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We Are One

Chapter Text

It was 2 AM when the call came. Arthur was awake, as any diligent Point Man would be. Especially one that was on an arduous extraction job where the Extractor could barely get his head out of his own ass. Information was minimal and the stakes were annoying but it was a job and Arthur likes to keep himself busy.

Yet his focus was immediately diverted to the vibrating sound of his phone. It wasn’t even the burner phone that he was using for this job. Instead it was his backup, his emergency-only phone.

Instinctively, he reached over his notes and dossiers to grab his phone and his glock. He casted a wary look around the warehouse, made mental notes of the exits in case of an ambush before he turned his attention to his phone. His brows furrowed at the caller ID that flashed on the screen.

Eddie Brock

Arthur pressed his lips into a thin line before accepting the call. “Good Morning Eddie, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?”

“Oh sweet cheeks, do I ever need a reason to call you?” A Brooklyn accent filtered through the line. Arthur would’ve rolled his eyes at the nickname if he wasn’t distracted by how strain the man sounded.

“Yes, you tend to have a reason whenever you call me at this hour.” Arthur retorted, keeping his own voice calm. “Does this has anything to do with your current story?”

“Yes, it has everything to do with that story. It actually made me think of you. Do you remember that report back in Kuwait? The Timmy Bones report.”

Arthur felt a chill danced down his spine. It’s been years but he still remembered Bones. Afterall, how could he forget about the man who screamed about monsters living inside of him before he ripped out his own throat with his bare hands?

“Yes, I remember.” Arthur grabbed his laptop and opened up a list available outgoing flights.

“Well this story would put that one to shame.”

“I find that difficult to believe.” Arthur replied as his eyes quickly scanned over the earliest flight to San Francisco International airport.

“I’ll prove it to you, babe. Come on over. You know where to find me.” There was a tremble in the man’s voice that racketed the tension in Arthur’s shoulders.

“You know you can’t suddenly call me out of the blue and tell me to drop everything for you. I would need to let my boss know and you know how he gets. He would go on for hours and hours...” Four at most. Arthur quickly booked the flight.

“That’s fine. I need you here with me, babe. This story, well it calls for a celebration.” He sounded eager--no, desperate.

Concern bubbled in Arthur’s mind. “Should I bring anything?”

“Just you, Love. And perhaps your best bottle of wine.” Arthur could almost imagine the weary smile on the Forger’s face. “Go big or go home after all.”

Arthur closed his eyes. “I’ll see you then, Eddie.”

“I’ll be waiting. Thank you, doll.” There was a click and the line went dead.

~~~~~~~~~~

If anyone ask how Arthur knew where Eames was, then he would simply point out that that was his job. He is the best in his field. It was his duty to simply know. It was not that he keeps tabs on everyone, just the selected few. Most of the times it was to make sure he doesn’t have any unwanted guest barging through his hotel door. The rest, the very few, were his friends who just happened to work (and succeeded) the impossible job that earned his niche in the dreamshare community.

Eames just happened to fit both criteria and it was a good thing too.

Arthur grabbed his carry on from the overhead compartment and shuffled his way through the mass of people exiting the plane. After custom, he made a beeline to his hotel, grabbed the necessary items before he hailed a cab to reach the humble abode that belongs to Eddie Brock.

Eddie Brock, a down on his luck reporter who moved to San Francisco to be closer to his girlfriend (the Mark) who just happened to work in one of the leading pharmaceutical company in the world--the Life Foundation. From the information he managed to gather, the job seemed straightforward: infiltrate the Mark’s mind for information regarding the Life Foundation’s current project. The only major challenge was the level of security but that was nothing new. Besides, their mark wasn’t Dr. Carlton Drake but a no name underling. Though, clearly, the Point person didn’t realize the level of paranoia that embraced Dr. Drake that they didn’t consider that the CEO would keep watch over his employees as well. A stupid, avoidable mistake.

Now Eames was caught in the middle of it and here Arthur was in San Francisco instead doing his job in New Orleans. It was almost like how he dropped everything to join Cobb during his run from the government, except Eames was different. His relationship with the Forger was much older than his ties with Cobb. The two had met during the early stages of dreamshare world as a joint military project between the US and the British. They seen and endured all the benefits and horrors that came with that experiment. Among the horrors was that of Lieutenant Bones.

Arthur curled his fingers around his die.

Eames claimed that the situation was worse than that. What Arthur couldn’t fathom was how could it possibly be worse than that.

He paid his fare and stepped out of the cab. He eyed the brick, graffiti covered building and mentally notated all the exits before he followed another tired resident into the complex. He climbed the steps up, conscious of the weight of his glock that rested against his hip and laid hidden underneath his jacket.

It was five floors up before Arthur crossed down the narrow hallway. His eyes constantly darted to the passing neighbors and emergency exit signs. He kept his posture relax, posing as just another late night worker who longed for sleep. As he approached his destination, he contemplated at picking the lock when he noticed the door wasn’t fully closed. That was something no one in the dreamshare community would ever do.

Breathe. He exhaled softly as he placed one hand on the doorknob and the other over his glock. Then in one fluid motion, he pushed the door open and lifted his piece.

His heart plummeted to his stomach.

The sight before him was like a bar after a brawl. Furnitures was upturned. Broken plates and glasses littered the ground along with pillow stuffings. The walls carried indents both fist size and larger. Then there was the blood. It pooled and stained the carpet. Some of it splattered the wall like a sick rendition of Pollock but that didn’t faze him. No, what caught Arthur’s attention was the lack of bodies where all this blood came from.

*Crack*

Arthur whipped around, gun aimed to the haggard, sweat covered face of the Forger he was looking for. The one and same man who currently had a Sig pointed back at him.

“Darling,” Eames offered him the weakest smile Arthur had ever witnessed from the British man.

“Mr. Eames.” Arthur’s gun remained steady and shoulders squared. His eyes wandered as he took in the other man’s features. To say that he looked like hell was an understatement. There were dark rings under his eyes. A sheen of sweat that coated his skin that gave him an almost feverish appearance. His clothes rumpled and stained with old blood. Arthur wasn’t even sure if the man was entirely aware but he wasn’t going to risk it either. Especially since the Forger looked like he was ready shoot him if he made the wrong move. “What happened here?”

“Too much.” Eames replied then casted a furtive glance toward the partially open door behind Arthur.

Arthur frowned and reached out to close it.

“Dont.” Eames quipped then recoiled. His eyes shuttered. “You need as much of a head start when you escape.”

“You are not making any sense, Mr. Eames.” Arthur said. “What are you expecting?”

“I expect you to do me the honor and ending this quickly, Darling.” Eames managed to say. His voice wavered before his lips pulled back into some feral sneer. “Please… I do not want to be the next Bones.”

“What happened?” Arthur asked again.

“There’s no time to explain,” Eames shot another glance to the doorway. “I need you to shoot me and then run.”

“If the Somnacin was compromise then--”

“It’s not the Somnacin!” Eames snapped. The veins on the side his throat bulged with restraining anger. Then for a quick second a black blur flashed around Eames’ throat but was gone as soon as it came. His whole body shuddered. “I-I am the one that’s compromise...” His gray-blue eyes peered at Arthur. “And in our line of work, that will not do.” He looked resigned, almost in pain. “Please Arthur, before their backup arrive. Before I--” His Adam’s Apple bobbed. “I don’t know how much longer I can hold this back.”

Confusion filled Arthur’s head. “Hold what back?”

Those lush lips peeled back into that ugly sneer and again the flash of black that rippled along the side of Eames’ face. For a moment he swore the Forger’s teeth grew and sharpened.

A trick of the light, his logical mind supplied but this was all wrong. He looked at Eames, truly looked at the Forger. He was fidgeting more now. His broad shoulders trembled and his free hand spazzed between clenching and unclenching. It was like the man was losing control over his forgery except that didn’t made any sense at all. This wasn’t a dream.

“Eames.” Arthur started when the sound of heavy footsteps drew attention to the doorway.

Backup. He turned back to Eames to notice a change in him.

The Forger’s whole body turned rigid. His pale eyes shifting to an almost a milky white color. They stared at the Point Man pleadingly. “Shoot me.”

“Eames--” Arthur was cut off by the sound of the safety of Eames’ Sig Sauer, in which hadn’t moved from his face during this entire time.

“Shoot me,” Eames snarled, his voice distorted. “Or I will eat you.”

The sounds of the footsteps grew louder behind him. Four men, perhaps five. Then Eames… Dear god, Eames...

Breathe.

Arthur exhaled softly. His gaze remained leveled with Eames’. “This isn’t over, Mr. Eames.”

He pulled the trigger.

Chapter Text

The shot went wide, missing Eames’ head by an inch. Though, this wasn’t a mistake or accident. It was intentional because Arthur needed the catalyst. Just like a chain reaction, the thunderous sound of footsteps grew louder, closer. He quickly ducked behind the wall just when the door was kicked opened with a bang. The soldiers--mercenaries--filtered in with their guns drawn, ready for a fight. Their eyes zoned in on Eames and surrounded the forger before he could react. All of them failed to notice Arthur until the point man put two into one Merc’s head.

The man’s closest companion whipped around and raised his rifle at him. Arthur knocked the weapon downward then threw his elbow back into the mercenary’s throat. The Merc managed to gasp once before Arthur shot him at point blank. He snatched the rifle from the man’s slackened grasped then swiftly turned in time to see another armed man pointing their piece at him. Immediately, he threw himself onto the ground to dodge the barrage of bullets as he crawled as fast as he could behind the fallen couch.

His heart hammered in his ears as adrenaline coursed through his veins while an array of bullets shredded everything in their wake. His primal instinct told him to run but his experience kept him rooted in place.

Breathe, his mind hissed at him.

He forced himself to take a steady breath then relaxed his shoulders. He listened carefully for the break in between shots before twisting around the couch to take aim. The mercenary returned the gesture in kind.

Neither had the opportunity to shoot when a black blur shot out and slammed the Arthur’s opponent into the farthest wall, crushing the assailant’s skull on impact. Arthur stared wide-eyed, as fresh blood trickled down the damaged wall. His mouth opened and closed but no words came out.

What…?

“Get Off--Agh!” A rough voice gasped as a gun clattered to the floor. Arthur tore his eyes from the bloodied wall to the scene unfolding on his left.

Next to Eames’ feet, laid another mercenary whose head was twisted to an unnatural 180 degrees. The begging man that caught Arthur’s attention hung in the air by his throat, kicking in futile desperation. He clawed at the hand that was slowly crushing his windpipe with no avail.

“Eames…” Arthur spoke without realizing it. Thankfully, neither the forger nor the mercenary seemed to notice, which was a good thing because Arthur wasn’t so sure he wanted to be notice at that moment.

Eames didn’t look like Eames. He didn’t even look like the soldier that he worked with so long ago. His expression was cold and foreign. The hand that held the hired gun was black as ink with white veins that twitched and bulged as the grip grew tighter and tighter like a python on it's prey. Drool and blood seeped from the corners of the merc’s lips and his kicking grew more frantic, till finally a satisfying crack put an end to the man’s struggles.

Arthur couldn’t move from where he stood. He stared as the inky black substance oozed down Eames’ forearm before seeping into the forger’s flesh till nothing remained.

Eames dropped the body instantly. His breath came in short, uneven pants as he gathered his wits. He turned to Arthur with a look of astonishment and horror. Arthur knew he shared that same expression.

What just happened…? The point man wanted to ask but the sound of screams and rushing footsteps grounded him. There wasn’t time for questions. There was no doubt that someone called the police or reinforcement. The gunshots weren’t exactly discrete. That means they only had a few seconds--maybe even a minute or two--to destroy the evidence and run.

Arthur’s eyes darted toward the kitchen then made a beeline for it.

“We need leave.”He said, passing the forger to raid the cabinets of every flammable substance he could find.

“Do we even have time?” Eames asked. His tone sounded daze, as if he was distracted from their situation. This angered Arthur to no end.

“We will have time if you stop standing there and actually help!” He snapped with impatience.

That knocked the forger out of his haze. The older man’s lips twitched with annoyance. “You’re right.” Eames agreed, then started to drag the bodies away from the view of the doorway.

No further words were needed between them after that. They worked enough jobs to understand what needed to be done. Arthur smashed bottles after bottles of booze across the kitchen counter and the floors. He grabbed the lighter fuel then tossed it to Eames. In exchange, Eames tossed Arthur one of the Merc’s jacket and wallet. Arthur opened the oven door, cranked on the gas and then stripped out of his bloodstained blazer.

“There is a back exit that would lead into the alleys.” Arthur slid on the merc’s jacket as he walked to Eames. He handed the forger his ruined blazer. “We’ll be able lose most of the cops there.”

Eames took the clothing and put it on the deceased man. “You can go on ahead. I’ll catch up.”

“Eames--” Arthur’s voice dried up when he saw the black substance rippled along the back of the forger’s neck.

“I mean it.” Eames straightened the blazer on the corpse then peered up at Arthur. “You remember the Thompson job? We can meet there at sun down.”

“What are you going to do?” Arthur asked. “This whole place will be swarming with cops.”

“Which I will lead on a merry chase, Darling.” He tried to look reassuringly at the point man. “You don’t have to worry about me.”

“When have I ever worry about you?” Arthur scowled as he shouldered the rifle. “Don’t be late, Mr. Eames.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Eames got up then took out his lighter from his pocket. “I’ll see you soon.”

Arthur raced out of the broken the room, passed the emergency exit sign, then down five floors before he burst out of the back exit and into the winding alleys. He managed to get a couple feet outside when a loud explosion erupted behind him. He didn’t look over his shoulders to see the damage. Instead, he kept his eyes forward like a good soldier and cleared out from the scene.

~~~~~~~~~~

“We have breaking news in the heart of San Francisco--”

“... In the early morning, an explosion erupted at an apartment complex...”

“A car chase occurred in downtown San Francisco--”

“Footage release by witnesses…”

“...Suspect was seen escaping the site by motorcycle…”

“As you can see from the video--Did he just…? Oh my god, are you seeing what I’m seeing Janet?”

Arthur exited from another breaking news report with a heavy sigh. Everywhere and everyone seemed to have a video or picture of the incident. Fortunately, it was still dark when it took place and none of the images were clear or distinct enough to identify anyone or anything. They didn’t need to worry about the apartment’s security tapes now that the complex was nothing but a pile of ash. Then whatever that hasn’t been burnt to a crisp were destroyed by the firefighters that were trying to save the building. The police had nothing. The news anchors had nothing. With the amount of attention that this was gaining, it might deter those that knew from looking for them. At least for now. This bought them some time to regroup and plan.

Now, if only Eames was here so they could do just that.

Arthur checked his watch again for the nth time that day. The sun was beginning to set over the horizon. The smell of sea water assaulted his nose and the sound gulls filled his ears.

So far, there hasn’t been any sign or call from the forger.

Absently, he tapped a finger against the watchband before letting out a derisive sigh. He turned away from the scenic view then retreated into the hollowed out warehouse. The place was as barren and rusty as it had been during the Thompson job. Arthur even managed to scrounge up the old, former furnitures to set up a workstation for himself.

Now, if only this was like the Thompson job then he wouldn’t feel so damn anxious and he did felt anxious. He hadn’t stopped feeling anxious ever since he left the building--No, that was wrong. The anxiety started when he received the call from Eames and hadn’t dissipated ever since. He felt it simmering inside of him, threatening to bubble over the edge...

Subconsciously, his hand slid into his pocket and rolled the die against his palm. The worn surface, the slight indent and the weight was all familiar. He knew if he took it out and let it roll, it would land on a four every time. He shouldn’t feel disappointed but he did. Part of him wished that his totem felt like an ordinary die because then all he had to do was wake up.

There was no waking up from this nightmare.

He walked up to the table and observed his options. His laptop was open with windows, upon windows of various articles on the Life Foundation. Next to it, was the Merc’s jacket and wallet in which he had promptly searched and recovered any useful items. There was also the merc’s rifle and then finally box of lukewarm, partly eaten, Sonny’s famous Pad See Ew and Papaya Salad. His trusty, reliable PASIV sat untouch at the base of the table’s legs.

Arthur set his phone down and began to work. He started with the news articles and then dug deeper from there. He read case studies of their projects, their success and failures. Stories of Dr. Carlton Drake spoke of the man great intelligences and revolutionary view of the future as well as his disdain toward people. TMZ managed to get a candid phone-video of Dr. Drake’s vehement tirades during a conference in Toronto.

“A man whose company help save the lives of the people that he couldn’t even stand, now that’s ironic...” quoted one of the TMZ editors regarding the scene.

Though, the irony didn’t help him. The old cases--sealed or not--didn’t prove fruitful either. He dug deeper, entering the backdoor to some unsavory routes. He started with the mercenary which predictably was just a couple hired guns who believed the world was being destroyed by these ungrateful people. Besides that, nothing. He searched for even shadier deals but no matter what route he went, it landed him straight into a wall.

“There has to be something…” He grumbled to himself.

You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, Darling.

Arthur scrapped his search and went off the beaten path. He checked the gossip reports, rumors. The crazier the story the better. He read articles of PETA’s accusation of animal testings--the accuser Haley Mitchell even posted vlog about it before it was taken down. There were also stories of a hidden floor at the main facility that nobody knew about, where they perform human testings. He was about to close that article when the name of the writer made him pause: Eddie Brock.

Eames was openly antagonizing them, something that the forger never did unless it was personal. Arthur could count the number of times Eames lost control with one hand. All of those been among the shittiest job they endured, where the gain was not worth it. This job apparently had reached that level before he even arrived.

His fingers flew over the keys, bringing one article after another till he found himself staring at a report of an alien sighting in San Francisco. Aggressively, he shut his laptop and buried his face in his hands.

What am I doing? He asked himself. Aliens? Really? A hysterical laugh threatened to claw its way up his throat but he forced it back with the clench of his teeth. His head throbbed from the building frustration. This was getting him nowhere.

He checked the other windows, letting his programs mined his through the Life Foundation’s firewalls. With time available, he grabbed the rifle and began to take it apart.

There was nothing to gain from it. He already tracked the VIN number on the weapon, which led to more bodies than he cared or. He just needed something familiar to wrap his mind around. It was his form of meditation. One by one, he took apart each piece till it was all laid out before him. Everything exposed and out in the open. It was organized. It made sense unlike the rest of the world.

Then on autopilot, he started to put the pieces back together with relative ease. He was about to pushed the magazine back into it’s slot when he stopped. His brows furrowed as he eyed it. Curiously, he lifted it up and down, assessing the weight. For some odd reason it felt unusually light.

