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Blue of the Distance

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There are far, far worse ways to wake up in the morning than next to a warm, lightly snoring Arthur. Eames stretches expansively and grins at nothing and everything at once, thinking, I could stand to get used to this. He presses some kisses to Arthur's hairline, but Arthur only grumbles in his sleep and squirms away, so Eames decides to get up in search of sustenance.

The apartment they're in is Eames' – well, Harold Niffinger's, really, but since Harold Niffinger does not exist, and was in actual fact crafted by Eames for tax reasons, it may as well be called Eames' property. It's one of Eames' favorites, the building just old enough to feel comfortably worn in but not so old that everything creaks and nothing works properly. Even the elevator is in good order.

Having a kitchen is a luxury Eames doesn't make light of. Given his lifestyle, it's no surprise that his chances to cook are few and far between. Eames has made his peace with this, resigned himself to living on bad takeout and ramen for weeks at a time. The pay, and the opportunities to eat in truly fine establishments that come with it, more than makes up for it. But it's not really anything like cooking for himself.

He had a little time to shop before Arthur got there yesterday, rumpled from the long flight and blinking with fatigue. Eames put him to bed without much fuss and fell asleep making up plans of several carnal varieties.

It seems like a nice day for eggie bread, so Eames cracks an egg and whistles to himself. He'll make some for Arthur, too.

Soon enough the kitchen is full of the smell of frying eggs. Eames is entertaining the notion of bringing Arthur breakfast in bed when he hears the floorboards creaking and sees Arthur yawning, rotating his shoulders and shaking his head, then settling back into a slouch, scratching his stomach absently.

Eames has never been more grateful for the privacy of his own home, because it allows him to push Arthur gently against the wall and rub his face against Arthur's chest, shameless and heavy with fondness.

"Good morning, darling," Eames says somewhere from the vicinity of Arthur's navel.

"Morning." Arthur slides his fingers into Eames' hair. This is entirely pleasing, so Eames crouches to nuzzle Arthur's stomach in hopes of encouraging it to continue. "Food?"

Eames laughs and gets up. "Yes, food." He ushers Arthur to sit at the table, pushes a plate at him. It's quiet while they eat, only the riotous bird calls from outside the kitchen window to disrupt the silence.

"No, seriously, what is that?" Arthur says, putting his fork down. "Is there an aviary outside the window or something?"

Eames shrugs. "At least it's not pigeons," he says. "Had some of those nesting in one of my other places. Nearly thought the place was haunted."

Arthur's eyebrows rise. "How many places do you have?"

"Oh, enough," Eames says, airy and glib. He knows exactly how many, but honestly, there's no need for that right now.

Arthur's eyes narrow very slightly, as though if he squints hard enough he'll see right through Eames. Eames gets up and distracts Arthur with some carefully placed kisses to his neck.

After that, there aren't any more questions, only some breathless directions. In the end they're lying against the couch (somehow they ended up in the living room; Eames doesn't question these things), sweaty and panting, still half-dressed. They're lying twisted around each other, Eames' thigh between Arthur's legs, Arthur's arms thrown loosely around Eames' shoulders. Every now and then he bows his head to suck at Eames' neck and add another bruise to Eames' growing collection.

Pleasant as this is, they must eventually disentangle. "All right," Arthur says, getting to his feet. "What's next?"

The question catches Eames off guard, not least because he's not certain what Arthur means. "Er," he says, because he's not at his best directly after orgasm.

"I need coffee," Arthur says, shaking his head with more force than is warranted. "Otherwise I'll just be useless all day."

They end up foraging for coffee, because Eames has only instant which Arthur eyes with undisguised horror. This, too, is something Eames could happily get used to – Arthur with foam on his upper lip, eyes closing in bliss as he drinks.

Arthur waits until they return to the apartment to ask, "So where are we going next?"

