Eames glanced around the warehouse, but stayed in the shadows. There were almost a dozen men with guns, Cobb, an unknown female, an unknown man in a cheap —compared to Arthur’s— business suit, and Arthur standing about. The guns were all pointed at Arthur. Which, wasn't new. Arthur was quite dangerous; but even this was overkill.
He was betting Arthur might be armed, but he couldn’t be sure; probably not with a gun though. Eames had no gun either; they had just come off an international flight after all.
"You'll clear the price on my head and cover the debt?" Cobb asked business suit guy, not even glancing over at Arthur.
You could have pushed him over with a feather. Cobb had sold out Arthur? The godfather to his two children. Cobb had done this? Eames had never liked Cobb. He thought he was a prick. As a matter of fact, he hated working with Cobb; and only did it because Cobb always seemed to have the most interesting jobs and Eames was great at making people think he liked them. Plus, there was Arthur. Arthur who could be a condescending fuck in the mud with his sarcasm and bespoke suits. But Eames had liked Arthur right off; and he was the best at what he did.
Arthur who made whatever wild ass plan that Cobb had come up with make sense to everyone involved. Who recruited and did all the payouts. Who tried to ensure everyone's safety and had contingency plans should things go wrong. Who hadn't worked with another team save Cobb's during the entire time Cobb had been a fugitive on the run.
"Oh yes," the man answered, tapping away on his phone. "Cobol Engineering is quite happy with this exchange. Perhaps we can do business again in the future. I've cancelled the price we put on your head for botching the job with Proclus," he flicked his hand towards the door, "and you can collect your two hundred thousand as you leave."
Cobb started walking toward the door but then paused and turned around to glare at Arthur. "I'm sorry, Arthur," Cobb choked —but even from where Eames stood he could tell it wasn't from feeling bad, but anger. "It was the only way."
Arthur said nothing.
"Besides, I know now you could have saved her and didn't," Cobb said with more volume and conviction. "I've seen you! You could have prevented all of this!"
Eames knew the her was Mallorie, Cobb's wife. The wife Cobb had been accused of killing —which Arthur had assured him was sadly a suicide that could have been prevented.
Arthur stepped forward and the air shimmered around him. Eames hadn't noticed the trap; but he should have. He should have known there was a reason that Arthur wasn't protesting or fighting. Then again, maybe Arthur was in shock as much as Eames was from discovering that Cobb had actually sold him out to a collector or hunter.
"I wasn't there, remember," Arthur pointed out, none to nicely. "You may not have killed her Cobb, but you are the reason she is dead. And the most important thing here, she was already in a coffin by the time I got to California."
"I didn't kill my wife! She was depressed, that's why she jumped!"
Arthur raised an eyebrow and ignored the outburst; ignored the trap as he moved toward Cobb again. "For the record, Cobb," Arthur stated clearly, "dead is dead."
Eames watched as Cobb turned with a huff and left the building; only stopping to pick up a slim briefcase and check the contents. He let Cobb go. He would figure out someway to pay the man back for his betrayal later. Right now he had to figure out how to get Arthur out of the trap.
Eames was a forger, a thief, and a Grim —or a Hellhound or Black Dog, as some preferred, albeit he was not black but more of a dark brown. Though, he guessed, he could change that if he wanted; it was just a simple matter of thought, not that he had ever given much thought to changing it. Too many humans had too many bad connotations to a dog that was above average —for Canis lupus familiaris— in size and black in color; and well, his eyes were garnet with an unnatural light to them, so there was already that. Brown drew less attention even with the eyes.
He wasn’t from Hell. Had never been there unless you considered a frozen tundra hell. He didn’t work for the Devil. He had never eaten anyone and couldn’t imagine ever doing so. He also didn't go around haunting, scaring, or killing people. Generally. He could walk in the shadows, more specifically the Shadow World —it's where the myth for the shadow people came from— in either form. He loved lightning. And occasionally, howled at the moon for fun, but who didn't? And contrary to the name Grim, most were not dreary and sad, but good humored and a little mischievous.
His family had lived in the British Isles for as long as anyone could remember. His father had been a Grim. His mother had been a Moura. Mythology —and varying human interpretations later— had a lot to say about what that meant; some of it even going as far as comparing her to a succubus. To his knowledge she wasn’t one but he’d stayed out of his parents’ sex life. She had been a midwife though. His family had been happy; he had been a happy kid. Life had been good.
In some abstract way the world knew about the supernatural; knew it existed. Most just pretended they didn’t until they came face to face with something or someone. Not that supernaturals hadn't preyed on the ignorance of humans for thousands of years; but humans had been doing that to other humans for just as long. Or humans dabbled with what they believed were the light species and forgot about the rest. It was easier to believe things were a trick of light —a sound misheard or sight unseen— than admitting that something supernatural had happened.
That was where most of the weird stories, and myths, and misconceptions came from. And, most supernaturals were okay with that. It kept both sides moving forward. Except for a few —religious zealots, the occasional hunter, and rare collectors of supernatural powers— who actively looked for supernaturals. Eames understood the first two —crazy as they were, he understood them. The collectors though, he hated them. Their drive to own or control another supernatural; or even worse, to harvest another's powers to keep for themselves made them extremely dangerous to his kind. And some of them were his kind.
His father had died in WWII. Grims were hard to kill, but not impossible. Eames had been twenty —young by Grim-standards, and to humans he looked maybe eleven. His mother had died a decade later. Eames had always thought she had died of a broken heart and finally let go once she thought he was old enough. He never blamed her for that. After all, his parents had been married for hundreds of years, even before his birth.
Eames had traveled after his mother's death. He had wandered without a path. Hung out with street crowds and the like; both human and not. Learned to run a con, pickpocket, and forge documents. Found a love for art and music and literature. He had even joined the military twice.
Then he’d stumbled upon the business of retrieval services. He enjoyed the scheming, the weird jobs, the adventure, the payouts, the paid travel, and the chance to steal little things along the way. And, it paid really well too.
Eames met Arthur on his fourth retrieval job. Arthur was pale skinned but his clothing disguised how pale, as he tended to dress in shades of brown with a spark of color in his shirts or ties. Their first meeting it was a dark olive shirt under the waistcoat and a tie with a tiny spaceship pattern he was sure most didn't notice. Arthur had looked put together; except for the hair and posture which had screamed I just left the military. Arthur would win best dressed person in the retrieval business, if that was a thing. Eames had thought Arthur beautiful and had called him darling from that moment on. He was pretty sure Arthur found it mildly annoying, but he never called him on it so Eames took it as a small victory. He also felt comfortable around Arthur, not stifled or worried about hiding he was a supernatural —not that he blatantly did anything to identify himself as one. It was more that Eames felt like he could relax and be more himself around Arthur.
He had also quickly discovered that Arthur was as great at his job as he was a dresser. It took meeting Arthur for Eames to understand what a team's pointman was supposed to do in the first place. It only took a little longer for Eames to realize he wanted to shag him. Which was a small problem because Eames didn't sleep with people he worked with while on a job; or even off the job if he thought he would work with them again. It could make things messy in a whole other way. Flirting with Arthur was just going to have to be it. But Eames had a feeling that if he ever broke that rule it would be for Arthur.
Arthur had a dry, very sarcastic sense of humor; and was a bit of a cynic. He knew Arthur found him mildly aggravating, but also seemed to like his sense of humor. Eames found that Arthur could be somewhat of a paradox. Arthur liked facts. Worked best with them. He liked plans and timetables. He took whatever the team leader wanted and then built a plan that would actually work. But if things went sideways, Arthur could take things from around them and build a new exit strategy on the fly —no planning needed.
Until Eames had worked with Arthur he hadn't actually known what the pointman did, outside of handing out the pay and making random comments on a plan. His first and third jobs had worked out okay. The jobs had been completed and everyone had eventually been paid, but there had been a lot of doing nothing while waiting for someone else to do something. The second one had been a clusterfuck. He now knew why —that job's pointman had been an idiot.
