When James MacPherson came to work at the Warehouse Artie had already been there a number of years. Artie's first partner Nathaniel had disappeared recently in pursuit of the gold cross of Cortes. Three months with no sign and they'd had to move on without him. Nathaniel had been the one to usher Artie into the Warehouse when he first began, the one who'd caught his double life at the NSA and forgave him. Artie had even named his first ferret Nate. Now with him gone Artie was alone and Mrs. Frederic decided that he needed a new partner. In came James to fill the gap.
James MacPherson arrived wearing a suit and tie, a bit over dressed for the Warehouse but how was he to know that? Artie met him outside with a plate of cookies. He'd been baking a bit more lately what with no one else around the Warehouse.
"You must be James MacPherson," Artie said, holding out the plate.
"Do you tend to get many unexpected visitors out here?" James said, looking down at the plate but not taking a cookie.
"No, not really," Artie replied, lowering the hand holding the plate. "But you could be a spy for all I know."
"A spy?" James asked.
Artie just nodded and turned back toward the Warehouse. "I'm Arthur Nielsen, now let's show you around."
Once inside, plate of cookies put away, Artie proceeded to give James the grand tour, somewhat eager to show off his baby in all her archival splendor.
"And this," Artie said as he walked out of the office door onto the balcony with James behind him, "is Warehouse 13."
"Bit dark isn't it?"
Artie looked sidelong at him. "Uh, I suppose you could say that."
James just pursed his lips, still looking out over the expanse of the Warehouse from their aerial view. Artie stared at James for a moment more then looked away. Usually first sight reactions to the main area of the Warehouse did not include total calm.
"So, there is the manual to read," Artie said getting back to business.
"I already have."
"And there..." Artie continued then snapped his head around. "You what?"
"I've already read it; quite a lot of interesting artifacts you have here."
"You've already read it?"
James turned his head toward Artie. "That is what I said."
"You have the manual already?" Artie said, still staring somewhat stunned, unable to think of a more intelligent question.
"Well, it would be hard to read it without having a copy."
Artie closed his mouth, looked at James once more, then turned around and went back into the office. This introduction to the Warehouse was not going quite as he had expected but then again he did work with objects with supernatural powers. Behind him he heard James enter and close the door. He turned to see the man smiling widely.
"Well then," James said, "it looks like we are partners now." He held out his hand. "Glad to be working with you."
For some reason Artie felt himself smiling as he took James' hand and shook. "Welcome to the Warehouse."
It was odd but he had a good feeling about this.
The first time they went out on a mission together had proven to be a relatively painless outing. They had trucked on down to Texas and found themselves a diamond necklace which was able to project the light which touched it during the day at night with twice the intensity; definitely on the more simple side of artifacts.
"I could make it into a very lovely flashlight," James said about it as he inspected the thing in the car.
"Would certainly save on batteries," Artie replied.
The second time they went looking for an artifact they both ended up soaking wet with the artifact at the bottom of Lake Erie. Mrs. Frederic had not been too pleased with their return.
The third time the artifact was a Russian doll with nine smaller dolls inside of it, all artifacts in themselves. Each different size doll could open a corresponding size door, the smallest doll opened one foot high doors, the second smallest, two feet, and so on. It was interesting in its mathematical qualities but also useful when one wanted to, say, rob a bank, as the current possessor of the Russian doll had decided to do.
"Put down the doll and just step away," Artie said, as James pointed the Tesla at the man.
"What do you think; I'm just going to hand it over to you?"
"Unless you'd rather we just shot you?" James replied.
The man held up the doll as if it was a small shield. "You can't hold me. I can just walk out."
"Oh, we don't want you," Artie said, taking another step closer. "We just want the dolls."
"We have a collection you see," James said. Artie flashed him a warning look but the other just smiled and continued. "Of dolls."
Artie couldn't stop himself snorting in amusement.
"Well, not this one!" The man said, turning on his heel and running towards the back door, doll held out to whisk it open.
"James!" Artie shouted and James shot.
The man fell, face first, the Russian doll sliding across the floor. Artie walked over and picked up the doll, putting it in a silver Warehouse bag with a small spark.
"Now we would like the rest of them," James said to the man on the floor as he came back around, "must have the set."
"You're ridiculous," Artie said but smiled anyway.
The fourth artifact was Beethoven's ear trumpet which made Artie deaf for a week afterward. The fifth excursion was a bird cage they both would rather have forgotten about for the rest of their lives. The sixth artifact wasn't an artifact at all, just a strange set of coincidences which turned a lake red because of mineral deposits.
Work at the Warehouse just kept rolling on, artifact after artifact, dangerous and only mildly so and rarely, completely safe. As it turned out they made a perfect team. Artie found himself to be quite happy working with James.
"Arthur, what time is it?"
"Five minutes since you asked me the last time."
"Is it really necessary to be doing this?"
"No, I mean it, Arthur. You already have that lovely map on the wall you're so fond of perusing and everything logged into that fabulous technological wonder of a computer upstairs. So, my question is why are we doing this?"
"James, it's just a bit of inventory. We're not re-cataloging the whole Warehouse," Artie said looking down from his ladder at the man below.
"I'm sure you've considered that before," James replied.
"There are occasions when artifacts find a way to move, you know," Artie said logging the date on the port for the tea pot at his right. "This section is particularly bad about it."
"Yes, I know, Arthur," James said, slight frustration in his tone. "You gave me this speech in its longer form twenty minutes ago.
Artie looked down again. "Then why are you still asking me why?"
"Seems an exercise in futility, does it not? If the artifacts are so keen on moving they're just going to do it again regardless."
Rolling his eyes, Artie descended the ladder until he was back on the ground. James had his arms crossed with a rather petulant expression on his face. Artie handed him the check list.
"Would you rather be out somewhere chasing an artifact getting possibly maimed or killed in the process?"
"Well, when you put it that way, yes."
Artie laughed quickly, walking down the isle. James followed behind him, sliding the ladder along.
"Well, I'm sorry our work isn't always so life threatening, James," Artie said, stopping at the next section. "Your turn."
Artie indicated the ladder. Taking off his jacket, James handed it and the clipboard to Artie then proceeded to unbutton the cuffs of his white shirt.
"You know, I am half tempted to move something myself into the wrong spot when I'm up there just to bother you later, Arthur," said James, grinning somewhat mischievously.
Artie just raised an eyebrow, slightly distracted by James' wrists.
Thus, unencumbered James took the clipboard back from Artie and climbed up the ladder to the second shelf up.
"Perhaps we should hire interns to do the menial labor such as this," James continued.
Artie laughed, sharp and short. "If you wanted to burn down the Warehouse then I'm sure that would be a quick way to do it."
He heard James chuckle above him. "It might prove some entertainment at least."
"I'm sorry, James. Is a warehouse full of supernatural artifacts from all different centuries and countries not amusement enough for you?"
Artie heard a soft laugh from the other man and looked up. James was looking down at him, a broad smile across his face.
"You are amusement enough for me, Arthur."
For some reason Artie felt himself blush.
Artie must have fallen asleep at his desk because when he woke up to someone gently shaking him the office was mostly dark and his screen was turned off. Blinking the fuzz of sleep away from his eyes, Artie turned to see James sitting beside him with a hand on his shoulder.
"Working too hard?" he asked with a slight smile.
Artie sat up and stretched. "I was just trying to re-catalog the artifacts that were all misplaced after the incident with the cruise liner."
"Well, Jessica couldn't have known it would create a hurricane like that."
"If she'd not gone poking around like I specifically asked her not to," Artie said, clicking a key and bringing the computer screen back to life, "there wouldn't have been a hurricane to begin with."