He turned the magazine to see the exposed gold color casing. He pushed out one of the ammo and rolled it between his fingers. It looked and felt like any other rifle ammo but it was lighter. His eyes narrowed and fingers traced over the bisecting, vertical seam that stretched from base to tip, as if it was suppose to come apart.

Before he could pry the sound of an engine forced his curiosity back. He pocketed the single ammo then shove the magazine back into the rifle. He turned toward the doorway as a motorcycle rolled in.

The vehicle had seen better days with the way it was scraped to hell and back on either side. The rider, too had, seen better days as well.

“You’re late.” Arthur chided as he slid the safety back on.

Eames killed the engine and kick down the side stand. “My apologies.” He remarked, climbing off the bike. “I know how much you hate having to wait on people.” His tone was sharp as a razor edge, a warning that he was in no mood for games.

“You knew that and you still kept me waiting.” Arthur noticed the tense lines of the Brit’s shoulders and the slight sway to his steps. “Here I thought you had learned your lesson after the first time you made that mistake.”

Eames finally looked at him. For a moment, Arthur thought about retracting his statement when he saw the smile on the man’s face.

“I did, didn’t I?” Eames replied. “This is--what, the second time I’ve kept you waiting after all those years? I must be a terrible man.” He walked up toward the point man.

“You are a terrible man, Mr. Eames and its the third time now.” Arthur corrected as he set the rifle back on the table.

“The third time?” Eames inquired but Arthur ignored him.

He grabbed one of the folding chairs and propped it up for Eames. “Have you eaten yet?” He asked but didn’t wait for the answer as he grabbed the take-out boxes and set it before the forger.

“You are truly a gift from the heavens, Darling.” Eames sat down and ravenously began to eat.

Arthur pulled his seat closer and eyed the other man for any sign of injuries but found none. Besides the clear exhaustion that expelled from every pores on the Brit’s face, he seemed absolutely untouched.

“I’m all right.” Eames met his gaze. “Those sods couldn’t keep up with me.”

“I doubt anyone would be able to keep up with you if you threw a SUV at them.” Arthur pointed out.

Eames flinched then dropped his eyes to the food. “It didn’t slow you down back in Athens.”

“Nothing slows me down.” Arthur said, “Besides, that was a dream. This…”

“Is something else.” Eames swallowed down a piece of beef. “I know, Arthur. I am currently living it.”

The silence hung in the air between them. He knew he should say something, anything. If Ariadne was there then she would’ve tried to be optimistic. She would assured the forger that they would to help him out of whatever the hell this was. Cobb would try to do the same but fail miserably because he’s a terrible liar. Yusuf would probably try to angle it as a partnership to gain more revenue by opening some freakshow circus...

Fortunately and unfortunately, Arthur didn’t fit into any of those molds. They both knew and understood that even if it was annoying.

“I need more information, Eames.” Arthur began.

“Are you telling me that the greatest point man in the world couldn’t find anything?” Eames quipped with a wry smile.

“The greatest point man is currently trying to get through S Class level of cyber security as we speak. While that is happening, I rather obtain my information from the sources that are readily available to me. At this point, that’s you.” His voice sounded rigid, with an unmoving professionalism that had grated more than few of his teammates’ nerves. It was how he earned stories of his inhuman origins. How he was a functioning sociopathic stick in the mud of the dreamshare world.

Eames only chuckled. “Always the charmer, Arthur.”

“I thought that’s your role.” Arthur countered and felt a smug satisfaction to see the surprise on Eames’ face.

“Careful, Darling. If you give me too much compliments then I might think I’m in a dream right now.” Eames countered and then eyed Arthur’s wardrobe. “Though, if this was a dream then you wouldn’t be wearing so much clothes.” He canted his head. “Even if Valentino is rather dashing on you. Especially with the way it hugs your--”

“Eames.” Arthur cut him off. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

The playful expression slid away from Eames’ face like a mask. “After I take kip, Arthur. It’s been a rather trying, past couple days and I am absolutely knackered.” There was no question about it. Whatever Eames went through had taken a toll on the Forger but there was something that Arthur needed to know.

“I will let you sleep if you answer one question for me, Mr. Eames.” Arthur held the other man’s attention. “This did not happened overnight. My guess that it started a couple days ago. At most, a week. Why didn’t you call me sooner?”

A sad smile bloomed on Eames’ face. “Oh, Arthur,” Eames looked into the point man’s eyes. “I would’ve called you sooner if I could... But I did eventually, didn’t I?”

“Yes...yes, you did.” Arthur agreed and that what mattered.

Chapter Text

“Wer is Dast?” A heavily German voice spoke through the speaker.

“Do I need to introduce myself?” Arthur inquired as he paced the darken pathway that laid outside of the warehouse. It was evening now, nearly pitch black with the sparse lighting stationed above the door of each warehouse. No security cameras to contend with or security guards. These particular warehouses had long been neglected to a degree.

“Sheisse…” The man cursed into the line. “You are the fucking Butzemann. What do you want?”

“I want answers, Müller.” Arthur replied.

“And you think I will give them to you?” There were jostling of fabrics rubbing against one another then the sound of heavy footsteps.

“Yes.” Arthur replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

A chair scraped against the ground along with a pop and fizzle of a bottle. “I think that Inception job got to your head. You are not untouchable. You do know that, right, Arthur?”

“Perhaps.” Arthur was unperturbed. “But my aim is a lot better than yours.”

For a moment, the line went quiet.

“Fuck... Didn’t the Brit told you everything by now?” Müller groused. “That is why you’re calling me isn’t it? Your little Brit boyfriend called you.”

“He’s not my boyfriend.” Arthur replied automatically. And he is far from being little.

“Fuck buddies then or whatever the hell kids call them these days.” Müller said. “But that is the reason why you’re calling me.”

“This was your job. You’re the one that was leading the extraction.” Arthur said, “So it makes sense that I go to you for information.”

“If its information that you’re after then shouldn’t you be sniffing out the point?”

“Finck is good but she tends to let her ego get in the way that she misses out on the important details. Such as underestimating the level of security that Drake has over himself and his employees.” Arthur commented.

“I’ll admit, she was utter shit for missing that but the reason why this all went tits up was because your Brit couldn’t keep his mouth shut.” Müller said.

“He’s not my Brit and you’re talking about the articles.” Arthur stated.

“Yes, I am talking about the fucking articles. He was taking this ‘investigative reporting’ shit too seriously. He told you about that shit he pulled, right? Using Riley--our chemist, mind you--to pose as a cameraman so they can confront the bastard. Fucking hell, it was surprising that Drake didn’t come down on us sooner.” Müller vented with a angry hiss. “He was supposed to be the best Forger out here--”

“He is the best.”

“Well he acted like a fucking hack job.” Müller grunted. “Anyways, is that all you wanted to know? Your boyfriend fucked up royally and got himself into a shitty situation that I am not risking my ass for.”

“He isn’t my boyfriend.” Arthur said patiently. “So, that’s what happened?”

“Yeah. If he said anything otherwise then he’s a fucking liar.” Whatever anger Müller had started to wane. “Look Arthur, I like you. You are the fucking Butzemann and the best point around. If you’re not fucking him--”

“--I’m not--”

“Then you best cut your ties. Whatever the hell Drake did to him fucked him up badly.” Müller warned. “He may had been the best Forger around but not anymore. I’d hate to lose a point like yourself to the collateral damage. Hell, I could probably use a good point like yourself in the future.”

“That’s nice to know…” Arthur’s voice trailed off as his steps slowed to a stop when a thought occurred to him. “What information were you guys looking for?”

“Just the latest project that the Life Foundation was working on.” Müller replied. “Don’t tell me you’re suddenly interested in it.”

That’s vague… “Maybe I am.” Arthur replied. “How much was the client willing to pay?”

“Five million if the job goes well.” Müller responded. “Though, I hate to break it to you but the job is no more. Security is probably at an all time high because of Eames’ fuck up.”

Arthur’s brows furrowed in suspicion. “Only 5 million when the company and the man are worth billions? Not to mention the level of security would’ve kept most extractor at bay… You didn’t try to raise the price?”

“The client was driving a hard bargain.” Müller retorted, a bit defensively.

“Is that so?” Arthur didn’t try to hide his skepticism.

“That is so.” Müller pushed back. “Look, whatever you may be thinking--”

“What I’m thinking is the price is too low for a risk that high.” Arthur interjected. “Not to mention not knowing exactly what information you’re looking for… It’s like the blind leading the blind.”

“Fuck off--”

“Shut up.” Arthur said. “You don’t know the details because you really don’t know what to expect. It’s a novice move but you’re not a novice. Your team on the other hand are familiar with the game but are not too keen either. They wouldn’t question what they got themselves into. They wouldn’t question you, which is why you didn’t contact the best for this ‘job’. And mind you, I am using that term very, very lightly because this isn’t a job. This is a shake down.” His eyes narrowed at the shadows before him. His grip tightened around the phone. “You wanted information so you can turn it around and use it against Drake but it didn’t work.”

“It would’ve work if Eames--”

“That’s the part I can’t understand.” Arthur cut him off. “Eames can see a con a mile away and he had turned down his fair share of jobs.” He kept track of that. “So how did you manage to convince him?”

“I didn’t have to.” Müller grumbled, “He approached me.” The extractor muttered something else in German but Arthur didn’t hear him. His mind was hung over by that bit of information.

“You still there, Butzemann? Are we done?“

“Yes, we’re done. Also Müller, if we ever land on the same continent again then be sure to run.” Arthur hung up before the extractor could reply. It took all of his will power not to smash his phone in frustration. He wasn’t sure who he was angrier at: Müller or Eames.

What game are you playing, Eames? He grinded his teeth as he headed back to the door. The headache from before was coming back with a vengeance. The image was becoming clearer but things weren’t adding up. Eames just happened to be the root of majority of the confusion. That goddamn forger… He pressed a hand against the door and started to push.

“You will do no such thing.” Eames’ voice hissed.

Arthur stopped and reached for his glock. An intruder? Arthur wondered but that’s not possible. He was just outside of the door--

“We can do whatever we want.” A distorted voice almost purred to Eames. It was deep and gravelly, like it was incapable of talking without a growl. “And we know what you want, Charlie.”

“We have a deal.” Eames snarled back at the intruder. “I swear to god, you fucking cunt, if you lay your fucking hands on him--” His voice died when finally noticed Arthur.

Arthur stared back at him then quietly surveyed the area. “Who were you talking to, Eames?” Unable to see anyone but themselves in the very empty warehouse.

“Myself.” Eames replied rather stiffly. “How long have I been asleep?”

“Two hours.”.

“Did something happen? Is that why you stepped out?”

“Yes, I had to make a call.” Arthur approached Eames with caution. His hand stayed over the glock.

Eames sobered up at that. “You spoke to Müller.”

“I did.” Arthur stopped a few feet from the forger. “He is upset with you.”

“Understatement.” Eames replied. “I suppose you have questions.”

“Ever since I landed in San Francisco I had questions, Eames.” Arthur tried not to sound too exasperated. “Are you going to answer it or are you going to try change the subject?”

Eames looked like he was truly contemplating it before he reluctantly shook his head. “You deserve to know…”

“Then you can start by telling me how long have you been following Dr. Drake.” Arthur asked, his gaze locked with Eames’.

“For a while.” Eames replied. “I was a couple months in it before Cobb found me in Mombasa.”

Arthur frowned. “That long--” He straightened up. “You were in Canada.” He recalled the TMZ report.

Eames lifted a brow with a small smile on his face. “I am starting to believe that you placed a tracker on my person without me knowing. I’m charmed.”

“Cobb mentioned that you tried to perform Inception with another team but that failed.” Arthur continued, ignoring Eames’ comment. His expression hardened. “Drake was your mark.”

The small smile fell away. Eames let out a heavy sigh. “Your brilliance is quite charming as it is aggravating, Darling.”

“What were you try to do?” Arthur pressed. “What idea were you trying to plant in Drake’s head that didn’t take?”

“That monsters are real.” Eames’ voice sounded darker, harsher. It was enough to make Arthur curl his fingers around the grip of his glock.

“And the client--”

“Was me.” Eames replied. “My team knew the risk. Many declined because it wasn’t worth it and it was incredibly personal but those that stuck around and tried--well, they wanted a shot in performing the impossible job. Or it was the impossible job during that time.”

“And after the Fischer job, you wanted to try again.” Arthur concluded.

Eames nodded. “But by then, nobody wants to touch the good doctor. He was climbing the millionaire ladder when I first tried but most of his dealings had been in the shadows. It was after Fischer took apart his daddy’s company, was when Dr. Drake gained headways in the business world and began to draw a public image for himself.”

“To the point where the risk is high enough to deter most extractors.” Arthur said. “A sane point person wouldn’t take the job because of the level of security and too many unknown variables. You were lucky you ran into someone as greedy as Müller…” He frowned then eyed Eames. “Unless that’s not a coincidence either.”

A cheeky smile bloomed on Eames’ face as he shrugged innocently. “What can I say? The Dreamshare community is just chock full of gossips and egos.”

“I don’t understand…” Arthur looked pensive. “All this to make him believe in monsters?”

“Enough that he wouldn’t be clinically sound.” He canted his head with a cold vicious smile spread on his lips. “You can’t run a business legally when your partners think you’re mad as a hatter.”

“But you changed tactics. You were aggressive this time.” Arthur said.

“Name one investigative reporter that wouldn’t pushed the boundaries.” Eames retorted. “Besides, there wasn’t much time and I needed to get close to Drake.”

“But you got too close.” Arthur replied.

“I got too close.” Eames agreed and looked away.

“What did they do to you?” Arthur approached Eames slowly, like a person approaching a injured animal. Except Eames didn’t look injured. In fact, he seemed to look much better than he had when Arthur first saw him. “Were they testing drugs?”

“I wish that was the case.” Eames replied then stepped away from Arthur. “You should keep your distance, Arthur.”

“Since when do you care about personal space.” Arthur harped, recalling numerous times when Eames was practically pressed so close he could smell the sweat from his skin.

“The current circumstances had changed my opinion on the matter.” Eames countered as he stepped away from Arthur but the point was not backing down. He matched the forger step for step.

“What changed, Eames?” Arthur pressed on like a dog on a scent. “What did they do to you?”

“You wouldn’t understand.” Eames growled, low and guttural. Something flickered in the forger’s eyes that almost made Arthur pause.

I can’t back down now. Arthur continued forward. “After what I’ve witnessed, you're doubting me now?”

Eames back right into Arthur’s workstation. His eyes darted to his left but Arthur was there. He was also there when Eames moved to his right. “Arthur, step away.” There was a tremble in his voice but it wasn’t due to fear. It was anger. Eames’ eyes glinted like a blade’s edge and the tense line of his shoulders had returned to its defensive posture. “You don’t know what you’re asking for.”

“I would know if you actually gave me a straight answer.” Arthur placed a hand on either side of Eames, not letting the forger escape. “What--Who was it that you were trying to protect me from?”

Eames stared back at him with a harden gaze. A tic that started to occur on the left corner of Eames’ lips. “You wouldn’t want to know.”

Arthur pressed close enough to feel the forger’s heat through his clothes. His eyes stayed on Eames’, challengingly. “You don’t get to decide of what I want to know, Eames.” Arthur spoke with conviction. It was then that he noticed the change. The expose skin of the forger’s collarbone darkened to an unnatural shade gray and black, before it started to climb up his thick neck with bone white, spider web like veins in its wake.

The point dragged his eyes away from Eames’ throat then froze when he saw one of the forger’s eyes turned cloudy black, like a storm rolling in on a sunny day. Though, what shook Arthur’s confidence to the core was the smile that spread on the forger’s face.

It stretched wider and impossibly wider than humanly possible with a fence of sharpened pointed teeth that glistened like polished pearls.

“And you should be careful what you wish for, Arthur.” The distorted growl spilled from Eames’ lips.

Chapter Text

Arthur didn’t have time to breathe, let alone to back away, when a hand grabbed him by the shirt then slammed him into his workstation. The force was so hard that two table legs snapped on impact, sending him and his things toppling to the ground with a clatter.

A raw gasp expelled from the point’s mouth as he blindly reached for his gun. He barely grabbed the grip when that hand returned and latched onto his wrist in a vice.

“Now, now,” a deep voice grumbled. “That’s not nice.” The hand squeezed his wrist, enough that his bones began to grind against one another.

“Fuck,” Arthur cursed, before letting go.

“You are a feisty one, aren’t you?” the voice crooned, pinning his hand against broken table behind him. “You’ll be so fun to take apart.”

“Didn’t Eames told you not to hurt me?” Arthur snapped.

“But Charlie also mention how stubborn you can be.” The thing sounded amuse and close enough that Arthur could feel the warm, damp breath against his ear. “Even now you refuse the truth. ”

“How can I refuse it when you’re practically on top of me!?”

“Then why don’t you open your eyes, Arthur?”

Arthur froze. Ever since his back hit the table, his eyes were screwed shut. He didn’t want to see It. He wasn’t ready to face something that he wasn’t prepared for.

“Look at us, Arthur…” It purred his name mockingly, carrying the same inflection that Eames used whenever he’s being coy and stubborn at the same time. “Look at us.”

With little choice, Arthur slowly opened his eyes.

Hovering above him like a wolf who had a prey pinned beneath it’s paw, was a monstrosity that his mind could barely comprehend. It’s skin--if you can call it that--shimmered and shifted like melted tar with thick, white veins that branched over it. It covered Eames from head to toe, giving him a bulk that Arthur hadn’t seen since their military days but unlike the military, it also gave the forger a substantial height. Even crouched and haunched as this thing was, Arthur could tell it was taller than him. Much taller than him.

A flash of white drew his attention to the gnarl sets of teeth that were inches from his face. He had glimpses of them before but to see it in their full glory, and this close, was terrifying. They were two to three inches length with a deadly point so sharp that it wouldn’t take that much pressure to break skin. With teeth like those, one would assumed that it wouldn’t be able to close it’s mouth like angler fish but these teeth retracted like a snake’s.

Resting above them with the same foreboding presence, were it’s eyes. There were no pupils or irises in these eyes. Instead it was two large, milky white sclera that took up almost half of the creature’s head. Though, they didn’t gaze at Arthur with a blank stare. No, Arthur knew it could see him and was utterly amused by the point man.

