Nine mornings out of ten, Quito wakes up in the middle of a cloud, just like this; everything dripping, streetlights haloed in the mist at nearly three thousand meters. Five A.M. is quiet, even in this canton, and tiny droplets light on the lenses of Eames's purloined eyeglasses as he scans the building before him, head tipped back.
Satisfied, he takes the specs off and tucks them into his breast pocket, then nudges his carryall behind his back and begins to climb.
Dropping over the railing onto the fourth-floor balcony sends an unpleasant jolt through the bone of his right shin, and he grits his teeth to keep a grunt inside, staying crouched on the slate tiles until the jangling discomfort subsides. The French doors are locked, but it's the work of a moment to pick them, and then he's ducking through the drapes.
Warm light from a reading lamp throws shadows across the rug, but this room is otherwise empty; the only sign of occupancy is an open book, discarded page-down. Eames touches its spine with two fingers, then goes to the door of the bedroom, cracked open onto a sliver of darkness, and nudges it inward by a few more inches.
There he is — Eames lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding — Arthur's slim form, curled atop the coverlet, shirttails rucked up. As Eames watches, his face is made visible by a pulse of indigo light. The light fades, then pulses again, illuminating the curve of Arthur's temple and the slight crease between his brows.
An LED from one of his tiny computers, slumbering near a splayed hand with its lid still open.
Eames pushes the door open with the flat of his palm — then freezes, as Arthur's other hand snakes out from beneath the pillow with his Glock in it, safety off. His eyes are slitted open now, glittering in the narrow band of light from the sitting room.
They contemplate each other for a single, airless moment, and then the gun drops to the coverlet and Arthur pushes himself up on one elbow, running his hand over the mess of his hair and blinking sleepily. The room seems to settle around them, and Eames steps inside.
It's the work of a moment to shrug out of the carryall and let it fall. Freed of its weight, Eames tips his head sideways to dig fingers into his sore trapezius. Swinging bare feet onto the floor, Arthur switches on the bedside lamp before padding across the carpet. When he draws near, his hand comes up to cup the air just above the left side of Eames's face, not quite making contact.
Eames reaches up and touches his own cheekbone, realizing as he's brushing his fingers over the rough smear of a day-old abrasion that he hadn't meant to do it.
"I didn't know where you were," Arthur says, letting his hand fall.
Eames looks at him, the tight creases of his eyes, the downturned curve of his mouth, and thinks with a strange twist in his ribs that Arthur looks his actual age, for once. "I went to Barranquilla."
"I know you went to fucking Barranquilla." Like Eames's, Arthur's pronunciation is perfect; of course, unlike Eames, he actually speaks the language. "After that."
"Unexpected change of plans. I did ring you."
"Eames," Arthur says, and Eames wants to touch the thin, bruised-looking skin under Arthur's eyes, so he does it, placing his right thumb just below the curve of Arthur's lower lid.
"It went sideways rather quickly," he apologizes. "Everything was quite well until Thursday, and then I was a bit busy dodging the heat to get in touch."
Arthur's eyes close, lashes brushing against the tip of Eames's thumb. "Dodging the heat," he repeats.
"Sorry, is there a term you'd prefer?"
Arthur's eyes blink open, a bright layer of amusement flashing across his obvious fatigue. "Anything you didn't get off of Miami Vice."
"I wasn't expecting you to fret," Eames says, and Arthur's body relaxes, abruptly, sagging against Eames. Eames embraces him automatically, but Arthur doesn't grip him back, doesn't even try, arms dangling beneath Eames's encircling hold; if all of Eames's molecules abruptly underwent a coordinated quantum uncertainty, right now, Arthur would probably hit the floor before he could catch himself.
They lean together for a few quiet moments, breathing.
Presently, Arthur pulls back and peers at Eames's face. "When did you last sleep — no, don't even answer that. Come on." He slides his hands to the small of Eames's back and tugs Eames's shirttails out of his trousers.
Eames can't help a grunt of discomfort when he has to raise his left arm, but together, they manage to strip the shirt off.
