eternalsojourn: Legs (Legs)
[personal profile] eternalsojourn
I don't know how long ago the a/e match was, but since then I've been contemplating a sequel to that cheating fic I wrote which would explain more fully Arthur's situation. Here it is a year+ later, but if you've kept up with my little personal saga, you're probably aware I've had a preoccupied year. (Excuses, excuses.)

The original To Kiss Fingerprinted Skin (Part One) fic is at: LJ or AO3

Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Arthur/OC, Arthur/Eames
Word Count: ~7000
Warnings: Infidelity (Arthur is cheating on his longtime partner with Eames), angst, lots of OC (David, Arthur’s partner)
Summary: Feeling trapped in an untenable relationship, Arthur struggles to figure out a way forward when all he wants is to be with Eames.
A/N: Although this fic could technically stand on its own, it’s truly a follow up to the first fic in which Eames is laid bare and Arthur’s intentions are unclear. This is Arthur’s point of view.
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] night_reveals

To Kiss Fingerprinted Skin 2



It was 34 steps from the front door to the bathroom and Arthur walked them as quickly and nonchalantly as he could.

“Hey, c’mere a sec!” came David’s voice from the dining room.

“Can it wait? I want to shower before we go,” Arthur said.

“The kitchen tile came in,” David replied. “I think it’s too dark, now that it’s here.”

“In a minute,” Arthur said and slipped away before David could argue. He could hardly speak to his partner of seven years still smelling of Eames.

That fucking tile, Arthur thought, stomach sinking. He’d forgotten about the kitchen remodel, had forgotten that they’d placed an order from that specialty glass tile place months earlier, against Arthur’s better judgement considering the emotional position he was in. At the time he hadn’t wanted to make any long-term plans with David, but he also hadn’t wanted to stir up a fuss, so he’d gone along with it. And now it was here.

Arthur shed his clothes and shoved them into the hamper, feeling quietly relieved that he was in charge of laundry. He stuck a hand in the running water, adjusted the temperature up, then stepped in.

It was scalding, a little hotter than he usually had it. He sucked in a quiet breath, then closed his eyes and let his shoulders sag under the running water. It was only then that he allowed himself to think of Eames properly, as a person and not a nebulous concept to navigate around. It felt good, on the edge of painful but satisfying like the water. It was where his mind turned when he allowed himself, when he needed some interior place to retreat to just for him.

The feel of being pressed into the wall, of Eames’s soft lips, of the naked desire in the touch of Eames’s hands, sprang fully formed to Arthur’s mind. Eames had a way of making Arthur feel desired, not just physically but wholly. And Arthur, as much as he tried to fight it from moment one, was inexorably drawn to Eames’s... well, his everything. His work, his company, his insights, his touch.

The water ran down Arthur’s face as he tilted his head backwards, scraping his hair back with both hands and letting the runoff make its way down his face, neck, and body for a moment. Soon he’d have to step out, dry off, get dressed, and face his life again. Arthur lingered.

When it came time to shut off the water, he just rested his palm on the tile above the handle for a minute, feeling as though ending the shower was ending his time to think about Eames. If Arthur had allowed himself, he’d have wanted nothing more than to get dressed and head straight back to Eames’s hotel, to get on a plane, to go anywhere, do anything. With Eames. But Arthur wasn’t in the habit of wanting impossible things, at least not consciously. The faucet squeaked when he turned it off.

With his hair neatly tucked back into place, his shirt unbuttoned to exactly the level of casual he felt comfortable with for their evening at dinner with Kate and Steve, Arthur returned to the kitchen to find David standing back from the kitchen island with a cup of coffee, head tilted as he examined the tile. Arthur couldn’t imagine how the colour of the tile was so all-consumingly important that it needed that much study. He went and poured himself a cup, actually wanting tea but lacking the will to bother making a cup when coffee was still left in the pot.

“Looks okay to me,” he said.

David gave Arthur a withering look. “We wanted ruby; this is oxblood.”

Aggressively not caring, but not wanting to cause a conflict before dinner, Arthur took a steadying breath. “I like it. But if you think it’s not good enough, return it.”

“So you’re just going to leave this all to me, then?” David asked, prickly.

Arthur tossed his spoon into the sink rather more loudly than he meant to. “No sense me starting to deal with them. I have to go to Chicago in two days; Cobb has something lined up. And then I have Bruges in three weeks.”

