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First, please let me thank you all for the care and concern you all showed in my last post. I'm sorry I haven't had time yet to answer all of your kind words but they mean a lot to me, more than you know. And the fact that you're willing to wait a few extra days for a chapter really makes a difference. I had some time to at least comb through this before posting it. ^_^

I know I usually post all the suggestions up before each chapter, but as yet I haven't even had time to go look at them to see what I didn't do yet and what I did. :D I will absolutely come back to this post and edit it to include that section. Believe it or not, organizing those suggestions to post actually takes me longer than writing a few thousand words, sometimes. ^_^ But I will get to it, because it also reminds me what I have yet to do.

I do know that [ profile] wirrrn's really old suggestion about Baba Yaga made it into here, and [ profile] neomeruru's picture prompt, at least the beginning of it (more to come, on that.) The shattered mirror with blood, etc. A few old ones and some new ones. I swear I will edit this section when I have more time. :D But I thought it would be better to put up the next chapter instead of keeping you guys waiting any longer.

Oh, yes, real life does suck sometimes. Things aren't looking too hot at the moment, for one of my family members. Fandom is a good release. I love to write, in order to take my mind off my own worries and focus on fictional ones. :D

With that said, once again, THANK YOU ALL, for everything. And here's the next part. ^_^

** ** ** **
Chapter 11 - "The Sky Above Us Shoots To Kill"
** ** ** **

Five minutes had passed since he'd left the train; Arthur checked every minute or so on his cell phone. Five minutes and he had already switched hands ten times as he held the phone aloft. He held it now in his left hand, with his right pressed against his neck, which was marginally warmer than anywhere else. He walked on. His thighs had stopped burning and now felt like two dead weights that he had to carry, rather than the other way around.

Thirty seconds, and he switched hands again. This time he slid his free hand down the back of his pants and pressed it against his ass. Fuck that was unpleasant for his ass, but his hand burned with returning warmth. His fingers cramped and he was able to move then around a little. It felt creepy, like someone else's hand on his ass. Baba Yaga's feeling me up, he thought, and stifled a delirious laugh. He'd googled Baba Yaga before coming on this trip. It was a cool story, he liked her duality, and he chose to interpret her as wise and helpful instead of hideous and evil.

Another five minutes passed and Arthur felt like his lungs were seizing up. If it was possible to drown in cold air, he was doing it. His feet started to drag. He'd been off the train for ten minutes and hadn't made good time. When he looked back over his shoulder, he could see the lights from the windows. He still heard it idling, too. He hadn't gone far at all. How far had the others gone?

He was tired. Once or twice he stumbled. Or maybe it was just once; he couldn't remember, and he thought that should alarm him. He fell again, and this time his hands were too slow to prevent his fall. He went face down into the snow. But he did keep his grip on the cell phone. He hauled himself back up, his shirt now soaked and clinging to him in frosty patches.

At twelve minutes, he thought he was hallucinating, because he definitely hard voices. "Baba Yaga?" he said, to no one but himself. And, yes, oh, there she was in the distance, but not too distant – two blue eyes glowing at him from the blackness ahead. The eyes moved out of tandem, leaving trails and bright streaks behind them.

Arthur shook his head, slapped himself in the face, and hardly felt it.

You fucking idiot, those are cell phones.

He laughed at himself, waved his cell phone back, and kept walking. The voices grew louder. The snow was starting to taper off, and the wind quieted.

"Over here, over here!" shouted a woman's voice, followed by a man's, repeating the same words.

He couldn't shout back. He just kept moving.

** ** ** **

Eames rattled his literal chains for good measure, because he knew that if he was too quiet, those guards at his door would really suspect something. But if he made frustrated sounds as if he was trying, and failing, to escape, they'd probably just laugh off his efforts.

He braced one foot against the bottom of the bed and pulled against the chain. The bed jerked around and it was only then that he realized it was meant to fold up against the wall for more space. For what, he couldn't imagine, it wasn't like people were ballroom dancing inside these compartments. Maybe it was for more storage space, perhaps for a couple that actually shared a bed and would sleep together on the top bunk. He and Arthur didn't tend to sleep together unless they ended up that way, which was rare.

