Rating: PG, maybe PG-13
Series: Genderbend 'verse, which needs a proper name now...
Summary: "Don't talk to me about Alexandria." This is what happened in Alexandria, in a time before dreamshare, when Anita Casey and Patrick Eames were just a pair of spies trying to do their job.
Disclaimer: Er... Anita is kinda-sorta mine? She's based off Arthur who is not, though. Alex and Aubrey are mine, Eames is not. Song quote is from a Hilary Duff song, and also not mine.
A/N: A prequel to my genderbend fic "Architecture of Your World and Mind".
In this place that has no name
I can't remember why I came
Then I hear you whisper low
One more mile to Jericho
Nothing is ever what it seems
When you live inside your dreams...
The walls will tumble
The walls will tumble
But I'm not gonna cry
My heart won't crumble
My heart won't crumble
If we ever say goodbye... – Jericho, Hilary Duff
The problem with spying, Anita thinks grimly as she runs down a back alley alongside Eames, is that sometimes you get caught. And when it doesn't, the targets are, rather justifiably, pissed off. In this case, the target was a member of a terrorist group, trying to recruit in Alexandria. Thus, the running for their lives in the seedier parts of the city. Anita is actually slightly faster than Eames; she's a leaner build and ran track since she was six, but he keeps up pretty well, even when she pulls slightly ahead.
Or at least he does at first. There's a choked-off cry from her partner and Anita whirls around, seeing Eames go down clutching his side. Her reaction is instinctive, her Glock in her hand and her finger on the trigger before she even thinks about it. Their pursuer's down, and later she'll probably catch hell for it because they were supposed to take this guy alive. Right now, though, she doesn't care, not when she's dropping to her knees at Eames' side, pressing her hands to a wound just above his abdomen.
“Throwing star,” Eames says, voice tight with pain. “Bastards're getting creative.”
“Shut up, you idiot,” Anita snaps, his blood spilling between her fingers in a way she tells herself doesn't terrify her. “Fucking Christ, Eames.” How is she going to call their handler for a pickup when she can't... Closing her eyes, she takes a steadying breath, and then forces herself to move one hand away from Eames' wound to fish out her cell phone. “Alex, I need you to pick us up. Man down.” She rattles off their general location, and drops the phone, not knowing or caring if the call disconnected.
“Not worrying... about me, are you?” Eames asks, his voice fainter, and Anita bends down so that their faces are closer and she can look into his eyes.
“You better not quit on me, Patrick,” she says, her voice clipped, using his first name for only the second time in the two and a half years they've worked together.
“Didn't... know you cared.”
“Of course I care, you bastard!” More than she'd like, more than she should. And that's never been more apparent now, when she's trying to keep him from bleeding out, and he's...
His other hand, on the uninjured side, pulls her down before she can do anything. It's barely even a kiss, a quick brush of lips before his hand falls and she jerks up, staring at him. “Figured... Figured I'd go for it... in case I die, love,” Eames murmurs, and Anita doesn't have the chance to tell him that he's not going to die before his eyes close.
“Goddamn it, Eames, don't you dare die on me,” she says through gritted teeth, and she's never been happier to see a car pull up with Alex Shepard behind the wheel in her life. Alex is a whirl of red hair and green eyes, helping her get Eames into the car and breaking out the field medical kit so Anita can treat him as best she can with it, as Alex drives to the nearest hospital at top speed. Anita bandages the wound as best she can, and if Alex sees her running her fingers through Eames' short hair in the rearview, or the fact that Anita's eyes are wet, she says nothing. For which Anita is almost pathetically grateful.
~ ~ ~
Anita hates hospitals. She's hated them ever since the car crash, the one that killed her mother, and left her and her twin in the hospital for two weeks before their father came to get them. She remembers Daniel Casey as a fundamentally decent but irresponsible man, used to seeing his one English and two American daughters for two months in the summer and alternate Christmases. And she remembers how terrified his eyes looked the day he showed up in the twins' hospital room.
Hospitals bring back nothing but bad memories for her, and she can't help but think it's going to be worse now, sitting in this uncomfortable chair waiting for Eames to wake up. The doctors say he'll be fine, he's just lost a lot of blood – at least she thinks that's what they've said; her Arabic isn't great, but Alex says that's what they've said.
But he looks so damn pale, and he's hooked up to machines, and... Damn it, he kissed her thinking he might die, and she's been a fucking jumbled mess ever since. It's not fair that he can do this to her, how the hell did he get this much of a hold on her? The fact is that, even though her memory is just shy of eidetic most of the time, and she can remember almost every bit of the time she's spent with Eames since they became partners, she can't pinpoint when things changed between them. All she knows is that they have, and now she's sitting here waiting for him to wake up.
Goddamn it, how could she have let him, or any man, get this close again? Hadn't she learned her lesson from Ian? She'd thought so, but apparently not. But then, it's not so surprising. This is Eames, who makes her laugh even when she wants to strangle him. Eames, who's had her back in every situation and trusted her to have his, never expecting less because she was a woman. And, if she's being honest, she'd noticed him on a physical level from the moment they met, with his gray eyes and that accent, and just the whole presence of him.
Her cheeks are burning, and of course that's when Alex knocks on the open door. But still, Anita's grateful for the distraction. Alex looks apologetic. “Look, I'm sorry, I'm sure you want to be here when he wakes up, but the higher-ups are insisting you return to Washington immediately for a debrief.”
Part of Anita is furious; deeper emotions or not, how can they expect her to leave her partner behind? But a much bigger part of her is relieved, because it means she has an excuse to run. And she needs to, because this can't happen. Not again, she will not risk these kinds of feelings for anyone again. It hurts, but she knows it'll be the right choice.
She'll go home, make her report, and then she'll ask for a reassignment – and a new partner.
~ ~ ~
“Are you sure you made the right idea?” Anita's twin sister, Aubrey, gives her a sharp look over the rim of her coffee cup. Her voice holds the Southern drawl Anita has long since trained out of her own voice, and with their identical faces, it's almost like her inner self asking this question. But then, it would be; they're twins, and they're part of each other in a way no one else can understand.
“You know I can't do this again, Aub,” Anita says quietly, thinking about Ian, and how it felt to realize he was having an affair behind her back – with her older sister, no less! Not Aubrey, of course, it had been Ashley, the English half-sister neither of them had ever really understood, nor she them. But Anita pushes those thoughts away firmly, even as Aubrey raises an eyebrow.
“You could, 'Nita, it's that you won't. They're too very different things.”
“Oh, don't go all shrink on me now, all right?” Anita snaps, a hint of her own drawl coming through as it does when she's emotional, especially when she's also around her sister. “Anyway, right or wrong, it's done. I'm to be working with a pair of civilians, Dom and Mal Cobb, on something called dreamshare.”
Aubrey's eyes widen. “You do know that's Mal Miles-Bertrand from our college days, don't you? She married an architect named Dom Cobb, I know because she called me up, asking if I wanted to be involved in this dream project too. I haven't been vetted yet, though I assume it'll work out. Since you can vouch for me, and I've got a clean record in any case.”
Anita's not sure she really wants her sister involved in anything the CIA is funding, but she knows Aubrey well enough to know she won't be able to dissuade her. Besides, she isn't about to make waves in this new position, not when she needs it. Because whatever Aubrey says, she knows she has to do this. Whatever happens next, this is the right choice.