Eames’ job overruns three days, which is about the upper limit of Arthur’s patience. After three days, he starts to worry. He’s been making enough dinner for two for the last three days and leaving it out in the kitchen; in case Eames comes home in the night, hungry. Every uneaten plate he scrapes away in the morning draws the knot of concern tighter in his belly.
On the fourth day, he makes a few calls, comes up with nothing, and goes to bed uneasy. He’s woken by the crash of crockery smashing in the kitchen, and something very heavy and ungainly collapsing against the worktops. Arthur takes his gun when he goes to check.
Eames is slumped against the sink unit, legs stretched out in front of him. His dinner, Moroccan lamb and rice, left neatly out for him, is in a mess at his elbow, decorated with shards of broken china.
“I’m so sorry,” he says, and Arthur would get angry--because that set was produced in limited numbers, and what happens when Arthur wants to use all twelve of the dinner plates?--but he can see blood blossoming out from beneath the lapel of Eames’ jacket.
“Jesus Christ,” Arthur says, dropping down to hold Eames up and peel back the fabric. There’s a stain that’s almost black with thick blood and about as big as a silver dollar. The rest of it is diffusing slowly out through the expensive fabric of his white shirt. “Have you been shot?”
“Just a little.” Eames breaks off and makes a noise that’s very close to a shout as Arthur peels his shirt away from his shoulder, taking the bandage beneath with it. The wound looks dreadful, swollen with congealed blood, some oozing out, bright red and watery. Thankfully, it doesn’t look infected, and someone, somewhere, has treated it quite well. “Oh god,” Eames continues, his face gone white and bloodless. “I don’t know why I ever said I loved you.”
“You’ve never said that,” Arthur points out, dragging a fresh dish cloth from the cupboard and pressing it against the wound. He lifts Eames’ hand up so that he can hold it there himself and Eames grunts and grimaces, but he manages to keep it steady. His breath stinks of whisky, and alarmingly, when Arthur hurries out to get the first aid kit, he sees tags on his bags marked LAX.
“Did you fly here like this?” he snaps, coming back through into the kitchen with the suture set and their much-used first aid box.
“I medicated through it,” Eames says, dreamily. “Drugs are so expensive in your land.”
“In my land?” Arthur shakes his head, drops down to kneel beside Eames, and is more gentle this time peeling back the dish cloth, carefully washing the wound. It looks small caliber, and very much like someone has already dug about in there and dragged the bullet out, which is nice. Arthur doesn’t like removing bullets on his kitchen floor, and avoids it where possible. “So you had as much scotch as they would serve you on the flight--“
“Lotsss,” Eames interrupts with a hiss.
“What else? Codeine?”
“I have told you, you know,” Eames mumbles, as Arthur gets out the suture set and tries to pull the ragged edges of the wound together. “And yes, codeine, very nice. Argh, god, Arthur, darling, stop it.”
“Codeine and scotch and they still let you on the flight,” Arthur comments. Eames’ flesh is torn a little too much for just a few stitches to do it, and, for a moment, Arthur is terrified he’s going to have to pack the wound and bandage it up again and leave Eames to an ugly big scar right through the bosom of his pin up tattoo. Thankfully, his concerns for Eames’ hideous body art doesn’t make his hand even slightly shaky, and he draws the wound closed eventually.
“I’m very good at appearing sober and un-shot. But then, on my way in the lift was--.” Eames breaks off as Arthur swipes over his stitches with antiseptic. “Ah god, you bastard. I had to carry my damn bags up the stairs.”
“We have an intercom,” Arthur points out. Eames meets his eyes with incredulity.
“We do? When did that happen?”
“You installed it yourself. A year ago.” Codeine, Arthur thinks. It’s because of the codeine, so there’s no good killing Eames for something that’s the responsibility of overuse of prescription drugs and whatever air hostess he flirted with to get the best part of a bottle of scotch.
Arthur dresses the wound again, and decides not to give Eames any more painkillers just yet. He cleans up the mess of Moroccan lamb and rice and he slowly, gently, eases the rest of Eames’ jacket and shirt off his shoulders until he sits shirtless and propped up against the kitchen units. Eames watches as Arthur washes the blood from his hands.
“I have told you,” he insists. Arthur gets him some water, which he sips, holding it with his good arm. Arthur sits across from him, leaning against the table leg, and tucks his legs between Eames’ so they are folded neatly together there in that space. Eames spills a bit of water, but he seems a lot better.
