Chapter 22 – Thicker than Blood
"You," Eames states more than questions as both he and Arthur stare at the female cop in utter shock.
"Happy to see me?" She offers in sarcasm.
"Depends on whose side you're on."
"That would be kinda obvious," she retorts. "What's that phrase you Brits like? Saving your arse. That's why I'm here."
"In that case I'm relieved to see you."
"You know her?" Arthur asks weakly as two other uniformed officers rush in to take care of Rocco and then Shane.
"You haven't seen the last of me little brother!" Shane hisses as he tries to kick at Arthur's still trapped frame.
"He has for a little while. You're under arrest Franchetti for kidnapping, assault and attempted murder and that's just the start," the female officer leans in close and sneers. "We have eye witness accounts of the assault and the murder. The second time you came back we were ready. You took care of business there and then came back here. Thanks for giving me a slam dunk case."
"Enjoy it while you can sweetheart. I'll have your badge within the hour," Shane growls before he emits an angry curse just as his mangled hand is mistreated by one of the officers.
"You'll be making new friends in an hour; ones loyal to me, not you! Get him out of here!"
"That building now belongs to me. You tell your father to leave that one alone or there will be more trouble than you can imagine."
"Choke on it little brother."
"What's that saying you're so fond of? Oh yeah…that's my only warning," Arthur finishes with an angry hiss before Shane's hauled out of the room for good.
Arthur watches as the female cop slowly heads toward him with a small tool. His dark eyes watch her intently as she works in silence, offering a soft 'thanks' when his wrists finally fall free. He cradles his throbbing right wrist in his left; his brain ordering his legs not to buckle and to hold him up for a few moments longer until they could get upstairs and out of view.
"Thanks love," Eames mutters as he pulls himself up from the ground and fixes his disheveled shirt. "Never got your name?"
"Cassidy Shields. You boys need a ride to the station?"
"No. We'll give our statements here and then we're going," Arthur replies firmly as Eames offers a small shrug in compliance.
"He always this stubborn?" Cassidy looks at Eames.
"More," Eames looks at Arthur with a teasing smile as Arthur's jaw sets firmly.
"Is Garth Wilson really dead?"
"No. Shane's never let anyone live to testify against him so we were ready. We put a vest under his gown and recorded the whole incident. He won't have to testify if he doesn't want to. We offered him WitSec but he said he can't leave his boys so he's going to change his name and shave his head and stay," Cassidy gently smirks. "Stubborn old man."
"Sound familiar?" Eames whispers in Arthur's ear.
"Is he the only one you have?"
"No the two fishermen gladly turned on Franchetti for the attempted murder rap and the chance to start over. Plus an insider came forward offering us a few extra goodies on Shane Francetti to put him away for a very long time. We have enough. Garth asked about you."
"I'd like to see him. Are we done here?"
"Yeah. Get yourselves cleaned up."
"That's the plan," Eames pipes up in a low tone as Cassidy finishes up with their statements and then nods to her partner.
"You boys sure you don't need a ride anywhere?"
"We're good. Thanks again," Arthur manages with a heavy frown as they both watch the attractive dark haired officer turn to her partner and the two of them leave the now quiet dungeon. A few seconds later Eames pulls back and starts to examine Arthur's appearance. "You know I should be mad at you right?"
"Wouldn't be you if you weren't," Eames slightly smirks as he looks at Arthur's cradled wrist. "You need to get that wrapped."
"Think Garth is really alive?"
"I don't know what to think," Eames huffs as he leads Arthur outside of the cell, picks up both their guns and hands Arthur his. "I thought Garth was a gonner as soon as I saw her standing at the end of his bed in the hospital room. Figured she was on the take as so many of them are. I saw your notes about the dirty cops. Still not sure she's not just doing this all for show."
"Why do you think I wanted to wait? Unlike you."
"Falling all over her."
"Jealous?" Eames tosses back as the two of them slowly climb the stairs; both weary and just wanting to collapse.
"You asked for her number?" Arthur inquires.
