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It’s hot, always so hot. There’s tea cooling on the kitchen counter and Eames doesn’t want to drink it now that he’s made it. Too hot to drink now, too terrible to drink when it goes cold. He dumps it, watching the brown being chased down the drain, only to catch himself not five minutes later, reaching for the kettle again, ready to make himself another cuppa. Just out of habit.

Regular habits tend to become the death of people like him. Routine is what keeps him sane. He needs unpredictability and a sound mind to do his job and live to tell the tale. It’s a wonderful conundrum that once amused him. Now… Well. Now, he simply puts the lid back on his tin of tea and pushes it to the far corner of the cupboard, until he can no longer see it behind the pack of biscuits that expired a month ago that he still hasn’t thrown out.

It’s hot. Almost depressingly so. Eames can’t do anything but sweat, and he hates it. If he doesn’t use his brain for something more challenging than the Sunday crossword, he might as well put a bullet through it and be done with it.

But, well. It’s June. And he’s in California. Not his favourite combination by far, when the heat of Mombasa is far more welcoming than this. The problem is, he doesn’t really have much of a choice. He’s waiting.

It’s a blessedly cool day, if only by comparison. The sky is still cloudless and the sun beats down on his shoulders and the back of his neck, but Eames goes for a walk.

The trees in the park offer him their shade, but he keeps walking, left right left right. If he doesn’t stop using his legs, then maybe it will make up for the fact that it’s been far too long since he’s really used his brain.

He takes the long way around the park, walking its perimeter once and then following the path that cuts across. There are people lying out in the grass, towels spread beneath them as they submit to the sun.

Eames’ gaze lingers on them as he walks past, cataloguing the way they recline, the way they lean towards each other to talk. All so he can draw on the knowledge if he ever needs it. Forging is not a mental muscle that needs to be exercised so much as it is a way of life. A school of thought. Like breathing, it’s simply something he does and the more conscious he is of it, the more effort it requires.

The door is unlocked when he gets home. The apartment smells faintly of peppermint, and Eames follows the imaginary footprints from the door to the bedroom.

Arthur is stretched out in bed, neither awake nor asleep, but somewhere in between. He’s already unpacked his suitcase and the only signs that he’d been on a plane for the past ten hours are the lines on his face.

He rolls over, eyes blinking open in response to Eames’ presence. Eames likes to think that they can sense each other somehow. It’s the best explanation he can find to all the times they’ve rushed across the globe to each other’s aid without anything more solid than a gut feeling.

Arthur’s dressed in striped pyjama bottoms, the matching shirt left unbuttoned. He smiles in greeting, propping himself up by the elbows. There’s a bruise on his cheek and Eames steps closer to the bed, touching it lightly, questioningly.

Arthur turns his head away, it’s nothing, and makes a quiet sound of approval when Eames lies down beside him. Neither of them bother with blankets in this weather, and it’s definitely too hot to cuddle.

Eames kisses Arthur slowly, dragging it out and licking his lips as he pulls away. Arthur follows him and then catches himself, his lips quirked upward. He rests his head on his pillow and the way he watches Eames makes it unnecessary for them to speak or touch or even kiss.

Arthur is Eames’ favourite puzzle. The longer he watches, the more he finds out and more amazing than the fact that there are still things to be learned is the fact that Arthur wants him to know them. Arthur is offering himself as a book to Eames—has been, for the past five years—and now that they’re together again, there’s a calmness in Eames’ mind and in his heart.

He lies there, within reach of Arthur but not touching, and he watches. And reads.