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pressed against the pending physics of my passed down last name

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Eames isn't home when Arthur gets in, which is disappointing but not particularly worrisome. There are nights neither of them ends up being home until ridiculously late, and Arthur's exhausted anyway.

He has, bizarrely enough, gotten to the point where he'd rather be exhausted with Eames than without him, but some things just can't be helped.

He microwaves some leftovers, grinning slightly at the sign that's still taped to the the fridge, and watches the news with the volume low. At 11:15, he sighs, leaves Eames a note (Ate the last of the chicken parm, sorry. Wake me when you get in? -A) and goes to bed.

He wakes up alone at 2:30 to the sound of glass crashing against wood and a muted if familiar voice saying "Bugger." Rolling over, he peers out the window--Eames is sitting on their back porch in an beater and a pair of torn up jeans, and there's a bottle of scotch in his left hand, an upturned ashtray on the ground. There is a set to his shoulders that is…worrisome.

Arthur frowns, and gets out of bed. He grabs the afghan off the top of the couch on his way through the living room and goes outside, shutting the French doors behind him. Eames turns to regard him, his eyes not quite focusing.

"Sorry, darling," he slurs. "Didn't want to wake you."

Arthur sighs, walking over to drape the blanket over his shoulders. "Yes, because I much prefer to sleep on undisturbed while you drink yourself stupid alone," he mutters. "What's wrong?"

Eames lets out a tired laugh and folds his legs underneath him, making room on the lawn chair for Arthur to sit. "Who said there was something wrong?"

"Johnny Walker here makes a particularly convincing case," Arthur says, picking up the bottle and brandishing it. Eames frowns, glaring at it.

"Fucking scotch," he says, "can't get prop'ly pissed on it. 'S always just--hazy, innit? Shoulda gotten tequila, only he always hated tequila. Felt wrong."

"Who always hated tequila?"

"My father," Eames sighs, scrubbing a hand over my face. "He died."

"Oh," Arthur says. It's not what he wants to say--what he wants to say, actually, is Damn it, Eames, this isn't what you do, you don't do this alone, you fucking call me, but he recognizes that this is a terrible, insensitive impulse. He puts his knuckles against Eames' arm instead, runs them up and down. "Eames, I'm sorry."

Eames shakes his head. "We weren't close. Didn't even know he was sick. I just, y'know. Thought that I would--oh, bugger, I don't know."

"Eames," Arthur repeats, at a loss. There's this painful quirk to his mouth that Arthur hasn't seen since the night Mal died, and he'd been too trashed himself that time to properly identify it. He still can't quite put his finger on it--it's not sadness, exactly, but something harder, something worse.

"He left me some stuff," Eames sighs, staring at his hands. "Funeral's Thursday. I can't--I have to go."

And for all Arthur is terrible at this sort of thing, he picks Eames' hands up, runs his thumbs across the palms. "I'll book us a flight in the morning."

"You don't have to," Eames says at once, and he won't look at Arthur, won't look at anything but the place where their hands are meeting, Arthur's pale skin warring with his darker tones. Arthur leans forward before he can help himself, dips his head, meets Eames' eyes from an awful, awkward angle.

"Eames," he replies, his voice gentle, "don't be stupid."

Eames makes an expression that is so open and pained and grateful that Arthur wants to hit him, and takes another pull from the bottle. Arthur pries it slowly from his fingers when he's done and takes a pull from it himself, out of solidarity or something like it, something he's not sure how to explain.

When he puts it down Eames is looking at him, his mouth working. His eyes are warm and far too bright.

"You hate scotch," he says.

"That's true," Arthur admits, very quiet.

And then Eames is kissing him, harsh and hungry, his hands roaming. Arthur lets him do it, pulls him into their bedroom by the lips, runs his fingers along every crevice he can find. Eames tastes like scotch and shit cigarettes and desperation, pulse sluggish and strained under Arthur's palms, but he lets himself arch up and up and up, pressing into the hollow of Arthur's back. And Arthur stutters out staccato breaths against the pillows and thinks about the things he does wrong in trying to do right by Eames, thinks about working harder.

Eames falls asleep with his face in the rutted canyon of Arthur's shoulder. When he wakes up he complains bitterly of a hangover, and Arthur has already booked the flight.

--

"It's fucking cold here," Arthur complains, waiting for a cab outside of Heathrow. "Has it always been this cold here?"

Eames laughs. "You've gotten too used to Los Angeles, darling," he says, his hand up to flag down one of the passing cars. "We'll have to start traveling again."

"Yeah, because being chased around the world is so much more pleasant than coming home at night," Arthur snips. Eames gives him a surprised, pleased look, and when Arthur realizes what he's said he can feel himself blushing.

"You make an excellent point," is all Eames says, but his smile says considerably more. Arthur ducks his head. "Ah, look, a taxi."

He rattles off an address and sits back, chatting amiably enough, running his fingers over Arthur's palm when Arthur reaches out. He's been smiling less the last few days, which is only to be expected--Arthur's been waiting for worse, but it hasn't come. He doesn't exactly…he's never lost a parent and so he doesn't really know what to expect, and Eames keeps looking at him strangely when Arthur asks what he wants.

He does notice, though, the way Eames gets steadily quieter as the journey goes on, and on, and on. By the time they pull up in front of a frankly fucking massive estate, Eames is stiff and silent next to him, his face tense. Arthur--well, Arthur had asked what Eames' family was like, once, when they'd both had too much to drink.

Eames had considered carefully and then decided on "Cordial." Arthur had winced and decided it best not to press.

Eames doesn't say anything when they get out, just stares up at the austere gates resignedly. Then, suitcase in one hand, he grabs Arthur by the back of his neck and kisses him, firm and a little filthy, his tongue beating out a quick pattern against Arthur's teeth.

"Sorry, darling," he says, stepping back, "but I may not get another chance for hours."

"Oh," Arthur says. "Uh, is your mother not okay with--"

"Oh, god, no, nothing like that," Eames says, waving a hand. "I mean, I suppose in theory she's not, but it's not polite to mention it these days, is it? And she's not particularly concerned with what I do in any case, love. It's more--well, she would consider it gauche if I kissed anyone properly in front of her, regardless of their genitalia."

"Good to know," Arthur says faintly. Eames kisses him swiftly again and then releases him, looks at the house with trepidation, his brow creasing.

"I honestly did not think I'd ever come back here," he sighs, and then he smiles, with something Arthur is almost sure is false bravado. "Well. Shall we?"

Arthur nods and follows him up the path to the doors.

--

Eames' family is…not what Arthur expected.

On some level he'd known that they were old money, and when he'd pictured them--which was rarely, really, because Eames was just Eames, it didn't matter where he came from--he'd envisioned something out of old films, a stereotype. He'd thought of them as being eccentric British aristocrats, flinging themselves from event to event, cracking more-or-less unintelligible jokes.

