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These are suggestions that are either brand new, or that made it into this chapter:

[ profile] fae_boleyn - I really want to see Michelle helping the boys out with this situation somehow In fact, almost everyone wanted to see this scenario! :D [ profile] twilightthief: I definitely want to see Michelle do some bad ass stuff too. [ profile] towel_master - So maybe Michelle will have to prove herself outside of Eames's patronizing view of her? Maybe she steps in to try and protect him?

[ profile] krytella - In fact, now that they've both said things to each other they've never said before, and been forced to think about defining the relationship, it would be really interesting to have some doubt creep in.

[ profile] wirrrn - I'd love to see Eames get in trouble, Arthur BAMF out to rescue him, only to find that Eames has already handled the situation. He's a BAMF to, after all :) A lot of people agreed with this!

[ profile] gelbwax - A quote- use however you see fit: "Honestly, Mr Eames, you are not in a position to barter."

Anonymous - Maybe I really want to see Arthur collapse the way Michelle did? BUT WHY, I don't know! Maybe they both got incepted, or all three of them? Or drugged? Mmmm, anon, there's almost nothing I like better in fic than Arthur falling down. Couldn't even tell you why.

[ profile] towel_master - Suggestion: The train officials are corrupt, either with Dinclusin or wanting to stop the train somewhere in the middle of nowhere... LOVE.

[ profile] twilightthief - I keep thinking about Eames is involved in another card game or what have you with Dinclusion, Ann, etc in some private room/car and the shit goes down. They're far away enough that no one hears/sees whats going on. Maybe Eames has to defend himself without the help of his gun or Arthur. IDK I think I just want Eames being caught in a tight spot using what he has available in the "shoot out" or whatever.

[ profile] quixyjie and [ profile] twilightthief - wanted Eames smoking a cigar.

[ profile] sparrow_hubris - Eames glances up at Arthur from across an empty train car, posture stiff, with a blank or hostile look. He then turns slowly and walks away. Arthur for some reason cannot follow/can't catch him and it scares the crap out of him how empty/possessed?/haunted Eames looked. SO EFFING CREEPY.

Older suggestions that I WILL STILL GET TO:

[ profile] gelbwax - And then he tries to get Eames to do something to Arthur? But he resists! And then Eames TAKES THAT FUCKER DOWN. Using only items he can find in the dining car, which is where he's been trussed up and left for dead. And on top of that, [ profile] skyvehicle said, what if tremors give way to like, Dr. Strangelove hand? lol, until it tries to choke Arthur after Arthur tries to break into their train car? oooh. Okay, I really like this and I'm going to try to get this in there. I love this direction.

[ profile] twilightthief also says, Maybe they get lost but really its just someone messing with/ransacking the train? Maybe outside forces or maybe Dinclusin or someone on the train. And I like the idea that Michelle really isn't who she seems. There's something more to our Pokemon lovin' friend.

[ profile] we_reflamingos says, Michelle has got to be the key to something. A revelation, inspiration, information - she's aces and needs a part to play. Perhaps her parents do too, maybe in that so-clueless-don't-know-what's-going-on-but-it-helps kind of way.

Anonymous said, How about if Eames turns into a killing machine after getting beat up? I'd like to see that. I WOULD TOO. :D

[ profile] mydeerfriend - I'd really like to see Eames go through some sort of shit but NOT get saved by BAMF Arthur. Because Eames is awesome enough to save himself from danger (and then maybe Arthur would feel bad that he didn't/couldn't help Eames). It is time for Eames to save himself, eh? :)

[ profile] astheytick - Arthur says to Eames "Just wait. Wait for me."

[ profile] twisted_ream there's this huge spider on eames' back and he can't get it off and arthur just laughs

[ profile] efcia a broken mirror, possibly a small one. I can see the shattered glass, maybe even a small amount of blood on them? This gave me a really cool idea! We already know which mirror this could be. :D

Anonymous: One having to carry the other.

[ profile] towel_master One of them thinks they see something dangerous/weird/downright creepy out of the corner of their eye in Ann's bag? Perhaps they see her opening it while on the train.

[ profile] gelbwax - WHAT IF the wind whips the fedora off Arthur's head and into the siberian wasteland. OMFG, horror, right? AND THEN. AND THEN. It comes BACK TO HIM. THE FEDORA COMES BACK. RIGHT WHEN HE NEEDS ITS POWERS OF BADASSERY IT COMES BACK TO HIM.
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Not in this chapter, but down the road. :D

[ profile] hazysea - A line for Eames to say to Arthur? "Stay at my level and keep to the shadows.