Job number four for him was gold for a number of reasons. The grifter had been a woman by the name of Mallorie Miles. She was beautiful, French, and was fantastic at her job. The team lead was a man by the name of Jonathan Thomas. He was a little boring for Eames' tastes but had a solid plan. Their four person team had pulled off the job so smoothly that it had been like an evening stroll through a park. Mallorie had easily distracted the mark, he had broken into the safe and copied all the pertinent information, Arthur had covered their tracks and backs, and the team lead had played the cop there to arrest Mallorie. Within twenty-fours he received notice of payment for a job that had only taken four days to do from start to finish. A payout that included a bonus for finishing early. That had also been a first for Eames.
After that, every job he worked he compared the pointman to Arthur. And on principle, he never worked with any of the members from job two again. He worked with Mallorie twice more; and Arthur a handful of times. He loved working with Arthur; and had held fast to his rule about doing more than just flirting with the other man —but he could admit to himself it was getting harder to do.
Then he worked a job with Dominic Cobb as the lead, plus Mallorie and Arthur. Poor Arthur. The job had been a disaster through no fault of any one person. Everyone had gotten out alive. A little bloody, but alive. Mostly thanks to Arthur.
He had known from the first job that Arthur was something supernatural, but he didn’t know what; as it was rude to ask. Plus one did not bring it up in mixed company —humans did sometimes still panic. Eames had ruled out Arthur being another Therianthrope —a supernatural with the ability to shift between human and another form— of any type. He figured maybe a witch, of the elemental sort, since Arthur always smelled like earth and forest to him. And later, when the job had gone wrong, ozone and cordite.
Guns had been drawn on all sides, bullets had flown. Arthur was ridiculously good in a fight. But when the other side got reinforcements he'd pulled Arthur through the shadows and away from danger. Arthur had smiled at him, a full dimple showing, laughing smile when they came out of the shadows. That was when Eames fell in love with Arthur.
To this day, Eames still doesn't know what Arthur is, but Arthur knows he's a Grim. And Arthur doesn't seem to mind.
He worked a few more jobs with Cobb as lead only because Arthur was on point; and because Cobb always seemed to have the most intriguing jobs.
Then Mallorie had married Cobb and became pregnant shortly thereafter. Cobb stayed on as team lead, the jobs perhaps a little more cautious than before. Mallorie returned briefly after the birth of Phillipa but then left the business altogether to have a second child. Cobb semi-retired too.
He and Arthur worked a handful of smaller jobs together; but always going their separate ways when the job was completed, much to Eames’ disappointment. Though, at the end of the last couple of jobs, Arthur had flirted back. Eames had walked away believing there might be a chance.
Then, through the rumor mill of their business he heard that Mallorie was dead. That Cobb had snapped and pushed her from the cliff behind their house. Leaving three year old Phillipa and her one year old brother James without parents as Cobb became a fugitive two days after the funeral.
He had tried to reach out to Arthur, but nothing. Not until three months later when he heard that Cobb and Arthur were taking jobs again. He worked with them once. Arthur had known how much he had liked Mallorie, enjoyed her flair and rapport, and had reassured Eames that her death had been a suicide. Sadly, Arthur did not flirt or smile during the entire job. To Eames, it had felt like Arthur was barely holding it together. Eames had done the job, gotten paid, and warned Arthur that there was something wrong with Cobb. Arthur had only said, "I know."
Within six months the jobs that Cobb was taking were all high money, high risk. Not all of them ended well. Eames had already slowly started taking jobs with other teams; stepping away from Cobb, and sadly Arthur by that point.
Two months later Eames heard a price had been put on Cobb's head because of a failed job. Four days after that Cobb had come to London to ask him to work a job with he and Arthur.
He had taken the job; but only for Arthur's sake.
Eames flew to Sydney and Arthur met him at the airport. "Darling, this cannot be good," were the first words out of his mouth. Arthur never met anyone at the airport. Then Arthur kissed him. Kissed him in the middle of the international arrivals area.
Some part of Eames' mind was confused —’Arthur found me annoying but he had flirted back a couple of times, but he's kissing me now, that man really is a paradox’; the other part just wanted to keep kissing. He went with the keep kissing. Arthur tasted like night to him. Cool breeze, bright moon. Mist and night blooms.
Arthur broke the kiss.
"What?" was all could ask when he meant why did you stop.
Arthur only took a single step back and smiled slightly. "I know you have some type of rule about this."
He wasn't going to ask how Arthur knew that. It wasn't really important. But he was stopping Arthur before he could finish. "Nope, no rule," he lied, leaning in to kiss Arthur again.
Arthur kept the kiss brief, breaking it off within seconds and leading him to baggage claim. "Good, let's go then."
The hotel that Arthur drove them to was in the Darling Harbour area. Eames did not say a word about the location. Arthur had apparently been in the one bedroom suite for a couple of days as the small dining table was covered in papers, maps, and electronics.
As soon as the door to the suite closed behind them Arthur was kissing him again. Eames dropped his bags and wrapped his arms around Arthur. Arthur took that as a clear sign to guide him through the front room towards the bedroom. It was when the back of his legs hit the edge of the bed that he thought maybe he should make them stop and talk. But then Arthur's hands were under his shirt and Eames stopped thinking about anything but getting them both out of their clothes and onto the bed.
Not much was said between them as clothes were taken off and tossed in every direction. Arthur's bespoke suits covered a well-toned body. Arthur was thin but fit, all sinewy muscles and quick reflexes. Perhaps more pale than Eames had realized now that there were no clothes to hide it. Arthur's skin was cool to the touch but then again Eames body temperature ran high so he couldn't judge what was normal for anyone else.
Arthur pushed him back onto the bed, giving him just enough time to move up towards the pillows before climbing onto the bed himself. Then Arthur was kissing him again. Kissing his mouth, his neck, his chest, moving down his body, until Arthur ran his tongue over and around his cock. The moan that escaped Eames' mouth was a deep, guttural sound as he clutched at the bedspread with his fingers. And Arthur didn't stop. A lick, turned into a swirl, and then Arthur swallowed him down and Eames arched slightly off the bed as Arthur worked his cock. He howled out in climax seconds later.
But Arthur wasn't done and Eames wasn't stopping him. He felt slick fingers enter him, stretching him, and he keened in need. His cock already hardening again. Arthur entered slowly, even though he begged for Arthur to move faster. And then they were moving, a rhythm that rocked them both. Arthur hit his prostate and Eames couldn't stop the very loud moan of pleasure. Arthur wrapped his longer, nimble fingers around Eames' cock and stroked. Eames climaxed again, clenching around Arthur's cock. Arthur thrust twice more before he too climaxed.
Then Arthur pulled out and rolled off to lie next to him. They were both breathing heavily. Eames both wanted a quick shower and just to rollover and wrap himself around Arthur. He chose the latter. Arthur didn't protest. It was the last thought Eames had as he drifted off to sleep.
"Darling,” he asked softly, still confused by recent events, “not that I don't; I mean I do, but why now?”
Arthur stopped moving his finger and the tattoos snapped back into place. He laid his head down Eames’s chest. “Because I‘m tired of not getting what I want. Of feeling empty, with only dreams of what could be. And, after this job,” Arthur confided. “I’m leaving Cobb —whether the job ends well for him or not. I’m tired Eames. Cobb is out of control and he’s going to get himself, us, killed. It’s always one more job will get me home with him. Well, Saito has the pull to get Cobb home if we succeed.”
Eames inquired. “Do you trust the person who hired us to pay if the job fails? Or will there be prices on our heads?”