In reality, Eames' mother is cool, almost cold. She greets Eames with a "Oh, hello, dear," and a perfunctory kiss on the cheek, and then she shakes Arthur's hand, telling him she's charmed, accepting his awkward condolences demurely. She leads them into the drawing room.

"Daniel," Eames says, nodding to the man sitting in the corner. Eames' brother, Arthur thinks, and tries not to stare. He's smaller than Eames, less broad in the shoulders, and just his posture speaks to a level of stoicism even Arthur can't imagine.

They look almost nothing alike.

Arthur sits when Eames gestures to a chair, listening to them talk. He waits for something to break without even realizing it--because Arthur's own family is loud and boisterous and offensive and impossible, and nothing like this. These people are hours away from a funeral of one of their nearest and dearest, and yet they seem to be talking about the new hire at Ampleforth and where Eames should take Arthur if they get a chance to spend time in London before they leave.

It's--it's really bizarre. Arthur looks to Eames for some kind of confirmation of the strangeness, but Eames' eyes are glazed, unfocused. He is nodding along, calmly answering questions only when asked, and not fidgeting at all.

Arthur checks his totem. Some days, he fucking hates reality.

--

Arthur has never seen Eames in mourning, because Eames had not come to Mal's funeral. He'd sent flowers instead, buckets of them, a thousand colors that Arthur knew were for him as much as for Dom. They'd smelled overpowering, too much like the good things Arthur had thought would be buried with her, and he'd wanted to cry every time he looked at them.

He had sent Eames a text at a ridiculous hour that night, his die clasped tight between his fingers. He'd thought about saying a lot of things, but he was tired and sad and all he ended up writing was oh god, and Eames had called him, talked in a low hum about nothing at all, his voice rasping with lack of sleep. That had been the last they spoke until the Fischer job.

Arthur is having a hard time fighting back the urge to interrupt the funeral and explain that this isn't like that.

Eames in mourning is--wrong. He's wearing a black suit that's better tailored than anything Arthur has ever seen him in, a charcoal grey shirt underneath, buttoned properly. He'd shaved that morning, quiet in the bathroom with a set to his jaw that Arthur didn't like, and he'd done a good job of it. Normally there's a patch of stubble lurking somewhere, a place Arthur can press his fingers to, teasing and soft; now he's smooth and clean, his hair slicked back, his eyes somber.

Arthur wants to kill someone. It's really very selfish.

The funeral is mercifully brief, and the family hosts a wake, after. Arthur had been of the impression that those things happened first, but Eames had waved a hand, saying something about Northern England and tradition. There's food that Arthur doesn't eat and wine that Eames drinks too much of, a slight tremor in his fingers the only thing betraying how much he's had.

There are people milling around, offering their condolences, shaking Eames' hand. When he's asked, Eames introduces Arthur as his partner--smoothly, like it hasn't occurred to him to do anything but. And it's not the word Arthur objects to so much as the way he says it, without any of the casual mischief he normally inserts into these exchanges, without his typical filthy asides.

It's like he's someone else. Arthur is terrified.

He thinks about it, standing like a shadow at Eames' side--what he would want, what Eames would do. This is how he ends up reaching out a two fingers and brushing them ever so lightly against Eames' ass, which is really probably not appropriate, which is really probably a bad choice. It works, though; Eames turns to him and gives him a look that is half helpless gratitude and half Arthur, you dirty minx, and it's such a fucking relief to see something like light in his eyes that Arthur can hardly stand it.

There you are, he thinks. He doesn't realize he's said it out loud until Eames' eyes change, until a crooked smile breaks briefly across his face.

"Here I am," he agrees, and he takes Arthur's hand, seems stronger, more solid,
for the next half an hour.

Then Arthur loses him. He goes to the bathroom because he has to, can't wait any longer, and Eames slips away to get another drink. When Arthur comes back most of the guests are leaving, and Eames is gone. Arthur ducks behind a number of opened doors, recognizing that panic is ridiculous but feeling it anyway, and ends up finding him in a room at the end of the hall.

He's standing in the window, glass of Merlot gripped between two fingers, with a hand over his eyes.

"Hey," Arthur says softly. Eames jumps.

"Bloody hell," he laughs, pinching the bridge of his nose and carefully not looking at Arthur, "don't sneak up on me like that."

"Sorry," Arthur says, even though he's not. In order to be sorry he'd have to regret coming and finding Eames and he doesn't, he really doesn't, because Eames clearly needed to be found.

He crosses the room and puts a hand to Eames' cheek, makes Eames look at him. His eyes are red-rimmed, and Arthur's panic flares again, white hot in his chest.

"Fuck, Eames," he says.

"You should go back out there," Eames replies, maneuvering away from Arthur's grip to glance out of the window again. His voice is thready, raw. "I'm fine."

"Asshole," Arthur says, bumping Eames' shoulder with his own. "You're not supposed to be that bad a liar."

Eames laughs again, a wrecked sort of sound. "I didn't even like him," he admits. "I don't know why--it shouldn't even--"

His voice breaks and he sets his jaw, blinking hard and still not looking at Arthur, and Arthur's had about enough.

"Come here," he says.

"I'm fine," Eames insists, even though he's obviously, obviously not, even though he can barely get the words out. "I'm fine, Arthur, you should just go--"

"I'm not going anywhere, you ass," Arthur snaps, and then Eames grabs him, burying his face in Arthur's neck. Arthur tightens his arms until he's sure it's painful and thinks shit, shit, shit.

"Fucking hell," he hisses, unable to stop himself. Eames makes a strangled kind of noise and presses in closer, like he's trying to get under Arthur's skin, and Arthur tangles his fingers in the hair at the nape of his neck, kisses his temple, the top of his head.

"Jesus Christ, Eames, it's okay," he says desperately, too fast, as Eames' back shakes and the shoulder of Arthur's jacket begins to feel suspiciously wet. "I'm not going anywhere, Eames, I swear to god. It's okay, it's okay."

"Shut up," Eames manages, muffled. "God, Arthur, shut up."

"Alright," Arthur agrees, relieved. He doesn't let go, and Eames doesn't stop shaking, and after a minute Arthur realizes he can't shut up at all, realizes that he's still mumbling half-coherent nonsense under his breath. Eames doesn't say anything, though, just tightens his grip and gasps like he's drowning, and Arthur holds on until he finally, finally quiets.

"Christ," Eames chokes out finally, when his breathing has evened out. He pulls away and, fuck, he's such a mess--there are lines on his cheek from where he'd been pressed against Arthur's collar and his face is wet and bright red, part exertion and part embarrassment. His eyes are puffy and there's this hideous twist to his mouth, like he's ashamed of himself, and he won't meet Arthur's eyes and he's never been less attractive.

Arthur loves him impossibly.

