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The final, oldest suggestion!

[ profile] twisted_ream there's this huge spider on eames' back and he can't get it off and arthur just laughs YESSSS. :D First one, last chapter, haha. ^_^

And let's not forget:


[ profile] xkatchy - Arthur's face to Eames's ass. In a completely non-sexual way. OR Arthur's elbow to Eames's crotch. Not on purpose of course =) Oddly, [ profile] gelbwax seconded that one. Poor Eames! ^_^

Here we are at the epilogue! I am both happy and sad that I finished this fic. ^_^

16/16 - My Blue Heaven

** ** ** **

Arthur tried to get comfortable in the passenger seat of the car, enough to get a little sleep, but his knee still hurt and his mind wouldn't shut down. It was late afternoon, getting to dusk and he wondered how much farther they were going to drive.

Eames was up to something. He'd given him some vague information about the job. The name of the mark, what the extraction was. (Nicole Pagette, 93, find out where she had left an antique ring before becoming bedridden.) He said the job itself started in about two days, which would give Arthur enough time to do whatever kind of research he needed, which, Eames assured him, was probably none. The mark's family would willingly provide information.

It seemed a simple job, the kind he'd done many times. Yet Eames was clearly hiding something. Anyone else, and Arthur would be running the other way. He knew that Eames would never lead him into a dangerous situation without warning him. That wasn't in question. But it was something, and Arthur didn't like secrets.

The endless flight over, a day and a half ago, had drained him and made his knee ache. An overnight stay in a hotel hadn't given them much time to rest before they were on this long drive up to who knew where (well, Eames knew where. Actually, Arthur did too, Eames had told him the general location of the workspace. But it meant nothing to him because he didn't know the area.)

"Almost there," Eames said, as if sensing his discomfort.

"Will anyone else be there?" He wanted to know which face he should put on; if he needed to be the calm professional, if he needed to be vigilant, or if he could just act as fucking irritated as he was. Because he was allowed to act irritated and worried when Eames was around, but with most others, he tried to hide it.

"Just us for the first day," Eames said. "They'll be moving the mark into home care tomorrow. We'll wait till they're settled, do the quick extraction, and be out by dinnertime."

There's something you're not telling me, Arthur wanted to say. But he didn't, because Eames had a reason. He would probably tell him later, or after the job. Maybe it was someone Eames knew. Maybe it was some emotional attachment he had to the case.

They went up a wide, straight, tree-lined road. Fog obscured some of the path, but it was a clean street. Arthur liked it so far, for practical reasons. If they did end up having to run (unlikely, according to Eames,) these roads offered a safe, easy getaway. Arthur took note of a few dirt-lined backroads that were good for making quick turns, if it came to that. The trees that lined the street were unkempt, but still budding.

The farther they went, the more unkempt the trees became. The paved road gave way to gravel, then to dirt, then to nothing. The path Eames drove over now looked like it had only just been cleared, maybe a few months ago.

Ancient pines loomed over thick brush. Phone and electricity lines stopped showing up. The path they were taking looked inhospitable. Unlivable, even. There was no way, Arthur realized, that any rich family was taking a 93 year old bedridden woman to live here. There was no electricity.

He looked sharply at Eames, who kept his eyes on - well, not the road, since there wasn't one. He definitely looked nervous now.

"Eames, what…"

"Here we are, then," Eames said. He nodded his head over the top of a hill.

Arthur faced forward and looked ahead. As they crested the hill, he saw the house.

It was old, second empire Victorian, though it looked like over the years a few people had tried to update it. It still had the original mansard roof, with an iron trim. And a fucking square tower that made his jaw drop. Arched doors and dormer windows, fuck, this place was too cool for anyone who was currently living in it, he was sure. It looked like the Addams Family house.

To the west of it, a smaller house stood atop a steep slope. Actual servant's quarters. Around the side of it, there was an honest-to-god carriage entrance.

Eames drove the car through two broken, swinging iron gates, then through a nest of weeds that came nearly up to the windows.

No one lives here, Arthur thought. He glanced over at Eames, who, again, fixed his eyes straight ahead.