That was where the features ended for the creature’s face. No hairline, no nose definition or even ears. It was like a man donned up in those faceless latex suits. Where the person could be anyone you wanted them to be… Like how Eames could be anyone he wanted to be...

Eames… Arthur frowned. “Where’s Eames?” He demanded.

Those bottomless white pools curved in mirth. “Charlie is here.” It leaned down, close enough that Arthur had to turn his head. It inhaled deeply with a soft growl. “Charlie is always here.” Those dangerous teeth grazed against the side of his vulnerable neck.

“Then where is he?” He did his best to keep his voice steady, even when his heart pounded against his ribs like a jackhammer.

“Charlie warned us about you.” A gush of warm breath caressed his neck. “He told us of your lack of imagination. A man of logic, even when logic doesn’t always apply...” Something wet splashed against his skin and slowly trickled down his throat.

Arthur shuddered and tried to pull away when a rough hand caught his jaw and forcefully turned his head.

It canted with curiosity before the ebony skin pulled apart into a wide smirk. “Perhaps if you see us, then you will understand. After all, seeing is believing. Isn’t that’s how it is, Arthur?” Then like a costume unzipping at the seams, half of its face peeled away to reveal the man inside.

Eames… Arthur had hoped--so desperately hoped--that he would be seeing the daze, empty stare from the forger but faith was a cruel bitch. Eames was conscious and aware to all that was happening.

The gray and the white eyes peered down at Arthur. “Do you see, Arthur?” The hand that gripped his jaw let go to gently brush it’s knuckles against his cheek. “Do you understand now?” It spoke with a mixture of Eames’ voice and that inhuman growl. “Charlie is here. Charlie is us.”

A coldness seeped through his veins and wrapped around his heart so tightly that it almost hurt. “Eames.”

“Who else would it be, Darling?” The hand brushed against his right ear and hair before it slid behind his neck. He could feel the strong fingers curled around it, cradling it, as Eames--It--leaned down and pressed his forehead against his own.

There was a spark of muscle memory that lit up in Arthur’s mind. He remembered the gun was still warm from the shot and that Eames had snuck into his tent. The bastard used his bulk as an advantage to corner him and held him just like he was doing now.

The point let out a trembling breath and shut his eyes to push the memory at bay. With another breath, he met the gaze of the half-unmasked monster above him. There was an edge of suspicion glinting from both the human and inhuman eyes, but there was something else as well. A look that Arthur utterly despised; pity.

His jaws flexed as his teeth clenched. Annoyance and anger begun to unfurl inside of him. He didn’t need or want anyone’s pity, let alone Eames’. Eames should know that. Out of everyone in this goddamn world, Eames should know that--

And Eames does know that. Arthur let go of the breath he was holding and felt his mind cleared. He lowered his eyes with a look of resignation before turning his head to the side. His throat laid exposed in a silent invitation.

The thing’s eyes narrowed with suspicion at the sudden change to Arthur’s demeanor. The point could feel it too but determinedly kept his pose. Seconds ticked by before it lowered it’s head and brushed it’s mouth over his pulse. A slick, wet appendage slid down his neck causing him to tremble.

“Do you know how long Charlie has waited for this moment?” It continued to speak with that warped version of Eames’ voice. “How long he had waited for you? He was patient, so very patient Arthur.”

There was a nudged against the underside of his chin. Arthur ignored it at first until it nudged him again. The point tilted his head up, giving the creature more room to explore when he noticed the corner of a silver case peeking from underneath the broken table.

The PASIV.

“...Even when you foolishly chose another…” A soft growl slipped from the creature. “Dimitri didn’t deserve you.” It rasped. “He was a fool… A fool who learned his mistakes.”

A breath caught in Arthur’s throat as another memory rushed back. It was less quiet than the one he had with Eames. It was volatile and passionate. It also left him unsatisfied along with an active Hit to his name. He was on the run for nearly half a year before it went quiet.

“What did you do?” Arthur asked because he couldn’t help it. He had to know.

“Charlie delivered a message that nobody could forget.” It climbed over Arthur to meet his eyes. “He gave you your freedom…” It leaned closer to the point man, those large eyes narrowed in anger. “And you repay him by hurting him.” It hissed sharply. “Perhaps we should return the favor.”

Goosebumps raced across his body like a wildfire. Arthur had to clench his hand to stop himself from trembling. “You did.” He replied.

It cocked it’s head at him.

“You did hurt me.” Arthur replied as he focussed on the mismatched eyes. He could almost see the look of surprise on their face. “And you will hurt me again.” He felt the grip finally loosened around his wrist. “Like how I will hurt you.”

As quick as lightning, he slid his hand from the relax grasp, grabbed his gun and fired right next to where the ear should be. A piercing screech expelled from the creature’s mouth as the thing recoiled in pain and anger. Arthur quickly twisted out from under him. His eyes locked onto the PASIV and scrambled on all fours to get to it, but was yanked back by bone crushing grip around his ankle. He clawed the ground as he furiously kicked back at the thing that was dragging him. After what felt like hours, his feet finally connected with the hand that held him and forced the thing to let go. Without wasting a second longer, he lunged for the silver case and snatched the handle in time before it dragged him back.

Arthur twisted again and brought the cumbersome case up like a shield as the beast beared down on him in pure fury.

“We will make you hurt!” It snarled viciously, “We will make you scream!”

Arthur shouted back words he doesn’t remember as he shoved the case against it while his hands simultaneously worked on the clasp. He quickly deflected the claws came at his left, then his right, and when he saw his opening he slammed the metal case as hard as he could against the side of the thing’s head. It faltered just long enough for Arthur unlocked the latch. The vials Somnacin, needles and the lines that were attached to the machine spilled out before the PASIV was knocked from his grasp. It was on him like a storm with unmerciful hand that seized his throat. Eames’ face gone now. It was consumed by the monster.

“You will pay. We will make you pay!” It hissed as it tightened it’s grasp around the point man’s throat, or at least it tried to. It’s grip seemed to spazz out of control, as if it couldn’t decide if it wanted to kill him or release him.

Eames…

“Fuck you,” he growled right back, wrapping his fingers around one of the needles and stabbed it into the side of the thing’s neck. He yanked the line to bring PASIV closer and slammed his fist against the button.

Nothing happened except for a menacing, cold chuckle from the creature.

The hand around Arthur’s throat begun to squeeze. He fought against it, clawing at it like that mercenary from before. His lungs were screaming for air and the shadows around his vision started to grow. That Thing watched him struggle with a look of absolute delight.

“Do you think that will stop us?” The monster asked, “Perhaps you’re not as smart as Charlie said you were but do not worry. We won’t kill you yet. We will make you suffer, Arthur... We will break every one of your bones so you cannot escape us… Then… then we will feast… We will…” It’s voice slurred and grip loosened. Confusion spread on the monster’s face as he looked at Arthur with anger even as it’s eyes started to close. “Wha--What did you do?” It hissed before succumbing to the drug. Slowly, the black thing retreated into the human's flesh until all that was left was a forger lost in sleep.

Arthur collapsed back on the ground, gasping and coughing violently. A couple tears managed to escape from the corners of his eyes as the adrenaline left his beaten body trembling. It took a moment to compose himself before he could look at the slump man that laid on top of him. Gathering his strength, he started to push the British off of him. All the while his body screamed for him to stop moving but he knew he couldn’t.

He turned to check the time on the PASIV; thirty minutes.

For a normal person, Arthur reminded himself. This was beyond a normal circumstance, which means he probably had less than that to work with.

