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having let go forever the fallacy of ever being alone

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"Ariadne," Arthur says, holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder and surveying the boxes in his living room with trepidation, "I have a proposition for you."

"I knew this day would come," Ariadne says solemnly. "And I'm very sorry, Arthur, but Eames gave me specific instructions before he left.

"What?" Arthur asks.

"He said that in the event that his absence drove you to cheat, I was to turn you down for your own good," she continues. "Because the guilt would drive you mad, and also he would cut me."

"Eames is an asshole," Arthur says, rolling his eyes and taking care to make sure his grin doesn't show through in his voice. "I'm not calling for sex, Ari."

"In that case," Ariadne says, laughing, "what can I do for you?"

"I ordered a new speaker system," Arthur tells her. "It…came."

"Are you asking for my help?" Ariadne asks, delighted.

"Absolutely not," Arthur lies. "I just know how you are about technology. I mean, between the Mac obsession and your frankly unsettling relationship with that camera--"

"What Eleanor and I have is pure," Ariadne interrupts sternly. "Do not question it."

"I thought you might enjoy yourself," Arthur goes on, ignoring this. "That's all."

"I'm shit with anything that doesn't have to do with photography, actually," Ariadne admits. "Hold on, though, I'll see if Yusuf can offer any insight."

"Is Yusuf there?"

"There's a Hitchcock marathon on Turner Classic," Ariadne says, as though this is explanation enough. "Hey, Yusuf!"

Arthur hears faint conversation--something about 'that time at Best Buy' and 'Well, it's not like we can't Tivo it' and then, horrifyingly, 'I think he misses Eames, Yusuf, come on,' and then Yusuf's voice comes over the line, sounding equal parts exasperated and amused.

"We will be there in half an hour," he says. "Do you have beer, or should we stop?"

"I've got plenty," Arthur says. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it," Yusuf says, and Arthur thinks he can hear Ariadne laughing in the background as he hangs up.

--

"There is no reason this should be this complicated," Yusuf complains three hours later. They've gone through most of the beer in Arthur's fridge and half the bottle of vodka Ariadne had brought, and the living room is a disaster. Where there isn't cardboard there's styrofoam, and where there isn't styrofoam there are wires--wires upon wires upon wires.

"Why are there three instruction manuals?" Ariadne asks, flipping through the one nearest to her. "It's all the same product, isn't it? Why should there be three?"

"Four," Arthur points out, picking up the one that had been tucked under his leg. "Although I'm pretty sure this one is in Swedish, so maybe it doesn't count."

"Or it contains the vital instructions we are managing to miss here," Yusuf offers, taking it from him and peering at it. "Don't you speak Swedish, Arthur?"

"Nah, just a couple of basic phrases," Arthur admits. "I can order a sandwich and threaten to shoot, but that's about it."

"Not exactly useful," Yusuf sighs.

"I don't know," Ariadne says, smiling at him and poking his shoulder. "I wouldn't mind shooting at the control panel."

"I know this is the great tragedy of your life," Yusuf tells her, grinning, "but, for the umpteenth time, inanimate objects cannot actually understand when they're being threatened."

"You says that," Ariadne laughs, "but your coffee machine always works better when I yell at it."

"I think that's just you getting less frustrated," Yusuf replies.

Arthur stares between them, beginning to feel as if he's missed something rather important. "Right," he says, "uh, well, as much as I'd love to torture this thing into submission--"

"I think you should admit defeat and call a professional, mate," Yusuf says, clapping him on the shoulder. "This is beyond me."

"And me," Ariadne agrees. "And, no offense, but I really want to get home before they play Rear Window."

"You could watch it here," Arthur offers, entirely out of courtesy and not at all because the idea of being in this house alone, surrounded by wires, with nothing but cold pizza to look forward to is depressing. Not at all because of that.

"Eames is supposed to get back tomorrow, right?" Ariadne says, giving him a probing look.

"What does that have to do with where you watch the movie?" Arthur asks sharply. Ariadne rolls her eyes, grabs the remote, flips on the TV and turns the volume all the way up.

Being as it is connected to the problematic speaker system, no sound comes out.

"Oh, right," Arthur mutters. "I forgot about that."

He shows them to the door ten minutes later, advising them the best route to the train station and working out a plan to drop Ariadne's car off in the morning. He watches them out the window as they go, sees the way Yusuf offers Ariadne his coat, and sighs.

It really shouldn't bother him, that Eames has been gone this long. They're in a business where separation is inevitable, and it's frankly shocking that it's taken them this long to spend more than a month apart. But they'd gotten into the habit of taking jobs together, or at least at the same time, and they generally avoid signing on for anything with another team that's going to be too involved.

The job Eames had taken in Białystok (or, as Arthur has privately taken to calling it, the Fucking Time Suck job) was supposed to be a three week gig. They had someone on point already, so Arthur wasn't needed, and Eames owed the extractor a favor from way back. He'd still asked about it, tentative in the darkness one night, pressing the question into the side of Arthur's neck.

"Of course you can go," Arthur had said, laughing. "Jesus, you don't need my permission. Work is work."

"I know how you pine," Eames had said.

Arthur had rolled his eyes. "I'll survive somehow, Mr. Eames."

But the thing is, shit had gone wrong and gone wrong again, and Eames has been gone for almost three months. Arthur is starting to feel a bit crazy around the eyes. He is…more than a little relieved to think about Eames getting home tomorrow.

If he gets home tomorrow, he reminds himself, and checks the weather. There's a hurricane growing along the Nova Scotia coat and another just north of Florida, and Arthur isn't even sure which airline Eames is flying anymore. The last they spoke was the day before yesterday, after several cancelled flights and three airport customs inspections he couldn't clear.

"I will row across the fucking ocean if I have to," Eames growled, above the background noise of the airport. He'd made it to Keflavik out of a combination of wily manipulation and sheer bloody-mindedness, or at least that's how he'd explained it when Arthur asked how the hell he'd ended up in Iceland. "I will call Saito and beg for a private jet, I've never wanted to get home so badly in my entire bloody life."

"You can't row across the ocean during hurricane season," Arthur pointed out.

"Oh, but I could the rest of the time?"

Arthur shrugged and picked at his TV dinner. "If anyone on the planet is stubborn enough…"

"I'm as flattered as I am insulted, thank you," Eames said, offering up a tired laugh. In the background, a child screamed and a tinny voice announced boarding, and Arthur pushed his dinner aside and laid flat on the couch, staring up at the ceiling.

"I miss you," he said, because fuck it. Fuck it, he did, it wasn't like Eames didn't know, and at this rate it was going to be another two and a half months before they laid eyes on each other again.

"I know," Eames returned, voice soft. "I miss you too, pet, but I have to go harass some flight attendants--don't worry if you don't hear from me, I've got no bloody clue when I will and won't be in the air--"

"It's fine," Arthur said. "And I don't worry about you."

"Of course you don't," Eames said. "Look, I really do have to go, but I love you, alright? I'll be home as soon as I can."

"Happy early birthday, if I miss it," Arthur said, hating the whole fucking world. Eames made a low growling noise.

"I'll be back before then if it kills me," he said. "Bye, love."

"Bye."

The thing is, though, that it's Eames' birthday in two hours, and Arthur doesn't even know if he's alive, let alone whether or not he's actually going to make it. He's been trying not to think about that first point, so he copies the weather report, pops in into an email, adds a subject line--"This is why rowing across the ocean is a bad call, fuckwad"--and goes back into his living room.

"Well," he says to the empty air, surveying the mess, "I am going to need some reinforcements."

Fifteen minutes later, he's got his iPod hooked up to a smaller, less impossible speaker system, the box of cold pizza resting on top of a styrofoam block, an ashtray sitting at his feet and his Glock tucked into his waistband. Well and truly prepared for any eventuality, he settles back down into attempting to hook the damn thing up.

The Clash is blasting and the speaker is showing no signs of submission when he hears the faint click of the door opening. He weighs the possibility of it being some kind of intruder against the chance that it's Eames, stubs the cigarette he was smoking in direct violation of his own rule into the ashtray and draws his gun, just in case.

"If you're not Eames, you're going down hard," he calls out. There is a familiar laugh.

"Can I go down hard even if I am Eames?" says Eames, walking into the living room. He raises his eyebrows at the scene in front of him. "Smoking indoors, holding a gun on me and, apparently, murdering that new surround sound I wanted so much. Darling, has my absence driven you that mad?"

He looks terrible, too skinny by half, with haggard circles under his eyes and a barely healed cut slicing across his cheek. His knuckles are so badly bruised that Arthur can see the purple from across the room.

"Oh, fuck you," Arthur says, and is pressing him against the wall in five seconds flat.

"Hello to you too," Eames laughs. He runs his fingers through Arthur's hair and kisses him, hard and claiming. "Bloody hell, it's good to see you."

"Jesus, likewise," Arthur says, running his hands over Eames' face, down his back. "Even if you do look like shit and smell like an airport."

"Do not say the word 'airport,'" Eames instructs firmly between kisses. "if I never set foot in one again it'll be too soon, the things I've seen--"

"Shit, how badly cut up are you?" Arthur interrupts, having encountered another scab in reaching a hand under Eames' shirt. "And how much fucking weight have you lost, Eames, Jesus Christ--"

"You really don't want to know," Eames murmurs, moving down to his neck. "God, have I ever told you that you smell good? You smell fantastic, Arthur, Christ."

"I wish I could say the same for you," Arthur says. "For fuck's sake, Eames, is this a knife wound?"

"Just grazed me," Eames says. He pulls back for a second and just stares at Arthur, his grin a mile wide.

"It just grazed you?" Arthur repeats incredulously, glaring. "What the fuck are you smiling about, asshole, knife wounds aren't funny--"

"God," Eames breathes, "god, I've missed you. Look at you, bloody hell, hi--"

"Hi," Arthur whispers, as Eames leans in and kisses him frantically again. He leaves his hand where it is on Eames' back and rests the other one on Eames' neck, leaning in and letting out a small moan as Eames growls into his open mouth.

"I can't even--I am never going back to Poland and I'm never working with another incompetent bloody point man--"

"Well obviously not, if these assholes are letting you get knifed--"

"Your arse," Eames murmurs, squeezing it. "Do you know how many times I've rubbed one out just thinking about your sodding arse, Arthur, and I still wasn't doing it justice--"

"I have masturbated in every room in this fucking house," Arthur admits. "Even the kitchen."