David sighed, obviously biting back comment.

Cutting that particular argument off at the pass, Arthur said, “You should probably get ready if we’re going to be at the restaurant on time.”

David eyed Arthur suspiciously, perfectly aware of the deflection, but couldn’t actually argue with Arthur’s point. David liked to freshen up before an evening out, and he was running a little behind.

“Yeah. Sure,” David replied. “Get that DVD out of the computer, would you? I did some video editing for Kate.”

Eager to extract himself, Arthur nodded and took his coffee to the computer room, leaving David to his own devices.

***

Kate gave Arthur a big, warm hug and Steve smiled broadly, genuinely pleased to see Arthur after such a long time. The chatter was familiar, and it had been long enough between visits that there was plenty of news to catch up on. Arthur deflected most questions about his work, as their friends only had a vague notion that he was in ‘research’. Luckily Steve had the Irish gift of the gab and plenty of material to fill in the spaces.

Things took a turn around the time Steve started talking about travel. Arthur perked up and soon Steve, Kate, and Arthur were sharing stories about the baths in Budapest, the sfogliatelle in Naples, and about the exceptional quality and accessibility of classical music in Vienna. Arthur mentioned he’d seen a Donizetti opera at the Wiener Staatsoper.

“Isn’t Donizetti divine?” Kate said. “I mean, Verdi is king, obviously, but I think Donizetti is underrated.”

“Well, anything would have been a treat in the Vienna Opera House,” Arthur said, eyes wrinkling with a smile.

“Did you enjoy the Donizetti?” Kate asked David as she topped up everyone’s wine before finishing the bottle in her own. It was smooth as silk the way she attempted to draw David back into the conversation, but both Arthur and David noticed.

The beat of silence that followed her question was just a sliver too long to ignore. David simply looked challengingly at Arthur, daring him to answer, fork and knife hovering above his plate.

“Actually, I was on a business trip,” Arthur said with a tight smile and a sip of his wine.

“Well,” Steve offered, trying to smooth over the conversational pothole. “Nice to have a bit of leisure time while you’re working, mm?”

“Oh, has anyone caught any films for the silent film festival?” Kate interrupted, and with a collective inner sigh of relief, everyone jumped on board. Arthur hadn’t actually spent any time in San Francisco in a while, so he ate quietly and stayed attentive. Apparently David had been to see quite a few of the films. Arthur was actually kind of relieved that David had things to occupy him. A tiny piece of him knew he was just looking for ways to alleviate his guilt, but he put on a smile and laughed at peoples’ stories and drank his wine. David had taught him such social graces years ago.

Later in the car, the tension was palpable. David was sullen and silent and seemed to get angrier by the minute the more Arthur didn’t say anything.

It was an interminable drive back to their house, and against his better judgment, Arthur found himself shortly before they arrived home attempting to break the silence. “It’s not like I could have gone with you. I was on a job,” he said, and instantly regretted it. He didn’t have to apologize for working, and he knew full well that wasn’t even the issue at hand.

“I don’t care about fucking Vienna!” David spat. He huffed a harsh breath, reining in his fury. “How much longer? How many more are you going to do with him?”

Arthur took a moment to be genuinely baffled. “What,” was all he could come out with.

“He’s home. Cobb’s home,” David said, exasperated, as though his point was self-evident. “You’ve flown every damned place helping him, you’ve done your little... stint or whatever it is you’re doing. We agreed you’d go back to the university labs.”

We agreed?” Arthur responded, voice tight with the effort of not shouting. “No. No, you said that’s what you wanted, and I said I liked my job. You always do that, you only hear what you want to hear.”

“What I want...” David practically choked. “All those years of dreaming about settling down in a heritage house in San Francisco. That was me hearing what I wanted to hear? Is this what you’re telling me? Because I clearly remember wanting to move near my sister in New England.”

Arthur was stunned to silence. He’d forgotten that part. But it didn’t matter, that wasn’t the point, surely. “I didn’t... things change, David,” Arthur said, noting the wrinkle above David’s nose every time Arthur used his proper name. Arthur couldn’t remember the last time he’d used anything but. “Back then I never thought I’d move beyond the lab. I never dreamed...” he trailed off.

“That what?” David prompted. “That all this wouldn’t be enough for you?” The bitter resignation in his voice told Arthur that David had already come to that conclusion on his own. But it wasn’t true, not really.

