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Mutual Aid

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1.

Arthur wakes to the sound of a soft groan, the squat otherwise dead silent in the middle of the night. He cracks his eyes open and glances towards the direction of the noise.

Ah: Lloyd and Bear, quietly making love in the corner of the common room. A shard of moonlight falling across Lloyd’s broad naked back also illuminates Bear’s hands where she grasps him below his shoulder blades. Arthur can hear the sibilance of their whispered endearments, the movement of their blankets for a moment, then nothing more.

Lonely, Arthur thinks tiredly. He rolls onto his side, trying to give them a little privacy, bunches up the blankets on his sleeping pallet into the vague shape of a human form and snuggles that to his belly. Nothing like the real thing, but – it’ll do for now. Ava, one of the co-op’s dogs, yawns and resettles herself into the small of Arthur’s back.

When the fuck is Eames getting back, anyway? Arthur huffs to himself, deciding he, too, wants the opportunity to wake his comrades with the sounds of barely disguised creaking and sighing. He misses Eames’ touch, his smell, the rasp of his beard, the sound of his voice.

At least there’s no real sense of worry surrounding this latest job, a simple bit of mutual aid in helping to forge a new co-op on the Assiniboia side of the ruins of Old Winnipeg. Eames has been terrific about sending messages to Arthur via courier every other day, as he promised, letting him know what he’s up to at the new squat, that he’s still in one piece. The roads between the two co-cops can be a little rough at the best of times, even for a seasoned (and well-armed) scrapper like Eames. Though the cooperative squat system has been well-established in southern Manitoba for decades since the Great Collapse, outliers and professional bandits - people who deny human community - are still legion in the unreclaimed spaces.

He’s relieved to know Eames is ok.

But. Still, though. A full three weeks apart is a long time. Especially for something so new. It feels like an eternity, but – it’s almost at an end. Probably. Maybe.

His stupid damn heart aches. Arthur knows helping to forge a new commune takes time. He doesn’t want to act all fragile about it, it’s just that they haven’t had much time together. Like this. As lovers.

They’ve had one night, to be precise. Twelve hours in which there was a first time, some very nice pillow talk and then sleep, and then a last time the morning Eames left. And before that a solid base of friendship built on the nine months that Eames has lived at Arthur’s co-op.

In an attempt to get himself to drift a bit, Arthur fantasizes real moments in filmy fragments that are soft around the edges:

Eames seated around one of the squat’s many long worn wooden tables sometime in Autumn of last year, around the time he and Arthur started to become close friends, leading a teach-in about the management of the squat’s permaculture garden, his face golden brown from weeks in the summer sun spent digging trenches and shoveling berms, his expression openly enthusiastic about the zucchini crop, hands flying as he described the new genetic strain of squash they’d recently received from his old cooperative in Mississauga. Everyone’s attention was focused on him, his mirth and expertise obviously infectious. Arthur remembered feeling strangely proud of him in that moment. Eames was such a natural leader, in a deeply anarchist sense – knowledgeable, trustworthy, hard-working, sharing, uninterested in laurels. His lilting accent, instantly recognizable as being from one of the small communities of former Europeans recently trying to eek out an existence on the far eastern shore of North America didn’t hurt in gaining the curiosity of the rest of the co-op, either;

Eames playing a card game with Rafe, one of the co-op’s growing number of children, laughing, apparently thrilled with the prospect of teaching a ten year old boy how to bet and win;

Eames crawling into bed with Arthur to share warmth on the chilly Spring night before their relationship deepened, having just assisted Rana, the co-op’s designated medic, in helping Winona give birth to her first child. Arthur. Arthur, it was bloody incredible, he had whispered, still shaking from adrenaline. Nona pushed like a champ and I got to catch the baby as soon as she came out, all squashed and messy and crying, holy fuck what a thing, I never, rushed out of him as he inserted his shoulder into Arthur’s armpit, rubbed his head into Arthur’s chest, smiling and giggling a little crazily into his shirt.

