Chapter 1: Year 1
this was updated 3 times after it was first posted (at day 8, day 43, and day 105), because, as i put it previously, "ffffuck it", but it's done now and i'm forever holding my peace on it. & i'm taking a (slightly) less calvinball approach to future chapters, ie only posting them when they're Completely done. mf professionalism, y'all. you cannot imagine the level of self-restraint this takes (very little, but i have very little on hand)
- Here is a fact that only he knew: his surname was (had been) McElhenney.
- Here is a fact that a few people knew: his first name was Robin.
- Here is an opinion of Robin's that was known by everyone who knew his first name: "Robin" should never be shortened to "Rob."
- Here is a fact that was slowly becoming apparent to Robin: affixing fake facial hair was harder than most people thought.
Eyepatch, as he was going to be pitched to Goldman, was a master of disguise. Robin was not.
Robin was pretty sure there was eyelash glue up his nose.
It was two AM. The mirror had a thin crack in one corner and gray speckles from splashed hair dye. It didn’t have a skin-oil smudge from Robin gently and repeatedly hitting it with his forehead, and that was the work of enormous self-discipline.
His mustache was hanging at what could charitably be described as a jaunty angle.
Why the fuck am I doing this?
Though that was thought rhetorically, here is the literal answer:
An inventor, Goldman, had put out an ad for an assistant.
Robin knew this because he had been following Goldman's development of a microwormhole device. By his guess, that kind of tech could circumvent almost any security system... and with the opportunity he was being handed here, it would be criminal not to try and get his hands on it.
So he was applying to be an assistant.
Well, the word used in the ad had been “henchman", but for what shouldn't be more than a week's work, Robin was willing to ignore a few eccentricities. Hell, he was willing to buy into them; he’d chosen himself a villain name. Eyepatch. He was rather proud of it. It had a certain... villainous aesthetic.
He had used aliases in cons before, but usually they were usually something more like “Julian Brown”. Here there was still "Lance Azaria", but buried deeper--it was the alias behind the Eyepatch alias, for Goldman to find when he ran a background check.
- Here are a few more facts: Goldman would never run a background check. He wouldn’t so much as ask Eyepatch what his first name was, that year or the next nine.
Robin set the mustache back in its case, ground the heels of his hands into his eyes, and went to bed with the desperate assumption that things might go better when he woke up.
The mustache went better when he woke up. Robin wasn't entirely sure whether the henchman job had gone well or not.
He had gotten the job immediately, but. Well.
His first impression of Goldman in person had been that's a lot of eyeliner.
His second impression had been that's... a lot.
Robin Eyepatch wasn't sure if Goldman was an idiot or a really superb actor.
Eyepatch was sure that Goldman was an idiot.
Eyepatch found the blueprints for the microwormhole generator while he was cleaning Goldman's desk.
Eyepatch learned how to make a breakfast martini. And he was really sure that Goldman was an idiot.
When he went home, he took the blueprints with him.
He brought the blueprints back. He replaced them where they had been in Goldman's desk (not that Goldman would notice either way, with his organizational skills).
- Here is another fact: in the original plan,
EyepatchRobin was going to leave the day after he copied the microwormhole device plans.
He made Goldman a cup of coffee that was secretly decaf. He mopped the warehouse. And he went home.
He pocketed the blueprints for what looked like an improved laser pointer, because why else was he sticking around?
“Eyepatch, do you want to know why people call me Goldman?”
His kitchen table was nearly lost under a drift of copied blueprints. It was starting to look like Goldman’s desk.
Of all of them, he was fairly sure he would be able to figure out a use for… the microwormhole generator, definitely, and the… the… the bionic stapler. Probably. Yes.
Eyepatch finished organizing Goldman’s desk.
He enjoyed a surge of triumph for all of thirty seconds, then it occurred to him that this also meant he had finished copying the entire backlog of blueprints.
He considered going back and copying Goldman’s tax returns, then realized that would only be useful as a backup system for Goldman.
Then he considered doing it anyway.
That was about the point that he admitted to himself that he might have been trying to rationalize sticking around as a henchman--as an assistant. He was trying to rationalize sticking around as an assistant.
He was an assistant to the most ridiculous man he’d ever met, and he was having fun, God help him.
And he had health insurance. Which was the only real reason he was staying.
It’s not like he had a reason to leave. Steady work could be nice on occasion.
He didn’t have anything better to do.
It was possible that Eyepatch had a few better things to do.
Really, almost anything, up to and including spending the next year learning card tricks, would have been more productive than this.
So why, exactly, did he still...
Eyepatch had a quiet realization.
He set about repressing it immediately.
