With the amount of secrecy surrounding their investigations at Fischer-Morrow, none of the team have been able to post much. In light of Cobb’s death, Arthur decides that they’re going back to basics, to who they were before they’d ever stepped foot inside the offices of Fischer-Morrow.
“We’re going into the field,” he decides in the morning, when the four of them are sitting around the table, eating breakfast.
Ariadne is taking refuge at Arthur and Eames’ house because she doesn’t really know how to deal with Miles and his grief over Cobb’s death. Yusuf is with her, citing Eames’ earlier instruction to make sure they’re keeping an eye out for each other. Nobody says it, but it feels much safer when all four of them are together like this.
“You’re joking,” Eames says, putting his coffee mug down as he looks at Arthur. “It’s far too dangerous right now.”
“Like you’ve ever been scared off by the danger, Eames.” It’s only been a day since Cobb’s death and Arthur is well-aware of the fact that he looks like shit. The rest of the team is going to think that this is about Cobb somehow. It’s not. “Look, we have an entire day to kill while we wait for Fischer to put the plan into motion and I can’t just sit here and feel like shit for what Browning’s doing to us. First Miles gets attacked and then Cobb kills himself because of his dreams about Mal. I am not going to let him scare us.”
Ariadne takes a deep breath. “He’s got a point. And anyway, we haven’t really been out in zombie country since we started the job at Fischer-Morrow. The viewers have got to be missing it by now.”
“And if Browning sees that we’re fucking around in ghost towns crawling with the infected, he’s not going to suspect that we’re up to anything,” Arthur points out, looking directly at Eames.
The two of them stare at each other for a long moment before Eames sighs explosively, looking away and swearing under his breath. “Fine, Arthur. Fine.”
Arthur nods, glad that the first battle is over. “I want you to stay in the van with the others. If you take the bike, you’re going to be far too easy to attack out there. They could make it look like it’s just a stupid Irwin accident and we’re not going to risk that.”
Eames scowls. “And what’s the point of even going out into the field if the Irwin’s riding in the van where it’s nice and safe and boring?”
Arthur smiles, and does his best to hold onto the expression. “I never said that I’d be in the van with you.”
“No,” is Eames’ immediately reply. He shakes his head emphatically. “No, Arthur. You are not going to tell me not to take my bike because it’s too dangerous and then turn around and take yours. That doesn’t even make sense.”
“You’re an Irwin,” Arthur says simply. “I’m not. I don’t get the urge to find a whole horde of zombies to annoy. I know when to stay the hell away, and we need someone out there if we want footage that’s actually going to be half interesting. Between the two of us, I’ll be safer. You know it’s true.”
“Fuck you, Arthur,” Eames grumbles. “I hate when you’re right like this. Look—I have my conditions, alright? I need you to do a few things for me and if you disagree, I swear, I’m going to knock you out right here and no one’s going anywhere.”
Arthur’s lips twitch into a small smile. “Fine. I’ll wear however much body armour you want me to. I’ll even—”
“Use the run-flats,” Eames finishes for him, and his expression makes it clear that he is not going to budge on the matter.
Flat tyres have always been inconvenient, but when they became the difference between escaping a horde of zombies and being overwhelmed by them, people began developing run-flats. Tyres that continue working, even when they’re flat. The van has them, and Eames uses them on his bike. Arthur’s never liked them, because of how rough they make his bike on the road, but Eames has always stored an extra pair of tyres in the garage on the off-chance that Arthur will agree to use them.
“It’s safer,” Eames points out, when Arthur doesn’t say anything. “You know it is.”
“Fine,” Arthur sighs. He and Eames never ask much of each other. It’s how they know that the other is being serious when they do. “You go and put them on my bike while I get changed, okay?”
It isn’t long until they’re heading out. Arthur rides beside the van, staying in Eames’ field of vision the entire way there, and they stop in a quiet area. There are no zombies milling about just yet, but it’s far from civilisation and it’s only a matter of time.
“Yusuf, turn the cameras on,” Arthur says, scanning the area. It’s extremely quiet, with no birds or small animals to be heard. “Let’s go find something interesting, shall we?”
“Some zombies for you to lead on a merry chase?” Eames asks, chuckling. “I know how much you like doing that.”
A small pack of zombies finds them, drawn by the noise and the scent of fresh meat. They don’t look too old—they haven’t started to decay yet—but not fresh enough to pose any real threat. Arthur rides close enough to taunt them, driving past them before turning and looping around them on the other side. They try to follow him, but none of them are fast enough. Still, Arthur keeps a sharp eye on them—there are five of them and only one of him—and makes sure that his gun is in easy reach.
