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All we like sheep (have gone astray)

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Eames doesn't sulk in the company of his parents, not exactly.

It's not that Eames is above sulking, of course; he does it regularly with Arthur, mostly when they're shopping and he thinks Arthur is taking too long. It's just that sulking isn't in Windsor-Eames' emotional palette. In Windsor, Eames goes quiet, and has a short fuse, and spends a lot of time fixing cocktails with meticulous care.

It's nothing Arthur's ever going to be used to watching, really, the way Eames' big shoulders go rounded and sloppy and then stiff and angular by turns, the permanent downward tick of his normally perpetually amused mouth. For his own part, Arthur's not terribly fond of Windsor, either, but it's not without its charms. Eames' parental home is gorgeous, impeccable, full of beautiful things to admire. They have a somewhat ridiculous antique grand in the parlour and Arthur suffers the indignity of practicing on it daily while Eames' mother wanders in and out telling him repeatedly how marvellous it is to have music in the house while really conveying an air of annoyance.

"Please, anything but the Glass," Eames says now, and Arthur looks over to see Eames slumping on the chaise longue and rubbing his temples.

"You know, it's a big house," Arthur points out without actually telling Eames to fuck off.

"What about the Chopin? Don't you have to play Chopin in February for something?" Eames asks, ignoring Arthur's hint.

Arthur doesn't need to rehearse the Chopin, he needs to continue picking apart the maddeningly intricate metric threads of the Glass, but he closes the score anyway, flexes his hands, and settles into an etude. Out of the corner of his eye, Arthur can see Eames go a little limp with relief as Arthur begins to play.

It doesn't last, though.

Eames sort of perks up, frowning, and turns his head to peer at the keyboard. "Isn't that one in C sharp minor?" he asks.

"Yes," Arthur says, raising his voice to be heard over his own din. "Your mother says the piano can't be tuned up to A440, something about the pegs. The whole thing is a semitone under."

"Good lord," Eames says. "It sounds dreadful."

"See, now you're missing the Glass," Arthur smirks. "At least you don't know what key it should be in."

"God, a piano in baroque pitch," Eames groans, and tilts his head forward into his palm. "I hate this house."

The truth is that it messes with Arthur's head, too, hearing the piano play everything just a little too low, but he knows it's more troubling for Eames with his perfect pitch curse. Arthur doesn't know what it must be like, but from Eames' sounds of despair it isn't pleasant.

"All right, all right," Arthur says, taking pity on him, stopping.

"Something else?" Eames asks, a little piteously. "Something nice that I haven't heard before?"

"No," says Arthur, rising up, closing the lid. He comes over and strokes his hand through Eames' hair, and Eames leans into the touch shamelessly. "What about a walk?"

"It's pissing down rain," says Eames.

"So what," Arthur says. "It's always pissing down rain in England. Let's go."

There will be comments about Eames' inability to stay and visit, and less pointed comments about Arthur's standoffishness, how he obviously doesn't appreciate the importance of togetherness, but right now Arthur couldn't give a shit, not with Eames so droopy and listless like a flower in the shade.

It's cold, and it's raining more sideways than downwards. Soon enough their pant cuffs are sloppy and wet, and Arthur's knuckles are aching with the chill, particularly in the ancient injuries in his right hand. Arthur bumps shoulders with Eames and plunges his hand into Eames' capacious coat pocket, warm and woollen and already occupied by Eames' hand. (Arthur's coat pockets are stitched shut; he can't abide the way they gape and ruin the line of the garment.)

Eames, who has been quiet and focussed on managing the big black umbrella that's not really sheltering them, abruptly smirks and twines his fingers with Arthur's, becomes recognizably himself again, tuned properly back to A440.

"Two more days," Arthur says.

"Happy fucking Christmas," Eames mutters, but not bitterly. Instead he shoots a sideways look at Arthur, eyes flickering into the briefest of smiles. "Better with you here."

"Told you so," Arthur says. His hand is warming up, clasped in Eames' grip. He can keep walking for a long time, like this.