But then, maybe it was like Jack had said. Maybe they weren't … whatever he'd thought they were. Eames couldn't think what that was. Wasn't it good enough, what he had with Arthur?

He only calls you by your assumed last name. Does he even know your real first name?

Of course Arthur knew. He'd known it for years. He'd found it out after going through all of his official papers, before turning him over. Arthur knew everything.

"Fuck," Eames said, panting. He needed to be reasonable. Jack wanted him emotional and unsure. No one was better at Eames than playing this game, no one. He was the one who unsettled people, he was the one who made them question and worry and wonder. He was the con-man. Not the other way around.

No, this would be easy. Arthur's case of gadgets was somewhere in this room. If he could reach it, even with his feet, and somehow kick it onto the bed, he'd be able to find a screwdriver of some sort and unscrew the bolts that held the chain to the bed. His hands would still be cuffed, but he'd be halfway free. And then it wouldn't take too much longer to pick the lock of the cuffs.

But 'too much longer' was too vague a term when it came to Arthur freezing to death outside.

A female voice came from outside the door, clipped and elegant: "Let me pass."

Ann, Eames thought. Good. I can play her.

The door slid open and she came into the room, her face impassive, but pale. Eames turned to her.

Before he could get a word out, she took a swing at him. He allowed her to, just to show he was harmless. But he wasn't prepared for the searing pain and wetness he felt. She packed quite a punch, it fucking actually hurt, and he fell sideways onto the bed.

"Jesus," he said.

Ann was holding up her shattered mirror, now streaked with his blood. Fuck, she'd hit him with glass and broken it against his face. No wonder it hurt. He felt the blood trickling down his temple to his cheek.

"I hate you," she said. "I hate thieves, always with your hands on other people's property. But mostly I hate you. You stole more from me than some little brat who wanted a shiny mirror." She tossed it aside in disgust. It clattered into the corner, shining with his blood caked into the fragments.

Eames made no move towards her; he opted to remain seated on the bed, looking up at her. He weighed his words carefully.

"I love Arthur," he said. She opened her mouth to speak, but he held up his cuffed hands as much as he could. "I know you have this idea that I stole him from you or something. But I didn't even meet him until years after the project. Or, meet him again, I suppose. I've stolen a lot in my day, sure. But Arthur is an adult and he makes his own decisions."

"Don't you patronize me," she said.

"And as such," Eames went on, "he chose, probably about ten minutes ago, to get off the train--"


"To try to rescue a group of tourists that your thugs threw into the blizzard."

Again she opened her mouth to speak, but then she closed it again, frowning.

Eames nodded toward Arthur's coat, hanging by the door. "Your brother, Jack, made him leave without his coat, at gunpoint. Then he cuffed me to the bed so that I couldn't follow. I didn't see this happen because I was, for some inexplicable reason, unconscious at the time. But Jack had a nasty bruise on his jaw that I can only imagine resulted from a scuffle that ended with Arthur outside in a blizzard without his coat."

"That can't be true," she said. "Arthur would never..."

"Go outside in sub-zero weather to rescue some civilians? You only remember a frightened college boy. I've known him for ten years. He's a point man. He doesn't leave anyone behind to die; it's what makes him the best. He's also resourceful. But it's below zero, Ann. How long do you think he's got, while we sit here arguing about whether it's true or not?"

She had nothing to say to that. She went a little paler.

"Go ask around," he said. "Someone must have seen it. Maybe a few people did."

Her eyes narrowed and her mouth hardened into a sharp, red line. "My brother wants you alive," she said. "But if I find out you're saying these things to get me to release you, I'll come back here and put a bullet in your lying mouth."

"I am saying it to get you to release me," Eames said. "So that I can go out after him. You'd better hurry."

She tried to stare him down, but only for another few seconds. She was still pale, her face tight and angry, when she left the room.

Eames went back to his efforts, trying to reach Arthur's box of gadgets with his feet. He was so close. But seconds were ticking by. Eames counted them in terms of Arthur's probably body temperature.