Arthur started moving his finger around the tattoo lines on his shoulder and upper arm again. “Yeah, Saito will pay us. I priced us as a six person team for this job because of what we might need and he didn’t bat an eye at that.”
Well that explained all the lead time, Eames thought, now threading his fingers through Arthur’s hair. He felt the other man relax even further.
Arthur continued, “He’s already given me a third of the pay to split amongst everyone. We’ll get another third before the attempt. The rest only comes if we are successful. Plus he’s paid for workspace and what amounts to our room and board.”
That all sounded fair to Eames. Better than fair even. Whatever this was, it was a big ticket job. “And what do you want?” Eames asked, moving his fingers from Arthur's hair to his neck and back again.
“You,” Arthur confessed.
“That you can have, darling,” Eames promised. “But do I get you as well?”
Arthur lifted his head and smiled down at Eames. “Yes, Mr. Eames.”
Eames rolled them over. “Great, then let’s get to that now.”
Eames brought coffee and Anzac biscuits —a sweet biscuit of rolled oats, coconut, and other sweet things — to Arthur at the table where he was working, before sitting down in the other chair to go through the papers Arthur had left him. “And where is Cobb?”
“In Paris looking for a Pixie.”
Paris was a good place to find a Pixie. It was a good place to find lots of supernatural types someone might describe as a faery, pixie, sprite, nymph or elf. There were no actual elves, even if normal humans continued to believe there were. Some Pixies had slightly pointed ears and almost all of them despised the word nymph and the connotations that came with it. Witches looked like everyone else and were a little harder to pinpoint unless you knew what you were looking for and sometimes even Eames didn't know exactly what he was sensing, so he rather doubted Cobb would know. Plus, Pixies and witches were both one of the few supernatural species that could be female or male. Most of the species passed down their gifts through gender-lines; even if they did inter-marry.
Eames liked Pixies, they were down to Earth and rarely bothered with the nonsense of the other supernaturals. They could also be a little nutty in a brilliant way.
"I didn't think Cobb knowingly worked with our kind?" he questioned. Eames had even heard Cobb, on occasion, make disparaging remarks about other supernaturals. Eames had ignored the remarks and noticed that Arthur always pretended not to hear them. It always made Eames wonder what made Arthur stay.
"Plus, why not stay local?” he added. “He could have gone to Alice Springs; it is widely known that the Ayers Rock is part of what the supernaturals called Fae Lands."
Arthur snorted. "Honestly, I'm surprised he would even know how to find a Pixie. I think he went to Paris hoping Professor Miles would help him. Sadly, I think Stephen will; believing that Dom won’t do anything more stupid than he already has and wouldn't risk one of his students in the process."
Eames had met Stephen Miles —Mallorie’s father and Cobb’s father-in-law, several times. The last being at Phillipa’s second birthday, he knew the man loved his daughter and grandchildren. And, Eames was willing to bet that Stephen believed Cobb innocent, and would help if he could.
He leaned back in the chair. Eames didn't like how everything Arthur had just told him sounded though. "Is the Pixie out or is he or she trying to live human? Because, darling, that’s uncouth even for Cobb."
Arthur stopped making notes. "I told you he was out of control. He didn't want to hear what I told him, so he ignored it. He has never once asked my opinion on supernaturals. And he used to not care, but over the last few years something changed.” Arthur gave a slight shrug. “I think he just assumes I despise them as much as he does. And I don't know why."
Eames reached across the table and took Arthur's hand. "Darling," he reassured. "I'm here with you now. We can both walk away. Give the money back to Saito and disappear."
Arthur didn't tug his hand free, but grasped Eames' hand in return. "I," Arthur paused, searching for words. "Something inside me is telling me to stay. That I have to see this through. That if I don't, it could be very bad. Bad for all of us."
Eames didn’t think Arthur meant just the team that was being built for whatever job Cobb had planned, but for all supernaturals. "Has this happened to you before?" Eames prodded. "And that's not me fishing for you to tell me what you are." And Eames wasn't. He did want to know, but if Arthur wasn't ready to tell him, he wasn't about to push for the knowledge. "You know they always say Grims can see death. That's not true. Not exactly. We don’t see Death with a capital ‘d’ but sometimes we, or at least for me, can see something. It’s hard to explain.”
Eames was doing a shitty job explaining and he wasn't sure that he could make what he sometimes saw make sense. Sometimes he had just known someone was going to die —it had sucked to know and not be able to do anything; the last two times he'd been in the military and that had made it even worse. And that didn't include the fact that lies have smells and a Grim had a fantastic sense of smell —it was why he was good at a con; as long as there wasn't another Grim involved. “If something is telling you to stay, then we’ll stay, darling. Just know that I’m not leaving you.”
Arthur used the grasp he had on Eames hand and pulled him forward. “I think I’m in love with you, Mr. Eames.”
Eames leaned in, their lips almost touching, “That’s good, Arthur, because I am in love with you,” he said, sealing the pledge with a kiss and what felt like magic.
The Pixie was young and nutty. Young by the standards of human and still a child by the standards of supernaturals. Eames instantly liked her. Though, she had been trying to live a life as a human as her father had been half human. She had been in college and Cobb had almost outed her. For that alone, Cobb would always remain on his shit list.
Ariadne was short, in and of itself that was not solely a Pixie trait. But she did have a love for scarves and color and was an artist. Long brown hair and pale skin, and if you looked closely at her eyes you would see that her irises were two distinct rings of color, and that was definitely a Pixie trait.
Cobb had also found them a witch, Yusuf. Eames had worked with Yusuf twice before. He was a brilliant brewer and healer. And a little flighty. Though a witch had not been in the original plans. Which Eames knew meant Arthur's mind was already spinning with how to rework the plan.
“I thought we needed another woman, one to run the honeytrap part, to make this con work,” Eames had asked Arthur once they were alone in their hotel room .
“Cobb is changing the plan again.”
Eames didn’t ask Arthur anything else that night. He already knew Arthur was stressed and all Eames wanted to do was make him forget for a few hours.
It had taken just over a month to work everything through, especially since Cobb kept changing the plan. It was the longest job Eames had ever worked on, but it had a lot of moving parts; among the largest was waiting for Maurice Fischer, owner of the Fischer-Morrow Conglomeration —commonly referred to as FMC— to succumb to his fatal illness.
They had been hired to change, if need be, the Last Will and Testament of Maurice Fischer to make his son, Robert, the primary beneficiary of FMC.
FMC had no board of directors and traded no stock. It was one of the largest singularly owned companies of its size in the world. It made its money by buying up a lot of other companies —Saito's Proclus Global being just one of the companies at risk of being bought or put out of business. Maurice owned seventy-five percent of the company. His son, owned fifteen; and Peter Browning, Robert’s godfather and long time friend of Maurice, owned the last ten.
Saito believed that the Will would give the majority of the company to Peter Browning as there had been strife —both public and private— between Maurice and Robert before Maurice had been diagnosed with his illness and given only three to four months to live. Robert had wanted to take the company public and in other directions than those of his father and godfather. There had been numerous articles written in business journals and newspapers about the strife and possible outcomes for the company depending on whose hands it landed in.
If Browning took over, there was no question that Saito’s company was next on the list for a hostile takeover. Browning had mentioned an interest in acquiring Cobol Energy, Proclus Global, and Ayers Rock International.
During the early planning stages Eames had secured a job in the Fischer attorney's office as a clerk and then proceeded to ingratiate himself around the office and right into a role that would ensure he was present when the Will was read. He had been able to access files and had borrowed the original copy of Maurice Fischer's Last Will and Testament which was kept in the secure vault at the law firm. This is how they had discovered that there was a second official copy; which meant he had to forge and make changes to two complete copies of the Will.