“Don’t do that,” Arthur said angrily. “Don’t be a martyr.”

“I’m not a fucking martyr, Arthur —” David said prickly like frost.

Arthur didn’t wait for David to continue; he was so used to being on the defensive, his anger was welling large and he couldn’t stop it. “Of course you are, always wronged, never at fault. The truth is I stopped being enough for you,” he needled. The silence fell sudden and heavy. Arthur hadn’t ever spoken the words, hadn’t even thought about the truth of them. He’d only said it in self-defense, a way to try to turn things back on David before the accusations started to come fast and furious, but as soon as the words were out of his mouth he recognized the truth of them. He pushed. “You said you wanted all this, the house, the good neighbourhood. And I was, what? An accessory? When I found something I was really good at and wanted to do, where was my support?” He wanted to dig in. He wanted David to feel guilty, and he wasn’t even sorry for it. Arthur realized for the first time he’d been feeling guilty for even working, long before he’d taken up with Eames (and there it was, the stab of real guilt he’d been avoiding). “What happened when I wasn’t your pet project any more to dress up and parade around at parties?”

They pulled up the gravel driveway, wheels crunching. By mutual agreement they fell silent, never ones to let their domestic turbulence affect those around them, even neighbours likely oblivious behind their locked doors. David waited until they were in the door to speak again.

“We had a plan,” David said, kicking off his shoes angrily and entering the kitchen to pour himself a brandy. “Until you decided to change the game. I don’t recall ever being consulted about your drastic career choices.”

“I didn’t realize I was supposed to remain static,” Arthur replied tightly. “As a matter of fact, I don’t recall you being the slightest bit happy for me when I was promoted. Or when I started pulling in more money from dreamshare work that even enabled us to buy this house to begin with. Or ever asking me how I felt about those ‘drastic career changes’, which, for the record, David, have given me more to be proud about than anything has in years.”

“Yeah,” David spat out bitterly, hunched over his glass but not yet drinking any of it. “Yeah, I know how proud you are of your job. It’s the most important thing. More important than this house, than our life together.”

“It’s not one or the other!” Arthur roared, making David flinch. “Why could you never fucking see that?” Arthur slammed his palm on the kitchen island, making the red glass tile stacked there rattle with a brittle sound. “It’s me, David. It’s who I am, and yes, it’s more important than some fucking kitchen tile.” He stood breathing, his chest tight, staring at the piles of glass. “Your precious goddamn kitchen,” he finished softly.

My kitchen?” David spun to face Arthur, furious. “Listen to yourself. I don’t give a flying fuck about the goddamn tile.” David picked up a small stack and threw them to the ground, the brittle crack and tinkle of shards flying a harsh punctuation to David’s anger.

Arthur stared stonily at the pieces of red scattered on the floor, then tried to look up at David but could only manage to get as far as David’s knuckles clenching the edge of the island. He had no words left, nothing that could possibly get through to this man once so transparent to him. It was too much; he felt like they were having two different conversations with no way to make them meet. Finally, with no way forward he said, “What do you want?”

David was quiet for a minute, but when he responded he was clear, firm. “I want you to get out of my kitchen,” he said. “My house. You checked out a long time ago, so make your body follow. Get out of my house.”

Arthur wanted to feel relief. It was what he’d quietly been hoping for; a way out. But it still felt like failure. He turned and left.

***

He shouldn’t drive, he knew. That was the thought he had while starting the engine, but he started it all the same. Ten minutes later he was parked outside the W, looking at the lights of the lobby.

11:00 p.m. Eames would still be up, possibly going over the details of his next job, possibly watching tv. Arthur closed his eyes and pictured the moment Eames would open his door. He could practically feel Eames’s hands on his hips, pulling him in. He indulged the thought for a moment.

His phone screen glowed bright in the darkness of the car. He had Eames’s number pulled up, but didn’t hit send. Instead he brought up the text screen.

Lunch tomorrow? he typed, then stared at the screen waiting for a response.

The response was fast. Out somewhere or...?

Arthur smiled despite himself. He didn’t think his heart should feel so light, but it did, just for a moment. Out. Was thinking about a bistro on 5th. It was risky, here in San Francisco, but he wanted it. He wanted a simple meal out with company who made him feel good. And goddamnit, he wanted this one impossible thing.

