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You Know You're in Love When Reality is Finally Better Than Your Dreams

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~~~***~~~

There was a mess around him. Arthur hated messes, more to the point he hated cleaning them up. He had killed without consideration —everyone involved had to go. He hadn’t been able to let them live. Hadn’t wanted to either. They had tried to kill what was his.

There was blood on his waistcoat, pants, and his shoes. There was blood pooling around two bodies, well, three. Eames lay in the middle of it all. And Arthur was fucked. He’d done the number one thing he’d been taught not to do. Truthfully, he’d done the number one and number two things.

Don’t get caught by the humans. And they had seen exactly what he was before they had died.

Don't turn someone without their permission.

The first he had resolved on his own; hence the mess. The latter rule was only followed by less than half of their hidden population, but the Protectorate sometimes destroyed both creation and creator if caught. It was a lesson that no one lived through. Moreso now in the age of cellular phones and the internet. Plus, Arthur couldn't be above the law within the community. He would have to worry about that later.

There were sounds of a body wakening, shifting about. In this case it came with the sound of a bone or two popping back into place. Arthur grimaced, he hated those sounds and the pain it brought. Eames had been beaten and tortured to, well, death; there were probably going to be more popping sounds. He hadn't seen Eames in three weeks; not since they parted ways after spending several nights together in an LA hotel room after the Fischer job.

“Arthur,” was said so quietly that if he had been human he probably would have missed it.

Arthur turned his head to look at Eames. He knew what he looked like. Eyes of amber, blood probably still staining his lips and chin. He had needed the blood and been a little messy with the last one, which just added to everything else.

“Welcome back, Mr. Eames.”

Eames sat up. “I’m not dreaming am I.”

“Sadly, no.”

~~~***~~~

He was staring at Arthur. His Arthur, as much as Arthur had let him be his over the years. There were no guns in the other man’s hands. There was just blood staining them. In point of fact, Eames was positive there were very few surfaces that didn’t have blood on them.

“Darling,” he said, because the tension in the room was quite thick. “Care to explain?” How he was alive? Why Arthur’s eyes where a lovely shade of polished copper?

Arthur lifted an eyebrow at him. “God, you really are an artist at heart.”

Eames laughed. Of course he was. One didn’t become a thief and forger, especially in dreamshare, and not be an artist. That’s why most people who attempted forging failed. But it did give him pause, had he said all that aloud? Then again, right here right now, did it matter?

“Arthur,” he asked, “why am I not dead?”

He watched Arthur wipe the blood from his lips and chin with his finger before cleaning the blood off his finger with his tongue. Not an answer, Eames thought, but sort of explained things at the same time.

“I’m a vampire. So are you, now. I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not.”

“Arthur,” he gave an exasperated sigh and tossed Arthur’s words from more than a month ago back at him. “How about some specificity here?”

Arthur was still staring at him, though there was the barest hint of a smile forming. A smile that showed a hint of a fang. “I know you want to check your totem,” he said, turning around to give Eames privacy. “You do that, I need to rig this place to blow. No proof.”

Eames checked. Yep, still light, still spelled wrong, and the grooves in the design just a little deeper as he'd etched them out more. Cobb had been wrong about his ability to spell —how could he convincingly forge papers that passed inspection if he couldn't spell? And, why would he ever forge his own totem in an area he was known to frequent? Because if that wasn't asking for trouble then Eames didn't know what was. If Cobb had been more observant —hell, the man had missed that he was being followed— he would have noticed that every chip in that tiny casino had Mombasa spelled wrong. Two S’s instead of one. It was actually a joke amongst the regulars. In a dream the plastic felt unmodified —it was always heavier, a little smoother to the touch— and of course it was spelled correctly.

But he had been right, they weren’t dreaming. Arthur was a vampire, and somehow that made perfect sense to him.

Then Arthur was helping him from the warehouse. He hadn’t even noticed that he had no shoes or socks on until they were standing outside watching the warehouse burn. He was standing there in only the pants he’d had on when he had been taken.

“They wanted to know if we worked for Fischer-Morrow,” he told Arthur. “Shall we save that conversation for after the first?”

~~~***~~~

Arthur would rather talk about why Eames had been kidnapped and tortured. Instead he pulled towels out of the trunk of his 1967 Shelby Cobra and placed the newly acquired PASIV and small case of Somnacin the kidnappers had into his trunk.

He spread the towels over the seats and then helped Eames in. He was going to need to feed Eames again when he got home.

“This isn’t a replica, is it?”

“No,” he admitted. “I’m taking you to my place. I will explain everything there.”

He heard Eames sigh as he settled deeper into the seat. Eames dozed off which Arthur thought was for the best. It would give Eames time to finish healing.

Twenty minutes —2am traffic and maybe a speeding violation— later they were pulling into a garage behind a brownstone. Eames had woken when the car stopped moving and was already climbing out, bringing the towel with him. It was a quick walk through the tiny green space between the garage and the house and up a handful of stairs. He took the towels from Eames and dropped them in the basket in the mudroom. Then continued on into the kitchen, turning on the lights. He gestured for Eames to sit at the island.

Eames’ quiet was a little unnerving. He took a green bottle from his fridge, poured some of the liquid into a coffee mug and microwaved it for twenty seconds. “Drink this,” he said, placing the mug on the counter and turning the handle around for Eames. “It will help.”

“Is this,” Eames started to ask, but apparently he was just hungry enough that instinct took over and he drank the entire mug without further questions.

Arthur wrinkled his nose, something smelled. He turned his head slightly and sniffed at his shoulder. It was them. He had been messy. They reeked of blood and death. “I’m going to get you some clothes. The shower is upstairs. Take as long as you need. I’ll leave you clothes by the sink.”

With that Arthur pushed away from the kitchen counter and headed into the living room, disappearing down the stairs to the lower level. He needed to store his new PASIV and the Somnacin. Plus he needed a few minutes to himself. He could just use the shower in the guestroom.

~~~***~~~

Eames sniffed the air. Then sniffed his bare arm and shoulder. Holy hell, Arthur was right. That was what he had been smelling for the last half hour. He walked through the open concept house and up the set of stairs he found just past the kitchen. He noticed there was also a set of stairs leading down. The inside of the house had clearly been renovated but the classic details of the original structure had been left and mixed nicely with the modern touches and updates.

Upstairs seemed to be two rooms —an office and a very large master bedroom. Eames took in the room, it was very Arthur but with a little more character and color. More like Arthur’s ties than his suits. The large four-piece bathroom reminded Eames of a spa.

The shower, with the multi shower heads, felt fantastic. The hot water with the massaging shower head turned on felt even better. He stayed in until the water no longer ran brown while going down the drain. When he stepped out his bloody clothes were gone and there was a pair of jeans and a t-shirt on the counter. He recognized both as items he’d left behind after a job he’d pulled with Arthur.

On the counter next to the clothes was a toothbrush, comb, and an electric razor. Eames hadn’t even looked in the mirror when he walked into the bathroom. But now he noticed he had a week’s worth of beard and his eyes were just a little more green than before. The broken cheekbone was healed. He knew when he’d been taken he had been clean shaven. Had it really been a week? It seemed both longer and shorter. He knew they had tried to take him under again and again using their PASIV but his projections had torn them apart before they could get much of anything. That’s when they had started in on the physical torture. He knew he had blacked out at least once.

He shaved. Rooted through the drawers by the sink until he came up with a pair scissors and shortened his hair and then used the razor to shorten the sides more. He looked five years younger; felt it too. And then he noticed, the knee he had dislocated in the military, the bullet wound just under his shoulder from a job gone bad, none of it had actually ached much since he had met Arthur —now not at all.

Putting the scissors back and leaving the towels neatly folded, he headed back downstairs where he found Arthur sitting cross legged on the sofa. An Arthur in a t-shirt and faded jeans and no socks or shoes. Hair going every which way, and still slightly damp from his own shower. Eames really liked the look.

“Have a seat Eames,” Arthur began, quietly. “When I’m done, well, it will be your decision as to what happens next.”

Arthur didn’t wait for an answer or for him to get settled in the chair across from the sofa. “Let me tell you the story of Arthur Spier.”