They had also learned that the Will would only be read during the flight in which Maurice Fisher's body was being transported from Sydney to Los Angeles —where Maurice would be laid to rest beside his wife. Everyone mentioned in the Will would be on that flight and travelling in first class. The second copy of the Will was in a magically secured lockbox which also contained certain items and letters mentioned in the Will. The lockbox itself would only open at cruising altitude and only for seven days after Maurice Fischer's death. After that the box would be permanently sealed and the Will considered forfeit.
The second part of the plan was to make Robert believe in himself and his proposed plans for the company. They had needed the honeytrap —the second female member— to keep Browning away from Robert. Since Cobb had brought a male witch back with him and Browning was neither gay nor bisexual, Cobb had to come up with another brilliant change. Which Arthur would no doubt have to adapt to ensure it would work.
Of course it took getting the first Will to discover all of this. Eames had changed the Will, had forged the signatures for Maurice Fischer, that of the original attorney, the two witnesses, and added a new third witness who was required to be on the plane, and the notary mark. He had replaced the Will in the files and was holding onto the second copy as the switch would have to be made in transit with slight of hand magic. Eames had just been happy that the Will had not been written on Pixie-made paper because then there would have been no changing of the Will.
The first class area had fourteen seats and they would have about fourteen hours from take off to landing to pull this all off.
Ariadne and Yusuf would be acting as the first class flight attendants. Saito had insisted on being present, so he was now the distraction for Browning. Eames was still acting as the clerk for the attorney carrying the Will. Cobb would be cozying up to Robert while Arthur moved around where needed.
The Will also included five other individuals who were listed as beneficiaries. It would leave two empty seats in first class if the timing all worked out.
The day Maurice Fischer's body was scheduled to fly out first class was overbooked. Without having told Cobb, Saito had purchased the airline that had been stipulated to be used in the Will.
Saito had only said, "I thought it would be less messy and the perfect excuse for why I was on the flight." The only people traveling in first class now were those that needed to be there.
It had made it look above board and natural to easily move passengers about the plane or offer vouchers to those who were either being moved to business class or to a different flight. Even switching out the flight attendants had gone smoothly. Any reservations Eames might have had about including Saito in all the planning vanished at that moment because he was being quite useful and staying out of the way when he knew he couldn't be. It also meant that Arthur could play the role of Saito's personal assistant and add weight to why he was traveling in first class. Eames had noticed that the small change had seemed to irk Cobb somewhat, but there wasn't time to figure out why. They had to get to their respective locations for their trips to the airport.
Eames had all but blocked Arthur's exit from the office to ensure they were the last two to leave and no one would see them. "A kiss for luck, darling," he said, before pulling Arthur toward him. The kiss was not simple or short.
When Arthur broke the kiss he was smiling slightly. "Do try to keep your hands to yourself on the flight, Mr. Eames."
Eames was still laughing when he and Arthur separated to go their own ways.
Eames could see that Cobb wasn't happy, but Cobb was going to have to get over it and be the distraction for Browning or they were not going to be able to complete the job. Arthur couldn't have introduced Robert to Cobb —or Cobb's alias— because Arthur wasn't supposed to know Cobb.
Instead Eames casually made his way over to Cobb. "Mr. Charles," Eames offered. "So glad you could make it on such short notice. Have you met Mr. Royce? I don't believe he was present when you witnessed the Will but he will be serving as the executor today."
It took Cobb a moment to catch on. "I have not," Cobb responded.
"Excellent then," Eames invited. "Shall I introduce you? You can meet Mr. Browning as well."
Eames returned to Mr. Royce's side and the pixie-made lockbox which had been delivered barely twenty minutes before he and Mr. Royce had left for the airport.
When the doors to the lounge opened Mr. Royce turned to Eames and said, "Ethan, if you wouldn't mind retrieving Mr. Fischer, I believe we are about to board."
Eames nodded and made his way to where Robert Fischer was sitting. He stood between Arthur and Robert Fischer's chairs, letting his fingers skim across the back of Arthur's shoulder. "Excuse me, gentlemen," he sounded just the right amount of apologetic, "but Mr. Royce would like to speak with Mr. Fischer before we board."
It wasn't too long after that they boarded. Eames placed the lockbox in the first class storage area for take off. Eames and Arthur were sitting in the last seats of the cabin. Ariadne and Yusuf went through the cabin and placed glasses of sparkling ice water in the cup divot next to everyone’s seats. He picked up the glass of water and before he could even take a sip he sneezed. Arthur glanced across the aisle toward him and Eames sniffed at the water and sneezed again —a Grim's sense of smell was better than most thought. There was something there, something he couldn’t place, covered by the lime slice that had been placed into the glass.
From what Eames could see everyone’s glass but Cobb’s had the added fruit. He shook his head ever so slightly while indicating the water. Arthur looked perplexed then lifted the glass to his own nose and sniffed. Eames found the slight wrinkling of Arthur's nose to be cute but also worrisome, drugging the passengers had not been in the plan. Arthur glanced over at him and mouthed, play along before placing the untouched glass back in the divot next to his seat.
If they needed to drink the water, then Ari and Yusuf would wait until the glasses were mostly empty before coming back around. He waited until they went into the first class galley, before taking his glass and walking around the partition that separated their cabin from the next. The flight attendant in the next cabin was still busy helping people settle that she didn’t notice as he dumped half the water in the trash bin and grabbed two small bottles of water from the tray she had left sitting in a business class seat. He came out on the other aisle near Arthur’s seat. Arthur’s long fingers slid down his as he switched out their glasses and left Arthur a bottle of water. He wasn't trusting anything coming out of the galley unless he opened it.
The whole process took Eames less than thirty seconds and he was back in his own seat with a half glass of Yusuf’s magic spiked water. He and Yusuf were going to have words because he finally recognized the smell and that shit had been outlawed for quite some time.
Eames stretched out in his seat and closed his eyes. There was nothing to be done until the plane reached cruising altitude. Twenty minutes later the pilot was making announcements and after another ten the fasten your seatbelts sign blinked off.
When he glanced around the cabin he noticed Saito's skin had a slight glow to it —so soft that if you weren’t looking for it you would take it as a trick of light, but Saito himself didn’t seem to notice. When Ari came through the cabin her skin was glowing brightly; she also didn’t seem to notice. Yusuf looked normal. He glanced over at Arthur to see if he had noticed the same thing. He inclined his head.
So Saito had something supernatural in his family but wasn’t a supernatural himself. Yusuf had apparently not dosed himself and Ari knew nothing about it. That’s when he noticed that Cobb was staring back at Arthur, as if expecting Arthur to be glowing.
There was nothing to do about it while on the plane. If Eames was recalling correctly, the effects of the potion only lasted a few hours and would be gone before they landed; and those that had ingested it would never know or notice its effects on themselves or others. It was just one of the reasons that it had been outlawed. For now they just needed to get through the reading of the Will.
“Yes, Mr. Royce,” Eames answered and got up. He moved the drink cart and locked the wheels into place before covering it with a towel. He then retrieved the lockbox and placed it on top. Now he just needed the distraction.
“Mr. Saito,” Mr. Royce began, “if you and your assistant could wait in the seats that have been cleared for you in the next cabin, I will do this as quickly as I can to get you back in your proper seats.”
Arthur was already standing when Robert Fischer interrupted. “There’s no need for that, Royce,” Robert insisted. “After all, this is Saito’s plane and he has already generously rearranged things for us at the last moment.”
“Robert,” Browning objected. “This is a family matter.”
Eames ignored the argument and touched the latches on the box. The latches clicked and lid gave a soft popping sound as it unsealed. He glanced up, distraction still going. He opened the lid a little more. There were several things in the box, Eames shifted them out of the way and pulled out the original Will; quickly replacing it with the new version. He then added a bank draft sealed in an envelope with Mr. Charles’ name on it plus another sealed envelope before he closed and re-latched the box.
The argument was still ongoing until Robert Fischer finally said, “Uncle Peter, give it a rest. Let’s just get this over with.”