James scoffed quietly. "Let her be Arthur, it's barely been a month since she's been here. You know it takes a while to get used to this place."
Artie rubbed a hand over his face. "I know, I know. It's not as though it's ever calm out there for too long any way."
Nodding, James stood up. "Are you staying?"
Artie just nodded absently, eyes still on the screen wondering how he was going to go about putting all of these artifacts back without incident. Then he felt James' hand on his arm and turned. James was looking at him intently, leaning over a bit, his eyes flicking up and down Artie's face twice as if searching.
"What?" Artie asked.
Opening his mouth, James puffed out a sigh then stood up straight, his hand falling away.
"Don't stay too late, Arthur. You need some proper sleep like all normal people. There's no need to live at the Warehouse."
"So you say," Artie retorted with a smile, "but every time I leave something else tries to explode."
"Promise me you will leave and get to bed sometime," James said.
Strangely, Artie felt like he was answering some other question in James' mind because the smile he received in response was not one he'd seen before on James' face. A feeling which had only been a vague inkling before in Artie began to push its way closer to the surface.
"I've informed Paul's parents of the loss and I will write the report for the Regents myself. Artie I would like you to start the process of storing his room…" Mrs. Frederic paused as she looked at the two of them then spoke a bit softer. "When you… have time."
Artie knew what she really meant was 'when you feel up to it.' He just nodded and crossed his arms over his chest, not looking at anything in particular.
"James," she continued, "make sure the typewriter is put in the dark vault and be sure to bring Artie or Jessica with you when storing it. We don't need any repeat performances."
"Of course," James said simply.
Mrs. Frederic nodded once at the two of them then turned to leave. At the door frame to the parlor she paused and looked back at them.
"I'll check in when I return."
Then she was gone.
Artie heaved a sigh letting his head fall back onto the edge of the couch, eyes closed. He couldn't believe he had let this happen. The boy hadn't even been at the Warehouse six months. Artie should have realized how dangerous the typewriter was. He shouldn't have left Paul alone with it. If he'd only come back sooner he could have saved Paul's life.
Artie opened his eyes and lifted his head to look at James sitting beside him on the couch. He was giving Artie a sympathetic look. James hadn't been on the mission with Artie and Paul. He hadn't seen how pale Paul's face had become, how his body fell to the floor almost as soon as Artie came back to check on him after Paul had been gone too long.
"Don't blame yourself, Arthur," James said. "You didn't know exactly what the typewriter did. We only had sketchy information at best."
"I should have been more careful," Artie said, looking away. "I should have known better. It was too easy. I should have taken that for a clue at least!"
"Arthur," James cut in, scooting closer and putting a hand over Artie's. "It's too late now to change what happened and you can't blame yourself for everything that happens because of the artifacts."
Artie scoffed. "I can blame myself for this one."
"Well, I'm not blaming you," James said making Artie look back. "So, do try to keep the melodramatics to a minimum."
Artie couldn't help but laugh a little and smile at his partner. James nodded once with a semi-serious look on his face. Curling his fingers around Artie's hand, he squeezed once then stood up, holding Artie's hand, inviting Artie to stand as well.
"Time to get back to work protecting the world, right, Arthur?"
Artie stood, hand remaining in James' for a moment longer before they let go.
The two of them were in England searching for a new artifact. There had been reports of some strange death's occurring at Westminster Abbey, specifically near the burial place of Mary I and Elizabeth I. Thus, they hopped on a plane and went to investigate.
"I've spoken to the curator," James said as he walked down a set of marble stairs toward Artie waiting at the bottom. "It seems one researcher and two tourists died of, according to the coroner, poisoning. However, they cannot trace just what type of poison or where the poison could be from."
"That's perfect," Artie said as they walked into the main cathedral, the ceiling arching high above them. "Going back through Warehouse history there are a few notes about something related to the Tudor dynasty, Mary I in particular, and poison."
"Bloody Mary," James said and made a motion with his hand like connecting the dots.
"So, something of Mary's, it's poisonous but we just don't know what it is."
The abbey was closed to the public at that time of night. However, luckily for them, James had an old friend who worked at Westminster who allowed them in after hours. English ties ran deep. They entered the section of the church where the ladies of Henry VIII were buried, the graves of Mary I and Elizabeth I side by side. The front of the marble edifice had three dark columns rising up from its base with two marble lions in between. On its face were two plaques in Latin reading, "Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one resurrection."
At first everything seemed quiet and peaceful, no outright signs of anything which might be an artifact.
"Look," James said suddenly, pointing to the lion on the right above the plaque with Mary's name.
Somehow in between the lion's teeth was a perfect red rose.
"Now, I don't think that is supposed to be there," Artie said.
Moving closer, they stood in front of the lion holding the rose. It didn't move or spark or do anything which seemed dangerous which only made Artie more nervous. Often the quiet artifacts were the worst. Taking a pair of purple gloves and tongs out of his bag, Artie slowly put on the gloves.
"Careful, Arthur," James said. "We don't know yet how it poisons."
"Thank you, James," Artie replied sarcastically.
Holding out the tongs, Artie used them to grasp the stem of the rose and tugged. The rose didn't budge. Artie tired again and still nothing. He moved the tongs so they were at the base of the head of the rose and tried again.
"It's not moving," Artie said.
"I did notice."
"It might require physical contact," Artie said, trying to extrapolate an idea. "It's a single rose, one you would hand to someone else, like Mary may have received from her husband."
"Blood red..." James muttered quietly.
Artie put down the tongs and reached for the rose.
"Arthur, don't," James said, grabbing his arm.
"One of us has to," Artie said. "We certainly can't leave it here. Just get the can ready."
James sighed, taking the top off of the metal canister exposing the purple goo within. Reaching out carefully, Artie grasped the stem of the rose with two fingers. He paused for a moment to see if he died. When he didn't fall over in pain Artie pulled slowly, the rose sliding out of the lion's teeth. He turned around to face James holding out the canister.
Then suddenly he felt a prick on his finger. Artie hissed in pain and looked down at his hand holding the rose. A small droplet of blood escaped from the hole made in the glove and his thumb to dribble down onto the stem of the rose. Suddenly, the blood seemed to be sucked right into the green stem and Artie felt a stabbing pain in his chest.
Artie stumbled and fell to his knees. He tried to let go of the rose, get it away from him, but he couldn't. His fingers wouldn't open, keeping the rose trapped in his hand or more like the rose trapping him. His blood was now connected to the poison in the rose.
"Arthur!" James gasped, kneeling down in front of the man. "Let go, put the rose in here. We can neutralize it."
"I can't let go," Artie gasped.
James grabbed the top of Artie's arm and dunked his hand holding the rose straight into the purple goo. The pain only spiked making Artie gasp and his vision blur.
"It's not working," he managed to say, sounding more like a cry.
"Your body is feeding it," James said, grabbing Artie's bag, "or... or your blood."
Artie's hand with the rose slid out of the Warehouse goo, completely clean, and his knees gave out. With a smack that echoed through the chamber, Artie fell down to the floor, shaking. The pain had spread through his whole body now, as though he could feel the poison like knives traveling through his blood stream. Artie heard James rummaging through the bag nearby.
"Bloody Mary..." Artie said quietly trying to see through the haze in his eyes. "She was called Bloody Mary..."
"Be quiet, Arthur," James said from what sounded like too far away. "I'm going to help you. You'll be fine. You'll be fine."
Artie's vision went black.
Suddenly, Artie was coughing and gasping for air. He could feel someone holding him from behind, hand against his chest. Artie tried to open his eyes, tried to see what was going on. He balled his hands into fists as he struggled to force the air into his lungs. It was like drowning on nothing. Finally, air flowed in and he felt himself breathing normally, in and out, in and out. He realized then that there was nothing in his hands.