~~~***~~~

In 1941 Arthur turned twenty, was in college, and Pearl Harbor was bombed. The Selective Training and Service Act changed the registration age from twenty-one to eighteen; he registered for military service as required. He continued on with college for almost a year before he received his draft papers. He died just outside of Paris towards the end of 1944.

“I always said you looked younger than you said.”

Arthur snorted. That was what Eames got out of that.

“I wouldn’t have guessed twenty-three though.”

“That war aged everyone.”

Arthur continued. In the middle of a firefight he wasn't even supposed to be at, he’d pulled a child from the street, taking a wound to the side that would have been fatal. That had been fatal in all honesty. A woman had knelt next to him and asked, “For your willingness to sacrifice, brave little boy, do you wish to live?”

Then there had been darkness and new life. He couldn’t exactly return home. He stayed in Paris with the woman for a few years —learning about vampires. Then he traveled, returning to the states when his parents were killed in a streetcar crash. He bought the old family brownstone before the city could claim it.

“Her name was Mallorie.”

“Mal? Dom’s Mal?”

Arthur shook his head. “Her ancestor or something. The child had been the only member of her family she had been able to save during the occupation. I do know the child was Mal's grandmother.”

“That’s why you stayed with Cobb through all that nonsense. Not for Cobb himself, but for Mal’s children.”

Arthur gave a slight shrug. There was Eames, showing that he was more than just the thief he wanted people to see. He knew that the inception would not have worked with just Cobb tossing out ideas. It had been Eames. “Yeah, I owed her that much.”

Eames scratched the back of his neck. “Why do I feel agitated all of a sudden?”

Arthur frowned. “Sorry, that’s me. Perhaps I should skip the next history lesson and move onto what’s more important and what I did to you.”

~~~***~~~

Eames didn’t think it was more important, but he didn’t think Arthur was willing to believe that right now either. Whatever Arthur had done, Arthur believed that Eames was going to blame him. Even leave. But Eames only left because he could tell when Arthur needed to be alone —now he knew mostly why. He’d also probably grasped more than Arthur thought he had, which wasn’t the Arthur he knew, the one who had multiple contingency plans on top of his already thought out plans.

He and Arthur were connected somehow. He already knew that. He’d always known that but now it was deeper. Arthur always seemed to have a vague idea where he was. Like tonight, coming to his rescue. Last he had heard Arthur had been in Hawaii and not Chicago. Yet, apparently Arthur had found him in a warehouse on the far outskirts of the city.

But he’d give this to Arthur. A get out of jail free card for whatever was bothering him and by kicking off this part of the conversation. “You turned me,” he stated. “Is that the right word for it and not just something out of a romance or horror novel?”

“Yes.” Arthur looked him in the eyes. “You were dying,” he said, then looked away. “I couldn’t let that happen.”

Eames snorted. “I’m not going to argue the fact that I’m still alive with you.” And he wasn’t and he knew that’s what Arthur was going on about in that head of his. “Let me guess,” Eames continued with more of a statement than a question. “You were supposed to ask first.”

“Yes.”

He waited nearly a minute to see if Arthur would continue, but the other man said nothing. Try another tactic, he thought. Thinking about how his knee hadn't really been bothering him for a while. How during sex he and Arthur could sometimes be a little overzealous and he was never sore hours later. “Have you been feeding off me during our little sexual escapades while on jobs together? Sneaking me your blood while you were at it?”

That got a reaction out of Arthur, even if it was just a glare. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Arthur sighed, leaning his head back against the large sofa cushion. “It was just to keep you healthy —maybe younger— and kind of let me know if you were alive.”

“Darling, you do care?” And younger was true, he looked more like he had when he'd met Arthur.

“Yes, Mr. Eames, I do. No matter how annoying you can be.”

Eames smirked. “I’m going to annoy you for as long as possible.” It had the opposite effect on Arthur than he had hoped.

Arthur turned back into business mode. “Your heart still beats, rather slowly, but it beats. We can speed it up if we need to pass as human. We still breathe to oxygenate our blood and muscles. You can walk in the daylight, obviously.” There was the condescension Arthur was known for. “You are faster, stronger than when you were human. Your senses are better. You need blood to live. It’s our primary food source. Our population has a police force called the Protectorate. If you leave a mess or expose us their job is to hunt you down and destroy you. Some of them are rather unpleasant.”

Eames stopped him with a question that he was positive he knew the answer to. “Were you in this Protectorate?”

When Arthur lifted his head his eyes were a deep red garnet that could almost pass as black. “You don’t leave the Protectorate, Eames, you just take holidays. Mallorie was Protectorate. My guess, so will you. I knowingly broke one of the rules I’m supposed to uphold when I saved you.”

“Arthur,” Eames said with a grin about his lips. “I would have said yes, if I had been alive enough to do so. I am saying yes. So, stop worrying your little head off. It’s unlike you and it’s making me question whether or not you are a pod person because you are not using that brain of yours.”

Arthur let out a laugh, which may have sounded slightly hysterical, but Eames would take it as a win.

“Now tell me what has you all freaked out in that still everso calm nature of yours.”

~~~***~~~

Arthur sighed. “There are two things.” He tried to weigh the two issues to see which one would be better or worse to know first. But, this was Eames and sometimes Arthur had problems predicting how Eames would react.

“Dreamshare might be a little harder for you now,” he started, then ran his fingers through his hair. “Or not possible at all. I've only met two other vampires who were in the business and neither could hold a dream. They mostly worked topside security until they got bored with it." Arthur didn't want that for Eames.

"I don’t need my totem to know I’m in a dream —projections don’t actually seem to breathe, no varying heartbeats, smells are not quite right. It’s like they’re missing the fullness, richness of life. And while I like coffee —and we eat and drink in dreams, just like topside— I never feel the need to feed in them. You have to remain human in a dream because you never know what the mark will do if you aren’t human.” Arthur paused for a second. “It’s not that I lack imagination. It’s just, if I relax, dream bigger as you like to tell me, then I forget to hold punches or in practice runs my projections will appear less than human —my projections are literally bloodsucking fiends that are quite heavily militarized and will tear intruders apart.”

Eames laughed. “Oh darling, I already knew that. I let you militarize me after all. But they seem to always ignore me; even when you are infuriated with me.”

“I, they like you.”

“You like me, you mean.”

“Yes, I like you.”

“A lot,” Eames pushed.

“Yes.”

Eames smirked slightly before adding, “By the way, your militarization worked, it kept them out.”

Arthur nodded; that was good to know. One less thing they would need to worry about tonight or tomorrow. Or, maybe it would be a good way to avoid the next part of the discussion.

Eames stretched his legs out and put his hands over his stomach, appearing to look quite relaxed. “Do get to the part that has you all knotted up; because I know you have at least two PASIV units now so it’s not like we can’t test how that will change. Plus, I am now quite flush since working for Saito. I don’t have to work; I’ll miss it, yes. But I can do other things for a while.”

Or not, Arthur thought as Eames finished off that issue on his own. “There’s only one cause for you to be able to feel my thoughts and vice versa. I’ve known for a while. It’s part of the reason I never let us stay together too long.”

“Ooh, the good part.”

“Eames,” Arthur retorted. “Stop being so difficult. It’s not as endearing as you think it is.”

Eames laughed. “Never, darling. And, of course it is.”

“God, you are infuriating.”

“But you love it.”