"What's this?" Arthur says when he sees the purple-black mess of Eames's shoulder. When Eames doesn't answer right away, he reaches toward it, saying sharply, "Did someone do all this to you? Did someone fucking—"
"Yes, an extremely impolite parked lorry," Eames says, electing to gloss over the particulars; he intercepts Arthur's hand and turns it over, folding his fingers around Arthur's. "I won't say no if you want to find it and extract vengeance."
Arthur steps into Eames's body again, heedless of the way it twists his arm, caught in Eames's grip. "I shouldn't — I need to go call some people back and tell them you turned up."
Unable to help himself, Eames bites lightly at the tendon in Arthur's neck. "I rang you. Told you to go to ground."
"And then went completely off the goddamn grid for fifty-nine hours," Arthur says. His voice buzzes in his throat where it's pressed against Eames's lips. His skin smells warm and familiar, invaded by an edge of stress and sleep-sweat.
Eames twists Arthur's arm behind him, pinning it in the small of his back, making a game of it. "I wasn't going to sodding well lead them back here, was I."
Arthur makes a soft sound and shifts restlessly in Eames's hold — not as if he wants to get away, but as if he's trying to feel it out. His free hand tries to go to Eames's bruised shoulder again, and Eames shrugs it away, walking Arthur backward toward the bed.
When they get close enough, he yanks on Arthur's wrist, spinning him like a top, and pushes. Arthur hits the coverlet face-down and bounces, letting out a startled grunt. Before he can do more than get an elbow between himself and the mattress, Eames is there, pushing him down with a hand spread flat between Arthur's shoulder blades.
"Oh, shit," Arthur breathes, arching up against the pressure. "Yeah, yes, I want—"
Eames leans in and bites him gently at the nape of the neck, delighting in the startled groan this produces, the flex of Arthur's back beneath the cotton of his shirt. Brushing his lips up the curve of Arthur's ear releases a sigh, Arthur's muscles shifting beneath him.
Turning his face to the side, Arthur takes a breath. "Not that this isn't incredibly hot, but I'm having an unfortunate problem with placement, and it's getting worse by the second."
Laughing quietly, Eames lets Arthur free. He scoops Arthur's handgun up and sets it aside before settling back against the pillows, watching as Arthur gets to his knees, reaching down his trousers to adjust himself.
Catching Eames looking, Arthur raises an eyebrow. "See something you like?"
Eames lets his lips curl up. "An attractive man with a hand on his own cock does happen to fall within my range of interests."
Arthur knee-walks up the bed, plants a hand on Eames's bare shoulder, and kisses him, opening Eames's mouth with his own, tongue strong against Eames's. When he pulls back, Eames sees that he's got the trousers open and is stroking himself with his free hand.
"Just so," Eames says, rapt.
A moment of increased pressure on Eames's shoulder and a flash of thigh leaves Arthur astraddle Eames's lap, cock pointed squarely at Eames's breastbone. Long fingers wrap around the base of his prick and squeeze, then slide slowly up to the head before going back down. Arthur repeats the motion once more, then does it again; then he makes a crooked little grimace and lifts his hand to his mouth.
Eames intercepts, pulls the hand to his own mouth and sucks at Arthur's fingers, then licks the palm and brings it to Arthur's cock again, wrapping his own around it and giving Arthur a slow, twisting stroke.
Head dropped forward, Arthur watches intently as Eames wanks him with his own hand, hips nudging forward rhythmically as Eames picks up speed. His breath is beginning to come short, and he takes his hand off of Eames's shoulder to retrieve Eames's, pushes it back between his thighs, presses Eames's fingers against his hole. "Do — put your fingers inside me, I like it when you—"
"Pushy," Eames says, pleased. "Have we got anything to—"
"Yeah, here." Arthur leans over to pull out the nightstand drawer, returning with a bottle. Eames holds up one hand, the other automatically seeking out the spare curve of Arthur's hip, and Arthur snaps the cap open to drip liquid over Eames's upturned palm, a spatter falling on Eames's bare stomach when Eames distracts him with a squeeze.
After the briefest of pauses to allow Arthur to discard the bottle, he swipes dry fingers across his slick palm before reaching for Arthur's cock, sliding easily along the length and squeezing the head on every upstroke. Nudging his other hand behind Arthur's balls gets an approving sound, Arthur straining to widen his stance further, stymied by the cloth around his thighs.