"Maybe she offered it willingly," Eames chuckles as the reach the top. Arthur finally feels the adrenaline completely dissipate, his brain sending out a panicked cry that his legs were about to get way. And that's exactly what happens as soon as the last officer leaves the restaurant. "Arthur!" Eames exclaims as his arms automatically shoot out and grab onto Arthur's elbows as his knees finally buckle from sheer exhaustion and being forced to stand for the past several hours after a merciless beating.
"Just rest a moment here," Eames tells Arthur as he helps Arthur ease himself down into a nearby chair.
"I know I look like hell but…Eames?" Arthur asks with a small stammer as he watches Eames get up and head toward the back of the staff quarters. "I'm coming…"
"Don't make me cuff you darling…wait there," Eames pops his head around the corner and winks, earning an eye roll from Arthur before he disappears from view and then comes back a few minutes later with a small first aid kit in his hand. "You want to see Garth looking your best right?"
"Is there a new shirt in there for me?"
"Unfortunately no, but there is a black coat in the closet there you could use. Now let's see that wrist," Eames gets busy wrapping Arthur's sprained wrist with the tensor bandage as Arthur's free hand tries to wipe some of the dried blood from around his nose and mouth.
"Oww," Arthur grumbles in a soft voice as Eames snatches the damp cloth from his grasp. "I got this!"
"Bloody hell give that to me," Eames growls as he takes the cloth back and Arthur slumps back in the chair.
"I wanted Shane to be…normal," Arthur admits as he looks back at the door leading down to the dungeon. "I shouldn't have expected that much from someone raised by a mob father but still…I was kinda hoping to have a normal family member."
"Family doesn't have to be bonded by only blood," Eames remarks quietly.
"Water is thicker than blood?"
"Well I'm not trying to kill you."
"Not yet," Arthur gently smirks as Eames finishes wrapping the bandage around his hand and then starts to gently clean the rest of the dried blood away from Arthur's mouth and nose. "Now I just want to see Garth…get on that plane and get the hell outta here."
"Think I could convince you to fly out in the morning?" Eames asks with a small yawn as they both slowly stand up; Arthur merely nodding in compliance. "Then I can say I told you so."
"Well you have earned a trip over my knee," Eames huffs as Arthur chuckles and shakes his head. He slowly pulls on the forgotten black woolen car coat as both of them head for the front door and then outside into the dark, early morning air. "I need a drink."
Arthur offers Eames a small smile as they both head toward the main street and then hail a cab, Officer Cassidy Shields and her partner watching from the shadows a few car lengths down.
"Think they'll actually go back to Paris?"
"If they know what's good for them they will," Cassidy remarks as her eyes rest on Arthur before he disappears into the back of the cab. "But with the old man here and both defying the devil to help the other I doubt it," she huffs as she pulls out her iPad.
"You think you'll see them again?"
"I hope so," Cassidy whispers as she prepares to type.
"You're entering your field notes here?"
"I just need to start this entry."
"This arrest…should make you detective right?"
"That's…what I'm hoping for," she replies as she types in her User ID '17375' and then stares at two choices – one marked standard and the other marked confidential. She presses confidential, types in a few notes adds the name Arthur Collins/White/Franchetti and then closes the screen. "Come on Chris, I'll buy you a coffee."
"Arthur, thank god," Doug exclaims as he embraces Arthur and then pulls back with a strained expression, offering his hand to Eames and shaking it firmly. "He's still asleep but I don't think he'll mind you waking him up. He wanted so desperately to know you are okay."
"Your appearance suggests otherwise," Doug lightly remarks as Arthur's face softens. "Have you both been checked over?"
"Sadly there's nothing they can do about our hard heads," Eames quips as he pats Doug on the back. "When's the last time you got some rest mate?"
"I just needed to know you're both okay. You know there's a few clean beds at the house if you want to catch a few hours rest before you fly out in the morning."
"We'll see you there."
Arthur pulls away and slowly opens the curtain to Garth's room; his lips trying to stifle a small gasp.
"You don't look…so hot yourself…young man," Garth lightly croaks as he tries to sit up.