Pick me up came Eames’s reply, and Arthur took it as a good time to leave. Much longer and he’d simply go up there, and though he couldn’t put his finger on exactly why, it didn’t feel quite right. Too much like running, maybe, and Eames wasn’t just a haven.

He ran through a list of friends in his head, but all of the ones in town were friends that went back to Arthur and David’s earlier days, and he didn’t feel like explaining. Instead Arthur drove until he saw a random Holiday Inn and decided it was good enough. In the morning he’d return to the house, pack some things, and head early to Chicago.

It was a long, miserable, restless night, and before it was over he cursed himself for not simply going up to see Eames, but by then it was too late to change his mind.

***

The job in Chicago was a simple extraction. Or, it would have been if the thief Cobb had hired hadn’t gotten himself caught impersonating a security guard while trying to scope out the mark’s downtown office. Without the plans and with Cobb having to find a new thief — Eames was busy on his own extraction, as Arthur could have said but opted to let Cobb find out on his own — the job was set back nearly a week. As long as it didn’t run into the start of the Bruges job, though, Arthur couldn’t really find it in himself to be too upset. He always liked Chicago, and with more prep time for his portion, he had time to relax a little.

In the end it went smoothly, as those things tended to do since Cobb had stabilized. He was nearly back to his previous form, a fact for which Arthur was relieved and grateful. This was why he had stuck with Cobb to begin with. It was exciting to watch him charm the client, to see him improvise when needed and come up with creative ways through the dream and around the mark to get the information they were there for.

Arthur himself had enough to sink his teeth into as well. Inside the dream he was responsible for steering the mark where he needed to go by posing as an event coordinator at a dreamed up conference where the mark was a keynote speaker. It wasn’t forging, but it did the job, and Arthur liked to think he did it exceptionally well. In any case, they were in and out in under their allotted time, and on waking Arthur saw Cobb’s familiar grin and nod.

He was still riding the high when he got back to his hotel until he realized it was time to pack his things and go home. Not knowing what he was going back to made him feel a bit ill. He gritted his teeth and stoically, methodically folded his things and packed, determined to spend his time on the plane reading.

He actually spent it staring out the window at the miles rushing by beneath him.

***

David was in the living room on his laptop when Arthur returned, tossing a “Hi,” over his shoulder as though nothing had transpired. It was anticlimactic, really, and Arthur frowned.

It was when Arthur was throwing his dirty clothes in the hamper that David’s voice came from the living room. “The tile is in, you should check it out. I got the ruby.” No trace of anything in his tone other than simple information; Arthur boggled. He shouldn’t have been surprised. David had done this before, many times. They’d fought and David simply moved on. But then, David had never kicked Arthur out before. David’s apparent ability to sweep all those angry words, both of theirs, under the rug, left a bitter taste in Arthur’s mouth. He finished his unpacking and went to the kitchen.

The tile was installed already and ran in scattered spots in a meandering path around the otherwise white backsplash. It looked rather nice, actually. “Looks good,” Arthur called to the living room.

“Doesn’t it?” David said from the doorway right behind Arthur, startling him. “I told you. Ruby.” His arms slipped around Arthur’s waist, and as familiar as it was, Arthur couldn’t help rankling. For the sake of peace, though, he didn’t let on.

“Yeah, you were right. It is better,” Arthur said, not encouraging but not rejecting David’s touch. He wanted to make himself a cup of tea, but pulling out of David’s grasp might send the wrong message.

When David’s lips met Arthur’s ear, and then his neck, Arthur tilted obligingly, but closed his eyes, wincing. It was almost as if he hadn’t been gone at all. It was almost as if he hadn’t, just that morning, slipped quietly out the door on the rooftop of a dreamt up building and jumped casually off the ledge, feeling the wild rush of wind on his face, feeling it pull his jacket nearly off before gasping awake in the mark’s massage therapist’s office.

Instead in this world, inside these doors, he just had the tile he hadn’t chosen on the walls, artwork in the living room he quietly hated, David’s hands encircling him, and David’s mouth working a mark into Arthur’s neck. Arthur breathed out and focused on the feel of it, trying to access some desire.

Before long, David was pushing Arthur towards the kitchen island (where he’d grabbed the tile to smash on the floor, Arthur’s brain supplied), and quickly undoing Arthur’s trousers to shove them down so his hands could grope and squeeze.