Eames stopped the car and got out without a word, heading to the back to get their stuff from the trunk. ('The boot', as Eames insisted.) Arthur opened his door and hobbled out to help. His knee was really starting to ache from being still for too long; a little walking would help.

"Eames," Arthur said, unable to wait any longer to ask him what was up.

"Here, then, can you manage the PASIV?" Eames cut him off. "Or is your leg bothering you?"

"Let me help," Arthur sighed. Eames had his whole head inside the trunk, digging around and trying to pull bags and suitcases out from under other bags and suitcases.

Arthur grabbed the PASIV, which was wedged under a bunch of other stuff, and pulled. It came free more easily than he thought and he almost toppled backwards. His elbow came into sharp contact with what he was pretty sure was Eames's crotch, and judging by the garbled, surprised noise from behind him, it probably was.

"Oh shit, sorry," Arthur said.

"No harm done," Eames gritted out. "Make it up to me later. Here. Why not let me get it."

Arthur bent over to pick up his overnight bag, as Eames leaned into the trunk and knocked his ass into Arthur's head, almost sending him sprawling.

"Sorry darling," Eames said.

Arthur straightened up and sighed. This was way too awkward, with his knee twinging in pain, and Eames acting like something was up. There was no coordination between them with this hidden thing going on.

"Can we save this clusterfuck for later?" Arthur said. "I have to pee." He didn't, but it would get them into the house.

"Yes, good idea," Eames said. "Why don't we just go inside." His lips turned up slightly at the corners and he turned away quickly, leading the way.

When Eames took a toothpick out of his pocket and popped it into his mouth, Arthur knew he was nervous, secretive smile or not. They went up the shoddy porch stairs, the railings covered in peeling paint, and Eames produced a key to a lock that looked suspiciously new on the old door. Something fluttered and squirmed in Arthur's chest, something he had figured out, but didn't want to blurt out yet in case he was wrong and just being an asshole.

Eames swung the door open and, when he saw that Arthur was leaning on the railing and heavily favoring his uninjured leg, he slung an arm around his waist and practically lifted him off the ground as they went through the door.

"What's with the chivalry?" Arthur said.

"When am I not chivalrous," Eames deadpanned.

"You came in my hair last night," Arthur reminded him.

Eames gave him his best charming, crooked grin. "I did try to warn you."

Arthur sighed, long-suffering, and did not deign to reply. Instead he took a look around.

The inside of the house was just as awesome as the outside. A few people had made a few mistakes with the architecture here and there. He could see where there had been an arched doorway that had been torn down in favor of clean lines and art deco. Someone had lived here in the 20s, that was for sure.

The best part, the part that instantly drew his eye to it, was the wooden, spiral staircase.

"Um," Eames said, rubbing at the back of his head. Another nervous gesture. "There's a generator. That's why there were no power lines. It's a new model."

Arthur turned to him slowly. "The job, Eames?" Is there one? he wanted to ask, but he didn't, because he didn't want to jump to conclusions, even though he already had.

"Yeah, that," Eames said, looking anywhere but at Arthur. "Right, so possibly this hasn't been my most brilliant idea. But, yes, here we are. There's no job. Just us. So. Now let's see. I've got a few…" He went casting around in his pockets for something, and drew out some folded papers. Finally, he looked at Arthur. "Last year we were talking about going halves on a safe-house. I thought that after this last thing that happened, a safe-house where we could lie low after a dangerous job would be a good idea. Some place that we could get to either separately or together, at any time, for any reason. I thought I'd let you have a look around first, to see if you think this place will do. You're better at that sort of thing than I am." He fluttered the papers in Arthur's general direction. "If you don't think this is the right location for something like that, or if you find any tactical flaws, umm. These papers are nothing more than forgeries so it's as easy as shredding them."

The tightness in Arthur's chest eased into something pleasant. "Yeah," he said, "I will take a look around, actually. It looks pretty good so far. I liked the routes here and back."

"Yeah, thought you might," Eames said. Again moving the toothpick around between his teeth, again nervously rubbing the back of his head. "So, this is the great room, as you can imagine."