"It's all right, Arthur, you're fine."
Artie realized it was James who was holding him, moving him to sit up. Artie put his hands flat on the ground, forcing himself to be still and stop shaking.
"What happened? Where's the rose?" Artie gasped out once he found his voice again.
Moving around so he was kneeling beside him, one hand still on Artie's shoulder, James pointed to the canister where it sat a few feet away with its top securely on.
"What did you do?" Artie asked.
"I gave it some of my blood."
"What!" Artie shouted, almost making himself fall back again. "Why would you do that?"
"Well, my family is Catholic. Mary Tudor executed hundreds in the name of Catholicism. I thought perhaps the rose wouldn't harm someone of Catholic heritage. I was right."
"How did you know it wouldn't just poison you too?" Artie asked.
"I didn't," James said, standing up. "I didn't even know if it would release your blood once it had mine but I had to try something, Arthur."
Artie slowly got to his feet, swaying and still aching. He stared at James.
"You... you could have died," he said. "You could have died too."
"I know," James replied simply, looking back at Artie like it had been the easiest decision in the world.
Without even thinking about it, Artie reached out and pulled James into a fierce hug. He held on tightly to his friend knowing words would never be enough for how much he wanted to say thank you.
Artie never expected to fall in love with someone like James. He never expected to fall for his partner at work over artifacts and late night research and investigations to random states and countries. It was like the marriage happened first and the romance later. Yet when it happened, suddenly Artie was tumbling down the slope without even realizing it.
The two of them were in Pennsylvania on the path of an artifact. In fact they had been on the path of this artifact for some time. This artifact had a unique ability which made it somewhat difficult to obtain. So far the search had taken two months with the artifact passing through various people.
"I'm going to kill John Wilkes Booth!" James said as the two of them ran down an apartment hallway.
"Sorry to," Artie huffed, "inform you, whew, but he's already, oh god I hate running, already dead."
They skidded to a stop at a corner, craning their necks around the bend. The man they had been chasing wearing John Wilkes Booth's boot was no where in sight.
"Shit..." Artie muttered, lowering the Tesla in his hand.
The Farnsworth began to buzz as if on cue to their failure and James pulled it out of this jacket pocket.
"What?" he said.
"Did you catch him?" Jessica asked, her small face with its large red curls filling the circular screen.
"Lost him," Artie said, putting the Tesla back into his jacket. "Do we know if the boot makes you run faster as well as getting away with everything?"
"I have to say that is one of the more bothersome things about this," James complained to them both. "If the wearer gets away with everything then that means he gets away from us!"
"James..." Artie said.
"And it is always by some ridiculous coincidence or sudden locked door or turn in the road or-"
"You know he's on day eleven now," Jessica interrupted. "If he hasn't been counting properly or he's one of the stupider ones you should be able to get him soon."
The man currently in possession of the boot, one Robert Williams, was unfortunately not one of the stupider ones. He knew exactly what the boot did and had the money to prove it which only made their job that much harder.
Jessica leaned forward into the view of the Fansworth with an amused grin. "Maybe you'll catch him as soon as the last hour is out on the twelve days, down to the last second on the clock."
She wiggled her fingers at the screen in an 'ooo, suspense' type manner.
"Be still my heart," Artie muttered.
"He's staying at that snazzy hotel in town," Jessica said, being serious again, and looking away from them to the computer out of their view. "It says he's booked to check out tomorrow morning."
"Damn it," James grumbled.
"You think he's going to take off the boot after tonight then put it back on tomorrow to start the cycle over?" Jessica asked.
"He'll try at least," Artie answered.
"Then we go tonight," James said, closing the Farnsworth without even a goodbye to Jessica.
Driving quickly to the hotel, James sent Artie to head in the back while James blazed in with all of his showmanship through the front. Hopefully, Robert would still be down stairs at the hotel bar getting away with not paying for any of his drinks. The clock was ticking though. Sneaking through a 'staff only' entrance, Artie headed down the back corridor toward the main lobby. If James and Robert weren't down there Artie could try for Robert's room on the fourth floor.
"I've had enough of this!" Artie suddenly heard shouted from the lobby.
There were some surprised shouts, gasps and the high yelp of a woman. Artie hurried along, pulling out his Tesla and, staying low, crept into the back of the lobby atrium. He could see Robert's back where he stood facing James in the circular entryway by the front desk. It was like a very dramatic movie ending in its set up. Robert even had gotten to the point of having a gun to point at James. Artie tried to breathe slowly, the panic attempting to take over.
"Now is the end, Robert," James said sounding calm. "Your twelve days of joy riding are up."
"Not quite yet," Robert said, "and you're not going to take it away from me. I can still get away with killing you."
Artie tensed as Robert's hand began to move on the trigger. There was no way Artie would lose James to a bastard like this. Quickly he slid out from his hiding place, Tesla raised and locked eyes with James.
"Arthur!" James shouted.
Robert turned automatically just at Artie fired the Tesla, hitting the man in the chest. He flew back, the gun falling out of his hands, and landed unconscious on the floor. James walked over and pulled the boot off of his foot. James grinned and looked up at Arthur as he walked over to stand in front of him. James held up the boot.
Artie felt a wash of happiness flood over him seeing James, not shot, standing there victorious. He didn't realize until then how worried he'd been over just that small moment of danger to James' life. Another piece clicked into place.
'Oh...' Artie thought.
Leaving Robert in the hands of the local police to explain his shouting in a hotel with a gun as well as some outstanding bar and hotel bills, the two Warehouse agents headed off to their own inn for the night.
"Nice shooting tonight, Arthur," James said as they walked down the hall to their room, boot safely stowed in the car.
"Well, big open hotel lobbies are my specialty."
James laughed vaguely then the two of them fell silent, an awkward feeling settling in.
James stopped two rooms down from their's and turned to look at Artie. He breathed in quickly like he was preparing to give a speech which tipped Artie off that he'd better start paying attention because this was going to be something. Thoughts suddenly sprang up all at once on him about touching hands and unexplainable smiles and life saving and normal every day contact that lasted a beat longer and that feeling that even teenagers know. His pulse shot up to 'just been running' point and Artie tried to remind himself that he was over fifteen years old now, with zero results.
Then James did that smile which Artie hadn't realized until just then he was in love with and everything fell perfectly into place. They stared at each other, the light really clicking on after who knew how long of it being there and James reached out to grasp Artie's wrists.
"Look, Arthur..." he started.
"I know," Artie responded, not needing James to give whatever speech was in his head at all.
So, James closed the gap for their movie moment and kissed Artie who kissed him right back. Artie's head began to fill with the most ridiculous, hardly related thoughts as their lips moved together like, 'I can't believe we're getting to this point in Lancaster, Pennsylvania' and 'why the hell am I so short?' But even those idle thoughts were erased completely with James pulling Artie even closer by the back of his neck, tongue forcing its way into Artie's mouth. Okay, they were fifteen year olds again and damn it if Artie did not care as he griped James' hip with one hand and his coat with the other.
"Okay, wow," Artie said when they finally came up for air, still somewhat entangled with each other.
James was looking down at him with bedroom eyes combined with a somewhat predatory, 'I got what I want now' look. Artie would have been alarmed but it seemed that rational part of his brain was overruled by the part that was very very interested in seeing what that look could do. James shook his head quickly, then practically dragged Artie down the few remaining feet to their room, pressing him against the door while he fumbled through Artie's pockets looking for the key.
"So, I can't think of anything witty or charming to say," James said looking back up at Artie having finally found the room key in Artie's top coat pocket. "So, shall we just skip it?"
"Yeah, okay," Artie replied quickly, taking the key from James and opening the door.