"That's positively unsanitary," Eames tells him gleefully. "That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard, you filthy--Christ, did I mention about you smelling good?"

"Yes," Arthur says. "Did I mention about how fucking glad I am that you didn't die over the Atlantic?"

"Like I was going to let a little hurricane kill me," Eames murmurs. Arthur reaches for the hem of his shirt to pull it over his head and Eames grabs his wrist, gives him a quelling look.

"What?"

"Don't have fits, Arthur," he warns.

"Oh fuck, you fucking idiot," Arthur snaps, stepping back and yanking at the shirt with both hands. "What the fuck did you do to your…"

He trails off, staring. There are bruises everywhere, dotting his shoulders and chest, over his ribcage, which is fucking visible, Jesus Christ. The cut from the knife is wrapped around his left side, though it does at least look like it's been professionally treated, and there's something that looks suspiciously like a burn next to the tattoo on his left upper arm.

"Don't have fits," Eames says again.

"What happened?" Arthur demands, unable to draw his eyes away.

Eames sighs and runs a hand through his hair. "Incompetent bloody point man--"

"You said that," Arthur snaps. "I'm looking for a little more detail here, you motherfucking--Jesus, that is a burn, isn't it, what the fuck--"

"When we finally got the mark under, his subconscious was militarized," Eames sighs. "As it happens, his home was also heavily guarded. We woke up to some…unpleasantness."

"Jesus Christ," Arthur repeats. "Eames, why the hell didn't you tell me, I would have--"

"You would have come, I know," Eames murmurs. "I know, love, but I was under an alias and they were tracking us, I couldn't risk it--"

"You couldn't fucking risk it?" Arthur hisses. "You couldn't risk it, Eames, what the fucking fuck, look at you--"

"I'm okay," Eames says, "it's okay, darling, it's nothing lasting--"

"You look like you went through a meat grinder!" Arthur cries. "I could have been there in twenty-three hours if I went through the right channels, it would have been easy--"

"It would have been stupid," Eames says gently. "God forbid someone got to you before they got to me--"

"Oh fuck you, I can take care of myself--"

"I know," Eames murmurs. "I do know that. But if the worst had happened, we would have made it incredibly clear that we were each other's best leverage. It would have been suicide, love."

He's right. Arthur knows he's right. But that doesn't fucking help in the face of the bruised canvas of his chest, in the face of the scab from the knife that Arthur can't stop running his fingers over.

And Eames is still fucking grinning, soft and fond and ridiculously happy. Arthur could kill him.

"What the fuck is wrong with you," he growls. "This isn't--Eames, seriously, I swear to god, if you don't stop smiling--"

"I can't," Eames says, almost helplessly. "I'm terribly sorry for worrying you, I really am, I don't take it lightly, I swear, it's just--it was the worst fucking job of my life and you. You smell good, and you're just--Christ, Arthur, I just, I missed you so fucking much, I'm just so bloody glad to be home."

"Oh," Arthur says, because he doesn't know what the hell else to say.

"You can keep yelling," Eames tells him. "You really can, I don't mind--even the yelling is the most fun I've had in months--"

"Come here, you stupid bastard," Arthur snaps, and drags him forward.

This time, when their lips meet, neither one of them tries to talk through it. Eames rests his hands on Arthur's hips and kisses him deeply, hungry and completely focused, and he moans quietly when Arthur's fingers skate over the bruises on his biceps. It's almost chaste, for all it isn't--Eames lets his hands drift up to cup Arthur's face, running his thumbs along Arthur's cheekbones, and Arthur strokes down Eames' forearms with careful, probing fingers.

"Are you checking me for holes?" Eames asks, amused, when Arthur's hands slip down and around, skimming lightly across his back.

"No," Arthur says, even though that is very much what he's doing.

"I'm in one piece, I promise," Eames chuckles. "Just a little battered, that's all."

"You should have told me," Arthur repeats, because he can't help himself.

"Mmm, I know," Eames says. He tips Arthur's head back and trails a few sticky kisses along his jawline, his three-day scruff tickling Arthur's neck. "Let me make it up to you, yeah?"

"If you ever--"

"I know, I know," Eames says. "I know, Arthur, and I really am sorry, but I'm alive, alright? Come on, come to bed, I want to see if it's still the same as it was when I left."

"It's not," Arthur informs him. "All those hookers really messed with the line of the sheets, couldn't be helped."

"Ah," Eames laughs, "how very tragic."

"So many hookers, Eames," Arthur says, letting Eames grab his hand and drag him toward the bedroom. "A whole parade of them. Hookers every night."

"And did you entertain these lovely guests before or after you had a wank in our kitchen?" Eames asks, endeavoring to sound genuinely curious. He mostly sounds thrilled. He's mostly sounded thrilled since he walked in the door.

"Before," Arthur decides.

"Oh?"

"Well, they didn't really compare," Arthur murmurs, as Eames pushes him down onto the bed and kicks off his shoes.

"Arthur," Eames says, raising his eyebrows, "that may be the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

"Oh come on," Arthur says, smiling now, looking at Eames' face and not the agonized expanse of his skin, "I told you I liked you once."

"And I have cherished that hard-won admission," Eames says, clambering up on the bed and holding himself over Arthur on his elbows. "Through any number of long, lonely nights--"

"Can we," Arthur says, because he's caught sight of the yellow and black expanse of Eames' right shoulder, obviously dislocated at some point in the recent past, "can we not talk about Poland right now? I want to know, I just, I think I might actually murder you if you don't, uh. Give me a few minutes."

"Okay," Eames agrees, soft. "I can think of some other things we could do."

"Think less," Arthur advises. "Definitive actions, Eames."

It's advice he doesn't need to offer, because Eames is already undoing the buttons on Arthur's shirt. He peels it off, the undershirt after it, and then runs the pads of his fingers down Arthur's chest, staring.

"Christ," he says, reverent.

And Arthur would give him shit for it, he really would, if it weren't for what how good it feels to by lying on the bed with Eames above him. For three months he's hated this bed, has given in to his own ridiculousness and slept on the couch half the time to avoid it, because it felt empty and cold and fucking wrong. And now it's his again, shifting under their weight the way it always does, and in the morning it'll smell like both of them and the sheets will be tangled and that's so brilliant that it's hard to bear.

He reaches for Eames' pants, unzipping the flies and yanking at them until Eames laughs and kicks them the rest of the way off. His legs look better than his chest does by a fair margin, a large welt at the back of his thigh the only thing marring them.

"What happened here?" Arthur asks, touching it lightly. Eames hisses out a pained breath and tries to pretend that he hasn't.

"I thought you didn't want to talk about Poland," he says.

"Eames," Arthur says. Eames winces.

"Pellet gun," he admits.

"Jesus," Arthur says. "What the hell did they do to you?"

"Nothing I didn't do back," Eames says. "Only I did it better, and worse."

"I would hope so," Arthur murmurs. Eames settles down on top of him and Arthur can't help but sigh. "Fuck, you're thin. How much weight--"

"Almost two stone," Eames says, matching his sigh. "Don't look at me like that, darling, the food didn't agree with me."

"That's such bullshit."

"It's not like you're any better," Eames says, almost laughing as he traces the cavity of Arthur's stomach with his index finger. "I bet you haven't eaten a scrap of real food since I left."

"Hot Pockets are food," Arthur mutters, and Eames does laugh then.

"You," he says, pressing a kiss into the top of Arthur's shoulder, "are a right mess of a man."

"I am?" Arthur says. "Have you looked in the mirror lately?"

"No," Eames tells him. "Every time I do, this voice that sounds remarkably like yours starts in about what an idiot I am."

"Good to know I've made a lasting impression," Arthur says. He nudges Eames and Eames rolls off of him easily, landing on his side. Arthur scoots down a little and stares at Eames' chest, not even sure where to begin.

"Arthur," Eames says quietly.

"Shut up, Mr. Eames," Arthur replies, equally soft, and presses his lips against the darkest bruise.

Eames hisses, but it's not a pained sound. He shifts, and Arthur expects to feel a hand fisted in his hair, nails tracing a tingling line down his spine. Instead Eames fans his fingers and presses his palm between Arthur's shoulder blades, runs it up and down as Arthur picks a path across Eames' chest, getting to know each mottled stain.

"God, you're such a fucking disaster," he murmurs, when he gets to the cut. He traces the line of it with his tongue, just above the actual scab, careful not to press too hard.

"Well," Eames says, moving his fingers to drum lightly against the back of Arthur's neck.

"Well?" Arthur prompts.

"I forgot my follow up," Eames admits, quiet. "It's just nice to see you down there, darling, that's all."

Arthur rolls his eyes but doesn't stop, and Eames smiles down at him. He reaches out, presumably for a pillow, and then his brow creases when he fails to find one.

"Didn't this bed used to have two pillows?" he asks.

"Ah," Arthur says, flushing, "well, yes."

"And now there is only one," Eames says, raising an eyebrow. "Did bandits make off with the other?"

"Yes," Arthur mutters. "Or I sent it out for cleaning. Or--"

"You've been sleeping on the couch," Eames realizes. "Oh, Arthur--"

"Don't," Arthur says, "don't start, it's just--you know, there's an outlet out there, so I could fall asleep working, it wasn't…don't get all--"

"I love you," Eames breathes. "Have I mentioned that yet? Have I mentioned what complete shit it was to be trapped in that bloody country without you? Because it was, it was such shit--"

"I can see that," Arthur says, his lips pressed up against a line of what look like finger bruises. He's been able to mostly piece together what happened based on the trail of marks--Eames was punched here and here and here, grabbed round the waist and thrown, and there's something that looks remarkably like it was left by a steel-toed boot.

"Not that part," Eames says. "I mean, that part too, don't get me wrong, I could have lived without it--but our point couldn't find his arse with both hands and Libman is just as much of a cocksucker as I remembered, and do you know how much more efficient than me you are in an airport?"

"Yes, actually," Arthur laughs. "Some of us don't get distracted by the tacky gift shops."

"Careful, or I won't give you any of the souvenirs I brought you," Eames warns. "Especially not that one from the bus depot in Mexico."

"How did you end up in--"

"Long story," Eames sighs. "You're also better at remembering which aliases have arrest records. And I'll need a new cell phone."