It's a close space, but two slippery fingers press inside the tight clutch of muscle, and Arthur inhales raggedly, body clenching and releasing around the intrusion. Eames slides them deeper and feels a hot flush prickle the skin of his own chest and throat at Arthur's moan, the way Arthur's prick jumps in his hand.
"God," Arthur breathes, returning a hand to Eames's shoulder as Eames opens him up with slow strokes. "That's really fucking — yeah, oh yeah."
Each of the opportunities they've found for this, Eames has found himself pushing at Arthur's responses, like a challenge, looking for new and better ways to make him curse and shake. He knows that Arthur likes teeth, and that he'll kiss for minutes on end without becoming restless. That he loves having a cock in his mouth; that he's quickly transported by quiet intensity, but seems just as much to enjoy talking and being talked to. Likes to fuck and be fucked.
"I love how much you want this," he says, curling his fingers over the taut, ruddy skin of Arthur's cockhead. A drop of clear liquid is beading at the slit; as Eames withdraws his fingers partway and pushes them in again, it rolls down into the groove of Arthur's frenulum.
As if he's growing impatient, Arthur brings his free hand back to his cock and works the slick shaft in quick, twisting strokes. Eames joins him again, fingers laced between Arthur's, and moves inside him in counterpoint for long minutes, until he's certain Arthur is close to coming. Then, he slows them down to a snail's pace, and Arthur groans in frustrated pleasure, hitching his hips forward.
"Come on, Eames."
Eames gives him an amused look and thrusts deep, relishing Arthur's gasp, then withdraws in agonizing increments.
"Asshole," Arthur exhales, bringing his hand down on Eames's shoulder.
Eames rolls up and bears him down to the bed, reaching for his shirt buttons with slippery fingers. After a moment, Arthur catches on, and they manage to wrestle it off of Arthur's body, leaving it rumpled on the coverlet. Moving half on instinct, half on the recollection of the way Arthur strained beneath him before, Eames pushes Arthur over onto his stomach and drags the trousers down, tugging them off over each bare foot and kneeling between Arthur's splayed legs. He trails his hands up the backs of Arthur's thighs before sliding his fingers along the slick seam of Arthur's arse.
"This?" he teases, finding the indent of Arthur's hole and pushing his thumb inside. "You want this?"
"Jesus," Arthur gasps. "Yeah, yes, put it in—" one of his hands flails out, knocks the tiny computer over. "Whoops. Shit."
Eames reaches up and closes the computer, slides it under the pillows, then replaces the thumb with two fingers and drives them deep.
"Tell me you weren't up all bloody night on that thing."
"I was busy. I was looking for you — oh, oh f..."
Eames adds another finger. "I told you I'd pop back up momentarily."
"You could have died somewhere I couldn't get to you," Arthur says, and a lightning-flash of panic goes through Eames, the way it always does when Arthur says something so naked.
Twisting his fingers inside Arthur, watching him rub his face against his own forearm before biting down, Eames says, "Never happen."
"Fuck you," Arthur retorts, muffled by flesh, and then raises himself up on an elbow. "Eames, you don't—"
"Hush." Eames turns his hand at the wrist, hooks his fingers and presses down as he slides them out, stroking viciously against Arthur's prostate. Arthur swears mid-protest and collapses again, shuddering.
He fucks Arthur like that, pressed face-down into the bed, until his sounds get harsh and ugly, and then he withdraws his fingers from Arthur's arse to collect Arthur's wrists from where he's clutching at the bedclothes on either side and cross them in the small of his back, holding them there one-handed.
Christ, his own name in that tone is dangerously lovely.
He gets his free hand under Arthur's hips to pull them up, giving himself enough room to reach further and cup Arthur's cock. Arthur is desperately hard, and he groans low in his throat, as if he's pained, thrusting into Eames's hand. Only a score of strokes until he's shaking, and then Eames releases Arthur's cock to press his fingers back into Arthur's arse, working him with exquisite concentration, all of his being riveted by Arthur's series of moans and half-gasped words.
When these sounds give way to a telltale ragged panting, Eames reaches for his cock again; at the first touch, Arthur lets out a strangled, incoherent pleading noise, as if he thinks Eames intends to tantalize him further.