So! Let's see how this goes. On to chapter seven!

** ** ** **

Chapter 7: "Don't let him catch you..."
** ** ** ***

Back inside the compartment, Arthur hoped to find Eames there, so he could tell him everything. They'd sit out the rest of the night together, figuring this out. Arthur would make another call to Cobb. Eames, to whoever he knew. They'd dig up some information on these two; their names were unusual, someone had to know of them.

Except, when Arthur got to their room, Eames wasn't there. Arthur had told him to only run point for a few minutes, and then get the hell back to the room. The room was empty.

Arthur checked his phone. No messages.

Swearing, he left the compartment and went back down the corridor. He had to pass the room he'd just left. Tactically unwise, he knew; but he didn't have a choice. He'd last seen Eames in the car ahead, so that was where he went.

The dinner crowd was starting to converge toward the restaurant car, after their long day of touring the city. Arthur forced himself to be polite, to not shove them aside. He tried not to act as frantic and boorish as he felt. The families they'd made up stories about that morning, they were there – the Nelsons, the plastic surgeon guy, the older couple in the matching outfits.

He didn't see the Fenderlyn brothers, and he didn't see Eames. Making his way through the restaurant car, he kept his specs peeled mostly for them.

"Hey. Hey, Arthur!"

He turned to see Michelle running to catch up with him. He didn't have time for her. It must have shown on his face.

"Everything okay?" she said. "Because you look like hell."

"I'm fine. I'm looking for Eames."

"He went to the lounge car with those two guys, you know the ones? Those two guys, and they're always together? The brothers? He went with them and..."

"Thanks," he said, and hurried off.

"Hey!" she called after him.

He knew she was running to catch up, damn her, and he didn't need this, she was in the way.

"Hey, Arthur! You dumbass, you said merci to me. Come back here."

He almost stopped, his fingertips went cold for a second and his heart skipped a little. But so what? So he'd slipped into french again, okay, no big deal. Those people had obviously fucked with him, and going into their dream, sharing headspace with them, had brought that back to the surface. He'd deal with it.

He moved to the lounge car.

And there, in the back, at the same half-moon table he'd sat at the first night, was Eames. The two Fenderlyn brothers sat on either side of him. They were playing cards. Eames had a cigar and was casually sucking on it, pursing his lips around it, even talking around it, like the three of them were old friends. Like he had nothing to fear. He slapped cards onto the table and then for a second, held the cigar between his first two fingers and looked at it with curiosity. No one feigned casualness like Eames did, but no one could see through his guises like Arthur could. Something was wrong.

Eames was playing some kind of grift. That was it, he had some con going, and Arthur didn't know what it was, and, fuck, why hadn't Eames told him, this was so foolish. Especially because, clearly, he was uncomfortable with something. Arthur needed to talk to him, immediately. For a second he thought that it might not be a good idea to interrupt whatever he had going on – obviously Eames was still running point for him, and that meant he had to distract these two. These two guys, maybe they didn't know that Arthur had gone into Dinclusin's head. Or maybe they did know, and Eames didn't know they knew, and either way, it was a clusterfuck and trouble was brewing.

Arthur started towards the table. He would make up some kind of emergency, to call Eames away from them.

"Oh, now petal," said a delicate voice behind him. Slender fingers took hold of his elbow, nails digging in through his shirt.

He turned to see Ann, smiling, dignified, two steps behind him. As if he had not just minutes ago put her under. As if her mind, along with her brother's, hadn't just tried to devour his own.

"You look terrible," she said. "Come on now, sit with me. Don't bother the boys."

He pulled his arm away from her and took a step back.

"Don't cause a scene," she said.

The hell of it was, she was right. There was nothing he could do, and drawing more attention to any of them would be the worst idea. He'd meant to confront them anyway, on his terms. He reckoned that now was the time. This was as close to his terms as he was likely to get.

"That's better," she said. Companionably, she smoothed the collars of his shirt, as if they'd known each other for years. "Come on, sit down with me, Arthur. Let me get you a glass of wine."

"No," he said. "No wine. I'm fine, thank you."

She pursed her red lips. "Well, all right then. But sit." She led him to the little, two-person table, the one he'd sat at with Michelle on that first night.

Arthur made sure he sat facing Eames, across the room. Just in case those two should make a move on him. Or on anyone. There were way too many civilians in way too small a place for his comfort.