And Arthur had pulled his arms around Eames’ shoulders and thought with a searing clarity, I want this. He had gone from a kind of muzzy sleepiness when Eames first dipped the mattress of the pallet he slept on to a full-on yearning that felt like it pierced his chest in a matter of seconds. He kept it together enough to manage a whispered conversation with Eames about the specifics of the birth, and then watch as Eames crashed into sleep next to him, knackered.

He recognized that moment later as a sort of emotional lynchpin, the hinge on which the swinging door that divides friendship and partnership might lie. He can see in hindsight that he made his decision to advance from the former and try his hand at the latter with Eames that night – not a decision taken lightly in the tight, communal environment of the co-ops, given the havoc a failed relationship might wreak.

When they woke the next morning together, Arthur simply rolled onto his side and held Eames’ face between his hands and stroked his temples, traced his brow, brushed his fingers through the choppy blond stubble of Eames’ grown-out mohawk, not saying a word. Eames’ lips parted in a quiet gasp just looking into the intensity of that gaze, but - he didn’t look away. So Arthur dipped his head in for a kiss and a rather spectacular hug (approximately the tolerance level in the co-op for public displays of affection in common areas in broad daylight,) and then they got up to start helping the cooks with breakfast.

They had spent the parts of that day not devoted to cleaning, mending, or any of the other tasks that needed doing around the squat, to laying their feelings out for one another in a secluded spot in the garden. They sat on a small bench after eating lunch, both of them feeling like they were having a community meeting except for that fact that it was just the two of them, the length of their legs pressed entirely together, their interwoven hands resting on Arthur’s thigh. The handful of other squatters working the garden immediately scattered (bless their hearts,) sensing the importance of their talk, and found other parts of the garden farther away from the couple to hoe or prune or plant.

Eames had nervously rubbed his thumb over Arthur’s knuckle and said, not daring quite yet to hope for something more, “So. I take it we’re talking about a embarking on a sexual relationship, here?”

“No,” Arthur whispered, scratching at his beard with his free hand. At Eames’ obviously confused look he hastily continued, “No, not just that – “

“Romantic, then?”

“Eames… we can start there, but - probably not just that, either.”

Eames had swallowed hard, the bump of his larynx bobbing above the ancient black bandana tied around his neck. He absently caressed the hair on his chest at the collar of his dirty black t-shirt, snuggled more deeply into his old hoodie, and had gently untangled his hand from Arthur’s to rub them down his own thighs as though he needed to soothe himself.

“You’re wanting a partnership, then?” he asked quietly.

Arthur met his gaze, nodded slowly. “If you’re amenable, yeah. A partnership.”

Eames let out the breath he’d been holding. “You know I’ve never done that before,” he said, winding his arm around Arthur’s shoulders, giving his opposite deltoid a squeeze.

“Me either. But. I’d like to, with you, I think. If that’s ok. I think I’d like to try, eventually.” He looked at Eames nervously. “I mean, it doesn’t have to happen, you know, today or anything. But.”

“But?”

“But… I’d like exclusivity. To begin with,” Arthur kept his eyes to the ground, rubbed his boots into the fine black earth beneath the bench. “I’d like it if we were only physical with each other, specifically. That’s probably a lot to ask.”

“You’re so goal-oriented,” Eames chided. When Arthur didn’t respond with anything other than a small frown at his shoes Eames knocked their shoulders together gently and added, “But I think I can work within those perimeters nicely.”

“Look, I don’t want to be propertarian with you, ok? I’m not trying to own you, I just –“ Arthur had said, embarrassed.

“You just want to focus. You want space to build on the foundation we’ve already made without having to worry about any distractions, particularly since I’m going away,” Eames finished for him. “Like forging a new co-op. Yes, I can appreciate that, amar.”

Darling, beloved. The use of the endearment in Common made Arthur’s throat constrict.

“So. We’re on the same page?”

“I think we are.” After a pause Eames said, “Arthur… you know I’ve never been in a partnership. Do you know I’ve never been in a relationship with another man?”