Eames stepped away from the box and let Royce take his place. Royce made opening the box more a spectacle than it needed to be. He pulled out the Will.
“This is the Last Will and Testament of Maurice Fischer. If Mr. Charles could verify that this is the Will he witnessed and signed then we can proceed.”
Cobb took the offered document, pretended to skim it, and look at the signature page. “It is,” Cobb confirmed, handing the document back.
“Excellent,” Royce acknowledged. “Then let’s begin.”
Eames had also left the primary property inheritance —the houses in California, Paris, and Sydney— alone; as well as other mementos that had been mentioned. The biggest change came with the percentage of ownership of FMC and some flowery language that Eames had added.
"Now to the matter of the Fischer-Morrow Conglomeration," Royce read. "I bequeath another fifteen percent to Peter Browning —for a total of twenty-five percent— for his continuous loyalty to the family and the company with the stipulation that he continues this support after I am gone. If Peter passes before myself and I have not updated this Will the percentage may pass to his children. If no children are present, then the percentage passes back to the primary. If Peter does not feel he can continue his support, his percentage may be purchased for the sum of five million dollars."
Eames noticed Browning was not happy. If he had to guess, Browning looked a little murderous. Thankfully Arthur had a plan for that should the worse occur.
"I bequeath the remaining sixty percent to my son, Robert," Royce continued reading. "For a total of seventy-five percent. If my son passes before myself and I have not updated this Will the percentage may pass to his children and be held in trust until of legal age. If no children are present, then FMC shall purchase all percentages from Peter Browning, or his children, and the company shall install a Board of Trustees made up of the twelve highest executives from various companies as stipulated in section six of this Will."
Royce cleared his throat. "There is also a personal message in here for Robert that I am to read aloud. 'Son. We have not always agreed about how Fischer-Morrow should operate but you are both a Fischer and a Morrow. You always made your mother so proud with everything you did. Now it's time you take the company and make all of us proud, including yourself. Be your own person, Robert, take the company where you feel the wind would move it.' There's a small photo here for you as well, Robert."
Eames watched as Royce handed over both the message and the photo. That had been the tricky thing to lift, copy, and include. He knew the small sepia colored photo showed a young Robert and Maurice in what look Maurice's office at FMC. Robert was holding a paper-windmill. The paper was old Fischer-Morrow letterhead. Both were smiling at the camera. The back of the photo read my two men and was written in a very feminine-looking script.
Robert spent the next two hours of the flight staring at the photo before standing up and making his way to the washroom. When he came out, instead of returning to his seat he moved toward where Saito was sitting. He and Saito had a hushed conversation that ended with them shaking hands and Robert accepting a business card from Arthur that had Saito's private number written on it.
Browning stood up when Robert approached his seat. "Now don't be hasty, Robert," Browning said, quietly. "I know emotions are high right now.
Robert apparently was having none of that and was not quiet in his response. "Uncle Peter," Robert stressed the familiar tie, "are you going to support the future of Fischer-Morrow or not?"
Browning knew, with all the witnesses present that, that he could only say one thing. "Of course, Robert."
Eames watched Saito make two phone calls and then nod at Cobb. Cobb had delivered on his promise and now Saito had delivered on his. Cobb was free to enter the States again.
The rest of the flight was sort of boring after that.
They had thought Cobb would go directly home to his children —Stephen had been waiting just past customs; Eames had seen the man with his happy smile and waves, and his sign welcoming Cobb home. Eames had always liked Mallorie’s father and hoped him and the grandchildren had a wonderful future.
Though, it was a good thing that Browning, Royce, and Fischer were all held back as they waited for Maurice Fischer’s casket to be unloaded as the sign could have given away the con.
He and Arthur were supposed to meetup at the coffee stand just past customs. There had been no Arthur; just Arthur’s bags —including the ever present satchel— which Eames had quickly gathered up. Then he’d seen Arthur and Cobb talking animatedly about something and then another man had stuck a gun in Arthur’s back.
Eames noticed that Ariadne had seen the same thing. He moved to intercept her before whoever the people were took her too. He told her to take their bags and check into another hotel —not the one she had already been booked into— and to wait, he or Arthur would contact her when it was clear.
Yusuf was nowhere to be seen and Eames figured the man had already snuck out the back as to not get caught up in whatever else was going on after dosing everyone to see who had supernaturals in their family tree. He hoped whatever Cobb had paid him was enough to keep Yusuf under his rock for a while because if he ever surfaced it wasn’t going to end well for Yusuf.
Eames borrowed a cab; minus the driver. Once he had seen where they had taken Arthur he had driven a couple of miles back and left the cab in the parking lot of a hotel. He wiped down his fingerprints and left the key above the visor with a couple hundred dollars, and locked the doors. He might be a criminal sometimes, but he wasn't heartless enough to destroy an innocent's source of income.
Then he shifted forms and ran through the shadows back to the warehouse and Arthur. He came out of the shadows, but still used them to hide. He was going to tackle the man in the suit, but Arthur had looked right at him and smiled, barely shaking his head no. Apparently Arthur wanted to see how this was all going to play out; wanted Eames to stay where he was. Eames would wait; but only as long as Arthur wasn’t in danger.
After Cobb left, things got strange.
"My name is Mr. Prism," the man in the suit said.
Eames figured it was a name that Prism had given to himself. It sounded too much like a comic book villain to be anything but made up.
He focused on the people surrounding Arthur and that's when he knew all but two were humans. Eames was betting Prism was a collector, using gifts stolen from other victims. The only woman in the room was an elemental witch and while Eames’ sense of smell was fantastic, as were his other senses, he had never been able to sense a specific type of witch before; she too had taken things that weren't hers.
Arthur said nothing; just stood there.
"Aren't you curious Arthur as to why your dear friend would sell you out?"
If Arthur wasn't; Eames was. He was hoping that just like a movie villain, Prism would gloat and do the whole explanation monologue or something. Arthur made no move to answer.
"Mr. Cobb thinks you are a witch," Prism taunted as he ran his fingers across the magical trap. "More precisely a medium. A talker to the dead. Or do you prefer a Death Talker?"
Arthur shrugged. "So, I can talk to the dead on occasion. More specifically, I talked to Mallorie Cobb at her funeral. She was quite put out that Cobb had used a witch to try and spell away her postpartum psychosis instead of a Moura —after all Mal had used a Moura to deliver both her children. The witch Cobb used wasn’t even trained in the medical arts. Instead the spellwork left Mallorie empty, separated from reality and filled with dreams of no way back. Her world nothing but a haze of half-filled images and life. The dreams more real than anything —the dream children more real than her actual children. It only made the psychosis worse. Even through all that, Mal was still trying to reassure me that Cobb hadn't pushed her off the cliff. But, in a way, he was responsible because he lied about her agreeing to the spellwork on her psyche. And, as any Moura, or capable witch, would have told him, that is required."
Prism clapped his hands and laughed. "Cobb had thought seeing you talking to his wife at the funeral had just been a dream. He hadn’t believed it at first and then thought maybe she had been a ghost." Prism leaned in closer. "He also mentioned, and this is what turned him against you, that he saw you talking with Nash. It was apparently quite a shock to Cobb to realize that the man was dead, but the ghost did not appear as a shade, like his wife, but a solid being."
Arthur shrugged again. "He let me know that Cobol Engineering killed him; warned me about the price on Cobb’s head. That you specifically, Mr. Prism, had him killed. But what is it you really want, Prism? You already have a witch in your pocket; and you've clearly been harvesting powers. You don't need a medium. It is such an imprecise skill after all."
So Arthur could talk to ghosts —if a ghost hung around long enough to talk to someone. Eames didn't have a problem with that; after all he could sometimes see ghosts, couldn't talk to them, but he could see them —like an after image of a person. But there was something else, Eames rolled the idea of Arthur being a medium around in his mind, across his senses. It just didn't feel right; felt too simple to explain what he felt in Arthur. He tilted his head and continued to watch Arthur and Prism.