James gave him a look which a lion probably gave before it pounced then stepped inside beside Artie, closing the door with a snap behind them.
Artie drove up the driveway of Colin's bed and breakfast for the morning meeting of the Warehouse agents. Jessica had taken up permanent residence at the bed and breakfast so she was bound to be already downstairs chowing down on breakfast. Stopping the car, Artie saw James' car already parked in the driveway and couldn't stop a grin. Grabbing his bag off the passenger seat, Artie got out of his car and headed into the building. He found James still in the front hall, taking off his jacket to hang on the coat stand.
"Morning," Artie said, kissing James on the corner of his mouth.
James smiled and pulled Artie to him for a full kiss. "Hello."
"Oh!" Artie said, rummaging through his bag and pulling out a blue tin. "I made cookies."
James laughed. "Chocolate chip?"
Artie scoffed. "Please, oatmeal and some cherry chunk."
"Going rich, are we?"
"Don't have any then if you're going to be critical."
James took the tin out of Artie's hand then walked down the hall and into the parlor. Shaking his head but still smiling, Artie followed.
"Arthur baked cookies," James said as he sat down at the table where Jessica was already stationed with a plate of eggs beside her.
"Oh?" She took the tin from him and opened it. "Yes, oatmeal raisin!"
"You didn't mention raisins," James said, looking back at Artie.
He just shrugged and sat down, taking a stack of papers out of his bag. He passed some to James and to Jessica.
"So, the one about the duck," Artie began.
"I checked, it really was just some stupid kids," Jessica said.
"I told you," James added.
"Good, then the one with the paper planes...."
"Autistic child," James replied.
"That is focus."
"What about the cherry trees?" Jessica asked, holding up a folder.
"I think we need to look into that one," Artie said, crossing his arms. "Anytime the term 'glowing' is used to describe fruit trees it bears another look."
"I'm all over it," Jessica said, closing the file and placing it beside her. "Are you two going to look into the drownings?"
Artie and James turned to each other. Artie saw the look of 'Louisiana would be nice this time of year' on James' face and turned back to Jessica.
"Just need to book a flight," Artie replied, gathering up the rest of the papers on the table. "And I think we can leave these three for later, certainly not pressing."
"Do you two want anything?" Colin said, suddenly poking his head in the door.
They all turned to look at the inn owner in surprise. Colin had a way of appearing much like Mrs. Frederic without anyone hearing him coming. Artie often wondered if they were related. At least Colin did appear to age.
"Coffee?" James asked.
"I'm fine," Artie said.
"Artie did make cookies though," Jessica said holding up the tin toward Colin.
He made an 'O' face and scurried into the parlor, taking three. He patted Artie quickly on the back in a thank you then swept out of the parlor just as quickly. Jessica stood up, scarfing down the last of her eggs as she did so.
"Time to head to the Warehouse then. Can I catch a ride with one of you two?" she asked then raised a finger. "Oh! And you should take the Conch with you when you go to Louisiana, just in case. Wouldn't want to become one of the drowners."
"How astute," James remarked as she walked by.
Jessica only snorted and turned down the hall. Artie stood up, reaching for his tin of cookies, and putting the top back on. Still sitting next to him, James took one of Artie's hands and threaded their fingers together. Artie looked down at him.
"Thinking lots of ridiculous romantic thoughts?" Artie asked.
"Perhaps," James replied with a smirk.
"Well, cut it out," Artie said, picking up the stack of papers and putting them into his bag with his other hand. "We've got to get to work."
James just pursed his lips like a high school student thinking about skipping class.
Artie kissed James on the forehead and squeezed his hand. "Come on."
Standing, James kissed Artie quickly then walked out of the parlor back toward the kitchen. Artie chuckled. Obviously, he could not do without the coffee. Picking up his bag and the tin, Artie walked outside to join Jessica standing by his car.
"Ready?" Artie asked as he walked over to her, opening the back door and putting his things in.
"You hang on to that one, Artie," Jessica said.
Artie turned sharply to look at her in surprise. Jessica just gazed levelly back at him then glanced at James coming out of the front door. For someone so young Artie was continually surprised at how insightful Jessica was. She was just an old soul.
"He really loves you," Jessica said watching James walking down the path toward them, "and that can be hard to find."
Artie sighed then smiled at her, giving in. It was impossible to keep secrets from Jessica anyway. He looked over at James, coffee in hand.
"I know," he said to her, "I really do."
When Jessica was shot two months later Artie thought of that moment and didn't know why. James held his hand like it was Paul all over again and asked if he was okay.
Even though Jessica was gone, with James still there Artie was more than okay.
Artie was down in isle 783D when he suddenly heard "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" playing through the Warehouse.
"Oh, don't you start with me," Artie muttered to the Warehouse at large.
Climbing back down the ladder he was currently high up on, Artie took off his dark glasses and his purple gloves looking around. He couldn't quite tell where the song was coming from. He couldn't recall any specific artifact that played the song or any that played Nat King Cole but he didn't have the entire Warehouse catalog memorized, yet.
Artie walked up and down the isles searching until after about 5 minutes, and the song repeating again, he realized the song wasn't coming from anywhere specifically but seemed to be following him. Artie pursed his lips and headed over to the office, climbing the stairs and opening the door.
Turning, Artie saw James sitting in a chair next to an old record player. He smiled and stood up as Artie looked at him.
"Is that Glen Miller's record player?"
"You heard the song out in the Warehouse, didn't you?" James replied.
"Well, since you wanted me to hear it obviously I did, everywhere I went," Artie tried to look angry but he knew he wasn't pulling it off well. "Trying to be romantic are you?"
James smiled and circled around Artie with a playful smile. "Do you like the song?"
"Are you going to keep playing it in my head until I say yes?"
James laughed once. "Now you're just being disagreeable on purpose, won't let me get you any presents."
"It's a present now, is it?"
James stopped and stood in front of Artie. "You know it's one of the safer artifacts, just sharing music between the one who plays the record and the one who they want to hear it. So, just relax and enjoy it for a moment. The Warehouse is not going to blow up over Berkeley Square."
"James MacPherson..." Artie said trying to sound stern.
"Arthur Nielsen," James said with a smile, stepping closer into Artie's personal space. "Come on."
Finally, Artie's resolve broke and a small smile crept over his face. "Well, I suppose it's all right for a little while."
James slid his hand down Artie's arm and took his hand, holding it up. He placed his other on Artie's waist.
"Dance with me, Arthur?"
"I don't think I have a choice," Artie replied but his tone didn't match his words.
James just raised his eyebrows and gave Artie's other hand a significant look. Artie didn't even sigh as he put his hand on James' arm and they began to slowly dance to the music just for them.
"...That certain night, the night we met, there was magic abroad in the air."
"I feel like we're in an overly sappy 1950s movie right now..."
James scoffed and held him just a bit tighter. "You know, maybe you need a little 1950s romance now and then."
"I don't think so."
"You dancing in the Warehouse begs to differ, I'm afraid."
Artie looked up at James sharply but couldn't reply as the other gazed down at him. Artie looked away, turning slowly and tired not to smile. He had to admit despite himself that it was very sweet.
"Thank you," Artie said looking back at James.
James leaned forward, touching his forehead against Artie's.
"...and as we kissed and said goodnight, a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square."
"I mean it, Arthur, it's a serious question."
"James, how long have we both worked at the Warehouse?" Artie said as he walked down the isle, James behind him. "How many things have we seen that could have killed, or did kill, or would have killed more had they been left out in the world?"
"And how many things have we seen that had many applications for good?"
Artie sighed and stopped, turning to look at James.
"We can't make distinctions, you know that. Everything goes here, everything gets stored away, not to be used."