Just to be safe, he decided to not think about Goldman or any related topics for the rest of the day. That was a little difficult with the background noise of Goldman’s dramatic rambling--something about how best to invade a gold mine--but Eyepatch had always had enormous self-discipline.
The next difficulty would be keeping his mind off of that realization for the rest of linear time.
Eyepatch showed up to work without the mustache on.
He had been running late, and the smell of eyelash glue was kind of a lot to deal with when when you had a hangover, so he just… left the thing at home. He prepared a story about a new disguise for when Goldman asked about it, but Goldman didn't.
Goldman didn’t ask about it when Eyepatch showed up with the mustache on again, either.
- Here is a fact that Eyepatch would never acknowledge: it was the mustache that made him accept that he was planning on working for Goldman for… the foreseeable future.
Fake mustaches were acceptable on a temporary basis. If he was being honest with himself, he was no longer approaching this as being on a temporary basis.
He peeled off the mustache (and put it in his pocket instead of the trash--he was a matter of disguise, after all, and the thing had been damned expensive).
Goldman gave him a very bemused smile when he came out of the bathroom bare-faced, which Eyepatch supposed was the trouble with coming to realizations in the middle of mopping.
“I... shaved," Eyepatch mumbled.
Goldman's smile shaded slowly from bemused to amused. "Looks good!"
Eyepatch retreated into the kitchenette, mildly horrified, and no more was said about it.
- Here is another fact that Eyepatch would never acknowledge: the question of whether or not Goldman had known it was a fake mustache all along was going to nag him for the next year.
- Here is a fact Eyepatch had discovered awhile ago: Goldman sang while he planned.
Goldman sang while he thought, sometimes. Little vocal flourishes just to focus.
When he was planning something--something big--the vocal flourishes got proportionately larger.
For the last hour, he had been thinking his way through the entire discography of David Bowie. Occasionally, he'd stop to yell "RUINED!", or to laugh maniacally, or to dramatically ramble off his Plan to Eyepatch.
For the last hour, Eyepatch had been in the kitchenette. He wasn't sure that Goldman had noticed.
"EYEPATCH!" ...He'd noticed.
Goldman burst through the kitchenette door. His hair had come unslicked--curls of it were drooping gracelessly over his face. It would have made him look quite young, if it hadn’t been for the expression: his smile was on the razor line between "madly delighted" and "TEETH".
"...Yes?" Eyepatch asked, carefully.
Goldman clapped a hand onto Eyepatch's shoulder. "WE'RE GOING TO RAID A GOLD MINE."
They raided a gold mine.
Chapter 2: Year 2
if you're coming back to this fic after a long while, i'd advise checkin chapter one to make sure you didn't miss any of the mini-updates!
change in rating is for (not graphically described) serious injury in this chapter, & a lot of related swearing
- Here is a fact: neither Goldman nor Eyepatch paid much attention to dates.
Eyepatch hated to admit it, but he might have been beginning to miss the mustache. He did not miss the eyelash glue, but... he had looked good with facial hair, hadn't he?
"You think I should... regrow... the mustache?” he asked.
Goldman blinked at him contemplatively. "You should try eyeliner."
"That wasn't what I was asking." It occurred to Eyepatch to wonder why he had asked in the first place.
Goldman shrugged. "Well, if you're worried about your appearance…”
"Oh, you shouldn't be,” Goldman said brightly.
"Oh! I... thanks...?"
"But with a little emphasis on your... eye," Goldman continued, "maybe some shadow..."
Eyepatch shook himself. "But the mustache?"
Goldman rolled his eyes. "Did you really hold onto that thing?"
He'd... known it was fake. "You..."
Eyepatch sighed. "A real mustache, this time."
"Oh. You’d have to grow one to see, wouldn't you?"
His mustache came in gray.
The hair on his head was still black, when it wasn’t dyed; he had to touch up the roots every three weeks. So this was… fine. He would have had to dye the mustache gray anyway. This was completely fine.
"Eyepatch, haven't you been here over a year?"
"...huh. I suppose so."
"You too, sir."
Goldman wandered into the room Eyepatch was mopping and draped himself over a chair.
The chair slowly began to spin. Still gamely continuing to try to project an appearance of dramatic languidness, Goldman stopped it with his foot.
Eyepatch ignored him.
Goldman groaned. (Dramatically. And languidly.)
Eyepatch continued ignoring him, but with his eyebrows raised.
Now projecting something more like mild annoyance, Goldman draped farther into the chair. “I’m bored.”
“Okay,” said Eyepatch.
“I should invent something…” The blood was starting to go to Goldman's head. He rolled the chair back and forth a little.
