Word count: 2753
Notes: OH HO. AND YOU THOUGHT I WAS KIDDING.
Here it is! Everything you've ever wanted to know about IV access and lots of things you didn't. This fic is a direct result of my medical degree, up to and including the fact that the majority of what Yusuf says about neural sleep-state transitions is perfectly scientifically true. Including the word 'endosomnogen', which I didn't invent, but kind of wish I had.
I needed to write something purely silly as an antidote to my epically long and in-no-way-ridiculous WIP. This contains lots of Arthur/Eames and also Ariadne/Saito because apparently I ship that now, THANKS A LOT, foreverdirt. It was unbelievably fun to write.
The first one of them to get infected is Arthur, which doesn't surprise Yusuf at all. It's always the most experienced dreamers who get blasé about the process and start falling into bad habits.
"Is this a joke?" Arthur says, shaking the box over the table as though it will suddenly reveal a trick compartment.
"Not at all," Yusuf says.
Yesterday, Yusuf walked into the most expensive-looking menswear shop he could find and wheedled a lovely girl into giving him one of the empty boxes they use to giftwrap their cravats. Then he filled it with alcohol swabs. He considered writing FROM EAMES on the box just to make sure Arthur would open it, but decided that would be overkill.
"I forgot once!" Arthur shouts.
Yusuf raises his eyebrows.
"Twice. A few times. But nobody does it every single time."
"I do," Yusuf points out. "And I am not the one who had to drink water last night while everyone else drank Saito's sake, because I am not currently taking antibiotics."
Arthur's left hand twitches. His sleeves are rolled right down, covering the gauze dressing.
"Even commensal flora can do a lot of damage if the skin is broken," Yusuf continues.
"Eames," snaps Arthur. "Don't encourage him."
But he always swabs his insertion site, after that, even though he makes a point of refusing to look at Yusuf when he does it.
To all intents and purposes, they close their eyes and then open them again immediately. Yusuf assumes that something's wrong with the PASIV device until he realises that the shadows in the room have subtly shifted, and Ariadne is standing next to the device looking both harried and in pain.
"I had to turn it off to wake you up," she says. "Was there even a dreamscape? I didn't go under."
"Nothing on my end." Eames looks questioningly at the others. Everyone shakes their head. "Can't have a dream without the dreamer. How long were we out?"
"Not long. To start with I thought my IV mustn't have been working, and now..." She lifts her arm; her hand is swollen and the entire forearm is pink. At least she's had the sense to take the cannula out.
Yusuf sighs. "Didn't you flush with saline before you taped it down?"
Blank look from Ariadne. "What?"
Yusuf mentally forgives Cobb for not teaching his new recruit basic IV cannulation technique, on the grounds that he was distracted by his dead wife's habit of showing up in his dreams and shooting people.
"The Somnacin is tissuing," he says. "It means the cannula isn't properly in the vein. This is why beginners should always push saline through and feel for flow in the vein, to make sure the drug doesn't spill out into the surrounding tissue."
"I'm not a --" Ariadne protests, then glances at her hand and shuts up.
"It's not a big deal, is it?" says Eames. "So her hand's a bit swollen and she'll be more careful next time."
Yusuf inspects her arm more closely. The pinkness isn't promising. "She should probably go to hospital, just in case she has a bad reaction to it. It would be safer."
"Oh, wonderful," says Arthur. "And what do we tell the doctor? She just happened to be self-infusing a substance synthesised by a friend?"
"Ariadne," says Saito. "Do you have a favourite hospital?"
She blinks. "I -- had my appendix out at the American Hospital of Paris. They were fine."
"Excellent. I own that hospital."
"You do not," says Eames.
Saito is pulling out his phone. "I will own it by the time we arrive there," he amends.
There is absolutely no reason for all of them to go to the hospital. But Yusuf has to explain the chemical compound to the medical staff, and there's obviously no way Saito isn't going, and then Arthur has one of his fits of responsible leadership or guilt or some other thing he osmotically inherited from Cobb, and these days Eames gets bored and subsequently prone to breaking minor laws whenever he's too far from Arthur.
The triage nurse gives them a very weird look.
"Good afternoon," Saito says politely. "As of seven minutes ago, I am your employer. You will see to it that this young woman gets the best medical attention that can be provided, immediately."
Ariadne looks embarrassed. Eames goes to have his fit of laughter in the corner of the waiting room, tugging Arthur with him, and Yusuf goes to find an intern who doesn't look completely useless. On his advice they finally arrange to keep Ariadne in a private room for a few hours for fluids and close observation.
"Make sure you swab the skin," she tells the intern sternly, when he arrives with a cannula. She winks at Yusuf.