He dragged himself onto shaky legs before casting a glance at the forger. He swallowed hard and went to work, starting by heading to the far side wall where he remembered seeing a couple discarded chains laying around...

~~~~~~~~~~

It took fifteen minutes before Eames begun to stir. By then, Arthur had cleaned up their mess and salvaged what he could. He glanced at the forger, then to the chains that he wrapped him with. Between that and the folding chair, he knew it wouldn’t stop the thing, especially if it was angry at him. It would, though, buy him a second or two.

Another groan and Arthur had his hand resting over the merc’s rifle.

“406! I repeat, code 406 in Chinatown!” The radio scanner app crackled to life with the frantic voice of a scared police officer. Gunfire erupted from the speaker along with the sound of a panic crowd. “Oh my god! What the fuck is that--!?” The officer’s voice was cut off and the radio went silent.

Arthur closed his eyes then pinched the bridge of his nose in attempt to stave off the headache.

“Arthur…?” Eames’ voice was low and raspy. Normally, this would send a shiver of delight down the point man’s spine. Now, it made his trigger finger twitch.

The point turn off the app and slid his phone into his pocket before he turned to Eames. The forger’s eyes widen and mouth fell open in shock.

“That bad?” Arthur asked, self consciously adjusting his collar to hide the darkening bruise.

“Arthur--Dear lord, I’m--”

“You stopped it from doing worst.” Arthur stated, proud that his voice sounded steady. “Can you control it?”

Eames looked like he wanted to say something else but thankfully didn’t. He shook his head. “I can impede it’s action but it can do the same to me if it wishes to.”

“That’s why you made a deal with it. If you two can cooperate--”

“Then it’ll be merciful for both our lives since it doesn’t plan on leaving me any time soon.”

Arthur nodded before he slowly made his way to Eames. His fingers curled around the rifle’s grip. “You’re a threat to everyone you know.” He stated. “And that’s not including the fact that Drake is looking for you.”

“I know…” Eames replied, his gaze sank to the floor in defeat. “It’s why I called you. You are the best at what you do.” There was no denying the honesty in the conman’s voice.

“You’re an asshole, Eames.” Arthur scowled at him then swapped the safety on the rifle. He let it hung from the holster as he walked behind the forger. “Dont make me regret this.” He mumbled, ignoring the confused look on Eames face as he undid the bonds. The chains fell unceremoniously to the ground.

“Are you sure that’s wise, Darling? After what I did…” Eames stammered.

“A couple squatters heard our altercation earlier and alerted the police. Does the motorcycle still have gas?” He pointedly ignored Eames’ question because he didn’t know if he was doing was the right thing.

“Yes.” Eames rubbed his wrists. “I’m a bit surprise that they would report anything.”

“That’s because there has been more than a few skirmishes all over the city. The recent one took place in Chinatown. We should move before they get any closer.“ Arthur walked, not limped, to the scratched up bike and started to load the trunk with his laptop and PASIV. His fingers lingered over the fresh scratches on the silver surface before closing the trunk. “You’re driving.”

“Arthur--” Eames began again but Arthur cut him off with a look.

“I trust you, Eames, as much as you trust me.” Arthur said. “Now move your ass and get that bike ready. We don’t have that much time.”

Eames hesitated before he was able to shake the guilt away. He marched over to the bike and climbed on. “Where are we going?”

“They will be keeping an eye out for Eddie Brock in the airports and the borders. So it’ll be best if we stay in the city a little longer. ” Much to Arthur’s dismay. “I booked us a room at the Dylan Hotel. Can you please make sure It doesn’t destroy room?” Or me.

Eames looked over his shoulder at him with a sober expression. “I will do my best, Darling.”

“I want more than your best, Eames.” Arthur adjusted the strap to the rifle to keep it conceal under his jacket before he climbed on. He settled behind the forger then paused. With a moment of hesitation, he slid his arms around the Forger’s waist.

The Brit tensed up immediately at the unfamiliar contact then casted an uncertain glance to the point man. After a second, his shoulders relax. He turned his head forward and revved the engine. “Ready, Darling?”

Arthur pressed up against the forger’s back. He buried his face in the space between his shoulder blades“Let’s go.”

Without further word, the motorcycle let out a roar as they left the scene without an inkling of their presence ever being there.

Chapter Text

“...As of recent, there has not been any explanation to what is now being called ‘The Chinatown Massacre’. There has been a total of twenty deceased and more than fifty injured from this attack. As you can see behind me is the destruction from last night’s attack.” The cameraman panned out to give a view of the broken windows, burnt shops and destroyed cars. It looked like a war zone save for the polish reporter who stood with the most plastic somber expression she could muster for the camera. “Where the police and other authorities refuse to comment, witnesses of the attack are more than willing to share their stories…” The image changed on the dinky TV, that sat next to the rotating who-knows-how-long-they-have-been-there hot dogs, to the collective footages and pictures of the attack.

Unlike the images from the police chase of downtown San Francisco, these were more distinct. Even with the shaky camera handling, there was no mistaking that they were witnessing something indescribably horrifying. A large monster on two legs stood in the center of the chaos with a manic grin that stretched impossibly wide on it’s face. There was no doubt that this beast would infect the minds of countless residents who witnessed it first hand. For Arthur, though, it just reminded him of the aches in his muscles and the ghosting pressure that closed around his throat.

A forceful dry cough broke Arthur’s attention from the screen to an old, annoyed asian woman behind the register. Her face pinched in annoyance with her lips pressed into a scowl. “Are you buying or not?” She asked. Her dark eyes zeroed in on the mottled purplish bruise that peeked from behind his jacket’s collar. The scowl deepened as her face twisted in disgust.

Under normal circumstances, he would have taken this reaction with poise and thick skin. At this moment, he did not give a flying fuck.

Arthur countered her disdain with the most sickenly honest, sheepish look that he could muster. “I’m sorry,” He apologized and gestured shyly. “I just need one or two more things.” He said before ducking into the medicine aisle. There he plucked two boxes of XXL condoms (‘Ribbed for XTra Fun’) and tube of Astroglide. He dumped them into his basket then returned to the woman with a smile on his face. “Now I’m done.” He said, setting his basket onto the counter.

If looks could kill, then Arthur would’ve been murdered a dozen times under her gaze while she tapped aggressively at the register. The bill was much higher than it should be but he didn’t care. He already got what he wanted.

He paid, grabbed his stuff and headed out with a ‘Have a good day’ tossed to her.

Outside was lovely day with a grim undertone as the fifth police car passed the convenient store. Ever since the Chinatown Massacre and the chase in downtown San Francisco, security had gone on the rise. Which means that the city’s borders would be difficult to squeeze through but they were resourceful people. They had dealt with similar scenarios...

Except Eames was compromise.

He turned the corner at the end of the block, then climbed the steps up to their humble room at the Robin’s Nest Motel. Their original idea was scrapped when they noticed the roadblocks, speed traps and traffic that filled the streets. It wouldn’t be any problem for Arthur to get to their intended location but Eddie Brock was still a wanted man. If the police get a hold of him, then Drake would know their location. There was also the option to split up but Arthur couldn’t place that idea on the table. He just couldn’t.

The keys jingled, the knob turned and Arthur was welcomed to the sight of a half dressed Eames perched on the edge of the single bed, watching the news. On the screen was a terrible image of a haggard caucasian man with an awful tacky shirt.

“That is a horrible picture.” Arthur drawled as he walked off to the side, toward a crooked table where he set down his purchase. “How old is that shirt?”

“I am pretty sure that it is older than both of us.” Eames replied casually then turned to Arthur. “Is the outside world is as barmy as the telly claims?”

“Depends.” Arthur’s eyes lowered briefly, noticing a new a tattoo on Eames’ shoulder that wasn’t there before. “If you were expecting monsters to be running around and causing mayhem in the city, then no.” He said. “Or if they were, it wasn’t in this part of the city.” He made his way over toward Eames to get a better view of the descriptions the police had on Eddie Brock.

Age, estimate height, occupation etc etc… Arthur’s mind listed. Nothing was significant. Everything was generic and vague as possible. Paired with a terrible picture, the cops would have a hard time finding Eames. Drake, on the other hand, is a different problem.

“What about security?” Eames’ voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Worse than last night,” Arthur tore his eyes away from the screen to glance down at the Brit.

“How would you rate it?” Eames cocked a head in curiosity. The Brit looked better now, alert even, which was a bit unnerving considering Arthur did blew out his eardrum. Eames showed no sign of any injuries actually. It was as if the fight had never occurred. The only thing that seemed to be off about the forger was that he developed a slight twitch that tugged at the left corner of his lips.

“Level 1 at most: Alert to potential dangers but no idea who the threat is.” Arthur’s eyes wandered from the forger’s face to his shoulder again.

“So it’s not something we can’t handle then, right Darling?” Eames offered him a small smile. The forger’s attention never wavered from Arthur, even as the image change on the telly to an upset, blond woman. Her cheeks stained with tears and voice was hoarse with concern for her missing fiancé, the missing Eddie Brock.

It was almost cruel when you think about it but not unusual. At least not in their line of job. She was the mark after all. A means to a paycheck. Arthur almost felt bad for her. Almost.

“More of the usual,” Arthur agreed, “Though we would need to do something about the target on your back.” His eyes lifted to meet those gray-blue pools. A frown tugged at his lips. “Unless you don’t have any intention to disappear just yet.”

Another twitch tugged at Eames’ lips. The smile stayed but appeared fake. Those broads shoulders grew tense and his posture was a little straighter compared to his relaxed slouch earlier. “You know I’m not fond of running away.”

“That is true,” Arthur agreed. His eyes remained locked on the forger. “But is that how you really feel right now? It doesn’t have anything to do with that Thing whispering into your ears?” He canted his head. “That is what it’s doing right now, isn’t it?”

The smile dropped from the forger’s face. His eyes no longer warm and inviting but cold and calculative. “They have a point.” The forger stated. “Do you how many hours I put into this job? It almost been years, Arthur. You’re asking me to throw it all away when they can’t even do anything to us.” His voice deepened to a low hissed at the last word.

Instinctively, Arthur recoiled. The memories of the fight surfaced but he forced it down when he stepped closer to Eames. He jabbed a finger near the new tattoo on Brit’s shoulder. “You were the one who reached out to me, asking for my help. It is my job to make sure that both our asses get out of here in one piece and going in gun blazing is not that route.” He hissed back, staring at Eames but not quite looking at him. No, his focus was on someone--something else. “I don’t care if you can tear down buildings, deflect bullets or whatever the hell you can do. The idea is stupid and it could only take you so far till you find yourself outmatched and outgunned.”

The corner of Eames’ lips twitched, threatening to pull back into a sneer but scowled instead.

“If you don’t like that idea, then the door is right there.” Arthur gestured to the front door. “You can leave whenever you want because I am not stopping you, but don’t expect me to follow you.”

“Why?” Eames tossed at him. His eyes flickered in anger and jealousy. “Because I’m not Cobb?”

Arthur bristled. “Because I know you have more sense in you to do something as stupid as this. Otherwise, you would have never called me.” He snapped then boldly turned away from him in favor of a plastic bag against the wall.

“You think you know us so well, Arthur?” The forger scoffed.

“I think I have right to say I know you better than most only because you allowed it, Eames.” He retorted, snatching a clean shirt and a pair of pants from the bag. He shot a fleeting look at the older man. “The decision is yours. I’m going to take a shower.” He walked passed him then disappeared into the bathroom, where he promptly locked the door. He stood there for a second or two. His ears straining to hear the creak of a bed spring or the familiar steps of the forger’s. To his relief, he heard nothing but the TV.

He exhaled loudly to himself and rested his forehead against the cold, wooden door. It took another second for him to gather himself and do what he was going to. He stripped out of his clothes and entered the shower. The hot stream of water was a blessing and torture against his battered body. Every twist and turn elicit a sharp pain, reminding of what happens when you push Eames into a corner. When he push It.

It wasn’t like he forgot about it. How could he? Even when he shut his eyes he could still feel the weight of the monster bearing down on him. He could feel the wet tongue sliding over his pulse and the deep rasping voice curling in his ears. He could see Eames’ face inches from his own. Those gray blue eyes boring holes into him with earnest and open hunger, as if the forger was ready to devour him.

Heat pooled in the pit of his stomach before he shook his head hard enough to make the world spin for a second. He looked down at his hand to see the crushed soap bar and his redden skin. He placed the bar aside and finished cleaning up. He pushed the stall door open, grabbed a towel but then pause as he looked across from where he stood.

Staring back at him was a lithe point man whose skin was lightly tanned and scarred from nearly head to toe. Stab wounds, scrapes, burns, gunshots, you name it marred his skin. Each of them had a story and each of them helped mold Arthur to be the man he is. Adding to the collage of scars, were the deep purplish bruises around his right wrist, throat, left ankle, both of his sides and most of his back.

His brows furrowed as he glowered at himself.

He look so frail standing there, battered and dripping wet. It was perplexing and aggravating because if he was honest, he did felt helpless. Doubts were infecting his mind and he couldn’t stop it because how could he? Nothing in his experience can come close to This. This should never be in the realm of reality.

...Just like how people shouldn’t be able to enter another’s dreams and infect them with a thought that would change their whole life… He had seen and experienced impossible situations before and made it out alive. He’ll do it again too.

Arthur draped the towel over his shoulders and slid on the pants before walking the short distance to door and opened it. He blinked in surprise to see the forger staring back with the same expression. He blinked again. “Is something the matter?”

“No.” Eames managed to croak, taking a step back. He fidgeted a little, uncertain even. It was strange to see that from the Brit, especially with the amount of bravado Eames exudes naturally. “I was just worried is all. I thought you might’ve drowned or something.”

“Right…” Arthur shot him a withering look. “Don’t tell me you’ve been keeping track of how long I take a shower.”

“Well, of course Darling. If I am to perfect my forge of you, then I need to make note all of your quirks.” Eames replied, his shoulders relaxed. He seemed more like his normal self now. No twitch.

“That’s incredibly creepy. Can you do me the favor and get the balm from the bag. I need it for the bruises.” Arthur nodded toward the table on the opposite side of the bed from them.

“As you wish,” Eames stepped away and went to collect the item. Arthur took the opportunity to strode over to their single bed and set his towel and shirt upon it.

“You know, Darling, I figured you may be hiding some kinky fetish but I would think after last night's incident would had scratched me off your list completely. I mean your back must be sore after all.”

“What are you talking about--” Arthur turned his head to see the forger holding one of the box of condoms and tube of Astroglide lubricant. There was a cheeky smile on the Brit’s face, something Arthur never thought he would missed until now. He kept his own face as stoic as possible even as heat rose to his cheeks and the tips of his ears “Who said that I’ll be the receiving end?”

“Touché.” Eames said, turning the box around to read the print. “I could see myself enjoying the X-tra pleasure.”

“Shut up and get the balm.” Arthur quipped as Eames’ laughter filled the room. Another piece of Eames that Arthur found himself longing for.

“Of course, my Darling. Forgive me for my insolence.” Eames set condom and lube down for the balm. His eyes scanned over the instructions as he made his way to the point man. He unscrewed the top. “Would you punish me for my unruliness?”

Arthur squinted at him. “I don’t think it’ll count as a punishment if the person is requesting it.” He remarked dryly then turned around for Eames.

There should have been a rebuttal to his line. Perhaps a ‘You are a cruel, Master’ comment at the very least but instead all he received was a heavy, smothering silence. Arthur didn’t need to turn around to know that Eames was still there. He could feel the forger’s eyes raking down his back like a pair of hands.

“...He did quite a number on you, didn’t he…” Eames murmured.

His voice was so soft that Arthur could’ve missed it. The point man glanced at the forger, noting his sullen expression. “Not any worse than you did.”

Eames seemed to snap out of his daze to meet Arthur’s eyes. The guilt that was there disappeared and was replaced with irritation. “To be fair, you were an utter prick during those times.” He replied, setting the cap on the bed next to Arthur’s shirt. He then scooped a generous portion of the numbing balm onto his fingers. “I say I had every reason to act the way that I did.” He remarked, setting the container onto the bed. He smooth the ointment between his hands before he begun to spread it over the point’s upper back.

Arthur hissed at the sudden chill against his heated skin but that soon melted into a soft sigh as the pain subsided. His eyes drifted close against his will. “Pot meets kettle.” He muttered.

“I was a perfect gentlemen--”

“You were complaining to your mates about ‘How can this Yank be our senior when he looks like he’s barely out of primary school'.” Arthur countered with a mockery of the British accent.

“One, where most of your accents are pretty spot on, Darling, British is not one of them. Two, I learned from my mistake after you choke me out during a friendly spar.” Humor colored the Brit’s voice as his thick, rough fingers loosened up the knots that plagued the point man’ back. “As a side note, I do like to point out that it’s amusing that between the two of us, you were the one with the Juvie record.” A small smile settled on his lips. “But I digress. I was referring to our first meeting in the Dreamshare business, where you nearly broke my jaw with that right hook of yours.”

“You needed it.” Arthur said, tossing a glance over his shoulder to the forger.

“I needed it?” Eames’ brows rose comically high as his hands slid down along Arthur’s spine to his lower back. “Tell me, Darling, how did you came to such conclusion?”

“Your ego was taking up too much space to be tolerable for anyone.” Arthur looked ahead, trying not to focus how those slick hands feel against his skin. “I was doing the team a favor.”

“Now who is the pot and kettle now?” Eames scoffed. His fingers dug firmly against the taut muscles. “Your ego is just as bad if you thought you could take a job away from me.”

“You’re talking about the Simmons Job? As far as I know, my team was on the job before yours.” Arthur pointed out, stifling a soft moan from slipping out.

“Ah, your team…” Eames crooned while his hands wandered over to Arthur’s injured sides. “An extractor who was far too green and an Architect who couldn’t keep his nose clean. It’s no wonder why Michael decided to look for another team.”

Arthur doesn’t try to muffle the gasp as a spark of pain lit up his nerves. Nor did he held back his glare he shot at Eames. “His name was Michel and that’s rich coming from the man who willing to team up with someone like Krystof. A point man who was more than willing to sell you off if it means he gets your share.”

Eames pressed his forehead against Arthur’s shoulder as he chuckled. “We had shit teams back then.”

“There’s still plenty of shitty teams even now.” Arthur glanced over to see the top of the forger’s head. Those sturdy hands tightened at his sides, drawing him closer till he could feel the light hairs from Eames’ chest pressed against his balm-covered back. He didn’t resist the hold. Instead, he leaned into it even when his back protested.

“Arthur--” Eames mumbled into his skin.

“You shot me during that job.” Arthur interjected. “With the worst aim that I have ever witness.”

“Arthur, stop.”

“And you had the audacity to claim that you are better than me--”

“Stop.” Eames’ breath came at a sharp hiss. “Please, let me say my piece.”

“Only if you let go of my sides. Its starting to hurt.” Arthur quipped, him voice tight.

Eames immediately let go with a new wave of guilt washing over his face. “Arthur--” He stopped when the point man turned to face him. His eyes could not help but look down at the dark blemished that wrapped that slender throat.

“What did you want to tell me?” Arthur asked. For once he didn’t push but he didn’t back away either. His eyes remained on the Brit patiently.

“I’m sorry.” Eames spoke, not quite meeting Arthur’s eyes. “I shouldn’t have called you. I shouldn’t have…” He gestured to the fresh bruises that were practically glaring at him.

“It’s not the first time we hurt each other, Eames.” Arthur reminded him again.

“But I could’ve killed you.” Eames stated.

“And you could’ve if you were more serious with your shot back in the Simmons Job. Or that time Amsterdam during our knife fight. You certainly had me at your mercy when you grab me in that headlock in Helsinki.” Arthur listed off as he took one step toward the forger. He looked into those stormy pools that always managed to steal his breath away. “I could even return the favor during the numerous times we crossed paths. Even that one time where a client wanted your head.” He reached out and took Eames’ hands in his own. “The fact is we’re dangerous people, Mr. Eames. We’ve been that way for a very long time. This may be different but we faced impossibilities before and we got through them.” The point man lifted the forger’s balm slicked hands and brought it to his throat. He saw the surprise filled those stormy eyes till his own eyes drifted shut.

The hands twitched indecisively on either side of his neck. Unsure of what they should do before slowly, gently, cradled the point man’s throat. The slick fingers slid over the the tender skin with a feather light touch, soothing the pain away. “Arthur…” The man spoke softly.

“Did you want to hurt me, Eames?” Arthur asked.

Eames’ hands wandered up behind Arthur’s neck. His fingers threaded through his wet hair. “I did.” He confessed, his voice was rough. “There are times when you get underneath my skin in such a way…” He started to explained but stopped. “Yes, yes I wanted to hurt you. But not like this.” He looked almost in pain as he took in the unsightly bruise. “Not like this.”

Arthur exhaled softly, then opened his eyes. With a slight hesitation, he lifted one hand and placed it over the center of the forger’s chest. Against his palm, he felt the steady beat of the other man’s heart. “I trust you.”

“You really shouldn’t.” Eames warned as the distance between them diminished. The tips of their nose brushed against one another. “I don’t even trust myself.”

“Then trust me to make the decision.” Arthur urged, his breath brushed over Eames’ lips. His gaze never wavering from the forger’s. “Trust me to get us out of here.”

Eames squeezed the back of Arthur’s neck as their face drew closer. “I do trust you, Arthur.” He whispered.

They were just a breath away from one another. It would only take just the slightest of movement to close the distance between them. That line in the sand they never quite cross. It would be so easy to cross that line once and for all but instead Arthur pulled Eames into his arms and held him tightly despite the way his muscles ached. He pressed his face into his neck. He could feel the pulse against cheek and the corresponding heartbeat against his chest. As much as he wanted it, as much as they yearned for this, now just wasn’t the time. Not when he knew Eames felt guilty over the injuries. Especially not when Eames was blaming himself for it. Arthur wanted them back on equal footing.

“We need information and I need some rest.” Arthur mumbled against his skin.

“I’ll take over with the data mining.” Eames pulled away enough to look at Arthur’s face. His hands still cradled the back of his neck. “You get some shut eye, Darling.” He gave him a tired smile.

“All right,” Arthur replied with a nod in thanks. He lingered in his hold just a little longer before he reluctantly pulled away. “Wake me up if something happens.”

“Will do,” Eames nodded, looking much better now that the weight lifted from his shoulders. “Sweet dreams, Darling.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Miles away from the Robin’s Nest Motel, in a expensive high rise building, stood a man in a thousand dollar suit with his hands deep in his pockets and a look of utter displeasure on his face. Behind him, the door opened as a surly uniform man stepped in.

“Any luck on finding our specimen?” The rich man asked as he turned away from the windows to scrutinize his subordinate.

The uniform man looked rigid with a set scowl on his face and fire in his eyes. “Not yet, Dr. Drake. We have an idea where it may be--”

“But so far you have nothing to show for me.” Drake stated. His unflinching gaze held the other in a ruthless hold. “Can you tell me how a no-name reporter was able to escape you and your men?”

“He must’ve had help.” The man replied.

“And do you know who is helping him?” Drake countered,“No, you don’t, do you?” He let out a dramatic sigh as he approached the other. “Tell me, Mr. Smith, why am I investing my money to you when you can’t even supply me any answers.”

“Sir if I may be frank, things had not been favorable. We are trying to track down your escapee while dodging the police and trying not to be killed by your rabid hound that you let loose without warning us. That is quite a lot to juggle all at once, Dr. Drake." Mr. Smith groused, not at all hiding his annoyance. “If you give us more time then we’ll be able to deliver.”

“You say this as if time would slow down for you.” Drake stepped right into his space and sneered. “That’s the arrogance of man. Don’t you see, you reached your limit and your use.” He withdrew then quietly walked back to his desk.

“You are fucking nuts, sir.” Mr. Smith’s hands balled into fists at his side.

“And you are replaceable.” Drake replied as he pressed dial on his phone. “Carol, come and collect Mr. Smith from my office.”

“I can show myself out, you fucking prick.” Mr. Smith harped before he stomped out of the room just as a lovely woman entered. She spared no glance toward the passing man. Instead she continued her way to Dr. Drake with the sound of her clicking heels announcing her presence. Between her manicured fingers was a folder.

“I see it didn’t went well.” The woman commented, handing off the folder.

“Humans are becoming more and more a thing of the past. If we want to move toward the future, then we need to think beyond the limitation of man.” Drake flipped through the documents. “Mr. Smith is good at what he does but we’ll manage with our own security team. Besides, Plan B is already taking place. Has there been any news of our lovely beast?”

“It appeared to gone underground since the incident in Chinatown. The police and reporters lost track of it.” Carol recounted.

“Good, it’s adapting to the city. It won’t be long before it become aware that there is another alpha in it’s territory.” Drake smiled as he scanned the documents.

“Do you really think it will seek out our escapee?” Carol couldn’t help but ask. “The symbiote did show some level of intelligence after all.”

“But it is just an animal, Carol.” Drake tutted. “Man is no different. We claimed to be a higher species and yet we too seek out to dominate and control. Our beautiful hound will seek out the strongest and we will find our escapee.”

“What if the hound kills him?”

“Then we’ll just move forward with R. I. O. T. project. I have no patience for the weak.” Drake looked up from the folder. “Is this all you have?”

Carol gave a curt nod. “This is what our security team manage to scrounge up in relations to Eddie Brock. There is not much to his family history. His articles on the other hand would feed any conspiracy addict. It’s no surprise that his stories never made headlines. Though, there seemed to be an reoccurring figure among his articles that you might have an interest for. A man whose affairs does not appear to be of the legal variety.”

“I see… Tell Hopkins 'Good job in finding the information' and proceed to keep an eye on our hound. It shouldn’t be long before he sniff out our fugitive.”

“Will do, Sir.” She nodded and started to retreat for the door.

“Also, Carol,” Drake called out, snatching the woman’s attention. “Before I forget, send our regards to Ms. Weying. She must be worried sick with her fiancé missing.”

Carol gave a nod. “Of course sir. I’ll make sure that Ms. Weying is well aware of the Life Foundation’s support during these stressful times.”

A cold smile spread on Drake’s face. “Good. Thank you, Carol.” He said before he turn his attention back on the articles in his hand, starting with the one that apparently took place in Kuwait.

Chapter Text

Rough, elegant fingers tapped at the keys as sharp eyes scanned reports after reports that the forger accumulated over the months. Some of which Arthur had found during his earlier investigation but a lot of it…

“How did you got this?” Arthur asked, casting a glance over his shoulder.

“A magician never reveals their secrets, love.” Eames said, bending down to grab the last bag of food. The black shirt stretched teasing over his broad back to show off the taut muscles beneath it. It would’ve distracted him was it not for the fact that shirt didn’t belong to either of them. Also, if the lighting was just right, there was odd shine to it as if the light was reflecting off of a wet surface.

A frown settled on Arthur’s face before he managed to tear his eyes away from it. “I am not about to go on another food run just because you forgot the meaning of rationing.” He quipped.