Arthur shrugged. “First time for everything,” he had replied assuredly, undaunted, maybe even with a flash of sudden, hot want in his eyes.

“And I’m leaving tomorrow, for I don’t know how long – potentially a couple of months,” Eames continued. “Are you sure you want to do this now?”

Funny thing, Arthur was – “Sure. Yes, I am. I’m positive. I’m absolutely certain.”

“Ok,” Eames unconsciously licked his lower lip and beamed at him, and Arthur finally found the courage to hook his thumb into the waistband of Eames’ heavily patched pants. “Ok. Holy fuck. Well… perhaps as Point Person of Second River East Co-op, you should reserve us a private room for the rest of the evening, then?”

Arthur thinks of the things he got to see either up close or for the first time entirely that night. He catalogues them in his mind over and over again, as he’s been doing the past three weeks since their parting: Eames’ slightly crooked teeth, the scar in his brow from a bad beating he took years ago, the broad swathes of golden skin decorated with black curls of ink, the light brown hair covering his broad chest, the ropy muscle of his beautiful back, the way his delicate foreskin hung off his thick cock. How Eames had arched under him the first time Arthur straddled him to the big bed in one of the private rooms reserved for lovemaking couples and people with newborns.

Snapping back to the present, Arthur realizes suddenly he’s grinning like a fool at nothing in the middle of the night. Lloyd and Bear have finished fucking and are now sound asleep, wrapped around each other, snoring, while he himself is hard as a rock and wide awake and kept company only by a squat mutt and his memories. He presses his face into his pillow and makes a frustrated, unhappy whine, unable to get the image of Eames’ sweet mouth and big hands out of his head. He rolls onto his belly, quietly gets himself off by stroking roughly into the fist sandwiched between his body and the bed while trying to remember the exact sensation of Eames’ kisses, his steady grip on his hips, the way he had cried out Arthur’s name when he came.

He bites the muscle of his left forearm to muffle his sounds. Sleep eventually follows on the heels of a rather deep and prolonged, if solitary, orgasm.

Chapter Text

The next day is bright and sunny and still shedding Spring’s chilly crispness in the morning. Arthur sits at a table in the co-op’s massive dining hall in front of an ancient 30 gallon steel tub filled with root vegetables which he peels for the squat’s lunch of chicken soup and fresh bread. He gets through his twenty-fifth potato and sighs hard, dumps the scraps into the compost bin at his right. He tosses a small chunk of carrot to Ava the dog, who’s been following him pretty much everywhere he goes since Eames left. She gnaws happily at it and wags her long tail at him.

 

He must look pretty miserable, he realizes, because random comrades keep dropping by to make idle chit-chat with him, or simply rub his back, squeeze his arm. Hez, the kitchen head, even made him a special cup of the spiced tea she knows he likes. Everyone knows exactly who’s on Arthur’s mind, apparently. He hopes he’s not the source of too much co-cop snark, or gossip. Or pity.

 

Then there’s the clatter of the enormous metal doors at the far end of the hall opening to admit someone from the squat’s courtyard, and Arthur’s heart leaps into his throat. He watches as Rosa and Mike pull the sliding doors aside and admit a visitor. Sun streams in with the person, momentarily blinding Arthur, but he can see a halo of blond hair atop a man’s broad form, a rifle strapped to his back that looks like it could be Eames’ old Winchester .38, and –

 

His heart sinks. It’s Solidarity, back from a trading trip to the squats on the northside.

 

Lloyd and Bear cheer and clap the minute they see him. Arthur longingly watches as Sol makes a beeline for where they’re seated together. He tucks his long blond hair behind his ears as he leans in and gently kisses first Bear and then Lloyd on the mouth. He’s only been gone a week, but – the three of them have been partnered for a couple of years and have obviously missed each other terribly. Arthur eavesdrops on them talking about Sol’s experience on the northside. Lloyd jokes about how badly Sol needs to trim his bushy blond beard back, stroking his face and smiling, and they all talk about how Bear’s baby bump has visibly grown in just eight days.