Arthur leaned his head back again. “Yes, I do,” he acknowledged. “We’re soulmates,” he added quietly. “And, we can no longer have our little sexual escapades, as you called them.”

~~~***~~~

Conceptually he understood what soulmates meant and the fact that Arthur was his made perfect sense to him. Arthur was the only person in or out of the business that he trusted with everything. Eames followed along with what Arthur was saying until that last bit. “What now?”

Arthur wasn’t looking at him. “I killed you without asking. Without explaining. I know you say you’re okay with it but it’s been, what, six hours? Not to mention the week you’ve been missing and tortured. I’m not going to bind us together without giving you time. It’s forever, Eames. You can’t take it back, but you can walk away right now. Without us finishing the bond you will be able to block me. I can teach you that; I think. I will be able to block you. We won’t be able to work together. The proximity would be bad and it would... it would just be bad for us to be close.”

Oh, absolutely not. Eames had all but chased Arthur for years. And as much as he hated the past several days it was neither the first time someone had tried to break into his mind, nor the first time he’d been beaten or tortured for information. If it had all finally led him to Arthur then he would art therapy away his issues later. For now he needed to get Arthur over whatever had him so conflicted. He got up from the chair and stalked over to Arthur faster than was humanly possible. He was going to have work on that later. “That’s not happening, Arthur.” He leaned into Arthur’s personal space and kissed him.

For a few seconds Arthur kissed him back and then he was pushed away. Eames forgot that Arthur had mentioned being stronger.

“No Eames.” Arthur stood, hands out to stop Eames or himself, Eames wasn't sure which. “There’s more. If we complete the bond,” Arthur started.

Eames ignored the palms up gesture and walked back into Arthur’s bubble. “Arthur, I don’t care. I get it. Linked together forever. You and me. Protectorate. I got it; and we can deal with what comes next later. You said it was my decision. The question is, do you not want me forever?”

Arthur seemed truly shocked by the question. “Yes. No." Arthur stopped and then started again. "Eames, I’ve been in love with you for years. I was afraid of telling you the truth about me.”

Now Eames was shocked. Arthur wasn’t afraid of much. Though Eames thought he now understood what was going on in Arthur's head. It was better to have what you could than be rejected forever. And Arthur's forever was a lot longer than most. But he wasn’t going to leave Arthur now that he could have him; and keep him. He just had to convince Arthur of that.

Eames grabbed the other man by the head and kissed him again. Letting all his thoughts be wide open —all focused on wanting Arthur and his beautiful copper eyes. Backing them up until he pushed Arthur onto the sofa. He was going to make Arthur understand; he was going to make him forget his argument. He was going to make Arthur his. The kiss turned into heavy petting and Eames moved the kiss to Arthur’s neck. He felt his canines grow and let instinct take over.

He tasted blood for only a second before it seemed to change. Arthur tasted wonderful; it was like tasting color and chai. He wasn’t ever letting that go.

Arthur shuddered and arched under him and Eames let go of his neck. When Eames glanced down there was no wound which he thought made sense. For now though, he needed more of Arthur. To feel him moving under him, above him, all of it.

~~~***~~~

Arthur woke, laying on his back with Eames’ hand resting on his chest and a soft puff of air as Eames occasionally breathed out. They’d moved to his bedroom, their bedroom, sometime in the early morning. Arthur had renovated his family home shortly after meeting Eames. The lower level was redesigned mostly with Eames in mind. Actually, the entire house had been renovated with just the two of them in mind.

This house wasn’t one of Arthur’s normal safe houses he kept in case a job went bad. As a matter of fact, in the dreamshare business it was widely believed that he hated Chicago and the midwest in general; and he never took jobs in the area. He had decided right after his first dreamshare job went bad that for him, there would be no dreamshare shenanigans in his own backyard. He had to wonder if that’s why the mercenaries had waited for Eames to have a layover in the area or if it was just a coincidence. Eames was supposed to have flown through Indianapolis —transferring him to Chicago should have made it harder for anyone to find him. It might have, if Arthur hadn’t marked Eames —taking and feeding him blood over the last several years. And, if Arthur hadn’t had contacts in the city; not all of whom were human.

“Darling, thoughts of murder later. Tea, first.”

“How about both later?”

“Even better.”

Arthur rolled slightly and pushed Eames to his back, before moving to straddle his soulmate. He leaned down and kissed Eames. Still not sure what he had been thinking when he thought he could just send Eames away.

He traced the swirls of Eames’ tattoos first with his finger then his tongue, moving from upper arm to shoulder to neck. Around the neck and down to the other arm. He felt Eames shiver beneath him but kept going. He moved back up again, this time stopping at Eames’ lips. He broke the kiss after a few seconds and smiled down at Eames. He had a thing for Eames’ tattoos.

Eames reached up and rubbed his thumb softly across one of his dimples; Eames was always fascinated by them.

“Only because you rarely smile.”

Arthur should have known Eames would be a quick study on the emotions to thoughts and words. “No, I only smile for you.”

He felt and saw Eames smile back at him. Then he was moving down Eames’ body and there was no more talking.

~~~***~~~

The sound of the doorbell was very surreal to Eames. He and Arthur had been sitting on the sofa watching a movie on the largest TV Eames had ever seen. It was the most relaxed he had been for a while. Arthur reached between the sofa cushion and arm and pulled out a Walther PPK.

Eames looked at Arthur questioningly. Arthur shrugged and moved to answer the door. All Eames got from Arthur was something that felt like better safe than sorry.

There was a tall, black haired girl standing there with his luggage and two boxes of wine. She was lovely to look at, her skin the color of burnt umber with a splash of rose gray mixed in. He saw Arthur look over at him, but what did he expect, he already knew that Eames thought in colors. The more vibrant brown eyes and lack of normal heartbeat told him she was a vampire. So girl could be a misnomer, he thought. There was something else tickling at the back of his senses too. The luggage he'd last seen at the Indianapolis airport right before he had been grabbed. He was happy to see it. The hidden compartment had passports, cash, and his Heckler & Koch P2000.

“Kat,” Arthur said, unexpectedly but not unwelcoming, tucking the gun into the back of his jeans.

Eames saw her smile widen when she saw him. “You thought I wouldn’t be the one to make the delivery when you bring a stranger home for the first time. In like ever.”

“Right.” Arthur sighed and opened the door all the way and then waved between them. “Katrina, Eames. Eames, Katrina.”

"Pleasure," Eames replied, offering her a charming smile. "Let me just grab my things while Arthur tries to be a better host."

There was a light sound of laughter. "Ooh, I like him already."

"Kat." There was warning in Arthur's tone.

Eames thought he heard a slight accent when Kat spoke again, but couldn't place it. "Don't get your knickers in a twist." She also easily lifted the two boxes and carried them into the kitchen. "I just mean you're not really a people person, Arthur. And, you did cause a little havoc and set a fire to get him back. Was it," and she dropped off the last part of the question at his look.

"It was not a community issue," Arthur answered, unpacking an entire wine box into the fridge. "It was personal and I sent a message."

"Oh sweetie, we all got that; even if it wasn't a community issue. You were not one bit subtle last week. It also reminded the community that this is your city," she glanced between him and Arthur before heading toward the front door. "Even more so now. We all like the safety that offers. And since you are back, and it looks like you are not going anywhere for awhile, I'm going on vacation. Two weeks. See ya."

Eames watched, fascinated by the entire exchange. She was out the door before Arthur could even object. "So?" he asked, when the front door closed behind her.

"Drink that," was Arthur's response, sliding over a warmed mug of blood. He tasted hints of caramel and malt. Arthur had explained that people tasted different to each vampire. Fresh would taste different to bottled, even if the donation was from the same individual. Fresh was better, but bottled worked almost as well. Especially with the way the community now preserved and packaged it.

"I can still feel your curiosity."

“Well,” he offered. “She did somehow find my luggage. Let me guess scent?”

Arthur shrugged. “Honestly, I stopped asking long ago how she finds things. But she's very good at it.”

Eames took another drink and kept pushing thoughts at Arthur. This was the best. He could get Arthur to talk without having to actually poke at him aloud. Jobs were going to be so much more exciting. “And?”

Arthur glared at him. He smiled and stared back.

"Fine."

~~~***~~~

Since he'd done the first small blood exchange five years ago that marked Eames as belonging to someone in the vampire community, Arthur was used to only getting random emotions —alive, happy, excited, in pain, etc— every now and then from Eames. Now though, it was more, and so much better. The feeling that he was missing something was gone; filled by Eames. He felt more than just moods but full emotions and expressions of thought; soon they would probably be able to have full conversations. Eames was going to use it to try and annoy him.

"Probably not as much as you think."

Arthur raised an eyebrow and waited for Eames to explain.

