knew how to protect something he wanted. Ann had died like Mal, in the grip of insanity, thinking she was doing right by someone she loved.

Such monsters? Eames thought.

He put his hand on Arthur's back.

"I'm okay," Arthur said again. He wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand. "I really am. I'm fine. It's just, it's a lot for one day, that's all."

"I know," Eames said.

"It's just a stress reaction."

"I know, Arthur. You're allowed to have those."

"I'm just tired."

Eames turned him around.

"Oh, okay," Arthur said, when he saw that Eames was also wiping at his eyes. "So it's not just me."

"No, if course not," Eames said. "It's good to be able to feel things. Empathy. It keeps you… keeps you real." He pulled Arthur to his chest. "I'm beyond tired," he admitted, pressing his face into Arthur's neck. "I can't do much more of this. I need to stop before I crash. Can you understand that?"

Arthur pulled back from him, his eyes wide. "Are you leaving me?"

"What? No, you silly fuck. I mean this." He gestured around at the bloody room.

Arthur breathed out a relieved sigh and gripped Eames by the shoulders. "Just a little further," he said. "Just a little while longer. We have to strip the room, get our shit together, tie this all up. We need to be out of here before the militsiya digs too deep on us but we should at least make an appearance. We only have a few hours till the next stop. There's no time to sleep, or even eat, we should…"

Eames pulled him close again, quickly, almost crushing him. "I know, just. Just a moment though. Just give me thirty seconds."

"Oh. Right." Arthur wound his arms around Eames, lax and easy and tired. Suddenly, he went still, as if taken by some revelation. "This isn't going to happen to us," he said.

Ah, so Arthur had finally read him. Eames didn't answer because he wasn't so sure he believed that.

"It isn't," Arthur said. "We're not like this. We're…"

"Better than this?" Eames nearly snapped at him.

"Not better," Arthur hurried to correct. "Just forewarned."

Eames remained silent. He took his thirty seconds, just like he said. Then he started to feel as if Jack and Ann were staring. He turned away from their open, accusing eyes. He kissed the side of Arthur's face and said, "Let's go."

Arthur didn't look back at the two bodies, as far as he could tell. Neither did Eames.

He slid the door shut behind them, and together they got to work.

** ** ** **

[ profile] sparrow_hubris said that since it was getting near the end, it's getting harder to work in suggestions, and that's kind of true. I pretty much have the rest figured out, and I am pretty pleased with what I think might be the epilogue, so far. I hope you will be, too. But there are still a few more chapters to go, maybe two?

STILL, if there is any small thing you would like to see included, I will do my best to work it in, if I can. I know I didn't get every single prompt in here. I think I got most of them, though. At least I hope so.

Wow, this chapter was sad. I'm sorry about that. I work through issues by writing. ^_^ With that in mind, I just want to say again that I very much appreciate the support you guys have all shown me. You have all really made me smile, you've made me feel better in a dark time. Thank you for that. ^_^

14 - What If This Storm Ends?
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December 2011

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