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You and I Will Be Sidecars

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When Arthur was a kid and had to stay home sick from school, he always watched The Ewok Adventure. His father had taped it off TV for him, and Arthur got to be a pro at fastforwarding through Levi and Jell-o commercials to get to the antics of Wicket and the gang. Ewoks just made him feel better, and when the movie was done, his father was there to smooth the hair back from Arthur's brow and fluff his pillows. Matzo ball soup and apple juice were what was on the menu, and Arthur would fall asleep clutching his stuffed Wicket, listening to his father hum tonelessly in the chair by the bed.

Laid up with a broken foot in a cabin in Montana with Eames as a nurse was a far cry from his childhood illnesses. It wasn't that Eames was a bad cook; he actually made a mean soup out of their freeze-dried veggie provisions. And when Eames hummed, it sounded recognizable. No, what made Eames a less-than-desirable nurse was his twitchiness.

It was bizarre. Arthur had known Eames for four years, and in that time, he had never seen Eames unsure or uncomfortable. Eames was charming and confident, always. But he'd been wild-eyed and frantic at the ER while Arthur got his foot x-rayed and put in a cast. They'd checked out AMA, sure they were being tailed. Arthur would have dismissed Eames' nerves as concern over the very real possibility of armed pursuit, except for The Cry.

Arthur had come out of the dream to find their mark's Wyoming ranch house swarmed with armed men. Eames was coming to in the La-Z-Boy next to him, or would have been, if some goon's arms hadn't been choking him. Arthur had leapt at the man and knocked him down. The rest was kind of blurry in his recollection, until Eames had found him in a burning hallway, his foot at a strange angle and his entire body covered in someone else's blood.

And Eames had let loose The Cry. It had chilled the blood in Arthur's veins, despite the fire creeping up on them. Eames had fallen to his knees and gathered Arthur to his chest, keening, rocking back and forth.

"Eames," Arthur had rasped, "I'm very touched with your concern, but do you think you could get us out of here? There's a fire and I can't walk."

Arthur's eyes were closed, but he could feel the body beneath him go completely stiff and then boneless. It felt like Eames kissed his forehead before getting a grip on his sanity and Arthur, and carrying Arthur out of there as gently as he'd carry a baby, but it could have been sweat or tears from all the smoke.

Eames had hotwired a car and drove like a bat out of hell, nearly swerving off the road when Arthur began calmly peeling out of his blood soaked outer garments.

"Don't want to raise any flags," Arthur croaked. Damn smoke inhalation. "We're going to have to see a professional about this foot."

The blood had drained from Eames' face. Arthur had gotten good at reading him over the years, and he saw traces of chagrin, embarrassment and anger shoot across the other man's face, but overwhelmingly, relief. He had still kept a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel as he sped to a hospital, and again while leaving Wyoming and crossing into Montana to Arthur's deceased great-uncle's hunting cabin.

Arthur fought sleep on the trip by taking a mental inventory of supplies in the cabin. They had enough canned and freeze-dried rations to last two full-grown men at least a couple of months. Their water was supplied by a well. The first aid kit was stocked with bandages, ointments, pills, scissors, sutures, ice packs, antibiotics, even condoms, and nothing was expired. Great-Uncle Teddy had once hid out there with his personal assistant and some expired birth control, and ever since then, he'd added "check expiration dates" to the checklist affixed to the inside of the front door. There were four large blankets, two wool and two fleece, as well as the sheets and duvet on the bed. Arthur had chopped wood the last time he'd been there (it had been August, and Philippa had followed him over hill and dale, crouching beside him in the mud by the stream to check out animal tracks, and picking berries until their hands and mouths were both stained purple with juice). They'd need more wood in a week or so, maybe more due to the unseasonably warm winter, but surely Eames could swing an axe. All-in-all, they really didn't have anything to worry about when it came to their basic needs.

As to pursuit…

"Put the car in second," Arthur instructed. Eames complied without asking why or questioning Arthur's judgment. It was just one more odd thing to file away. He directed them off the road and onto a track used mainly for snowmobilers. It was wide enough to accommodate the car without leaving broken branches in their wake. They bumped along for almost a mile before coming to a waterfall. "Just drive through it."

The sound of falling water lessened as they left the waterfall behind and drove through Great-Uncle Teddy's crowning achievement in paranoia, a tunnel that opened onto a clearing in a forested valley.

"Home sweet home," Arthur grunted. "Park by that tree stump over there so I can deactivate the security system, else we'll get our heads blown off."

Eames gave him a sideways glance at that, but still no rejoinder. Arthur needed Eames' help to get out of the car and kneel by the stump, reaching into the concealed hollow and pressing in the code and holding up the retina scan.