“Well, perhaps you should consider purchasing more practical items.” Eames countered as he fished out the last candy bar with delight dancing in his eyes.

“And please tell me, what exactly had I purchase that was not practical?” Arthur tossed him another look.

“How about the jar of pomade?” Eames picked out said jar and held it up. “I swear Darling, your hair will not suddenly fall from your beautiful head if you stop for a day or two. If anything, your hair might thank you for skipping it.”

“Its a necessary item.” Arthur rolled his eyes and tapped at the keys.

“Is it now? I would think getting a nice razor would be more useful. I look like a ripe old mess at the moment.” Eames rubbed his scruffy jaw as he munched on the chocolate.

“You’re find without that.” Arthur stated firmly without moving his eyes from the screen. “On the other hand, when did you develop a sweet tooth?”

“I always had one.” Eames rebuffed, taking a seat on the edge of the bed.

“I know you have a fondness for them but you don’t normally crave them.” Arthur corrected and felt Eames’ grin.

“I do find it absolutely charming of how much attention you spend on me. It makes me wonder what other sordid notes do you have in your little notebook about me.”

“‘If any expensive items goes missing, then be sure to check Mr. Eames’ bags.’” Arthur quoted.

A soft laugh escaped Eames. “Ha, ha. You are an absolute riot.”

“Always.” Arthur turned his head again to have a better look at Eames. “But seriously, when did you start craving sweets?”

“It’s not sweets, Darling, it’s chocolate.” Eames shrugged his shoulders and balled up the now empty wrapper. “And I’m not sure. I just find myself becoming rather fond of chocolate and those American chips that aren’t proper chips. You know--the ones where they shredded it first then balled up into those intricate shapes before frying them.”

“Tater tots.” Arthur raised a brow.

“Yes, those.” Eames smiled enthusiastically. “Lately, I’ve just been craving them.”

“You mean It had been craving them, right?” Arthur watched his expression carefully.

Eames met his eyes and let out a sigh. “Yes, Darling. Also, he does have a name and wished you would use it. He find it rather annoying to be referred as ‘It’ all the time.”

“Oh, did I offend It?” Arthur cocked his head with a very dead panned expression. “Then I do hope It forgives me for my ignorance. Would you be so kind to give me It’s name?” There was a slight twitched to the corner of Eames’ lips and eyes that only made Arthur feel even more smug.

“His name is Venom.” Eames replied.

“Venom?” Arthur repeated. He shook his head then slid his focus back to his computer. “Venom…” He mumbled to himself as if to get a feel for the unusual name. “Is Venom venomous?”

“As far as I know, no.” Eames retorted.

“As far as you know…” Arthur parroted. “Does he know that tater tots and chocolate aren’t exactly the most healthiest options.”

“Not for humans at least but for his kind it’s good enough. Especially since I’m not exactly fond of his other craving.”

“Which is?”

“Heads.”

Arthur stopped typing then turned in his seat. “Heads? Any heads?”

“Human heads.” Eames looked away.

Arthur stared hard at him. “Human heads?... You’re kidding right?”

Eames looked a bit pale and uncomfortable on the bed. He scratched behind his neck and offered a sheepish expression. “I wish I was, love.”

The point man opened then closed his mouth.

No, just no. He twisted back around in his seat and focussed on the task ahead of him and not on the fact that Eames had eaten a person’s head at one point. No.

He skimmed through the forger’s supply of information before sinking deeper into them. He was impressed by the lengths Eames went through for this job. Among the piles of information were scattered reports from Eddie Brock. All of them sounded like a passionate reporter who was getting lost in his craft more and more to the point that he stopped caring about his own wellbeing. It could had been seen as honorable in some light. In others, it sounded like paranoid conspirator spinning from one theory to another. It hurt his credibility but it also provided a good cover from anyone looking his way too long. After all, who would have guessed a nutcase being capable to find old, sealed up documents of the Life Foundation Archives.

These particular reports dated back to the early days of the Life Foundation. The company was finding it’s niche in the pharmaceutical world and was willing to go through great lengths to get ahead of their competitors. The documents described treatment goals surrounded by large legal blurbs in case someone tried to sue them. Sometimes in the margins (or even over the actual memo) were smattering of handwritten notes of chemical compounds or the slight change in dosage amounts. One was a laundry list of side effects to the experimental compound that ranged from mild case of rash to full blown episodic bouts of schizophrenia. There were several cases of it too where either the patients or the staff received injuries due to these side effects. Yet despite all these assortment of grotesque descriptions, Arthur’s attention remained on one particular detail: the locations of these treatment centers.

The oldest report had taken place in an area that Arthur barely recognized. He only recalled it because he had a job that took him to the neighboring town. It was a discrete location where everyone mind their own business. The second oldest report took place in the more rural setting of the Philippines. None of them were stationed in large known cities.

That all changed when Drake started to make headways in the fight against cancer. Facilities started to migrate into the big cities as they racked up more and more sponsors. It wasn’t only from the private sector either. The government were more than happy to have a stake in the Life Foundation by providing them the resources they needed for their research. The local universities supplied them of an endless amount of interns that were all vying for a chance to work with such a renowned establishment. Prisons and asylums were more than happy to expel their sick and uncontrollable tenants to the Life Foundations in hopes to “cure” them.

With all the good that the Life Foundation provided to the people across the world, nobody thought to question them. Nobody thought to pay closer attention to their misplaced failures or how some of their high end treatment centers were opened in the poorest neighborhoods. Among these treatment centers was one that was stationed in Dagenham Borough.

Drake bought out the building that housed and cared for the aging veterans. Of course he didn’t kicked them out. No, that would look terrible if they had. Instead they welcomed those veterans into their care with open arms and would housed them for free. This was what the news reported to fellow Londoners and the world. Not once did they questioned the dropping numbers of the homeless population with every year or how some of the aging veterans suddenly died due to ‘illness’ or ‘natural causes’ while in their care.

Arthur clenched his jaw and his hands curled into loose fists over the keyboard. He shot a fleeting look toward Eames, who decided to occupied himself by packing their things. The words weighed heavily over his tongue.

This is why you went after Drake, he wanted say to Eames. Because they targeted desperate soldiers in a desperate situation.

It was not like Eames or himself who chose to joined their respectable units and had the ‘option’ to leave. This was like Lt. Bones’ predicament. He didn’t volunteered to be a guinea pig in Operation REM for shits and giggles. He didn’t even do it for national pride, promotional opportunities or curiosity. He did it because it paid more. He did it because that meant his family back home could keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and a school for his kids to attend. He did it for them.

And looked what happened to him…

His trigger finger twitched before Arthur pushed back the memory. He closed the report then opened the next one. He barely read the subject line when another window popped up with a ping.

“Was that your little toy, love?” Eames queried as he strode up behind him. He peered over the top of his pomade covered hair. “What did you found?”

“Hopefully something useful.” Arthur opened the folder with a frown.

The folder branched into several folders containing various documents, audios and even videos. Instinctively, he moved the cursor over to the video folder. With a single click unveiled an endless column of videos waiting to be viewed.

“My, my... They do seem like they enjoy keeping an eye on their residents, don’t they?” Eames crooned next to his ear, drawing a shiver down his spine.

Arthur tilted his head away from the forger’s lips and tried to ignore the heat that radiated from him. It was something that he noticed for a while but now wasn’t the time to address it. “If you have a lucrative business across the world, then of course you want to make sure that all your skeletons stays in the closet...” His eyes roamed over the files.

Eames clucked his tongue. “Too bad for him then. Digging up skeletons is among our specialty.”

“Indeed.” Arthur clicked on one of the older films.

Immediately, a window opened and begun to play. It was grainy and boxy with no volume but it was also just a security feed. It didn’t need all the bells and whistle to serve its purpose. This particular footage was stationed in a large room with bedding on either side. There were people in hospital gowns shuffling to and fro with orderlies watching off to the side. Nothing conspicuous till one of the patients hurled themselves through the window. The video ended with orderlies rushing out of the room and other patients peering through the remaining windows.

The next video had a similar layout as the last, but the building structure was different. This one didn’t have windows and the number of bedding increased. The patients looked confused and even haggard. None of them appeared to come from a well off background as they were content with the meager food and hard bedding. They didn’t question or fight as the orderlies made their round passing off small cups of ‘medicine’.

Arthur scrolled up and then opened the next video file.

This one was different from the others. There wasn’t any patients or orderlies this time. Instead, a construction crew was walking up and down path with an assortment of tools, lumber and even plexiglass scattered about. Drake was even there, talking to a man in a hard hat. It was obvious that they were going over the plans for the site.

In another video, the construction workers were replaced by scientists. The messy site was now polished with state of the art equipments and glass rooms. Some of these rooms contained lab equipments and the others contained basic amenities that were needed to house a person. Arthur stared hard at those rooms and thought back of the cramped quarters of his time in juvi.

They skimmed through videos, witnessing how the Life Foundation came to be. The once empty glass cells was now occupied by the homeless, the mentally unstable and even inmates from the state prisons. Some were reappearing characters while others disappeared without a trace.

“The poor sods.” Eames mumbled with a bitter tone in his voice.

Arthur nodded in agreement before pausing the feed. He leaned closer to the screen and peered at the very edge of the video with narrowed eyes. There was lean, tall figure with a shock of red hair that was being escorted by two intimidating security guards. “Its Kasady.”

“Who?” Eames turned a confuse look at Arthur.

“Cletus Kasady, serial killer. New York City’s Red Tide.” Arthur explained.

“A moniker in lieu to how his crime scene always look like a tidal wave of blood came crashing through it…” Eames added. “I remember now. I heard of him when I was back in New York. Nasty bugger. Didn’t know they moved him here.”

“I dont think the general public knows they moved him here.” Arthur shook his head then exited the window in favor of another.

This clip unfolded at a different angle and different room. There were a group of scientists and Drake standing outside an observation room, waiting. It wasn’t long before security escorted a gangly man into the empty room. Even from this distance, it was obvious that the man was scared and confused by the group that stood outside. Drake was saying something grandeur with elaborate gestures of his arms to emphasize his meaning. The gangly man seemed to be listening and followed Drake’s gesture by resting a hand against the glass panel. It was then that something moved.

A large container--something that Arthur was ashamed for not noticing it earlier--behind the man opened up and slid out was an oily dark substance. It splat onto the ground and slithered toward the now panic man. The man was begging, screaming as he pounded at the glass till it started to climb his leg. Instinct for that man didn’t told him to run or to fight. It told him to freeze which is exactly what he did as it climbed over him before it seeped into his flesh. There was a momentary stillness till the man’s limbs started to thrash uncontrollably. It bent and contorted unnaturally till the man crashed to the floor in a fit of convulsion. A moment later, it oozed out of the man’s still form.

“...So this was what pushed Dr. Skirth to come to me.” Eames mumbled softly. His eyes trained on the image.

“Dr. Skirth?” Arthur looked up at the forger.

Eames reached over him and tapped at the image of a skinny woman with a messy ponytail. “That’s Dr. Skirth. She was the one who helped me get in into the facility.”

“Do you think she’s still alive?” Arthur looked at the woman carefully.

“No,” Eames shook his head. His face turned unreadable. “...Which means one less person to remember my face.”

“One less person.” Arthur agreed as he shut down the window. “I am surprised that there wasn’t any footage of your break in.”

“The night that I broke in, IT was performing maintenance over their servers. Which means everything that mattered was down for a bit. There was an increase with security guards but those are nothing to worry about.” Eames explained, stepping back a little. His hand returned to his side. “Don’t think I was reckless enough to go with her that same night she approached me. If they weren’t doing maintenance then I would give them a reason for a server failure.”

“If you didn’t took that precaution then I would be disappointed in you.” Arthur remarked as he opened one of the recent reports then glanced through it. “So Venom is a Symbiote. Or at least that is what Drake and his colleagues refer them as…”

A parasitic, alien life form... Part of him wanted to pinch himself because even though he witnessed and experienced all of this, part of him still resisted. He shook his trouble from his head and focussed on the report. “So, they tried supplying the Symbiotes with a host only to realize that it was as tricky as an organ transplant. The host and parasite needs to be compatible or else--”

“The Symbiote would killed the host.” Eames finished as a sardonic smile on his face. “It’s a good thing that we’re compatible. Otherwise, I might’ve ended up like that bloke.”

Arthur gave the barest nod in agreement. “Eames--”

A knock snapped their attention to the doorway. Arthur’s hand immediately went for his glock and Eames’ shoulders squared off, ready for a fight. Slowly, the point man closed his laptop and slid out of his chair. His glock stayed in his hand as thumb slid the safety off. Quietly and carefully, he made his way toward the door.

“Don’t open it.” Eames warned when another knock came.

“It doesn’t seem like they would go away if I don’t answer the door.” Arthur tossed a glance at Eames then nodded toward the bathroom.

Eames looked like was going to argue but instead he surrendered by retreating to the bathroom.

Arthur walked up to the door then peeked through the peephole. On the other side was an aged woman in uniform with a cart full of cleaning supplies. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I didn’t place an order for room service.” He spoke through the door.

“Oh!” She startled a little and looked up at the peephole. “I’m sorry sir but my manager said that this room was vacant. The tenants were checked out.”

“The tenants are checking out, ma’am.” He gently corrected her. “We’re almost done packing.”

“I see… if you need help--” She almost insisted.

“That’s not needed, thank you though.” Arthur kept his voice gentle but firm. “It should only take an hour max.”

“Oh, okay. I will just circle back then. I hope you have a good day, Sir.” She said then started to push the cart away.

Arthur lingered there, sliding the safety back on his gun before slowly stepping away from the door. He half turned and was surprised to see Eames already out of the bathroom. “She’s--” He began when a black tentacle shot from Eames’ hand, grabbed him by the front of the shirt and flung him into the sidewall right before the front door splintered into million of pieces.

A silvery blue blur passed the flying point man and straight into Eames like a barrelling freight train. The force sent them right through the back wall and off the edge of the second floor room.

The point man bounced hard off the sidewall with a sharp hissed as pain lit every nerve alive as he crumpled to the floor. His entire left arm went almost numb from the impact but he couldn’t dwell on that. He struggled to his feet, snatched his glock from the floor with his good hand staggered over to the gaping hole. He peered out cautiously to the extended parking lot below to see two monstrous behemoth battled against each other like gladiators.

This thing--this Symbiote--was similar but not identical to Venom. It’s flesh didn’t resembled a pool of bubbling tar. Instead it was a muddled gray with blue tint over textured skin. It was larger too, about a two or even three heads above Venom with the bulk to back it up but Venom wasn’t faze. The challenge seemed to embolden him instead which was no surprise because this is Eames. He loves impossible odds. He also not afraid to play dirty.

Venom threw a black Camry straight at it’s opponent then promptly smashed a Prius against it like a bat, sending the enemy crashing through another parked car. A frustrated roar came from it as it dislodged itself from the vehicle and returned the favor. Left and right, cars were being destroyed as if they were nothing but toys. People were racing from the scene to avoid the carnage. One person stopped to try to record the fight from their phone but ended up joining the terrified stampede when a car door nearly took their head right off their shoulders.

Arthur lifted his glock and tried to aim at the other Symbiote which was proving much harder than expected. With the thing’s size, you would think it would be easy but it wasn’t. Not with the way the two aliens would collide and claw at each other with ferocity. “Fuck,” The point man hissed as he tried to secure the aim when the sound of screeching tires ripped his attention from the fight.

For a moment, he thought it could be the cops--it was just midday after all--but instead three black SUVs peeled into the now junkyard of littered car parts. Joining them were two suspicious drones zipping through the air.

The point man switched his aim toward the SUVs and fired a couple warning shots at their windows, stopping them from progressing before he centered on the drones. A proper rifle would be suited in this situation but this wasn’t a dream where guns could appear out of thin air. He had to make due with what he had and the limited amount of ammo that came with it.

Arthur steadied his hand and breathing as he leveled his shot, then pulled back the trigger. The stupid thing swayed suddenly and the shot went wide. The second shot, on the other hand, met it mark but his internal cheer was cut off when the thing exploded in a massive ball of flames with a shockwave that knocked it’s partner off it’s course.

They’re rigged.

“Over there!” A voice shouted from below snapping Arthur from his thoughts. He quickly ducked behind the remaining part of the wall as shots were fired. He checked his magazine and popped it back into its chamber. Nine rounds left to use. He might have a partial magazine stashed somewhere but fucking hell why didn’t he grabbed more?!

“Fuck.” He growled as he waited for the pause in the stream of fire before he stepped back into view to return the shots sparingly. He stayed out just long enough to see the group of men split into two parties: one stayed with the battling monsters and the other headed straight for the motel.

“Dammit.” he cursed again then hastily pulled away from the opening. He holstered his glock and grabbed the rifle from between the matress. His eyes darted to the silver scratched case of the PASIV and grabbed the handle.

The loud, thunderous sound of racing boot covered feet bled through the thin walls as the party approached before finally the first attacker breached the gaping doorway.

“Catch!” Arthur chucked the silver case at the man.

Instinctively, the man dropped his gun to grab the case, giving Arthur what he needed. The point man charged at the man, slamming his full weight against him and knocked him off balance before he turned the rifle point blank into the man head’s.

His earlier assumption about the rifle was true. The bullet wasn’t a bullet. It was a dart but at point blank range it was just as lethal. It penetrated through the flesh and split the man’s skull like a watermelon. In that instant, Arthur turned the gun on the attacker’s partner and gave one to his head too. Before the body could touch the ground, the point man discarded the dart gun, grabbed second assailant’s rifle and then proceeded to unload the magazine onto the approaching party while using his second attacker’s corpse as a shield.

“Fuck! Fall back! Fall back!” The group raced back from where they came, unable to scatter in the tight walkway. Some fell dead and the rest ducked behind the corner.

Arthur kept his finger on the trigger as he blindly grope the deceased’s belt before his fingers closed around the item he was looking for.

One chance. He grimaced as the gun burned his hand. When the last exposed assailant fell, he dropped the hot rifle and tossed the grenade down the walkway. It exploded on impact, causing the platform to shake unsteadily and kept the men at bay for a few precious seconds. The point man wasted no time. He ditched the corpse, stripped the first body of it’s weapons and then grabbed the PASIV before he threw himself back into the room just as the party return fire.

His chest heaved with harsh breath as his pulse filled his ears. He set the PASIV back on the floor then looked at the gaping doorway. Quickly, he assessed the weapons and grimaced at the ammo.

It’s not enough. It was never enough in the real world when gravity and wind change could play a factor. It was never enough in the real world because there is always the high chance that your opponent was willing to sacrifice a shit ton of people for their own gain. Which leaves very few options and none seemed all that appealing.

The point man holstered the handgun to his belt then lifted the rifle up. He aimed it at the entrance, waiting but not focussed either. He glanced behind himself to the oversize hole on the back wall. He could hear the crunch of cars just outside.

Should he meet the men head on and hope Eames could manage himself against the armed men, drones and an alien parasite? Or does he risk being shot from behind to help the forger?

Eames could take care of himself. He’s been in this business long enough to know how to handle a fight.

What if he cant?

He’s smarter than how he looks and act. If he wasn’t then would’ve been dead a long time ago.

But isn’t that why he called you? He is smart enough to know when he needs to call for help.

Arthur growled through gritted teeth before boldly turned his back to the gaping entrance and made his way to the opposite wall where he was initially stationed.

The parking lot was in shambles with piled up broken, burning cars and humans remains. Even the neighboring buildings took damage from the fight. Even more damage when Venom chucked the that Thing right through the brick walls. The explosive drones (more arrived it seemed) started to dive bomb at Venom. One managed to get close enough that to knock the black beast onto the side of a broken car. Another zipped through the destruction like heat seeking missile straight for Venom.

Arthur steadied the rifle and fired a couple rounds. One shot clipped a propeller that sent the drone spiraling in the air like a confuse house fly before it crashed into another car. He turned his sights back to Venom to see the monster was back on it’s feet and was eying him. A playful grin rested on that monstrous face before it fell suddenly. Faster than Arthur could keep up, Venom tore the door off from one of the cars then threw it like disk with a deadly speed and force straight for him.

The point man dropped to the ground in time to avoid being decapitated, but the same cannot be said about the man behind him who took the full impact. The attacker fell dead as the rest of the party entered the room. Arthur scrambled to his feet but he was too slow. Outgunned and with very little cover laid an impossible fight ahead him.

Impossible, that is, if he didn’t had backup.

Venom burst through another part to the back wall and straight to the group of men who barely had time to change their aim. Their screams filled the room as the alien sentient tore through them like an angry bull in a china shop. Or better yet, a fox in a hen house with the way their blood painted the room from floor to ceiling. The last man’s cry ended abruptly when their headless body fell to the floor. All the while, Arthur stood there taking it all in.

The alien turned to Arthur and smiled with bloodied teeth. “Shall we go?” He gestured toward the opening in absolute exaggeration, as if there wasn’t a pile of mangled corpses at their feet.

Arthur stared at It, then at the headless corpse and then back to It. He swallowed hard. “Grab the PASIV and computer, then we can go.” He ordered, relieved that his voice was steady. He ditched the rifle in favor of the handgun and looted the body parts for ammo. He glanced at it to see the monstrous being when the faint sound of sirens started to infiltrate his ears. “Fuck. Does any of the cars still work?”

“No,” Venom put the laptop in with the PASIV before closing the case. “But we don’t need a car to get away,” He looked at him with those ghastly large white eyes.

Arthur looked at him for a long second. “You’re not going to carry me like a goddamn princess.”

“It would keep my hands free.” Venom reasoned with too much humor in it’s distorted voice.

The point man looked unamused at the thing and approached it. He grabbed the PASIV from his hand. “Turn around.”

Venom let out a derisive hissed as it turned around. “Is he always this bossy?” He grumbled loudly and he bent his knees a little.

“Yes.” Arthur wrapped his arms over the massive shoulders. He ignored the ache in his left shoulder as he situated himself against the alien. A warm, wet sensation caused him to jolt and tried to jerk away when he saw the black thing oozed around his arms and stick against his chest. “No, no-”

“Relax,” Venom crooned, his voice sounded less like Venom and more like Eames. “Just making sure you don’t fall off.” Then with little warning, Venom bolted out through the back wall and leapt off the edge. They cleared the parking lot in a single leap and landed onto the next building. Venom’s claws dug into the cement and brick as he scaled it as if it was nothing with an impossible speed. When they were high enough he would jumped to the next building and then the next. If the jump was short, then one of the several tendrils in Venom’s arsenal would whip out and help them along.

Down below, police cars chased after them as best they could with other vehicles in their way. Above them, a police helicopter exhibited the same amount of challenge without the traffic.

Venom’s path was wild and erratic as one could get. It was full of twist and turns, swinging from one building to another with sudden highs and free falls. They made impossible turns that stumped the helicopter and cut through narrow alleys that forced the larger vehicle's to detour. It was beyond insanity and never had Arthur felt such a rush like this.

Black tendrils grasped at the traffic light as they swung over the streets to bring them closer toward the higher sky rise. It was there when those pesky drones reappeared and zipped after them like a pair of annoying bees. Arthur twisted around as best he could as he soon as he heard them.

Despite their efforts, the drones kept up with them. The tight turns and narrow alleys that deterred the cops and helicopter wasn’t going to stop them.

Arthur squeezed the PASIV handle and turned to Venom. “Give me back my arms.” He said.

“What?” Venom snarled, sounding far too British to be just Venom.

“They will continue to follow us if we don’t do something,” Arthur hissed at him, “Give me back my arms.”

Venom gave him a sidelong look before launching off the side of a building. The black thing released it’s hold on Arthur and took the PASIV from him. The first thing he felt was the sudden pull of gravity that made him instinctively held onto Venom for dear life.

“Don’t.” He snapped when he felt Venom’s eyes on him. “Just keep going.” He ordered before he checked behind them to see where the drones were. He hooked his injured arm around Venom’s throat, grabbed the handgun from his belt and cocked it.

Behind them, the drones bobbed and weaved in the air after them. The distance between them was disappearing.

Arthur dug his fingers into Venom’s chest as he tried to take aim at the drones which was easier said than done. With the unpredictable motion of Venom’s movement and the way his arms screamed for mercy, made the situation almost impossible. He forced the pain aside as he leveled his aim as best he could before he fired round after round.

The shots continuously went wide, missing the approaching drones completely. With every shot, the gun continued to feel lighter in his hand and the distance between them was fading quickly. Then finally, the last bullet clipped a propeller that sent one of the drones to pitch left--straight into it’s partner.

Arthur didn’t had time to shout when the two drones ignited with a shockwave that he could feel down in his bones. It was so sudden that he couldn’t even feel the heat of the blue flames against his face or that his arm had slipped. When it did finally registered it was too late.

He was falling. He falling so fast that he couldn’t even hear his own racing heart with how loud the wind was blew into his ears. He couldn’t even catch his breath as his thoughts raced through his head for a solution but this wasn’t a dream. He wasn’t going to experience a kick and wake up in some deserted warehouse. He was going to die.

A knot formed in his throat as he looked up to see the darkening blue sky and the falling debris that chased after him. Venom was gone. Eames...

Eames…

A black tendril sliced through the air and struck Arthur in the chest. It yanked him out of the air and pulled him against Venom’s chest. Immediately, he latched onto the alien as it took them away from the scene.

“Arthur…” The familiar lilt of the British voice cut through the noise of the his racing heart.

“I’m ok.” Arthur replied, ignoring how hoarse his voice sounded or how his body trembled against his will. “Just get us out of here.” He mumbled into the thick black shoulder.

Venom didn’t reply. Neither did Eames but that was fine. Arthur didn’t need them to say anything. He trusted Eames and his judgment. What else could he do after all?