In the end, he didn't have a lot of time to himself. He had only just turned back to look at the screws that held the chain, really starting to worry now, when the door opened again.

He turned to see both Fenderlyn brothers swaggering into the tiny room.

"Christ, what now," he sighed.

Neither answered right away, except to stare at him slyly. He didn't like the way they were both grinning. He didn't like the way Giles was puffing on a cigar and then looking at the glowing tip, and he didn't like that Kenzie was unbuckling his holster and drawing out his gun. Those were signs that he recognized.

"Jack wants me alive," he said. "You know that."

Giles shrugged, still staring at his cigar. "We're not for Jack, are we?"

He closed the door behind him and leaned up against the dresser that Arthur had left all of his stuff on. Kenzie came to stand over Eames, knowing that he couldn't rise to his full height, and would have to remain half-crouched because he was cuffed to the bottom of the chain.

"Who are you for, then?" he asked. "Because Ann is going to be back here soon, too."

"Doubt she'd mind if we vented a bit of frustration," Giles said.

"You might find," Eames warned, "that she'll have changed her mind by then." You also might find that I can still kick the shit out of you , he thought, provided you're not intending to shoot me.

"See," Kenzie said, rubbing an imaginary smudge off his gun, "it's this kind of lying that got my brother and I here into such a mess, oh, this would be many years ago by now, I think."

"Well as you can imagine," Eames said, "having had my memory wiped clean, I don't know what the fuck you're on about."

"No, guess you wouldn't," Giles said. "Guess he wouldn't, would he, Kenzie?"

"Guess not," Kenzie said.

Eames rolled his eyes. "For fuck's sake. Why don't you just tell me and get this thing over with instead of banging on with the noir villain banter. I've got shit to do."

"Villain?" Giles said. "Us? Oh, rich. We're the wronged party here. Took us actually seeing you to remember who you were. You're not Luke Bishop to us and you're not Thomas Eames. To us, you'd be one Robert Bowen."

"Ah," Eames said, "well that's an old name I used to steal under. And?" And, he was starting to get an idea of what was going on here.

"And," Kenzie said, "it's a really small fucking world, when it was you who stole about five large that we were meant to pay off to a third party."

"A third party," Giles went on, "who was keeping us out of prison. Five-stretch, that one. So we say, fuck Jack, fuck Ann, and fuck their little schemes to retrieve the two of you. We're for us."

"Oh," Eames said. Yes, he could remember lifting something like five thousand about seven years back. It was small-time, he did shit like that all the time back then. "Sorry," he shrugged. "I'm sure it was just business. So, go on and get this over with, please. I'm a bit busy."

"See," Giles said, "it's that attitude that makes it worth Jack being a little bit angry with us." He looked again at the glowing tip of his cigar as he approached.

This wasn't going to be fun, but Eames had bigger things to worry about, and he only hoped they would at least hurry up about it.

** ** ** **

When Arthur finally reached the small group, he could only see them by the dim light of three cell phones: the two that the others were hlding, and his own. The younger couple was indeed the same couple he and Eames had made up stories about. Eames had said the man was a plastic surgeon and would give his wife facelifts. They were bundled up heavily. Her coat looked warm and snug and he wanted it, he wanted her coat so badly that the primal creature part of his mind, his reptile-brain, thought about ripping it off of her and burrowing into it.

"Did you bring help?" the man asked, "does your phone work, there's no service, they won't let us back on and we can't leave her, she's too weak to go back..."

"She?" Arthur tried to ask, but nothing came out. He waved his hand for silence.

The other couple was a few feet away. He held his phone outwards as he approached them. They were on the ground, in the snow, just a dark smudge against the blue-white. They were still wearing matching checked coats though, that he could tell. Something wasn't right about the scene, though. Why were they on the ground?

"Hey," he said, and this time his voice carried a little better. "What... are you...?" What happened, are you okay? The words didn't come out, but the idea did.

"Not good," the old man said.