"I've ruined your suit," Eames observes, his breath hitching, and it's so awkward and unsure and awful, all of it, that Arthur takes the damned jacket off.

"It's not like I don't have others," he sighs, handing it over. "Here. I'd give you a handkerchief or something, but I don't actually have one right now."

"My Arthur, unprepared," Eames murmurs, looking at the jacket like it's the first one he's ever seen. "The apocalypse has come at last. You're sure you don't mind?"

"I'd set it on fire if I thought it would help," Arthur admits. Eames blinks up at him in surprise and then scrubs at his face with the back of the coat, his hands bunching in the material.

"Better?" he asks, when he puts it down. Only now his hair is everywhere and he's just as red, just slightly drier about it, and his mouth is still trembling slightly, like it's trying very hard to behave and not quite managing in.

"No," Arthur says, "god, no, not at all," and he leans in and presses their lips together. It's salty and strained and Eames keens into it, dragging Arthur forward, gripping him by the hips too hard. Eames kisses him like he's trying to absorb him, like he's trying to eat him alive, and Arthur lets him, touches his hair, the sides of his face.

"I would have pegged you as being terrible at this, you know," Eames says when he pulls back, resting his forehead against Arthur's. Arthur rubs his thumb against the side of Eames' cheek and feels utterly, utterly lost.

"I am terrible at this," he says. "Fuck, Eames, I have no idea what the hell I'm doing, don't you know that? Can't you tell?"

"No," Eames says. He turns his face into Arthur's palm, lets his lips rest against the tender skin at the base of it. "Christ, darling, no."

They stay like that for a long moment. Then Arthur sighs and starts putting him back in order, finger-combing his hair back down and rubbing away the marks on his face. He goes and steals a napkin and a glass of water from the mostly-empty main room and comes back, dips one in the other and hands it over. Eames holds the makeshift compress to his face until his eyes look more normal, and Arthur watches, careful, quiet. When he misses a blotchy spot Arthur takes the napkin from him and holds it there himself, tells Eames to shut his mouth when he argues.

"We should go back in," Eames says at length. He sounds so tired. "I'm sure there are a few hanging back, and Mother will miss us at some point."

"If that's what you want," Arthur agrees, carding his fingers through Eames' hair one last time.

"What I want has very little to do with this," Eames sighs. "But thank you."

"Sure," Arthur shrugs. Eames catches his arm as he turns to head for the door.

"No, Arthur," he says. "Really. Thank you."

"You're a fucking idiot," Arthur says. "You don't need to thank me, this is just--this is just what you do, okay? This isn't something you have to do alone, Eames, god."

And Eames smiles at him, and takes his hand, and lets Arthur lead him outside.

--

They eat a quiet, stuffy meal that night, where the conversation threads from modern art to library funding and the volume never goes over what is acceptable. Eames' brother is blandly pleasant, Eames' mother is composed and cool, and Eames himself just murmurs quiet "mmhms" in the right places and rarely comments on anything at all. Arthur is surprised to find his kind of misses the riotous calamity of his own family--at least it would be distracting, at least it would give Eames something to do.

It's like watching tiger parading around as a house cat, the way Eames is in this house. He's changed out of his suit into a pair of slacks and a perfectly subdued sweater, and when dinner wraps up he just kisses Arthur on the cheek and retreats to his bedroom. Arthur isn't sure if he's meant to follow or not, isn't sure what the rules are here, so he wanders the halls for a minute.

There are portraits--portraits, what is this place--lining the walls, and framed photographs in tasteful clusters on discreet side tables. Arthur looks at them with interest, smiling at first, because it's so odd to see Eames so young. As he keeps looking, though, his smile slips. There is a decided theme.

Eames at four, scowling in a white button down and Oxfords.

Eames at twelve, his face carefully blank, wearing pressed slacks and a blazer.

Eames at seven with his brother, a careful distance between them, obviously posed in matching navy sweaters.

Eames at fifteen in a public school uniform, surrounded by his family and gazing at the camera like he's trying to work out an escape.

Fruitlessly, Arthur searches for rugby matches or fair trips, for shots of Eames covered in mud and wearing mismatched socks. He looks for the paisley that he's so accustomed to and can't find it, and he turns on his heel and marches back to the bedroom they're sharing, privacy and space be damned.

Eames is standing at the bookshelf. "Hello, darling," he says quietly, "I was wondering where you'd got off to."

Arthur just stalks up to Eames and pushes him into the wall, snaking down to press a kiss against his neck. "Take off that fucking sweater," he growls. "Right now."

"Gladly," Eames returns, surprised but not displeased. He reaches for the hem of it as Arthur undoes his pants and lets them drop. "May I ask what brought this on?"

"I can't feel like seeing you naked?" Arthur asks.

"I didn't say I objected," Eames murmurs, pulling the sweater off and letting Arthur work frantically at the button-down underneath. "Usually you're not this enthused to get me out of clothes that actually fit, though."

"I like your stupid clothes," Arthur admits, furious and frenzied, tearing at the buttons because he can't get them undone fast enough. "They're hideous and they look terrible on you and I fucking love them, alright, how the fuck do I get this off."

"Arthur," Eames starts.

"Shut up," Arthur commands, and god, this is completely psychotic but Eames' eyes are soft, understanding, like he gets it. He grabs Arthur's hands and stills them for long enough to pull the shirt over his head, tossing it aside.

And then it's Eames, standing there in a pair of ugly striped boxers and nothing else, familiar ink snaking its way along his skin. "There you are, then, love. Just me."

"Jesus Christ," Arthur manages, and attacks him.

Eames meets him mouth to mouth, arching into Arthur's touch even as he reaches around to undo his waistcoat, to untuck his shirt. Arthur fans his fingers across Eames' chest and presses hard enough to leave bruises, and then he leans down, licks at the dark whorls of the tattoo on his chest as Eames undoes his tie. Eames moans and bucks into him, and so Arthur licks him again, runs his tongue across it, and then moves to suck a dark stain into his collarbone.

"Darling, god, Arthur," Eames hisses, tipping his head back. He's stopped working at Arthur's buttons entirely, just has Arthur's tie wrapped around his fingers, and fuck, fuck, his eyes are lidded and heavy and familiar.

"Eames," Arthur says. He reaches into Eames' boxers and fists his cock, giving it a quick jerk. Eames groans and leans forward to sink his teeth into the top of Arthur's shoulder, and Arthur presses his thumb into Eames' slit just to hear him gasp the way he always does.

"Christ," Eames pants, "you're not even--you're still fucking dressed, are you trying to kill me, what do you want," and Arthur doesn't have the wherewithal to think about it.

"You," he growls, and freezes. Because of all the selfish things he's done today, of all he's done wrong out of a desperate, burning desire to do right, this is the worst--because maybe Eames needs to be this colder, calmer version of himself to get through this and maybe Arthur doesn't have any fucking right--

And then Eames' face collapses, his expression twisting into something stunned, wondering, like Arthur's given him something he didn't know he could take.