Saito appropriates a chair and makes himself comfortable next to her bed, but he also takes one look at the hospital coffee and immediately calls out to have some delivered to them. Possibly from Milan.
The rest of them are shown -- with great courtesy and a few nervous looks in Saito's direction -- to the room usually reserved for families of trauma victims, which is unoccupied, and at least has a couple of sofas.
Eventually Yusuf finishes deleting messages from his phone's inbox and gets bored of Tetris, and looks over to where Arthur is drinking his coffee and flipping through a magazine, Eames inelegantly asleep on his shoulder. Arthur is so bony that this can't be comfortable for either of them, but there is a little bit of a smile on Arthur's lips, and it deepens whenever he flicks an absent glance down at the other man's face.
There is no professionalism left in the world, Yusuf thinks despairingly, but his heart gives a pang all the same. He will call Hyun Joo at her conference in Chicago later tonight, if he can get the time difference lined up. He will buy her that new mass spectroscope she's had her eye on; so much more romantic than a hospital.
"This is ridiculous," Arthur says.
"Shh." Saito leans forward. "I am very interested."
"Clearly," Yusuf says, sharing his pointed look equally between Arthur and Ariadne, "some revision of the basics would not go amiss."
He starts at the beginning: always use a tourniquet to identify the best access point. Always undo your tourniquet as soon as the needle is sheathed.
"Or else you will wake up with a purple hand, and possibly nerve damage," he adds.
"You needn't sound so pleased at the prospect," Ariadne mutters.
Eames gives his own tourniquet and Arthur's wrists a speculative look that has nothing to do with venous access, and Yusuf judges it time to move on.
"Feel for the best vein, don't look. The base of the thumb is usually a good place if the veins on the back of the hand aren't prominent enough. And drink some water if you are having trouble -- it helps to be well hydrated."
"So hydrated that it pisses down rain in your dreams?" Eames suggests.
"Sometimes I have very difficult veins," Yusuf says loudly. "That was necessary."
Partly as punishment and partly because the man has enviably obvious veins, he chooses Eames for the practical demonstration: correct angle of insertion and correct angle at which to advance the cannula (not the same thing), making sure the needle is entirely out of the vein and clicked back into the sheath. Flushing with saline if there's any doubt about placement, Ariadne. Taping the cannula in position but leaving the insertion site visible.
"Apply pressure when you pull the cannula out, unless you want the site to bruise. And the PASIV sets are a single unit, so just throw everything into the sharps bin, the infusion lines as well as the cannulas."
"Cannulae," puts in Eames, which earns him a glare from Yusuf -- such pointless pedantry will only distract everyone from the point at hand -- and a look from Arthur that's equal parts amused and aroused. Ah. Maybe not pointless after all, then.
It's not that Arthur is in any way Yusuf's type (surely, it would be like having sex with a very bossy bag of sticks), but it is annoying that displays of intelligence are apparently only attractive when Eames is the one doing the displaying.
"Any questions?" he says.
Arthur specialises in formidably impatient faces, and this is one of his best yet.
"Well?" he says.
Eames, in return, looks blank. "Well?"
"The next layer down. The PASIV. Where is it?"
"...oh," Eames says, after a while.
"You didn't remember to include it in the design?" Ariadne demands.
"I forgot." Eames looks confused, now, and a bit glazed. "Why would I forget?"
The wall nearest to them makes a gloop sound and turns, without much fuss, into a sheet of tightly-packed herrings.
Saito does that thing with the side of his mouth that means he's finding something funny. Yusuf pulls his emergency grenade out from the deepest pocket of his jacket.
"Time for a break," he says firmly, and pulls the pin. The carpet is starting to undulate under their feet.
Ariadne says, "What are you doing?"
Eames says, "I do feel a bit odd --"
-- and they're blown into hundreds of pieces and all wake up at the exact same time. Nice and neat. Yusuf can't understand Arthur and Cobb and their fixation on handguns; so personal, so dramatic! Give him a swift aerosol poison or a decent bomb any day.
"What was that all about?" Arthur demands, as Yusuf is throwing everyone's used infusion lines into the bin. He crouches down next to Eames, who is wincing and touching his head.
"Not the best dream I've ever had, that one," Eames says.
"No more dreaming for at least a day," Yusuf tells him. "You are starting to get alpha-wave intrusions."
Arthur's impatient face reappears. "That's absurd. We've never had any problems with this before. We'll just start over, and I'll --"
Yusuf slams the PASIV case shut, transfers it to his chair, and sits on it. Arthur makes a sound like Yusuf has made him watch someone attack his favourite shirt with a pair of scissors. Such an overreaction. The case is almost indestructible, and anyway, Yusuf has been watching his carbs lately.