Eames grinned. "You had that look that said Eames and annoying. But truly, I don't like to be distracted on a job any more than you do."

Arthur must have really broadcasted disbelief because Eames quickly followed with, "Darling, you still work too much. You never remember to take a moment and breathe. Unless we were having sex, and even then a few hours later you were right back to work. Especially the last two years on the run with Cobb. And this last job, I thought you were going to kill him even before we all almost ended up in limbo."

Okay, Arthur thought, that was all probably true.

"Katrina is," Eames began, then went to, "Did you turn her?"

Arthur took a sip from his own mug. "I did not. She's actually older than I am; though I don't know by how much. Most tend not to ask how old you are as age doesn't necessarily mean strength or power. Even in the Protectorate. I met her in the sixties when I moved back here."

"Is she a Protectorate, like you?"

"Yes, but why do you ask?" Arthur was curious to know what had tipped Eames off.

Eames shrugged. "A feeling when I first saw her. That there was something more to her. Now that I know, I can see the same thing in you. I think I always saw it in you and just didn't understand it. You always read dangerous to me; even when I thought you were just a kid."

Arthur knew Eames had great intuition and he could expertly read people. It's part of what made him the best forger in dreamshare. He wondered if he could leave off the rest of the explanation. Kat had hinted at some things he was not ready to face yet.

"And?"

Damn, he should have known better. "I mentioned that Protectorates take holidays. This is true, in a manner of speaking. But, there's a hierarchy to us and when I came home the first time they all knew it. Mallorie failed to mention this and a few other tidbits of information. In fact, she and her great-great-what-have-you granddaughter, had that in common. Even when I'm not home, I'm still in charge. Kat is sort of my Lieutenant, if you will."

"And?"

"Damn it, Eames."

"Best to get it all out now, dearest, and then we can just enjoy each other."

Arthur took a moment to wash out the mugs and put them in the drain. "With a soulmate I'm stronger. I can already tell. Just like I can tell you inherited the Protectorate skills. Which I promise I will explain later."

Eames didn't even bat an eye. "Two are better than one. Now why are we leaving the other box of bottles out of the fridge?"

~~~***~~~

Eames wandered through the lower floor of Arthur’s, their house. It was going to take a little getting used to because he hadn’t had a real home since before he entered the military. And Arthur had made it clear it was theirs.

The stairs led down to an area that appeared to be split into two rooms. The one towards the back of the house was a small home gym. The other, at the front of the house, was an art studio filled with various supplies. One corner was set up with a sink for washing and drying brushes and paint jars. He loved it. And, he could already see a drawing in his mind, the house needed a few pieces of art to balance the neutral shades that Arthur favored.

The two rooms would be all anyone would see if they came down the stairs. But there was more, another entire room hidden beyond the gym. There were guns, knives, a couple of swords, four PASIV units, a rack filled with Somnacin, a wall filled with alcohol and wine from various years and countries. Computers and security equipment. There were drawers that contained money and passports —including his now. Plus a wine refrigerator filled with a dozen actual bottles of wine of varying ages and now a dozen green bottles of blood thanks to Kat's delivery.

Eames circled around the two cushioned, comfortable-looking, chaise lounges that were in the middle of the room. A small end-type table sitting between them with a PASIV unit on top. “Darling, how many PASIVs do you need?”

Arthur leaned against the hidden door frame. “I took Dom’s, he’s out of dreamshare. I made sure of that before I left California.” Arthur pushed off from the door frame. “Do you want to try?”

Eames nodded and sat down on one of the lounges. Dreamshare had been a large part of his life for the last couple of years; and how he had met Arthur. “Yeah. I need to know.” He pulled the IV infusion line toward him, attached the needle and inserted it above his wrist.

Arthur followed suit from other chair. “My dream first,” he said turning a dial, and then setting the timer. “Five minutes on top, for an hour down below. Agreed?”

“Agreed.”

Arthur pushed the infusion trigger on the PASIV and then they were standing in Grant Park near Buckingham Fountain.

“When is this?” Eames asked. He watched Arthur's projections —some dressed as if it was the forties, while others were dressed in the fashion of today. If the fountain hadn't looked so shiny and new he probably wouldn't have noticed the clothing.

“Circa 1941-ish. Right before I shipped out.”

Eames glanced around. He noticed the skyline was different, there were washed out images of the newer buildings. “So I can still go under, but you were right something feels just off enough that I know I’m dreaming.” He watched the projections, it wasn't that they had no heartbeats, it was that the rhythm was the same as Arthur's —probably would be the same as whoever the dreamer was. "I can still sense you some."

"We are just lucid dreaming and I'm three feet from you uptop. Though I've never dreamshared or taken a job with another vampire; so that's just a guess."

The projections ignored them as he and Arthur walked north down Columbus Drive and only paused briefly when he stopped to kiss Arthur before going on their imaginary way.

"I told you, they like you."

They made their way to the Cloud Gate, which was not 1940s-ish. "And if I build or change something in your dream?"

"I doubt anything will happen. They like you, even when you are annoying. I figured The Bean might entertain you," Arthur offered. "It is very shiny and reflective."

"Darling, I can feel the sarcasm, but it is true."

Eames walked through the center arch, and when he looked at the other side London was reflected there instead of Chicago. The projections all paused to look, their smiles maybe a little toothier, but none moved to attack.

He built them a coffee cart and table to sit at. No reaction.

"Now who's avoiding?" Arthur waved his hand and a four-panel wooden screen room divider appeared.

Eames sighed and stood from the table. He thought he might make an excellent extractor if he could no longer forge, but it wouldn't be nearly as fun. He slowly walked around the screen, eyes closed and just thought about the image and look he wanted. He didn't even check as he came around the other side.

"She's still not my type," Arthur told him as he inspected the blonde in the black mini dress from head to toe. He then smiled at Eames. And apparently Arthur's projections could be just as caustic as Arthur because they all paused for a second and offered him a round of applause before continuing on their way.

Eames started to call Arthur a name and then time ran out.

~~~***~~~

Arthur opened his eyes, and turned to look at Eames. He had been a little worried that Eames might not retain his ability to forge; and he knew how much that skill meant to him. There weren't many in dreamshare who could forge in the first place and even fewer who could do it to the degree and quality as Eames. He'd been relieved when it had worked and somehow that had translated to his projections offering Eames what amounted to a standing ovation. He would have been embarrassed if he hadn't been so happy. "You good?"

"Yes," Eames nodded and closed his eyes. "Now let's see if I can hold a dream."

Arthur reached over, turned the anchor dial and reset the timer before pushing the trigger.

They were standing on a mountain in a blizzard and everything around them was frozen in time as if someone had hit a pause button. He was not wearing mountain or snow gear and neither was Eames.

"Is this the third level from the Fischer job?"

Eames nodded. "This is not what I was planning," he answered, walking towards the fortress hospital. "I had wanted to, at some point, look over this scenario since I was the dreamer."

Arthur had been told this level had not gone as it was supposed to. He was guessing the snow storm was just the first part. "I guess your subconscious wanted to do it now. Was this level actually supposed to be in the middle of a frozen ice land?"

Eames kept hiking. They passed a crashed out snowmobile and several downed guards. "No, the complex is how Ariadne planned it, but the rest, not so much. I think it was a mixture of Cobb and Fischer. I might have been the dreamer, but we were in Fischer's mind —and nothing about his relationship with his father was going to be easy. I guess the frosty relationship ended up being depicted as a frozen tundra. But I think Cobb still knew too much of the plan. Carried too much of Mal with him as we went down each level."

They climbed to one of the building's balconies and stopped. Eames turned his back on the countryside and leaned against the railing. "Does Somnacin affect us differently than a normal human?"

"No," Arthur began. "No more than it impacts each user a little differently. While it is delivered via the bloodstream the PASIV is controlling the speed. And Somnacin is absorbed very easily and quickly by the body. Once delivery has stopped though we metabolize the remains of it faster, you will notice a faster recovery time and no side effects."

"Then why have Yusuf test the new version on you?"