James crossed his arms. "Oh, really? What about the vacuum cleaner?"
"That doesn't leave the Warehouse!"
"The butterfly net?"
"You know that it was needed on that mission with all the pieces of that chess set."
"You see?" James said, that enthusiastic look Artie could not help but swoon for in his eyes. "An artifact used for good. There are so many things here which could be used out in the world instead of just hidden away, squandered."
"Are you thinking of specific artifacts you want, James? Thinking of doing a little shopping?"
"Don't be sarcastic with me, Arthur. I'm trying to make a point."
"Oh, you've made it, James," Artie said, touching James' chest in a calming way. "I see what you're saying but it doesn't work that way. We can't pick and choose."
James sighed. "If not us then who? We're the agents. It should be our discretion what artifacts stay in the Warehouse and which can be free to stay out in the world, to be used."
"James," Artie sighed right back. "That's bias right there. Anyone would be biased about what is good and what is bad, what needs to be locked up and what can be used to bring world peace."
"You know that doesn't work, Tim had a ferret to prove that."
"You know what I meant, it was an example," Artie said, slightly exasperated then clutched James' arm and looked into his eyes. "The artifacts have to stay here, every single one. It's all or nothing."
He let James go and continued to walk down the isle.
"What about nothing then?" James said from behind him.
Artie stopped and looked back. James was giving him a strange look. For just a moment Artie had a feeling of dread. It felt like maybe James wasn't kidding.
Then James walked over and shrugged, putting his hands on Artie's shoulders.
"Forget it," he said, "just philosophizing."
James laughed and kissed Artie quickly.
"So," he said, stepping forward a bit closer so there was virtually no space between them. "I say it's high time we let this old Warehouse alone for just a bit and get something to eat; something that's not another plate of your cookies, no matter how divine they are."
Artie tried to be annoyed at the passing slight on his cookies but it didn't really work with James standing this close. So, he nodded instead and brushed a stray hair away from James' face.
"Yeah." He stepped backwards once. "Dinner it is then."
James smiled slowly. "It's a date."
Mr. & Mrs. James MacPherson
It was just a letter; just a letter which fell out of James' bag when Artie accidentally knocked it to the floor. It was just a letter like any other, black ink, return address, stamp in the corner; a normal everyday, found in the mailbox letter, except that it wasn't.
Artie held the letter where he stood frozen in front of the desk just staring. He must have read it four times at least not believing what he eyes insisted he was seeing. Now he couldn't look away.
James was married, Mr. and Mrs., actually married. Words were flowing through Artie's head at an alarming rate all jumbled together, 'affair,' 'bit on the side,' 'home wrecker.' He suddenly felt very nauseous and staggered a step over to sit down in the chair nearest to him with a loud 'thunk.' He still clutched the letter in his hand, unable to throw it away from himself or put it back in James' bag. It was just some bill like everyone has to pay, things people get in the mail every day. Yet to Artie it was more like a ticking bomb.
The explosion came when the door leading to the Warehouse at Artie's left opened and James walked through.
"Do you know Pandora's box? I can't believe it's actually empty now. Well, I was… Arthur?"
Artie could almost hear the gears in James' head clicking into place as he stood just a few steps in the door looking at Artie sitting motionless, not looking at him. James' bag was where Artie had knocked it on the floor and the envelope was still clutched in Artie's hand. If this was a dramatic romance movie now would be the point that Artie jumped to his feet and started shouting accusations, screaming and crying. Instead he slowly put the letter down on the table in front of him and turned his head to look at James, voice soft.
"You weren't wearing a ring when I met you. I've never seen you wear one," he said.
James stared back at him, lips tight with a resigned expression on his face. "I didn't want the Warehouse to touch her."
Artie nodded as he looked away back at the desk. His hands were flat on the surface where he kept his eyes locked. Slowly he stood up. James took a sudden step back as if Artie's movement was already the punch the man deserved. Artie didn't punch him though. He picked up his notebook lying on the table and his work gloves then walked past James out the door into the Warehouse. James' sudden hand on his shoulder stopped Artie for just a moment.
"Arthur, wait, we need to talk-"
"No, we don't," Artie replied then walked down the stairs.
After speaking to the owner of the bookstore, Artie, James, and Todd left with the newfound knowledge that the George Bernard Shaw book was no longer there. Todd, who had been at the Warehouse four months now and had yet to be seriously maimed by an artifact, was convinced the book was the artifact which had been 'befuddling,' as Todd put it, the minds of its various owners.
"Only an Irish playwright's work could do that to a person," Todd exclaimed.
However, the book was not at the bookstore where the last owner recalled having left it. Of course she was a bit confused so it hadn't been a sure lead anyway. So, the three agents were at another dead end.
Once out on the street, Artie shoved his hands in his pockets looking at the few passersby in the evening light.
"So, shall we talk to Ms. Fields again?" James asked.
Artie just nodded, looking in the other direction. He heard James sigh a little and tap his foot.
"Unless anyone has a better idea."
"It might not be an artifact," Artie said, glancing back at the shop.
"Perhaps not," James replied.
"All right!" Todd said, whipping his notebook closed so forcefully that it made a loud snap which caused the other two to jump in surprise. "Whatever fight you two are having, could you please resolve it?"
"Excuse me?" Artie said.
"I can't take the silence!" Todd said, holding up his hands. "It's creeping me out!"
"Todd, what are you talking about?" James said, somewhat less than convincingly.
"We're not having a fight," Artie added, also not so convincingly. "And we certainly haven't been silent."
"We were just talking," James continued pointing to the store behind them and then to Artie, "in case you weren't paying attention."
"See," Todd said pointing between them, "that's what I mean; the banter and the 'we know everything, watch us work' thing which just seems to be coming back all of a sudden. Now, that is the normal you two. So I don't know what's been going on but if you two just keep talking about only what is at hand and not trying to educate me on 12th century Warehouse practices and whatever I may start to believe you've been replaced by exact duplicate normal people." He paused with a huff and stared at them. "And we wouldn't want that."
Artie cleared his throat. "Of course not."
"Yeah…" Todd said looking at them searchingly then turning and heading to the car. "Okay, so I'm driving and you two can walk back."
"I beg your pardon?" Artie said.
"Lovely idea," James said, throwing Todd the keys.
Artie whipped his head around and stared at James in surprise.
"See," Todd said, opening the car door, "at least one of you is admitting it now. I will meet you back at the hotel in a few hours and we can finish ironing this out. So you guys just, deal now. Good bye."
Then Todd drove off leaving the two of them alone on the street in front of the bookshop. Artie stared at the diminishing figure of the car, slightly perturbed but it was too late now. Beside him he could feel James' stare attempting to bore a hole through his head.
"This is not a good idea," Artie said finally.
Then he turned and began walking down the street in the direction the car went. It was the only thing he could think of to do.
"Arthur," James shouted after him, "Arthur, wait."
James grabbed onto Artie's arm and steered them into an open cement area containing some empty tables with chairs and a large fountain, now lit by flood lights in the semi-darkness. Artie pulled his arm out of James' grasp as soon as they stopped walking.
"You are going to have to let me explain eventually," James said.
"No, I don't," Artie replied petulantly.
He sighed then put his hands over his eyes. He really did not want to have this conversation.
"James," Artie acquiesced, "I think the situation is pretty obvious. What could you possibly have to say to explain anything to me?"
There was a pause before James spoke softly. "I should have told you I was married."
Artie scoffed. "Oh, really? You think?"
"I wasn't deliberately trying to mislead you."
"What were you doing then? Because I think not wearing your wedding ring when you're married and then starting a relationship with someone else sounds pretty misleading."