Arthur went a little closer and crouched down. The old woman was lying across her husband's lap, her face in his neck. She turned to look at him, and in the blue light, he saw her wide, wet eyes and nothing else.

"She can't make it back," the man said. "She's too weak."

"A year ago I could have done it," she said, her voice faint. "But..."

"She's been sick," the man said. "And the other two... Welp. They wanna go back to the train and we can't make it. We were huddlin' fer warmth but now they feel they gotta head on back."

Northeast, Arthur thought of the man's accent, nonsensically.

The other couple joined them. Arthur could feel their warmth at his back and wanted to press back into them.

"We have to," the woman said. She sounded guilty, filled with regret. "We'll die out here. You know we will, Anthony."

"I'm a doctor," Anthony said. "I can't leave a sick woman..."

"I'm your wife," she snapped. "And you're just a plastic surgeon!"

He answered in a quiet voice, "Randy, I still took an oath."

"We're going to die," she said.

"No," Arthur said. "We go back together. Huddle by the train. Shelter and residual warmth. Engine. Train."

"You're cold-stupid," the old man said. "I hear it in your voice. I just told you, we ain't gonna make it back, she can't walk."

The woman sat up a little and looked at Arthur. "Why, where's your coat?" she asked.

"Oh, they, when I said I was coming to look for you Jack made me leave without it. Go die, he said. But rescue mission. Priority." Even to his own ears his words didn't make sense. He tried to shake the confusion out of his head.

"Okay," the doctor guy said, Anthony, or something. "You sound pretty bad yourself. I say we get in a huddle here and do our best."

"No," Arthur said. "Trust me. Survival training. Head back to the train, dig a crater in the snow for shelter. The train's engine."

"I agree," the old man said, "but like I told you..."

Arthur took the three steps to get to the both of them, and he crouched down again. Okay, so he was cold-stupid and his words weren't making sense, but the idea made sense in his head. And he could feel the heat from the two of them. He slid his arms under the old lady's back and knees, and for a second he just rested there, soaking up human warmth that made him shiver.

"Help me," he said to her husband. "Lift."

"I can't carry her," the man said, "my knees..."

"I know. Together." He looked over his shoulder at Anthony. "You. Legs."

"You... you want me to take her legs? We're carrying her?"

"It's warmer by the train," Arthur insisted again. It made so much sense, he didn't know how to convey this to them. Why was everyone being so stubborn? He thumbed his cell phone off and shoved it clumsily into his pocket. "The engine. The train."

"Right," the man said. He came around to Arthur's side and slid his arm under the lady's legs. For a second he was pressed up against Arthur and it felt like heaven. "On three," Anthony said, but Arthur was already struggling to stand up. "Okay then." He stood up with Arthur, and the two of them steadied themselves.

Together theyheld onto her. Her wool-clad arms went around Arthur's neck and he got both hands under her coat, gripping around her frail back and ribs. She felt so fragile, lighter than he'd thought. Under her shirt, he could feel the sagging of her skin. He thought of what she'd gone through before this, and that maybe freezing in the Siberian tundra was nothing compared to that.

"You," he said to the younger woman, who stood there like a dark blotch against the backdrop of the distant train. "Help him." He jerked his chin toward the man who was still sitting in the snow.

"Right," she said, a little ashamed. She held out her hand to him. It wasn't enough, and eventually she had to put her arm around his waist to help him up.

"Stay close," Arthur said. "Make good time. It's not far, twelve minutes."

They started walking. Twelve minutes it had taken him to get here; it seemed like an age. With this group, trudging so slowly, he thought that would double their time. Already the older man was panting as he tried to keep up.

"Thank you," the lady said into his neck. He gloved hand came up to cup the side of his face.

He didn't care about her gratitude as much as he did about the warmth of her body, and his hands beginning to burn back to life under her coat.

He couldn't check the time as it passed, and he had lost all sense of it. The train still seemed so far away. It never seemed to get any closer. Everyone around him was huffing and puffing. Arthur was in better shape than all of them, and he was exhausted too.

"Rest," the older man said, behind him. "Just for a minute, please."