Arthur wrapped his hands around the metal railing. "Who was I supposed to let him test it on? Cobb? With his Mal issues. Ariadne was too young and inexperienced. She would not have coped well and wouldn’t have understood what was normal or not. It wouldn’t have helped Yusuf. And I didn't want to damage our paycheck, so Saito was out."

"Me?"

"Absolutely not."

Eames grinned and moved to stand in front of him. He grasped the railing on either side of Arthur and then leaned in and kissed him. "Because I was human," he offered, after breaking the kiss. "Looking back I can see each time you stepped in front of me. But you can stop now."

"Yes, well, I've been told I can be a bit possessive. You are my soulmate, Eames, we live and die together now." Arthur meant that. If something happened to Eames now, Arthur would burn those responsible to the ground. It would take the other Protectorates killing him before he would stop. And he would take that death if it meant being with Eames again.

Eames kissed him again and then turned back to the business at hand; the timer was running down. He watched as Eames started removing layers from the dream. All the trees, the side of a building. Then he just rewound the scene and hit play. They had a clear view of everything from the moment the third level started. Arthur had only done this once or twice, but Eames was all about the visuals, and the ability to replay what he had dreamed seemed to come easily to him.

He saw the moment when Cobb fell down the rabbit hole. Just like with the Cobol job. Mal's appearance had sunk this level before it had gotten too far. Eames was holding a walkie talkie and he could hear Ariadne telling Cobb to take the shot. To do his job. Over and over again even as they moved inside and were standing over Fischer's body.

Eames must have gotten what he was looking for because the entire dream changed around them and they were then standing in front of A Sunday on La Grande Jatte which Arthur knew hung on the second floor of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Here Eames' projections were milling around like museum guests. Chatting quietly, pointing at the art, sitting on a bench taking it all in. Some glanced their way when Eames took his hand, but none attacked.

Like in his own dream the projections were reacting to them as if they were a singular unit; which Arthur surmised was true. Soulmates, at least to a vampire, were the other half of themselves.

"I always liked this painting; the madness and dedication to finish something that from afar looks so simple but up close so very complicated."

Arthur laughed and grabbed Eames by the shirt, dragging him closer. Kissing him until time ran out. Eames’ projections continued to pay no attention to them.

~~~***~~~

Eames spent the next week alternating between drawing and painting; and having sex with Arthur. As well as adjusting to being a vampire. Arthur made him workout on the heavy duty equipment in the gym. He could bench press almost twice what he could when he was human. He’d been in decent shape before but he figured if he kept to the workout he’d look and feel like he did when he was twenty-five.

The charcoal drawing he was putting the final touches on was of Arthur sitting cross-legged on the couch in jeans and a t-shirt; his hair wild looking. There were just hints of color in the jeans and eyes. He set it aside and went back to the acrylic inspired by the dream he had shared with Arthur.

He was trying to avoid thinking about the previous night because then he would get no work done and he wanted to finish the painting. But last night, it was the first time they had left the house since he had been turned. Arthur took him to a dance club where he danced with Arthur. And who knew Arthur could be that free. It was like there was the Arthur most humans saw and then the Arthur he got to see. He loved both sides but he highly doubted Arthur would ruin one of his bespoke suits to rub against him in a sweaty hot dance club.

Eames shifted on the stool ever so slightly; not wanting to ruin the painting. But he couldn't get last night out of his mind. He had learned to feed from a human at the club. Where he also learned he was very much the jealous type when he watched Arthur feed from a twenty-something, goth wannabe. But he learned to feed, how to make it enjoyable for the donor, and how to make them forget they had been a vampire’s snack. A handy bit of vampire hocus pocus that worked on the majority of humans.

Then he might have come home and reminded Arthur who his soulmate was. Or maybe it was that Arthur reminded him. Either way the rest of the night had been wonderfully amorous. And something they would hopefully do again. And again.

He moved the brush. A light stroke here, a fine line there, and got lost in the painting again. Until sometime later when he felt and heard Arthur approach.

“I love this one,” Arthur confided, coming further into the studio. “It’s very us. It will look at home over the sofa.”

Eames had to agree on both sentiments. It would look fantastic over the sofa, and he wasn’t too vain to admit that. The painting was of the Cloud Gate, a couple —clearly he and Arthur, at least to him— an artist's take on the Chicago skyline with a sunset behind it, but the reflection in The Bean itself was of London. At one edge of The Bean, Navy Pier’s Centennial Wheel bled into the London Eye.

Arthur sat down on the second stool in the studio. “You done for the day?”

“I can be,” Eames offered, turning on his own stool to look at Arthur. He was losing the sunlight that filtered through the narrow hopper windows and didn't feel like painting with the overhead lights on. “What’s on your mind?”

“You mentioned the men who took you asked if you worked for Fischer-Morrow. I went back through my records from the Fischer job, did some more digging, and I found something.”

Eames nodded and went to the sink to quickly clean the brushes he had been using, reshaping the the bristles before leaving them to dry. He knew Arthur had been upstairs in the office, exploring interesting new ways to acquire files from systems that were not his. Eames could never handle that type of work; he just wasn’t analytical enough for it, but Arthur, seemed to love it. He could be just as deadly with his computer as he could be with his hands or a gun.

“You don’t like what you found, do you?” And Eames didn’t need the growing bond between them to tell him that.

“No.”

“Let's go upstairs,” Eames suggested. “I could use a cup of tea.”

~~~***~~~

Arthur added water to the electric tea kettle, before setting up the French press so he could have coffee while Eames measured out leaves into a tea ball and gently dropping it into his teapot with the chain draped over the side.

Neither spoke until after everything was set to steeping. Arthur pushed it all across the island so he and Eames could sit.

"There are only a few extractors who were actually trained by the military to place any type of sub-security. Mainly because it was not as easy as it sounded and it was harder, for a normal —non-dreamsharer— to grasp the concept of controlling their thoughts when their mind was being invaded." Arthur had come to realize that it was really the last part people had the most issues with; it sounded too scifi to be real.

"And half of those who can place the security, won't take a job to do it. There are even less who can militarize sub-security. There's not a big payout and it can be time consuming." Sub-security could be anything from teaching a person to put important information into a vault within their mind to adding armed guards to watch over it to having what amounted to mercenaries protecting their thoughts. "There are a handful of inept extractors who sell sub-security training as well but that's often riddled with holes."

"You are not a known extractor," commented Eames. "Neither am I really. Plus, I have no training or want to do sub-security. I leave the tedious stuff to those of you who enjoy it."

Arthur thought Eames would make a brilliant extractor. On two different jobs, he had watched Eames smoothly step in and get the information when the actual extractor had been pushed from the dream.

But Arthur acknowledged Eames' comment with a nod. He, himself, was not a known extractor in dreamshare. Which just reiterated to him how most people in the business didn't know what a pointman was supposed to do besides all the research. Outside of forging and chemist, Arthur could do everyone's job. And, 99% of all jobs did not need a private chemist for a specialized mix. Arthur had to be able to understand each person's role on the job to plan for contingencies; especially if he had to replace or step into a role should someone leave the job. It helped that Arthur was very organized and tried to be as thorough as possible.

"With the exception of your militarization, I don't do sub-security. I really am not a people person and I have very little patience to handle a civilian. Also, you didn't seem to react to the fact that my sub-security were a little more vicious than normal. Most importantly, I wasn't trusting yours to anyone but myself." He turned the French press around, willing it to steep faster. Then moved his hands away, not wanting to destroy the press as he was still quite pissed off with what he had found.

Eames leaned over and kissed him. A nice deep, mind-blowing kiss that easily distracted him until the timer went off.

Arthur poured himself a cup of coffee and allowed himself a few sips before he continued. “I know why the Mr. Charles gambit worked this time and failed so horribly the first time Cobb tried it.”

Eames dunked the tea ball a couple of times and then pulled it from the pot altogether. “I get the feeling I’m not going to like this either.”

“Cobb lied.” Arthur couldn't call him Dom anymore; couldn't even think the other man was or had ever been his friend. Even after Arthur had stayed with him for most of this past year; not to mention the years before. Arthur could forgive a lot, but not this. Cobb could have gotten five other people killed because of his lies and selfishness. Without care of what would happen to Phillipa and James should their father wind up in what amounted to a coma. Arthur was pissed.