Arthur shouldn’t have been surprised at the rapid progression; he’d been here before. But he couldn’t help the sensation of rushing headlong, of being hustled and pushed. He grunted when his stomach met the edge of the island and David pushed at Arthur’s upper back to get him to bend over. David’s hands roamed over Arthur’s back, pushing up his shirt in what should have felt like desire.

When David’s touch drifted around the front to feel Arthur’s cock barely at half mast, David uttered his first sound since starting: an irritated little huff. He spun Arthur around and knelt, taking Arthur’s cock in unceremoniously and sucking, kneading Arthur’s semi-soft flesh to waken it. Once again Arthur closed his eyes and focused on the sensation, hoping that would arouse him further. It worked, mostly. Once he was hard enough, David’s fingers dipped into his own mouth before finding Arthur’s hole and sinking a finger in. Arthur frowned in concentration, bearing down and trying to think about the sensation on his cock.

He could only do that for another moment, though, because David withdrew his finger, spun Arthur back around, lubed up (was he keeping a packet in his pocket? Arthur wondered inanely), and pressed. Arthur rested his forehead in the crook of his elbow and tugged at his own cock. The only time he thought he might lose his erection entirely was when he felt David’s fingers digging into Arthur’s hips as he slammed in; Arthur thought of Eames, of how angry he was at seeing the bruises, and suddenly Arthur wanted to just leave. He didn’t, though, and tugged a little less enthusiastically at his flagging erection.

David moved his hand to Arthur’s shoulder, gripping just as hard as on his hip, and from his pace Arthur knew he was close. He wondered in a detached sort of way how David would finish this time. Arthur guessed he’d want to pull out and come on Arthur’s skin. That always seemed to be the case after a fight, and sure enough, David pulled out in a rush and jerked himself a few times before Arthur felt the splash on his ass and up his back.

When David was completely finished, he said, “You need me to...”

“No, it’s fine,” Arthur replied, cock nearly soft again. “I’m just tired from the flight. I think I’ll shower.” He grabbed a paper towel from the rack and wiped himself off as best he could while David tucked himself away.

“It’s good to have you back,” David said.

Arthur huffed and smiled wanly. He pointed vaguely in the direction of the bathroom, waited for a second, then left.

***

Arthur’s watch said 3:38. He was early by quite a margin. He walked by the airport bar, wondering why they didn’t use airports more often for quick, discreet meetings. Their transitory nature was perfectly suited to appearing and disappearing as needed. This particular meeting was held in the airport for mere convenience, however: an introduction to a new extractor in preparation for Bruges. They were meeting him just as he was about to catch his flight there, to prepare things in advance.

While idly sniffing colognes to kill time before making his way back to the bar, Arthur felt familiar fingers slide over his hip and the warmth of a breath on his neck.

“Came here for a duty free bottle of tequila, but here is something much more heady,” Eames said lowly, smirk in his voice.

Fighting his smile in order to sound stern, Arthur said, “Figures it would take the lure of cheap booze to make you early for something.”

“Wildly out of character, I’ll admit,” replied Eames. “But I know an opportunity when I see one.” Eames was close enough that the press of his hips to Arthur’s ass didn’t take much shifting. The insistent weight against Arthur’s back along with the public display and the press for time had Arthur itching to rub one out. He thought quickly: there was a bit of time. Enough.

“I need to wash my hands,” he said and stepped away from Eames’s heat, not even bothering to glance back to see if Eames would follow. Eames always followed.

A man stood at the sink, glancing in the mirror briefly at Arthur and Eames as they entered, but he blithely went back to rinsing. Arthur made his way to the far stall while Eames stopped to check his hair in the mirror just long enough for the man to dry off and start to leave before Eames joined Arthur in the stall.

Arthur was already palming himself through his trousers, and pulled Eames close by a handful of shirt material, kissing him with mouth open and tongue meeting Eames’s greedily.

“Mm, I should keep you waiting more regularly if this is the hello I receive,” Eames said, and Arthur glared sharply. Whether it was because Eames was speaking too loudly or because he didn’t want to think about waiting for Eames, he couldn’t have said, too intent was he on moving things forward.

He unbuckled Eames’s belt deftly and worked his trousers open to shove a hand down, curling his palm around the hardness there. It was warm and vital under the cotton of Eames’s boxers and Arthur moaned softly despite himself. Eames, who ordinarily took cheeky pleasure in Arthur losing himself, was evidently swept along in Arthur’s urgency, because without breaking the kiss, he worked his own hand inside Arthur’s pants. He bypassed the rubbing through cloth and went straight for skin on skin. It was exactly what Arthur needed, that strong, firm hand clasped around his girth, and he pressed his hips up into Eames’s grasp.