"Arthur," Eames finally said. "What the hell?"

"This place belonged to my Great-Uncle Teddy," Arthur replied, and laid his hand on a sensor, the final piece. "He was in a militia." Eames made a confused face. "A separatist," Arthur clarified. A line appeared on Eames' brow. Arthur sighed. "He was paranoid, rich, and liked to play with guns and plan for the Apocalypse."

"Ah. I had a crazy Great-Uncle Teddy, too. He thought he was Liberace." Eames helped him up and together they hobbled inside.

They kept up an almost-normal light banter as they stumped around the cabin, Arthur pointing out what was in the various cabinets and closets. It was an open floor plan, one large bed in one corner, big fireplace with a couch and armchair in another, a kitchenette, and a large work area. Great-Uncle Teddy had used it to construct models and practice taxidermy, but Arthur had replaced those supplies with a laptop and various gadgets. A large bathroom was off of the sleeping area. Arthur clung to Eames, standing in the middle of the cabin and thought, We're going to kill each other.

That first night, Eames half-carried him to bed. Arthur was out before he felt the mattress dip on the other side of the bed. The next morning, though, presented a world of awkward. He had to pee and he couldn't get out of bed on his own. Eames was already in the kitchenette, having found the coffee. Arthur would have to swallow his pride and yell to him for help. He counted to ten slowly and thought of all the things he would need Eames to help him with, especially for these first couple of days.

By the time he sat up, he was calm and accepting, or at least resigned.

"Eames?" he called. "Could you help me for a second?"

Arthur had to remind himself at least a dozen times that morning that a strong man knew when to ask for help. Eames' weird attitude didn't help at all. Arthur finally snapped at him that he wasn't made out of fucking porcelain, and Eames stalked off to the porch and did chin-ups on the bar Arthur had placed there the summer between his sophomore and junior years in high school when he visited Great-Uncle Teddy.

Eames slunk back inside almost an hour later, sweaty and avoiding Arthur's gaze.

"Feeling better?" Arthur asked, hoping he sounded solicitous and not pissed off. Eames nodded and poured himself a glass of water. "Looks like you're in need of a shower." Which was a gross understatement. They both still stunk of smoke and sweat, and Arthur had patches of dried blood on him that had seeped through his clothes. "There are some garbage bags beneath the kitchen sink. Shall we?"

Eames choked on his water. "You mean – together?"

"It takes a village."

"Can't you… sit… during your shower?"

Arthur looked at him. Eames looked at the far wall. Which was how they wound up half an hour later standing outside the spacious shower stall (there was no bath; Great-Uncle Teddy thought baths were for unpatriotic wimps) peering in at the plastic stool. Great-Uncle Teddy had kept his potted marijuana plant on this stool, and the streaks of mud that had drained out were still evident, despite Arthur attacking them with a scrub brush. The pot was now on the windowsill in the kitchen, along with two dead tomato plants.

"No time like the present," Arthur announced. He turned on the water and fumbled one-handed with his trousers while clinging to Eames with the other hand. Eames ground his teeth together, batted Arthur's hand away, and stripped him. His hand accidentally brushed Arthur's dick, and he flinched as if burnt.

"It's called a dick, Eames. You have one, too," Arthur said drily.

"Oh, fuck off," Eames muttered with no real heat. He stuck his arm in the shower to test the temperature of the water.

"Is it suitable for my delicate epidermis?" Arthur asked, his lips twitching. He was suddenly reminded of Dom testing Philippa's bottle one sunny morning in California, Dom's face screwed up in concentration as the heated milk splashed his forearm.

"It's perfect. Now sit down before you use up all the hot water."

Arthur grimaced slightly from the pain, leaning heavily on Eames' shoulder as he maneuvered himself into the shower and hunkered down on the plastic stool, his garbage-bag wrapped foot and calf sticking out.

"All set?" Eames asked. Arthur angled his head out of the spray to look at Eames' face. He was resolutely looking in the other direction.

"You've seen me naked before," Arthur said. Three times, to be exact: in Panama City, on their very first job together, due to that classic of screwball comedies the world over, the hotel room mix-up; in Siberia, after a dunking in a stream full of the spring thaw, but Eames had been half-dead at the time and not really focused on who was warming him up; and most recently in Los Angeles, when they'd both been on adrenaline highs from inception and had fucked each other six times in two days, only to part at the end with the unspoken agreement that it'd been a one-time thing.

Eames' face was turning a dusky rose. Arthur dismissed it as the heat from the shower. Eames wasn't a blusher.