His wife raised her face from Arthur's neck and whispered, "His heart. Please, he just needs a minute."

"Oh. Right."

"Can I put her legs down?" Anthony asked.

"Just for a minute," Arthur said.

He felt Anthony easing the woman's legs down. She gripped his shoulders until she was steady, then sagged against him.

"I'm sorry," she said. "It wasn't our choice to come out here. It's stupid. But Francis... that's my husband, Francis... he saw the way they treated this woman here and he stood up for her like he always does. Brave idiot. They told us if we didn't like it we could get out. They pointed guns at us. Now we're just a burden to you."

"No, it's okay, it's not a problem," Arthur said. He knew it was nonsense but he couldn't think of any other words.

"I'm Eartha," she said.

"Eartha?" Arthur thought he must have heard wrong.

"Yes. After Eartha Kitt, my folks were big fans. Well anyway. You're Arthur, I think?"

"How does everyone know my name?" Arthur asked.

She patted his chest. "Well you became a little famous after you shouted FBI and flashed your ID. It was 'Arthur and Mr. Eames this' and 'Arthur and Mr. Eames that.' And then after that little bitch poisoned you, oh, that fooled no one, everyone saw her do it. I must say, I'd always wanted to have an intriguing adventure on a train. Now I'm having one, I'm not pleased."

"Hey," Anthony said from behind. "Hey, shh. What's that?"

Arthur didn't know which way to look, because he couldn't see Anthony to know where he was pointing.

Arthur! a thin voice called. Or maybe he imagined it? No: he heard it again.

Arthur looked toward the train. It still looked miles and miles away, though it was probably only about a quarter of one. The windows were little amber squares of warmth. At first he didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Then he saw a blue flash. And then another.

From atop the train.

"Arthur!" shouted the voice, from the distance. That blue light, waving above the train.

Eames, EAMES, on top of the train, yes!

"You're so fucking smart," Arthur rasped aloud. "Eames you're so fucking smart. Cell phones. Cell phones! Now!"

He tried to dig his phone out of his pocket. His fingers were still clumsy and felt too big but eventually me managed. Miranda had hers out, and turned on. Anthony had his, too. Arthur touched his screen and it came to life.

"Eames," he tried to yell back, but that was a bad idea because it felt like screaming through acid. Instead he just waved the cell phone madly.

"Over here!" Miranda yelled. "We're here!"

"Hey!" Anthony called.

"Oh," Eartha said, still clinging to Arthur, "are we saved?"

Not yet, not yet. But soon.

At least, he thought so, hope swelling like a tide in him, until he heard the distinct, unmistakable sound of a gunshot. The blue light disappeared from sight.

"No, no," he whispered. "Jesus, no."

He started to run, almost toppling Eartha. He didn't get more than three steps when the train roared to life again. It started slowly, rumbling at first, and then building up to a roar. The amber squares of light shifted forward, backward, and then forward again.

And the train rolled on ahead, into the night.

** ** ** **

The Fenderlyn brothers weren't careful, like professionals were. They were blunt, brutal, inefficient and clumsy. That was Eames's professional opinion of their pain-causing technique. He could almost consider himself an expert on the receiving end. In his mind, if you found yourself bound and on the receiving end of someone else's violent tendencies more than twice, you were an expert. Criminal and thief he might be, manipulator too, but he prided himself on never having actually sat down and thought about how, precisely, to cause other people misery.

He also wasn't sure exactly what they wanted of him. There didn't seem to be an actual point to their violence. Giles had burned him a few times, of course, and Kenzie had whacked him with the gun and he knew he was as bruised and bloody as he felt, and a part of his mind kept whispering, Jack is going to kill them. He was vaguely horrified at this thought. No: Arthur was going to kill them. Not Jack.

Arthur, who was somewhere out there and Ann was taking her sweet time coming back. About five minutes had passed; minutes that Eames could have spent trying to escape without her help, were it not for these two brutes.

Giles was flicking his lighter and so clearly considering setting Eames's hair on fire when they heard two voices arguing outside the door. One was clearly Michelle: strident, shaky, but still demanding. The other was Ann: icy, clipped, but also shaky.