Arthur’s own hold on Eames’s cock was somewhat hindered by Eames grinding his hips against Arthur, pressing Arthur to the tiled wall. Arthur simply worked with what little maneuvering space he had and managed to undo the button on Eames’s boxers, slipping his fingers inside to feel the smooth, hot skin beyond. He finally had to push back on Eames’s shoulder with his other hand, if only to give him enough space to work. Eames complied, but craned forward with the kiss for a moment before releasing with a quiet gasp. Together they looked down, their cocks partially freed, only the heads visible inside their pulsing fists. Arthur glanced at his own but returned his gaze to Eames’s cock, watching as he slipped the foreskin back and forth over the shiny reddened flesh. He wanted to take it in his mouth. He wanted to turn around, pull down his pants and feel Eames press in, but there wasn’t time.

Claiming another kiss, Arthur increased his pace, desperately rubbing off into Eames’s fist and panting into Eames’s mouth. He came first, rucking up his shirt to clear a spot on his belly for Eames to aim at. He had to stop jerking for a moment to do so, though Eames didn’t complain.

Realizing his dilemma, Arthur made an executive decision and let go of Eames’s cock altogether, though he got a sharp toothy nip to his lower lip for his trouble. He nodded reassuringly, and grabbed a handful of toilet paper, pressing it to the mess and crouching down on his haunches. He freed Eames’s cock fully and took half Eames’s length into his mouth in one go, slipping his tongue up under Eames’s foreskin for a quick swipe before latching on and bobbing, using suction and skill to continue his earlier technique of covering and uncovering Eames’s cockhead with the foreskin. He knew it was the quickest way to make Eames come, but it was also just because the foreskin was still so novel to him. It took a scant dozen bobs of his head before he felt the rumbling tension build in Eames’s sac and the tap on his shoulder. He sank down to the full length to press Eames’s cock head to the back of his mouth before pulling back enough to suckle, drinking down the hard spurts.

When Eames had finished, Arthur realized he hadn’t noticed the palm cradling the back of his head, fingertips stroking his nape. He took a second to just feel it before turning his attention to wiping the rest of the mess off his stomach and tucking everything neatly away.

***

Arthur glanced at his watch as they approached the bar. 4:03. Later than he’d like, but acceptable.

Andrew, the new extractor, was just ordering a coffee when Arthur and Eames approached the table.

“Make that two,” Arthur said.

“Three,” Eames piped in, and the waitress nodded and left them to sit.

A small pile of envelopes sat in front of Andrew, and as Arthur and Eames sat, Andrew narrowed his eyes for a second, assessing, then pushed an envelop towards each of them, their names respectively printed simply in black letters. Arthur raised an eyebrow, impressed that Andrew figured out who was who with one glance.

After brief introductions, Andrew began a brisk but thorough overview of the job, informing them of his own plans for preparation and what he’d have ready and waiting for Arthur and Eames upon arrival in Bruges. Arthur’s first thought was that he missed Cobb’s more relaxed style already, which left Arthur to be the one to worry about the details. He hoped Andrew wouldn’t turn out to be a micro-manager, which was irritating at best, disruptive and dangerous at worst. A quick glance at Eames told Arthur that Eames was stone-facing his way through the meeting, making his own assessments. Arthur looked forward to hearing his thoughts afterwards.

Once business was taken care of, though, it was as though a switch had been flipped. Andrew physically pushed back from the table enough to stretch out a leg, and flashed an easy smile.

“I’ve never been to Bruges,” he said. “I’ve heard good things. I might even stick around a few days, a week afterwards. What about you two?”

“Provided no one’s after us, you mean,” Arthur clarified.

“I don’t plan on doing anything to get us caught, do you?” Andrew smiled.

“I’ll try to keep the pickpocketing to a minimum, then, shall I?” Eames replied, and even though Arthur knew it was a joke, bizarrely, he found himself hoping Eames wouldn’t. It was one of Eames’s little habits he kept up more for fun than necessity, and it tickled Arthur more than he’d realized — certainly more than he’d admit to in polite society. His smile dropped when he thought of the sheer number of things he prevented himself from talking about in his other life.