"Can you reach the shampoo?" Eames asked, clearing his throat.

"No. Do you mind handing it to me?"

Eames reached for it and blindly handed it to somewhere over Arthur's right shoulder. Arthur rolled his eyes and plucked it from Eames' grasp.

"Thanks."

Eames sat out the rest of the shower on the toilet seat, the curtain closed between them.

***

It was weird and unsettling. Eames was never less than gentle in helping Arthur move around, but he seemed to retreat further and further into himself. His answers were monosyllabic at best. He went outside and chopped wood a lot, despite Arthur's assurances that they really didn't need much more, or else he'd sit on the couch, reading a book while Arthur tinkered on old cell phones and bits of laptops at his work station.

Arthur didn't want to talk about whatever it was that was bothering Eames, but after about a week of this bizarre behavior, he was going crazy. To make matters worse, the scruffy mountain man look really suited Eames, but he still averted his eyes whenever he had to help naked Arthur. He was getting cockblocked by his own damn foot. It had to stop, and it would, after Eames woke up from his nap.

"Eames?" Arthur called from his perch on the armchair. "Eames?"

Eames mouth was slightly open, and he was going to have a wicked crick in the neck from how he was dozing on the couch. Arthur picked up a crocheted throw pillow and tossed it at him. It hit him on the cheek and Eames flailed, half asleep, before drawing his gun and rising to a crouch, his eyes wide.

"Arthur!" he hissed. "Get behind me!"

"I am behind you," Arthur groused. "And put that thing away. I hit you with a pillow."

"What? Why?" Eames spotted the pillow on the floor and gave it a kick. It skittered across the hardwood floor and hit the wall.

"Why are you acting so weird?" Arthur asked bluntly. Eames was the one with an appreciation for subtlety. In Arthur's experience, that meant the only way to get a straight answer out of Eames was to be as unsubtle as possible.

"I am not acting weird." Eames holstered his gun in his ankle holster with as much dignity as a man who had just drawn a firearm on a crocheted pillow could possess.

"This is the longest conversation we've had in a week," Arthur said pointedly.

"Cabin fever," Eames said after a moment. "That's what it is. We need more wood."

"Eames—" Arthur started, but Eames was already out the door. "Asshole," Arthur muttered. Eames was a fucking coward. No, Arthur corrected himself. Eames was a coward about whatever this was. Eames was actually one of the bravest men Arthur knew. Being cooped up in a cabin in Montana was most definitely not the problem.

***

Later that night, Arthur was dreaming about a boat. He was on a boat, on a lake in Montana, and the boat was gently rocking. It was a little damp, but Arthur didn't mind. He turned and smiled at Eames and abruptly woke up.

The bed was rocking gently, Eames' arms were around him and Eames' dick was hot and wet where it rubbed up against his ass.

"Eames," Arthur said, in as even a tone as he could manage.

"Arthurrrrrr," Eames breathed in his ear.

Oh, fuck. Eames was having a sex dream about him.

"Eames!" Arthur said, and added an elbow to the chest. The effect was instantaneous. Eames let go and rolled off the bed, landing with a loud "Fuck!" on the floor.

"Speaking of which," Arthur said, propping himself on an elbow so he could just barely see Eames on the floor, "if you want to do that, wake me up so I can participate."

"Christ, Arthur," Eames groaned. He stumbled to the couch and threw himself down on it. Arthur stared through the gloom.

"What the fuck are you doing?" he asked, incredulous. "You were having a sex dream about me! You're horny, you made me horny, why the hell are you all the way over there?"

"You don't understand," Eames mumbled into the couch cushions.

"What is there to understand? It's sex, not rocket science."

"Not for me," Eames grit out.

Arthur sat up and glared across the dark room, as if Eames could see him. The least he could do was make sense.

"What do you mean, not for you?"

"Isn't it bloody obvious!" Eames exploded, leaping up from the couch. Arthur's eyes widened. "I'm in love with you, you stupid twat!"

"You… twat?"

"Arrr mwfff guuuuuuh!"

Arthur sat back, alarmed, as Eames stalked over to the bed.

"You, Arthur," he said, a dangerous glint in his eye. "You looked dead in Wyoming. I thought you were dead. And I fell the fuck apart! I don't know what the hell to do with this… this thing! That I feel! All the time! It's bloody inconvenient! And all I want to do is fuck you and make you laugh and protect you. It's torture! I'm thirty-four, for God's sake. I should be able to fucking handle this."

Arthur's mouth opened and closed. He knew he looked like a floundering fish, but he couldn't help it. Eames had just poured out his heart to him and Arthur… Arthur had to tell him the truth.