Eyepatch leaned on his mop and sighed. “You could forge documents that would give you legal rulership of a small territory, then use your political leverage to amass power?”
He didn’t think Goldman would notice if he borrowed a little from the plot of The Baron of Arizona.
Goldman hummed contemplatively, and then kept humming.
Eyepatch went back to mopping.
After several minutes, the humming was choked off by a gasp. Goldman gestured wildly. “I have it!”
The chair tilted gently off balance.
Eyepatch lunged forward, caught Goldman by the shoulders, and hauled him upright.
The chair thumped onto its back, wheels spinning. Goldman, held a few inches off the floor, gave Eyepatch a slightly dazed look.
“Be careful, sir,” Eyepatch said, with a tone that implied that “sir” meant “you idiot”.
"Oh," said Goldman distractedly, "hmm." Then, "Eyepatch, I have an idea."
Eyepatch set Goldman down. Goldman immediately bounded out of the room.
“You’re welcome,” Eyepatch called after him.
“My idea was completely unrelated to your suggestion!” Goldman yelled over his shoulder.
“For catching you."
When he got in that morning, Goldman was already--still?--shut into the lair. Singing.
Eyepatch retreated to the kitchenette.
His theory, which had been working out for him so far, was this: any day where Goldman was deep in planning should be treated as a holiday. A preparatory break before he was dragged into whatever the Plan turned out to be. He figured he needed the relaxation.
So he sat in the kitchenette chair and worked his way through a pot of coffee and an Ursula K. Le Guin book.
When Eyepatch finished the coffee, he switched to tea. The sound of singing--mostly Queen, this time--faded in and out.
It was… nice.
- Here is another fact Eyepatch would never acknowledge: Goldman’s version of Somebody to Love was his favorite.
Several hours after lunchtime, Goldman stumbled in with a crumpled look on his face. “How will I go on--”
“Have a bagel, sir,” Eyepatch said, and handed him one.
Goldman stared balefully at the kitchenette’s single chair (still occupied by Eyepatch), and sat on the counter. “Cream cheese?”
Goldman groaned, and continued to groan for as long as it took him to walk across the room and retrieve the cream cheese. He slid back onto the counter, then made another miserable face. “...knife?”
Eyepatch handed him one.
Goldman made a pleased noise, and scooped cream cheese onto the knife. Then he ate it off of the knife.
Eyepatch tried not to look at him.
After Goldman finished off the cream cheese, he ate the bagel plain. This was possibly the most compelling evidence for Goldman being evil that Eyepatch had yet witnessed.
After a long pause, Goldman said, “Eyepatch, I have realized something. I’m more functional when I’ve eaten.”
“Brilliant observation, sir.”
Goldman grinned at him. “Thank you!”
He started singing You’re My Best Friend as he swirled out of the room. Eyepatch was, inexplicably, a little embarrassed.
Eyepatch was aware of AGENCY.
Back when he had been the sort of conman who was underground enough to get rid of his own name, he had tried to avoid them. They had a reputation for approaching every situation like it was a plot point in a James Bond movie.
If someone had asked Eyepatch back then what genre he wanted his life to be, he would have said “noir”, not “vaguely sci-fi action adventure." ...Okay, honestly, he would have said “what the fuck are you talking about”, but still: he had preferred his life to obey both the laws of physics and the laws of good taste.
Now, of course, his life was irrevocably entrenched in the spy movie genre. He had accepted that. That didn’t make it any less concerning that Goldman’s latest Plan involved breaking into AGENCY headquarters.
It wasn't that he was surprised; it made ridiculous sense. Every interesting villain needed a heroic arch-nemesis, so of course Goldman was going after the only ‘heroes’ who might play that game. AGENCY could be the James Bond to Goldman's... Goldfinger. Holy shit, was Goldman’s whole deal a Goldfinger joke?
Eyepatch made a mental note to rewatch that movie.
Anyway, the Plan was this: they were going to break into AGENCY and steal a few documents. Simple enough, but without those documents, AGENCY would be unable to prove the legality of certain seizures of property they had made back in the late 60s--namely, seizures of a few interesting chemicals and mechanical prototypes from Goldman. If AGENCY couldn't prove they owned said chemicals and prototypes, Goldman could take them back. Legally.
- Here is a fact Goldman would continue to deny vehemently: that idea had definitely been inspired by Eyepatch's The Baron of Arizona suggestion.
It went wrong.
They had done more planning--planning with a lowercase P, this time. Recon, gathering supplies, memorizing routes, making contingencies. It was almost-but-not-quite-exactly like what Eyepatch used to do, which was a very strange kind of nostalgic.