~~~~~~~~~~

“Show me the footage.” Drake marched into his office, startling his assistant.

“Sir--” Carol started.

“What are you waiting for? Show me the video. Now.” He passed her by to stand before the large monitors.

Carol nodded as she fiddled with the tablet and put several videos onto the screen. Each of them showed a piece of what unfolded at the Robin’s Nest Motel.

Drake’s eyes wandered over each and every one them with open curiosity and awe. He enlarged the image of the two fighting Symbiote and smiled. “Look at them. Look at the power that they both have and what could become ours. It’s quite beautiful isn’t it?” He crooned. “I heard that the team was able to retrieve one of the specimen.”

“Yes, sir.” Carol affirmed. “The one from project R.I.O.T.”

“Is it damaged?” He looked away from the screen to his assistant.

“They’re still evaluating sir, but Dr. Rapaport doesn’t believe it is injured. Just malnourished.” Carol quickly answered.

“It needs a new host. Something that would last longer than that old woman. Don’t we have anyone younger and not an addict?’ Drake sneered in disgust.

“I will check with the doctor about that.” Carol notated as office door open and the head of security appeared.

“Good.” He looked back to the screens. “So, is someone helping our pesky reporter, Curtis?”

“It seems like that sir.” Curtis walked over to Carol. “May I?” He took the tablet from her and uploaded the footage from the drones.

On the screens, the alien creatures was replaced by a lean man with a trigger happy finger that was holding his own against the assault on the ground and in the sky.

Drake scowled. “Who is he?’ He stepped closer to the monitor, pausing on the image of the man’s face.

“We don’t know sir. He checked in under an fake name belonging to a seventy year old decease man in Boston.” Curtis admitted.

“And that name is?” Drake gestured to him to continue.

“Richie Nix.” Curtis replied, barely containing his annoyance.

Drake straightened up then turned away from the image. “What did you say?”

“Richie Nix.” Curtis repeated abit confused now.

Drake made a beeline for his desk and searched through one of the many folders there.

“Sir?” Curtis started. Carol looked besides herself, unsure how to handle Drake.

Drake didn’t care how he looked at the moment. The name was familiar. “And you’re sure it was Richie Nix?”

“Yes,” Curtis stated. “But that name--”

“Is an alias.” Drake grinned as he snatched the folder containing the reporter’s articles and pulled out the report on Kuwait. “They know each other for a while. This Richie Nix and Eddie Brock. They even worked together on a report.” He held out the folder to Curtis. “Learn what you can about this guy, find him and bring him here.”

“Sir?” Curtis took the folder from Drake.

“I don’t know what his relationship is with Mr. Brock but the fact he’s willing to go out of his way to get involve in this is quite telling. He may pose as a useful leverage.” Drake replied.

“Does that mean we’re done with Ms. Weying?” Curtis queried.

“No,” Drake shook his head. “As I said, we don’t know what sort of relationship Mr. Nix has with our reporter. He could be just as disposable as our volunteers for all we know. Retrieve both of them and bring them here. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir. But I got to ask, the cops--” Curtis started.

“Will not be a concern.” Drake waved him off. “Just focussed on you’re being paid for.”

Curtis gave slight nod then returned the tablet to Carol. “Yes, sir.” He turned on his heel and left the room with the folder in hand.

Drake looked back at the video images before walking to the door. “Let’s visit the lab to see how well our special pet is doing.”

Carol walked quickly in her heels to keep up with Drake. “Yes, sir.” She said as the door closed behind her.

Chapter Text

A stained glass window exploded as the two men burst through it, spraying the floor with an array of colorful shards. Venom landed with ease onto the creaking floorboards and eyed the room warily before he straightened up. The black substance withdrew, releasing it’s hold around the point man.

Arthur stumbled away from the alien sentient, disoriented. His center of gravity was lost and the world tilted sideways for a moment. He tightly closed his eyes and focussed on gathering his wits which proved to be a challenge with adrenaline still pumping through his veins. He forced back his fight-or-flight instinct with a slow even breath. Then when he was certain that the world had steadied itself, he opened his eyes and took in their surroundings.

Streams of orange light poured through the slanted windows, giving the room a warm yet dramatic touch. The area was spacious enough to house dust covered pews, bookshelves and boxes and still had more than enough room to walk around. His attention settled on one of the boxes. There stood a faded statue of the Virgin Mary poised in prayer.

We broke into a church, Arthur shut his eyes again. Of course we did. He covered the lower half of his face with a hand to hide his smile.

There were no sounds of racing footsteps from curious outsiders coming to see the source of the noise. Perhaps they didn’t hear them or maybe the church was in the middle of renovation. If it was the latter (and he hoped it was) then they had a little more time to gather themselves before moving on.

Which was what Arthur needed to comprehend all that had happened--

His eyes widened suddenly as he started to touched his own face, feeling for any injuries. He doesn’t remember the sound of the two drones crashing into each other but he remembered the heat. He swore that it was close enough to disfigure him but he felt no burn marks, just light scratches here and there.

His hands fell away from his face and shook before him. Somehow, someway they managed to escaped with their lives intact. Barely.

I could’ve died.

That line thought had been coming up more and more often and it wasn’t because of his enemies. Hell, most of his injuries right now came from the person he was helping. God, if this was a normal job then he would’ve walked away. Logic was telling him to walk away. Logic was telling him to be terrified of Eames but he wasn’t afraid. Instead he never felt so exhilarated until now. The last time he recalled feeling this kind of high was inception.

Arthur shook his head and his shoulders trembled as he tried to squash the giddiness but couldn’t. Laughter bubbled out of him before he could stop it. “Oh my god,” He exhaled and even giggled. He had to be absolutely insane right now. He just got to. No one in their right mind would stick by a monster.

Just like how nobody would risk their own mind by entering a dream with an selfish, guilt ridden man like Cobb.

The point man had officially done both. The reasons may be different but it was crazy nonetheless. He turned around to face the forger. “That was insa--Nngh!” His words were smothered as chapped, rough lips closed over his. Before his instinct could catch up with him, calloused hands grabbed him by the arms and shoved him painfully against the wall as his lips were assaulted. It was an assault too. There was nothing pleasant about the kiss. It was brutal with too much teeth and raw emotions. It meant to hurt.

Arthur broke the kiss with a turn of his head. “The fuck, Eames--” He hissed and saw the fury burned in those stormy blue eyes.

“You fucking, barmy cunt!” Eames snarled at him. “What the fuck were you thinking!?” His voiced starting to sound distorted. “Did you forget that this is real? Do you need your totem to remind you that this isn’t a dream?!” His grip tightened as his voice rose.

Arthur winced under his hold but didn’t pull away. He saw the rage, frustration and fear washed over the forger’s face. “I know this isn’t a dream.” He spoke then grimaced when the fingers dug into his arms. “Eames--”

“Then why did you told me to let go!?” Eames shouted, his voice echoed in the attic. His shoulders were bunched up with tension. One eye kept flitting from blue to white. “Why the fuck did you told me to let go!”

“We had to stop them. ” Arthur barked at him, holding himself with all the confidence he could muster. His eyes locked on the other’s, unafraid. “Because if we kept going then they will follow us and lead reinforcement right to our doorstep. Because if we stop then they would’ve blown us from the sky--And do not think I didn’t notice how he reacted to the fire. Both of us would be falling to our deaths.”

“And you thought what? That sacrificing yourself would stop them!?” Eames lips pulled back into a sneer. Some of his crooked teeth changed to sharp, elongated points.“I’m not Cobb! I don’t expect you to lay your life down because of my fuck up!”

“I never intend to sacrifice my life for you!” Arthur snapped.

Eames jerked back as if he was struck. The sharpened teeth receded and his eyes dulled a little. “Good.” He said. His tone was steely and distant. The grip on the Arthur’s arms loosened. “Good,” He repeated and took a step away from him. That was all he could take before the point man grabbed him and slammed him into the neighboring wall.

Black tendrils shot out and coiled around Arthur’s wrists and forearm in a python’s grip, threatening to break bones if he doesn’t let go. The point man didn’t relent. “Look at me.” He ordered then shoved Eames again when the forger ignored him. “I said look at me.”

The corners of Eames’ lips twitched into a deep seated scowl. With great reluctance, the forger lifted his eyes to look at him. The Brit was livid but also guarded. “What?”

Arthur took a steady breath to defuse the bubbling frustration he felt. “I never intend to sacrifice my life for you, ” He repeated, slower this time. “Because my intention was to make sure that we both get out of here alive and in one piece.” He watched every flicker of emotion that dance over those gray blue eyes. “That hadn’t changed, Eames. It hadn’t changed for a long time.” And it was the truth.

Oh, he would not hesitate to kill Eames if he had to. Just like he knew that Eames would not hesitate to kill him in return. Hell, they would both do it for less if they were angry enough. That was the nature of their job. It’s not a friendly environment and they are far from being good men but they do have history. They’ve been in each others’ lives--willingly and unwillingly--for far too long to keep that platonic professionalism. If there was an option to avoid the bloody route, then they would take it. Arthur knew that. He was certain Eames knew it as well.

Platonic professionalism… He internally scoffed. Arthur used that as a shield against Eames numerous times but had always wondered if they ever had that relationship. Not that it mattered now. The stakes were higher and who the fuck knows if either of them were getting out of this alive. And to be frank, Arthur was getting tired of this dance of theirs.

Slowly, he released Eames’ shirt then reached up to hold the man’s face in his hands. He felt no resistance from the parasite. Instead, he could feel their ghosting touch glide down his arms and leave a trail of goosebumps behind. Arthur shifted his attention back to the man before him. His right thumb brushed over his stubbled cheek. “Do you understand me, Mr. Eames?” His voice was barely higher than a whisper.

Eames didn’t reply at first. His eyes drifted shut as he let himself leaned into the point man’s deadly hands. All the anger that he exhibited before seeped away with a heavy sigh. He turned his face into the warm palms and almost melted there against the human touch. “I understand…” he mumbled. His lips brushed against the center of that hand.

Sparks of an unnamed emotion flitted across Arthur’s nerves like electricity.

Now isn’t the time for this, his logical mind argued and it was right. Now wasn’t the time to be distracted. They barely escaped an ambush just hours ago. He nearly died because of that attack. They had no idea where the enemy stands right now. With their skirmish out in broad daylight, Arthur wouldn’t be surprised if they have a police stationed on every corner now. They needed to keep moving if they wanted to stay ahead. They needed to do so many things and Arthur couldn’t bring himself to care. Not anymore.

“Arthur…”

Arthur snapped back to the present to see the concern look on the British’s face.

“You were getting lost in your head, Darling.” Eames pointed out.

“Don’t I always?” Arthur retorted without his usual bite. His thumb slid downward and brushed against the corner of Eames’ lips. “...This is a bad idea.”

“Is that what you keep telling yourself?” Eames asked, his eyes lowered.

“I tell myself many things.” Arthur confessed as he dragged his eyes away from Eames’ lips to meet his gaze. “A lot of it involves you.”

A small smile tugged on Eames’ lips. “Does the current thought involves me?”

“You know the answer.”

“But do you?”

“Yes.” Arthur closed the the distance and pressed his lips against the forger’s.

The kiss was kinder than Eames’ but shared the same raw emotions behind it. It was rough and demanding and there was too much teeth but neither wanted to stop this time. Their chests collided against one another as their hands clumsily touched every inch that was within reach.

Arthur gasped against Eames’ lips when he felt the forger’s hands slid into his back pockets to grope his ass. He thrust his hips against Brit’s in retaliation, grinding against him like some hot blooded teenager. Eames groaned with want before he was silenced by Arthur’s tongue.

The point man explored his mouth with an unbridled determination that normally makes an appearance on a job. It was as if he wanted to memorized every nook and cranny and crevice there was to that wet cavern. The smooth taste chocolate assaulted his senses along with the slight traces of salt. Beneath those was a familiar metallic taste of copper.

“Mmm…” Arthur trembled against the forger when he felt the responsive, slick appendage moved against his tongue with inhuman qualities. It was more nimble than any human tongue. Not to mention it felt longer than it should be and had a tapered point. He should pull away. He should push It away but he didn’t. He cupped the back of Eames’s head and sucked onto that agile tongue hungrily. Slowly, it began to shrink back to it’s normal size with a more rounded tip.

The two men parted then just because their lungs screamed for air. Arthur licked his kiss swollen lips and glanced at the older man. Hunger lurked in those blue eyes as they focussed on him. The point man didn’t resist when Eames lunged for him. He clung to him and allowed the forger to lead them away from the walls. He busied himself by reaching into the Brit’s pockets with eager fingers.

Several tendrils swept their path of all obstacles and shards before Eames could push Arthur onto the floor. His nimble fingers worked each button as best he could without letting go of the point man’s lips, till his frustration reached it’s limits. The shirt ripped and severals buttons bounced across the dusty floor.

“You owe me a new shirt.” Arthur arched up to those rough hands. He could faintly feel the dull ache from the bruises that Venom gave him.

“I’ll buy you a new wardrobe.” Eames promised as his mouthed Arthur’s neck.

“Of my choosing,” Arthur’s fingers closed around his goal and pulled it out from Eames’ pocket. He looked to his hand to see the packet of condoms and the tube of Astroglide lubricant. “I knew you couldn’t resist.”

“How could I let this go to waste? Especially since you clearly knew my size.” Eames nipped his throat before laughing when Arthur slapped his ass.

“Pants off.” Arthur ordered as he tugged at the offending garment.

“Gladly.” Eames pulled back to shimmy out of his pants.

Arthur took this opportunity to reach for the black shirt but then stopped when his fingertips brushed his stomach. The black shirt that he knew was not theirs receded like a shadow beneath his touch. Slowly, he pressed his hands over Eames’ torso and let it slide upward. He watched in fascination as the deceiving fabricate seeped back into the forger’s flesh till nothing was left. As if it was never there to begin with.