"Fuck, Arthur," he breathes, and slams their mouths together. Arthur moans and grinds into him and drags his teeth across Eames' lower lip, running his nails along the path of the tattoo on Eames' back that he knows by heart.

"Get your fucking kit off," Eames commands, breathless, pulling away, "get it off while I find the--"

"Side pocket, black suitcase," Arthur gasps, already scrambling out of his pants and boxers. His shirt is half undone anyway and he ditches it easily, staring transfixed as Eames trips over his boxers in his haste to remove them, bends over to paw at the suitcase. A second later Eames has the lube and condom fisted in his right hand and he shoves Arthur into the window.

"Look at you," he growls, "god, Arthur, I could look all fucking day--"

"I can think of better things for you to do," Arthur manages, and uses the window, the wooden border of each pane pressing into his back. He levers himself up against Eames and grinds their cocks together even as Eames digs his nails into Arthur's arm, runs his thumb down the tender skin underneath.

Eames lets out a strangled moan and rests his hand on Arthur's shoulder, so Arthur rips the top off of the lube with his teeth. "Fuck," Eames says, eyes wide.

"Excellent plan," Arthur says, "right now, preferably, if you don't mind," and that's all it takes. Eames coats three fingers with lube and reaches around, starting with two, scissoring them wide.

Arthur's whole fucking body shudders to attention and his dick twitches against Eames' stomach and Eames releases a filthy, guttural noise. In response Arthur rips the condom from his hand and tears it open, rolling it onto Eames' cock, his hands shaking as Eames adds a third finger. He lets out a whine he doesn't mean to release and Eames presses a kiss to his neck, fanning his fingers out.

"Shhh, darling," he says, "I can't have you come yet, I have such plans for you."

"Like I'd come this early, you cocky shit," Arthur growls, grazing his teeth across Eames' nipple. Eames laughs and gasps in one breath, his whole body jerking under the touch.

"I'm going to bring you off so hard you see stars," Eames hisses into the shell of his ear. "I'm going to tear you apart, Arthur, god, just because I fucking can, just because you fucking want me to--"

"That's what I want," Arthur agrees, desperate. And then, because he feels that point needs some underscoring, he arches back and levers himself up, wrapping his legs around Eames' waist.

"Oh, fuck, fuck, Arthur," Eames groans. He pulls his fingers out and thrusts his cock up and in, burying himself even as Arthur grinds down against him. "You'll be the death of me yet, do you have any idea how sodding tight, bloody hell--"

"You sound like a low-budget British porno," Arthur laughs, admittedly rather brokenly. Eames just thrusts in deeper, keeping a hand spread on Arthur's ass to balance him.

"You like the way I talk, pet," he hums, nipping at Arthur's earlobe.

"God, I do," Arthur moans. "I do, I fucking do, I love the way you talk and your stupid clothes and the goddamn pet names and I'd fucking kill you if you stopped, oh god right there, don't stop, Eames, don't fucking stop--"

"Jesus bloody Christ," Eames says, and he puts one hand against Arthur's shoulder and leans his weight into it, holding him up. And then he's thrusting in, harder and faster, his face creased with it, and Arthur fists a handful of his hair and holds on.

Eames pounds Arthur into the window, a litany of broken syllables pouring out of him as he presses his lips to Arthur's neck, his chest. Arthur tightens his thighs and his calves and his ass around Eames just to feel him shudder, pulls his hair too hard, licks a sordid stripe up his neck and Eames says "bloody buggering fuck, you fucking slut, Arthur, Christ."

"Takes one to know one," Arthur growls, and he runs his nails up Eames' spine. Eames gasps and his knees buckle dangerously and Arthur yanks his hair again, tilts his head back to graze his teeth against the length of Eames' jaw.

"Jesus, you can't--I'm going to come if you don't--"

"You asshole," Arthur says, driving himself down again and again, as hard as he can. His voice is a low, shattered whine, because his control is breaking and he can't stop talking and fuck, fuck, he's so close. "I want you to, don't you get it, I want to fucking feel you doing it, I want to make you fall the fuck apart, you stupid bastard, you fucking prick, I just--come on, Eames, come on, I can't hold it back much longer--god, Eames, please just fucking come for me, please, please, Jesus, please--"

"Arthur," Eames moans, and he presses his face against Arthur's chest and lets go, shuddering with it, his grip on Arthur's ass tightening until it burns. And god, he's wrecked, he's fucking wrecked, sweat soaked and filthy and covered in tattoos and Arthur comes just from the twitch of his cock deep within him, the pulsing, warm ache of it. He comes all over Eames' stomach and has to bite Eames' arm to muffle his scream and Eames' knees do buckle then, dropping them both unceremoniously to the floor.

They lay there like that for a minute, Arthur's face pressed into Eames' hip, both of them breathing hard. Then Arthur presses his thumb into his own come and smears it a little and Eames huffs out something between a laugh and a sob, a choked, thready sound.

"God, you crazy shit, come here," he manages, and Arthur crawls up to him. Eames takes Arthur's face in both his hands and kisses him, pressing his lips to Arthur's mouth, his cheeks, his eyelids, everywhere he can reach.

"I love you," he growls, his eyes narrowed and furious and so goddamn honest it makes Arthur's chest hurt. "Christ, I fucking love you, I can't even--Arthur, I don't even know where to bloody begin."

"Eames," Arthur breathes, and it's more like an affirmation then a name. Eames rolls them over and balances himself on shaking arms, hovering, so close. And Arthur pulls him down, presses them together, just breathing it in the scent of him, the way he feels.

"I don't even know where to begin," Eames repeats. Arthur runs his hand down Eames' back and swallows hard, closing his eyes.

"Just," he says, "just--shit, Eames, I'm sorry, I know this is--just tell me I'm not doing it wrong? Because I don't, I don't know what to do and I'm sorry, I wish I did, but I'm trying, I swear to god I'm trying--"

"Arthur, you idiot," Eames sighs, tangling his fingers in Arthur's hair, "just the fact that you're here is more than I could have asked for."

"But that's so stupid," Arthur whispers. "That's so stupid, Eames, of course I'm here. Where the fuck else would I be?"

"The fact that you don't know," Eames says, levering himself up again, "is the whole bloody point, darling."

"You have ridiculously low standards," Arthur mutters. Eames laughs and kisses him, his gaze fond.

"And you're a mess," he says. "Let's get you to the shower, come on."

"I'm not the one with come all over my stomach," Arthur protests.

"True. However, you are the one with it in your hair."

Arthur grimaces, reaching up to check. "Oh, god, that's disgusting."

