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Rash

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Eames isn't the first on the scene, but he is (he hopes, desperately) the first one to whom Arthur says, “Thank god, I couldn't come up with a gun — shoot me through the head, not the heart, hurry up."

Eames throws a playfully shocked look around to the EMTs, the gathered crowd, and does his best to laugh it off.  It takes just about everything he's worth as an actor, with Arthur lying there scraped raw down the side of his jaw, his chin, his forearm.  But Arthur's okay, he'll be fine, everyone said so a dozen times in the first thirty seconds after Eames arrived. (He hadn't asked, but he supposed his expression had said enough.)  

Now he composes himself and shoulders in past a rubbernecker, hunkers down next to Arthur and pats the far side of him, the part that hadn't made violent contact with either a car, the bike frame, or the road.  "This is what happens when you refuse to pollute the air like a normal person," Eames tells him sternly, and extracts Arthur's totem from his trouser pocket with some quick sleight of hand. Thank god for steady nerves, even when his heart is still pounding.  Eames presses the die into the palm of Arthur's good hand, closes his fist around it and squeezes very gently.

"Oh shit," Arthur says, "this is real?"  Message received, then.

"I'm afraid so," Eames says, voice full of regret, and allows himself to be shuffled aside so the EMT can get an arm round Arthur's shoulders, help Arthur up and onto the stretcher.

"I liked that bike," Arthur says piteously.

"I liked your face," Eames returns in a matching tone, as they hoist Arthur up and load him into the back of the ambulance.

"Wait, what about my face," Arthur demands, but then they're closing the door and someone's telling Eames which hospital and someone else is asking will he be taking custody of the bent aluminum former bicycle.  Eames sees the driver slumped, seated on the hood of his car looking shocky and ashen.  Goes over as though to see if he's okay, and steals the bastard's wallet while he's at it.


There's a lot of damage, but most of it is superficial.  The most severe injury is the stitched-up slice in Arthur's forearm where he'd taken out the driver's windshield, an ugly row of black spidery sutures that trace the line of a scar to come.

"Doesn't hurt much," Arthur says of it.  "Pulls a bit when I move my arm."

"I can get you vicodin," says Eames. "I can get you morphine, come to that."

"Right," says Arthur, "because I need to develop an addiction on top of everything else."  He makes some small motion like he might be thinking of sitting up from his reclined position on Eames' couch.  "Know what I feel like?" he asks. "I feel like I slammed my whole body really hard into a car, and a bike, and then the road. It feels exactly like that."

"You paint such a picture with your words," Eames says, "it's like I was there."  He leans forward and presses down on Arthur's shoulder, the good one.  "Stay put, you idiot.  Tell me what you need."

"To pee," Arthur says, and lifts one eyebrow.  He looks like he has a red beard on one side where his face was scraped raw by pavement; Eames still can't decide if it's horrible or comedic.

"I could bring you a bottle," Eames offers.  "A bottle with a wide mouth."

"Just — fucking help me stand up so I can pee," Arthur gripes.

"I could crush up the morphine and dust it lightly over your lunch, you'd never know," Eames says, but he helps Arthur up anyway.  Once Arthur's standing he shrugs out of Eames' grip, the motion lacking his usual slippery grace but not his stubbornness, and he limps slowly towards the bathroom.  He's walking like an old man.  The impact of the accident, the shock of it, have worn away and left Arthur nursing a full-body bruise mingled with the clenching ache of a body still braced against pain.  They're good at injury, dream criminals; but by the nature of their work, they're all of them unpracticed when it comes to recovery.  First aid usually comes in the form of a bullet.

Eames bungs the kettle on and bangs around his cupboards for a while in search of food.  He's got a really nice serving tray, he could fill all its little wells up with snack foods that are easy to chew, if only Eames could find anything that isn't canned foie gras (how?) and dodgy olives in murky water and a packet of biscuits that Eames thinks they don't even make anymore.  Tea it is, and then take-away for lunch.  Eames is crap at this, probably. Probably Arthur's going to call a cab and go back to his hotel room and spend three days struggling to get himself out of bed and to the loo alone, grim and red-bearded by road rash and hugging his stitched-up arm against his torso.  Next week they'll get back on track with the job and it'll be like nothing ever happened.

The kettle shrieks.  Eames pours steaming water over a tea bag and listens to the quiet sounds of Arthur washing his hands.  It's a long time from when the faucet turns off to when the bathroom door opens again.

"I look like the Phantom of the Opera," says Arthur, shuffling slowly into the kitchen.

"That's the gayest thing you've ever said," Eames informs him, and hands him the mug of tea.

Arthur's smile is unexpected if short-lived, pulled quickly into a wince when his raw cheek tries to dimple.  "I've said way gayer things," he tells Eames, taking the tea and blowing over the surface.  He keeps his gaze fixed mid-distance, like he's seeing the clutter on Eames' counter but not really observing it.  "Just because you weren't around to hear them."

Eames folds his arms over his chest and leans back against the counter, awkward and nervous. Arthur's never been in his flat. No one has, no one Eames really knows anyway.  "I've got dodgy olives," he volunteers.  "And some biscuits. I think they're vintage."

"To be honest, I just want to crash out for a few hours," Arthur says, and sips at the tea.  "If you don't mind."

"No, go ahead," Eames says. "So you — you're not jumping in a cab and disappearing to your hotel to lick your wounds in manly stoic isolation?"

Arthur releases a pained little sigh as he shifts his weight from the good side to the bad.  "You got there a bit late to hear it," he says, "but manly and stoic were not my initial reactions to getting knocked down by a speeding Honda, cut open, and then tossed to the asphalt.  There was moaning involved.  Possibly I was crying for my mommy."  He curls his fingers round the hot mug and shifts his gaze to meet Eames'.  "I'll need a little help getting around the next few days, if — I mean, I don't know many people in London, and none who wouldn't be too curious about me looking like —"

"Stay, absolutely, darling," Eames says in a rush.  "I'm sorry, I just — at work, you don't seem like someone who accepts help easily."

"Well, in the dreamscape I don't have to try and change my dressings one-handed," Arthur points out.  His gaze narrows just a little, curious.  "Am I disappointing you?  Did you think I was going to be a tough son of a bitch just because I can take a hit when I’m working?”

"No," says Eames, taken aback, "no, it looks like it bloody hurt, what happened to you. I can't even pull a splinter from my thumb without my eyes watering."

Arthur tries to smile again and settles for a lopsided smirk, a polite little laugh.

"I'm serious, I come over faint at the sight of blood," Eames says, encouraged.  "If I cut myself shaving I have to sit on the toilet and put my head between my knees, I"—

Arthur's lips aren't injured; they're soft and dry and more lush than Eames would have expected, pressing in fast like a darting snake and then lingering gentle and long while Eames catches his breath and blinks his eyes closed.  He's still like that, eyelids shuttered, breath quick, when Arthur pulls back again and says, "Well, that was stupid."

"Really?" Eames says, opening his eyes.  "I thought it went quite well."

"I mean," Arthur says, and lifts his lame arm, waves a hand to indicate his various scrapes and bruises.  "I could have picked a better moment."

Eames looks at Arthur, Arthur stiff and pained and minus several layers of skin on his lovely narrow face, Arthur raw and broken but stronger and sweeter than Eames had ever guessed, Arthur with a mug of tea and nothing to eat and standing in Eames' secret enclave of a flat, lips still pink from the kissing.  "No," Eames tells him, "I think you picked your moment brilliantly."