Interesting… He thought then peered up at Eames.

Eames opened his mouth to say something but Arthur quiet him with a kiss.

No more talking. No more waiting.

Arthur squeezed the back of the forger’s neck as he let Eames removed his pants. One leg eagerly hooked around the forger’s hips and yanked him back down for another hungry kiss. Sighs and moans were exchanged as greedy hands touched the warm bare skin. The point man didn’t hold back his moans as slicks fingers worked him open. He sure as hell didn’t stop himself from crying out when those fingers was replaced with a cock.

Eames swallowed his cries as their hips rolled in that intimate, fervor dance. Their movements was not sync but anxious. Pants and groans punctuate every hard, erratic thrust. Dull nails left angry red welts over smooth skin as the pleasure continued to rise higher and higher.

Eames practically bent Arthur in half as he fucked him into the floor, only bracing his weight with one hand while the other kept a steady grip on his slender hips. It’ll be another bruise to add to his growing collection but Arthur didn’t care. He rocked back onto the cock as the forger shoved forward. His own need was trapped between their sweat slick forms, weeping for climax.

“Fuck…” he hissed against Eames’ lips. “...Fuck...” He clung to him as he felt himself slowly unraveled with thrust of forger’s hips. Instinctively, he arched upward toward a warm, wet touch that seemed to touch everywhere when Eames’ hands were clearly occupied elsewhere. It caressed against his harden nipples, stroke his neck tenderly and brushed against his cock.

“Eames!” Arthur shouted as came hard and sudden between them. His ass clenched drawing the final groan from the forger before he too hit his peak.

Arthur fell back against floor, gasping for breath as Eames collapsed on top of him. He stared at the ceiling with a daze look before he turned his head to see the same Virgin Mary not too far from them.

If they weren’t damned before… He lazily stroked Eames back and sighed at the touch of the forger’s lips against his neck.

“...We need a vacation…” Arthur spoke, closing his eyes.

“A vacation? You?” Eames scoffed and pressed a wet trail of kisses along the point man’s jaw to his lips. “I thought you don’t believe in them.”

“I believe with this particular job, it’s a requirement.” Arthur kissed back tiredly. His eyes were barely opened now.

“It’ll have to be a proper vacation. No work, all play.” Eames brushed away the stray bangs from his face. “Somewhere warm preferably. Not Paris.”

“Not Mombasa.” Arthur added.

“Not New York or Sydney.” Eames caught his questioning look. “I’ve might’ve overstayed my welcome at The Star.”

Arthur rolled his eyes. “How about Barcelona?” He asked with a yawn. All the exertion from the fight and then the sex had taken quite a bit out of him.

“I can do Barcelona.” Eames kissed him again.

“Then it’s decided.” Arthur replied, his voice already starting to fade. He didn’t bother to try and open his eyes then. “We’ll go to Barcelona after we’re finish here.”

“Agreed.” Eames whispered against his lips before sleep finally whisked him away.

Chapter Text

Arthur woke up alone, sore and cold. That was not surprising. What did surprised him was that he felt clean and he had his ruined shirt draped over him like a blanket. Slowly, he sat up and slid on the shirt as he eyed his surroundings.

The attic was nearly pitch black saved for the city lights that bled through the windows and the soft glow of his laptop not too far from him. The PASIV sat on one side of the device and his glock on the other. He didn’t even remembered when Eames disarmed him. He should feel alarmed but Eames was the sort who picked his pockets just to be an ass. His eyes flitted back to the laptop then groped in the dark for his pants.

Once he was fairly decent, he sat in front of the computer--with a slight discomfort--and logged back in. The first thing to greet him on his desktop was a sticky note with a message:

‘Grabbing some food and amenities. Be back soon.’

Hopefully amenities is code for ammo… Arthur shook his head. He should be annoyed that Eames knew how to get into his computer but again it’s Eames. So instead he settled with a scowl at the fact that Eames was running errands when the entire city was practically looking for him.

“You stupid idiot.” Arthur grumbled as he closed the note then reopened the previous reports. He even opened up one of the camera feed and let it run in the background as he reviewed the latest documents.

Apparently, Drake hadn’t slowed down on his Symbiote project. The search for the perfect host was still ongoing. The reports spoke of improvements in the host after the Symbiote joined with their human subject. Many of it Arthur had witnessed firsthand such as: inhuman strength, regeneration, speed, agility and enhanced senses. There was even a video of a host recovering from a broken leg in a matter of minutes.

Though, not all of their findings were positive. The negative ‘side effects’ on the human host was extensive:

Psychological Effects:
Auditory Hallucination
Visual Hallucination
Personality change
Lack of inhibition
Aggression
Paranoia

Physical Effects:
Polyphagia (Increase hunger)
Nausea
High Fever
Leukocytosis (high increase of white blood cell count)
Muscle Failures
Organ Failures
Uncontrollable Motor Reflect
Tachycardia (Increase pulse rate)
Missing Organs

Arthur stared at the last entry for a long second.

Missing Organs?

He pushed the report aside and opened a corresponding autopsy report that recorded the so called ‘Missing Organ’ incident.

The organ in question and depicted was the liver from a former mental health patient. No history of alcoholism or drugs. After being paired with one of the Symbiotes, his healthy three pound liver was reduced to a scrap of meat that was barely an inch long and weighed no more than an ounce.

It’s eating the host alive, Arthur concluded as he stared at the image. His mind trailed back on Eames’ constant hunger and odd behavior. Compared to how the forger was in the beginning to now, there was an improvement. Obviously, Eames was doing much better than these test subjects but at what cost? Did Eames knew about the risk he was taking when he made a deal with this parasite?

“He has to know.” Arthur mumbled to himself. This was Eames. As much as some--or majority--underestimate his wit due to his laid back demeanor, he was smart and the dangerous kind of smart too. He had to know that the odds were against him.

Why else would he ask you to shoot him? He ran his fingers through his mostly loose hair. That was another thing they didn’t addressed. Then again, there had been other pressing concerns that warranted their attention. For now, they would need to ignore the elephant in the room...even if it was getting a bit handsy earlier. He blames Eames for that one.

With renewed focus, he push his attention onto the reports and videos. His gaze rested on one of the latest footage of the Life Foundation. There stood a black man in the observation room. He was on his feet, strapped to a vertical bed. Outside of the room were two nearby scientists that were tinkering with their computers. One of them reached out and moved a dial that caused the man to suddenly jerk against his bonds.

Arthur’s brows furrowed as he leaned closer to the laptop. He could see the man thrashed against the bonds like a trapped animal but nothing appeared unusual. The subject was clearly strapped to other machineries but they were the kinds you see in hospitals that tracks a person’s vitals. The lights wasn’t flickering either, so it couldn’t be electrocution… could it?

His eyes darted to the date stamp and dug through the other files that would match the timing. Once he found it, he quickly opened the report just when a soft buzz curled into his ears. His hand was on his glock the instant he heard it.

Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt.

It was faint but persistent. It was also familiar. Arthur let go of the gun then eyed at the PASIV. He grabbed the case and unlocked it. His fingers brushed against the familiar device before they sank into the soft padding that lined the case. He pushed some of it aside till he could feel the smoothed edge of his burner phone. He pulled out the device and checked the number.

Immediately, his heart dropped into his stomach.

The phone number was not domestic but Arthur recognized it nonetheless. It was a French number whose area code belong to a quiet, country town in France. The very number that Mal uses whenever she wanted to send a request to Arthur.

Except Mal was dead and there was only one person who knew about this number.

Arthur swallowed the bitterness that tried to scale his throat. His glared at the phone as it vibrated insistently for his attention. With a loud exhale, he hit accept button. “Cobb?”

“Finally!” Cobb breathed. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you.”

“Papa!” A younger, boyish voice filtered through the speaker that made Arthur close his eyes and try to quiet his anger

“Papa is on the phone right now, James. Why don’t you go and read with Philippa in the study room?” Cobb urged. There was a childish whine in the background, which was followed by soft footsteps and the sound of a closing sliding door. “As I was saying, I’ve been trying to get a hold of you--”

“I am in a middle of the job.” Arthur interrupted. He was proud that he didn’t snarl at the man.

“That doesn’t stop you from answering your emergency line.” Cobb pointed out.

That was before you fell off the deep end… Arthur let out a terse sigh and did all he could to focus on the documents on his screen. “Is there something that you need, Cobb?”

“Are you in California?” Cobb asked suddenly.

Arthur paused with furrowed brows. He opened a new search window and then checked the news from both the mainstream and the underground channels regarding the incidents in San Francisco. “No.” He replied. “Why?” His shoulders relaxed when he saw no traces of himself anywhere.

“I--well, I’ve been hearing a lot of things occurring in the Bay area. Ridiculous things--”

“And this involves me how?” Arthur quipped. “I dont mean to be short but I am on the clock.”

“Because it involves Eames. Apparently, he had a job out there that went south. I thought that he might’ve contacted you.” Cobb explained.

“And why would Eames reach out to me?” Arthur returned his attention to the report he been trying to review.

“The same reason why I reached out to you, you’re reliable.” Cobb replied. “I think he might be in trouble.”

“Eames is an adult that can take care of himself.” Arthur calmly responded. His eyes wandered over the details of the Symbiote’s strengths and weaknesses. “I’m surprise you’re worried about him.”

“I’m not.” Arthur could practically feel Cobb’s frown. “I’m worried about you.”

Another pause from the point man. “Why?”

“Because you’re a good man, Arthur.” Cobb answered, honestly. “You may act cold but you are a good man and you would help a friend in need.”

Arthur closed his eyes. “You give me far too much credit, Cobb.”

“The credit you deserve.” Cobb replied. “Look, I’m glad that you’re not in California. The things I’ve been hearing about Eames…”

“What are they saying?” Arthur asked, as his eyes rested on the word ‘sound frequency’ that was listed under the Symbiote’s weakness.

“From what they said, they claimed that Eames went rogue during the middle of the job.”

“That doesn’t sound like Eames. He is a prick but he does get the job done...” Arthur cocked his head. “Is your source reliable?”

“On normal occasions, no.” Cobb admitted. “But he was the extractor for that job.”

Arthur fought hard against the urge to clench his teeth. That motherfucker “Who?” His voice was remarkably calm.

“Müller.” Cobb stated. “He said that Eames acted out of line during the job and put the team in danger.”

“Really?” Arthur kept his voice light despite the fact he wanted to punch a hole in a wall. “I’m surprise that Eames would work with that snake.’

“I know, right? It’s odd but Müller claimed that Eames nearly blown their cover during an interview with the mark.” Cobb elaborated.

“I assumed Müller quit the job because of that?” Arthur asked.

“He said he left after Eames was taken by the mark.” Cobb said.

“And the rest of the team fled in fear that they’ve been made,” Arthur concluded with a touch of bitterness in his voice. He could not blame them. They are thieves after all. He also had to give Müller some credit for not mentioning him when he gossiped to Cobb. A three day grace period should show his gratitude to Müller but he will cut that snake’s head off. “Well, that’s unfortunate.”

“But not surprising. Eames does have a reckless streak in him. You know how he gambles. He believe his luck is better when the odds are stacked against him.” Cobb remarked. “It’s crazy when you think about it.”

That is rich coming from the man who tampered with his wife’s head just so they could stay in Limbo a little longer… It was a piece of information that Ariadne gave him in attempt to stop him from beating himself over for not catching that Fischer’s mind was militarized. It did work but it also gave Arthur another reason to feel betrayed.

He pushed the feeling aside and focussed on the present. “So Eames may be compromised and his team left him. This doesn’t sound that different from any other bad jobs...unless there’s more to it?”

“I’ve been told that San Francisco been under attack. Müller thinks that Eames is responsible for it.” Cobb explained.

“Have you seen anything backing that statement?” Arthur asked.

“No. I was going to but I’ve been busy.” Cobb confessed.

Arthur noisily tapped at his keyboard. “There are claims of a black “monster” attacking San Francisco.” He spoke dryly, not at all containing his skepticism. “Eames is a capable forger and manipulator. He is the best in his field but do you honestly think he’ll be able to fool an entire city with that notion?”

“I--No… Perhaps not.” Cobb said. “But San Francisco is under attack, right?”

“That’s what they’re saying...” Arthur started when he heard a soft creak from the floorboards. He glanced toward the darkness around him.

“Then it’s a good thing that you’re not there.” Cobb stated.

“Shouldn’t you be more concern about your own welfare? You’re not too far from the Bay.” Arthur pointed out.

“We are currently in France right now. Visiting the relatives.” Cobb explained, with a slight tension in his voice. Mal’s parents and him was never on good terms, even when she was still alive. Arthur almost felt bad for him.

“I see…” Arthur replied as he closed down the report. “Thank you for your concern, Cobb, but I need to get back to work.”

“All right, I’ll let you go then--”

“And Cobb.” Arthur cut in. “Stop listening to the rumors and focus on your family. It took a lot of effort to get you to this point. Please do not undo it.”

“Arthur--” The point man hung up on the former extractor without an ounce of guilt. He lifted his head to see a figure stepped into the low light. “How was the errands?” He asked.

“Not too shabby. I got you a couple sandwiches.” Eames approached him with a tight smile on his face. “And I got you some fresh clothes so you don’t freeze. If you need the bathroom, then it’s downstairs. No shower though, unfortunately.”

“I would have a suitable outfit if you weren’t so hasty.” Arthur drawled, taking his eyes away from Eames to glanced through his phone’s history and pending messages. Most of it came from a frantic Cobb. Another chunk came from Ariadne and Yusuf. There was also one message that came from Saito that only contained three words: ‘Whatever you need.’ It was a constant offer that Arthur never did accepted, even in dire situations. Not that he doesn’t trust Saito. He just doesn’t like owing people...

“You weren’t complaining about it before, Darling.” Eames replied, taking back the point man’s attention. For a half a second, those clever eyes darted to the phone. “Who was that?”

“It was Cobb and don’t play dumb. I know you were listening.” Arthur then reached for the plastic bag. Inside it, he spotted three crumpled, family size Hershey bar wrappers next to the sandwiches, bottled water, a jar of pomade and fresh clothes. He shrugged off his ruined shirt and pull out the oversize t-shirt from the bag.

“Really? I must have remarkable ears to be able to hear through the walls.” Eames scoffed as he took a seat next to Arthur. He looked more put together than before. He still looked haggard as hell but less meth addict and more worn-out-dad. He too also had a change in wardrobe and was now donning a clean, black hoodie with Oski smirking on the front.

“That is what the reports been saying.” Arthur slid on the shirt and felt an increment warmer than he had before. He smoothed out his hair and glance to Eames. “So ask your question.”

“What question?” Eames feigned ignorance as his eyes stayed lock on Arthur’s figure.

“I know you have questions, so ask them.” Arthur said as he fished a sandwich from the bag.

“All right, why is that wanker is listening to channels he has no business of?” Eames remarked. “I thought he was ready to be a family man considering how he was willing to toss our sorry arses to Limbo to get what he wanted.”

“Lets not forget that Yusuf didn’t hesitate to take his money and not warn any of us.” Arthur pointed out as he unwrapped his sandwich.“Besides, this is Cobb we’re talking about. It is going to take some time and effort before he let go of the Dreamshare business completely.”

“Yusuf is a greedy jerk but a decent mate.” Eames confirmed. “But Cobb, tch, that selfish, ego driven prick…” Eames shook his head then shot Arthur a quick look. “So, how soon is your flight?”

Arthur turned away from his sandwich to stare at Eames. “What are you talking about?”

“Cobb is calling you, so he must have a job lined up for you.” Eames stated sarcastically with barbs much sharper than they should be.

The point man looked incredulously at the other, feeling his hackles rising. He opened his mouth to snap at him but then remembered the reports regarding the side effects. He gave Eames a withering look. “I will ignore that comment because: One, you know that wasn’t the conversation. And two, as you already know, I had never left a job unfinished with you.” Which was true.

Eames knew it too with the flash of emotions that flickered over his eyes. He looked away for a moment with a dramatic sigh. “You got a point.” He conceded.

“More than a point.” Arthur corrected and then offer half of his sandwich to the forger.

“I suppose.” Eames took the offer, the olive branch. His fingers brushed against Arthur’s and his eyes settled on the point man’s throat. “...If you want, he--Venom--said he could heal that for you.” He nodded toward the bruises that wrapped Arthur’s neck like a collar.

Arthur cocked a brow then shook his head. “Did you explained to him that I am not ashamed of my scars? And despite appearance, I am much tougher than that.”

“I did explained that to him.” Eames said, with a wry smile on his face. “And he discovered the latter part earlier when you stabbed him in the throat.”

“Doesn’t matter if you’re human or not, I’m not someone you want to cross with.” Arthur stated and heard an affirmative hum from the forger. The point man turned his attention back to his laptop, opening another report and camera feed. His sandwich was just an inch away from his mouth when a woman caught his eyes.

In the grainy footage was a blond woman being roughly escorted down a pathway with clear cell rooms were on either side of them. She turned at her escort on her right who suddenly backhanded her. She knocked back against a nearby cell where that red headed killer stood and watch with amusement. The escort’s partner grabbed her by the back of her neck and pushed her inside a nearby empty cell.

Arthur paused the footage then swapped his attention to the net. It didn’t took long to find what he was searching for. Recently, a doctor by the name of Dan Lewis had filed a missing person case earlier that morning in regard to his close friend, Anne Weying. That quickly blew up on every media possible, with the suspicion that Eddie Brock was behind it.

“So, what’s our next move?” Eames asked, his breathed brushed against the edge of Arthur’s ear.

The point man sat straighter as he skimmed through the news articles. With so many eyes on Eames, their chances of escape was looking grim. “Drake will continue to hunt you down till both you and Venom are in his lab.” Arthur stated, turning to Eames.

The British’s eyes was on the computer screen, more focus on the report rather than the footage. “True,” He began and then met Arthur’s eyes. “But Drake doesn’t know who we are and what we are capable of.”

And that was their advantage.

Arthur swiveled his attention back to the computer. His finger tapped absently on the edge of his laptop as he weighed the pros and cons in his head. “Do you still have the virus?” He asked.

“The virus?” Eames looked confused.

“You mentioned before that if IT wasn’t doing maintenance during the night of the break in, then you would’ve given them a reason why their system failed.” Arthur elaborated and then raised a questioning brow at Eames. “So, do you still have the virus?”

“I do,” Eames slowly nodded with a look of curiosity. “I thought the plan was to run. You made that clear with Venom.”