"Shane told me you were dead," Arthur whispers as he offers Garth the best hug he can and then pulls back, Eames hovering a few feet off the end of the bed.
"I would have been. But I got to the point where I decided to play possum, two fisherman intervened at the right time and another quick thinking ploy saved my hide. Second time I got a vest. What happened?"
"Shane's been arrested and we've been told that he's going away. Garth, why didn't you take witness protection? Start fresh?"
"This is my home Arthur. And start fresh where? Alone? Would you?"
"That's not fair," Arthur gently pouts as Garth's hand gently pats his cheek.
"I'm not in business with Shane."
"No listen. He came to me a few months back trying to extort the funds. When I said no, he…the first time he broke Doug's leg in front of his wife."
"The second time he torched the boy's playhouse. And now this was the third. The bank I do business with is loyal to Franchetti and the clerk there told Shane what I had. That's all Arthur I swear to you."
"I believe you. Rest now, I'll be back in the morning okay?"
"You have a good friend there."
"So he reminds me," Arthur lightly smirks as his unbandaged hand gives Garth's a warm squeeze. "Doug's a good friend too."
"If not for him and Jane I would have been doomed long ago."
"Guess we both have friends closer than family."
"Loyalty is stronger than any blood tie Arthur Collins. You remember that."
Arthur gives Garth a last smile before the older man finally sinks back into a turbulent rest; Arthur pulling back and signaling to Eames it was time to leave.
"Let's go home," he whispers as the two of them leave the quiet hospital room, walk past Doug and head outside into the night.
A few hours later Arthur opens his eyes and glares at the clock, his lips uttering a tired groan. Both had left the hospital, arrived at the orphanage and literally collapsed into bed wearing their street clothes. Arthur's mind ponders going back to Shane's to get his personal belongings, visiting Garth and then getting on a plane to go home and staying there. His arms folds under his head at the same time a gentle knock is heard at the door.
"You decent?" Eames voice is heard.
"If I said no, you'd still enter," Arthur snickers as he watches Eames enter freshly dressed. "Thank you for allowing me the privilege of waking up not cuffed."
"Figured after all that you were too tired to run but if you want I can pull them out again for old times sake."
"Try and I really will kill you," Arthur huffs as he shakes his head at Eames wide grin; waving his gun from under his pillow in the air.
"Oh you wound me love. At least offer a small dare."
"Forget it. Who knows what other devices you have in your pockets," he groans as Eames offers a heartfelt laugh.
"Amusing but sadly I only have the cuffs on me. Figured I might need them just in case."
"Keep them away from me," Arthur groans as he slowly sits up in bed and rubs his weary face; Eames easing himself down into a nearby easy chair. "Do you petition the makers of paisley shirts to send you every one they make?"
"This is vintage," Eames replies with a mock hurt tone. "I see you recovered."
"I knew Garth wasn't on the take," Arthur starts slowly, "but after I saw him lying like that in the hospital bed…damn part of me just wished I was alone in a room with Shane. Give him a taste of his own medicine."
"He'll get that in the joint."
"Garth should had given him the damn money and been done with it. I would have given him more. But I know…I know it wouldn't have ended with that. I had to end it," Arthur's voice ends in a soft whisper.
"Did you really buy the building?"
"Garth transferred the deed just before he went to see Shane. Damn if he only stayed away."
"Would you have?"
"That's rhetorical right?" Arthur tosses in sarcasm.
"So what's the plan for today?"
"I uh…" Arthur pauses as his ears pick up the soft laughter coming from two boys in the hall just outside their door. "Miles and Allen. I'm glad they have each other."
"Kinda like us," Eames interjects as Arthur's dark gaze turns, locks with Eames sapphire gaze for a few seconds before he nods in agreement.
"I want to see Garth and then I'm going to get in a cab and head for Siggy's and curl up in the booth in the back. I owe a friend a drink."
"Ah now that sounds like a great plan," Eames grins before his expression turns serious. "Not in a hurry to get back home?"