And speaking of, Michelle soon came into the car, followed by both of her parents. Arthur noted that she was holding her father's hand, as if she'd dragged him there. Christ, she wanted him to have a medical checkup here, right now, in the car. Subtly, he held his hand up to all of them: I'm fine. Back off. They did. It made him glad that he'd flashed them the fake FBI ID earlier. It kept them away, but the three of them still took seats around another small table, adjacent to his and a few yards away. The chatter and din was enough that they wouldn't be able to hear anything that he and Ann were saying to each other.

A waiter came by, and Ann ordered a glass of wine for herself. Arthur asked for a bottle of water. He was so thirsty, and while he knew that anyone could, at any time, slip something into his drink, he couldn't go without until they got off the train. That could be hours. It could be tomorrow.

He took a moment to compose himself on the inside, to smooth down his reactions, and to contain the adrenaline.

"You still look young," Ann said.

"What?" Her random commentary on his appearance threw him wildly off again.

"You have a youthful look that belies your nature. It wouldn't do to underestimate you. I think that's a deadly miscalculation that a lot of people have made. Am I wrong?"

"I don't know," Arthur said. "I don't think about it."

"You have no idea what's going on, do you?"

The water brought them their drinks. His water was still sealed but that didn't mean much. He opened it anyway and drank, weighing her words, his response, as she sipped her wine. "I guess I don't," he said.

"And you hate it," she went on. "Because that's what you do; you take information. You gather it, you store it, sometimes you deal in it. But you hate not knowing. Poor darling. For once in your career, you might actually be entirely innocent."

"Then what do you want?" he asked. "We can clear this right up. I'm fair, when I'm treated fairly. So is my partner."

"And when you feel you haven't been treated fairly?"

"We probably don't have to find out," he said.

She giggled, a high, merry sound. "Oh, Arthur. You're delightful. I like you very much. I always have, you know."

"You don't even know me," he said. "Don't try to pull that shit. I have no idea who you are."

"No?" She sighed. "No, of course you don't. Your poor head, all these years, all those people running around inside of it, changing this memory and adding that one. How many times has inception been accomplished, Arthur?"

He fought not to clench his hand around the bottle of water. He held onto his cool, even as her words chilled him. Forced ice into his veins. Could this be about Fischer? About Cobb? How could she know about those things?

"You don't know?" she asked. "But you stopped to think about it."

"Inception is a rumor," he said.

'Yes, yes, yes, don't think about elephants. Who taught you that? Who taught you about inception?"

He opened his mouth to answer. Nothing came out.

"Oh, lambie lamb, I'm not talking about your little games with Robert Fischer, please, that is so not interesting to me. Inception has been going on for years. You've done it. I've done it. Mr. Eames has done it. We do it all the time. We do it every time we share dreams, for goodness sakes. How can going into another person's mind not change something in them?"

Arthur cleared his throat and took a sip of water to ease the dryness. How could she know so much? "Who are you?" he asked. "Can we at least get that out of the way? You said I knew you."

"Arthur, tell me about when you were nineteen. Where were you, what were you doing?"

"Why should I tell you anything about myself? You seem to already know."

"But you don't."

For just a moment, Arthur felt like he was experiencing dreamshare for the first time once again: sitting at an internet cafe and being asked by his superior how he had gotten there. Don't panic, don't panic. She's fucking with you. He reached into his pocket and gripped his totem.

"You're awake," she said. "Don't be upset. Just think, now. You were nineteen. At university, right? You hadn't served yet. It's in your documents."

He controlled his breathing, fought down a panic reaction whose source he couldn't find. Why did this line of questioning make him so upset? Frightened, even?

"From December to March," she said. "Think, Arthur. Did you go home for Christmas? See your mother?"

He swallowed hard. "No. No, I never went to see her after I moved out."

"Well what did you do?"

He didn't know. It was fourteen years ago, he should have been in school. Must have been. It was a long time, surely enough time to forget. No one remembered what they did fourteen years ago. Yet he could remember the summer before, he remembered the first day of the semester, and some of his professors. Their names, their faces. The classes. He thought forwards a little. Spring. Yes, he'd even gone to spring break in Daytona. Spent a week stoned out of his mind and fucking every girl that came onto him.

But the four months in between didn't seem to exist.

"You were with us, Arthur." She reached out her slender, pale hand toward his face. It seemed almost a motherly gesture, and so familiar that he didn't pull away from her. She ran her finger along his bottom lip. "Until you were stolen," she said softly. She gently pried his mouth open with her nail, and ran her thumb along the inside of his bottom lip. It felt like a dream, and so damned familiar...