"I'm so sorry, Eames," he said quietly. "I'm not in love with you."

"That's also bloody obvious," Eames said, sitting back down on the bed, shoulders slumping. "We had a fucking transcendent weekend, but you didn't call me until you had a job."

"I like you—"

"Don't. Just. Don't." Eames got up again and crossed to his side of the bed. He lay down with his back to Arthur. "Get some sleep, yeah?"

As if Arthur could sleep after that bombshell. He laid on his back, blinking at the rough-hewn beams in the ceiling. Eames was in love with him. Head over heels in love. There was no one Arthur trusted more, if he was honest about it, and he rather enjoyed their somewhat argumentative relationship. It was fun, being with Eames. And that weekend had been some amazing sex. But love?

He watched the moonlight play over Eames' tense back. Arthur knew him. Eames must have been pushed to the very edge of his endurance to confess something like that, only to get rejected. Tomorrow was going to be hell on earth.

Arthur fell into a fitful doze and woke with a raging hard-on from a dream about Eames deepthroating him.

"Fuck," he muttered. He threw a longing glance at the bathroom door. There was no way he could hop to it discreetly and take care of his dick. Eames propped himself up on an elbow next to him and looked down at Arthur's traitorous dick.

"I propose a moratorium on discussing what I said last night for half an hour every morning," Eames said in a scratchy voice.

Only an asshole would agree to that. Arthur wasn't proud of it, but sometimes he really was that asshole. He nodded. Eames carefully pulled his flannel sleep pants down his legs and over his cast and closed his lips around the head of Arthur's dick. He sucked gently, taking more and more of Arthur in until his short beard was scratching Arthur's thighs. The contrast was incredible, and Arthur thrust into that wet heat and rubbed his thighs against those wiry curls. Eames' eyes were half-lidded and he hummed his pleasure, as if he'd been waiting to do that since that weekend in LA, or maybe since all the way back to Panama. The thought sent a sharp stab of lust down Arthur's spine and he began to thrust uncontrollably, bucking off the bed, completely unmindful of his broken foot or Eames' confession. There was just Eames. He came with a moan. Eames swallowed it down, except for a little dribble that got caught in his beard. The sight milked one last burst from him, and then he was collapsing back down against the pillows.

He wasn't enough of an asshole that he wouldn't reciprocate, but Eames was already coming, his own hand on his dick as he sucked a bruise onto Arthur's hipbone.

***

After that, amazingly, things got easier. Or if not easy, more comfortable. Affectionate squabbling entered their everyday language once more. Eames stopped treating Arthur like an invalid, and Arthur took pains to prevent Eames from needing to see him naked – except for half an hour, every morning.

Arthur discovered a hitherto unknown beard kink. Eames was averse to the idea of facials, but he'd willingly rub his scratchy beard over every inch of Arthur's body. The half-hour turned to a full hour every few days, thanks to Eames' beard, which grew progressively bushier as the days went by.

And then, as if the airing of Eames' big secret had opened the floodgate, they began to talk a lot more. Arthur found himself telling stupid stories from his childhood about vacations he'd spent in the cabin with Great-Uncle Teddy. The front window used to have an alcove where Arthur slept when he was very small. It got taken out in 1999 to make room for a cactus, and then a string of replacement cactuses as Great-Uncle Teddy discovered his green thumb didn't extend to desert plants. Arthur leaned on Eames' shoulder in the clearing behind the cabin and pointed out the cactus cemetery in the corner of the yard.

Arthur even told Eames about the Ewoks and their Adventure, parts one and two, and endured merciless teasing, as Eames was fully aware by then of the effect of his beard on Arthur.

They played cards for at least a couple of hours a day, pitch six mostly, but occasionally poker. Arthur had the better poker face, but Eames was the better player. At times, they broke out Great-Uncle Teddy's scotch collection.

"You have it all wrong, Arthur, darling."

Arthur peered over his cards at Eames. He most certainly did not have it all wrong, whatever it was. Eames grinned blearily.

"Jar Jar Binks was a great character. He was simply misunderstood."

Arthur reached out and grabbed the bottle of scotch.

"I'm cutting you off," he said. "You're spouting blasphemy."

Eames laughed in his face. "Mee-sa think you is drunkie. Mooie-mooie."

"I take it back; I'm kicking you out."

"Oo-wee. Have fun-sa falling on you arse-sa!"

"Eames!"

"I can't help it!" Eames laughed. "You're just too much fun to rile up. Your face gets all scrunchy."

"Scrunchy is not a word," Arthur said, but he smiled in spite of himself. "Jar Jar Binks, damn."