 

Sol looks up after about ten minutes and catches Arthur staring. Arthur’s face flushes as he forces himself to glance away and get back to work on the vegetables.

 

The next thing he knows, Sol’s walked up to Arthur and is sitting with him at the table. He shifts the ratty messenger bag he’s got across his chest and starts to open it. “Hey, man,” he says, “I ran into Wabun when I was up at Stonewall.  He had just met this woman coming off an internship over at Assiniboia. They gave me something for you that I think might make you feel a little less lonely.”

 

Sol hands him an antique Mason jar with a note attached in Eames’ florid handwriting: My sweet. Almost home. It’s filled with honey from Assiniboia Co-op, from their first batch. It’s bright gold, like the color of Eames’ hair and skin, and it makes Arthur feel warm all over.

 

“Thanks, Sol,” he says, holding it up to the light. Honey’s an extremely hot commodity in Manitoba, or anywhere for that matter. The bee colonies are just starting to get reestablished in North America, and the co-operatives have only started to harness them in apiaries for honey over the past decade or two. Sol must have guarded this for Arthur with his life, practically. At the very least, he’s been riding a bike around with a glass jar he had to make sure didn’t break for probably 60 kilometers.

 

Arthur laughs, imagining that; trust Eames to be totally impractical about his gift giving. He knows Sol was utterly glad to do it, though – he and Eames go way back, grew up together in the eastern co-ops on the Atlantic with the rest of the refugees from what was the British Isles until the water rose too high. Eames followed Sol to River East after his job at Mississauga was done, so – Arthur supposes he has a lot to be thankful to Sol for.

 

He winds his arms around the other man in a big hug and Sol says into his neck, “He’ll be home soon.” That makes Arthur choke up a little bit, so he gently sends Sol back to his waiting partners.

 

He turns his attention to the turnips which, after all, aren’t gonna peel themselves.

Chapter Text

Eames finally returns four days later, nearly a month from the day he left.

 

Arthur’s in the courtyard at the time, trying to fix one of the co-ops many failing circa 21st century solar cells; it’s like trying to put a 1 cm square piece of gauze on an arterial puncture, but – they still occasionally use the solar cells for some things that require a little more energy, so. It’s something that needs doing.  He sits on a rickety chair and tries to strip the delicate copper conductive wiring of as much corrosion as he can, rewires the parts that need it.

 

Ava the dog is asleep at his feet one moment, and then completely losing her mind and off like a shot the next, so Arthur looks up from where he’s been intently fiddling with the panel and – there Eames is.

 

His hair’s been cut shorter and he’s so filthy from the road that Arthur barely recognizes him at first. The elderly black t-shirt he’s always wearing has finally lost its sleeves, exposing several new tattoos across his shoulder and chest. He needs a shave even more desperately than usual, and apparently the pants he’s always had that were 90% patches completely gave up the ghost on him somewhere along the way because he’s wearing a pair of extremely ugly plaid shorts.

 

He’s fucking perfect.

 

Eames stops about three meters from where Arthur’s sitting, a wary, unsure look on his face, and murmurs, “Hello.”

 

And that does it. Arthur puts the panel down on the ground and launches himself into Eames’ arms without saying a word.

 

++++

 

What’s great about sex with Eames, Arthur decides a little bit later, is that he laughs during it.

 

He laughs when something funny happens (it’s sex, something funny always happens), he laughs when something unexpected happens (this is only their third time, and Eames is very much still getting the hang of fucking another guy), he says funny shit that makes Arthur laugh (the first time they made love Eames gave him a smug grin and told Arthur to “brace himself” as he entered him,) and he laughs because he’s happy.

 

It’s a little harder for Arthur to take a closer look at that last reason than at the others, really. The idea that Arthur could be at the center of the cause for that happiness is… almost too much to for him to handle.

 

Also, he’s preoccupied at the moment because Eames is on top of him, happily thrusting away, gazing down at Arthur with extra-fond eyes and grinning like a loon.