Finally, Arthur slapped her hand away and stood up. His sudden movement knocked his chair out from under him, startling whoever was sitting behind him. Arthur didn't care. He just stared over Ann's head at Eames.

Eames, who was staring back at him with such open hostility as Arthur had never seen from him before- at least he'd never seen it directed at him, not like this. Eames's shoulders were squared, his back straight as steel as he stood up, too. His eyes were focused, as they so often were, but cold and angry. He began to turn away.

It seemed to happen in slow motion. Arthur took a step toward him and stumbled over something, or maybe over nothing. Fear blossomed inside his chest like the fingers of frost, and his vision went hazy and white around the edges.

Ann's touch had not been an intimate or even friendly one, and certainly not a reminder of some shared past – at least not in its intent, and he understood that now. The edges of white ate away at everything else, he felt himself tipping over backwards, and he realized, no, nothing so subtle as a reminder. Just poison, on her rounded fingernail, that she had fed to him like milk to a baby.

He tried to reach towards Eames, who he could hardly see anymore. Eames, all the way across the car, turning away from him.

He heard a girl's voice calling, "Arthur, Arthur!" and then the ceiling came into view. He didn't feel his back hit the floor.

** ** ** **

They grabbed Eames just as he was watching Arthur leave Dinclusin's room. Arthur looked frazzled, Eames started towards him, and then the two jacks were upon him. They flanked him, one putting a hand on his arm, the other reaching into his own jacket where he was so clearly carrying.

"Hey mate," Giles said. "Up for a game?"

Eames watched Arthur walk away, towards their own room, wanting nothing more than to follow. They had to talk about whatever Arthur had found that had unnerved him so much. Maybe Arthur had found the answer. Or maybe he had found nothing.

But Kenzie's hand inside his jacket, clearly itching to pull his piece, told him all he needed to know.

"I suppose I am up for a game, aren't I?" Eames said.

"I suppose you are," Giles said. He handed him a cigar.

"What sort of goodies have you laced this with?" Eames asked.

"You don't think very highly of your mates," Giles said, lighting it for him.

And from then on, the actual game—the one of pretending that he didn't know they were up to something—was over. All he could do from then on would just be to keep civilians safe, and keep himself and Arthur alive, until they could get off the train and settle this.

They went to the lounge, Giles in front of him, Kenzie behind. Eames didn't know why they chose that place, but he figured they must have had a reason. It was toward the back of the train.

The reason became clear about five minutes later, when Arthur came practically busting through the door, so obviously looking for him. He was a little breathless, a little pale, and bursting with information that he needed to tell.

Ann sidled up beside him and said something to him that made him decide to sit with her. He got it, then. Here, in the crowded lounge, where they were obviously at a disadvantage: These people knew enough to understand that neither he nor Arthur would open a firefight in here.

The little girl and her mum and dad weren't far behind him. That kid, Eames thought, was going to get herself into a world of trouble.

Arthur seated himself facing Eames across the room, seeking eye contact. He glanced up, but didn't dare give him any signals.

"You play it casual, Mr. Eames," Giles said in his ear. "It's only fair to tell you that I don't give a fuck."

"Good to know," Eames said, just as casual as they wanted. He slapped some cards on the table. The cigar was bitter; he hadn't smoked in a while though usually he liked to have one or two while playing. Knowing that he was being made to more or less eat the poison they were feeding him made him want to gag it all back out. Just for a second, he considered plucking the cigar out of his mouth and shoving it into Giles's eye.

"Our lovely lady has your boyo over there by the short hairs, Mr. Eames," Kenzie said. "So really, just be a nice young man and we will work this out, I promise."

"My ability to work things out," Eames said, "is one of my strong points, you'll find."

"Excellent." Kenzie checked his cell phone, glanced at Giles over the game of cards and said, "About two minutes, yeah?"

"Right," Kenzie said.

Two minutes for what, Eames didn't know, and did not look forward to finding out. He watched Arthur as Ann spoke to him. Saw him glance at him a few times, and his tells were like flares in the sky. Arthur needed to talk to him, and these guys had figured out that they were so much easier to deal with apart, with no plans.

"Time to go," Kenzie said, and clapped Eames on the back. "Ann's just going to slip your boy something lovely, whilst you come with us."

"He's not my boy," Eames said, the implication suddenly infuriating him. That Ann was about to hurt him in some way, or render him harmless, and on top of that, they thought that Arthur was his boy, like some kind of rental. It filled him with rage. He stood slowly, wanting to tower over all of them and knock them down. He saw Ann reach her hand to Arthur's face, saw her actually put her fingers into his mouth, but Arthur was too busy staring at him to notice at first.