"Mmm. Don't worry your pretty head about it. He was for shit. I just like it when you pay attention to me."

The moment stretched between them, full of the thing they were not supposed to talk about. Arthur broke it.

"You have stiff competition. I had a long talk with the pot pot yesterday. Scintillating stuff."

Eames barked a laugh, and the moment passed.

***

"Wild Montana Skies." Arthur stretched his hand out in a broad gesture to indicate the clearing, the woods beyond and the entire valley. It was the mildest day yet, and they were out on the back porch, Arthur whittling a cane for himself, and Eames leaning back against a post with a big mug of tea. He'd found some nettles the other day, and from the look on his face, he was only still drinking it because he was too damn stubborn to call it a lost cause.

"I don't believe I know that one," Eames said, and spit out something that looked suspiciously like a twig.

"John Denver," Arthur supplied. "Ohhhhh, Montana, give this child a home!" He sang. He had a decent voice, much better than his father's had been. "Give him the love of a good family, and a woman of his own. Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes. Give him the wild wind for a brother, and the wiiiiiiiiild Montana skies!"

Eames raised his eyebrows. "That bit of hokey sexist propaganda is the song that best describes you?"

Arthur flicked a piece of bark at him. "It's about being raised in Montana and leaving, but coming back because Montana is home."

It was about an orphan, and Montana provided the family. It sounded hokey to Arthur's ears now. He scowled.

"Hey," Eames said softly. "Nothing wrong with a little hokiness."

"What's yours?" Arthur asked, scraping a long curl off the cane.

"Detachable Penis."

Arthur almost cut himself. "Holy shit, Eames, is that even a real song?"

Eames grinned back at him. "I sometimes forget it at a party, and it's a real bugger trying to locate it after that." Arthur started to laugh. "This old grannie got it once and tried to sell it someone else for five quid. Five! It's worth ten at least."

Arthur howled with laughter. "I'd pay twenty quid for it!"

"Twenty? I'm not going to get a better offer than that. Next time it falls off, I'll give it to you for safekeeping."

Arthur kept smiling, and ignored the voice in his head that said Eames wasn't talking about his penis anymore. He'd been ignoring that voice for the past week, and was getting along quite well, thanks.

"I'd bury it in the cactus cemetery," he said. "No place safer."

***

During the fourth week, Arthur used his cane and led Eames on short walks away from the cabin. Eames wasn't quite as excited by animal tracks as Philippa had been, though that changed when Arthur told him they were from a wolverine, most likely.

"But can it sing and dance and take Broadway by storm?" he mused.

"Yes," Arthur answered. "But only on the Saturday matinee performances."

Arthur pointed out different trees and showed Eames various plants, demonstrating their edible bits.

"You must have come out here a lot when you were a wee little Arthur," Eames said, taking a nibble of the leaf Arthur had handed him.

"A bit," Arthur said noncommittally.

"And you loved it," Eames continued.

Arthur grunted.

"All right, you got me!" Eames said, throwing his hands up. "I want to know why. You were born in New York, not Montana, I know I have that right, at least. Give me a little credit."

Arthur shot him a sidelong glance. "My mother died soon after I was born. Did you know that?"

Eames shook his head, mute.

"Great-Uncle Teddy was on my mom's side. My dad thought I should still have contact with her side. Hence this cabin."

"I'm sorry about your mum," Eames said after a minute.

"I'm sorry about yours, too," Arthur said.

Eames blinked at him. Arthur debated about what else he should say. He had a whole list of facts about Eames – his birth name, his juvenile arrest record, his allergies, his underwear preferences, his mother's cause of death, his real college transcripts – but they were facts and figures, and could barely scratch at the surface of who he really was. Eames was taking care of him, Eames was in love with him – those two things said much more, no matter if they made Arthur uncomfortable. They didn't really, at least not much.

He curled an arm around Eames' shoulders and tugged him down into an awkward hug. Eames didn't resist. Arthur let go of his cane and balanced there, holding Eames up and leaning on him. Eames' beard scratched against his cheek where his own beard was finally growing in, filling in the patches. They looked like two burly, bearded mountain men having a Moment beside a stream in Montana, Brokeback Mountain without the sexual identity crisis.

Arthur tipped Eames' face up and scratched his fingers through the reddish gold tangle covering Eames' cheeks and neck, and gently kissed his lips. For the first time since Eames' confession he thought about it – really thought about it – what it would mean to love Eames back. Would it truly be so different from what he felt now?

He'd have to think about it some more.

***

"Hand me another one of those brownies, would you, love?" Arthur said, in what was probably the worst ever impression of Eames' voice.

Eames burst out laughing and dropped the pan of special brownies.