"Arthur…" James said, voice a bit pleading.
"If you're going to give me excuses, James," Artie continued, "you'll need to come up with something better."
"I told you the truth before," James said, holding his ground. "I didn't want my personal life to be affected by the Warehouse when I came there."
"Oh, is that what you wanted? I think you may have gotten a bit off track on that one," Artie bit back.
"Arthur," James said insistently, clearly trying to silence the other. "The relationship Carol and I have is an unconventional one. Her job keeps her very busy, just as the Warehouse keeps me busy. She does not live out there; so we don't actually see each other very often. I wish we saw each other more."
He paused, looking at Artie for a reaction then continued.
"I see you more than I see her, far more and, well, it's not as though I planned for us to happen."
Artie looked away.
"I love her." Artie flinched slightly. "I love her very much but beyond that, I.... I don't want to hurt you, Arthur. The point... the point is...my feelings-"
"No," Artie interrupted, voice suddenly harsh, "the point is not how you feel about either of us, the point is what you've done, what you've done to me. How you've lied to me. You've put me in this position! You've made me the-" Artie cut himself off realizing he was about to say 'the other woman.'
He sighed heavily, crossing his arms with one hand curled against his lips, trying to hold back his anger. He stared at James who was watching him closely. Artie sucked in a breath and tried to stay calm.
"I would never do this to someone else. I would never be the person to sneak around and yet I find out that's exactly what I've been doing, what I've done for so long!"
"We hadn't exactly told anyone, though, had we?" James said.
"That's not the point! You were lying to me! And in this case an omission is a lie!" Artie said before James could interrupt. "What did I really mean to you then if you've been married all this time while you were with me yet failed to tell me that?"
"Arthur, I don't want to lose you!" James shouted suddenly, a touch of desperation in his voice.
The two of them stopped for a moment, just looking at each other. James had an expression on his face like he wanted to just try and kiss the problem away. It was a classic stupid response and a part of Artie's brain chimed 'cliche.' Strangely enough, however, the only thing he really wanted to do was to go over and kiss James too, pretending he didn't know anything about Carol. It was ridiculous and it made Artie angry with himself. He was supposed to stay furious and steadfast.
"It's too late, James," Artie said, his voice calmer despite what he felt. "It's over now. I know the truth and we can't go on like… we just can't."
"No," James said.
"No. I can't, not yet, Arthur. It's my fault, of course, but I refuse to just let you go."
"It's not your choice."
"It's not yours either, Arthur," James said, stepping closer. "I love you."
Artie felt like he was going to choke. "Don't say that."
"I already have," James replied, a look on his face like he couldn't believe how long he'd waited to say it.
James walked forward so the space between himself and Artie was only a foot or so. Suddenly, the chill November air seemed to disappear and the world around them was hot and thick. Artie wanted to move, to get out of this because he knew close contact would not help him. He didn't move though, just stared back at James. He didn't trust himself to say anything.
"I love you, Arthur," James started again, "and I don't want to end this yet, please. Please give me another chance. I need you and I know you need me. Don't end this because of one mistake, even if it is a big one. Please, let me try again."
"You can't just erase this," Artie replied. "But..."
His resolve faltered and a crack formed in his fragile resistance. James seized Artie's hands, seeing Artie's one word as a sign. Artie knew he should keep fighting, knew he should walk away.
"I shouldn't do this..." Artie said quietly.
"How long have we made it work, Arthur? We still can. I promise. I'll prove it to you," James insisted.
Artie knew he should say no, knew he should say goodbye, knew it was stupid, ridiculous, knew he didn't deserve this. However, he also knew he loved James.
There were so many things layer upon layer, criss-crossed around, which Artie loved about James. It was impossible for him to pull away, to step back, to just end it. He just loved so much about the man, his wit, his charm, even his accent, the little things. He loved how interested James was in the history of the Warehouse, just like himself. Sometimes James would spend hours going through the archives just reading, always twirling a pen in his hands which he never wrote with. Artie loved those hands. He loved James' hands in his, finger tips against his cheek, lingering in his hair. James would touch Artie's wrist in passing sometimes, just a brush of finger tips or a circular pattern. It was a small thing but it always gave Artie chills. He loved the way James would look at him with those soppy faces that you knew meant he was thinking romance movie thoughts. Artie loved James close to him, like right now; he just loved James.
Artie knew he should say no, knew that it was madness to keep on with this relationship, this affair with a married man. Yet as James looked at him like that, as he felt him so close, Artie could only think of never wanting James to go away. He took a deep breath.
"All right," Artie said.
A smiled spread across James' face and he pulled Artie to him and kissed him quickly.
"Thank you," he said with his lips against Artie's forehead.
Artie just hoped he wasn't wrong.
The first time Artie met Carol he wanted to dislike her. He knew it was childish and petty but he wanted there to be something else in this messed up business which he could project his frustration and anger on. He wouldn't show it, he'd try not to, but still he wanted to dislike her, wanted her to be a bad person just so he could feel justified in some little way about his relationship with James.
Unfortunately, things didn't work out that way. Artie actually ended up liking her quite a lot.
"I'm glad to finally meet you," Carol said as they sat together with James in the parlor of the bed and breakfast. "I'm not out here very much. James and I don't get to see each other enough as it is let alone finding time to meet his partner."
Artie blinked rapidly for a moment at the word partner, forgetting for a split second that she meant partner at work.
"Yes, well," Artie said, clearing his throat, "it's certainly not a hub of activity around here."
James laughed, his arm around Carol's shoulders. Artie felt a bit sick.
"So," Carol said, "I know you can't tell me about work. James has been giving me the 'it's classified' and 'I wish I could, dear' lines for years now, so why don't you tell me about yourself?"
"Me?" Artie said, surprised.
Carol was so kind and charismatic that it was throwing Artie off. He had enough trouble with normal every day conversations that her complete ease at the task made him just feel more awkward. Still, she did have a way about her and a beautiful smile. Artie could definitely see what James saw in her.
"Well, there's not much really to tell," Artie said suddenly blanking on anything at all remotely interesting not related to the Warehouse.
"Arthur is a bit of a workaholic," James said with a small smile. "You're lucky I got him away just to meet you."
Artie raised his eyebrows at James. He'd been doubtful about how wise it was for him to meet Carol at all despite the fact that part of him did want to know what the other side was like. Yet James had insisted. If Artie was going to trust him, to let them continue like this then Artie had to meet her. The idea had seemed rather underhanded and honest at the same time.
"Well," Carol said, "I'm glad you were able to tear yourself away. I can finally put a face to a name."
"Oh?" Artie said, genuinely surprised that James may have talked about him to Carol at all, especially since Artie knew next to nothing about Carol.
"Yes, I've heard a lot about you, Arthur," she said causing Artie's eyes to widen. "James says you two work very closely together."
Artie coughed and had to resist throwing James an overly obvious annoyed and worried look. James did enjoy a good show, just a bit of twisting drama. When had Artie's life become a soap opera? He had the urge to run out of the room at the thought.
"Arthur and I do spend most of our time together," James said. "Work keeps us very busy and traveling around a lot, not unlike you dear."
Carol laughed at the reference to her own high paced executive job. "I better watch out for him replacing me then."
James' smile didn't even falter at Carol's joke while Artie fell into a coughing fit of surprise and alarm.
"Perhaps I should get us some tea," James said, standing up. "Arthur, you no doubt seem to need some refreshment."
Artie was going to get James back for this somehow.
"Lovely," Carol said. "Now we can talk about you until you get back."
"Like a pair of turtle doves, cooing away," James said grinning a little too broadly at the two of them.