The documents they wanted were kept in the office of AGENCY’s director. All they had to do was sneak in when she wasn’t there, rifle through one drawer--
(“Just one drawer, sir?”
“Her desk organization is incredibly predictable,” Goldman said derisively.)
--and sneak out again.
So they did more planning, and they went in.
And then they needed the contingencies.
- A fact: Eyepatch wouldn’t ever actually figure out what had gone wrong.
- Another fact: really, nothing had gone wrong. But there was such a thing as horrible luck.
They snuck into AGENCY through the air ducts.
They came out in a room a few doors down from the director's office. As predicted, there was no one in the hallway.
The office door wasn't even locked.
Goldman, on seeing the desk, grinned and kicked a point on its underside. A drawer slid out.
“Predictable,” Goldman said, and began rifling through the files. “G, G… Goebel, Goldhirsch… Grant?” He grimaced. "Asshole! H… Haig, Harrison…”
He plucked out a file, rifled through it, then shoved half of its contents into his sleeve. He shoved the remains back into the drawer and slammed it.
The file had been labelled Hart, Leonard Bernadette.
The nameplate on the desk read Director Hart.
Well, that can’t be good, Eyepatch thought.
Then the director opened the door.
“Leon,” she said, and raised one eyebrow.
She looked calm, except that the way she leaned against the doorframe seemed less about being casual and more about holding herself up.
“Hart,” Goldman hissed.
“Who’s your friend?”
Goldman took Eyepatch’s arm, and with an impressive mixture of venom and primness said, “This is Eyepatch. He’s my henchman.”
They all stared at each other.
“Nice to meet you, ma’am,” Eyepatch said blankly.
She gave him a tight smile, then looked back at Goldman. “Why are you here?”
“No reason. How did you know we were here?”
The director raised her other eyebrow and pressed a button next to the light switch. “That sent out a lockdown alert. If you want to leave, you have two minutes.”
Goldman stared at her.
“Leon. Go home," she said.
He crossed his arms.
“...Goldman,” Eyepatch said.
Eyepatch winced preemptively, then tried: “Leon?”
Goldman looked at him.
“We have to go, sir.”
They walked out of the office. Director Hart held the door for them.
They made it about twenty feet down the hallway before they heard the shouting. Then they started to run.
There was more shouting.
They ducked around the corner, and Goldman shoved Eyepatch into a closet.
He shut the door.
There was a beat of silence while the shouting trailed away in another direction.
“I think that went well!” Goldman said.
Eyepatch made a noncommittal noise and gingerly sat down against the wall.
Goldman looked at Eyepatch. “Oh God.”
“Oh God,” Eyepatch agreed.
He was leaking steadily from a slight gunshot wound to the shoulder.
He was not enjoying himself.
Goldman slowly sat down next to him. "Okay... okay. I know how to do bandages..."
"I can't climb an air duct," Eyepatch pointed out.
"Shut up, Eyepatch, I'm trying to think." Goldman started humming.
"Goldman. Leon. Sir. You should leave."
"Let me think!"
It wasn't really his problem if Goldman wanted to be even more stupid than usual, so Eyepatch decided to humor him. He closed his eyes.
The humming stopped. "Eyepatch?!"
"I'm fully conscious."
The humming resumed.
Two minutes, Eyepatch thought. What an idiot.
He flirted with sleep for a few seconds, then Goldman cuffed him in his good shoulder.
"Still conscious, sir."
"I remembered that I brought the microwormhole generator."
Eyepatch opened his eyes so he could squint dubiously at Goldman. "I can't fit through a microwormhole."
"I know," said Goldman. "I worked out how to make it explode. Do you have the map? Where are the external walls?"
"Huh," Eyepatch said. "Yes."
They located an external wall on the map. "Okay, let's go."
He stood up. The world fizzled out momentarily.
"Very conscious." He might have been regretting it, though.
They snuck to the external wall, which was another five rooms down. Goldman took the microwormhole generator, spat on it, shook it vigorously, and threw it at the wall.
"That's all it takes to make that fucking thing explode?!"
The hole in the wall was, frankly, impressive.
Goldman grabbed his good arm. "Now we have to run."
"Fuck," said Eyepatch, and ran.
When they had gotten about four blocks and ducked through what seemed like an infinite number of weird alleys and abandoned warehouses, they paused for breath.
"See? Both out. Where would you be without me?” Goldman wheezed, grinning.
“In a... very pleasant office job," Eyepatch lied woozily.
“Purposeless! Directionless! Bored!"
Eyepatch very carefully didn’t laugh (he had a strong suspicion that it would hurt like hell), but he snorted a little. “Fair.”