“That’s not news, darling. The entire Fischer job was riddled with them.”

“Worse than that,” Arthur all but growled. “Cobb militarized Robert Fischer. He was the one who did the sub-security. And didn’t tell me. Didn’t tell anyone. That's why I couldn't find records for it and why the first dream layer went so bad so fast. Cobb did it as a side job while working another job. Mr. Charles was probably the name he gave himself while under in the training sessions with Fischer. And my guess, just from what I've been able to find, the reason Fischer didn't recognize Cobb was because they did the training with Fischer already asleep. That idiot Nash, was the frontman; he explained everything topside while Cobb worked in the dreams. Which tells me Cobb had just enough sense to know something was truly wrong with Mal and didn't want to admit it to anyone. I was in New York at the time and available, but he didn’t call. Only Fischer's subconscious would recognize Cobb; and as Mr. Charles.” And wasn't that just a lot to take in?

"Apologies, I mustn't have heard you correctly."

Arthur didn't say anything until he finished his first cup of coffee. Then he got up, grabbed a bottle of blood, filled his mug about a third full and filled the rest with coffee. Drank that too. "Three weeks before Mal jumped, so after the whole limbo episode when he should have been staying home with her and the kids —and Ariadne might have let it slip, that Cobb had suspected there was something wrong with Mal before she jumped. But instead of staying home, Cobb flew to Toronto. Supposedly just for the Hellaman job. Cobb got paid ten thousand dollars to design a single level dream. That same week Peter Browning and Robert Fischer were in Toronto. Browning's private account shows a twenty-five thousand dollar bank transfer to a new account in the name of PJ Stephens. There is a bill of sale for a piece of art attached to the bank draft. That statue is apparently standing in the lobby of their Toronto office. The money in that account was then transferred to a Paris bank two months after Mal died. I found records in an old private email account he and Mal used for their dreamshare business before the incident."

"Shit." Eames put his mug down with a little more force than required, but Arthur couldn’t fault him.

"Yeah. My guess is Cobb thought he could hold off the security just by being there, but Mal's train interrupted that on the first level. It's why the second level worked; security didn't get bad until after we sent Fischer down to three and I was alone on two."

"Right, and Mal's shade was on the third level because those projections were going after everyone but Cobb. Basically, he threw you under the bus, or train as the case was, when there was no record of Fischer having sub-security." This time Eames voice was very growly and if this hadn't been as serious a conversation as it was, Arthur would have enjoyed the feelings that brought up in him. "He probably would have never mentioned the change in the Somnacin if Saito hadn't been shot. I know Yusuf wouldn't have. All of which impacted on you being able to successfully do your job."

Arthur shrugged. It had, but there wasn't much he could do about it now. The house alarm indicating someone human height was moving around the backyard cut the rest of the conversation short. It also managed to piss Arthur off even more than he already was.

~~~***~~~

Eames now knew where all the guns in the house were located. That there were alarms and motion detectors around the house and on all external doors and windows. They even had battery backup, because this was Arthur. The garage and backyard had detectors as well. The tiny front yard and stoop had a trip detector actually up on the stoop, but it was kept off when Arthur was home — he didn't want the mail or delivery person setting it off.

So when the alarm went off Eames grabbed the gun that was kept secured under the island's counter. The back door in the mudroom slammed inward hard enough to pop off the top and middle hinge and take part of the door mount with it. Clearly vampire. Lack of a regular heartbeat confirmed that suspicion. Eames shot the first intruder in the head as he came around the corner into the kitchen. And he was glad Arthur had spent the extra money to soundproof the house.

Arthur had explained a lot of things over the last few days. It was done in chunks, probably trying not to overwhelm him. Eames had been grateful because it had allowed him to work through things at his own pace. Especially the part where he was now on the right side of the law for their small community. Something he hadn’t been on since his early days in the military.

A shot to the head stopped a vampire, but did not kill it. The wound would heal; it just wasn’t speedy. But it was a good way to put one down if you wanted to be able to question it later. A shot to the heart would slow a vampire down because their hearts still beat, but the wound would heal quicker unless something was left lodged in place —which is where the myth of a stake to the heart came from. Other body shots were annoying and depending on how often the vampire fed, they could heal almost immediately. A vampire, like a human, was dead if their head became separated from their shoulders. Bursting into ash and flame wasn’t just part of lore.

A Protectorate healed even faster. They were the protectors of their community from both inside and outside forces. Their eyes darkened, their fingers could become almost claw-like, and their teeth almost animalistic when they let their abilities out. It had explained all the blood at the warehouse. Arthur had let himself be what he was. And Eames was seeing it for himself now. Thankfully it was mostly in the mudroom and backyard. But it was violently beautiful; and Arthur was very much in control the entire time. Their five attackers had never stood a chance.

Eames pointed his gun at a second vampire who had a rather large gaping wound in her side. "You should just stay put and be quiet," he scolded. Though the way the vampire had just dropped to the ground and stopped moving must have meant it came off as more of a command —another Protectorate perk.

Depending on how things went they would have at least two to question. Arthur dispatched the last, so it was only going to be two. His soulmate was very angry. And Eames rather liked the look when it wasn’t aimed at him.

Their yard had a sprinkling of ash across it. It had looked a bit like fireflies before it settled and hopefully that was all the neighbors had seen.

"I do so love to see you work," Eames put forth, walking up to Arthur. He could see how a writer could turn truth into fiction just by seeing an attack such as this. "Please don't eviscerate me, darling, but I am going to kiss you now."

Eames ignored the low growl and leaned in to kiss Arthur, only pausing to lick the blood from Arthur’s lips. He felt Arthur relax against him, the extra teeth disappearing back where they hid. The claws that had been resting against his neck reformed back into long, capable fingers that rubbed gentle circles into Eames’ neck. He could still feel the anger but it was now tempered with a touch of lust.

He broke the kiss. They had been lucky with the neighbors so far but they shouldn’t press their luck.

“Get up,” Eames ordered the female intruder. “Walk.” When they were inside the house and the back door, righted and closed as much as it could be, he ordered her to sit next to her friend on the floor.

He took the lead because Arthur was just as likely to rip her head off as he was to question her. He was rather finicky about messes and the mudroom was a bloody mess.

“You really only have one option if you want to live, and that is to talk,” Eames offered as he squatted down to look the woman in the eyes. He used the gun that was still in his hand to make his point. “I can shoot you a couple of times. It will, of course hurt, even if you do heal. The mess will make Arthur there angry again which probably means I will be sweeping your ashes out the back door your friend there,” he pointed to the man who had yet to stir, “knocked off its hinges.” Eames tapped the gun on her knee to make sure he kept her attention. “Or I could just let Arthur finish what he started. The results are the same for me though,” he added as an option. “I mean, we do still have your friend there.”

The woman tried to back away. “What’s wrong with your eyes? What are you? He told us you were a vampire hunter who had been run out of town. That you were here to destroy us. He didn’t mention there were two of you! What are you?”

“He who?”

“Our Master.”

Eames looked over his shoulder at Arthur. “Seriously?”

~~~***~~~

Arthur growled. “Who? Name.”

The woman looked confused. “He has no name,” she all but sobbed. “He is the Master. To go against him is to go against the Reverence. For we all belong to him. Those who stand against him shall be destroyed. We will embrace the world and the world shall kneel before our Master.”

“Great, a vampire who made groupies.”

He felt the laughter swell in Eames before the first sound was made. “Darling,” Eames grinned up at him. “I do so love your sense of humor.”

“What is your name?”

“I have no name. We are all the Reverence.”

Arthur tried another question. “Where do you live?”

“With the Master.”

Eames gave him a look that clearly said to let him try. He waved his hand as if to say whatever.

Eames tried another tactic. “Where does your Master live?

She named some suburb and Eames glanced over at him to see if it was a real place. “It’s somewhere outside of Peoria, I think. Maybe three hours south of here.”