“...three years ago,” Eames was saying. “It was lovely, though, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of it. Arthur?”

Reflexively, Arthur began, “No, I should...” and then he trailed off. He pictured the flight home, he thought about hanging up his jacket and putting away his shoes and pretending this part of his life didn’t exist. It sat, a hard lump in his throat, a wave of rage and claustrophobia paralyzing him.

Smoothly, Eames took Arthur in in a glance, and finished, “Right. Cobb wanted you on that Las Vegas thing, right?”

Arthur nodded and pulled himself together while Eames picked up and carried the conversation again. Arthur joined in after a minute, shoving his anxiety aside as he was used to doing, although this time it sat in the back of his mind, a nagging like he was forgetting something important.

After they wrapped up and walked together back to the parking lot, Eames said casually, looking around with his hands in his pockets like they were about to have an ordinary conversation about transportation or something. But Arthur wasn’t fooled; he heard the real concern behind Eames’s words, “What are your plans for after Bruges, then?”

Frowning, Arthur replied, “How long till we leave again?”

That drew Eames’s gaze. “Three days,” he said, alarmed that Arthur had to ask.

Arthur nodded firmly. It was enough time for some arrangements. “Okay, I’ll meet you at the airport, then?”

“Sure...” Eames said. “No lunch tomorrow, then.”

“Shit,” Arthur said. “Yeah, sorry. Uh.” He thought for a moment. “Yeah, can I get a rain check?”

“Of course,” Eames said, inscrutable. Arthur winced inwardly, knowing he’d have to explain sooner rather than later. He hoped the explanation would be enough.

“I’ll see you at the airport, okay?” Arthur pressed.

Eames raised his eyebrows and half-nodded, the only ascent Arthur was likely to get. Having reached the parking lot, Eames began to leave, but Arthur reached out and slipped his fingers into Eames’s palm. Eames squeezed back for a second, holding Arthur there just long enough to show he meant it, then they let go and went their separate ways.

***

The chill of pre-dawn cut through Arthur’s clothes. He’d gone inside the airport already and done his self check-in, but found pacing restlessly around the check-in gates depressing. Besides, he’d see Eames quicker from outside the doors. There were two other people there, a middle-aged woman and a boy of about 20, both smoking. Arthur breathed in the smell but decided that wasn’t how he wanted to start this, not with smoke on his breath. Actually, he might even decide to quit. Maybe.

He was jittery and felt surreal. The airport, the checking in, the pre-job prep, it was all familiar, but different. He didn’t know what to do with his hands and couldn’t for the life of him remember what he usually did before flights.

The drama had actually all happened the previous night, but he’d spent the whole night buzzing, getting a scant 2 hours of sleep sometime in the night at the airport hotel.

David’s incredulity upon returning home, finding a partially emptied house and Arthur waiting for him, shoes on, still had Arthur internally shaking his head. He’d tried to explain. He’d said words he thought were self-evident: “I’m not happy. You’re not happy. You don’t want me, you want the me you knew seven years ago. I needed your support but you wanted me to need you for everything.” And the really explosive “I’ve found someone else”. David had gone ballistic. He argued, he pleaded, he yelled and called Arthur horrible things. When it was clear Arthur was heading out the door regardless, David said they could work it out. Then he got angry, blamed Arthur for changing, for giving up. Arthur was beyond arguing; they’d gone through the same things again and again. If they hadn’t resolved it in the past years, they weren’t going to resolve it in the final hours before Arthur left. He explained that he’d already packed his things. He’d put them in storage, and he wouldn’t be returning from Bruges.

In the end he’d simply let David have the last word: “I gave you everything,” David had said. It was a blatant untruth but Arthur just couldn’t beat his fists against that brick wall again. He closed the door behind him without force, without anger, but with finality.

Arthur just about gave in to lighting up a cigarette when a cab pulled up and Eames stepped out. He paid the driver and got his bags out unhurriedly, unaware of Arthur’s nervousness until he had his bags in hand and approached. On seeing Arthur he paused. “I assume this is related to your skiving on lunch the other day,” he said, keeping his tone light but with concern writ on his face.

Arthur huffed a small laugh. Explaining his canceled lunch date was a decent enough place to start, he supposed.

“Yeah. I had to... I was. I needed to secure a storage locker and hire some movers,” he said. Talking about it somehow made it more real, and he marveled at the truth of it. At Eames’s curious, expectant expression, he continued, feeling lighter by the word. “I guess I’ll have to find a place sooner or later but for now I thought I’d just store my shit. Which means I have a bit of time to hang around Bruges if you’re interested.”