'You need to let me in there,' Michelle's muffled voice came through the door.

'Go back your your mummy unless you want to get hurt,' Ann replied.

'Hey, I stole your precious key, I have rights.'

The Fenderlyns stopped for a second and turned toward the door, eyebrows up in surprise.

'You're too stupid to keep quiet,' Ann scolded. 'Get out of my sight and stop causing me problems.'

'Smart enough to get you what you wanted, even though you poisoned me, you bitch.'

Silence followed that, and shortly after, the door slid open. Ann came in and pulled it closed behind her. Eames caught the briefest glimpse of Michelle's worried face outside the door.

Anger welled up inside of him. Clearly Ann had gotten the key to his cuffs, but she had employed the kid—the thief she claimed to hate—in order to do it. She'd made her steal, likely from Jack, and put her directly into danger for her own purposes. Eames wanted to go search for Arthur more than Ann did, and even he wouldn't have done such a thing.

And yet, he thought, almost against his will, the little girl still managed to do it. She's a good thief. It was professional pride, that was all. Good thieves with years of practice were abundant, but ones with natural talent were exceedingly rare.

Ann's face showed her clear surprise when she saw the Fenderlyns and what they were up to. But underneath that shock, Eames clearly saw her moment of vindication. I want to see you hurt, her eyes said. She considered letting it go on. Would have, probably, if not for the fact that she had another agenda now.

"Get out," she told the two of them. "I need a moment of my own."

"We're not finished," Kenzie said. He sounded let down, strangely childish. Although, Eames's ears were ringing like hell, so maybe he was hearing wrong.

"You're finished now," she said. "I need him for something. By the way, if I were you, I'd stay away from Jack for a while. If he finds out about this, he won't be pleased."

Smart, Eames thought. Keep Jack out of it, give us some time. She was vindictive, but she was no idiot. He didn't care about her motivations, as long as she helped him get to Arthur.

"We'll see you later then," Giles said, almost friendly. He holstered his blood-streaked gun.

The two of them left the compartment as if they'd done nothing more interesting than watch a particularly violent movie. He mused that they probably did a lot of dream-work and dream-violence. People who did that tended to desensitize to the real world.

Ann made quick, silent work of uncuffing him. She showed no concern, no surprise for the blood caked on his head and face, the burns and bruises. Nor did he want any.

"I'm the one who hurt you," she said. "I'm the one who got to you, who made it hurt when you steal. I told you that I would, years ago, and I did."

Eames has guessed as much by now. And also, by this time, he didn't care. It was good to have final confirmation that he wasn't dying some lingering death, but he tucked that knowledge away. It was for later.

"Where did Arthur leave from, and where is Jack in relation to that?" he asked.

"Arthur left from the car after the lounge," she said. "Jack is in the engine room. But his guards are all along the hallways and I can't offer you any protection from them because they're under his direction to keep you locked up. I can't override that order; he made that clear. They'll probably run to alert him, so get outside fast, take the first door you can take."

"I've got a better idea than that," Eames said. "I need a vantage point."

"Whatever you have to do," she said.

He tested his legs out before opening the door. He felt achy, sore, a little dizzy and fuzzy. But his legs held him up and carried him forward and for now, that was all he needed. Eames grabbed his coat and slipped it on. It restricted his movement, but to go outside without it would be foolish. It wasn't for him, anyway; it was for Arthur.

He opened the door to find one of the guards holding Michelle at gunpoint. It was the last thing he would have expected, but Jack's determination to keep him aboard at all costs became obvious.

It also fueled his rage. Not only was Jack thwarting him, leaving Arthur to his death while keeping Eames captive – he was using a kid to arrange this. And she'd already seen more shit in two days than most people saw in their entire lives. She was only fifteen, a nosy tyke with some stupid Pokeman keychain on her belt.

"Point that gun at me," Eames said. "Not at her. Come on, now. Obviously I am fair game, here. The Fenderlyn boys had their go. You have yours now. I'm a much bigger target." It was a sly way of saying Pick on someone your own size, a bait that many hired thugs actually rose to. This guy didn't. "Are you really going to murder a child?" Eames said.