"That explains why you didn't call," Arthur says. And really, he'd be content to just lie here and touch, remind himself that he can, that this is real, except that he's hard already and he's gone three months without and Eames' erection is tenting his boxers. Arthur runs his hand along the line of it over the fabric and Eames shudders.

"Did you want to--"

"Yes," Eames says, "oh, Christ, yes, Arthur, get up here."

Arthur goes. Eames kisses him and reaches around behind him, opening the nightstand drawer and fishing around for a minute. He pulls back with a bottle of lube that Arthur takes from him, opening it as Eames undoes his pants, strips him down.

When he's naked, Arthur grabs Eames by the wrist, runs a line of the lube up the inside of his middle finger and rubs, slicking most of his hand. Eames smiles against his lips and kisses him again, a little harder, with a little more purpose, as he reaches around and slides his index finger in.

"Wow," Eames murmurs. "You're a little tight, love."

"It's been three months, of course I'm tight," Arthur growls.

"And here I'd been imagining you doing this to yourself," Eames purrs. "Got me through a couple of rough spots, that."

"I did," Arthur admits. "In your office, after work one night."

"Really," Eames says, voice ragged. "You couldn't have told me about that while I was abroad?"

"That was during the week you couldn't talk," Arthur says. "Although if I'd known it was because you were being fucking tortured, I might have made more of an effort."

"I wasn't tortured," Eames protests. "Or, you know, a little I was, since you were apparently finger fucking yourself in my office and holding back the details--"

"Pervert," Arthur says, hissing as Eames slides a second finger in. "I--oh, shit, Eames, shit, that feels--"

"You could tell me about it now," Eames suggests. "As I'm clearly owed the story."

"You were," Arthur says, grinding down onto Eames' hand, "you'd--there was a thing at work, and this guy who...who used to know you--oh, god, is that four?"

"Keep talking, pet," Eames advises, spreading them very slightly. "I'm a little busy here. Which of my former acquaintances did you chance across?"

"Jeremy," Arthur growls.

"Oh," Eames says, chuckling. "He's a cocky little thing, isn't he? I'm sorry I missed him, he was always good for a laugh."

"Made it sound like he was--fuck--like he was good for a little more than that," Arthur groans. "Couldn't stop talking about your fucking heyday."

"That's just Jeremy, love," Eames murmurs. "He's been a kept man for some time, I assure you."

"Pissed me off," Arthur gasps, because Eames has his fingers spread wide now and it's been a long goddamn time. "Couldn't stop fucking thinking about it--"

"Wait," Eames says. "Wait just one minute. You're telling me that you brought yourself off, in my office, with your fingers up your arse, because you were jealous?"

"I wouldn't--call it--jealousy," Arthur hedges, breathing hard. "I'd call it--professional--irritation."

"Christ, Arthur," Eames says, suddenly breathless, "I hope you're ready, because I'm pretty sure I have to fuck you now."

"Not objecting," Arthur manages. "Condoms are--"

"I know where the bloody condoms are, darling, I live here," Eames murmurs, pulling his fingers out and reaching around to the drawer.

"Fuck yes you do," Arthur hisses. He takes the condom from him and tears it open, rolls it onto Eames' dick with quick fingers. Eames moves, balancing himself over Arthur, and Arthur angles his hips up and lets him slide in.

"Oh," Eames gasps, "oh, Arthur, bloody buggering fuck, you feel amazing--"

"God, I thought--I thought I was going to lose my shit, that stupid little fuck wandering around the warehouse asking about you, and I hadn't seen you in months--"

"Christ," say Eames. He pulls backs slowly and drives in again, tantalizing, the edge of his cock just grazing Arthur's prostate. Arthur reaches down and fists his own cock, pulling a little, until Eames knocks his hand away. "You just--you just keep talking, let me--"

"I just wanted to," Arthur says, as Eames takes him in hand and begins to work him up and down, "I just wanted to--to fucking--and I couldn't, I fucking couldn't and the little shit even kind of sounds like you and I couldn't talk to you and, and your office chair--"

"Oh, god, Arthur," Eames moans. "I just--"

"I missed you," Arthur says, a little desperate. "I missed you, okay, and I--Jesus, I'd forgotten how good you feel, you feel so fucking good."

Eames doesn't answer, just leans down to press a kiss into his collarbone, to mouth his way up Arthur's neck. He's still moving slowly, and Arthur isn't sure if it's a function of the moment or the fact that he's clearly exhausted or both, but it doesn't matter. Arthur doesn't even really care if he comes, because sensation of Eames' hand on his dick, Eames moving within him, is as heady a rush as he's ever felt in his life.

Eames' arm is starting to shake a little from holding his own weight, which makes Arthur want to kill something. He snarls from the back of his throat, but his hands are gentle when he pulls Eames down against him. Eames exhales hard at the pressure anyway.

"When we're done fucking," Arthur chokes out, "I am going to kill you."

"For not--for not telling you?" Eames asks. "Darling, I really am sorry--"

"No, asshole," Arthur snaps, cutting the harshness of his tone by palming Eames' jaw and tilting his hips up for a better angle. "Not for--not for that, for getting hurt."

"Rather defeats your purpose," Eames murmurs, and Arthur clenches around him, mostly to see if he'll still flush bright red and gasp. He does.

"But I'll feel so much better," Arthur protests. The end of it comes out in a whine, because Eames has responded to his act of treachery with one of his own, and is pressing the pad of his thumb against Arthur's slit.

Eames laughs, breathy, against Arthur's neck. "Shhh, love, I'm trying to--oh, Christ--I'm trying to focus here."

Arthur hums out a soft sound, which was intended to communicate irritation but registers as soft and fond instead. He quiets, and Eames strokes into him gently, pulling at his cock as Arthur traces the contours of his back.

Eames won't stop looking at him, has pushed up on his arm again to get a better view, his gaze sharp and tender all at once. And Arthur can't stop touching, can't resist the urge to press them together as many places as possible, because Eames is too skinny and he looks like shit but he's here, he's actually fucking here.

Eames breaks first, dropping his head onto Arthur's chest and shaking through it, gasping Arthur's name. Then he slides down and sucks Arthur the rest of the way off, slow and easy, like he's enjoying himself. Arthur arches up off the sheets when he comes, and Eames makes a small, pleased noise and swallows, lapping at him until he's more than finished.

"Eames," Arthur breathes.

"That's what they call me," Eames murmurs, moving back up to the top of the bed. He noses his face into Arthur's neck without being prompted, stretching out gingerly against him, which is just as well--Arthur was going to force him into that position if he had to, and it's a relief to know he's not going to bother attempting to protest it.

"You have to be completely wiped," Arthur says, trailing a fingertip down the bruises marring Eames' shoulder blade. He shudders, very slightly.

"You've no idea," he replies, yawning hugely to bely the point. "You know how I am in strange beds. Haven't sleep properly since I left."

"I meant because of the whole travel nightmare," Arthur says, "but yeah, that too."

"Kipped out a little on the plane," Eames offers softly. His breathing is already starting to even out, and Arthur lets his fingers slip into Eames' hair, carding through it. "Christ, I hurt everywhere."

"I knew something was wrong," Arthur admits, very quiet. "With you, I mean. In Poland. I would have come if I'd know what, I would have burned shit down, but I could…I could tell, and I didn't--"

"Oh, don't you dare," Eames sighs. "I went out of my way to keep you from knowing because I didn't want you to come. You can't blame yourself for this, Arthur, that's ridiculous."

"You're--"

"A wreck, yes," Eames murmurs. "But I'll heal, love, that's what people do. 'S not your fault."

"I don't want you to take jobs without me anymore," Arthur whispers, and freezes. He can't believe he said that--partially because he hadn't known it was true until it came out of his mouth and partially because it's a completely unfair thing to ask, because it's demanding and overbearing and--

"Believe me, I don't intend to," Eames says, laughing softly. "I'd forgotten what it was like to work with a shit point man, but it's not an experience I'd care to repeat. And we certainly don't need the money."

"We really, really don't," Arthur sighs. He's not sure if Eames knows how much they don't--Arthur has a habit of using the intel they gain on jobs to do some mild insider trading. "But, look, I shouldn't have asked that--"

"Shut up," Eames says easily, his voice drowsy and lilting. "I'd never have worked with another point, whether you'd asked or not. It's not safe--I'm so used to you that it didn't even occur to me that he could have left me blindsided like that."

"Well, only a fucking idiot misses a physical enemy presence," Arthur growls. Eames laughs.

"They're all idiots in comparison."

"That's because I'm the best," Arthur reminds him. It's not ego--it's just true.

"Thus my point," says Eames, shifting slightly. "No reason to soldier on with inferior beings when I've got you at my beck and call, is there?"

"I object to being referred to as 'at your beck and call,'" Arthur says, but he's smiling. He catches sight of the clock out of the corner of his eye, and his smile deepens a little. "Hey, happy birthday."

"Already?" Eames murmurs. "I thought I had hours."

"That's the jet lag talking."

"I did forget to ask what on earth my present did to offend you so badly," he continues. "Honestly, darling, all those wires--"

"That thing is an evil demon from hell," Arthur says darkly. "I wash my hands of it. If you want it, you can set it up yourself."

"Mmmkay," Eames yawns. "Thanks, though, I'm sure it'll be lovely when it's not in its death throes. Tomorrow, yeah?"

"Yeah," Arthur agrees. "Definitely tomorrow. Go to sleep, Eames, I'm tired just looking at you."

Eames doesn't reply, just throws an arm over Arthur's waist and sighs, content. Arthur hasn't stopped carding his fingers through Eames' hair and sees no reason to discontinue now, so he keeps doing it until Eames' breathing is deep and steady, until he's snoring like a fucking bellows.

Arthur closes his eyes and drifts on the sound until he falls asleep himself.

--

Circumstance being what it is (need to stay close in the wake of drawn out separation being what it is), it's almost two weeks after Eames' return from Poland before he takes the Lotus out. He coos at it in the garage, murmuring about how he's missed her fine handling and the feel of her underneath him.

"Should I be jealous here?" Arthur asks, the corner of his mouth quirking, as he unlocks the Audi and tosses his briefcase onto the passenger seat.

"She should be jealous," Eames corrects. "She and I have been together longer."