“David?” Eames said, face guarded. He’d made no secret about wanting Arthur all to himself but for a terrifying moment, Arthur wondered if now that it came right down to it, Eames didn’t want that after all. Maybe Arthur had quietly invested a lot more than Eames had.

“I told him about you,” Arthur replied. “I mean, it was over before I mentioned it. We were hanging on by a thread anyway. He’ll blame this, though.” Arthur really wanted that cigarette but he needed to finish the words. Just this last little bit. “It doesn’t matter. I left. I told you I would. I kept you waiting and I’m sorry... well, I’m not sorry it took me that time because I think things took their course, but none of it was fair to you and I’m sorry.” Suddenly he hated that he met Eames when he did, and that David had still been around, and that the timing of everything was just so fucked. He didn’t know how he could have fixed it; all he knew was everything had felt wrong and he felt like he’d been cheating on two people for so long. He thought leaving David would allow him to feel less wretched about all of it, but it turned out not to be that simple.

Eames was almost unreadable. There was hurt there, and anger, and trepidation. Just traces, all of it, and only visible because Arthur knew that face so well. Arthur could never predict what would come out of Eames’s mouth, though, and this time was no different.

“You’re homeless now. Didn’t think that one through too well, did you?” he said with a twitch of a smile. “Come on, I need to check in,” he said, picking up his luggage.

Not quite sure how to respond, Arthur simply nodded and went inside.

As they went through security Eames acted as though everything was normal, and Arthur supposed he was entitled to take a bit of time to process the information. It was frustrating waiting, though, because he half suspected that this was all the reaction he’d ever get and Arthur liked answers, clear and concrete.

He needn’t have worried. After they’d settled in their seats in the boarding area, Eames slipped his hand in Arthur’s and smiled, as nakedly happy as Arthur had ever seen him, and Arthur realized he didn’t even want words to confine the parameters of possibility ahead of them.

***

Their hotel in Bruges was quiet, similar to any number of places they’d stayed in before. But checking in and walking down the hallway to their room put them alone together for the first time since Arthur’s muddled explanations and Arthur was strangely nervous. There would be no urgency, no frantic need to take everything they could while the taking was good. But they were both vaguely fuzzy with jetlag and likely needed to wake early so Arthur wondered if that’s all they’d do.

But after shutting the door behind them, Eames tugged at Arthur’s sleeve, forcing him to drop his bag, and dragged him in for a deep and delving kiss, like he’d saved it all up and was determined to savour his first taste but was too hungry to take it slow. The way he pulled Arthur in, the way his hands firmly held Arthur in place was all Arthur needed to confirm that he’d done the right thing. He undressed Eames and slowly touched and kissed, taking as he pleased with the heady sensation of being allowed to.

Arthur had been wrong about the urgency. Only this time it wasn’t furtive, not hot with the abrasive friction of illicit desire. This time he felt rather that Eames was pulling at him, tugging to keep him close, broad hands pressing into his sides and back, the flesh of his ass with the greediness of one who’s waited. Arthur himself felt like he was rediscovering desire all over again. Without the tinge of “not David”, he was free to simply enjoy Eames. He kissed and kissed, returning to Eames’s lips again and again; it felt like more kissing than he’d ever done but he couldn’t get enough.

They lowered themselves to the bed, semi-reclined on one hip, facing each other and stroking each other’s cocks underneath their clothes. They were so absorbed in kissing and stroking, they never got beyond opening their clothes just enough. Arthur came, rucking his shirt up out of the way. It felt so good, so simple and free, he decided to just shed his shirt and pull Eames off the same way so they could carry on kissing. He didn’t ask if Eames wanted anything more — Eames seemed happy enough to press up into Arthur’s hand, and Arthur was jetlagged and come-drained. And there was always tomorrow.

Arthur smiled at the thought.

At dawn Arthur woke, bleary and momentarily confused as he always was after a long flight. Light crept through the edges of the curtain and fell on Eames’s sleeping face. In the morning there would be questions, in a day or three perhaps some contemplation of future plans. But just then Arthur felt right, clear. He felt himself.

He breathed a long happy sigh and pressed his head into a fresh cool part of his pillow.

**End**

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eternalsojourn

February 2015

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