He saw the flicker in the guy's eyes, and he knew: this man had never pulled the trigger on someone before. If he thought his life was in danger, if he got startled badly enough, he might. But really he was just in for the money, and holding kids hostage probably hadn't been part of the original deal.

Eames held out his hand. "Come on, Michelle," he said. "You can go wait with your Mum and Dad. They're worried about their Dollymop."

She struggled a little against the large arm around her neck, her eyes watering, her cheeks red. As the seconds ticked by, Eames thought of Arthur and his cold hands, Arthur without a coat.

The guard finally shoved Michelle towards him and Ann, and aimed the gun at Eames instead.

Eames threw Michelle behind his back and launched himself at the guard. It took him two strides. He felt the man's breath go out of him as they landed, and the gun fired once, into the ceiling. Michelle screamed, and there came a muffled cry of surprise from the adjoining cars, but he tucked those peripheral sounds away. The throbbing in his head cleared and Eames pounded his elbow into the guard's face. His arm would hurt later, but for now, it everything just felt numb.

He grabbed the gun and checked it. It was empty. So the goon had only had one shot, then. Eames pistol-whipped him with it for good measure, and dropped the useless gun, the better to have his hands free. Grabbing Michelle's hands, he pulled them around his waist and said, "Follow." He couldn't leave her among the wolves, either. His rescue of Arthur was also now an escort mission to her parents.

Ann led the way. Eames followed, Michelle clinging to him, her face pressed into his back, her arms linked around him, hands clasped together at the front of his coat. He could hear her frightened breathing, like a small animal. She was a good little thief, but just a child, a baby girl. Even he hadn't seen this much violence at fifteen.

They got to the restaurant car just as the two Fenderlyn brothers came in through the far door. The gunfire must have drawn their attention again. Ann kept moving forward, playing it cautiously, waiting to see how they would react to her now that she had freed their captive.

Ann ordered the two brothers to move. Giles slapped her, hard enough to make her stumble. She was unarmed. Her vipers had turned against her. Or perhaps they'd been against her the whole time, and the charade was over.

But Eames wasn't chained up anymore. The closest thing within his reach were the shelves of liquor behind the bar. He grabbed two bottles and hurled them over Ann's shoulder. Neither bottle hit either men. Ann got the hint and crouched out of the way, moving until she was behind him and Michelle. Eames grabbed another two bottles and threw them. The second one hit Giles in the arm. He grabbed more and more, throwing quickly and wildly.

"Fucker!" Kenzie grunted, as one bottle hit him in the chest.

The next bottle, this one a hefty, full Tanqueray gin, got Giles in the face. His nose seemed to burst under it. He fell, clutching his face and coughing. Payback for the cigar burns. When he doubled over, Eames shoved him down and grabbed his gun, stuffing it into his coat pocket. Not the safest place, but the quickest.

Behind Eames, Michelle screamed and he whirled around, another projectile in his hand. Another one of Jack's hired dogs lumbered toward them, a gun in hand. This goon was close enough that he could have even pulled the trigger if he'd gotten the chance. Eames nailed him in the forehead with a half-full litre of Jeagermeister. The glass shattered across the man's face and Eames held onto the broken bottle neck.

There was no time yet to grab the gun with Kenzie still in the game, closing in on his back. He just turned again, expecting Kenzie to be closing in, and swung the remnants of the bottle. The broken edges caught Kenzie across the chest. He reacted by hunching over instinctively, his hand going slack on his gun. Eames grabbed the back of his neck and rammed his knee into Kenzie's face. The crunch of teeth was payback for the five minutes of pistol-whipping.

Eames swept down—Michelle still clinging to his back—and grabbed Kenzie's gun, too.

The door was behind him, and surely more guards would be chasing him down. He didn't know how many. There was a ladder to the top of his train, to the vantage point. He heard shouting, as of someone (Jack?) barking orders ('Don't let him go, start it, start it, move!') For a second, he almost thought that the train shifted under him.