“Venom made a competent argument. And besides, I am tired of running.” Arthur admitted and witnessed the slight twitch from the corner of Eames’ lips. “What do you think?”

“I think we might be on the same page, love.” A slow, dangerous smile spread on Eames’ lips.

“Good.” Arthur replied, “Lets get started then.”

Chapter Text

“You dont have to do this babe,” A Brooklyn accent filtered through the speaker.

“If I don’t do this, then you would do something stupid like doing this yourself.” Arthur harped into the phone as he walked the pavement. It was still dark out with the moon and the city lights in full luminescent glory. Along with it was the persistent chill that seeped through the thick fabric of the Oski jacket which was only the tip of the iceberg of how he was feeling.

His body was exhausted but wired at the same time. Tense knots formed in his gut but managed stay away from his steps. He held himself tall but not as confident as he normally was. He was also fidgeting with darting glances toward the streets, the alleys and the scarce people that came in his path. His head was down and shoulders were haunched a little. He pulled the jacket tighter against his lithe frame and could faintly smell Eames’ sweat.

“This is my mess--.” Eames replied.

“Which is why you called me, right? Who else would help you out of this kind of shit storm.” He scoffed as his eyes darted toward the passing cars. For a moment, they lingered on a dark SUV with tinted windows before sliding their focus forward, to the next four-way crosswalk. “Maybe I should bill you for this endeavor. It was out of the blue and you sure as hell cost me my other job.”

“If that job meant anything to you, then you wouldn’t be here.” Eames pointed out.

“That may be the case, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that you owe me money.” Arthur snipped as he crossed the street. A soft purr of an engine pulled his attention to his right.

There was a biker poised over a black motorcycle, donning fatigue-looking uniform with a slick visor that had an ominous shine to it. Arthur casually looked away and stepped onto the sidewalk. He resisted the urge to look back when he heard the motorcycle sped off down the bisecting street.

“You still there babe?” Eames voice pulled his attention back to the present.

“Yes, I’m here.” Arthur exhaled noisily and focussed onward. “I just passed Bryant and Brookhurst.”

“All right, so Bryant and Palm will be coming up soon. You would want to turn left onto Palm.” Eames directed. “I wish you considered in getting a car.”

“It’ll be too easy for them to box me in if I did. ” Arthur explained. “Not to mention with the amount of the cops around, I’ll be on the wanted list for grand theft in no time.”

“What about a motorcycle? They’ll have a hard time catching up with you with that.” The forger suggested.

“It’ll only make Drake’s men more determine to run me over. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if those drones try to dive bomb me.” Arthur countered. “Unlike you, I am not harboring some parasite that would patch me up if I take a hit.”

“Parasite!?” A second voice growled into the phone.

“He means it in an affectionate sense, Buddy.” He heard Eames reasoned with the thing.

“No, I don’t.” Arthur inserted. “And going back to your concern, I’ll be fine on my feet.”

“I could catch up with you--” Eames started.

“No.” Arthur interjected, his voice was sharp as a knife’s edge. “You stay the fuck where you are.”

“Fine,” Eames relented with a dramatic sigh. “...How does it look out there?”

“Like a party.” Arthur drawled as he gave the area a less subtle once over. “You’re really missing out.”

“Are there any interesting characters attending?” Eames asked.

“Plenty.” A few. “Its a good thing that you’re not here. You might be overwhelmed.” Arthur lightly scoffed.

“You think I can’t handle myself?” Eames sounded offended.

“I think you wouldn’t be able to behave.” Arthur corrected.

“I do know how to keep my nose out of things.” Eames replied.

“Name one.” Arthur glanced toward the nearby parked cars to see the faint outline of the dark SUV from before.

“The Malcolm job--”

“Where you raided the open bar?” He stopped at the intersection. From the corner of his eyes he could still see the same SUV that was now just a few cars behind him. The lights changed and Arthur turned left along Palm. The easy stroll changed as he started to hike up one of the steep hills that San Francisco was known for.

“Ok, that was a bad example.” Eames backtracked. “But it was good thing you were there. I would’ve been in a lot of trouble if it wasn’t for you, Sweetheart.” He chuckled lightly, “We make a really good team.”

“We don’t.” Arthur denied. “Trouble always finds us whenever we team up.”

“But it never stops us.” Eames reminded him.

Arthur could barely contain his smile. “Nothing can.” He could see the tops of looming buildings peeking over the hill. “Which building am I aiming for?”

“It should be the second tallest in the area, across the street from the Dirty Dozen Bakery. Can you see it?” Eames asked.

“Not yet, but getting close.” Arthur frowned to himself then checked his phone. Full battery life and quiet as a cemetery but he swore he could hear a soft hum in the air. “Are you sure your guy will be in?”

“Yes. He never missed a shift.” Eames said. “After all, he gotta support his kid through M.I.T.”

“All right, so he’ll let me in then? ” Arthur asked as he eyed the streets and small shops next to him but could not find the source of the hum.

“Well…” Eames trailed off.

Arthur stopped dead in his tracks. “What? Are you just telling me now that he going to turn me away?”

“Sweetie--”

“Oh for fuck sake, Eddie.” Arthur hissed. “What did you do? Stole his car? Charmed his wife?”

“Hell no and fuck you for that comment. Things just got a little rocky after the Drake interview…” Eames cleared his throat. “I wouldn’t surprise if my name doesn’t open doors the way it used to--But I know you can be very persuasive, Baby.” He quickly tacked on.

“Yes, but not in the legal way.” Arthur groused before continuing onward. The hum was progressively getting louder as approached the top.

“The law abiding route never got us anywhere anyways.” Eames smoothed over. “But try not to hurt him. He’s not a bad guy. He’s just doing his job.”

“Well, so am I.” Arthur argued then let out a sarcastic laugh. “You know what’s funny, Eddie? What’s really funny about this? You dont have to do any of this. From what it sounds like, your current gig--if they hadn’t canned your ass--doesn’t want anything to do with you.” His steps gradually slowed. “Are you that determine to be the knight in shining armor that nobody ask for?”

“Richie babe…” The other man sighed. “You should know better than anyone that I ain’t a knight. I am not even a good a man. I am doing this for a selfish reason and for a selfish purpose. How everyone interprets that is up to them.”

“Tch, I guess you have a point…” Arthur let out a soft huff. “One thing for sure, Drake wont be happy.”

“Drake could fuck right off then.” Eames drawled, “Are you there already?”

“Almost…” Arthur finally reached the top of the hill. Just as Eames described, across the street from the Dirty Dozen Bakery stood the second tallest building in the immediate area. Unfortunately, hovering between him and his destination was the source of the hum: a drone. They eyed each other warily. His trigger finger gave an involuntarily twitch at his side. “But that will need to wait, Eddie.”

“Babe?” There was a slight tension in Eames’ voice.

“The shit storm just landed. I gotta go.” Arthur hung up before Eames could reply. His eyes remained glued to the drone as he slowly pocketed his phone. His gaze traveled from it to the building. Biting the inside of his cheek he took an experimental step to his right. It mirrored him, blocking his path. “Well, fuck.” He snarked, then he whipped around and bolted back down the hill he just climbed.

The drone’s hum followed him before it was consumed by the familiar roar of a motorcycle’s engine, causing Arthur to pick up his pace. Gravity was on his side, helping him gain more speed but he knew it wouldn’t be enough. Not against a motorcycle. He gritted his teeth and scanned the rapidly passing surroundings.

The crossway, the closed shops, the alleys… The hungry growl of the engine practically filled every cavity of his ears now. Suddenly, he turned so abruptly that his ankles threatened to snap from under him and gunned it for the alley.

The action was so sudden that the biker couldn’t change his course and had to pass it. The drone, on the other hand, turned with ease and pursued after the point man.

Arthur cursed beneath his breath as he weaved through the connecting alleys, trying to shake off the damn thing but it still chased after him like a angry hornet. Not to mention it was gaining grounds much faster than the point man anticipated. He needed distance or at the very least, to slow this fucker down. His answer came at the end of an alley, where he could see cars passing by frequently down one of the main roads. He stamped down his nerves and he picked up his speed as he barreled straight into the traffic.

Cars screamed at him with angry horns as pissed off drivers swerved out of the way. More than a handful of drivers flipped him off and spouted profanities but it was all a massive blur as the point man raced across the streets. He only spared a half second to witness the drone fell back to avoid collision with an oncoming car.

Yes. He ducked into another alley that rested against an Italian restaurant. He slowed down enough to snatch an empty bottle and other potential projectiles he could use. Then when the hum returned, he whirled around and chucked an open can of tomato sauce at the drone. The can missed completely but the left over content splashed over the lens, causing the drone to stagger in the air. The point man wasted no time and threw an empty bottle of Chardonnay at it. The bottle shattered as the drone spun out of control before crashing into the ground in a ball of flames.

Arthur regarded the burning wreckage before leaving the scene. His steps were as unsteady like his stuttering heart but he didn’t allowed himself to slow down. He needed to keep moving, otherwise it would’ve been too soon… He gritted his teeth and pushed himself even harder. He cut corners, dashed across the streets and climbed over a fence before his steps slowed to a stop. He leaned against a nearby wall as he panted harshly like a run down dog. He turned his head a little to glance back at the path he came from before pushing off from the wall and proceeded deeper into the alley.

The path expanded into a lot that was tucked behind several buildings with a myriad of small alleys branching from it. The surrounding was more cluttered compared to the other areas with more junk, trash and bottles scattered about. It was like the city never gave it the time to clear the mess or cared that the dumpsters were being raided. Confirming his belief were the few makeshift shelters that rested against the base of the buildings. They weren’t made out of cardboard and there was even a fire burning in one of the empty barrels... yet something felt wrong. Despite the obvious establishment, the area was like a ghost town. Not a single resident in sight or at least that was what Arthur thought until the stench of human waste and blood struck him down like a freight train.

Arthur covered his nose and mouth as his eyes narrowed with suspicion. Slowly, he approached the closest camp with quiet steps. As he drew closer, the coppery scent intensified and made him feel like his mouth was stuffed full of pennies. His eyes trailed from the shelter, to the burning barrel and then finally to the hand that peeked out from behind it. He rounded the fire to see a gutted homeless woman sprawled out on the ground. Her mouth gaping in mid scream and her torso was covered in stab wounds. In the neighboring shelter, another body exhibited the same kind of wounds as well as the next. It was like a madman went on a wild stabbing spree but there were no signs of any defensive wounds that Arthur would expect from a frightened person.

“The hell…” Arthur whispered, before a snigger drew his attention away. He turned to the sound only to fall back onto his ass in time to avoid being harpooned by a green spear--No, it wasn’t a spear. It was a green tendril that impaled the brick wall where he once stood. With a sudden jerk, it reeled back into the darkest part of the lot.

Arthur scrambled to his feet as a creature stepped out. This was different from Venom and their attacker at the Robin’s Nest. It still towered over him but was leaner in built with a camo green tint to it’s skin. Behind it were several spearheaded tentacles that arched over it like a scorpion’s tail. That familiar, manic grin spread on the creature’s face. “Got you.” The tentacles shot toward the point man like a bullet.

Arthur dove to the ground to avoid one of the tendrils before jerking to his left to avoid another and then when he tried to escape another one would get in his way. They kept coming and all he could do was try to avoid being impaled but he was only human.

“Fuck!” He hissed as stream of crimson slid down his left cheek. He glared at the thing before glancing toward the nearest alley. He bolted for it. Predictably, those tendrils blocked his path before he could reach it but that didn’t matter to Arthur. He slid on the ground, snatching bottles and hurled them at the beast as he ran around it.

Tentacles whipped in the air, knocking away the projectiles and smashing through bottles with ease and precision. It left the ground covered with dangerous shards and soaked with booze. “Is that all you have for me?” It hissed, batting away a brick as if it was pebble.

Arthur ducked before that brick could smash his head in and came up behind the burning barrel. He stared the creature down and and gave it a manic smile of his own. “Nope,” He replied before he kicked over the barrel with a loud metallic clatter. Burning papers and wood tumbled out onto the saturated grounds where the embers feasted onto the vapors with a voracious appetite that would put Venom’s to shame. It raced over the ground in seconds, devouring every scrap paper and flammable substance in its wake.

The Symbiote’s mirth and amusement were replaced by shrill shrieks of anger.

The point man didn’t lingered to see his handy work. As soon as the barrel tilted over, he ran down to one of the many alleys and didn’t look back. His eyes desperately scanned every connecting path for an opening, any opening but so far it has been dead ends or fences. Time was fading and he knew the fires wasn’t going to hold that thing back for long.

He stopped at another crossroad when he finally spotted an open street. With the last of his energy, he pushed himself hard despite how much his legs protested. Just a few more feet and he’ll be out of the confined space.

That hope was crushed by a full size dumpster that came crashing down onto the path and barred his only exit.

“...Nowhere to run to now, Richie.” Another voice spoke behind him. It was deeper than green Symbiote and was soaked in arrogance. “And if you try to run, We will break every bone in your legs.”

A humorless smile touched the point man’s lips as he boldly closed his eyes and took a steady breath. “All right, all right…” He slowly turned around to face it. “You got me.”

Standing before him was the behemoth that attacked Chinatown and the Robin’s Nest. Up close, it was much larger than him in height and built. It was larger than Venom from what he could tell. There was a bluish tint to his skin and unlike the others it was not smooth like pool of hot tar. It’s skin was covered in ridges and craters that could rival the moon.

“My god you’re an ugly fucker…” Arthur grimaced.

It’s lips pulled back into a sinister, cocky smile as it stepped closer toward the point man. “You are a difficult man to get a hold of, Mr. Nix.” The warped inhuman inflection melted away as the Symbiote receded to reveal it’s prim and properly dressed host: Carlton Drake.

“Well, Drake, I wouldn’t be good at my job if I was easy.” Arthur pointed out. “I see you’re running out guinea pigs.”

“Not everyone is worthy enough to be part of the grander scheme. Especially with the trash that inhabits this city.” Drake gave him a once over. “You may serve some use to us though, even if you past was no better than the rats that lives in these slums.”

“Aw, that’s sweet of you to consider me but I gotta decline. ” Arthur held his hands up and took a step away from the other man. “I ain’t interested in having a some parasite bury itself up my ass.”

Drake clucked his tongue condescendingly. “Who told you that you have a choice in this matter?” A beam of light cut across behind Drake where the same SUV parked perpendicular to their path, blocking the other exit. The doors opened and armed men stepped out with their guns drawn and pointed at Arthur. Two men split from the group, passed Drake and came around the point man. Their guns stayed leveled to his head.

“Is this really necessary?” Arthur groused, “My hands are already up.”

“How could I underestimate the man who had been killing my men so freely.” Drake stated.

“Hey, it ain’t my fault that they don’t know how to dodge.” Arthur retorted before hissing when a rifle's barrel was shoved against the side of his head. He swiveled his attention toward the asshole and squinted at him. “Oh ho...Those were your boys, weren’t they?” He stepped closer to the asshole, “Well, you should’ve taught them that it ain’t smart standing in front of a man’s scope.”

The asshole roughly shoved the barrel between Arthur’s eyes. “Keep talking. I dare you.” He growled.

“Enough, Curtis.” Drake spoke. “We still have some use for our guest.”

“You are wasting your time.” Arthur turned his attention back to Drake.

“Oh?” Drake cocked his head. “Are you trying to say that you know what I have plan for you?”

“The fact I’m still alive and parasite free is telling.” Arthur pointed out, “So I’m telling you now, you’re wasting your time.”

“Let me be the judge of that, Mr. Nix.” Drake replied.

Before Arthur could tossed a response, something hard slammed against the side of his head and everything went black.

~~~~~~~~~~

Drake stared down at the unconscious heap at his feet with disinterest then gestured to Curtis. “Take him to the car and make sure he is secured.”

Curtis signaled to his men who responded like trained dogs. Guns were holstered as the two men approached the limp body of Richie Nix and dragged the former-drug-addict-turned-mercenary to the SUV. Stepping next to the vehicle was a green skin Symbiote who appeared weary and angry.

The Life Foundation founder approached the creature without fear or hesitation. “Do you have something for me?”

It didn’t speak but lifted a clawed hand to reveal a phone with a crack screen and a angry voice shouting from the speaker.

“Richie!? Answer me Richie!”

Drake felt his smile grew as he plucked the phone from the Symbiote’s hand and pressed it against his ear. “Unfortunately for you, Mr. Nix is unable to answer your call.” He could practically feel the other man seethed through the phone. “Good Morning Mr. Brock.”

“Where the hell is the Richie?” Eddie hissed. “I swear to god if you did anything to him--!”

“You needn’t to worry.” Drake replied with ease and mirth. “Mr. Nix is alive and well for now. Whether he stays that way… well, that is up to you.”

“...What do you want?” Eddie growled low and deep.

“I want what is mine, Mr. Brock. That’s all.” Drake explained. “And I expect you return what is mine sooner than later or I might use your dear Richie as a substitute. Who knows, he might be the perfect match for this particular Symbiote but one cannot be so sure how a body would react to such union.”

“You leave Richie out of this.” Eddie snapped.

“Oh, Mr. Brock, I wasn’t the one who brought Mr. Nix into this.” Drake calmly reminded. “I also wasn’t the one who initiated this...dispute. If you had kept to the script, then we would’ve never been in this mess to begin with. Am I right?”

“Fuck you,” Eddie snarled.

“I thought so,” His smile grew cold. “Now, Mr. Brock, you know what I want. If you don’t give it back or if you foolishly decide to release this story of yours then be sure to take responsibility of your actions and the consequences that comes with it. I’m sure you know where to find me. I will be waiting.” He turned off the phone then handed it back to the guard that now stood where the Symbiote was. Drake’s eyes lingered on the other man’s face and noted his pallor, waxy complexion.

The guard’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Sir?”

“The package is secured.” Curtis spoke from behind him.

“Good.” Drake took his eyes away from the other guard to his security lead. “Take him to the lab and armed your men.”

“Yes sir.” Curtis gave a curt nod as he opened the door for Drake.

Drake stepped into the SUV and settled back in his seat. “Curtis.”

“Yes, sir?” Curtis looked at his boss.

“Be sure to have your man returned to the lab as well.” He spoke without a glance.

“...Of course sir.” Curtis replied before closing the door.

Drake leaned back into the leather chair and allowed himself to smile. Things were finally coming together. He was going to get back what was his and all this attention will fade away with time and a scapegoat. The Symbiote project would continue without the public scrutiny and will push the Life Foundation to the future no matter how many bodies it may cost him.