"Five second rule!" Arthur proclaimed, and crawled on his stomach to scoop them back into the pan. Eames dropped to the floor next to him, shoulders shaking with silent laughter and an occasional gasp to allow air into his lungs. Eames was a full-mouth laugher and a bit of spittle fell off his crooked tooth and splashed onto his shirt. Arthur watched with round eyes, waiting for another.

"What the fuck was that accent, mate?" Eames finally managed. "That was worse than Dick Van Dyke! A national disgrace, that was."

Arthur snorted like a pig and sat up, leaning against the couch. It was a hardwood floor, but Eames was down there and he'd been enjoying spending time with Eames a lot lately.

"Do you love to laugh, guv'nor?" Arthur asked, and patted Eames' beard. "You look like Wicket."

"I'm having a hard time following you, you crazy Yank," Eames said, grinning broadly. Arthur kissed him.

"I like kissing you," he murmured. "You're really good at it."

"I love you," Eames said.

"The pot pot is judging us," Arthur said. They both turned to look into the kitchenette, piled with dirty dishes and spilled brownie batter. The marijuana pot frowned down at them from the windowsill, as if to question what they chose to do with her kids. They burst out laughing again.

They fell asleep on the floor. The next morning, during their half-hour moratorium, Arthur let Eames fuck him, his bad foot propped up on the couch and the cushions haphazardly arranged beneath him. It took longer than half an hour. Arthur stared up at Eames the whole time, transfixed by the play of muscles beneath his inked skin. It felt like he never came down off his high.

***

"It was in '98," Eames said. Arthur looked up from the innards of a Mac and a Dell, startled.

"That early?"

"Right place at the right time," Eames said, shrugging. He peered over Arthur's shoulder at the pieces spread out on the work table. "How do you tell the difference?"

"Brand, size, some stuff's interchangeable… by 'right place' you mean Oxford, right? You didn't go to Oxford."

"Quite," Eames agreed. "What are you building, Arthur?"

"Stop changing the subject," Arthur said frowning. "I'm making a computer, a PC/Mac hybrid. It'll just bore you. Tell me about your first forge."

"It'll bore me?" Eames asked, raising his eyebrows. "Do you truly have such low regard for my intelligence?"

"How the hell'd you get that out of what I just said?" Arthur was scowling now. "I'm complimenting your intelligence. I'm saying your story is better than my stupid computer. Why do you do that? Take offense at everything I say."

Eames was quiet for a moment, watching Arthur poke and jab at chips and gears. "It's a defense mechanism," he said finally.

Arthur looked down at the table, then back up at Eames, the question clear on his face.

"For my sensitive heart, Arthur," he said, rolling his eyes. "If I act like I don't love you—" He cut himself off and rubbed a hand over his face. "In '98," he continued, as if that was what they'd been talking about the whole time, "I was a bit of what you would call a punk. I tried to swipe a PASIV. No idea what the bloody thing was…"

Arthur let Eames' voice wash over him as he mindlessly continued working on his mashed computer. His heart thudded painfully in his chest. What the fuck was he doing with Eames, to Eames? Leading him on with sex in the mornings, laughing at his jokes, asking for stories… it would be easier if he didn't like Eames so much, but each day in his exclusive presence tied them closer together. Other than Cobb, Eames was, in point of fact, Arthur's best friend. And Eames had never screwed him over like Cobb had.

"Eames," Arthur blurted out, interrupting him mid-word. "Just because I'm not in love with you, it doesn't mean I don't love you. Just. Just give me time."

Eames stared at him for one long moment, his face softening and transforming from his usual sardonic wit into something more open and joyful.

"We have an abundance of time here," he said, and crowded onto Arthur's stool to kiss him. Arthur tangled his fingers in Eames' beard and jostled for position, ceding the wooden stool for the muscles of Eames' thighs. Eames looked up at him from beneath his lashes. "Whatever you want, Arthur," Eames murmured, his beard scratching Arthur's neck.

Arthur had always thought that nothing could ever measure up to inception, but holding Eames' heart in his hands completely took his breath away.

***

"Arthur!"

The screen door slammed shut behind Eames as he came into the cabin, rain running in rivulets down his back as he hunched over something in his arms, trying to protect it. Arthur narrowed his eyes, even as he grabbed a towel and stumped forward on his cane. Eames' arms had definitely whimpered.

"Arthur!"

"I'm right here," Arthur said evenly. "Did you bring in a half-drowned wildcat?"

"No, a half-drowned hound," Eames replied. "Hold out that towel, there's a love."

Which was how Arthur found himself staring down at a smelly, wet bundle of fur. A long pink tongue snaked out and began licking his beard.