He deliberated for all of a second before making the same decision he would have made in any battle: give your extra weapon to your six, not to the enemy who had suddenly shifted alliances. He pressed the gun into Michelle's hands.

"What?" she said. "no, no!" She tried to push it back to him.

"Just get to your Mum and Dad and give it to one of them. You." He turned to Ann. "Escort her to her parents. Do not let me down. This girl will shoot you if you do. Do you understand?"

She glared at him, defiance in her eyes.

"I'd rather not wait on your decision," he said, "and I'd rather Arthur not freeze to death while I wait, either."

She nodded once, curt. He had to take it. It was that, or let Arthur die. He couldn't be in two places at once.

So he turned, pulled the heavy door open, and went outside onto the icy steps. He turned to yank the door closed behind him, taking one last glance to make sure that everyone he had put down was staying down, and everyone he wanted upright and walking was doing so. Then he turned back to the cold, empty night.

The train offered little protection from the cold, though it did shield him from the wind. Pulling his gloves from his pocket and tugging them on, he trudged a few steps, eyes on the dark field. He tried to focus through the blind spots, the flares in his vision from the sudden dark, and probably also from having been knocked about a bit. He followed along the train, once in a while seeing faces peering at him from the amber windows, concerned and fascinated. At the third car, he came to the ladder to the top.

The rungs were bars of ice in his hands, not only bitingly cold, even through the gloves, but wet. The gloves stuck to them and he had to yank them off.

The top of the train was much colder, and the wind whipped him to the side, stung in his ears and his throat. From below, even under the idle of the train, he heard someone shouting orders again. It sounded like it came from another world.

Eames pulled his mobile out and turned it on. The blue glow of the screen wasn't exactly the flare he wished he had, but it would have to do. The snow had tapered off and there was no more white-out.

"ARTHUR!" he called, holding the cell phone up.

He didn't hear a returning call. But then, he had probably destroyed Arthur's throat. The pain that hit him when he considered that was worse than the cold.

"ARTHUR!" he called again.

From the distance came a woman's voice, thin and reedy: 'Over here!' Then a man's voice, shouting 'Hey!' Eames looked in the direction of the voices, hoping that the wind wasn't skewing them.

Then he saw it, yards and yards away, in the field of snow: a tiny, blue, returning signal, waving like mad. Then, a few seconds later, another. And another. Three in all. He thought maybe the older couple didn't have their mobiles on them. Surely one of those belonged to Arthur. It had to.

With practiced intuition, Eames suddenly knew he wasn't alone on top of the train. It wasn't anything he heard or saw, just something he felt. He pulled Giles's gun from his coat pocket, turned, and aimed at the shadow of a man who was climbing up from the ladder.

Beneath him, the train shifted. Back first, and then forward. It stopped for a second and he steadied himself.

"Get the fuck back down here," the shadow said. Just another hired gun, probably.

When the man hauled himself up to the top of the train, Eames heard rather than saw the gun in his hand. It clattered against the metal of the roof.

Eames fired his weapon, a warning shot. The figure started, as if he hadn't expected Eames to open fire.

Down the length of the train, two more guards were clambering to the top. This was a take-down mission, probably. Unlikely that Jack wanted to kill him, but he couldn't rule it out. Maybe he had reached that point.

It didn't matter, because just as the second hired guard got to his feet, the train did more than shift forward. It lurched to life under his feet, knocking him, and the other three men on top of the train, flat. Eames fell face down, clinging to the metal. He caught a glimpse of the fading blue lights in the distance.

Eames again took one second to consider his options: Jump off and go to Arthur and the others, with little chance of rescue, while abandoning the people on the train to their captors. Or get back into the train, stop it, and try to reverse it.

His decision was mostly a practical one: the train was the only thing that would actually save them. He could no more throw Michelle and the others to the wolves than Arthur could let civilians freeze to death in a snow storm.

He belly-crawled forward, the wind rippling over his back. He had to get close to the engine room before getting back down, and he didn't have much time. The train was picking up speed.

** ** ** **

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December 2011

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