“I will take your word for that,” Eames gave him another look before turning back to the girl. “And what does he call you when he needs to get your attention?”

“Nightly.”

“And Nightly, why does your Master want Arthur dead?”

“Because he hunts our kind. All hunters must be destroyed. Our Master felt his return to the area and feared for the safety of the weak in the Reverence. They are easy targets for human hunters. He called us forth, his devoted, to remove the foul human for he has no place in our future. The Reverence must be protected.”

“Stay,” Eames ordered. Nightly shrinked back in herself and when Eames turned around Arthur noticed his soulmate’s eyes were a deep, dark rich red. Arthur thought the eyes were very much Eames.

“Darling, you failed to mention vampire cults.”

“Fucking Twilight.” Arthur sighed. He had failed to mention the cults —because they were rare and because there were idiots even in the vampire community and he tried to forget they existed. Apparently it wasn’t going to work this time. What he wanted to know was what Nightly meant when she said that this master felt his return. The last Arthur knew it was only those in Chicago.

He walked into the kitchen and picked up his cellphone, dialing a number. “Katrina,” he snapped, a little more angrily than he meant to. “When you said you reminded the community that this is your city, could you please define community and city?” Arthur listened. And listened. “Yes, I see. Thank you. Do you know anything about the community in and around Peoria? No, just a small cult problem. I’ll tell you when you get back. Yes, fine, I will call them if it gets bigger. No, don’t come back. Enjoy your holiday. I owe you that much.”

Arthur would have pitched the cell phone across the room but (a) it would have been childish and (b) Eames took it from before he could. “So you heard?”

Eames gave him a look. “Yes, dearest Arthur, you are apparently the scariest person in all of the midwest and in charge of it all.”

“I was scary before being soulmated.”

“True, but I’ve put you over the top.” Eames winked

“Eames,” Arthur hissed, but couldn’t stop himself from smiling. Eames seemed to know how to annoy him and make him smile at the same time.

The sound of movement had them turning back to the mudroom. The male vampire was finally waking up. “Maybe he’ll have useful information?”

He didn’t. He didn’t even give them his name. Arthur took both vampires fingerprints and then briefly left Eames alone with them to run the prints in his home office. He also took Katrina’s suggestion and called the other two Protectorates that lived in the area.

An hour later, Arthur stopped Eames from shooting Ian and Molly who had come through the front door without knocking. “Always a warm welcome around here,” Ian commented, seemingly unconcerned about the gun aimed at his head.

“Maybe if you ever knocked," Arthur stated, even knowing it was never going to happen. "That wouldn't continue to happen. Eames, Ian and Molly Doyle.”

"Where's the fun in that," Ian laughed. Ian was about their height with tan skin as if he spent time outside, blondish-brown hair, and dark crystal green eyes. Molly, was shorter, blonde hair, and her eyes were a brighter green. They had been married ever since Arthur had known them.

Arthur paused. "There is a greater possibility that Eames might actually shoot you."

Eames shrugged, but lowered the gun. “So you did take Katrina’s suggestion.”

Arthur was all about planning and he knew that he and Eames alone might not be enough. “Because I don’t know what we’ll be walking into,” he admitted. There could be dozens of vampires and humans being fed on. The vampires could all be willing participates or some being held against their will. He couldn’t just go in and destroy everything, no matter how much he wanted to.

“Our other two visitors in the mudroom are Shelly Travers and Marcus Cohen. Until two years ago Shelly was a student at the University of Illinois.” Arthur had found emails where she had told her parents that she was quitting college and moving in with her boyfriend. He had then looked into police records for missing persons. Her parents had filed a report but Shelly had been twenty-one and there didn't look like foul play. She was still listed as missing and hadn’t contacted anyone from her old life since.

Arthur continued, “Marcus liked drugs, dealing, and beating people up.” This master had turned some muscle who didn’t care about hurting innocents.

“Got a plan boss?” Ian asked.

“Seriously, have you met Arthur?”

~~~***~~~

Eames was able to get a little more information from Shelly. But the conversation had not been easy. With each question he had to try several approaches. He asked how many in the Reverence and Shelly would say something like “there are hundreds.” He asked how many she had seen and she would say “the service room held dozens of her brothers and sisters.” And Eames didn’t want to know what the service room meant. He had gotten that the number of sisters was at least twice the number of brothers.

"That does seem the norm," Molly verified.

Arthur turned to Ian. "Did you bring what I asked?"

"Yep."

"Then as human as possible," Arthur told Molly, "do it."

Eames heard the change in heartbeats. Molly's sped up as she walked through the dining room and kitchen and into the mudroom. "You're free to go," he heard Molly tell them. "Don't come back to Chicago."

The two cult members said nothing as Molly opened the backdoor and let them go. Ian walked past he and Arthur at that point. "I brought the stuff to fix your door too. Let's get that done and then we can follow them. Wouldn't want anyone else barging in here."

Molly chimed in with something more useful, "We also put a tracker on the car that was blocking your garage, which they just left in. So go us."

Ian had brought tracker dots, which Eames hadn't seen since he left Special Operations. All three dots were clustered together on Ian's phone screen. He handed the phone over to Eames and left out the front door only to return minutes later through the garage with tools.

Eames was impressed. Ian had the door fixed and looking like new in no time. Apparently Ian passed his time as a carpenter and was quite good at it. Eames was betting that the handmade tables and racks down in his studio had been made by Ian.

The dots were still all headed south on I-55. Eames listened to Arthur's plan and then like always, poked at it. He could see and feel Arthur's annoyance, but now he could also feel Arthur's delight at the challenge. Together they made a plan.

It started with Molly being dressed appropriately for the role of member and then she had just walked onto the estate and no one paid her any special attention. She was just another sister amongst the dozens there. She reported back what she saw as she moved through the building over both the communication device and camera she wore.

Eames had seen a lot in his life, but Molly had spotted Shelly in a large ballroom-like room that was covered in mattresses and pillows and no one was wearing clothes. It appeared to be a very large orgy filled with humans and vampires. Though by the time they got there most of the humans had been bled dry.

The service room was set up like a some kind of receiving room: rows of chairs, small stage, podium, and throne. Molly had stood at the back of the room as a man most would say was quite handsome and very charismatic preached to the crowded room about the evils of humans and how the Revenant would cleanse them all. How only a few precious select would be welcomed into the Revenant and the rest would be the herd that kept them fed. Even Eames could tell there would be no saving anyone in the room.

When he and Arthur disrupted the service it was like some switch had been flipped. Everyone stopped moving for a moment and then all hell broke loose when the master ordered them to attack.

Most of the vampires had no training. It was really about sheer numbers. He took out the first few with his gun before switching to the double-edged xiphos-styled short sword that Arthur had given him. He had learned that Ian was apparently quite skilled at bladesmithing as well. Eames, however, was going to have to practice with a sword after this —knife fighting skills he had learned in the military, but the sword was a bit different.

He had always thought that he and Arthur fought well side by side. Now it seemed it was even smoother. They could sense the other’s intentions and moves. They moved as a single unit even when apart. Eames wasn't sure how long it took, but soon there were only a handful of vampires left and the one they called master.

Eames didn't even try to stop Arthur. He could feel his soulmate's rage and just let him move through the rest until he was standing face-to-face with the cult's master. Arthur had tilted his head slightly and said "Judgement rendered" as his sword cut through the master's neck.

Then it was over. Some candles, a little gasoline, the cults weapons, and an application of a little C4 and there wouldn't be a lot for the police to recover.

This was Arthur's second fire to destroy evidence in less than two weeks. Eames figured he might have to have a little chat with Arthur about his inclination toward fire and C4 to solve problems. Though, the explosion had sort of been beautiful from afar.

No one said much on the drive back. Arthur thanked Ian and Molly before sending them home. Molly had told them that no thanks were needed before she kissed them both on the cheek while Ian just waved bye.

Arthur set the alarms then started to apologize.

Eames shut him up with a kiss that he only broke because vampire ash really did itch. He lightly kissed Arthur over the two spots where his dimples were before moving them from the mudroom to the kitchen where he grabbed a bottle of blood from the fridge before taking Arthur by the hand and dragging him upstairs. "First we are taking a shower in our spa like bathroom where if you are very lucky I will get down on my knees and suck you off," Eames promised. "Then we are going to drink this bottle empty and screw like we are both teenagers until we pass out. If you still want to talk about it, you will have to do it tomorrow. Thoughts?"

"Good plan," was all Arthur said, as Eames continued to guide him towards the bathroom.