Giles stuck the gun into his ribs and said, "Turn around and you won't have to see."

But Arthur was reaching for him, stumbling, still trying to get his balance even as his eyes rolled back.

"I'm going to end you, before this is over," Eames told them.

"Of course you are," Giles said.

He heard the crash of a chair, heard the sprog Michelle calling for Arthur, and his own head was spinning now as they forced him away, into the next car. Whatever they'd given to him was catching up, taking him down already.

He knew how bad it was; he knew they had some serious shit planned for him and that with Arthur out of the way, it was him against however many of the train's crew they had bought.

Still. He was going to end them.

** ** ** **

Arthur opened his eyes to hazy light and shadow, and fuzzy, but frantic sounds. He struggled to come back to the present, clawed his way from darkness that wasn't from a dream. He knew he hadn't been asleep, because he always woke up completely aware. A man's voice spoke softly, closer than the rest of the sounds, and a bit clearer.

"...all right... Arthur...trying to help you..."

The entire world snapped into focus and Arthur tried to sit up. He was pressed back down by the shoulders, and a man's face loomed over his. It was Daniel, Michelle's dad.

"Give yourself a minute," he said.

Arthur didn't have a choice, the room was still spinning. He lifted his head and glanced down. Helen, Michelle's mom, had his legs in her lap. Daniel had taken off Arthur's tie and loosened his collar.

Other passengers crowded him, and he felt exactly like he thought Michelle had felt when she'd collapsed at the church.

"Move back," Helen said, "for goodness sakes, give him some air."

"Eames," Arthur said, remembering how he'd cleared away the crowd this morning, then remembering him turning away, furious, flanked by the two Fenderlyn brothers.

"Relax a moment," Daniel said. He leaned close to Arthur's face on the pretense of checking his eyes. "I saw what happened," he said. "I told them you fainted but you didn't, I think she drugged you. I realize you are FBI and I didn't want to compromise your investigation."

"Thanks. How long was I out?" He touched his bottom lip. It burned.

"About a minute, not long." Daniel frowned and tilted his head. "Open your mouth and say 'ah,'" he said.

Arthur did as he was asked.

"Whatever she gave you was caustic," Daniel said.

"Where did she go?" This time when he sat up, the doctor allowed him to, with a steadying hand on his back.

Helen put his legs down and scooted up. "I'd worry about myself first, in your position. We're on a moving train, she can't have gone far. You can arrest her when you're up to it."

"My partner," Arthur said.

"Left with those two men," Daniel said. "He's probably putting handcuffs on them by now, I'd think."

Helen turned in the direction where they had disappeared. "Michelle?" she said. Her voice trembled a little.

Arthur remembered Michelle yelling his name as he fell. She had been in the car a minute ago. He scanned the room for her now; she was gone.

Helen stood up. No one else in the car knew that Ann had just poisoned him; no one else knew that Eames had left with two armed men. Helen understood at least part of this. She wrung her hands and turned frantically this way and that, looking at both doors of the car. "Where is she?" she asked, her eyes wide. "Michelle! Michelle!"

Arthur knew exactly where her nosy, intrusive, stupid, and stupidly brave kid was. She had probably followed Eames. He knew this because he had been fifteen once, and he had been nosy, intrusive, stupid, and stupidly brave too, and that was exactly what he would have done. He reached for his cell phone; it was the quickest way to find Eames, and subsequently, to locate Michelle. When he turned it on, though, he got no signal.

"Cell phone," he snapped. He got to his feet with a little help from Daniel. No one was paying attention to him anymore; he wasn't interesting now that he was on his feet. Their panic braced him, revived him. It cleared his mind.

"HEY!" he yelled. A few people turned to him. He reached to his pocket, fished out his wallet and flipped it open, brandishing it the way they did on TV shows. "SPECIAL AGENT. I NEED A CELL PHONE."

That got their attention. They all murmured, that same frantic, dull roar, carried on an undercurrent of cresting panic. About five hands shot toward him, each holding cell phones. He recognized a few faces but they didn't matter; they'd turned into one mass being for now. He checked the phones over. "Signal, I need one with a signal," he said. "Anyone. Is this a dead zone?"

"Mine's not working," a shrill voice said.

"I don't have any bars," said another.

"No service," another murmured, "I guess we're not by any towers."

"No, I was just online."