Prism smirked and flung out his arms out to the side as if to indicate the entire room. "I want the power of life and death," he said, extravagantly. "And you are going to give it to me."
Arthur laughed and it wasn't a pleasant sound. “And how do you expect me to do that?”
“Death,” was Prism’s answer.
"You think I'm Death?"
"Oh no, Arthur, I think you're just one of his children," Prism postulated. "From a dalliance with a human female."
Arthur laughed again. "So you trapped one of Death's children in a witch's cage,” a cage that was ringed in light to prevent shadows within the cage, “to what, lure him here?"
"I've been reassured that the cage will hold you. After all," Prism imparted, unapologetically. "You are only human."
Eames was tired of hearing that particular laugh of Arthur‘s —it was unpleasant to his ears and nothing like the ones they shared together. It also confirmed that Cobb was behind Yusuf's dosing of the first class cabin. Cobb needed to know if Arthur was fully human or not. But Cobb hadn't known that Arthur never drank the brew.
“And you are going to do what?” Arthur cajoled. “Trap Death in a witch cage? Really?” Arthur pushed on the cage’s magic wall and the armed men all raised their weapons.
Prism’s grin was very shark like. “No we have something much better planned for Death.”
“Right. Sure,” Arthur snorted, and tapped his finger against the cage again. “You do know there's not a single entity called Death, right? That’s just how you humans seem to perceive things you can’t understand. I mean, without all the stolen powers, aren’t you just as human as your little mercenary squad? Did your witch there help you convince those poor supernaturals to willingly give you their powers? Or did you torture them for their gifts?”
Eames edged closer to the light and away from the grayness of the shadows. He couldn’t just let them shoot Arthur. And Arthur needed to stop provoking his captor no matter how much Eames might enjoy watching Arthur cut someone down. But, Prism wasn't sane, and taunting the insane seemed a little reckless and Arthur wasn't that.
But, Arthur had a point. Almost all supernaturals had multiple names depending on how a culture interpreted the supernatural. Death was a concept; a state of being. Not an individual. There were several supernaturals that were closer to life and death than say a Pixie. His own mother had brought children into the world; easing the pain of the mothers. Vampires were probably the closest, but even they couldn’t bring the dead back to life.
A breeze swept through the area causing Eames’ fur to stand on end and he paused in making his way across the shadows of the warehouse. No one else seemed to have noticed it though. And he thought that maybe it had just been his imagination until he felt it again when he tried to move closer to Arthur.
“Shh, little Grim,” a very feminine voice said softly. “Not yet.”
Eames looked around the shadows and a figure moved in the grayness of the Shadow World that Grims moved in. A beautiful figure of a woman. Pale skin with a soft blue glow; long dark hair the same color as Arthur’s. Eames heart began to beat a little faster. A Morrigan. Arthur’s mother was a Morrigan!
Eames wasn’t ashamed to admit that his butt hit the floor in a slightly undignified manner when his back legs dropped out from under him in surprise. She offered him a small mischievous smile that once again reminded him of Arthur as she knelt down next to him, her cool fingers threaded softly through his fur.
A Morrigan was not a triple entity or anything as mythology would have you believe. Though, just looking at one you could see why people would have called them goddesses —they were very otherworldly and quite beautiful and radiated a quiet power that was almost tangible. They, like everyone else, had different temperaments. And Eames had once seen one tear a squad of soldiers apart. They were behind part of the myths for banshees and the Grey Lady. At one point, humans had hunted down Morrigans because they believed the women would feed on the souls of the dying and therefore lured men to their deaths on purpose. They didn’t feed on souls. They could heal certain injuries, but not fatal ones. And, this was where part of the myths came from, they could ease the pain of the dying and allow the soul to leave at peace. The same Morrigan that had torn through the squad of soldiers, had knelt next to another and cried out the pain as the man had died —Eames had always thought the man had been that Morrigan’s lover, but he had not approached and she had ignored him. They were also the only female supernatural that could walk in the shadows. But even more, they could tap into the elements almost like a witch. If there was a queen of the supernaturals it would have been a Morrigan.
Eames wasn’t sure how she knew Arthur was in trouble. He wouldn’t be surprised if Morrigans had gifts that weren’t common knowledge even to other supernaturals. He glanced away from Arthur’s mother and back out to the center of the warehouse. He had apparently missed something out in the main area because Prism was talking again. Talking about hunting down Arthur's human and Pixie friends from the plane —most likely meaning him and Ariadne. Then after that, a handful of other Pixies whose names Cobb had passed along. He growled, knowing the shadows would hide the noise, and Morrigan —because he didn't know what to call Arthur's mother— laughed softly at him. Eames, got the feeling that she knew what he was thinking.
“My son, apparently chose his companion quite wisely,” she offered bemusedly with a grin.
The sound of a gunshot tore Eames attention away from Morrigan and back to Arthur who was now clutching his shoulder. Only the fact that Morrigan’s fingers were wrapped quite strongly in his fur kept him from moving, but he was standing again. Judging the shadows and how many of the mercenaries he could take out. Judging if he could break the Morrigan's hold on him.
"You know Death doesn't bleed," Prism said, lowering the gun. "But I bet your blood will bring him to me. The smell of one of his children in danger."
Arthur snorted, pulling his hand away from the wound to look at the blood that now stained his hand; his eyes turning as red as the blood on his hand. “Or maybe it will just piss me off,” Arthur condemned as he lifted his bloody hand to the trap. The trap flared with a bright blue light and shattered into solid shards that hung in the air.
He recognized Arthur's pissed off voice, having worked with him; but this was something even more. Eames pulled away from Arthur's mother, not having noticed she had already let him go. He ran through the shadows and emerged across the room in time to take down one of the mercenaries who was about to fire on Arthur. Eames' weight brought the man to the ground; his teeth and claws did the rest. He turned and brought down another. He was already moving onto a third when the shards spun in the air before shooting off to slice through seven of the mercenaries —killing five and wounding two.
Eames had felt and sensed the shards moving through the air, some quite close, though none had seemed at risk of hitting him even as he moved on to another mercenary. He was saving Prism for last; if Arthur didn't beat him to Prism and his little witch cohort. Eames moved towards another mercenary.
Arthur took a single step out of the circle that was now burned onto the warehouse floor and stepped into the shadow cast by one of the bodies on the ground. The shadows reverberated with sound as Arthur’s voice seemed to come from all of them at once.
"You miscalculated," Arthur’s voice called out.
It really hadn't penetrated Eames’ mind until that moment that Arthur was a Dinferi. There were a lot of other names for them including Demon, Efrite, Sin-Eater, Ferryman, Grim Reaper; even Death. All of them were right and wrong at the same time. None of them really fit as a whole. And to Eames, none of the names did Arthur justice.
But, for all of Prism’s talk, he had gotten one thing correct, if Eames had understood everything Arthur had said before. Arthur was a true Death Talker —he could talk to the dead; make a ghost almost seem alive again. He could make them feel again —pain, love, heartache, forgiveness. None of that was among the simple abilities of a medium.
Dinferi were rare; genetics and intermarriage had to be just right. As a matter of fact, Eames had never met one before; nor did he know anyone who had. It was thought that none had been born in the last millennium. They were almost a myth among a population made up of myths. The weird thing, for all the connotations that came with Dinferi, they could not walk in the Shadow World. Or, reportedly, none had been able to before Arthur. Arthur, whose father he learned in whispers from Arthur’s mother, had been a full elemental witch —able to tap into the very core of nature, his mother was a Morrigan, and his lover a Grim. A Grim who over the last month had moved Arthur through the shadows because it made Arthur laugh and smile each time.