"Up you get, then," Eames says, standing unsteadily and hauling Arthur to his feet. They make their way to the bathroom and stumble into the shower together, exhausted and leaning on one another, and when Eames falls asleep fifteen minutes later there's the ghost of a smile on his face.

Arthur stays up longer than he should, tracing the worry lines on Eames' forehead until Eames sighs and drags him down, only half awake.

"Go to sleep, darling," he murmurs, slinging an arm over him. "I can hear you thinking, 's very distracting."

"Not my fault you can read minds," Arthur mumbles, already starting to drift off. Eames laughs.

"Sleep," he insists, and that's the last Arthur hears until morning.

--

Arthur wakes to the sensation of being firmly kissed. This is not particularly atypical, so he doesn't open his eyes, just pushes up into it, humming softly. Eames smiles against his lips and doesn't pull away for a long minute, and when Arthur finally blinks he's half hard and rather expecting to act on it.

It's kind of a surprise, then, to find that Eames is sitting on the bed, fully dressed, wearing a suit and tie.

"Oh, hell," Arthur mumbles, trying to push past his morning fog, "should've woken me."

"Don't strain yourself with full sentences, darling," Eames laughs, pushing Arthur's hair up out of his eyes. "It's okay. I've a meeting with my solicitor in a bit, I didn't see any reason to get you up."

"Could've," Arthur tries, and blinks. Words are difficult. "You know. Uh. Shit."

"I brought you a cuppa," says Eames, by way of reply. His hand is still in Arthur's hair, but he gestures to the mug on the nightstand with a tilt of his head. "My mother keeps shit coffee, I'm afraid, but it's as black as I could brew it."

Arthur reaches for it like a drowning man, taking a few long, bracing sips. "Yuck. Thanks."

"Mmm," Eames says. He plays idly at Arthur's hair, obviously waiting for the passing of the confusion Arthur can never fucking fight off upon waking from real sleep. When he finishes the coffee Eames takes the mug from him, puts it down.

"Feeling human yet?"

"For a given value of the word human," Arthur agrees, yawning. "You really could've gotten me up before, you know."

"I wouldn't even have woken you now," Eames says, shifting his weight a little, "except that I need to talk to you about something."

He looks uncomfortable, suddenly, strained and worried. Arthur panics.

"Shit, Eames," he says, "really, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to--I would have gotten up--"

"What?" Eames asks, blinking. He stares at Arthur like he's crazy. "Darling, no--you have to stop doing that."

"Doing what?"

"You're not doing anything wrong," Eames says, still staring. "I let you sleep because you were tired, and I didn't see any reason to inform you of my plans to shower and shave. Relax."

"Okay," Arthur agrees after a second, feeling like an idiot. "I, uh. What did you want to talk to me about?"

"Ah," Eames says, the uncomfortable expression back on his face. "I mentioned before that my father..left me some money, yes?"

"Yeah," Arthur says, confused.

"Well, I'm--I'm mostly here to turn it down," Eames says. "I'm going to sign the papers now, it's just--it's rather a lot of money, Arthur."

"Oh," Arthur says. "Uh. Okay?"

"And, well," Eames says, shifting again. "I mean, I can--I don't have to--I would rather not carry it about, is the thing. I never took their money even when I needed it, and I don't see any reason to take it now, but I didn't want to sign anything without, ah, checking with you."

"What?" Arthur says, entirely at sea. Eames' face goes blank.

"Of course, darling, if you want it--"

"Of course I don't want it," Arthur says. He's not sure if he should be flattered or touched or terrified. "I just--really?"

Eames smiles at him, hesitant, like he's not sure it's the right expression. "Well, you pay all the bills, love."

"Because if I left it to you we'd be foreclosed on," Arthur says automatically. Then his brain catches up with his mouth. "Wait, Eames. It's not--this is your decision, you don't have to ask."

"No, I do," Eames says. "It's your money as much as mine, at this point."

"What?" Arthur says, for the second time in as many minutes. Eames sighs, fond and exasperated at once.

"For someone so bloody brilliant, you can be very thick sometimes," he says. "Arthur, think about it. When's the last time you looked at our finances separately?"

"Well, I," Arthur says. Then he thinks about it. "…Oh."

Eames nods, looking…nervous, somehow. "I don't mean to push, it's not--I'm not asking you to set up a joint bank account or anything, hell--"

"That would involve compounding like twelve different aliases and dissolving that one mutual fund," Arthur says faintly, because he doesn't really have any other next move. "Um, well. No, I have no interest in the inheritance, and, uh. Thank you for asking?"

Eames breaths out a sigh of relief, says, "My apologies for awkwardness before ten A.M., I know how you hate that," and kisses him, soft and slow. Arthur kisses back, pressing himself up into it, and when he breaks away Eames smiles at him, ruffles his hair again, and doesn't say anything at all.

"So," Arthur says, because Eames still hasn't gotten up, "do you want me to come to the meeting?"

"Not unless you have a very pressing desire to meet Rupert," Eames says, shrugging. "He's ancient and he smells foul, so I wouldn't really recommend it."

"Okay. So I'll just--stay here, then?" Arthur says.

"If that's alright," Eames hedges, cautious. "I'm sure it'll be boring, but I don't want to drag you along."

"I'm happy to be dragged," Arthur says, "but I don't want to come if you don't want me to."

"Well, I don't--this is stupid," Eames laughs, putting a hand to his eyes. "I honestly can't see any reason for you to come, pet. You'd just be sitting in a waiting room."

"Yeah," Arthur says, because that seems to be what Eames is angling for. "Yeah, okay, if that's what you want."

Eames gives him the strange look again but seems to dismiss it, leaning in. Arthur kisses him at the corner of his mouth, lingering, and Eames sighs against him. The smile slips off his face and Arthur lets himself really see it--the circles under his eyes, how worn-down he looks.

Arthur puts his hand to Eames' temple, palm resting on his cheekbone, fingers curling slightly in his hair. Eames lets himself turn into the touch after an upsettingly brief amount of time and doesn't open his eyes, even when Arthur rubs at one of those dark circles with his thumb.

"We can go home," he offers softly. "Today, I mean. I can bump our flight up. I can pick you up after your meeting and we can just leave."

"It's only one more day," Eames murmurs.

"You're miserable," Arthur says quietly, before he can even consider stopping himself, rubbing with his thumb again. "Hell, we don't even have to go home--we could go anywhere, we could go to Monte Carlo if you wanted--"

"Arthur," Eames says, opening his eyes.

"Yeah, okay," Arthur says, trying and failing to smile. "Worth a shot, right?"

"Of course," Eames sighs. He kisses Arthur one last time and stands, and Arthur can actually see the mask fall over him, all that emotion stripping itself away. "Try not to die of boredom while I'm gone, alright?"