“They’re not going to like the fact that you’re teasing them,” Eames murmurs, sounding amused as Arthur circles around them again. “And you say I’m the only Irwin here.”
It’s true; they’re moaning louder, blackened fingers reaching towards him. Arthur rides a little closer, just to annoy them as he drives out of their reach again. Eames may be the Irwin, but that’s never stopped Arthur from enjoying the adrenaline rush.
“Um, guys?” Ariadne speaks up. “There’s a car behind us. I saw it a while back, when we were still near civilisation, but it disappeared for a while and now it’s back.”
Arthur frowns, glancing in its direction. “You think it’s following us?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. It’s best if we’re cautious, right? Especially now.”
“Grab the binoculars,” Eames says, and Arthur can hear the frown in his voice too. “They’re keeping a good distance from us, but I want you to see if you figure out…”
He trails off, remembering that his voice is on the live feed. Ariadne seems to understand anyway. Arthur turns his attention back to the zombies, riding past them once again, and that’s when two extremely bad things happen at once.
First, he sees the reason for the ominous silence around them: an approaching horde of zombies. The fresh ones lead the way, a savage hunger in their eyes. They’re heading straight for him.
Second, Ariadne shrieks, “Gun!” just before a loud shot rings out.
“Arthur!” Eames cries. It takes him a moment to realise that it’s not the van that’s being shot at. The bullet hits one of his tyres, and even though the run-flats are doing their job, the force of the impact sends him reeling.
The small pack of zombies that had been so easily thwarted earlier grows smarter now, with the approach of the rest of the horde. They advance on him as fast as they can, and Arthur realises that they’re in between him and the van.
“Arthur,” Eames says, even more urgently this time as another shot is fired. It misses him, but Arthur can hear Eames giving the van’s controls over to Ariadne. He hears the click of the sniper rifle Eames keeps stored in the van. He’d always wondered when Eames would ever use it, but the sound of a shot being fired, and Eames’ victorious, “Take that, you bastard,” tells him enough.
Now all Arthur needs to worry about are the zombies surrounding him. He revs his bike, firing at the ones closest to him as he rides past them. He can feel them grabbing at him, fingers scrabbling for purchase, and he forces himself to just keep going and not look back.
“Arthur, I’m going to do my best to cover you, but we need to get out of here,” Eames is shouting over the communication link. There are shots being fired and zombies dropping around him.
“You need to go,” Arthur replies. “You need to get out of here before they start swarming the van, too. Start driving, Ariadne, I’ll be right behind you.”
“No.” Eames’ voice is tinged with desperation. “Don’t be an idiot, Arthur, you won’t survive. We’re not leaving you behind!”
“Well, I’ll just have to prove you wrong and make it, won’t I?” Arthur laughs, but it comes out as a short, rough bark. “Now go. That’s a direct command from your superior, Ariadne.”
“Oh, fuck you for pulling rank,” she mutters, but she starts driving all the same. “There’s a hill just ahead of us, Arthur. You’ll climb it faster than any of them will. Just make the hill, and we’ll be fine. Then it’s just a matter of outrunning any that are stubborn enough to keep chasing us.”
“You hear that? You just need to make the hill,” Eames says, and under his breath—so quietly that he probably doesn’t realise he’s saying it at all—he adds, “Please make it, Arthur.”
There are too many zombies to fight through for Arthur to spare time or breath for a reply. He isn’t sure how he manages it, but the adrenaline takes over and it becomes a blur of flying bullets and flailing arms. Then the haze clears and he’s climbing the hill, engine revving loudly as he pushes it to its limits. The zombies are behind him, giving up their chase when they realise that he’s not worth the effort.
Yes, he hears inside his head, yes, yes yes, you made it, Arthur, I knew you would.
It’s Eames’ voice, he realises, coming back to himself. The van is driving ahead of him, but it’s going slow enough for him to catch up. All he needs to do is keep driving. He’s safe.
And then he looks down at himself, and his heart sinks.
Eames is still crowing praise in his earpiece, and Arthur can’t hide the way his voice trembles when he says, “Yusuf, cut the live feed.”
“What’s wrong?” all three of them ask at once.
“Are we recording?” Arthur asks as he approaches the van.
“No, Yusuf’s stopped it. What’s the matter—No. No.” Eames is at the window, shaking his head in denial when Arthur rides close enough to the van. “Tell me that none of that is your blood. Please.”
