Arthur came awake at about two – one of those all-too-common interruptions to his sleep. Usually it was just Eames making some kind of noise; a muttered half-sentence, or a snort. Sometimes it was a siren. It wasn't that Arthur couldn't sleep through noise in general, it was that he seemed to be conditioned to wake up at certain noises. Creaking on the old floorboards.
The buzz of a thirty year old refrigerator.
Sometimes the damn thing just ramped it up a fucking notch- from irritating hum to helicopter-blades level of background noise. Arthur could hear it- their bedroom was on the opposite side of the apartment from the kitchen and he could still hear the damn thing. He looked down at Eames, who was sprawled out on his belly, face pressed into the pillow- completely and happily asleep. Arthur kicked him as he got up, and he didn't even stir.
The racket in the kitchen was absurd, the fridge sounded like it was trying to grind coffee beans or something, when Arthur opened the door it shuddered and the light inside flickered. Arthur entertained a fantasy of throwing it out then and there- leaving it up-ended and spilling groceries on the street. He opened the base unit next to it, crawled in so he could flick the socket on and off. If anything, the noise increased.
“Are you fucking-” Arthur began. Then he threw both hands in the air. He did what any sane person would do. He went back to the bedroom, got dressed as loudly as possible; without disturbing Eames in the slightest, and fucked off out of the apartment.
If Eames was surprised when Arthur straggled in at 8 that morning, stinking of smoke and looking generally exhausted, he didn't say anything. Arthur had intended to go to a bar, but instead he had just walked around for hours, smoking and being annoyed. They were at a strange sort of stage- Arthur was sure he had pinned Eames down with some sort of permanence and he felt pinned in return, but it was still fragile ground. Arthur was not a declarations kind of a man and neither was Eames.
He could have just checked into a hotel of course, but he knew that this apartment was his home as much as it was Eames' and they were at a point where their relationship was transparent enough that he couldn't really have lied to himself about that. Himself or Eames.
“Trouble sleeping?” Eames said, in that way he had of truly understating things. It was the same pleasant way he tended to act when jobs went tits up. Oh I see, unexpected subconscious security? Just what I always wanted. He was such a cock.
“Your- fucking fridge,” Arthur offered as an explanation. Eames looked at the fridge, which was traitorously silent. Arthur knew Eames liked it because it was really retro; glossy bakelite and chrome handles. Eames raised both eyebrows. He was reading the newspaper, his forearms were much darker tan than the rest of him from the last job they pulled together; long days in LA with his sleeves rolled up.
Arthur thought for a moment they were going to have a fight. Then Eames just shrugged.
“I guess we had better get a new one then.”
Arthur felt like a child. Eames had been leading him around the home appliance section at Printemps for nearly an hour, patiently listening while Arthur listed why he hated every single fridge there.
“Why on earth would we want a red one?” Arthur concluded.
“It comes in black,” Eames opened the door, he was dwarfed by the damn thing, it was twice as wide as he was and almost a foot taller. Inside, someone had put a framed photograph of some fruit. Cute.
“Sorry, let me try that again. Why on earth would we want a black one?”
Eames looked hurt, “Black is cool?”
Quietly, Arthur had been putting his fingerprint on what rooms Eames was still renovating. The first lounge- where all his shit was, Arthur had given up on that as a lost cause, but the bathroom; duck egg blue and darker grey tiles on the floor, staid colours to counteract the Louis XIV ridiculousness of Eames' claw-footed bathroom suite. He'd managed to sort out the bedroom too, stained-dark arts and crafts style furniture, one wall of understated, printed wallpaper. The kitchen, however was pending.
Eames had fitted the units, re-laid new floorboards, but his antique oak kitchen table was farmhouse where his panelled unit doors were not, and all his appliances were second hand and mismatched. The walls were the same grimy white they had been when Eames bought the place, as if he hadn't figured out where to go with it.
Arthur looked at Eames, who was inspecting the fridge's built in ice-maker as if it was the answer to all his prayers.
“You want to go with black?” Arthur asked, and Eames looked back. He had that look on his face, like he was waiting for Arthur to tell him off.