Something in Arthur had changed and now he was able to use the shadows that had always been just out of reach.
Eames felt his fur stand on end. The shadows around him felt electrified like the air during a storm. The last two mercenaries hit by the shards of the broken trap succumbed to their deaths, clawing at their throats and gasping for breath as if there was no air for them to breathe. For a moment it was like smoke rose from the bodies, only to be shredded. There would be no peaceful rest for these mercenaries.
The witch all but shrieked and pointed at Eames in fear. “Cwn Annwn,” she trembled. Eames hadn't heard that term directed at him, ever. But if she was afraid of him, then he would play to it; she deserved nothing less. He turned his head toward the witch, bared just a tiny hint of his very sharp teeth, and growled. She backed up, still pointing at him, “Companion of the Devil.”
Apparently the witch was losing her mind.
“Death will come,” Arthur said, stepping out of the shadows to stand next to him. "To all who betray their own."
"Demon! Inferni!" the witch accused, moving to hide behind Prism.
Prism just laughed at her. "This is even better than I had hoped," he crooned, clapping his hands together as if this was all just a show put on for him. "The drug only tested for supernaturals, not demons. Cobb said you'd been in a church. This is wonderful! Death's children are demons!"
Eames lifted his head and stared up at Arthur but otherwise didn’t move. He hoped he was able to convey that he thought these people were crazy with just his eyes and a huffing sound. That he didn't have a problem if they just dropped dead too.
Arthur grinned at him —a grin meant solely for him and even the red eyes didn't change that. “I like the black, Mr. Eames,” Arthur commented, as he gently threaded fingers through Eames' fur. "It suits us."
Eames' head was all but propped against Arthur's hip; he was enjoying Arthur’s cool fingers scratching through his now black fur. It hadn’t been black when he went through the first shadow but it definitely was now and he didn’t remember consciously changing it. He also knew he looked less canine and more Grim —larger in size, larger teeth and claws— since he wasn't trying to hide what he was. And with Arthur still in the black bespoke suit from the plane they probably did look very much like a well-dressed demon and his companion.
An ostro-like wind swept through the room. It was warm and humid and smelled like ozone before it rained. The two wounded mercenaries that Eames had left bleeding out on the floor stopped their sounds of pain and dying; then just seemed to stop everything else as the breeze picked up.
Arthur's mother stepped into the room directly in the middle of the witches’ trap and Prism bounced on his toes in happiness. "A woman! Death is a female! Excellent! We shall have so much fun my dear,” Prism leered. “So much fun."
The last was said just a little too much sexual innuendo for Eames and he stepped forward and growled again; this time fully baring his teeth which were still slightly blood stained. Arthur tugged gently on his ear and Eames huffed, but sat down next to Arthur.
"Mother," Arthur acknowledged, his hand now resting on Eames' neck.
Eames wasn't sure what was about to happen. He didn't know if he should stay in this form or become human. He was much deadlier in Grim form than in his human skin, but there were some things that he controlled better as a human —his need to rip into Prism’s throat was just one of them. Arthur moved his fingers in a gentle caress and Eames relaxed slightly, the bloodlust lessening. He also took it to mean that Arthur wanted him to stay as he was.
The witch had began shaking; perhaps finally having realized that this was all going to end quite badly for her. "Forgive me," she begged, even as she dropped to her knees. "Forgive me," she whispered again.
Prism laughed. "She can't hurt you," he stated with such conviction it was almost believable. Then grabbed the witch by the hair and dragging her upward to stand once again. He continued to grasp the witch by the hair and gave her head a little shake. "Death has always been meant to be controlled. And I want to control it. Now start your little chant."
The witch did.
"You're doing it wrong!" Prism fumed, giving the witch's hair a sharp tug. "Again."
The witch started chanting again and the sigils that were carved or painted at various points in the warehouse began to glow. Prism was grinning again; now petting the witch's hair as if it was some type of reward. "Good girl,” he said. “Now keep going. Death will be mine."
The chanting changed tone and got louder. And instantly he didn’t like it. He felt the need to shift. His body wanting out of his Grim-form. It was something Eames had never felt before. He whimpered without meaning to but the pain and need was getting worse. He felt Arthur move his fingers through his fur; from his neck to the top of his head before letting his hand rest back on his neck again. The pain vanished, but Eames still felt a slight pull to shift forms.
The witch continued to chant now as if under some type of thrall.
“I see now,” Arthur’s mother began, walking towards both he and Arthur. “This is how you have taken that which doesn’t and shouldn’t belong to you.”
She carded her fingers first through Arthur’s hair as if he was still a child. Arthur apparently was refraining from pulling away but even Eames could tell it was a close call. She then repeated the action with him and when Arthur removed his hand Eames felt nothing but annoyance at the continued chanting. Yep, Eames thought, there was something else to Arthur’s mother.
“No one should force that which we do not want,” she offered, glancing down at him before continuing on her path toward Prism and the witch.
Eames got the feeling he was about to get a hands on experience as to why a Morrigan was believed to be a goddess. Another gust of wind swept through the warehouse and with it Eames felt the air change; felt the static growing. He knew that feeling, he loved it.
The first bolt of lightning caused the witch to jump. Her chanting only stopping for a second before she started again. The bolt hit one of the sigils. It burned brightly; a small fire enveloping it. The next bolt hit a sigil and jumped to another. It continued until the air would be uncomfortably warm to a human. The floor ringing them was now a charred, burning mess. The cement was cracking and glowing, it looked a little like one might picture a gateway to Hell.
“I told you,” Prism said, gleefully. “That I had a trap that even Death couldn’t escape.”
“You think your pet witch has done this?” Morrigan laughed, stepping up to the witch and laying her index finger across the witch’s lips.
The witch’s lips sealed together. She reached up to her mouth, clawing, trying to pry it open with her fingers but couldn’t. The witch couldn't even scream, only whimper in fear.
“I will deal with you later, little traitor.”
The witch tried to turn to run, but Eames stood up and growled again. His nails clicking on the floor as he took several steps forward was quite loud without the chanting. He was daring her to try and move.
“Eames,” Arthur admonished. “We need her alive.”
Eames snarled at that idea.
“I don’t like it either, but those are my mother’s wishes.”
Eames debated with himself and then thought better against challenging a Morrigan; he wasn’t crazy after all. He sat down and stared at the witch. Arthur walked the few steps toward him. Eames was trying to ignore the fond grin that Arthur offered him.
Morrigan moved away from the witch and toward Prism. “Death likes you,” she assured Prism.
“And I like you,” he answered, excitedly. “We will do so many wonderful things together. You and me and your demon son.”
It was clear to Eames that Prism wasn’t comprehending what was going on around him. That he was lost in his dreams of how this was all supposed to go. He truly believed he had trapped them all. That Death was going to do his bidding.
Morrigan smiled. “You are not keeping my son,” she made known. “You are not even keeping that which does not belong to you.” She circled Prism, and Prism followed her with his eyes. “After all, you won’t need them where you are going.”
Arthur started walking toward his mother and Prism. “Mother,” he said, then cutting his next words off to shout at Eames. “Eames, no.”
Eames felt the shadows move and turned on them; growling out a warning, protecting Arthur. Arthur grabbed his ear again. He was really going to have to talk to Arthur about that; his ears were sensitive.
“I know that,” Arthur acknowledged. “But I’d rather just your ear ache instead of all of you. And at least in this form I can actually stop you without having to sit on you.”
Eames barked at him and tried to pull his ear free. Something was coming through the shadows; and who knows what else Prism had planned? Arthur’s hold on his ear changed to a gentle caress. The shadows shifted again and two women stepped out. Perhaps stopping him was a good call on Arthur’s part because the women's skin had the same slight glow as Arthur's mother.
“Hello, Grandmother, Aunt Miranda.”
Okay, it was a very good call.