“I can’t remember,” Arthur says quietly. “They were grabbing at me and—I’m sorry. I’d better take a blood test.”
“No,” Eames says weakly, before pulling himself together. “We’ll stop by the side of the road, just ahead. We’re safe now.”
Arthur is the first to pull over, killing the engine of his bike. He approaches the van when it stops, and the door slides open. Eames is standing there, looking at Arthur.
He looks down at himself, grimacing. He’s covered in blood. He’s sure he can feel some on his face, but he doesn’t want to check, he’s too afraid to touch it, just in case. He looks back at Eames, at the tears in his eyes, and there’s no easy way to do this. “I need the test kit, Eames. Right beside the door, in that small box—”
“Shut up, I know where it is.” Eames sounds angry, he looks devastated, and he’s holding their emergency test kit in his hands. It’s the most expensive one they carry, and the most accurate. “Catch.”
Arthur fumbles, his hands shaking, and he hears the hitch in Eames’ breath. He looks up, and he feels the prick of tears in his eyes. He wonders if he’ll feel them dry as he turns. If he turns. He unwraps the kit, his shaking hands giving away his fear. “Eames. I need it to be you. Please.”
Eames makes a pained sound but nods, taking his gun out of its holster. He points it at Arthur. His voice is a hoarse whisper. “Take the test.”
Dropping his gaze back to the kit in his hands, Arthur begins to open it.
“Arthur—” Eames begins, cutting himself off and squeezing his eyes shut. He takes a deep breath, looking at Arthur again. “I love you. I should’ve told you every single day. Professionalism be damned, I love you.”
Arthur looks down, letting an errant tear escape. He holds Eames’ gaze as he says, “I love you. I love you so much.”
He places his hand in the kit, hissing sharply in pain as countless tiny needles bite into his skin. Good, he thinks. He still feels pain. Good.
Then, the lights start flashing, alternating between red and green, and Arthur holds his breath. His chest hurts, but he doubts that it has anything to do with his lack of oxygen.
“Remember the first time we kissed?“ Eames asks, with a reminiscent smile.
“The only time we kissed,“ Arthur replies, with a smile of his own.
“The day we realised we would be amazing together—“
“—but we decided not to risk it,“ Arthur finishes. “If I could redo that day…”
“Arthur,“ Eames says softly, as the lights slow down. It lingers a moment too long on red, and Eames whispers, “Please.”
Then, with an air of finality, it settles on green.
Eames sags against the van’s doorway, letting out a sob of relief. Arthur’s legs feel weak, but when Eames takes a step towards him, he quickly takes two steps back, keeping a safe distance between them.
“I’m still covered in blood,” he points out. “That’s a risk. I need to go home and get cleaned up.”
“Of course.” Eames looks at him with so much affection that it doesn’t even matter that they can’t touch. Then, before he goes back inside the van, he adds, “I told you it would be too dangerous, you bloody idiot.”
Arthur laughs as he returns to his bike. He rides close to the van the entire way home, and Eames waits before Arthur is safely inside before going to drop the others at Yusuf’s place. By the time he returns, Arthur has showered and decontaminated, and he’s sitting at his computer, having reassured people on their site’s forum that he’s still alive.
He’d thought, all this time, that Eames would be the one to die first. That Arthur would have to be the one left alive, alone. The thought of it being the other way around—of Eames being the one having to live without Arthur—hurts more than he can bear. He’s always been prepared for the soul-wrenching pain of having to live without his other half some day. The thought of Eames going through that much pain is wrong. It can’t happen. And Arthur isn’t going to sit around and let them waste their time any longer.
He hears the door close downstairs, and Eames’ familiar footsteps ascending the stairs. By the time Eames is in the doorway, Arthur is already standing up, waiting for him.
For a moment, they just stand there, watching each other. Then Eames says, “Arthur,” and they’re crossing the room to get to each other, their mouths crashing together in an artless kiss. It doesn’t matter that their noses are squashed against each other, or that they’re holding onto each other too tightly for comfort. They kiss and kiss, remembering the taste of each other’s mouths, memorising the way they feel in each other’s arms.
“I think,” Arthur murmurs when they pull apart, staying close enough that their noses brush against each other. He grins, licking his lips, loving the way Eames’ hands feel on his sides. “I think it’s about time we stopped being so stupid.”
“Couldn’t agree more,” Eames replies, and pulls him in for another kiss.
“Are you ready for this?” Arthur asks, sitting in front of his computer. Eames is sitting beside him, chin on Arthur’s shoulder and their fingers entwined.