"D'aww, look at that; he likes you!" Eames beamed at him as he kicked off his muddy boots and stripped out of his soaked windbreaker, fleece sweater and t-shirt. His hair stood up in crazy clumps and his beard still dripped water down his bare chest. Arthur licked his lips.

"Ummm," he said.

"Eloquent, isn't he?" Eames said to the dog, and took him back, cradling him against his chest. "Let's get you patched up," he cooed down at the dog. "All cozy and dry, won't that be lovely. Yes. Yes it will."

Arthur cleared his throat. "Would the two of you like your own room?" he asked.

"No, just the first aid kit would do nicely; thank you, Arthur," Eames answered.

Arthur snorted but stumped over to the bathroom to pull out the kit, muttering to himself. Great-Uncle Teddy had had a dog for a number of years, but he and Arthur had rather famously not gotten along after the dog had stolen Arthur's peanut butter sandwich on the first day they'd met. This dog had better be well-behaved if it was going to be living with them. It better not hog the bed, though Eames hadn't slept on his own side in weeks, preferring to wrap himself around Arthur. Sleeping with the two of them was going to be like sleeping in between two Ewoks; the dog with his fur and Eames with his beard and hairy chest. They better not keep Arthur awake. He preferred to wake up with Eames nuzzling his neck and grinding against his ass, and if the dog thought he was going to change that, well, it had another think coming. It would probably try to get on Arthur's good side by licking his nose, which was just disgusting and Arthur only put up with that from Eames because he was in love with the man…

The first aid kit tumbled out of Arthur's hands as he fell on his rump.

"Arthur!" Eames exclaimed. "Stay!" he commanded the dog, and leaped over a messy sprawl of rolled and unraveling bandages, tubes and bottles to help Arthur up. "What--?"

Arthur cut him off by mashing their lips together. He scratched his fingers through the damp hair on Eames' chest, feeling the heartbeat underneath and the warm blood that made him Arthur's own private furnace at night.

"Arthur," Eames murmured, kissing his lips and beard and eyelids, "you realize the dog is staring at us?"

"Yeah," Arthur said dazedly, "yeah. Go put him back together again." He gave Eames a slight push. "On second thought, I spilled everything."

Eames kissed him one more time before kneeling on the floor to pick everything back up and toss it into the kit. Arthur winced. He'd have to sort that out later. His eyes traveled over Eames' bare back and the way his jeans rode low on his hips, weighed down by the rain. Later, after they fucked.

The dog whimpered.

"Sh, sh, sh, it's okay, baby boy," Eames crooned. The dog padded over, his back right leg dragging. Arthur recovered the towel and continued drying him off as Eames hummed and stroked the dog's fur. "Looks like you got caught in something here," he said softly. "Tore you up a bit, hmm? Sh, sh, sh, Eames will fix it. Arthur," Eames addressed him, still soothing the dog with gentle pats, "could you get us some water? I want to clean this wound. Oh, and a bowl. He should drink."

Arthur was already moving to comply before it hit him that Eames was telling him what to do. Well, Eames knew more about dogs. At least, Arthur hoped he did, or the poor dog was screwed. Arthur didn't even know what kind of a dog it was. Eames had called it a hound, but it looked like a mutt to Arthur.

"Here we go, love," Eames said softly, scratching the dog's ears. They did look very soft, Arthur had to admit. And the poor thing was indeed very thirsty. Arthur stumped around the kitchen, looking for something they could possibly feed a canine, while Eames played vet.

Arthur had just decided on a can of spaghettios with meatballs when Eames called him back over.

"I think Scamp's going to have to stay with his uncles tonight," he said somberly, his large hands smoothing the dog's fur. "Hurt leg and all. You know how that goes."

Scamp. Eames was a scamp. No one else could have that name. Arthur took a pillow off the couch and laid it down on the floor.

"Here, boy," he whistled, and patted it enticingly. The dog looked at him warily and slowly crawled out of Eames' lap to settle on the cushion in front of the fire.

"So…" Eames started.

"Bed," Arthur said, crooking his finger. A smug grin spread across Eames' face. "Don't give me that look. Standing there with your beard and tattoos and muscles. Jesus. I'm only human. Bed, now."

Eames chuckled low in his throat and shimmied out of his jeans and underwear. "You're playing against the rules, Arthur," he said, the barest hint of an edge to his smile, a trace of sadness in his eyes beneath the affection and lust.

"The rules don't apply anymore," Arthur said, pulling his t-shirt over his head and dropping it on the floor. Eames stared at him, his expression as naked as his body.

"You – what?"