"You disturb me more than you know," Arthur says, rolling his eyes. Eames just smirks and comes around to him, pushing him against the car and kissing him soundly.

"It's okay, darling," he says. "There's plenty of me to go around."

"It is too early for this kind of ridiculousness," Arthur says, but he's laughing. Eames is still far too thin--he's going to be for awhile, which is something Arthur is coming to accept--but his various bruises are yellowed and fading, and his cuts are healing up nicely. Arthur is beginning to feel less like committing murder every time he lays eyes on him.

"You've got that meeting tonight, yeah?" Eames asks, releasing him.

"Yeah," Arthur sighs. "Dinner with Cobb and a new client, should be thrilling. You?"

"I'm still trying to get a line on Arrington's brother," he sighs. "The bastard is impossible to get close to, but he's the only forge that'll work. And then I think I'll go to the grocery, if only because the state of the fridge is disheartening."

"Cinnamon Toast Crunch," Arthur says firmly. "And beer, if you think of it."

"I find the sugar cereal habit you've developed mildly appalling," Eames tells him. Arthur grins.

"Well, it was that or try to cook myself breakfast--"

"I find the sugar cereal habit you've developed very wise," Eames says quickly. "Very wise. Please ignore my previous statement, I was not in possession of all the facts."

"Bastard," Arthur says lightly. "See you tonight?"

"Mmm, yeah," Eames agrees, and he pulls Arthur in for one last kiss before they both get into their cars.

Arthur has shit to do, because he's spent two weeks in the warehouse or at his house, and he had his reasons, but somethings things require a more personal touch. He traipses all over LA, harassing contacts and sussing out new information threads and checking over three potential grab points for their latest mark. He also does some basic background work on the film executive that's somehow tracked Cobb down and set up this meeting tonight, because it pays to be prepared.

The restaurant they go to is an exclusive little sushi place in Hollywood; Arthur orders for himself in flawless Japanese, which makes the potential client raise his eyebrows. He pitches them his idea--he's trying to figure out whether or not his new business partner is trying to screw him out of a life-rights picture deal--and they've already agreed to work with him when Arthur's phone buzzes.

There was a time in his life where it would not have occurred to Arthur to answer it. Now, it doesn't occur to him not to.

"Hey," he picks up, making an apologetic face at Cobb and the client, "I'm in that meeting, what's--"

"Bloody buggering fucking shit," Eames snarls. He sounds far away, like he's holding the phone open waiting for it to ring through.

"What?"

"Arthur?" Eames says, sounding much closer. "Oh, thank Christ. Look, sorry, I know you're in a meeting--"

"What happened?" Arthur asks. Eames sighs and swears again.

"The bloody Lotus," he growls. "Did you drive her at all while I was gone?"

"No," Arthur says, because he hadn't. He loves that car, it handles like a fucking dream, but it's Eames' car. Driving it had felt…wrong.

"Well," Eames says, sounding irritated as all fuck, "apparently sitting in the garage for three months didn't agree with her, because she won't bloody start, and I am having a completely shit day, and I'm sorry to interrupt your meeting but I can't get the internet to work on my sodding phone and Beatrice was uncooperative and Araidne and Yusuf didn't pick up and I've got three hundred dollars worth of groceries sitting in the fucking boot and I can't get my hands on the number for a bloody tow."

"Ah," Arthur says. He signals to the waiter and mouths the word 'box,' gesturing with his hands to drive home the point.

"So if you could just--do whatever it is you do and get someone out here, send anyone, I don't care, I may just need a jump but you have the damn cables and it certainly isn't anything else I can suss out, I'm covered in bloody motor oil and--"

"Where are you?" Arthur interrupts, as the waiter comes back with a box. He holds the phone to the ear with his shoulder and starts packing up his dinner.

"The Bristol on Fair Oaks," Eames says. "And again, darling, I'm sorry, but I've smoked seven bloody fags and now I'm out and the store's just closed and I need--"

"I'm on it," Arthur says, smiling slightly. He wonders if this is how Eames feels when he goes off on one--this combination of pity and amusement. "Relax, okay? Shouldn't be more than twenty minutes."

"Thank you," Eames says fervently.

"Anytime," Arthur says. "Bye."

Remembering belatedly that he is, in fact, in the middle of a fucking business meeting, he glances up from the box he's filled with sushi. Cobb is hiding a smile behind his hand and the client in out and out grinning at him, his dinner forgotten.

"Problems at home?" he asks.

"Yeah," Arthur says, "sorry, yeah, my, uh--" he pauses, thinks of London and Oyster Bay and three empty months, and continues, "partner's car broke down. I have to go, I really do apologize--"

"Not at all," the client says warmly. "It's actually nice, to see a human side to you guys. If I was prepared to hire you before, I'm sure now."

"I can finish up here," Cobb adds. "If it's the Lotus that's busted, I'm sure he's having a conniption."

"That's about the gist of it," Arthur says, quirking a small smile. "Thanks, Dom."

"Don't mention it," Cobb says. Arthur thinks that it's entirely possible he'd have been an ass about it if this had happened a few months ago, but everyone's changed a little in the wake of Eames' return. Ariadne had looked like she was going to cry, the first time she saw him.

Arthur picks up his box, throws enough cash down to cover everyone's dinner, waves off the protests this action produces and goes out to his car. He stops on the way to buy a pack of cigarettes, because he knows Eames well enough to know he'll want them, and still makes it clear across town in 22 minutes flat.

Eames is leaning against the Lotus, flipping his poker chip across his knuckles. He's in jeans and an undershirt, the hideous paisley of that morning clearly abandoned at some point along the way, and he is indeed streaked with motor oil. Between this and the bruises and the cut on his cheek, he looks like a mechanic in a shitty b-movie.

The irony of this, considering the situation, is not lost on Arthur. He's grinning when he takes off his jacket and gets out of the car.

"Arthur," Eames says, raising his eyebrows. "What are you doing here? Not that it isn't lovely to see you, but I assumed you'd just send the tow."

"Seemed silly, considering," Arthur replies, shrugging. "If it needs more than a jump I'll call Triple A."

"Triple--darling, do we have an auto insurance policy?"

"Of course," Arthur says, biting back a laugh when Eames stares at him incredulously. "You have American health insurance, too. Surprise."

"That information might have been useful before my bloody car broke down," Eames mutters, obviously still nursing his bad mood. Arthur rolls his eyes.

"I brought you sushi," he says, grabbing the jumper cables from the backseat. "Whine less, eat more. I'll deal with the car."

Eames looks like he's contemplating arguing for argument's sake for a minute. Then he sighs and gives Arthur a grudging half smile. He rescues the box of sushi from the passenger seat and sits down on the trunk of Arthur's car, making appreciative noises as he works his way through it. Arthur flips both hoods and hooks their batteries together. He starts the Audi, lets it run for a minute, and then slides into the front seat of the Lotus, turning the key.

It jumps to life under his hands, and he smiles.

"Traitor," Eames mutters, as Arthur gets out of the car and walks back to him.

"Maybe she's just tired of watching you cheat," Arthur says, grinning, alluding to their conversation that morning. Eames doesn't even crack a smile, and Arthur's own expression slips.

"You want to tell me why you're in such a foul mood?"

"It's idiotic," Eames says at once. "It's completely idiotic."

Arthur fishes the pack of cigarettes he'd stopped for out of his pocket and tosses them over. "Well, we've got to let this run for couple of minutes before you drive it anyway. Try me."

"It's just been a long day," Eames sighs. "I'm no further on the Arrington thing, which is just bloody frustrating, because there's only so long I can tail the stupid bastard before he starts noticing me, but he's got no fucking personality and he barely speaks and how the hell am I supposed base a forgery on that?"

"Hmm," Arthur says. He leans against the car next to where Eames is sitting as Eames pauses to light his smoke. "I'm sure you'll figure it out. We've got a few more weeks, anyway."

"I know, I just," Eames says, scrubbing a hand over his face. "When he went back home I fucked off to grab dinner with Ari and she wanted piergoi, and so we went to that Polish place by her apartment and as it turns out I can't actually eat that anymore, even the bloody awful half-assed version you can get here, so that was pleasant. And then she felt bad, which was even worse, and the smell of it just--reminds me, and I can't get it off of me, I took a shower and I still smell of it and my bloody shirts don't fit right and the clerks in the grocery don't recognize me anymore and I can't tell if it's because I was gone so long or if I honestly look that different and I hate it, Arthur, I fucking hate it."

"What part of that was supposed to be idiotic?" Arthur asks quietly. He's moved, he realizes--he's standing between Eames' legs, one hand curled in the hem of his shirt, the other on his face. He doesn't remember doing that, but the weight of his totem in his pocket hasn't changed, and since he's already here he might as well run his thumb lightly across Eames' cheek.

Eames won't meet his eyes. "All of it," he mutters. "It's--there's no point in letting it get to me, is there, and I really am happy to be back--I don't want you to think that I'm not--"

"That's not what I think," Arthur says. "That's not even what you said, asshole, come on, give me a little credit."

Eames closes his eyes and turns into Arthur's hand a little, letting the cigarette slip from his fingers. "I just hate feeling like this," he admits. "Like everyone's pitying me."

Arthur kisses him then, because he cannot begin to consider restraining himself. He just draws Eames forward and breathes it into his mouth, all the things he hasn't the faintest idea how to say. Most of them boil down to I am still ridiculously glad that you are alive, but Arthur's not sure if that would be the right thing here. He's never really quite sure of the right thing, honestly, but he tries his best, and he's begun to notice that it generally works out okay.

Eames is slow to respond, but Arthur keeps pushing, and eventually he lets out a breath and puts his hands on Arthur's shoulders. He draws Arthur's lower lip in with his teeth and scrapes it gently, sucking at it as he hooks his leg around Arthur and drags him closer.

"I recognize you," Arthur points out, pulling back far enough to speak but not so far that he's out of immediate reach of Eames' mouth. Eames takes advantage of this and kisses him again, slow and soft, breathing hard through his nose. "And your life would have to be a lot harder to make me pity you, you stupid shit."

Eames actually smiles then, a proper smile, his eyes crinkling at the corners. He's almost definitely getting motor oil on Arthur's shirt, but Arthur's never liked this shirt that much anyway, so it's not really a problem.

"I honestly didn't mean to pull you out of your meeting," he says. "You really could have stayed."