~~~***~~~

Arthur had decided after the second night he spent with Eames, so many years ago, that he enjoyed sharing a bed with him. That he enjoyed waking up next to him. It was the reason that for so many years he ran back to work after a few hours. Eames hadn't been his then, but he was now.

He burrowed further into the blankets and Eames' embrace. And thought, screw the world today, as he drifted back to sleep. The second time he woke it was to the smell of coffee. He really did love Eames.

He heard movement across the room. "I love you too," Eames imparted.

Arthur rolled to a sitting position to find Eames wearing only sleep pants, but the smudges of paint on his fingers also told Arthur that Eames had been down in the studio.

"I have made us bacon and eggs and the bread is in the toaster."

Arthur lifted the mug of coffee and took in the smell before taking a sip. He stood, thought about leaving the mug but took it into the shower with him. He felt Eames' laughter but ignored it. He was sure he could have a quick shower and drink his coffee at the same time.

He sat down at the island next to Eames —someday they would have to sit at the dining room table. He piled the scrambled eggs onto a slice of toast, added the bacon, and topped it with another slice before cutting it diagonally and taking a bite. He felt Eames' humor at his actions again and just shrugged before taking another bite.

"Inspiration hit early this morning?" he asked, putting his sandwich down for his coffee.

Eames nodded, having just taken a bite of his own breakfast. "Yes," he answered. "I also finished the piece for the living room. Oh, and Ariadne texted us both. I've let her know we are taking a vacation but that she's number one on our list should we need an architect."

Arthur appreciated that; they did need a vacation and no one on the Fischer job —save Cobb who gave away his payment— would need money for a while. And, Ariadne, with a few more smaller jobs for training would make both an excellent dreamscape architect and a dreamer.

Thoughts of the Fischer job had him reaching for the tablet computer still sitting on the island. He popped it open and paged through his notes and checked his email to see if any new information had come in.

"So," he started. "Peter Browning was out for blood because he wanted to run all of Fischer-Morrow. He apparently knew Robert's head wasn't fully in the game and could slowly take over the entire company with Robert as his puppet for a little while. Looks like he'd been planning this since before Maurice Fischer became terminally ill. It also looks like he had some type of under the table deal with Cobol Engineering to run Porculus Global out of the energy game."

Arthur paged through a set of documents that had been attached to an email he had received from one of his sources in Sydney.

"Apparently a whole mess of internal notes, files, and other correspondence have been leaked to the press. Browning is going after everyone who was in Maurice/Robert's office the week before Maurice died. You, your alias, was the last one to be found. FYI, that alias, unfortunately, he died in a fire last week. His body was recovered, cremated, and sent home to Sydney. So, you shouldn’t have to worry about Browning any longer.”

"Very thoughtful of you," Eames said. “I didn’t like that alias anyway.”

~~~***~~~

Eames listened to Arthur lay out everything else he had found.

Three days after his father’s funeral, Robert had started his restructuring of the company's framework. The first part of the new framework was to restore Fischer Medical, Morrow Entertainment, and Fischer-Morrow Aeronautics & Engineering as individual companies. Each with its own board and stockholders —49% public and 51% retained by Robert. Peter Browning would only be CFO for Fischer-Morrow Aeronautics & Engineering. Robert also carved out Fischer-Morrow Energy and within two weeks had sold it to Porculus Global since neither company, on the surface, wanted anything to do with Cobol. He then used the money from the sale to shore up the other three companies.

The inception had essentially worked. The thought both excited and worried Eames. They would need to ensure that everyone else thought inception was still a myth. The success rate for him so far was fifty percent and both jobs had had a very high risk factor. He was leaning towards the thought that it would be best if they never did another. Extractions, yes; inceptions, no.

Eames pushed his plate away. “So Browning thinks that Robert placed an informer in his office? And he hired mercenaries with a PASIV to find out who sold him out.”

“It looks that way,” Arthur explained. “Weirdly, there looks to have been an informer in the office. Just not sure who he or she worked for or if it really matters to us. However, it looks like the first leaked document was actually a piece of paper that was misfiled and sent to the board for Fischer Medical."

Arthur flipped the tablet around so Eames could see the memo. In and of itself, the memo was kind of innocuous —apparently Browning had used a Fischer-Morrow company card to buy lunch twice for several Cobol Engineering executives, but hadn’t submitted the paperwork to account for it. Fischer-Morrow’s accounting team were real sticklers.

"Oh," Arthur added, "and Fischer has also struck up a friendship, with of all people, Saito.” Supposedly they were seen chatting in the customs line and Saito was overheard giving his condolences for the loss of Robert's father.

“I really wish that could surprise me, but in all honestly it doesn't.” Eames commented. “It was Saito hedging his bets. But maybe it will be good for both of them. Anyway, I think if you had told me Saito was a vampire, that might have surprised me."

"He's not. And maybe it will help Fischer.”

"Small miracles." He pushed his mug around. "What are we going to do about Browning?" he questioned. “Do you have a vampire friend who could eat him?”

Arthur gave him a look and then burst out laughing. “Not an option.”

“So, Plan B is?” Because Arthur had to have a plan.

“I may have had an anonymous letter delivered to the head of Cobol that made it look like Browning is the reason that the extraction on Saito did not work," Arthur confided. "The price on my head and Cobb's for the botched job has been rescinded. Which is the last thing Cobb's getting from me. I may have also blackballed Cobb in the dreamshare community."

Eames was holding his tongue. Arthur had always been closer to Dom and Mal. But more importantly, he understood the debt Arthur believed he owed Mallorie's family.

"It's paid now," Arthur admitted, taking hold of Eames' hand. "My main concern now is us."

Eames smiled at Arthur. "And the city, yes?"

"Us first, then the city," Arthur agreed. "As for Browning, hopefully he will quietly retire to his Sydney home and write a lie filled memoir of his time working for and with Maurice Fischer. Or, Cobol could always kill him. Either way we should be good.”

Eames thought so as well; either outcome would work for him. "Let's go back upstairs," he suggested, standing up and turning Arthur's stool towards him.

Arthur leaned up and kissed him "If I wasn't opposed to having sex in the kitchen I would say who needs a bed. But I am, so let's go."

Eames laughed and followed Arthur back up the stairs. Maybe someday.

~~~***~~~

Arthur couldn't believe it had only been three months since the Fischer job. Nine weeks since he'd turned Eames. It felt like a lifetime ago. The bond between them was strong, as if it had always been there. And Arthur thought, in a way, maybe it had been.

Eames had taken to being a vampire like a duck to water. Even the Protectorate part. Since Arthur had returned in the sixties, Chicago had always been a safe haven for vampires who followed the rules. But there seemed to be more to it now. Vampires came by —even rang the doorbell— to announce their presence and intentions in the city. Visitors and long term residents alike.

He and Eames were scheduled to work a small single level extraction job with Ariadne in Geneva next week. She wanted the practice and they had agreed. She would be architect and dreamer, Eames would do the extraction, and he would stay uptop. He'd completed the research and it was pretty straight forward for Ariadne's first job. They would be gone for two weeks. The job should only take about seven days and the rest were for, what Kat and Molly were calling, his and Eames honeymoon. Eames thought it hilarious. Maybe he did too.

Arthur stared at the charcoal drawing that now hung in his office. You would almost think it was a young man dancing in a field of fireflies, but Arthur knew better. For the copper colored eyes and the ghost of a sword in the boy's hand gave it away. He thought the drawing was perfect.

Eames had definitely added color to his life. And no one was taking it away from him. Ever.

"I'm not going anywhere, darling, not without you," Eames professed from the doorway and Arthur smiled, dimples and all.

"Not without you," Arthur promised too.

~ end ~