"Home," Arthur states flatly as his brow furrows. He looks down at his bandaged wrist and then up at Eames with a somewhat defeated expression. "Nothing," he finally chooses as he swings his legs over the edge of the bed and takes a deep breath. "I feel like hell."
"Rest up as long as you want. After I blew off Cobb two days ago I'm surprised if I'll get another call."
"He'll call," Arthur smirks. "Good help is hard to find. What did you tell him?"
"Texted him last night and said I was checking up on you and everything was okay now."
"That'll put his mind at ease," Arthur groans as he slowly gets up and then heads toward the bathroom. "Ah damn...my stuff's still at Shane's. Feel like taking a ride?"
"Lead the way."
The two of them quietly slip out of the orphanage, get into a cab and head toward Shane's police protected mansion; the conversation kept to neutral topics only.
"Nice flat," Eames mutters as they head up toward the front entrance. Escorted by the uniformed officer, Arthur heads into the spare bedroom, collects his things and then asks the officer if it would be okay that he use the bathroom to freshen up.
"I swear darling you're the only one that could actually make the five minute shower work and come out looking…" Eames snickers as Arthur emerges about twenty minutes later freshly groomed. "Impeccable as usual."
"You sound surprised," Arthur tosses back as he holds up his wrist for Eames to re-bandage. Arthur's eyes aimlessly wander back to the house he had so readily entered over a week ago; his mind recalling the first night he spent in the opulent surroundings, feeling a bit out of place and uneasy. It wasn't his life but he at that time was still interested to learn more. Now that Shane was behind bars, he wanted nothing more than to go home and forget Shane altogether; he had learned enough. While he knows it would be impossible to just forget Shane, with him now behind bars, he can focus his time and energy on helping put some programs into place for the boy's orphanage and concentrate on what really matters – work and close friends.
"Ready," Arthur nods as they slowly head back toward the street, each carrying their small suitcase in hand and talking about the surprising events of the past few days; Arthur filling in the gaps with places Shane took him to and some of the other people he had met – like Cindy.
"Doug's going to take you home to rest and I hope you'll do just that."
"I can't thank you enough for all your help dear boy," Garth smiles as he and Arthur share a few private moments; Eames and Doug talking a few meters away. "But you didn't have to buy the building, we would have managed."
"Actually it worked out better this way," Arthur replies in truth. "I warned Shane and as long as the deed is in my name, held at a bank not loyal to him, he knows he can't touch it. Besides I know a good investment when I see one," Arthur smiles warmly. "I'll miss you Garth," he says as he offers him a warm hug.
"I do hope that despite all this you'll come back and visit," Garth entreats warmly.
"I have to protect my investment right?" Arthur answers with a nod. "You'll see me again. Maybe next summer for the annual picnic."
"I'd like that. Take care Arthur."
"You too," Arthur whispers as they embrace warmly for a few seconds and then pull back with warm smiles. "I'll email as soon as I'm home. I want to keep in touch this time. I'm tired of running from my past."
"It's who you are and what gives you strength. I'll look forward to our chats."
The two of them rejoin Doug and Eames, the four of them talking a few extra minutes before they all head outside; Doug helping Garth toward his car and Arthur and Eames heading for the stop to wait for a cab.
"Home or bar?"
"Home…home is waiting. Bar," Arthur looks at Eames with a small smile. "I need that drink. Is that okay?"
"Ah more than okay," Eames grins as he hails a cab and both stow their stuff in the trunk and get in. Arthur's gaze fixes on Doug's car, his hand offering a brief wave before it disappears from their view and he settles back into his seat. Silence fills the cab for the duration of the ride to the cozy pub; neither seeming to mind the silence.
"You know when I found all the empty bottles and the rather distressing notes with…certain words I was worried," Eames mentions as they settle into the back corner booth; the same one they had used last time and the same one they would in the future.
"My mother left a letter in the safety deposit box and I just…damn Eames she never told me…didn't even hint…not even once. All those years I had a sibling in the same city and I never knew."