 

Amar, can we just –“ He stops to shift his position a bit, off of Arthur slightly and more on his knees, unintentionally hitting Arthur’s prostate in the process.

 

“Motherfuck,” Arthur groans and arches his back involuntarily. Eames looks perplexed at him and, when Arthur can think right again, he explains, “You’re hitting my spot.”

 

Which makes Eames chuckle. He grasps Arthur’s slender hips in his big hands and drags his body up further onto his lap, then surges forward again, whispering, “Am I hitting your spot, love?”

Arthur sees stars and scrabbles for the pillow behind his head, needing something to grab just due to the sheer pleasure overload he’s receiving. “You’re hitting my spot, fuck, Eames, god, keep - you got it. You got it. You’re hitting my spot,” he babbles.

 

He comes with the sound of Eames’ laugh ringing sweetly in his ears.

 

++++

 

When Arthur wakes an hour or so later in their tiny reserved room, the sun’s still streaming through the high windows. He spends a moment just watching Eames breathe in his sleep next to him, his eyes moving under their tender lids, dreaming. His lips are barely visible under his giant hedge of a reddish-blond beard, something Arthur’s going to have to ask Eames to change pretty soon. He misses that mouth.

 

Arthur rubs his hand through his own thin beard and kisses Eames on the nose, the cheek, bites his earlobe and ends up with a mouth full of the little silver rings he wears. “Hey,” he says in Eames’ ear. “Hey, you need to wake up.”

 

Eames doesn’t even open his eyes, grabs his crotch and teases, “Mmmmmmm, Arthur - you just can’t get enough of this sweet English lovin.”

 

Arthur huffs a laugh and says, “That’s… frighteningly close to true. But honestly? I was waking you up because you need a wash now more than ever, buddy. You’re pretty ripe.” Eames doesn’t move. Arthur looks down at the road dirt mixed with dried sweat and semen on his own chest and entices, “C’mon, I’ll take one with you, I’m pretty disgusting now, too. I think it might be catching.”

 

Arthur moves to fish his pants off the floor when Eames grabs his shoulder and says, “Next time, you should do me.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“You should do me. In bed. I’d like to try it,” Eames says easily.

 

“Yeah, sure, of course, anything you want,” Arthur replies. “But Jesus, I want you to have a shower first.”

 

They stand in the big tiled shower room together, taking turns under the solar-heated spray. The water coming off of Eames is actually black as it runs down the drain and into the graywater system, and Arthur tells him he’s going to be contributing directly to the amount of humus in the co-op garden in ways he never imagined. He takes a freshly honed straight edge razor and shaves Eames’ face until he’s recognizable again, and Eames returns the favor.

 

“You’ve got to be starving,” he says to Eames after they’ve dried off and put on fresher clothes. “Let’s go see if there’s leftovers in the kitchen, c’mon.”

 

“I’d rather get back in bed, if you don’t mind,” Eames says.

 

Arthur has to hold back a grin. “You, forgoing food? You really missed me, huh?”

 

He’s unprepared for Eames’ sudden, full-throttle earnestness, “God, so much.”

 

“Yeah,” Arthur says. “Yeah, ok. Bed.”

 

++++

 

Eames is utterly serious about wanting to try bottoming. And by utterly serious, Arthur sees that means he’s going to laugh the entire way through their first attempt.

 

“Fuck, this would be really offensive if I didn’t know you better,” Arthur smiles and shakes his head.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Eames says, trying and failing to school his face in some semblance of non-hysteria. “This is just so weird.”

 

“We can stop, do something else,” Arthur offers. He’s got two fingers in Eames at this point, and is trying to remember what his first time at the age of 15 was like – nice, he recalls hazily. That was over a decade ago, though; and Arthur’s always known he was gay, so maybe there’s something inherently more natural for him about wanting to be entered like this? As opposed to someone like Eames who’s really pretty straight, but ends up loving another man?

 

Who knows?

 

“No, no,” Eames says, sliding himself further down on Arthur’s fingers, “it’s a good weird. Perhaps another finger, my darling? Onward and upward, I am thoroughly enjoying myself,” he adds so primly and seriously that Arthur cracks up.

