Sometimes I despair of my life, you guys.
angelgazing says this one is my fault; I suspect, secretly, that she is still to blame, but for the sake of not making her sputter with rage I will just thank her for being the
Title: having let go forever the fallacy of ever being alone
Summary: 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.
Author's Note: This story is the eighth in a series called Wherever You Will Be (That's Where I'll Call Home), also known as the domestic!verse; the link takes you to the series master post.
"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."
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.
"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.
"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."
"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.
"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.