"Cobb can handle it," Arthur says, shrugging. "I wasn't needed, and I heard somewhere that you were having a shitty day."

"Did you now," Eames murmurs. He buries his head in Arthur's neck for a second and draws in a deep breath, and Arthur grips the hem of his shirt too tight when he realizes that Eames is taking in the way he smells, is trying to vanquish the memories of torture that he hasn't been able to shake.

"Let's go home," he says. "You take my car, I'll follow in yours."

"I am perfectly capable of driving my own car," Eames says, without moving his face an inch.

"But she's clearly angry with you," Arthur offers. He doesn't add that it's probably the car that's holding onto the scent he can't handle right now, because he's sure Eames has pieced that together, and it's not pity, it's really, really not. It's just that there's no reason for Eames to fucking torture himself, and Arthur is going to kill Ariadne for not thinking that through. "Also, I drive her better than you do."

"Okay," Eames agrees, after a pause short enough to betray how badly shaken he is. "It's been ages since I drove the Audi, anyway."

"Try not to get motor oil on the upholstery," Arthur says, rolling his eyes.

"Your shirt seems to have gotten most of it," Eames says, pulling back and looking him over. "My apologies."

Arthur shrugs again, lets Eames brace himself on his shoulder and hop off the car. They unhook the battery cables and Arthur pulls out of the parking lot first, because he'd rather have Eames tailing him to notice if the battery cuts out on the drive. It doesn't, though, and when they get home Eames takes his second shower of the night, Arthur pressed in behind him.

--

They have dinner at Cobb's house, because it's something they've just started…doing. Arthur isn't sure how or when it began, but the whole team gathers there at least once a week now, usually to watch Cobb grill things while the kids shriek with laughter. It should be weird--he and Eames had known Cobb before Mal happened, and Ariadne and Yusuf hadn't, and both sides of that equation should make the whole thing awkward.

It isn't, though. Instead it's…fun, calming even. Arthur standing with Cobb as he grills steaks and shrimp skewers, chatting with him idly about the new client, while Ariadne helps James rebuild the sand castle he accidentally knocked down. Yusuf and Eames are playing with Phillipa, who is currently on Eames' shoulders.

"This is nice," Cobb says, grinning almost shyly at him.

"You say that every week," says Arthur, laughing. "What are you, afraid we're not going to come back?"

"Don't mock a man for his unreasonable fears," Cobb says, lightly enough. Then: "Eames is looking better."

Arthur glances over at him. It's been a month now, and his face is starting to lose some of that hollowed-out look. His bruises have faded entirely, except for that really persistent one under his shirt, and he's gaining weight--slowly, but he's gaining it. Phillipa is yanking on his hair, and he's grinning.

He sees Arthur looking, ratchets his grin up a notch, and says "Wave to your Uncle Arthur, sprog."

Phillipa grins and waves. Arthur returns both in kind.

"Is she doing better with the kids at school?" he asks Cobb when they've turned around. "I know you were worried about that one girl--"

"Apparently they're best friends now," Cobb says, rolling his eyes. "I'm wondering when is too young to start telling her to go to Araidne with this kind of thing. Even women under the age of ten are incomprehensible to me."

"You're not bad with women," Arthur protests. "You'd never have landed Mal if you were."

He fights the urge to tense up after he says it, because he's not sure--he's not sure if Dom's in a place yet to talk about her without it hurting, if he'll ever be in that place . But after a second he smiles, wistful but not pained.

"Mal had terrible taste in men," he says, flipping one of the steaks. "It was practically public record."

Arthur laughs. "She used to say mine was worse."

"Well, it's not like that's hard," Cobb says, looking pointedly at where Eames is holding Phillipa upside down. He raises his voice and calls out, "Hey, careful with that!"

"Sorry!" Eames calls back, not sounding sorry at all.

"My point," Cobb says.

"Yeah, he's pretty terrible," Arthur agrees, and if he's grinning a mile wide, Cobb is good enough not to mention it.

"She'd be glad to see you guys together," Cobb admits. "It used to drive her crazy, watching you dance around."

Arthur remembers. She'd pushed hard for them, pushed Arthur to get off his ass and do something about feelings he'd only admitted to her. He wishes, with the dull pang of a wound that's mostly healed over, that she'd lived to see them work their shit out.

"Do you ever think about," Arthur says, instead of any of this, but he stops himself from finishing the thought. Cobb smiles anyway.

"Getting back out there?" he asks. "Yeah, sometimes. When the kids are a little older, I think. I'm pretty happy as I am for now, but…someday, maybe. I think she'd have wanted that."

"Yeah," Arthur says. "Yeah, she would have. I'm glad you're happy, though."

Cobb looks out at the yard--at James and Ariadne, at Phillipa, who is now running back and forth between Yusuf and Eames, apparently playing some variant on tag.

"I am," he says, and sounds like he means it.

Arthur would continue that line of thought, but he hears Eames say "Hold on, Philly, my mobile's ringing."

"Uncle Arthur!" Phillipa yells, aggrieved. "You said you'd make him stop calling me that!"

"Stop calling her that, Eames," Arthur says obediently. Eames nods, distracted, peering down at his phone with his brow furrowed in confusion.

"Hullo?" he says, answering it. He's silent for a second, and then his face changes; it's shock or something like it. "You're kidding. Are you okay?"

Another long pause. Then: "Well, of course we're not going to sue you--yes I know this is Los Angeles, lovely, but honestly, we're not--no, no, please, that's not--yes. Yes, we'll be right there, thank you for calling."

He crosses the yard quickly. Arthur raises his eyebrows.

"Sorry, love," he says, "but we've got to go."

"Who was that?"

"Mrs. Hugener, next door," Eames says. He pinches the bridge of his nose and Arthur narrows his eyes, concerned.

"Your neighbors have you cell numbers?" Ariadne asks, walking over and sounding amused.

"We let her dog out when she goes out of town," Arthur says distractedly. "What happened?"

"Well," Eames sighs, "you remember the black walnut in her driveway?"

"The one with the rot damage I've been trying to tell her about for a year?" Arthur asks, feeling dread well up in his stomach. "Oh, god, tell me it didn't--"

"She backed into it with her car," Eames says, "which was apparently the fatal blow."

"Is she alright?" Arthur says, because he has to ask that question, even if he does know full well what's coming.

"She's fine," Eames replies. "Our bedroom ceiling, however--"

"Oh, fuck," Arthur says, and then remembers the kids and says, "shit, sorry--sorry."

"It's fine," Cobb says. "They didn't hear you. We'll see you guys later?"

"I guess so," Arthur says, already headed for the car, Eames hot on his heels.

"Good luck!" Yusuf calls.

"Call if you need anything," Cobb adds.

"Thanks!" Eames yells back, clicking the button to unlock the doors. They're down the driveway and speeding home in the next minute.

--

"I just," Arthur says, standing in their bedroom door and staring. "I mean, really, what."

The tree has gone clean through their ceiling and is currently protruding several feet into their bedroom, where, among other things, it clashes horribly with the decor. These are the kinds of things Arthur is thinking right now: that tree doesn't go well with the wallpaper. That tree is going to seriously fuck with my morning routine. Eames is not going to appreciate it when that tree pokes him in the ass mid-coitus.

The overwhelming thought, of course, is There is a motherfucking tree in my motherfucking house, but Arthur has rehashed it so many times already that it's beginning to feel a bit redundant.

"Not doing anything for the overall look of the place, is it," Eames murmurs behind him. He steps in and wraps his arms around Arthur's waist, and Arthur leans back into him, still staring.

"Not particularly, no," he says faintly, because what the hell else do you say?

Eames is silent for a minute. Then Arthur hears him make a small noise, and he twists his head around a little and discovers that the bastard is stifling laughter.

"What the hell is so funny?" Arthur demands.

"The joys of home ownership," Eames snickers. Arthur stares at him, agape, for maybe fifteen seconds, and then Eames lets out an actual howl of mirth and drops his forehead onto Arthur's shoulder, shaking with it.

After a second, Arthur is laughing too. It is, all things considered, pretty fucking hilarious.

"Tree," Eames gasps, "in our fucking bedroom, how is this reality--"

"I checked already," Arthur tells him, trying to breathe through his own amusement. This just sets Eames off further, and he points at the bedroom and guffaws, apparently too far gone to even form sentences.

"I'm going to have to--contractors--" Arthur tries.

"How will we sleep?" Eames puts in. "We'll have to--oh god, the warehouse, lawnchairs."

"Help me get the mattress out here, come on," Arthur manages. He's still chuckling and Eames' face is bright red, but they wrestle it out into the living room and drop it on the floor.

They stare at each other over it for a second, breathing hard. Then both of them move at once.

"Couch," Arthur gasps into Eames' mouth, "couch, there could be--bugs on the fucking sheets, I'll have to--"

"Couch," Eames agrees, letting Arthur push him back into the brown leather expanse of it. "Completely bloody ridiculous, can't believe--"

"I know," Arthur says, his hands roving to undo Eames' belt, "I fucking know, what the fuck."

"At least we weren't in there," Eames points out, his breath hitching. "That would have been jarring."

"Oh my god, can you imagine, if we'd been fucking--"

Eames lets out a peal of hysterical laughter again. "That might have been worth it for the look on your face--"

"Oh, fuck you," Arthur says, good-naturedly enough.

"That could be--"

"No," Arthur says, "no, screw that, I'm in the mood to--"

"Well by all means," Eames says, gesturing. Arthur slides down low onto the floor and pulls Eames' dick out of his boxers. He gives him a quick, messy blow-job, the kind of blow-job you give when your house has been hit by a tree and you need to work off some steam. When he comes, hot and sticky down Arthur's throat, Eames growls and pushes Arthur back onto the floor, leaving him spread-eagled across it while he receives the same treatment.

"Potato bug," Arthur chokes out, appalled and a minute away from coming, when he sees one out of the corner of his eye.

Eames pulls away from him and raises an eyebrow. His lips are swollen, and Arthur is so hard he could almost come just from looking at them. "That is not the endearment I would have chosen to start out with, pet."

"What?" Arthur asks, taking a second to catch on. "Oh--oh god, Eames, no, ew, I saw one, don't be stupid. Why the fuck have you stopped--"

Eames grins at him and rolls his eyes, bending down to finish him off. After he's swallowed he pushes himself up just enough to rest his head on Arthur's stomach, licking his lips. Almost unconsciously, Arthur's hand drifts down into his hair. He rubs absently, coming down from his orgasm.