“Well,” Eames began, and that was a yes.
So the black refrigerator sat in the kitchen for a week, looking very out of place. Eames didn't seem to care that it stuck out like a sore thumb. He was just happy that it made icecubes and crushed ice, and could fit twice as much food as the previous one. Arthur was happy that it made approximately one millionth of the noise of its predecessor.
But still. After that first week, he went out, and he bought tiles. Glossy black, to match, and Eames didn't make any comment, he just helped Arthur tile a splashback all the way around the units, a solid line of gleaming black that instantly made the whole room seem more cohesive. The following weekend, Arthur repainted the walls a forgiving off-white that looked like a rustic lime wash when paired with the old oak table.
“I don't see where you are going with this,” Eames admitted one night, but Eames was the one who hadn't really known how to decorate the kitchen in the first place. Eames had a problem decorating for utility, and outside the bedroom, the kitchen was their most used room. They sat and ate in it, planned jobs in it, drank wine in it.
Wood. Timber was Arthur's next step. Big bits of reclaimed oak to match the table, enough for all the unit doors, he cut it up himself and afterwards Eames fucked him while he was still sweaty and covered in dust, digging blunt fingertips into the hard lines of Arthur's biceps.
“I get it,” Arthur panted. “You've got a manual labour thing.”
“A thing?” Eames was sort of fingering him, which was distracting.
“God- fucking, stop that,” Arthur writhed. “A thing, a thing. A kink.”
Eames just grinned. Arthur wished he hated him sometimes but he really didn't- he loved him; loved him endlessly, nearly too much to conceive. Arthur tossed his head to the side, squeezed his eyes shut so he didn't have to look right at Eames. Instead of speaking, Eames just moved his big mouth to Arthur's neck and kissed him through his embarrassment, because Eames was Eames and he knew just what Arthur needed.
The kitchen looked better. Arthur replaced the unit top with polished slate, rough un-tooled edges, and installed a new sink, a big farmhouse style one in white porcelain. Then Eames seemed to get it- he came back with a print for the empty wall, an odd collection of ceramics to go on the top of the units. He found dining chairs, introduced some colour by re-upholstering them in a display of skill that Arthur almost found impressive.
Then things just started appearing; a new coffee maker in matching black, the lounge chair that Eames hadn't found a home for in his own room, a blown glass vase that caught the light coming through the balcony door. Arthur quickly came to love the kitchen more than any other room in the house, even more than the bedroom. In the evening he would drop into the lounge chair, tucked into the corner next to the balcony, and he could stretch his feet out to rest on Eames' lap.
“You know, if we ever get bored of what we do,” Eames said, “we could go into interior design.”
“I think a lot of our home improvement is based on good surfaces for fucking on,” Arthur mumbled, eyes still closed. The sun was coming in from the open balcony door and he was doing what was best described as basking.
“Well yes, but I'm sure a lot of people could get behind that,” he paused. “So to speak.”
“That was -” Arthur shook his head and opened his eyes to find Eames looking contrite. “That was terrible.”
“Yeah,” Eames drawled in his passable american accent. “I have to say though, I kind of miss our old fridge.”
Arthur narrowed his eyes. “Right. What the hell could you possibly miss about that horrible old thing? It was noisy, it didn't work properly, and it looked like a terrible throwback to the sixties.”
“I was used to the noise. It was soothing,” Eames said sadly.
“Eames, darling,” Arthur said, the words dripping sweetness in a parody of Eames himself. “It was me or the refrigerator.”
“Well, thank goodness we got rid of it,” Eames leaned forward, and Arthur was sure he was going to do something uncharacteristically affectionate, like press a kiss to Arthur's temple or something. Instead he got up and went to the new refrigerator- gleaming, silent, a monolithic testament to man's advancements in kitchen appliances. He filled his glass with icecubes and smiled, blindingly.
“This one makes ice after all, I don't know how I managed without it before!”
Arthur felt perfectly justified in grabbing an apple from the table and lobbing it straight at his head.