On the contrary: Eames aches to see him come, as short of breath as if their bodies were connected, and he strokes Arthur hard and fast, driving him toward the finish.
"Feel that," he says, tightening his grip on Arthur's wrists until he can feel the bones grinding. "Feel it. I'm here," and Arthur trips over into orgasm, silently, thrashing beneath Eames's restraining hand as he spurts hot and slick into Eames's other palm. Eames squeezes Arthur's cock, rides out the thrusts of his hips until he's spent and lies still, breathing hoarsely into the sheets.
Presently, Arthur tugs his wrists free from Eames's loosened hold and gets himself turned around, curling on his side and pressing his face into Eames's groin. Eames's cock is a thick mound beneath his trouser placket, and Arthur lips at it, then brushes his mouth across the fabric. After a moment, he rolls his cheek onto Eames's thigh and pulls Eames's zipper down slowly, watching in close, sloe-eyed fascination as he pulls Eames's erection free.
At the first touch of his tongue, Eames gives an appreciative sound, laying a palm against the sleep-rumpled hair at the side of Arthur's head. Watching Arthur like this makes something settle down inside his breastbone, and their breathing evens into a matched rhythm, slow and deep, as Arthur sucks Eames's cock in and slides his lips down the head, tonguing the folds of Eames's foreskin.
Eames touches the corner of Arthur's mouth as he works, then thumbs at Arthur's philtrum, a sweet dent lined with a rasp of stubble. Exhaustion is catching up with him, dopamine weighting his limbs.
"This is lovely," he says honestly, voice broken open into a soft husk, "but I don't think it's getting anywhere very exciting until after I've slept."
With a soft sound of acknowledgment, Arthur pulls off. He sets his open mouth to the exposed skin of Eames's hip just above his waistband, a fond press of teeth and tongue, before sitting up and reaching for the lamp. Only when its soft yellow glow blinks out does Eames realize how light it's become outside.
He stretches out on his back, then rolls onto the unbruised side and listens to Arthur rising, to the running of water in the en suite basin; he's drifting in half-sleep by the time he feels Arthur working the shoes off his feet.
There's a matched set of quiet thumps onto the carpet, and then Arthur is crawling up the bed and insinuating himself beneath Eames's outflung arm, breathing warm into the space between their bodies. Eames feels a faint desire to open his eyes and see Arthur's face in the blue light of dawn, check his expression, but only manages to curl his fingers against the bare skin of Arthur's back, a sleepy twitch before he's under.
He wakes up alone, sprawled shirtless across the bed with his feet in a pool of mid-afternoon light. Bracing an arm against the loo wall to piss provokes an angry, bone-deep throb from his bruised shoulder. After he finishes, he washes his face, carefully avoiding the sight of himself in the mirror.
A quick inventory turns up his carryall tucked beneath the bed and Arthur out in one of the balcony chairs, legs stretched out, several buttons undone to expose his collarbone to the sun as he uses two long fingers on the touchpad of his computer.
"You're a sight," Eames says appreciatively, and Arthur looks up, shielding his eyes with a hand to make out Eames's shape in the shadow of the doorway. He takes in Eames's ginger posture, the bruising on his shoulder, then returns to the computer with his mouth pressed into a flat line.
Below the balcony, a motorbike goes by. This side of the building lies along a side street; it's mostly light foot traffic here, with the occasional vehicle. A tabby cat is watching them from one of the windows opposite them. Eames scans the other windows, all empty apart from a geranium, then pushes off the doorframe and claims the other chair, leaning back and crossing his ankles. Every muscle protests, and he curses before he can stop himself, then sighs.
Arthur shoots him a sidelong glance, carefully neutral.
"As much as I'd prefer to delay the need for movement as long as possible, I wonder whether it wouldn't be more prudent for us to be on the go right now."
Arthur looks back at the computer. "I have something in Buenos Aires if you're really concerned, but I think we're okay here. The ID I used for this place is brand-new and there hasn't been any activity on it." Arthur clicks something and frowns, then clicks again. "Someone's been sniffing around your phone the last couple of days, but I figured you got rid of that, since I couldn't raise you on it and it hasn't been used since Thursday."
"Binned it to be safe."
Arthur types a few words. "Where? I couldn't locate a signal."