"Well," Eames says after a minute, "I don't know about you, but I feel considerably better."

"Yeah," Arthur laughs, "yeah, right there with you. Fuck, I have to find us a contractor."

"We might as well change the wallpaper in there, while we've got a crew in," Eames says. "It's starting to peel under the window."

"I thought maybe we'd get a skylight put in too," Arthur murmurs. "Ceiling's fucked to shit anyway, and I've always kind of wanted one."

"We could just leave the hole," Eames suggests, laughing. Arthur grins and yanks on his hair a little.

"Very helpful," he sighs. Eames kisses him, pressing his lips against the exposed patch of skin where Arthur's untucked shirt had ridden up.

"We should probably get up," he says.

"Yeah," Arthur agrees. "In a minute."

"Mmm, okay."

They lay there like that for a bit and then Arthur sighs and pushes himself up on his arm. "Okay, okay, get off. I've got to start tracking on this if we want our bedroom back any time soon."

"Spoilsport," Eames says lightly, but he rolls off and stands, dragging Arthur up with him. "You want dinner?"

"Assuming our fucking kitchen hasn't blown up," Arthur mutters. Eames laughs.

"Well, you haven't set foot in there today, so I imagine we're probably safe." He kisses Arthur at the corner of his mouth and ambles away, and Arthur goes into his office and starts making calls.

He's got a lead on someone reliable when Eames comes in, hands him a plate, listens to his end of the conversation for a second, and leaves again, making a number of hand gestures that mean "Don't hang up, it's fine." It's almost another hour before Arthur's got everything in place--a contractor with a good reputation, a loose estimate that's subject to change once he's actually seen the damage, and a lot of flack for calling so late.

When he comes back out into the living room, he discovers that Eames has changed the sheets on the mattress and angled it so it's facing the television. He's also stripped down to his boxers, and is sprawled out on top of the blankets, watching a movie. He looks like he's at least half asleep.

"It's not even ten," Arthur laughs, taking off his tie and starting in on the buttons of his shirt. "You're getting old."

"I'll have you know that a tree fell on my house today," Eames says, blinking blearily up at him. "Takes a lot out of man."

"I know how that is," Arthur deadpans. He slides out of his own pants and slips into bed. "Scoot over, and give up the remote."

"I like this movie," Eames protests.

"Uh-huh," says Arthur. "What movie is it?"

"…." says Eames. Then: "You know me far too well, darling."

"Isn't that the truth," Arthur sighs. He snatches the remote and flips through their DVR, which is always full, because they've both taken to recording things on absent whims when insomnia gets the better of them. "You recorded Van Helsing? Eames, what the hell."

"Did I really?" Eames says, glancing up. "Huh. Well, that'd be more embarrassing if I hadn't seen Thirteen Going on Thirty in the queue the other day."

"Ariadne did that!" Arthur snaps at once. She'd made him watch it with her, too, the shameless bitch. Arthur had wanted to gouge his eyes out.

"Mmmhmm," Eames laughs, putting his head back down. "Of course she did. And I imagine she was the driving force behind Love, Actually as well?"

"No, that one was me," Arthur admits. "It looked interesting."

"You know," Eames says, "there was a time when I actually found you mildly intimidating. I can't imagine why."

"I'm no less capable of killing you than I was when you met me," Arthur points out.

"No," Eames says cheerfully, "that's true, you're actually probably more skilled in the art of cold-blooded murder these days. It's just that now I know you wouldn't."

"Don't be so sure," Arthur warns, but he can't even muster a little bit of ire. Eames just laughs and throws an arm across him, his breath hot against the back of Arthur's neck.

"Pick something, darling," he says. "I'm dying of suspense over here."

Arthur rolls his eyes and settles on The Shawshank Redemption, which earns him a noise of quiet approval from Eames. And maybe they're both getting old, because Arthur drifts awake sometime later to the sound of Eames snoring lightly and a glowing blue screen.

He sighs, flicks the television off, and goes back to sleep.

--

Their contractor, Joey, promises them both that the project will take two weeks tops. Because of the basic rules of construction, it ends up taking five.

Arthur and Eames live like heathens throughout, ordering too much takeout and swearing at the various crew members who tramp through their living room while they're asleep. They spend three days sleeping in Cobb's guest bedroom just to remember what a real bed is like, and another two on Yusuf's futon by accident. Eames comes up with ridiculous names for each of the construction workers, and Arthur supervises their every move with such severity that they start calling him Stalin behind his back.

It's worth it, though, for the Thursday afternoon when Arthur hands over Joey's check and they clear out, leaving them to get to know their gaping-hole-free bedroom. The skylight pleases Arthur more than it really should, and allowing Eames to choose the wallpaper had not, in fact, been as drastic a mistake as Arthur had feared. They'd had new light fixtures put in too, and they spend most of Friday morning and all of Friday night taking advantage of their re-discovered privacy.

They wake up late on Saturday morning, yawning and lazy. Arthur's still pleasantly sore from the previous evening and Eames has a series of bite marks running down his chest, which he grins down at delightedly.

"You're a filthy slut," he tells Arthur cheerily. When Arthur doesn't reply, he adds, "Also, I'm going to get a glass of water."

"Mmmph," Arthur responds, because he's not really awake yet.

Eames gets up, and Arthur considers going back to sleep. He's thirsty, though, so he decides to hold on that until Eames comes back with the water. He can steal some and then sleep. Plan. Yes.

However, Eames is gone for what feels like an inordinate amount of time. Arthur scowls sleepily at nothing, figures Fuck it, and closes his eyes.

Of course, this is when Eames calls out "Darling, can you come in here for a second?"

Arthur pops an eye open, glares at the wall, and seriously considers ignoring him. He decides against that, though, and sighs, dragging himself upright. He's naked, so he grabs a towel and wraps it around his waist. He tries tucking it in place, but it doesn't want to stay, and Arthur's maybe 80% sure that that's because his hands aren't exactly working right just yet. He ends up just holding it and shuffling into the kitchen, bleary-eyed.

Eames is standing at the sink, staring at it with his head cocked.

"What," Arthur mumbles. "What'm I looking at?"

Eames turns around, and the puzzled expression on his face morphs quickly into soft amusement. He looks like he's trying very hard not to laugh.

"Oh, love," he says, "you're really not at your best in the mornings, are you?"

"Knew that," Arthur mutters. Eames comes over to him and runs a hand through his hair, and Arthur realizes belatedly that it's probably sticking up everywhere. He ducks his head a little and lets Eames do whatever he's doing, because it feels good and he's tired.

"Good morning," Eames says, tilting his chin up and kissing him lightly. "Think you can spare some higher brain function for a small housekeeping problem?"

Arthur yawns. "Yeah, 'kay," he murmurs. "What?"

Eames steps over to the sink. With a flourish, he reaches out and turns the tap.

Nothing happens.

"There's," Arthur says, "there should be water coming out of that."

"You are brilliant," Eames laughs.

"I--coffee," Arthur mumbles. "Can there be coffee?"

"There can indeed be coffee," Eames says. He takes the pot into the bathroom and fills it from the tap in there, and Arthur sits down on the counter and leans his head against on of their cabinets, maybe drifting off a little. Eames comes back and makes the coffee, drumming his fingers lightly against Arthur's thigh until it's done. He fills a mug and hands it over, and Arthur takes several long, scorching sips.

"Mmm," he says, blinking as the taste of it hits him. "'S good, thanks."

"Any time," Eames says easily, pouring a cup for himself and adding sugar. "Can we talk about the sink now?"

"You think it's busted?"

"Well," Eames drawls, "it's certainly not performing the function for which it was designed."

"Fuck," Arthur says, hopping off the counter. "Can you fix it?"

"I was hoping you could," Eames says. "I really don't want--"

"Anyone else in here for at least a week, yeah, me neither," Arthur sighs. "Why is everything breaking lately? Did you incur some kind of ancient curse in Poland?"

"I think that's the only thing I didn't do in Poland," Eames says, smiling faintly. "Maybe someone's got it out for you. You did threaten that barista at Starbucks last week."

"She put soy milk in my coffee," Arthur protests. "She deserved it."

"Be that as it may," Eames says, "we're still out a working sink."

"I seriously would rather go all week without water than call a fucking plumber," Arthur mutters.

"I quite agree," Eames says. "We could always try fixing it ourselves. We're able-bodied, after all."

"I'm sure there are tutorials on the internet," Arthur adds. "How hard could it possibly be?"

--

The answer to that question turns out to be: very hard. Six hours later, Arthur and Eames have denigrated into snapping at each other more times than Arthur can count, been completely drenched twice, and, in one moment of terrible, terrible agony, been sprayed with the entire contents of their garbage disposal. There are tools strewn across the floor, the sink is undoubtedly worse off than it was before they started, and Arthur is feeling the beginnings of a serious headache.

The tap, of course, has yet to produce a single drop of water.

"I think we're going to have to admit defeat, darling," Eames says. "This sink is clearly smarter than us."

"More evil, at the very least," Arthur sighs. He's wearing a t-shirt and a pair of Eames' least attractive jeans, because they are disgusting and his own are far too nice to risk. Miraculously, the jeans had not actually been marred at all in any of the various disasters, which is just another nod to the diabolical nature of the enemy. If the stupid sink had seen fit to damage them, Arthur could have thrown them out.

Eames grins at him. He himself is in a pair of soccer shorts and a beater, his various tattoos peeking out from underneath. Even covered in unpleasant substances, the look is more than mildly appealing.

"I will say, it was worth it to see you in my pants," he says, leering.

"I'm in your pants on a nightly basis, Mr. Eames," Arthur returns. "And don't look at me like that, I'm not having sex covered is disposal goo. Also, I'm fucking starving."

"Your sense of adventure is seriously lacking," Eames tells him sternly, but his stomach growls as he says it. Arthur looks at it pointedly.

"Fine, fine," Eames says, laughing. "Go wash, I'll start dinner and shower once it's the oven."

"Okay," Arthur agrees. He goes to the bathroom, and Eames follows him. Arthur turns and raises his eyebrows.