Artie wasn't sure he liked the way James was acting, as though he was the king of the castle with his two queens. Sighing, Artie had to shut his eyes quickly at the word 'queen' in his head. He was being a bit ridiculous now.
"So, Artie," Carol said and Artie turned, slightly surprised at her calling him Artie. "I hear you are fond of baking."
From there Artie was lost. There was no way he couldn't like her. It wasn't her fault. He'd really wanted to hate her, to be the petty one, but it turned out he took the high ground. She was absolutely lovely, talkative, pleasant, polite, and fond of baking herself as well as painting. Instead of hating her Artie turned around and began to hate James just a bit, even as he still loved him.
"Ah! You read my mind," James exclaimed at he walked into the kitchen and Artie handed him a mug of coffee.
"Not a hard one to tell," Artie replied as he turned back to the stove.
"Breakfast too?" James said, peering at Artie from the other room. "Am I to be treated to some of that as well?"
"I'll think about it."
"Thinking about letting me starve you mean," James said, coming up behind Artie and taking one of the pieces of toast already on the plate beside the toaster.
Artie rolled his eyes and flipped over the egg in the pan. Sometimes it unsettled him how domestic they could be.
"I'll just have to pray I get eggs too," James said as he sat down at Artie's round kitchen table by the window.
Other times the domesticity made him smile.
"You're cheerful this morning."
James shrugged. "I slept well."
"Yeah, I know," Artie replied, placing a plate with the finished eggs and remainder of the toast in the middle of the table.
Smiling at him, James forked a few onto his plate. Artie sat down across from him, nudged a pile of folders from the Warehouse to the side, and picked himself a piece of toast. They ate in silence, a simple breakfast but still good to start the day on. Looking around, Artie thought about how he really needed to stop making such a mess as there were papers and all sorts of things from the Warehouse all over his living room and even in the kitchen. How did he become so messy? Standing up after he finished his toast, Artie endeavored to collect all that was needed from the many piles of things. His Fransworth was probably in here somewhere too.
"So, what is on Warehouse agenda today?" James asked, picking up an artifact file from the table in front of him.
"Well, nothing for you. You're going to see Carol today, remember?" Artie said, picking up pieces of paper strewn about the floor. "You'll be gone for a week."
He heard James sigh behind him. Artie turned around and fixed him with a look.
"I wasn't trying to make you feel bad," Artie said, tossing some goggles off of his bookshelf into his bag.
"I'm sure, Arthur," James replied, a thin line of sarcasm in his voice.
Artie grit his teeth. "Don't start. You know I like Carol."
"I'm surprised sometimes you two don't team up against me," James replied, crossing his arms.
"James, really?" Artie replied giving James an incredulous look.
"Well, if the two of you knew the half about each other I'm sure that you would," James said, seemingly just wanting to complain.
Artie put a hand over his eyes and muttered. "Such a woman..."
"But you are indeed right, Arthur," James said standing up and putting his mug in the sink. "I will have a bit of a drive ahead of me this afternoon."
"And you need to pack," Artie said as he reached under his brown couch for a piece of paper which had slid out of his grasp.
"Just how would you know that, Arthur?" James asked. "Is it from you reading my mind so you'll know the right time to give me coffee?"
Artie sat up from where he knelt by the couch. "James, you may practically live here only a third of your time but I know you haven't packed."
James pursed his lips but couldn't seem to stop a small smile which just proved that Artie was right. Finally getting the piece of paper which ending up being a new requisition form, Artie stood up and put the paper into his bag with the rest. James stepped into the living room and handed him a folder from the kitchen table.
"Are you going to miss me?" James asked with a mischievous look.
"About as much as you'll miss me," Artie replied.
James' smile vanished. Artie closed his eyes quickly and sighed. He put down his bag and touched James' shoulders quickly.
"I'm sorry, it's early, I'm just... yeah, I just need to bake."
James laughed and took Artie's hands off his shoulders, holding them briefly. He kissed Artie then went towards the front door, taking his coat off the stand.
"I will go pack as you said and I'll see you at the Warehouse."
"You're coming by?"
"I thought you'd want to get on your.... well, never mind," Artie said, closing his bag where it sat on the couch. "I'll see you then."
"All right," James replied.
He looked at Artie a moment longer as though he wanted to say something. Instead, he turned, opened the door, and left.
Artie stared at the closed door wishing he'd said something more to James as he left, 'have a good time,' or 'see you later,' or 'I love you,' or maybe just 'goodbye.'
"This is it! I have to say something. We can't lock this away!"
"James, please," Mrs. Frederic said even as she was walking out of the door. "You know Warehouse policy."
"Oh, yes, of course, policy policy policy!"
"James, stop," Artie said, putting a hand on his arm but James shrugged him off.
"This cup could help so many people and you're just going to lock it away like everything else. This is Florence Nightingale's cup. It could cure thousands of people! It heals the sick. How is healing the sick a power which should be put away in a box in some decrepit Warehouse out in the desert?"
"Agent MacPherson!" Mrs. Frederic shouted making them both jump. "That is quite enough. You know Warehouse policy; you know what we do with artifacts, regardless of what they can do. Everything goes in and does not come out."
"And!" she continued. "You will do your job no matter your personal feelings. Good night, gentlemen."
The door closed behind her with a finality only Mrs. Frederic was ever able to achieve. James stared hard at the door, as if trying to decide if it was worth it to follow her and yell some more. Artie stared at him. James had been more and more vocal lately about his feelings toward Warehouse policy and what they should do with artifacts. It was actually starting to worry Artie.
"I can take care of this," Artie said, touching James' shoulder. "Why don't you head out, get some rest?"
James turned to look at Artie, his anger still strong. "And you're on her side?"
"You really think this is the best solution? You think this place," he flung out an arm toward the windows opening over the Warehouse, "is the best use for all these artifacts?"
"We've had this argument," Artie replied, sitting down. "We have to keep them all here, every artifact, the good and the bad. We can't just leave them out in the world to be used without boundaries."
"And this is better? Them not to be used at all? Arthur," James knelt down in front of Artie's chair with his hands gripping the arms. "It is not right. If these artifacts exist they are out there for a reason and we should not just horde them away like this!"
"James, stop!" Artie said standing up again, pushing James back. "This is the way it is and you can't change it because of a few good artifacts! Just let it go!"
Artie walked away from where James still crouched by his chair. Sitting down in front of his computer Artie looked through the system to find a place to store the cup, pointedly ignoring James. He did not want to hear James' same old complaints and arguments. Yes, there were some artifacts which could have good and practical uses but everything could be twisted, everything could be used in the wrong way. So, they had to lock up everything. It was just what had to be done. It was why the Warehouse existed.
To his left Artie heard James get up and walk over to stand behind him. James' hands rested on Artie's shoulders and he stopped typing.
"We could always just leave, Arthur," James said quietly.
Artie sighed, crossing his arms with one hand over his face.
"You and I could get out of here and just live happily, not be agents anymore. We could take some of these artifacts to live on, have a normal life, and not have to worry about all of this."
"You know, I thought maybe you were being rational with a touch of over romance eyes until you reached the 'take some of these artifacts' part," Artie replied, spinning his chair around and standing.
"I'm serious, Arthur," James said. "This place has had its time. Perhaps it was needed once but not anymore. We have reached a point in the world where just locking them up isn't good enough. There must be a better solution."
"James, listen to yourself. You sound crazy!" Artie finally shouted, making James step back. "The artifacts stay in the Warehouse; Warehouse 13 stays the way it is, that is the best solution!"
For a moment they stared at each other, Artie's anger fading and James' righteousness folding inward again. After a minute, James looked away with a somewhat defeated and betrayed expression. Artie knew that James wanted him on his side. He didn't want to be standing alone in this. Artie sighed again and touched James' arm. The taller man looked back and Artie put a hand to his cheek.