"Shit! I don't have service!"

Their voices rose into a panic, one that Arthur wasn't certain that he could contain.

"Where is she?" Helen's voice cried above the others. "Where's my Dollymop?"

** ** ** **

When Eames came back around, he was upright. Or semi-upright, at least, seeing as he was bound to a chair. The train was moving. It was intensely hot where he was, and a lot louder than anywhere else on the train. The room was mostly dark, lit only by intermittent blue and orange glow.

Tubes, pistons, LEDs, and the sound and smell of metal on metal all combined to tell him that he was in the engine room. And if they'd gotten him in there, then it was likely that the whole train staff was under these people's thumbs by now.

Eames had been bound to many chairs before, so he figured he'd eventually deal with it this time. He might come away from this with a scar or two, but this situation was nothing terribly new to him.

Except for the sound of crying that he heard, dimly at first, beneath the noise of the engines.


"Mr. Eames?" the girl asked. "Are you all right?"

He focused in the semi-dark, and spotted her on the floor. She was upright, but cuffed to a pipe. Her eyes looked huge and terrified.

"I'm fine," he said. "Are you hurt?"

She sniffed. "No. I'm sorry I got caught. Arthur was falling. I thought I should get you but then you were falling too and they grabbed you. They have guns. I tried to run back but they saw that I saw and then they grabbed me." She trailed off and sobbed quietly before collecting herself. "I'm sorry if I screwed up your operation. I was just trying to help."

"That's all right," he said. It wasn't all right, but she couldn't have known that they were going to nab her too. He wanted to tell her that she should have minded her fucking business, that Arthur could take care of himself, but... "Did they hurt Arthur?" he asked instead. "Did you see what happened? Did he get back up?"

"I dunno," she said. "He fell but my Dad was there. He can help, he's..."

"A doctor, I know, yes." He tested his bonds, because there was always a chance. They were secure, real metal handcuffs, old school. His ankles were cuffed, too. "How long have we been here?"

"Umm, it feels like about ten minutes."

"Did they say anything?"

"No. Yes. A little. They said I would be their insurance. What does that mean?"

His heart sank into his stomach, which tightened the knot further. He chose his words carefully. "It means that they will likely use you as a pawn to get me to tell them information."

She started to cry a little, again. It grated on his nerves but he reminded himself to be patient. She was a young girl in a hostage situation, such as she'd probably seen in countless television shows and movies, which rarely ended well. He didn't want to tell her that it was worse in real life. She probably already got that.

"Let's just wait and see what they want," he said.

"Mr. Eames, I saw something else. They were talking to the conductor, too. Does that mean that he's one of them?"

He thought again about how easy it had been for their crew to board the train armed, not only with guns, but apparently with all sorts of goodies such as fast-acting toxins. "Could be," he said.

"Are we screwed?"

He didn't answer her.

The door squealed open, letting in a moment of light and cool air. Two silhouettes appeared, and then the door closed. The jacks in this hand – jacks he could probably handle. One of them hit a switch, and fluorescents flickered to life, casting their bland, unnatural light and banishing the shadows and glow. Michelle shielded her eyes.

Eames blinked a few times as Giles and Kenzie approached him. He looked up at them mildly when they loomed over him.

"You don't need her," he told them. "Let the sprog go; I'll tell you whatever you need to know. I can be fair."

Kenzie chuckled. "Honestly, Mr Eames, you are not in a position to barter."

"I realize that," he said. "But you are in a position to listen to reason."

Giles unholstered his gun, held it by the barrel and swung the grip. It caught him on temple with a crack that probably sounded worse than it felt. Really, that had been a warning tap – it still made him have to blink away the stars blooming in his eyes, though.

"Stop it!" Michelle shrieked. "Stop hitting him, you shit!"

Eames shook his head clear and blinked up at the two of them. "Are you doing that to upset her?" he asked. "That's just sadistic. Why is she here?"

"Insurance," Giles said. "We know you're dangerous and unpredictable when cornered. That's not flattery, it's just the truth. But if there's a civilian in the way, you're a bit easier to control."

"That's utter bullshit," Eames said. "I'm a criminal. You should know I don't care about..."

They were laughing at him before he was even finished speaking. "Fucking please," Kenzie said.

Then he crouched down beside Michelle and looked into her terrified face. "How old are you?" he asked.

Don't do anything stupid, Eames thought, staring at her. He tried to get her attention, so that he could at least give her a shake of the head, a warning not to be a fucking idiot.