 

When Eames seems like he’s ready to give it a go, Arthur asks, “How do want me? Like this, on your back? From behind? You wanna be on top?”

 

“Like this, like this, like this,” Eames chants at him, grasping Arthur’s hips and pulling him forward.

 

Arthur lines himself up and pushes in just slightly, and that’s enough to send him reeling from the pleasure. “You ok?” he looks down at Eames, who nods. “We’re gonna go real slow, all right?”

 

“Yeah,” Eames croaks. Arthur slowly strokes into him as Eames lays there still, eyes wide and mouth hanging a little open, hands gripping Arthur’s sides.

 

“Eames. You still with me?” Arthur asks, bottoming out. He’s never seen the man so quiet. “You ok?”

 

Eames swallows hard. “Yeah,” he says quietly. “Hey. Get the fuck over here and kiss me.”

 

Dinner that night is wild rice with fresh morels and the jerked venison from the deer Lloyd shot last winter. Arthur grins as he watches Eames eat three huge servings.

Chapter Text

By early June, the temps in southern Manitoba are commonly hovering around 45 C during the day. The co-op knows from previous experience what that’s going to mean by late July, and that steps need to be taken quickly to protect the garden. Arthur puts together a plan as the co-op Point in concert with Ariadne (Head of Repairs,) and Eames (recently elected Head of Gardening) for something a little more permanent than what they’ve been throwing together in the past.

 

They wake in the wee hours of the morning, when the co-op’s still cool and quiet enough to think, to start work over coffee and eggs on toast at one of the long tables in the dining hall. Arthur watches as Eames and Ari devise a plan for a kind of loosely woven tarp that can be mechanically advanced and retracted when needed over the garden spaces that don’t have tree shade.

 

Ari grabs a swathe of butcher paper from the kitchen and drags it over to the table with a pencil and starts to draw the contraption. “How about something like this?” she says, drawing a kind of series of sail-like arcs over her rendition of the garden. “We can reuse the old struts and joints from those awnings that Sol found downtown last year for the skeleton of the thing.”

 

She sticks the pencil in her mouth for a minute to tie her long dreads into a knot behind her head. “And then… then maybe we can cut strips out of that old nylon tarp that’s been sitting around in storage upstairs and sort of weave it into a twilled pattern, like this?” She draws it out for them. “And that way there will still be sun getting in, but nowhere near as much, and any rain that comes through the area will still be able to get through the holes in the twill. This’ll probably discourage the larger birds from coming in, as well.”

 

They may need to source more materials for the job, but Ariadne’s plans are imminently worakable, as ever – young as she is, there’s a reason she was elected to her position, a kind of fusion of architect and mechanic, at the co-op, Arthur reflects.

 

They break up their work group as the cooking crew starts to filter in to set up breakfast. Arthur gets to work formulating the nuts and bolts plan for what materials they need and how much, and delegating what work to which workers, while Ari and Eames go to the garden and try to imagine together exactly what will go where.

 

It’s a thrillingly good feeling, watching as it all comes together over the next few weeks. Most of the other squat work comes to a halt to focus on the garden, all hands on deck outside of the essential kitchen and security crews, and they manage to have the basic metal structure up and functional in the space of ten days. The tarps themselves are sturdily cut, rewoven, sewn, and up on their delicate metal arms in twenty.

 

A month after their project’s inception, Arthur and Eames are standing in the shade of the awnings in garden, marveling at what they helped build – something useful and sturdy, verging even on elegant or beautiful. It’s working well enough that Arthur has started to get a little cocky, mentioning that they might be able to knock down the garden’s south high wall and expand a little, River East Co-op having been cleverly put atop an old city park. There’s plenty of arable land, Arthur figures, but Ari and Eames rein him in a bit by pointing out the problems of irrigating so much space. Maybe in a few years, Arthur figures, they’ll figure it out together. No need to rush things.