“Can we go to bed,” Eames says eventually.
“How did you get shot?” Arthur takes the glass from him when it lists dangerously.
“Well, Boris decided to blow all his money in the hotel casino five minutes after he got it, which was foolish.”
“Boris and you, you mean,” Arthur corrects. Eames snorts.
“No, darling, I don’t do that anymore. If I gambled away all my profits how would I keep you in Italian roast and vintage curtains?” Eames raises his eyebrows, looking a lot more sober. “I was being bloody virtuous, the most I bought was a ridiculously expensive cocktail, and I barely got to finish that before they came after us. Anyway, they didn’t see me, just clipped me on the shoulder, and I got off clean after that.”
“And you thought strapping yourself up and drinking through a 12 hour flight was a good idea? Why the hell didn’t you go to Cobb? He was fucking twenty minutes down the coast!” Arthur allows himself to be angry now, because Eames looks a lot less like he is dying or in shock, and he’s so fucking stupid sometimes; the only proportional response is anger.
“I honestly didn’t even think of it,” Eames says, his face getting that pinched look of pain that Arthur suspects means his codeine and whisky might be wearing off a little. “Please, can we go to bed?”
“Yeah, whatever,” Arthur says, and isn’t so gentle helping Eames stand.
It takes Eames nearly half an hour to get the rest of his clothes off, and that’s with Arthur’s help. His left arm is next to useless, and all his reflexes are shot. He ends up pressing two hands to Arthur’s shoulders while Arthur bends to strip him out of his pants. No fever though, and he goes to bed quietly, lying under the sheets and watching Arthur pace around in the half light making phone calls.
“Louise, yeah, just wanted to make sure there wasn’t any noise about this EPG job.”
“Oh, plenty of noise, but they can’t pin it down on anyone and I doubt they have resources to try,” Louise Culpeper runs the world’s smallest call centre for extractors wanting to keep their noses clean and Arthur trusts her as much as he trusts anyone in the business--not a lot but it’ll have to do. He hangs up, satisfied that no-one is going to raid their apartment looking to finish Eames off.
“Are we safe,” Eames mumbles, sounding dangerously sober. Arthur gets him another pill, just one.
“Yeah.” Arthur rubs at his face, and feels very weak all of a sudden. He clambers into bed and curls up behind Eames, not really ready to look at his face. Instead, Arthur stares at his back, the familiar pattern of tattoos and faded freckles; the familiar uneven coil of his hair at his nape.
“Long time since I’ve been shot,” Eames comments sleepily. His replacement painkillers must be sinking in. “Not used to it anymore.”
Arthur pushes closer, pressing both hands against Eames’ warm skin, and tries not to think about what might have happened if that bullet had strayed a few inches lower, a few inches to the right. He rests his forehead against Eames’ spine and breathes out, unhappy in that strange, fractured way relief can never overcome.
They fall asleep like that.
Arthur wakes to find Eames propped up against the headboard, watching him sleep. It’s bright in a way that means it must be nearly noon, and all the bed covers are tangled. Arthur can feel the sun on his bare feet. He looks up at Eames and smiles, raising a hand to rub the weariness from his eyes.
“Have I really not told you that I love you?” Eames says. He has dark circles under his eyes, but the dressing on his shoulder only has the tiniest streak of blood on it, like the wound beneath is healing well. Arthur loves him, absolutely and terrifyingly.
“No, but it’s been heavily implied,” Arthur says, rolling onto his back.
“Well.” Eames reaches out and touches Arthur’s hair, presses his fingertips where it curls around Arthur’s ear, and smiles. “I do, I really love you.”
Arthur is silent for a long time, and he knows it’s a long time. He feels every second of it as he stares up at the ceiling, up at the sunlight washing over the plaster molding, over the clean white paint. Eames knows him though, he isn’t put off. He just strokes his finger around Arthur’s ear and waits.
“Yeah,” Arthur says. “I love you too.”
Then, because he’s still unhappy despite that, unhappy that someone managed to put a bullet in Eames’ beloved shoulder, he rolls over and adds, “Don’t get fucking shot again though, or I’ll leave you.”
“Those are very rigid terms,” Eames says.
“I’ll still love you,” Arthur says. “I’ll just find someone less dramatic to live with.”
“Mmm,” Eames says and tugs Arthur closer for a kiss.