The difficulty in this question lies in the phrasing. "I have a job lined up," Eames says carefully. "You're welcome to stay here in the meantime, of course." It's not that he wouldn't be perfectly delighted to have Arthur along. But the team already has a point man and they're suspicious enough of strangers as it is.

Breaking into a new line of work is never easy. Once they've built their reputations separately, they can put themselves out as a team, a both-or-nothing kind of deal. But they can't afford to turn down jobs just now. Or rather, Eames can't. Arthur, who doesn't have Eames' reputation as a thief and a liar, might do better. Quite hypocritical, considering that lying and thieving consists their very profession, but so it goes.

For a moment, Eames dreads that Arthur will say – he doesn't quite know what, only that it's something he would really rather avoid. But all Arthur says is, "Amber asked me, actually. If I had anything lined up."

Amber knows what she's doing, and Arthur should do well enough on her team. Eames doesn't sigh in relief, but it's close. "Lovely," he says. "When are you going out?"

They have a week together before they have to leave. Eames resolves to make the best of it.


It all goes quite smoothly until their second job together, and the frustrating part is that the job itself is fine. They go in, they come out, the extractor gives them their pay, and they're done.

Eames drags Arthur away after, for a drink and maybe some light fornication, and everything goes quite agreeably until Arthur raises his head and asks, "Where are you headed next?"

To be honest, Eames has no idea why that question irks him so. It's not as though Arthur's unreasonable to ask it. It's enough to make him sit up, so abruptly that Arthur loses his grip and falls down on the bed. It startles a laugh out of Arthur, and Eames has to bend down and kiss him before anything else.

That might have restored the mood, except that Arthur breaks off the kiss to say, "That's not an answer."

I'll show you an answer, Eames thinks. He sits back up and so does Arthur, rearranging his newly messed-up suit. "I wasn't aware I had to report to you," Eames says, just barely keeping the bite out of his voice.

Arthur blinks. "So. No job together, I take it."

"No." In fact, Eames isn't sure at all what his next stop is going to be. Right now he's slightly drunk, on success and whiskey and Arthur, and possibly what he feels is only resentment at having to stop and think. Life as a dream criminal, it turns out, demands far more planning than life as an ordinary run-of-the-mill criminal.

Or perhaps that's just life with Arthur, whispers a nasty voice that Eames doesn't want to acknowledge.

He shakes it off mentally and smiles, but Arthur doesn't look like he's buying it. "It's just that Solanas asked me if we're free," he says, with a halting rhythm that makes Eames want to tear something apart.

Solanas is reliable as far as Eames can tell and decent to work with. Which really offers no help explaining why Eames says, "Can't, love. Got something booked."

"Okay," Arthur says. "So you wouldn't mind if I took the job with Solanas?"

"Not in the least." And that might have been it – hell, Eames might even have come to his senses and apologized, or at least asked Arthur more about that job with Solanas – except that Arthur then says, "So what about you?"

"Got an offer from Julietta," Eames says.

Arthur goes tense and very still. Right at this moment, Eames finds a sort of vicious delight in it. "Is there a problem, darling?"

"Wasn't she the one who tried to kill you?" Arthur's voice goes quiet, hard-edged.

Eames shrugs expansively. "What's a few murder attempts between friends?"

To Eames' surprise, that makes Arthur break into soft, short laughter. "My mom used to say, if they're trying to kill you, they aren't your friends."

Given what Eames has found out about Arthur's mother, that sounds about right. "And still," he says. "It's just a job."

"If you say 'what could possibly go wrong,’" Arthur says, "I'm shooting you preemptively. Just to save time and effort."

Eames does laugh at this, and lets Arthur kiss him and push him down into the bed. Doesn't get rid of the pressure in him, that feeling like there's something about to break.

It does make Eames feel guilty later, when he's packing a bag and Arthur's sound asleep. He thinks of leaving a note for a moment, then shrugs the thought off. Arthur will do just fine without him.