Arthur keeps watch while the other two sleep. They're supposed to do this in four-hour shifts, but Arthur's circadian rhythm has been fucked for years, even before he started using Somnacin regularly. Might as well put his ridiculous sleep patterns to use, and let the others get some rest.
He keeps one ear cocked for anything disrupting the gentle symphony of night noises: Ariadne's light snores, Eames' slower breaths, the crickets, the occasional bat or owl. Coyotes or wild dogs bark somewhere east of them, in the hills. Some nights, he's heard a distant helicopter, either coming flying to or from Atlanta, which they only escaped by the skin of their teeth.
The silence of the country has gotten a lot louder since the outbreak. Or so it seems.
Eames sighs in his sleep, and lets out a soft, unhappy noise. He jerks slightly, and Arthur notices the way his closed eyes shift back and forth, twitching.
"Shit," Arthur says. On the list of things he'd rather not deal with, an armed ex-soldier with PTSD-fueled night terrors rates pretty high tonight.
He nudges Eames' foot with his own. "Eames," he whispers.
The only response is a sort of full body twitch, with Eames' hands grasping at air and his legs kicking out a little bit. It's enough to make Ariadne, who's been sleeping next to him, blink awake and roll over. She puts a hand on Eames face, leans in close to whisper something in his ear. Arthur tenses, wondering if this will somehow push Eames into unconscious, panic-driven violence, and if it does, if he'll be able to get between them in time.
Instead, Eames sighs. The pinched look doesn't leave his face, but he stops twitching, like his hands are itching for a gun or knife. Ariadne strokes a languid hand down Eames' arm, squeezing his hand, still murmuring under her breath.
It makes Arthur feel... he's not sure what. Something. He looks back out over the dark field. He's supposed to be on watch anyway.
"Hey," Ariadne whispers, voice soft sleep-roughened. "Time is it?"
Arthur doesn't look at her, looks at the sky instead. It's not black, but a deep blue. The moon has already set. "An hour or two before dawn," he tells her.
Ariadne sits up, extricating herself from the way she's entangled herself in Eames. "You were supposed to wake one of us hours ago."
Arthur shrugs. "It's fine," he says. "You needed the sleep. Both of you."
She crawls over to where Arthur's sitting. "I did the calculation yesterday. You've been sleeping, on average, thirty-nine minutes for every hour that I sleep, and forty-five minutes for Eames."
Arthur snorts. "So?"
"So go the fuck to sleep," Ariadne says, even as she yawns. "I'll watch for a bit."
Arthur shakes his head. "Not tired."
"You would be if you lay down and closed your eyes."
Arthur opens his mouth to reply, but both of them fall silent as a moan cuts across the still air. Arthur peers through the scope, trying to triangulate where the sound came from. After a few minutes, he spots it; a teenager, wearing a ragged t-shirt and boxers, no shoes. His eyes are washed out, unseeing, his skin is a greenish-gray. His mouth hangs open, and he's dragging one foot. It leaves a brownish stain with each slow, lurching step.
Arthur wonders how long it would take for the foot to wear down with steps until it's only a knob of splintered bone, then immediately banishes the thought.
"Any others?" Ariadne whispers.
Arthur looks, but sees no other ghouls. "No," he whispers, and pulls the trigger.
The young man falls, a ragged hole through his forehead. By god, Arthur loves this rifle. He sits back up and says, "Go back to sleep. I'll be fine for another few hours."
"You look like shit," Ariadne says bluntly. "Neither of us want you to wear yourself out."
"Look, I'll be fine for a few hours--"
"God damn it, Arthur, it's too early for this shit. Give me the fucking gun and lie down."
"Would you just listen to the girl?" Eames says, from a few feet away. "Fuck's sake."
Ariadne smiles in triumph, and Arthur gives up. Between the two of them, they'll probably just knock him out if he resists much more. He sighs, unslings the rifle from his shoulder, and hands it over. He lies down a couple feet away from Eames; for all the good it does, since the other man just slings an arm over his waist and pulls him in closer.
"Not so hard, isit?"
Arthur thinks, it didn't occur to me to comfort you.
Eames sighs and pulls him closer, as if in answer. Arthur's last sight before shutting his eyes is Ariadne's smile, brilliant in the dim, pre-dawn light.