"Incinerator," Eames says moodily. Arseholes.
In the following silence, punctuated by the tap of keys, Eames settles in the chair and lets his eyes close, turning his face up to the sun.
After a few minutes, Arthur says, "Who was it? In Barranquilla?"
Eames slits his eyes open and considers. "Former colleagues."
Dry as dust, Arthur says, "I'm assuming something precipitated the change in your relations."
Eames considers again. "Business dispute."
"What kind of business—" the typing stops, and Arthur looks at him. "Eames, did you steal from them?"
Eames hides a grin, only half-successful. "No."
Arthur snorts and shakes his head, then pushes his hands through his hair. "Okay. I think I'm done for now." He scrubs at the back of his head with his fingernails and flashes a smile at Eames. "You want something to eat?"
"No," Eames says, caught by the shallow curve of Arthur's lower lip, and leans forward to take a kiss.
"You smell like you hitched a ride in a goat truck," Arthur notes when they part, and Eames laughs at the inadvertent near-truth of it; allows Arthur to shepherd him indoors and strip off his trousers and pants, push him toward the shower.
Hot water is such an overwhelming pleasure against his grimy skin and sore muscles that he finds himself moving slowly, dragging out the mindless processes of soap and shampoo. He assumes it to be shampoo, at any rate; it's labeled in Spanish, and smells clean and masculine, familiar. Eyes closed under the spray, Eames abruptly thinks, fuck, remembering what he said — last night, this morning — as Arthur came. Oh, hell. There's nothing to be done for it, so he picks up the facecloth, putting it out of his mind. After he's clean, he stands beneath the spray for long minutes before shutting it off.
Coming through the adjoining door in a cloud of contentment and steam, he is arrested by the sight of Arthur at the edge of the bed, sitting back on his wrists in a shaft of light.
Pointedly, Arthur drags his gaze up Eames's body, ending at Eames's face, and raises an eyebrow.
Uncomfortable thoughts be damned, Eames goes to him without hesitation. Arthur tugs the towel from around Eames's waist, letting it drop into a soft huddle on the floor, then sinks his hands into Eames's wet hair as Eames bends to him, bracing a hand on the bed. Eames brushes his lips along Arthur's jawline.
"I have to be somewhere by tomorrow night," Arthur murmurs regretfully, "so let's—"
Eames's stomach interrupts with a groan. They both look down at it.
"Shit, I forgot. Do you...?"
"Alas," Eames concedes, straightening, "it seems advisable."
Arthur pulls him in by the hips and kisses his abdomen. "Later, then. Put something on." He looks Eames over. "Or don't, actually. I have stuff here."
Leaning nude against a countertop in the tiny kitchen, Eames watches Arthur slice avocados and feels another part of his idea of the man slip away. In the space it leaves behind, pictures are already unfurling, small and vernal: Arthur's face as he rubs his cheek along the hard length of Eames's cock in Mandaluyong, smiling up at him with sweat sheened on his temples; Arthur folded into a hotel chair with his shirtsleeves rolled up, chewing on a biro with papers arrayed at his feet; the shadow of fatigue under his eyes this morning, still in evidence. Arthur on a beach in Tahiti, angry and mute. Arthur unwinding a line from the PASIV, competent and precise.
Arthur curled on the bed, having fallen into an exhausted sleep while waiting to know Eames was safe.
"Wine or beer?" Arthur asks from within the refrigerator, ferrying things to the countertop. Cheese and coriander, tomatoes and red capsicum. When Eames doesn't reply, he leans around the door with a bottle and a questioning look. There are words forming behind Eames's tongue, sudden and treacherous, and he doesn't want to know what they are; he's bruised and tired, and he wants food, wants to take Arthur to bed and fuck without unnecessary discussion. Wake up beside the fragile sanctuary of his sleeping weight and let him go in the afternoon with a smile.
He reaches out for the bottle, lacing his fingers between Arthur's on the cold glass. Before Arthur can withdraw his hand, Eames leans in and kisses him, quickly and thoroughly, quenching the words in his mouth on the wet warmth of Arthur's tongue. When he draws back, Arthur's cheeks are dimpled in pleasure and surprise.
Through the open window, he can hear a woman laughing and calling, vámonos.