Then he let himself pass out.
Eyepatch woke up.
There was beeping, which was annoying. He looked around.
This was a hospital. Shit.
He looked around again.
Goldman was sitting in the shitty hospital chair next to his bed, which was weird.
“Hh?” he said. He had been going for “hey”, but at this point he’d take what he could get.
Goldman startled, then said “Eyepatch!”
That reminded him of something. He put his hand to his eye. The hospital had left his eyepatch on. Huh. Cool hospital.
Goldman was saying something about surgery. Eyepatch felt entitled to ignore him, so he did. He looked around. Then he looked at Goldman for awhile. Then he looked around again, and remembered the thing about hospitals.
“What?” said Goldman.
“Are there,” said Eyepatch slowly, “or were there… cops.”
“I don’t think so,” said Goldman.
“What name did you check me in under?”
“I told them your name was Eyepatch, but I think they put down John Doe.”
Not great, but good enough, thought Eyepatch. He closed his eyes.
There was a pause. “Eyepatch?”
“I’m going to sleep. I feel like shit.”
“Oh. Okay.” There was another pause. “Sleep well.”
day 133, again
Eyepatch woke up again.
“Did I already ask you what name you checked me in under?”
Goldman startled again, then said “Yes. John Doe.”
“Okay.” Eyepatch sat up. There was an IV in his arm. He began pulling at the tape. Goldman put his hand over Eyepatch’s.
Eyepatch stared at him.
“If you want to leave, you can get a nurse to do that,” Goldman said.
He took his hand off of Eyepatch’s. Eyepatch did not continue pulling at the tape. Goldman smiled at him and pressed the call button.
His eyeliner was smeared, which was about the weirdest thing Eyepatch had ever seen.
A nurse showed up.
“Take the IV out,” Eyepatch said.
“I can’t advise--” the nurse began.
Eyepatch glared at Goldman and started pulling at his IV tape again.
“Could you get him the A.M.A. discharge forms, please?” Goldman asked.
The nurse looked at Eyepatch and sighed. “Do you want the A.M.A. discharge forms?”
“Yes,” Eyepatch said.
The nurse left, and Eyepatch stared at Goldman again.
“A.M.A. means Against Medical Advice.”
“I knew that.” He probably had, at some point.
The nurse brought him the forms, and he signed them while she explained why it was a terrible idea for him to sign them. Then she took out his IV.
She handed Goldman a sheet of paper explaining how to care for surgical incisions. Goldman handed Eyepatch the sheet of paper about how to care for surgical incisions.
They bundled him into a wheelchair to take him to the hospital entrance, which struck him as rude.
Outside, it was night.
Goldman helped him out of the wheelchair. Eyepatch stood wobblingly for a moment, holding his sheet of paper and breathing in the cold. Then he kicked the wheelchair over.
“Do you need me to take you home?” Goldman asked eventually.
“I don’t want you to know where I live,” Eyepatch said, then regretted it.
Goldman nodded slowly, like that had been a reasonable thing to say. “If you want to get another job--”
“No,” Eyepatch said. “I really don’t, sir.”
There was a long pause.
“I’ll come back when I come back.”
Goldman just looked at him for a long moment, then said, “Let me get you a cab.”
They waited together in silence, listening to the sizzling of the hospital lights, until there was a cab.
Eyepatch got into the cab. He got out five streets down, got into another cab, and went home.
It didn’t occur to him that he didn’t need to wear the eyepatch until he registered how much trouble he was having putting it on one-handed.
He followed the instructions on the piece of paper and took a shower with a plastic bag on his shoulder.
He finished that Ursula K. Le Guin book.
His apartment was boring.
He attempted to teach himself how to make cookies one-handed.
Given that he wasn’t sure how to make cookies with full use of both hands, he probably should have expected them to burn like that.
His apartment was really, really fucking boring.
Eyepatch briefly regretted preventing Goldman from taking him home and finding out where his apartment was, because if Goldman knew where his apartment was, he could maybe have come by and brought a casserole and… hung out, or something.
Then Eyepatch wondered if he had kept all his common sense in his shoulder and it had leaked out through the gunshot hole.
He cut out his stitches.
The piece of paper said he could.
Okay, the piece of paper said he could tomorrow, but. Well.
Goldman was monologuing when Eyepatch got back into the lair.
Eyepatch didn't get to hear any of it, because as soon as he opened the door Goldman yelped, "I told janitorial staff to stay out of here while I'm working!"
"I'm janitorial staff now, sir?"
"Eyepatch," Goldman said.
They walked towards each other, then stopped awkwardly.
"...How are you...?"
Eyepatch hugged him.