"I'm sure I can find something to occupy myself," Arthur deadpans. He throws in a crude gesture, because if Eames wants to slide into someone else the least Arthur can do is help. Eames cracks a faint smile and pantomimes a swoon, and god, he's trying too hard, they both are, and it's terrible and uncomfortable and the best they can do.

"Bye, love," Eames says, hitting the door. "See you later, yeah?"

"I'll be here," Arthur agrees, and then he's gone.

--

Arthur tries to read for about an hour, but the books available to him in the room they've been given are all leather-bound and pretentious, and it doesn't really appeal. He hadn't brought much work, largely because he'd packed in a rush while trying to keep a smile on Eames' face and forgotten his damn laptop, and while he is sure there are televisions in this house somewhere, he doesn't know where to find them.

He googles "supporting a grieving loved one" on his phone, feels like an asshole, closes out of it immediately, and decides that considering the circumstances, eleven is not too early for a drink.

Arthur to Eames, 11:13 GMT
Will you judge me if I break into your family's wine cellar?

Eames to Arthur, 11:13 GMT
christ i didnt think the coffee was that bad. dont remember showing you the wine cellar

Arthur to Eames, 11:14 GMT
You didn't, I assumed.

Eames to Arthur, 11:15 GMT
of course you did. wont judge a bit but you dont want to go down there

Arthur to Eames, 11:15 GMT
Why, is it haunted? I'm terrified.

Eames to Arthur, 11:16 GMT
had my first shag down there darling

Arthur to Eames, 11:17 GMT
Really? In a wine cellar? What are you, a Gothic romance hero?

Eames to Arthur, 11:18 GMT
are you mad with jealousy

Arthur to Eames, 11:19 GMT
I refuse to answer that.

Eames to Arthur, 11:20 GMT
thats answer enough pet. dont have an aneurism b4 i get back. try the liquor cart in the parlor

Arthur to Eames, 11:21 GMT
Awesome, thanks. Everything going okay?

Eames to Arthur, 11:25 GMT
stop worrying

Arthur to Eames, 11:25 GMT
That's also answer enough. Call if you need me.

Eames to Arthur, 11:26 GMT
of course xx

Arthur sighs at his phone and flips it shut. There's really nothing he can do except keep the damned thing on him, so he pulls on a pair of pants and and a button down and heads off in search of the liquor cart in question. He's wandered in and out of several doors when his phone buzzes again.

Eames to Arthur, 11:31 GMT
first floor east wing third door down from the kitchen sorry shouldve said

Arthur to Eames, 11:31 GMT
That was…deeply frightening. Thanks.

Eames to Arthur, 11:31 GMT
:)

Armed with directions, Arthur finds the parlor in question in short order. His stomach growls a little when he passes the kitchen and he wonders idly if anyone would mind if he made himself a sandwich, but he decides to drink first and ask questions later. He makes a beeline for the cart, pulling the top off of the gin, and then someone clears their throat.

"Jesus!" Arthur says, whipping around. Mrs. Eames is sitting in an armchair in the corner, and Arthur feels his face flush. "Oh, god, sorry--I thought you'd be at the meeting. I, uh, I don't usually drink in the mornings--"

She shakes her head, lifting the sidecar in her hand and raising her eyebrows. "Join me."

Arthur cannot think of anything he wants to do less, but considering the circumstances he doesn't have much choice. He makes himself a gin and tonic and sits down across from her.

She's wearing a black dress, heels, and a tasteful diamond necklace. Arthur doesn't even have shoes on. He's never felt so underdressed in his life.

"I gather my son is off signing away his due," she sighs. "It's a shame, I'm sure he could use it."

"We do alright," Arthur hazards, taking a long sip of his drink when she looks away. "He's, you know. He likes to earn his own way."

"It would have looked better if he'd taken it," she says, "but I suppose it can't be helped."

This pisses Arthur off. Frankly, there is a lot about this house that pisses Arthur off, a lot about these people that he could really live without, but he's mindful of their grief and has tried to hold his tongue. Mrs. Eames turns a sharp gaze on him, though, probing and focused and very reminiscent of her son, and then she smiles coolly.

"Ah," she says, "you don't like me very much, do you?"

"Oh, no," Arthur says, holding up a hand, "Mrs. Eames, please--"

"It's perfectly alright," she sighs, sipping her drink. "I wouldn't really have expected you to. I must seem like a monster--and perhaps I am, who's to say?"

"Mrs. Eames," Arthur tries, deeply uncomfortable. She goes on, ignoring him entirely.

"I was never particularly…maternal," she says, frowning slightly, like she's not sure it's the right word. "I would have been fine stopping at one, frankly, but Richard wanted to try for a girl. And Edward was such an active child, always on to the next thing. It was exhausting."

It takes Arthur a minute to realize that she's talking about Eames. In the years since he'd learned it, Arthur has called him by his given name exactly once--paying the bills one night, harassing him about that stupid credit score, he'd dropped it, just to see what Eames would do. He'd expected a scowl or a causally thrown middle finger, but Eames had just shuddered slightly and looked away, and Arthur had felt guilty for a week.

He sees why Eames had reacted like that, now. His mother says his name like he's an acquaintance, someone she met once at a party, rather than her son. Arthur can't quite control the disgusted twist to his mouth, isn't really sure he wants to.

"When he was eleven," Mrs. Eames continues absently, like she's forgotten Arthur is there, "he ran off on a shopping trip to London. I was worried sick when I realized, of course, and Richard was convinced he'd been kidnapped, but when they found him he was in a pub, trying to convince the local lads to teach him to play poker." She smiles, not exactly fond. "He was always doing that--running off, pestering whoever he met. Some days I think he was closer with our butler than he was with me."

I can see why, Arthur thinks, and doesn't say. She seems to sense it anyway, because she blinks at him, and then she laughs, tired.

"I do apologize," she murmurs, "I must be making you terribly uncomfortable. I wouldn't normally--I'm a bit out of sorts, I suppose."

"I'm sorry for your loss," Arthur says, because that much, at least, is true. She sighs, waving a hand.

"Richard's been dying for years," she says. Arthur remembers Eames saying I didn't even know he was sick, and hates her. "It does seem rather final, though, doesn't it? Naive, I suppose, but I always thought he'd outlive me."

"I'm sorry," Arthur repeats, because he has no idea what else to do.

"No, dear, I am," she sighs. "This has been…completely inappropriate." Then she tilts her head, giving him the probing look again.

"I've never seen Edward particularly happy, you know," she says finally. "He was such a temperamental boy, and he loathed Ampleforth, did his best to get kicked out. He's been less than forthcoming since, but he seems--better, with you. It was good of you to come. I should thank you."

"No, no," Arthur says hurriedly, because the idea of this woman thanking him for anything, let alone for Eames, is decidedly appalling. "It's fine, really. I go where I'm needed."

"Yes," she says, "yes, I suppose you would."

