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Comme à Pétrarque apparaissait Laura

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The two spare rooms upstairs at the Goldberg house were once the two boys' bedrooms, joined by a narrow bathroom with doors opening at either end. It's been years since Arthur's parents required Eames to stay on one side of the loo and Arthur on the other; moreover, it never worked even when they had. From Aaron's former room to Arthur's Eames would invariably creep, and spend the night tangled uncomfortably close to Arthur in his narrow childhood bed.

Nowadays Arthur's old room is a proper guest room with a full-sized bed in it, and Aaron's room is an office. When Arthur and Eames come to stay they share the guest room, no questions asked. No one suggested they spend the eve of their wedding day apart.

That was their own stupid idea.

So Eames now finds himself, on the eve of his wedding, tossing and turning fitfully, not even a little tired. His soon-to-be father-in-law's desktop winks sleepy LEDs at him in the darkness. The air mattress squeaks and whooshes and heaves under Eames’ weight. When he can’t quite help himself, Eames mutters snippets of his vows to himself though memorization is his bread and butter, and there’s little chance he’ll get stage fright in front of family and friends when he sailed through his Met debut grinning.

It'll be romantic, Arthur said, and Eames twined fingers with Arthur and kissed his temple and agreed that one night apart would make their reunion all the sweeter when they came to join hands under the chuppah.

It's not as though they never sleep apart; they probably do it as often as they share a bed. For every night Eames slips between soft Arthur-smelling sheets, he spends another with cheek pressed to an overstuffed hotel pillow that smells of industrial detergent. Eames would never be so melodramatic as to say he can't sleep without Arthur next to him; if that were indeed the case his career would be over long since. In fact, Eames sleeps alone happily — sometimes even greedily — his first few nights away. He starfishes over the bed, revels selfishly in the knowledge that for once he won’t wake to Arthur’s screeching alarm, Arthur’s barely-awake thumping around, Arthur poking Eames in the shoulder saying last chance to come for a run, are you sure, you ate a lot of steak last night.

No, Eames can't say that he always misses Arthur beside him in bed, even when he often misses Arthur's other sounds — that bad habit he has of clearing his throat, and his put-upon sighs when he reads his students' work, and the precise eighth-note ting-ting of his coffee spoon against the lip of his mug.

None of this, in short, explains why Eames is unable to drift off now. Likely it's just pre-wedding jitters. It's nothing, this silly ritual they've set themselves to accomplish tomorrow, and yet — it's something. Something is happening during the twenty minutes they’ll be standing under the chuppah, and after they’re over everything will have changed in some subtle way. Eames can’t stop trying to work out what it is, what it means, if he’s nervous enough or happy enough or eager enough. If he wants to get married to Arthur or if he just wants to be married to Arthur, and what’s the difference, anyway? What difference does any of it make?

"You're being a prat," Eames says aloud to himself, exasperated.

"I know," says Arthur from somewhere very nearby, and Eames nearly falls off the air mattress with shock. He's steadied almost immediately by Arthur's hand on his elbow, Arthur jostling onto the mattress and crowding himself into Eames' personal space. "Do you remember if my dad got the challah out of the freezer? He kept saying he needed to bring it out to thaw but I don't think I saw him do it."

Eames draws Arthur against his chest, inside the curve of Eames' arm, kisses his hair. "I don't know if he did, darling."

"I mean, who the fuck cares if the bread is cold," Arthur says belligerently, in the same way he's been aggressively trying not to care about every aspect of this bloody connubial faffing about. "It wouldn't be the end of the world."

"Should I go have a look," Eames says, wanting to forestall the panic attack he can physically feel gathering under his palm, a hard knot of tension between Arthur's shoulder blades.

"No," says Arthur, and means it, burrowing his face up against Eames and clinging stubbornly. "Sorry, I know it was my stupid idea, you just went along with it, and here I'm the one who caved and came to you after all.”

Eames snorts and scrubs at Arthur's back. “Oh-ho, so you thought that I'd come to you, is that it?"

Arthur's quiet for a moment, then he says, "I guess it's good that you can still surprise me?"

"Well, you'll have to shove off before the sun comes up anyway," Eames says, "I hear it's bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the proper moment."

"Good thing there aren't any brides in this wedding," Arthur says, sounding sleepy now, soothed as he sometimes is by Eames’ weight on him, Eames pinning those too-active limbs and somehow forcing his mind to still along with them.

"Come on, come on," Eames says, hastening to dislodge Arthur before he goes into his sack-of-wet-cement routine, "there's a proper bed with room for both of us twenty feet away. Get into it, I'll go make sure the challah is thawing, and then we'll both get some sleep so we don't accidentally have a zombie-themed wedding with both of us looking like extras off The Walking Dead."

"Hm," says Arthur, but he staggers to his feet and aims himself for the bathroom door, scrubbing at his freshly shorn hair and ricocheting gently off the walls and counter as he goes. Eames gazes fondly after him and mentally adds 'the round underside of Arthur's arse in boxer-briefs' to the list of things to miss next time they're apart. Seems a pity to waste their proximity if they’re sharing a bed after all, he thinks. Eames will go check on the bread when they're through. Unlike Arthur, he’s not likely to drop off immediately afterwards, not with his brain still racing like a gerbil in a cage.

Arthur's hands are cold, briefly, when Eames clasps them. The sunshine's pouring down through the netted arch overhead and Eames is hoping his kippah stays put, and that the challah is thawed from the solid frozen brick it proved to be this morning — but here are Arthur's fingers in Eames', and here is Arthur's dark gaze flickering nervously to meet Eames' eyes, and Eames' heart is in his throat while his mind rings continuously in ostinato: I do I do I do.