"Well, I have to wash my hands, pet," Eames says. "I can't exactly do it in the kitchen. And I need to put on a different shirt, I think, the smell of this is putting me off."

"Fair enough," Arthur says. He strips out of his clothes and turns the shower on as Eames scrubs his hands. He bends over to adjust the temperature, and Eames makes a strangled kind of noise.

"Food," Arthur says firmly. "Stop oogling my ass, Eames, it's gauche."

"You are the most dreadful tease in the history of the world," Eames informs him. Arthur just rolls his eyes and gets in the shower, and a minute later he hears the sink shut off and the door close softly.

He closes his eyes and lets the water run over him, shampooing his hair slowly, enjoying the way he is starting to smell less like old food. When he feels like he's reached an acceptable level of clean he shuts off the water, toweling himself dry and pulling the jeans back on, because they're still clean and, you know, right there. He walks into the bedroom and pulls on a sweater, and then moves toward the living room holding the towel to his hair, rubbing at it.

He happens to glance up when he gets to the doorframe, and what he sees stops him in his tracks.

Eames is standing in the middle of the living room. The news is on, playing low, and there must have been a story on that he wanted to watch; he's staring at the television, his head slightly cocked. He's still in the stupid soccer shorts, but he's put on a cleaner tank top, and there's an eight inch santoku knife hanging almost idly from his hand. He's dirty--his hair is sticking up everywhere and there's a streak of grease across his cheek, right above the scar he'd brought home with him from Poland.

And, see, this isn't the first time Arthur has been stopped dead by the sight of Eames standing in the middle of the living room. He does actually remember coming home soaking wet and staring at him like this, tracing the contours of his arms as he stared down at an M-24. But the thing is, that had been years ago, and…

And it had been Arthur's living room then, Arthur's house that Eames had quietly moved into while neither of them was paying much attention. It had been Eames in the middle of Arthur's things, Eames in the middle of Arthur's life, and the staring had been as much about realizing how much he fucking wanted that as anything else. But this time--this time there are shitty dogeared paperbacks Arthur wouldn't be caught dead reading piled on the coffee table, and half-finished crosswords tucked into the bookshelves, and the far wall is hung with that tapestry they'd bought in a shit part of London on a whim. This time they've spent all day fixing their sink and there's a mug of yesterday's tea sitting on top of the television and it's not just Arthur's living room at all.

Eames hasn't seen Arthur, possibly because Arthur is standing stock-still in the doorframe. He taps the knife against his leg absently and mutters "Bloody Americans," under his breath, and Arthur can't even move. He knows the pattern of every tattoo and he knows every fucking line of Eames' body, still thinner than it should be, and he never, ever wants to be anywhere else.

Eames shakes his head at the television and wanders back into the kitchen. Arthur follows, transfixed, dropping the towel to the floor, and arrives just in time to see Eames toss a lemon up in the air. He follows the trajectory of it with his eyes, and in the process he catches sight of Arthur, and smiles.

"Hello, love," he says, grabbing the lemon as it falls and driving the knife into the rind, "that was fast. I didn't even hear the shower go off."

"Eames," Arthur chokes out, "Eames, Jesus Christ, I am so fucking in love with you."

Eames' jaw drops, and he slices his damn hand open.

"Fuck," he says dazedly, blinking at Arthur. Then the pain of it--of the injury and the lemon juice dripping into it--hits him, and he raises his voice. "Bloody bleeding fuck, fucking ow, Christ, goddamn it--"

"What the fuck did you just do to yourself?" Arthur yells, as Eames jumps to the sink, twists the tap, and swears when he remembers nothing is going to come out. He makes a strangled sound and runs towards the bathroom, even as Arthur snaps, "You fucking idiot, what the fuck--"

"Don't move!" Eames calls, over the sound of running water, "give me a bloody second, Arthur--shit--don't you dare move--"

"There's blood on the fucking floor!" Arthur shouts back, as he hears the water cut off. "I can't believe you did that, Eames, what the hell--"

And then Eames comes back into the room, a washcloth balled in his fist to staunch the bleeding. He doesn't say anything, just shoves Arthur into the counter and slams their mouths together, kissing him fiercely.

"Emergency room," Arthur gasps, pulling away. "You asshole, we have to get you to the--"

"In a minute, darling, shut up," Eames murmurs, and kisses him again. Arthur is distracted for a split second, and then he comes back to himself and shoves Eames off.

"Not in a minute," he says, "right now. Right now."

"You're ruining our moment," Eames says, still sounding a little dazed.

"No," Arthur snaps, "that was you. Jesus, Eames, you're bleeding through the fucking washcloth, can you just--just hold you hand in the air, god, while I find--"

He breaks off and starts rummaging around in drawers until he unearths a clean dishtowel. Muttering darkly under his breath, he yanks Eames' arm down and pulls the washcloth away, revealing the wound underneath.

"I can't believe you said it," Eames says, quiet and stunned, while Arthur wraps the towel around his hand and knots it.

"See if I ever do again," Arthur growls. "You're going to need stitches, you stupid bastard."

"Worth it," Eames murmurs.

Arthur can't even begin to dignify that with a response. "Come on, you idiot, let's go."

--

The chairs in the emergency room are really very uncomfortable. Arthur doesn't have any choice but to sit in one, though, because Eames had quietly but firmly led him away when he started actually yelling at the nurses, apologizing for him over his shoulder.

Horrifyingly, one of them had given him a look that said, very clearly, that she thought he was adorable. Arthur is going to need to spend some time working on his delivery.

There's a spot of blood on Eames' cheek, because he kept forgetting about his fucking hand on the drive over and reaching up to do things. It's making Arthur feel a little sick, looking at it, so he reaches up and rubs at it with his thumb to get it off.

"You love me," Eames says, grinning like an asshole.

"I will neither confirm nor deny that statement," Arthur snaps, "as the consequences are apparently considerably more far-reaching than I ever anticipated."

"You love me," Eames repeats, undetered.

"You knew that," Arthur growls. "You didn't need to go and slice yourself open about it."

"Careful, pet," Eames laughs. "Don't say that too loud, they'll send me to the psych ward."

And it's a joke. Arthur knows it's a joke. But suddenly he's not in an uncomfortable chair in the emergency room--he's half asleep in Dom and Mal's guest bedroom, wandering towards the kitchen for coffee. He's stopping in the doorway and staring, because Mal is sitting at the table cradling a kitchen knife between her hands, and Dom is standing behind her, terrified, taking it away.

He'd gone out there to get the pitch for the latest job, and until that moment--until he'd seen Mal look at that knife like it was her only escape--he hadn't realized he'd been asked to go to Dom because Dom was afraid to leave. But he'd stood there and felt terror well up in his chest, and still--still!--when Dom had told him to go get Eames, he'd told himself it would be fine. He'd told himself that she would pull through it, because she was strong and vital. Because she was Mal, and he loved her, and she couldn't die.

He'd said things to Dom after she passed, after she started drifting into their dreams and slaughtering them, about getting it together. He'd said things about letting go and moving on and getting us all killed, you lunatic, you're completely out of control, and he hadn't--he hadn't understood. Because Eames had hurt himself by accident and Arthur can't bear to look at the blood on his cheek, and Eames had come back from Poland bruised but breathing and Arthur had wanted to kill something.

And fuck, fuck, fuck, he can't imagine it--if he woke up one day to a world where Eames didn't think he belonged, where Eames thought death was the only way out. He doesn't know what the fuck he would do if Eames died, but he knows none of it would involve letting go and moving on and being in control.

"Darling?" Eames asks. Arthur shakes himself out of it and meets Eames' eyes, warm and concerned. "You alright?"

"Yeah," Arthur says slowly, "yeah, I just--"

"Mr. Eames?" a nurse calls. Eames waves cheerfully. "The doctor will see you now."

Eames nods and stands; Arthur gets up too, but Eames smiles at him and shakes his head.

"Arthur, love," he says, "it's not that I don't find your type A personality deeply endearing--I do, I really do--but I doubt the doctor will appreciate it if you backseat-suture."

"I can--"

"Go have a smoke," Eames says, his voice kind. "I'm fine, I'll be done before you know it, you're only going to end up in a fight if you come back with me."

Arthur is, in all honesty, kind of in the mood to get in a fight. He swallows despite this and nods, and Eames kisses him briefly and then strolls over to the nurse, his bloodied hand held in front of him like a beacon.

Arthur sits in the uncomfortable chair for a minute. Then he decides that the suggestion of having a smoke hadn't been a bad one, and goes outside. He's a few drags in when, almost unconsciously, he pulls out his cell and calls Cobb.

"Hey," Cobb answers, "what's up?"

And Arthur should really, you know, offer some kind of preamble, but he's having some trouble controlling his impulses tonight. "I'm sorry if I was ever a shitty friend to you," he blurts out, and then winces, appalled at himself.

There is a silence. Then Cobb laughs, a little nervously, and says, "Arthur, what are you--is this some kind of Yom Kippur thing? I thought that was in the fall."

"It is," Arthur says. "I just. I, uh. Thought I should--fuck, Dom, I don't know, pretend I didn't say that."

"You were never a shitty friend to me," Cobb says gently. "I don't know what the hell this is about, but you followed me around the world when I'd lost my mind, Arthur. Whatever you're worrying about, stop."

Arthur wants to say a lot of things--about exactly what he means, about how he hadn't understood, about how much better he could have done. But he can't say those things to Eames most of the time, and Eames quite literally spends most days trying to demonstrate to Arthur that it's okay if he does.

He's saved from having to respond at all when an ambulance tears by, sirens blaring and deafening. Arthur winces at the sound and, nonsensically, leans away from it a little. When he can hear again, what filters through is Cobb's voice.

"Hey," he's saying, "where are you?"

"Oh, I'm at the emergency room," Arthur sighs. "Eames is a fucking idiot."

"Is he okay?"

"He's fine, he cut his hand making dinner," Arthur says. That's mostly the truth. "They're stitching him up now."

"And you're talking to me?" Cobb asks, sounding amused. "I would have thought you'd be back there yelling at anyone who would listen."

"Eames wouldn't let me go back with him," Arthur admits. "He said I would backseat-suture."

"He knows you, I'll give him that," Cobb says, laughing.

"Yeah," Arthur says, smiling slightly. "Hey, look, I should probably go back in and see if he's done, but--thanks?"