She kicked Kenzie in the balls with the heel of her foot. It was a clumsy tap, she was in no position to give it any real strength and she was terrified and she might even have been aiming for his leg, but it was right to the balls and enough to topple him.

While Kenzie huffed and puffed and got to his knees again, Giles nearly fell over laughing. He kept laughing when Kenzie angrily crouched down again and grabbed Michelle by the hair.

"Hey!" Eames shouted, "get your fucking hands away from her." He couldn't help it; he knew it was futile but the sight of men putting their hands on scared little girls made him feel volcanic.

"You little pig," Kenzie said, "playing dirty like that." He pulled her head forward and then smacked it backwards into the pipe.

Eames launched himself and the entire chair across the room. He didn't even know how he did it. One second he was seated, and the next, his thighs were burning like they were under a brand, and he was on his side and Kenzie was on the floor next to him, a tangle of limbs. Eames struggled for something to use, to throw, to hit with. All he had free was his head, which he bashed into the back of Kenzie's skull.

When Kenzie turned around to grab him, to tussle with him, Eames used the only other weapon he had. Kenzie grabbed for his jaw. Eames sank his teeth into the fleshy part of his thumb and held the fuck on.

Kenzie screamed, wailed, smacked and punched at him, trying to push him off.

Something grabbed him from behind—had to be Giles--and yanked the chair. He felt it skidding across the room, his entire body with it. He tried to flip the chair around (thinking vaguely that Arthur would probably be able to but he wasn't limber enough) but succeeded only in turning it on its back – with Giles pinned underneath it.

"Fucking piece of trash!" Eames yelled, Kenzie's blood flying from his lips, still hot. "Come on over here and try that shit on an adult, you fucker, I'll rip the arse off of you, fucking coward!" He felt rabid, unhinged.

Giles succeeded in pushing the chair, and Eames, off of him. Eames's face met the floor of the engine room and he turned his face to the side, trying to get himself upright. He caught a glimpse of Michelle, her eyes burning bright in her pale face.

"You've done it, you've completely done it," he seethed. Hurting Arthur, hurting a little girl who had done nothing but be a stupid nosey parker tyke. "I'm going to end you, going to end you.

The door opened again. Eames put a stop to his raving – he finally identified that that's exactly what it was – and stared.

The fluorescents lit Dinclusin without shadow. His vivid eyes still looked wide and wet, his mouth a downturned curve of disapproval. A line of what looked like concern creased his brow as he closed the door behind him. He looked very fair in the white lights, his hair so blond it was nearly silver.

"What is going on in here?" he asked. His voice was stern, and directed to the two brothers. "What have you done?"

"They got out of hand, Jackie," Giles said. "I knew Eames would, but that little brat is far too forward."

"Good god," Dinclusin said. "What a mess."

Eames watched him approach, felt his back go rigid as some of the fight came back into him. Yet Dinclusin just kneeled beside him, unafraid, and turned the chair on its side.

"Darling," he said, "don't fight." Like a man handling a fractious dog, he reached his hand out slowly toward Eames's face. "Don't do anything rash. We need to talk. I'm not going to hurt you. You should know better. It breaks my heart that you don't know. That you'd think I could hurt you."

He breathed heavily, harshly, wanting to jerk his head away or make some kind of defensive move at the hand that was closing in on his space. To his own shock, he did neither. Dinclusin gently touched the side of his face, and with an even softer touch, slid his fingers over the spreading bruise from the butt of the gun. Then his slender, insistent fingers moved through his hair, caressing.

Eames couldn't understand how this felt so familiar. How it felt so safe.

"I'm sorry about this," Dinclusin murmured. "I told them not to get rough. They don't listen. I don't want you to be hurt. I just want you to remember, darling. I don't care that you stole from us, I don't care that you ran, I don't even care about what you destroyed. I want it back, yes. I want you back."

"I don't know," Eames said, furious at his own stammering, not understanding why the words wouldn't come. "I don't know, I don't know what you want."

"Shh, I'll show you everything," Dinclusin said, his fingers moving ceaselessly. "I'll show it to you. You'll be fine." He made a motion with his hand, and Kenzie took something out from behind one of the engines.

"Mr. Eames?" Michelle's shaking voice called, somewhat breaking his calm.

He shook his head, tried even to shake Jack's hand off, and looked at her. It was as if the world and everything in it came back.

"What is that?" she asked, looking at the case that Kenzie was handing to Jack. "Don't hurt him, I'll... I'll kick you again."