“As ready as I can be,” Fischer answers. Arthur’s monitor shows a video feed direct from the camera hidden in Fischer’s tie-clip.
“Yusuf?” Arthur glances over his shoulder, to where Yusuf is sitting at his own work station.
“Picture quality is good,” Yusuf replies. The camera is his doing. Nobody hides recording devices quite like Yusuf does, and Ariadne had been the one to get the tie-clip to Fischer without being noticed.
“Okay, Robert,” Eames speaks up. “You know what to do. Just remember, everyone’s going to be watching, and we’ll be right here if you need us.”
“Right.” Fischer takes three deep breaths, and the camera shifts as he gets to his feet. “Okay. I’m going to his office now.”
The camera gets a glimpse of the folder that Robert picks up. It contains printouts of all the documents in the leak files that Arthur has put together.
There’s a draft post sitting open on Arthur’s secondary monitor. It’s a high priority post tagged to spread to all news sites, containing two very important things: the leak files in a compressed folder for anyone to download, and the live feed straight from Fischer’s camera. He double-checks everything and then finally nods, satisfied, and hits the post button.
“We’re live, Fischer. Good luck.”
They hear Fischer’s quiet exhale, and Eames squeezes Arthur’s hand gently.
Arthur can tell that Ariadne is watching them, and he raises an eyebrow in her direction, squeezing Eames’ hand in return. Ariadne grins at him, and he smiles back.
On the screen, Fischer approaches the door to Browning’s office, knocking before opening the door and letting himself in.
“Robert.” Browning looks and sounds genuinely surprised to see him. There are files spread across the desk and Browning sweeps them into a manila folder, putting it aside. “Can I help you with something?”
Fischer is silent for a moment, and just as Arthur begins to worry, he says, “I was just wondering how much I know about my own company.”
Browning laughs. “What kind of question is that? Everything that happens in this company needs your approval. You already know that.”
“Do I?” Fischer’s tone is cold. “Interesting.”
Arthur can see the way Browning immediately tenses. He’s sitting up properly, like he’s ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
“Be careful,” Arthur whispers to Fischer “You can’t get him worked up too soon. You need to make him admit to what he’s done.”
“Did you really think that I wouldn’t find out about your plans with the PASIV device?” Fischer asks angrily.
Browning’s expression remains utterly blank. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t lie to me!” Fischer brandishes the folder in his hand. “It’s all in here. You think you can just fool me?”
“What’s in the folder?” Browning asks, shaking his head. “I have no idea what you’re going on about, Robert. Why don’t you just sit down and we’ll—”
“Stop. Just stop. I have the blueprints right here. The old, classified military files and the way you’ve copied them and made them your own. You had access to the old files. You were in the military back when the PASIV was first being developed before the Rising—”
“Robert, Robert, Robert.” Browning holds his hands up as if to calm him. “If only military personnel could get their hands on those files, then how do you have them? I might have been involved back then, but that means nothing. Look at those files in your hand, Robert. Can you vouch for them? Can you find my name on any of the documents?”
Fischer pauses, not replying, and begins thumbing through the papers.
“Shit,” Arthur mutters. “Ariadne, check through the files to see if you can find Browning’s name anywhere. Fuck, if we can’t tie this to him and he keeps denying it…”
“Nothing so far,” Ariadne says, and they can tell that Fischer is growing agitated.
“You won’t find anything, no matter how hard you look,” Browning tells Fischer. “I wasn’t involved. It might be someone else in the company but Robert, I would never do something like this to you.”
Arthur shoots a worried looks at Eames, who frowns in thought before leaning towards the microphone.
“Robert, I have an idea, but I’ll warn you now that it’s going to be dangerous. Adjust your tie if you’ll hear me out.”
There’s a brief hesitation, and then the video feed shifts for a moment in reply. Arthur sighs in relief, leaning back into his chair as Eames whispers his instructions.
“You’re right,” Fischer says, with a sigh of relief. “It wasn’t you behind this. Your name isn’t anywhere in these documents.”
Browning smiles. “See? It was all just a big misunderstanding.”
“Exactly.” Fischer slips the documents into his folder and pats it. “Anyway, sorry for bothering you. I’ve got some work to do. I have to show the board these files, so I can catch whoever is really behind the project.”
“The PASIV can’t be allowed to exist in our world, Uncle Peter. If you read the files, you’d understand. I’ll just be going now…”
“No, Robert. I don’t think so.” Browning rises to his feet, a gun aimed right at Fischer.
“Oh,” Fischer says slowly. “Now the truth comes out.”