"Probably for the best or you would have turned out like him; squeezing Garth for a few extra dollars. Hurting innocent people for no good reason."
"I know," Arthur sighs as he leans back in his chair. "I wanted to feel betrayed by her but…but she did what she felt was best to keep me safe and after reading that letter I understand. But yes I was more than angry when I learned the truth. When you found what you wanted that led you here did you at least put everything back in place?"
"Nothing was in place," Eames retorts as Arthur's jaw tightens. "Your place looked like…well it looked like mine actually."
"You say that like it's a good thing," Arthur deadpans in a dry tone as their drinks finally arrive.
"It's a very good thing," Eames grins as he reaches for his glass. "A toast shall we."
"Sure, to what?" Arthur inquires as he takes his glass in his hand, ready to raise it.
"To loyalty and friendship; two bonds stronger than blood."
"I'll drink to that," Arthur smiles and nods before the two glass rims clink and then a drink is taken from each. "Ahh now this…is good stuff."
"Speaking of the good stuff. How on earth did you manage to drink that much imported swill?"
"Okay what else did you do in my apartment?" Arthur asks in mild annoyance as Eames chuckles.
"Tided up a bit."
"Should I be afraid?"
"Perfect," Arthur sighs as he leans back in the booth; his eyes offering a faraway glance before he turns back and connects with Eames. "A few months ago I went about my day, knowing my parents were normal people killed in a car accident and I was raised in an orphanage and just jaded because the world had forgotten me. Now…" he pauses as he shakes his head, "now I wish I could go back and just forget this all happened. But I know I can't and so the practical side of me says to accept it and use the knowledge to protect myself from this day forward. Now I have to watch my back around every turn."
"Move to Mombassa. At least you won't have to watch it alone."
"I don't like sand. It gets in all the cracks," he snickers as Eames lips offer a small chuckle. "What doesn't kill you…" he pauses as he offers his glass.
"Only makes you stronger," Eames concludes with a soft whisper as his glass gently clinks Arthur's and then both take another sip. "And you are that."
"I am," Arthur agrees as he reaches for his menu. "Time to order."
As his eyes scan the culinary offerings his mind drifts back to the first time Garth had told him the truth about what happened. How he had his showdown with Cecil and Bryan and when one door to the past was closed for good another to the future was opened. Ean White had certainly made his mark, but before his death he had offered valuable insight into another part of Arthur's heritage, one he couldn't turn his back on or walk away from. He had allowed anger and hatred to fester those few weeks in his apartment; sitting alone with a bottle and thinking about all those who had betrayed him but coming to the conclusion that through it all he had remained true to himself and in the end that's all that really mattered. He looks at Eames and ponders his friend; once merely a passing irritation, now a loyal stronghold helping him weather all the familial battles forced upon him; a friendship he vows to never take for granted. And he knows that the true friendship and loyalty that Eames offered him in his dire time of need he would gladly return the favor; helping his friend weather whatever personal storm he might face in the future. And there were still a few storms yet to come. He knows that he hasn't uncovered all the secrets in his family vault; there was still an insider to uncover and Shane wasn't gone from his life for good yet. While the chapter to one story was coming to a close, he knows – they both know – there were others waiting to be opened.
A/N: Okay so am leaving it here for now….wow what a wild ride. Endings are always bittersweet for me *sigh* I was soooooooooooooo nervous when I decided to post my first inception piece and even more nervous when I decided to do the redo and make it from 5 chaps to well – 22 – lol and I'm so glad you all stayed with me on this topsy turvy ride and gave me the amazing reviews you did! (they kept me expanding this this long)! I wasn't sure to make this one very long story but I have a few other ideas and coming back to Arthur's lineage (did you all catch the clue to yet another family member – this one actually maybe good? check chapter 18 for the first mention and then the matching clue in this chap that confirmed it) is one of them and I hope you all like that idea! So please let me know what you thought of this story in a final review (especially those that faved/followed but didn't review – a word to show your appreciation would be very nice) and if you'd like another story (I have an idea or two brewing for our boys) and thanks so much!