"The compounds we've been using are better quality than anything we've used before because I am always improving it, yes, you are welcome to thank me later. But Somnacin works by forcing quick transitions into and out of REM sleep, via hyperstimulation of cholinergic pathways in the forebrain and endosomnogen action on the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus. My compounds mean better dreams, but at the cost of increased stimulation. A relative lack of REM that occurs as part of a natural sleep cycle, combined with too many forced transitions in too little time, will weaken the neuronal ability to accumulate somnogens. This trends the brain's electrical activity closer towards the alpha-wave patterns seen in waking, thus disrupting both the dream's integrity and the mental stamina of the primary dreamer."
Yusuf likes to think the ensuing silence is appreciative.
"As I said, time for a break," he summarises. "In the interests of not going mad."
"Fine. Eames, you are going home and getting into bed," Arthur says, which means he actually understood quite a lot of what Yusuf was saying; and then, "No, I meant to sleep," but Eames grins and runs his thumb across the back of Arthur's neck, the thin strip of skin just where his hair stops and his collar begins. Arthur's frown and willpower wilt, visibly, in lust-addled unison.
"Tea?" Saito enquires of Ariadne, which must be code, because she bites her lip and gives him a radiant and considering look.
Honestly, it is like working with a group of teenagers. Yusuf does not want to have to give his other safety talk, the one with the illustrative banana.
"I am going to spend the day at the Musée Picasso," he says, with dignity. "Goodbye."
Ariadne's rookie carelessness does have some positive outcomes: apart from the exciting renovations currently taking place in the emergency department of the Dear Ariadne Please Accept My Love Hospital (not an official renaming, but certainly what Yusuf has programmed his phone's GPS to label it as), Saito is now Yusuf's most vocal supporter in workplace safety issues. The chairs they use are swiftly replaced with more strategically-padded ones after Yusuf points out the risk of pressure sores that comes with spending long periods motionless.
"And what about fires?" Yusuf says.
Saito gives a thoughtful frown.
Which is how they end up rigging the building's fire alarm to an ingenious mechanism that, at the slightest hint of smoke, jerks the chairs back by 45° -- enough to jolt them awake, but not enough to dump them out on the floor. The first time they're woken up from a timekeeping trial because someone two floors below them has burned their toast in a staff kitchenette, Arthur is not happy, but even he admits that the inconvenience is preferable to them all being suffocated in their sleep. Eames agrees. Yusuf beams.
Saito, as usual, glances at Ariadne; probably weighing up whether her own fondness for toast as a midmorning snack would preclude an attempt to buy and demolish every toaster in the building. Yusuf comes to the realisation that if he's going to have the smallest chance of getting them a good wedding present, he'll have to start thinking of ideas now, because Saito will probably consider it only proper to own most of the world before he pops the question.
Yusuf is two blocks away from their offices when he realises that he's left his notepad on his desk. He's been jotting down ideas for a compound that will enhance the activation of the sensory cortices during dreaming, thus increasing the authenticity of the subject's experience and lowering the chances of their subconscious becoming suspicious. It's going to be fantastic, and Saito is going to be so impressed he will buy him an island, and first Yusuf is going to make sure that the island gets satellite wireless internet and then he's going to take Hyun Joo on a tropical holiday in which tasteful bikinis and coconut drinks will play a central role.
The fact that all of this is occupying Yusuf's mind as he enters the office is probably why he doesn't notice Eames and Arthur until he's retrieved his notepad and is almost out the door again.
It's not like they've noticed him, either, but they are even more occupied. Eames is clearly very busy seeing whether Arthur really needs his mouth for breathing, pressing him up against the wall and kissing him as if he's about to disappear, and Arthur looks equally busy punishing any piece of clothing that has the audacity to stand between him and any part of Eames's bare skin he wants to touch. As Yusuf watches -- not watching watching, just sort of appreciating, and idly considering pulling out his phone and instantly upping the popularity of his YouTube channel -- Eames gets his hands under Arthur's thighs and hoists him up, Arthur swearing in gasps against his mouth, Arthur's legs in their well-pressed pants wrapping around his back. Yusuf takes a moment to admire the strength that must take. Although --
"Lift with your knees, not with your back," Yusuf calls helpfully.
They pause. Arthur glares at him, or tries to, over Eames's shoulder. Somehow he doesn't look nearly as formidable with his hair everywhere and his chin gone pink from stubble-burn. Eames just chuckles into the side of Arthur's neck.
"Lower back pain is no laughing matter," Yusuf tells them. "My aunt, she --"
"Yusuf," Arthur grinds out. "Fuck. Off."
Yusuf shrugs and leaves them to it.