"Sure," Cobb says easily. "Least I can do, really. It's not like I ever thanked you for--"

"Don't," Arthur says quickly. "Definitely don't, Dom, it was nothing."

"It wasn't," Cobb says, "but I'll let you go. Tell Eames I said he should stop giving you heart palpitations."

"No," Arthur snaps. Cobb just laughs and says goodbye, hanging up, and Arthur goes back inside.

Eames is not, in fact, done yet, which leaves Arthur alone in the waiting room. He really doesn't like hospitals, because they smell bad and they're full of people screaming about their problems and crying on each other and arguing. They remind him, oddly, of his family.

And he's still in Eames' too-big jeans, because he hadn't thought to change in the haste to get Eames out the door, and the sleeves of his sweater keep slipping down, and his hair is loose, still a little damp from his shower. He's out of place and out of sorts, and in trying to avoid thinking about Mal he thinks about Eames instead.

What he thinks, despite his best efforts not to, is: Fucking fuck, had he honestly been surprised?

When Eames finally emerges, there's gauze wrapped around his hand and he is, predictably, flirting with the nurse. Arthur walks over to him and he must be looking pretty severe, because Eames raises his eyebrows.

"Only four stitches, darling," he says at once.

Arthur turns his gaze to the nurse, who rolls her eyes and, fondly enough, says, "Six, actually. And the mouth on this one, you wouldn't believe it."

"I assure you, I would," Arthur says dryly. She laughs and sends them on their way, Eames clutching his sample packet of Vicodin like a talisman in his good hand. In the car, Eames attempts to light a cigarette three different times--because he'll smoke in Arthur's car, that's not a problem, it's just the Lotus that's sacred--and pulls at his stitches with every try. After the third time he swears and tosses the lighter down, and Arthur pulls over to the side of the road and cuts the engine.

Eames raises his hands in the air. "Before you kill me, please recall that I am already suffering."

And what Arthur intends to say, what he means to say, is something about how fucking stupid Eames is being. Instead, he opens his mouth, shuts it, and opens it again.

"Did you really not know?" he asks. It comes out wrong, quiet and unsure and almost scared, and Arthur regrets it the second it comes out of his mouth. "Oh fuck, Jesus, nevermind--"

"Arthur," Eames says quietly. He palms Arthur's cheek, forces Arthur to look at him. "Don't be completely ridiculous. Of course I knew."

Arthur lets out a breath he hadn't known he was holding, and he's starting to feel a little better when Eames, damn him, continues.

"I was just surprised," he admits. "I'd gotten used to the idea of never--" and Arthur's face must change for all he's trying to keep it neutral, because Eames' eyes go soft and furious at once.

"No," he says fiercely, "no, Arthur, don't do that to yourself, don't be an imbecile. I wouldn't have cared if I never heard you say it. It's not like you don't show me."

Arthur is really going to have to check the water supply for strange chemicals, because his complete loss of anything approaching control over his own speech is starting to freak him out. All in a rush, he says "I mean, look, I know I'm kind of an asshole and I'm not--I'm not good at this, but you have to know that--"

"Come on, Arthur," Eames interrupts, warm and kind and so fucking honest that Arthur could die. "Do you think I don't know you at all?"

"Could you just let me fucking--" Arthur snaps, because he's frustrated and nothing if not stubborn. "I just, I fucking love you, okay? And I may be crap at telling you but I do, I really do."

"I know, Arthur," Eames says, and whatever he was going to say next is swallowed when Arthur pushes him against the seat of the car and kisses him.

It's hot and slick and perfect for a second, Eames moaning and pushing into it, Arthur breathing Eames' air because his own seems kind of dangerous right now. Then Eames reaches up his bad hand to run through Arthur's hair, because he's an idiot, and hisses out a sharp, pained breath as he pulls at his stitches for the fourth time.

"Asshole," Arthur growls, pulling away and punching him lightly in the shoulder. "Could you try not to hurt yourself for five fucking minutes here?"

"That's how," Eames says, which doesn't even make sense.

"That's how what?"

"That's how I knew," Eames says, like he's talking to someone stupid. Arthur resents this, even if he does feel like he's missing something important. "Because of shit like that."

"What, because I punch you?" Arthur asks. "That's kind of fucked up, Eames."

"No, you twat, don't be deliberately thick," Eames snaps. "Because you worry about me and yell at me when I hurt myself and send me emails about the bloody weather and take care of me, Arthur. Because you love me. I'm not blind."

"Oh," Arthur says, blinking. Eames shakes his head and kisses him again, soft against his mouth.

Then, in a considerably more hopeful tone, he adds, "Ah, and also because you take me home when I need a large bucket of ice and possibly some of that Vicodin, yes?"

"You are the biggest idiot I've ever met," Arthur says, but it comes out warm and fond, and he can't help but smile as he says it. He turns the car back on and Eames lets out a relieved sigh and settles back against the seat. After a moment of consideration, Arthur puts a hand on Eames' wrist, feels his pulse pounding against his fingers, and Eames grins at him, nearly blinding even in the darkness.

They don't talk much for the rest of the drive, but Arthur doesn't move his hand, and Eames doesn't ask him to.

--

Arthur orders a pizza while Eames showers, because they're obviously not going to consume the blood-spattered meal that Eames had been halfway through making before disaster struck. Arthur throws that away--all of it, including the pan--and scrubs the reddish-brown stains off the floor, because it's disgusting and a health hazard and not at all because looking at it makes him angry.

They eat the pizza in bed, in their freshly-redone bedroom, with a shitty horror movie playing on the flatscreen Eames'd had the construction crew install as part of his bizarre campaign to have televisions all over the house. Arthur gets Eames an icepack that Eames actually manages to keep on his hand, and lets him take the Vicodin once he's got food in his stomach.

Then he slides down under the covers and gives Eames a slow, lazy blowjob, just because. He pulls himself off while he does it, because he has some suspicions about what Eames will be like on painkillers.

They prove to be unerringly correct.

"Darling," Eames slurs, "'m feeling…strange."

"But I bet your hand doesn't hurt anymore," Arthur says, amused.

"I have a hand?" Eames asks. Arthur picks up the one closest to him and waves it in front of Eames' face, and Eames beams at it.

"Well, hullo!" he says.

Arthur honestly cannot control his laughter at this point. Eames is too out of it to mind in any case, his eyes wide and unfocused, and so he lets himself shake a little with mirth.

"What's funny?" Eames asks.

"You," Arthur says, as solemnly as he can manage. "You are very funny."

"R'gular comedian," Eames agrees cheerfully. "Hilarious, 's what I am."

"You have no idea," Arthur tells him. "I'm really, really tempted to take video, Eames. Really tempted."

"Tempting," Eames mumbles. "You're a. Tempt. What?"

"Oh, god, you're too far gone to even make innuendo, what has the world come to?"

Rather than responding, Eames peers up at him and pokes him gently in the cheek, right in the place Arthur suspects the dimples Eames keeps claiming he has tend to show. He furrows his brow and tries to stop smiling, with very limited success.

"What are you doing?" he asks.

"Ummm," Eames says. "Uh, I. Arthur."

"Yes?"

"Your face," Eames says helplessly. Arthur finds this highly comical, because Eames' own face is in something of a state right now, all slack and vacant like that.

"In all honesty, Eames," he says, "I'm trying not to mock you because you're in pain and everything, but really, really, your face."

"Alright," Eames agrees easily. "My face, then."

"You need to go to sleep," Arthur says. "You're only embarrassing yourself."

"Y'know what I hate?" Eames replies, apropos of nothing. "Lemons. Right little buggers, aren't they?"

"Is this about the lemon from earlier," Arthur asks, "or lemons in general?"

"What're you talking about?"

"…lemons?"

"What's a lemon?"

"Alright," Arthur says, laughing again, "that's about enough out of you, I think. C'mere."

"Yeah," Eames sighs. He shifts, and because he's lying down and Arthur is propped up against the pillows, he ends up with his head mostly in Arthur's lap. Arthur runs his knuckles up and down Eames' arm until Eames huffs and butts his head against Arthur's wrist, and then he sighs and switches to running his fingers through Eames' hair.

"That," Eames says. "'Comfortable."

"Mmmhmm," Arthur murmurs, low, as soothingly as he can.

Eames, apparently by way of response, producing an odd smacking noise. "Mouth feels funny."

"Does it?"

"Yup," Eames says cheerfully, and follows this up with a loud snore.

Arthur laughs at him quietly for a minute, and then rescues the remote from underneath Eames' ass and channel surfs for awhile. He is willing to concede that putting a television in here wasn't such a bad idea after all when he finds Vertigo playing on Turner Classic.

Arthur to Ariadne, 10:24 PM PST
You were right. The Hitchcock marathons on TCM kick ass.

Ariadne to Arthur, 10:29 PM PST
Right? Yusuf and I are all over it. He talked to Cobb btw, wants me to ask whether or not Eames really cut his hand. You can tell us if you stabbed him, we wouldn't blame you at all.

Arthur to Ariadne, 10:31 PM PST
Nope, entirely self-inflicted. Kind of wanted to stab him for doing it, though, does that count?

Ariadne to Arthur, 10:34 PM PST
You guys are hilarious. Is he okay?

Arthur to Ariadne, 10:36 PM PST
Yeah, he's fine. Got stoned on Vicodin and then passed out.

Ariadne to Arthur, 10:40 PM PST
LOL. Bet that was funny. Tell him hi for us when he wakes up?

Arthur to Ariadne, 10:43 PM PST
I'll pass it along. Have a good night, guys.

Ariadne to Arthur, 10:45 PM PST
You too!

Arthur smiles and puts his phone on the side table. He keeps playing at Eames' hair, for all Eames is far, far too out to notice, and watches the end of Vertigo and most of North by Northwest before he's too tired to keep his eyes open.

He rescues the icepack, pretty much entirely thawed by now, from under Eames' hand, drops it indelicately onto the floor. Then, awkwardly, he pushes Eames up by the shoulder and rolls him over, just enough that Arthur can actually manage to lay down.

Eames is back in a second, though, nuzzling his face into Arthur's neck and making a soft snuffling noise. "Darling," he mumbles, entirely asleep.

"Right here," says Arthur, even though Eames can't hear him, even though it's really pretty stupid.

Worth reiterating, though, he thinks to himself, and falls asleep grinning.