The two women looked from Arthur to him and then over to where Arthur’s mother stood. “I do see my youngest daughter is still quite dramatic, what with the fire and all,” the older woman said. And the only thing that marked her as older to Eames was the crinkling around her eyes.
“Amelia always did have a flare for dramatics.”
Arthur cleared his throat. “Some of that was me,” he added, dryly.
Arthur’s grandmother smiled at him fondly. “I see you have finally accepted what I have been telling you.” She nodded, then patted him on the shoulder as she walked by. “Now, if you'll excuse us, we have a judgement to make. You boys be good and stay here.”
Eames turned around to watch. There were three Morrigans in the room. Maybe the myths did know something after all. He tried to inch closer because information was important in their business and Prism had threatened to go after Ariadne —and he rather liked the whacky, little Pixie— only to be stopped by Arthur.
“You know curiosity killed the cat,” Arthur commented, teasingly.
Eames couldn’t take it anymore, he shifted. “I am not a cat,” he said loftily, once he had regained his human skin. But, he was curious.
“Which is a good thing,” Arthur acknowledged, taking his hand. “I don’t particularly like cats, but I really like this certain Grim.” Arthur leaned in and kissed him lightly. Eames was glad to discover that Arthur still tasted like night; well, with maybe a little campfire breeze tossed in now.
“You have a lot of explaining to do, Arthur," Eames commented, breaking the kiss to watch the Morrigans who had basically formed a triangle around Prism and the witch. "But first, you're not like royalty or anything?"
In the middle of all this it was, to Eames, wonderful to hear Arthur truly laugh; to see the dimples appear. But, Arthur wasn't answering his question. He let go of Arthur's hand so he could move to stand behind Arthur, his arms wrapped around Arthur's midsection and his chin resting on Arthur's shoulder. "Arthur?" he questioned, lightly into Arthur's ear.
"Later, Mr. Eames. Things are about to get very interesting."
Two more Morrigans stepped out of the Shadow World; and then another, and another. By the end, there were nine in total. As they had come in they had each taken up a spot behind one of Arthur’s relatives.
Eames wasn’t sure of what he saw. He just knew he saw it. And, knew he never —ever— wanted to see it again. And it only got worse after the six other Morrigans arrived. Arthur had whispered that together they were the Council of Nine. That normally there were three groups of three who handled issues among their kind.
Personally, after all this, Eames was quite happy to have never heard of the Council of Nine. But he now knew that this was probably the origin of the triple goddess. The three voices speaking both for and against, still spoke as one. And, if he liked to lose bets, he would bet that had he ever caused serious harm to another supernatural or been hurt by the actions of a being like the witch or Prism, the Morrigan would have come to offer judgement.
Eames would wish that judgement on no one. It had been like the very being of Prism had been ripped inside out; and the man had still been alive. The witch had actually fared much worse.
Wisps of shadows had seeped from Prism to hover around him and the witch. With each wisp Prism had cried out in agony as if his soul was being ripped apart, his body contorted and greyed. Eames had realized it was rot after the first few minutes; the smell caught on the wind that was still moving.
He had counted seventeen before he found it difficult to keep the wisps separate; especially after the ghosts had started to appear. The warehouse was getting a little crowded.
Some of the ghosts came to Arthur who pulled out the ever present moleskin and pen from the inside of his jacket pocket. Eames had never been able to hear a ghost speak, but now their voices were whisper soft. He watched as Arthur wrote their requests, their messages to loved ones, the comments they made about others who had been with Prism during their own ordeal. It was in that moment he saw what Cobb had seen, what had driven Cobb to betray and sell out Arthur to a madman. Where Cobb saw pain and regret, Eames only saw relief and comfort.
When Prism's body had begun to levitate, Eames had thought the worst of it over, but he had been wrong. Prism had still been able to scream as his body shrank in upon itself until there was nothing but a solid mass that looked almost like stone hovering in the air. Then gravity had taken over, and when the mass hit the ground, it shattered.
Some of the wisps became ghosts and others seemed to float away on the air. Arthur had told him those were the stolen powers being returned to those who still lived.
The witch? Eames would have felt sorry for her but she had admitted that she had freely and willingly started with Prism. Had thought she would be able to control the human; use him for her own gains. She hadn't expected him to be able to overpower her. Hadn’t thought she would become a puppet to a mere human.
None of the powers the witch had taken had left living donors. She had ensured they would die, that there would be nothing —not even a ghost— left to inform on her. Bodies left questions. The bodies had been a clue to the Morrigans that something was occurring but they had not been able to trace the cause, not until Prism decided he wanted Death and had targeted Arthur. In the end Prism and the witch’s downfall had been because of a miscalculation on one of their targets.
Eames hated to think it, but they had Cobb to thank for bringing Prism to the attention of the right people. It didn’t mean he would ever forgive Cobb because that was never going to happen.
“You know,” Arthur leaned into him, “how witches can’t actually burn unless their powers have been bound?” Eames hadn’t known that. There had always been stories about the burning of witches at the stake.
Arthur continued. “We might want to step partially into the shadows,” he nudged Eames further away from the Council and the witch, “to spare your sense of smell.”
The witch burned and even with the Shadow World's protection it smelled. The clothes they were both wearing would have to be destroyed and Eames wasn’t sure a single shower would get the stench from skin and hair. Especially with his senses.
When it was done, the fire faded, the wind dropped away, the air returned to normal. Eames doubted the warehouse would still be standing tomorrow because he didn’t see anyone letting the sigils —whether they actually did anything or not— become evidence in some police report.
The Morrigans all gave Arthur’s grandmother a slight bow and then turned and disappeared into the shadows. Now it was just him, Arthur, and Arthur’s three female relatives.
“Nephew,” Arthur’s aunt said. “The next family dinner, your Grim is required to attend.”
“He is his own person, Aunt Miranda.”
Arthur’s aunt laughed. “Of course he is, but you have not told us his name.”
Eames smirked, she technically had Arthur there. “Eames, this is my mother, my Aunt Miranda, and my grandmother. Everyone Eames. Eames say 'hello'.”
“Hello,” Eames said in a slightly teasing voice while completely ignoring Arthur’s glare.
Arthur’s grandmother didn’t say a word, just looked at him —really looked at him— nodded and disappeared into the Shadows. His aunt gave him a mischievous little grin and stepped backward into the Shadows with a knowing smile.
That just left them with Arthur’s mother.
Arthur's mother, call me Amelia, dear, had been quite a delight. Well, after the warehouse had quite literally fallen into the shadows. Eames had never known that an entire building —or what was left of one— could just be displaced into the Shadows he often wandered. He knew there were buildings in some areas of the Shadow World, but he had never given much thought to how they had gotten there; they were just always there.
But to the human world, it was as if the building had never been there. He looked around and they were standing in a vacant lot —or more to the point they were now standing it what appeared to be a large empty parking lot between two other warehouses.
Amelia reached out and ruffled Arthur’s hair again. This time Arthur pulled away with an exasperated, “mother.” Amelia laughed but Arthur’s appearance had returned to looking very human, the red of his eyes faded slightly leaving his brown eyes more of an amber shade. But Eames could still feel the difference. It was as if he and Arthur were wrapped around each other.
“Dinner,” Amelia said and Eames doubted that there was any way Arthur was getting out of it. “Two weeks from tonight, 7pm. And Eames,” she added happily. “It was quite nice to finally meet you. We'll see you then as well.” And then she too disappeared into the Shadow World.
Eames was left standing there with Arthur.
"Darling, I think you have some more explaining to do."
Arthur's only response was to lean into him and laugh. The rush and rhythm of the day finally catching up with them, leaving them both exhausted. "Later," Arthur promised with a yawn.
Eames returned the yawn. Later would have to do. He wrapped his arms around Arthur and took them into the Shadows. Rest first, explanations later.
~ end ~