 

The co-op’s growing steadily, anyway, he thinks. He looks up and sees Eames taking a break, covered in dirt and drinking a glass of cold tea amid a riot of tomatoes, watching a now extremely pregnant Bear move something she probably shouldn’t be moving. She’s ready to give birth any day now. Arthur can see the look of trepidation and worry on Eames’ face as he wavers between saying something to Bear and staying silent when she hoists a 20 kilo bag of chicken feed onto her shoulder. Culturally, it’s just so utterly taboo for a man to tell a woman that she can’t do something with her body that most men will stay quiet even when they’re afraid for the woman in question.

 

Eames is saved by the presence of Winona, who saunters over to Bear with four month old Liberty hanging off her hip and yells, “Hey! Drop it! Quit trying to lift heavy shit, for fuck’s sake. You look like you’re gonna explode.” She gestures at Eames and Arthur in the garden and says, “Go tell one of these assholes to lift stuff right now. It’s what they’re good for.” Eames grins at them and waves.

 

Bear puts the sack of chicken feed back down and sits on a near by bench, obviously completely wasted from the effort. “Fuck. Fuck, I want this baby out of me, Nona,” she says miserably. “I want to be able to do the things I used to be able to do again.”

 

Arthur can hear Nona saying something reassuring to Bear in the background when Eames comes up to him and says, “That baby’ll be here any moment.” He eyes Arthur speculatively. “Hey. We should keep trying to get you pregnant,” he says conversationally.

 

Arthur levels a glare at him and Eames laughs so hard he chokes on his iced tea.

 

“Look, I’d offer to add a woman to our partnership, but I get the feeling this is one instance where you don’t like to share,” Eames says with a semi-straight face, acting like he’s the poster boy for reasonable. He pokes Arthur in the side.

 

“You’re damn right I don’t,” Arthur replies immediately. Then, embarrassed by his heated, propertarian response to what was clearly a joke, adds quietly, “Would you like that? If we found another partner, a woman?”

 

Eames smiles and shakes his head, touches the small of Arthur’s back. “No. No, that’s not something I want,” he says.

 

“But you’d like a child, someday?” Arthur presses.

 

“Oh, yes. I would, if I could have one with you, very much so. But we don’t need a third partner for that,” Eames says. “We could always help an unpartnered woman raise her child, or ask a friend to carry a child for us.” He shrugs, totally at ease with the idea. “And you? Would you like to have a baby some day with me?”

 

“I’ve never dared to think about it,” Arthur says honestly. Eames hands him what’s left of his glass of tea and Arthur drinks it down.

 

“Well, I’m game,” Eames says. “Whenever you’re ready.” And he goes back to staking and tying tomatoes, leaving Arthur with that thought in his mind.

 

++++

 

Within the week, Bear gives birth. She allows Eames to be in attendance at Rana the medic’s side like he was with Winona, but Bear already has Lloyd and Sol in there with her for help. Too many men in the birthing room, Eames thinks.

 

He climbs back into bed with Arthur, who instantly makes room for Eames to settle down the way he always does: face resting on Arthur’s left pec, his shoulder jammed into Arthur’s armpit. It’s early evening and still positively sultry out, all the windows open wide and their covers tossed to the floor, both of them completely naked and unmoving but still sweating.

 

Eames quietly watches Arthur read by the candlelight from the table on his side of the bed. He makes his move slowly, taking Arthur’s nearest nipple into his mouth and applying light suction, not saying a word. Arthur gasps after a couple seconds and casts Rudolf Rocker aside, reaches for Eames – strokes his face, his side, his ass, his balls, ends up making love to him quietly and reverently.

 

A cheer goes up in the co-op about two hours later when the baby is born, another little girl for River East. Bear names her Summer.

 

They listen together to the sound of people talking quietly but excitedly as the news spreads in the common areas of the co-op.

 

“Yes,” Arthur says to Eames cradled on his chest.

 

“Yes what, amar?” Eames asks, pretty sure he knows what the question is.

 

Arthur tightens his arms around Eames, presses a kiss onto his lips and looks directly into his eyes.

 

Yes.”