"Shush," Jack – no, not Jack, Dinclusin – said. It was directed either to the girl or to Eames, or maybe to both.

It was the PASIV that Jack was setting up, but there was no way for Eames to explain that to the kid. She would be afraid, when she saw. And the Fenderlyn brothers...

"Wait," Eames said, some semblance of coherence coming back to him. If Jack was telling the truth that he didn't want to hurt him to get this done—whatever this may be—then he would appeal to that. "Wait, just... I'll go under with you. I'll do what you want, or try to remember... whatever you're talking about. Don't leave those two topside with the girl. They hurt her before."

"They won't again," Jack said, giving the other two a stern warning glance.

"It's not enough. Let her go."

"No, pet." Jack's voice was filled with regret. "Can't grant you that. But hang on."

He backed off for a moment and pulled a small two-way radio from his belt. He pressed the button and said, "Ann? Come in, would you?"

Why he didn't use a cell phone, Eames had no idea. But the door opened a few seconds later, and Ann Dromelius slunk into the room, closing the door behind her.

"It's all taken care of," she said.

"Meaning what?" Eames said, feeling the fullness of anger again. "Meaning Arthur? If you want my cooperation you're going to have to..."

"No no no," Jack soothed, knowing better than to try to get handsy with him again, when he was like this. "There is no 'have to', not just now. Don't worry about Arthur, all right? Put him out of your mind for now. It's you and me. And a chaperone, so those two will keep to themselves."

"I'm supposed to trust her?" Eames said.

Jack reached for the PASIV device and pulled the wires free. "I'm afraid you must, darling. Not much else I can offer you."

"Bastard, you, I'm going to, you fucking..."

"Hush," Jack said as he slipped the cannula into first Eames's wrist, and then one into his own. "Just come down with me. We'll sort this out."

I'll drop you into limbo, Eames thought; I know how to do it and I'm free in my mind.

But then Jack pressed the button, and Eames forgot all about his notions of freedom.

** ** ** **

That's it for chapter seven!

And here here are some plotty-plot ideas that are coming my way. You guys, pick which one you think would work the best! OR. Maybe I can get my crap together and use most, or at least all of them!

[ profile] skyvehicle I think Eames would have had to actually steal something tangible from them, and by tangible it could be an idea.

[ profile] xkatchy But maybe the inception was BECAUSE Eames stole something from them? Either him or him as part of a group. And the inception was to cover up the theft? But it didn't work. And now they KNOW. Both about the theft and the cover up. And that just makes it worse

[ profile] gelbwax One of the top 5-star generals was corrupt?, and he pulled together a team to go into the other general's head and incept him into being corrupt as well. And it failed. And that's why Eames got blacklisted. HE WAS WORKING FOR THE BAD GUYS. But maybe the bad guy wasn't REALLY bad, just... in-theory bad. You know?

[ profile] osaki_nana_707 The inception could be extensive enough that they led him to believe that he's never met them, I guess. I mean, you did mention that it's easy to completely forget everything they've done 3 layers down. THIS MAKES SENSE.

[ profile] sparrow_hubris Maybe Ann and Dinclusin were this failed Inception's unknown teammates? A team that, like Cobb and Mal, developed extreme capabilities and situations due to over practice and experimentation. Maybe the mark was damaged somehow in the failed inception? And the two blame Eames for stealing their partner away (but are also latching on to their knowledge of him they've gained and punishing him according to his lifestyle.) INTERESTING. Now, I wonder who their partner might have been? I'm looking further into this.

[ profile] efcia Luckily I've read one of your answers, Tabi, the one with the idea of Arthur being the mark of failed inception and the only thing I can say it's YES. Yes, go for it! It would be AMAZING I'm sure about it. And then goes on to ask: but it leaves my with one serious question: whe Eames didn't recognize him as his mark? GOOD QUESTION. Maybe Eames hadn't met him yet, and didn't even see him before going under?

Anonymous said: i haven't read through the other suggestions for the whole Eames' past thing, but what do you think about putting in some of Dinclusin's past?

Anonymous: since youre talking about incepting Arthur, what if it they were trying to make him like the perfect machine for dreamsharing? And also, what do you think about putting in some of Dinclusin's past? COOL IDEAS! :D

What do you guys think? Could that be interesting?

Also, what else would you like to see if we go that route?

You lot overwhelmingly really want to see Eames get destroyed and actually rescue himself instead of having Arthur get destroyed and rescuing Eames. :D So if you think that Eames is getting off light so far? Wait. ^_^

8 - Don't Let Him Get Control...
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