Arthur has no idea what that's supposed to mean, but he stands when she does, trusting courtesy where reasoning has failed him. She nods to him and slips out the door, advising him that he's more than welcome to eat something, and then he's alone in the room, his drink still in hand. He knocks it back in one gulp.

--

When Eames comes back from the meeting he looks, if it's possible, even more exhausted. Arthur tries to ask and Eames just sighs, says his brother tried to talk him out of signing the papers. He lets Arthur touch him, though, lean in close on the stiff couch, take his hand. He clearly doesn't want to talk, so Arthur stays as quiet as he knows how, wishing he could take some of the hunch out of Eames' shoulders.

They eat dinner eventually, which is again proper and nearly silent. The food is delicious but Arthur hardly tastes it, because he's so angry he can hardly see straight, and it's difficult to keep it in check.

"Can you pass the salt, darling?" Mrs. Eames asks, maybe twenty minutes into dinner. She's clearly speaking to Eames, because she's looking right at him, but the word is--jarring, coming out her mouth. It's stilted, cold, entirely devoid of Eames' casual affection, and Arthur hates her all over again for the way Eames stiffens and complies.

When they finish eating Daniel offers them cigars. Arthur declines for both of them, because he thinks he might snap if he has to spend another minute in this house, so he can't imagine how Eames feels. Eames raises an eyebrow at him, but Arthur just shakes his head and runs upstairs, grabbing their coats.

"I thought maybe you'd want to," he starts, when he meets Eames in the hall.

"God, yes, anywhere," Eames breathes, the words tripping over each other in their haste. He takes his coat and pulls Arthur out the door.

They walk for ten minutes, and Eames doesn't stop pulling. He moves quickly over the grounds, covered with freshly-left snow, his breath visible against the flakes that are still falling. He walks like he'd run if he wasn't tethered to Arthur's hand, and Arthur--

--Arthur remembers Eames kissing him in a crowded baggage claim in Tulsa, fond and friendly, like a hello. And he remembers Eames pulling up in that stupid car in London and Eames tilting his face up in the rain in Los Angeles, remembers Eames smiling at him over too much wine in Belize and saying "You missed me, I can tell." And Arthur had always thought that affection was something that came easily to him, that he was warm unthinkingly, that he never even had to try.

Arthur had kind of hated him for it, actually, once. Arthur had kind of wished he would stop.

But now, tramping after him, watching the line of his back curved against the wind, Arthur knows different. Arthur knows that Eames learned to be warm in a cold world, that he grew up into his personality like it was the only way out, and it's so much worse--it's so unbearably, agonizingly worse--that Arthur isn't sure he trusts himself to breathe. He thinks of Eames' careful uncertainty, the way he'd once honestly thought Arthur would leave him over fucking cooking, and he wants to say a thousand things, but he doesn't have any idea how.

"Christ," Eames says, stopping at a grove of trees and closing his eyes, "Christ, I hate it here."

There's this ache to his voice, writ solemnly across his face, and Arthur wonders if this was the draw, at first--if Arthur was just some cold and bristled, something Eames wanted to see if he could crack. It hurts, hurts nearly as much as the twist to Eames' mouth, and suddenly Arthur doesn't know how to do anything but press himself into that gaping, aching space he can't believe he's never seen.

"We'll never come back," he says, pushing Eames against the nearest tree, "god, never, you are never coming back here, Eames, fucking hell." He noses the hollow of Eames' throat and Eames lets him, tilting his head back, his breathing shallow and desperate.

"Darling," he says, his voice crackling against Arthur's hair, and Arthur decides it doesn't matter what Eames thought of him at first. Because Arthur is not like these people, has never been this cold, and he'll spend his life proving it if he has to, regardless of what it takes.

And before he can think about it, Arthur is sinking to his knees in the darkness, the snow seeping through the thin fabric of his slacks, because he wants to make sure Eames knows that too. He wants to make sure Eames knows there is this stupid raging fire in him that's just stoked and stoked and stoked every time he smiles or raises his eyebrows or reaches out to touch him in the grocery line, every time he lifts his hands in mock defeat and lets Arthur kiss him violently against the kitchen counter.

"Arthur," Eames says, "what are you," and Arthur shakes his head and undoes Eames' flies, reaches out a gloved hand to pull out his cock.

"Shut up," he says, "I don't know how else to do it so shut up, okay, Eames, I can't--"

"Jesus, you'll catch your death, you don't have to--"

"Yes," Arthur says, helpless, "yes I do, you don't get it, I really do," and he pulls the whole thing into his mouth. Eames is barely even hard yet but he moans brokenly, twists his hands in Arthur's hair and arches against him, and Arthur swallows and swallows and swallows, taking him in deeper than he even knew was possible.

"Fuck," Eames says, hardening in Arthur's mouth, "oh, bloody fuck," and Arthur grips Eames' thighs and hums, dragging himself up and along the length of his dick, tonguing him mercilessly. He's bitterly cold and Eames' nails are digging into his scalp and Arthur has never been more wrong about someone in his life, not ever.

(“I get that you can just, fucking, fucking play at it all the time, but I’m not like that, I’m not like you, I’m not good at people like you are," Arthur had said, and Eames' eyes had been wide and honest and he'd said “Who says I’m playing at it?” and Arthur hadn't known, he hadn't know, how could he not have known--)

"Arthur," Eames keens, jerking, pulling at Arthur's hair, "Arthur, Arthur."

And the thing is…the thing is he'd thought Eames played it fast and loose with affection like he plays it fast and loose with everything else, and instead it's been this stupid climb, hand over foot, and of the two of them Eames has been the braver, really. Because for all Arthur's own past is yoked across his shoulders, he can't imagine coming out of this place willing to love anyone, let alone someone whose grip on affection is tentative at best. But here they are, and Eames hates it here, and the least Arthur can do is pull Eames into his throat and hold on until Eames is coming long, pulsing strokes, until Eames shudders and gasps his name and groans as he lets himself go.

Arthur is barely able to get his mouth free before Eames is hauling him up by his collar and kissing him fiercely, violently, almost painful. Arthur kisses back, reaching down to tuck Eames back into his trousers, and Eames growls against him and bites at him, pulling away.

"You fucking idiot," he hisses, "you're shaking, you stupid bastard, I can't believe I let you do that," and Arthur kisses him again just to shut him up. He is, in fact, shaking, but he's pretty sure the temperature and his soaked-through pants have very little to do with it.

Eames moans into his mouth and pulls him in too tight, shoving his hands up under Arthur's jacket, and Arthur tries to stop shuddering. He can't, though, and Eames growls "Oh for fuck's sake," against his lips, stepping back.

He zips himself up and grabs Arthur by the sleeve, all but dragging him back to the house. He is silent the whole way, his expression bouncing between a glower and something softer, almost wondering. Arthur puts one foot in front of the other and tries not to notice that he can't exactly feel his legs anymore, because it was worth it, and he'd fucking do it again, but perhaps he hadn't thought it all the way through after all.