"I'm sorry. I know it frustrates you but... but you know what I'm going to say. And.... and, well, just try to calm down and let it lie."
James nodded, his eyes not quite on Artie's face. "I will."
Artie wanted to believe him but he didn't.
By the time Artie managed to open his eyes, the pain through his body from the electric shock of the Tesla starting to fade, James was leaping out of the burning building with Carol wrapped in a blanket in his arms. Artie looked down at his hand seeing it was empty. Groaning, he rolled over and managed to get to his feet. He saw James finally stop a few yards from the burning building and put Carol on the ground.
James had said he knew Artie loved her, shouted it at Artie as the building burned behind him, but it hadn't been what James really meant. What James was really saying was 'I know you love me, you love me enough to give me her.' But Artie didn't love James enough to let him kill people for Carol.
Yet James had taken it anyway. James had shot him; James had actually gone and shot him in the back! Now everything was going to hell.
"What have you done?" Artie shouted at James as the building began to collapse inside under the fire's destruction.
Sucking in a deep breath, Artie looked around at the firefighters, those already rescued from the blaze, the people watching from behind the caution tape. Some of them were going to die right now and there was nothing Artie could do about it. He could even be one of them. James stood up and looked at Artie, staring him down with no hint of remorse in his eyes. Artie stared right back. If he was going to be one of those who died then James was damn well going to watch.
Suddenly the firefighter to Artie's left fell to his knees, hand about his throat like he was choking and a faint smoke came from his mouth. To Artie's right another firefighter stumbled at the same time, coughing. Closer to James another man fell back against the fire truck clutching desperately at his throat. A fourth dropped the hose he was holding and collapsed to the ground. Artie heard another pained groan from somewhere behind him. Five men were gasping and choking and dying now because of James and the phoenix.
"Look what you've done!" Artie shouted at James, unable to keep his rage at bay. "They're all dying now because of you! You sacrificed innocent people!"
'I could have been one of them!' Artie wanted to shout as well. 'It could have been me and you didn't even care!'
"She was innocent too!" James shouted back and held up the phoenix. "This was meant to be used! It was meant to save those who don't deserve to die!"
"Did they?" Artie said, arms wide indicating the five men now lying still on the ground as their fellow firefighters rushed around them hardly noticing the two Warehouse employees. "Did the five of them who came to help deserve to die?"
"Collateral damage," James said, his face hard and angry.
Artie almost choked at James' words. "How can you say that? That is not you!"
"I had to save her!" James suddenly screamed and pointed at Carol lying beside him. "She didn't deserve to burn to death in there! I love her! I did what I had to do. It was the only way to save her, the only way!"
Artie walked steadily over to James, grabbing the phoenix out of his hand. They stared at each other, a face off, like they had guns drawn in the old west.
"Why don't you ask her then?" Artie said stepping back once. "Why don't you ask Carol how happy she is about living at the expense of five men?"
"What matters is she is alive."
"What matters?" Artie said, shouting again. "Five people are dead and even beyond that you have blatantly gone against Warehouse policy using a dangerous artifact for your own ends! You've done exactly what we try to stop at the Warehouse. You used an artifact."
"And that's it, isn't it?" James said. "You would rather she die than break the precious laws of the Warehouse."
"That is not it."
"Or is this because of how you feel about me?"
"What?" Artie said, almost a growl.
"You would be fine to see her die, no matter how much I know you care about her too, so that she would be out of the way. Damn letting her die, because then it's just you and I."
"That is absolutely ridiculous," Artie said pointing an angry finger at the other, "and down right insulting! I'm not the one that killed someone here tonight."
"Oh, but you would have," James shouted, flinging an arm out to indicate the burning building beside them. "You would have let her burn to death!"
"So that others wouldn't die! It's not as though I wanted her to die! Sometimes its hard, James, but we have to make hard choices for the Warehouse, to protect everyone!"
"Enough, Arthur," James interrupted. "It's your own twisted obsession with the Warehouse and its mission to guard all the artifacts away from the world as though they were all such terrible blights upon it. You can't see the artifacts as anything but problems to be contained."
"Our mission!" Artie said, feeling past arguments returning. "It's our mission to protect the world, to protect life."
"Protect? Oh yes, protect the world from the wonders the artifacts hold, the amazing things they can do. They shouldn't be locked away, Arthur. They should be used, as I have always said! They should be out in the world as they were meant to be."
"Stop it, James," Artie said taking a step forward again so the two of them were close enough to touch. "I know how you feel about the Warehouse, we've had this argument before, but you know what we do is necessary. If we let one artifact stay out then it just starts a pattern, a pattern that will just get bigger and lead to what cannot be."
"So you say, Arthur. I think you're just afraid, afraid of what the right artifact could do in the right hands."
Artie felt a chill run through him at James' tone of voice.
It was Mrs. Frederic shouting to them from behind Artie. However, neither one looked away from the other.
It was a two fold argument. On the outside it was about what James had done, the people he'd allowed to die, the Warehouse and the artifacts; all the times James had suggested that there was a better system than the Warehouse; all the conversations, arguments about how artifacts should be used. However, underneath it was about them; it was James choosing Carol over Artie, it was the lies, James being married and Artie's inability to just walk away as he should. It was all the feelings between them, the love even, which was now turning into a twisted version of a relationship, burning just as surely as the building beside them. The divide which had been slowly widening between them was bursting into a ravine.
"James, what you have done now is the end," Artie said, his voice cold, an almost unimaginable tone to be directed at a partner, a lover. "Everything you have said before, what you feel about the artifacts; now is the end. You've become a murderer."
All Artie could feel was anger, complete rage at what James had become. The man who had been his partner, so intelligent and witty, the man he'd loved so much had turned into this unrecognizable person in front of him.
"I saved her life," James said, his voice emotionless and hard. "I'm not sorry I did."
"And you were willing to sacrifice other people, maybe even me to do it."
James stared at him for a moment then laughed humorlessly. "You forget, Arthur, those who touch the phoenix will be spared."
Artie swallowed slowly. How had he forgotten that? James had known Artie wouldn't die when he went into the building. However, Artie was undeterred.
"Almost as if you chose who could die then, wasn't it, who was expendable?" he countered.
"I will not let the Warehouse control me and force me into its mold of what the world should be. You call it playing God if you like but I was not wrong!" James said but Artie hear the words beyond that, 'she was more important.'
"Well," Artie said, choking down the urge to hit James right in the face, "now you can go to jail for all of your principles."
James barked out a laugh. "Jail? Really, Arthur? How dramatic. Hardly Warehouse style, now is it? What about the hush up; the hide it all away from the prying eyes of the public to keep the all mighty secrets of the Warehouse?"
"That too, James," Mrs. Fredric said, suddenly there at their sides.
The color seemed to drain slowly from James' face, the adrenaline of running into the fire and screaming at Artie seeming to finally fade away. He looked between the two of them, his expression turning into disbelief.
"You can't be serious," he said, backing up. "I saved my wife's life and you want to throw me into jail for it?"
"You killed five other people to do it, James," Mrs. Fredric said. "I can only let you get away with so much. It's time I stopped turning a blind eye to what you are."
"What I am?" James growled.
On the ground beside them Carol coughed and groaned quietly, beginning to regain consciousness. James looked down at her briefly then back at Artie and Mrs. Frederic. Just then three of Mrs. Frederic's bodyguards appeared, taking positions up on either side and behind James. His looked around at the men surrounding him then stared at the other two, his eyes sticking on Artie.
"Why would you do this to me?" he asked, his voice sounding raw and angry.
"You did it to me first," Artie answered, his voice just dead.