"I'm a walking cliché," Arthur said, fumbling with his jeans. "A hurt dog, Eames, seriously? I don't even like dogs. I must really be in love with you."

Eames let out a strange gasping laugh and closed the distance between them in two strides. Arthur didn't even have time to gape at him before Eames was lifting him up in his arms.

"Fuck, Eames!" he gasped, his legs crossing around Eames' waist, awkward with the stupid cast. He clung to Eames' shoulders and spared his last coherent thought to hope the dog was looking in the other direction as Eames carried him to the bed. They were lucky no one else broke any bones as they fell gracelessly onto the bed and Eames dived across the pillows for the lube. Arthur got beard burn on his chest as Eames fucked into him, harder than he had before, more frantic and messy. Arthur twisted his fingers in Eames' beard and rocked into each thrust. He could hear the dog whimpering, but when he turned his glazed eyes onto Eames, he realized the sound was much closer to him.

"Say you mean it," Eames whispered.

"Shhhhh, Eames. 'Course I mean it."

Eames came with a low cry, half-collapsing on Arthur. The friction was just enough to send Arthur tumbling after him. Eames fell down beside him. They took a moment to catch their breaths and when Eames opened his mouth, Arthur knew he was going to say something sappy, maybe another declaration of love.

"Arthur," Eames said. "I have to tell you. I really love that dog."

***

Six weeks after they had arrived, exhausted and aching and something more than friends but not lovers, Arthur took his cast off. He left it on the bathroom floor as he finally took a decent shower and scrubbed at the nasty dead skin covering his foot. It felt amazing.

"That foot's almost a turn-off," Eames remarked, "but then I see your arse in the air and I change my mind."

"Get in here and shut the curtain before you let in all the cold air," Arthur told him, frowning down at his wrinkled toes. They really were quite gross.

"Don't worry about it, Arthur, darling," Eames said grandly. "Six weeks in that awful thing and it's time to get your reward." He smirked and wiggled his ass. He was still – giddy, was the only word Arthur thought could properly describe it – whistling as he moved about the cabin, playing with the dog, treating Arthur to impromptu blow jobs and improbable jokes about Nietzsche, a nun and a bar. He practically glowed all the time. It was amazing what a little requited love could do for a soul.

Arthur ran his hand over Eames' ass, gently teasing. "Is this what you were doing while I was washing the dishes?"

"I would like to point out here that A) there were only three dishes so you're hardly a martyr, and B) you get the benefit now."

"Mmm." Arthur kissed him. "Now face the tiles."

The hot shower beat down on his back as he thrust into Eames. They'd done this in LA during that one weekend. It felt so different now. Arthur dragged his fingers through the wet hair on Eames' chest, down to trace his abs and tickle his gut, and down some more to grip his hips as his pace grew increasingly uncontrolled. Eames grunted and pushed back into him.

"Will you touch me, Arthur?" Eames panted, his voice thick. "Please?"

Arthur took him in hand, jacking him off as he fucked into him. Eames was tight and hot around him. Arthur must have been an idiot to think he could survive having only done this once before. He wanted to do it again in a couple of hours, and later get beard burn on his ass while Eames ate him out and then fucked him until he couldn't see straight. He couldn't control his grin, dimples cutting deep, as it occurred to him that, yes, he could actually have all those things.

"Eames," he said, and shifted his position. Eames moaned loudly in response. "I'm going to do this to you again. Your ass is mine, and your cock, and your mouth, and your fucking perfect beard." Eames' breath was coming faster and faster, or maybe it was just that Arthur was fucking him faster and faster. Either way, it was good, so good. "I'm going to fuck you in the morning and suck you off in the afternoon and let you fuck me at night until we've both come so hard we pass out."

As declarations of love went, it was a little crude, but it worked for Eames. He came with Arthur's name on his lips, and Arthur followed soon after.

Water fell all about them, splashing the shower floor, washing them clean. Eames turned in Arthur's arms and kissed him soundly.

"I'll keep the beard, if you want it," he said breathlessly when they finally pulled apart to catch their breaths.

"You don't want to shave when we get back to civilization?" Arthur asked, tugging his fingers through the wet curls. "I can keep mine, too, and we'll be a matching pair of rugged mountain men." Eames went very still in his arms. Arthur had very carefully not talked about what would happen when his foot healed and they could go on the run again, but he knew what he wanted now. "They'll be good disguises when we get the hell out of Dodge."

"A couple of hairy men?" Eames asked, his voice deliberately light.

"And a dog. Three hairy beasts."

"That's what you want?"

Arthur smiled. "You're kind of hard to resist."

***

They named the dog Wicket.