“You don’t know what you’re doing, Robert. You never did. That’s why I took the initiative. I’m not going to let this company die just because you’re too meek.” Browning walks around the desk and towards Fischer, gun still raised. “Even now—damn it, Robert, just think of how successful the PASIV would be! Everyone would want one, and they’d need to keep buying somnacin from us to keep dreaming. Don’t you see? It’s brilliant.”
“It’s sick. You can’t do that to people.”
“Do you really think you can stop me? Give me the folder, Robert.”
“Careful, now,” Eames murmurs. His hand has a death-grip on Arthur’s, but then Arthur is doing the same to him.
“You think this is the only copy I have?” Fischer asks. “You think that you can stop the truth from getting out by killing everyone who stands in your way? You made sure Miles would get attacked. You gave Cobb the PASIV that led to his suicide. There’s already blood on your hands.”
“Then I won’t mind a little more,” Browning replies. “Especially not if it gets you out of my way. I’ll take charge of Fischer-Morrow, and then I’ll be one of the most powerful men in the world.”
“Robert…” Eames warns.
Fischer snorts. “I’d like to see you try.”
Browning fires his gun, and Fischer ducks out of the way, drawing his own. Browning may have been trained by the military decades ago, but Fischer is a high-profile businessman and he’s been taught how to defend himself. He only has one shot before Browning starts firing at him again, and he needs to make it count.
Arthur holds his breath as he watches. There’s a loud bang and that’s it. The bullet goes right between Browning’s eyes, and he drops to the floor. There’s hardly any chance of Browning reanimating when his brain has been blown out, but Fischer shoots him again, just in case, before he sighs shakily.
He falls into one of the chairs and takes his tie-clip off, holding it in front of his face. He looks terrified and weary all at once. “It’s over, right?”
“It’s over,” Arthur confirms as Yusuf ends the live feed. “Thank you, Mr. Fischer. You did more than we had any right to ask from you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You helped me.”
“Security should be on their way now,” Eames informs him. Ariadne had tipped them off when Fischer had first gone to Browning’s office, as a safeguard.
“I’ll talk to you guys later, then. Thank you.”
The connection is turned off, and there’s a silence that follows. Arthur looks at his team members, and smiles.
“Job well done, guys. Let’s clear up. And never take a job like this again.”
“Amen,” Eames mutters. “Back to poking zombies with sticks for me. Gladly.”
“I need to take my equipment back to my place,” Yusuf says, clearing his throat and getting to his feet. “Ariadne will help me.”
“I will?” she asks, even though she’s grinning with a knowing look in her eyes.
“They’re going to have to work on their subtlety,” Eames murmurs, once he and Arthur are alone. “Though I most certainly appreciate their consideration. Now that I have you all to myself, I can hold you close just the way I want.”
“Like their presence stopped you,” Arthur chuckles as Eames’ arms wind around him. “You can’t keep your hands to yourself, even when you try.”
“Can you blame me?” Eames smirks. “And we do have the entire day to ourselves, now. I’m intending to do a lot more than hold you, Arthur.”
“I love the way you think.”
Eames laughs, kissing him. “Of course you do.”
The next time someone warns you not to date a colleague? Punch them in the face.
This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Yes, that’s right, Arthur and I are together. Properly. Finally. So you can all stop writing fanfiction.
Just kidding. I love the things you lot come up with. Thanks for the tips. ;)
—From Dream A Little Bigger, the blog of David Eames, October 6, 2040.
This job has not been a pleasant one, but I cannot say that it hasn’t been an important one.
I learned a lot. About myself, about the people around me, about the truth, and about realising that one fear outweighs another.
I am, as always, going to tell you the truth. Before the Fischer-Morrow job, I made a post about my relationship with Eames. About how I love him, with all that I have, but was too afraid to do anything about it.
That’s different, now. Sometimes, you just need to take a leap of faith. I did, and now I’m flying.
My life has changed irreversibly. The dead are dead, and nothing we can do or say will change that. I lost a friend and it will take a long time to recover from that.
But I have Eames. I have Eames, in a way I thought I never would, because I was too afraid.
I have Eames, and this one fact makes it much easier to face anything else that life wants to throw at me.
—From Paradox, the blog of Arthur Wolff, October 6, 2040.
Author's Note: Okay first of all, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to
Thank you to Azz, for being the best fishmum. Thank you to Seanan McGuire for being Seanan McGuire and also Mira Grant (and for writing the trilogy that this fusion is based on and the song lyrics used for its name).
Thank you to
And thank you, for reading this.