They run into Daniel on the stairs. He raises his eyebrows disapprovingly at the picture they paint--Eames flushed and panting, Arthur soaked from the knees down with his hair everywhere--and opens his mouth. Arthur narrows his eyes and prepares to shut him the fuck down, but--

"Piss off," Eames snaps, before Arthur can even form syllables. "God, Daniel, whatever it is I couldn't give less of a bloody fuck right now, alright?"

There you are, Arthur thinks for the second time in two days, and almost laughs at the expression on Daniel's face as he's pulled the rest of the way upstairs.

"What kind of imbecile," Eames mutters, digging around in his bag. He produces a pair of sweatpants and throws them at Arthur's head, glaring. "If you wanted to get on your knees so badly, darling, I would happily have moved to a location less likely to give you frostbite."

"It was urgent," Arthur says, shrugging. He slips out of his clothes, sitting down on the bed with the sweats in hand, pulling his legs up to his chest. "Couldn't wait."

Eames throws himself across the bed, still angry. "That doesn't even make sense," he growls. "Put the fucking track pants on. Christ, Arthur, the state of your knees."

And then--because Eames is Eames, because he's quick with anger but even quicker with warmth--his eyes soften. He sighs and puts broad palms across the painfully red expanse of Arthur's knees, covering them.

"You're a sight," he murmurs, brushing a kiss to the side of Arthur's jaw. "God, I could kill you, what on earth--"

"It needed to be done," Arthur insists, pressing his fingers against Eames' neck. "And I am a man of action, or something. Are you really complaining?"

"Thank god we live in Los Angeles," Eames mutters. "And yes, of course I'm complaining, this may shock you but I don't exactly place blowies over you not actively damaging yourself--"

"Then your priorities are all wrong," Arthur tells him solemnly, the corner of his mouth twitching. "And I'm not damaged, Eames, Jesus. You've shot me before, I'd think you could handle me being a little chilly."

"This is different," Eames protests. "Your lips were blue."

"That was the moonlight," Arthur informs him. "Less romantic then people say."

Eames just shifts his grip on Arthur's knees, removing on hand to give him the sweats with more insistence. Arthur rolls his eyes but puts them on, and Eames reaches over the bag at the side of the bed to pull out--

"Oh my god, is that my laptop?" Arthur demands.

"Y…es?" Eames hazards. "I grabbed it on the way out the other day, I assumed you knew."

"No," Arthur says, laughing. "Well, that would have been useful earlier."

"Oh, god," Eames says, catching on, "no wonder you felt like drinking. What the hell did you do while I was gone?"

"I spent some time with your mother," Arthur admits. Eames raises his eyebrows, and then he pulls back the covers of the bed and shoves at Arthur. Arthur sighs but crawls underneath, pleased when Eames takes off everything but his boxers and slides in next to him.

"I can't imagine that was pleasant," he says, pressing his palm to Arthur's bare back. "What did she have to say?"

Arthur, generally speaking, tries to be honest with Eames, but there are times when careful omissions are really better suited. "She told me about the time you gave her the slip in London," he says, skipping the rest of it.

A wistful half-smile twists its way onto Eames' lips. "Really? I didn't think she even remembered that."

"Apparently your father thought you'd been kidnapped," Arthur says around a yawn. Then he freezes, because he really hadn't meant to bring him up, hadn't meant to pour salt in an open wound--

"Yeah," Eames says, distantly but not displeased, "yeah, I remember that. He worried about kidnapping a lot, the crazy bastard. Used to think he had gambling debts or an enemy in Parliament or something."

"Maybe he did," Arthur says carefully, tracing the line of the tattoo on Eames' chest with a fingernail.

"Think my criminal streak's inherited, hmm?" Eames asks, amused. He catches Arthur's hand and pulls on it until Arthur is pressed entirely against his side, which is not particularly dignified, but Eames is radiating heat and Arthur's not objecting. "Bloody hell, I should just go sleep in the refrigerator, it would be warmer."

"But less comfortable," Arthur offers. He presses his nose briefly against Eames' neck, and Eames mock-yelps, slapping at him.

"Wimp," Arthur laughs, and snatches his laptop, flipping it open. He checks his email and then he and Eames have a spirited debate about the merits of V for Vendetta over Choke, which Arthur lets Eames win in the end.

And, yeah, once they've got the computer set up Eames' smile slips a little, and Arthur grips at his hip too tight, can't stop touching him, keeps pressing kisses against his skin without even realizing it. And everything is still a little bit awful, but he can see how they'll get there, can begin to piece together the map of doing it right, and if all he can get right now is Eames seeming a little more himself he'll absolutely fucking take it.

--

They pack up the next morning and go. Arthur lies about an early flight and Eames lets him, smiling slightly, bumping against his shoulder when his brother isn't looking. Mrs. Eames thanks them both for coming, a hint of warmth creeping into it, and Eames actually hugs her goodbye, if stiffly.

They don't actually have to be at the airport until four, and when they get into London they eat crap fish and chips for breakfast. Eames takes Arthur to the first apartment he'd lived in, back before the SAS. It's in a shit part of town, and Arthur teases him about it, prodding gently and laughing. Eames smiles and takes his hand and parades him around, pulling ridiculous tour guide antics, and it's not quite right yet but it's better, it's getting better.

When they board their flight Eames steals Arthur's phone to google the weather in LA, and comes across the results for "supporting a grieving loved one" Arthur had pulled up the day before.

"Oh, darling," he says, "you didn't," and Arthur flushes and snatches the phone back and mutters something about it not being useful. Eames laughs, but it's awfully fond, and Arthur glances out the window, embarrassed.

"It was stupid," he says. "I think I probably know you better than the internet at this point, anyway."

Eames doesn't say anything, and Arthur doesn't think much of it until he feels Eames' hand against his own, lacing their fingers together.

"Yes," he agrees quietly, "that's true," and even though the stupid flush to Arthur's cheeks decidedly fails to go away, he doesn't let go.

Somewhere over the Atlantic, when the sun is entirely gone from the sky, Arthur feels Eames' grip slacken. He glances over and sees that he's asleep, his mouth half-open, snoring softly. Arthur narrows his eyes for a second--Eames forges sleep just as well as he forges anything else, after all--and then he glances around surreptitiously. The whole plane is dark and no one is looking at him, so he nudges Eames ever-so-slightly, shifting him until his head is on Arthur's shoulder.

When he feels Eames' grin through his shirt, he can't even work up the energy to be embarrassed.

"Faker," he whispers, for appearance's sake.

"Sap," Eames returns, his tone both mocking and kind, blurred at the edges with exhaustion to real too be an act. Arthur lets his head rest against Eames hair and smiles vaguely, closing his eyes. He falls asleep thinking of home.