The only furniture was a new-looking sofa, dark blue, and an ornate end table beside it that didn't look like it had come out of a factory.

"Stolen?" Arthur asked, pointing to it.

"Borrowed," Eames said. "If you don't like it, I promise to return everything."

However, a brand new flat-screen television stood propped up against the wall as if it had just been plonked there in a hurry. That didn't look borrowed at all; that was probably for keeps.

The dark-blue drapes over the windows were threadbare and probably from the 70s, suggesting that any changes Eames had made here had been on the fly, probably right before coming to Hawai'i. He'd probably only had a few hours to set this up. They clashed horribly with the lighter blue of the walls, and eventually Arthur was going to have to take care of this, but his first priority was making sure the safe-house was actually strategically safe and structurally sound, before thinking about what it looked like. Even though for the most part it looked fucking awesome.

Next to the television stood a waist-high square structure. A white sheet hid it from view, but Arthur had the distinct feeling that he knew what it was. Unable to help himself, he went to it and whipped the cover off.

As he'd thought, there stood an old, vintage turntable. There were even records stacked up beside it, some of them 78s. They were old, like the record player, but in good condition.

Arthur turned back to look at Eames, who was standing in the middle of the room with his hands in his pockets, trying to look nonchalant. "Thank you," Arthur said.

"Oh, that old thing," Eames said. "Found that on Craig's List while I was still in Russia. I didn't have it delivered, don't worry about that. I went and picked it up, is all. No one knows of this place. It's not registered at any post offices. It's forgotten."

Arthur felt, for the first time in probably many years, strangely bashful. He had to force himself to keep eye contact even as he felt himself growing warmer. "You give me a lot of gifts," he said, then cleared his throat through the sudden tightness.

Eames looked slightly flustered himself. "You took me to Hawai'i. And to Russia, regardless of how that turned out."

"You did all this research," Arthur said, gesturing around towards the house.

"Well," Eames said, "you do research all the time, of the sort that keeps your team alive. My little spot of searching around for a safe-house is nothing compared to that."

"It's not nothing," Arthur said, with maybe a bit more feeling than he had meant to.

Eames grinned and looked down at the stained throw rug. It was really a horrible throw rug, Arthur thought, now that he was looking at it too.

"Have a look at the rest of it before you decide," Eames said.

"Yeah, I will. Care to show me?"

Eames took him first into the kitchen, which had an electric stove and oven that needed a hell of an update. The cabinets were still good. A mini-fridge and freezer hummed in the corner, probably the best Eames could find on short notice. The kitchen had wood floors, a little warped in front of the sink but nothing dangerous. There were two guest rooms and a downstairs master bedroom with an attached bath.

"The good one is upstairs," Eames said, "but you might want to see the cellar, first?"


The cellar was typical of homes like this, with double doors on the outside that could use replacing. The inside was unfinished, with a cement floor. A wine rack stood in one corner. Arthur knocked on the wooden pillars, then found an old broom handle and shoved and prodded the beams that ran across the ceiling. They seemed sound. He looked everywhere for mud-trails that termites would make, and found none.

The house itself might have looked a bit worn, daunting and perhaps intimidating, but the foundation was solid and sure.

When they were done in the basement, they went up the creaking stairs to the kitchen and then, finally, Eames led him up the winding staircase to a long hallway. A torn, faded rug ran the length of the corridor, but the remains of a few gas light fixtures were what got Arthur's attention. That, and the square alcove of the tower at the end of the hall. It was beautiful.

Eames saw him staring. "The thing with houses like this," Eames said, "is the location. You can't make it on the kind of salary you'd get if you lived here. But if you've already made your cash, and you want to get away from people…you know?"

"It's perfect," Arthur said. Then, "Show me the bedroom?"

Eames gave him a grin that told Arthur he was going to love this, and led the way.

The wallpaper had to go, but the original floors, unmarked, were still in this room, too. And better, the original bed still stood in the center of the room. Four posts of scrolling oak and a solid headboard.

"Oh, fuck me on this," Arthur said, grinning. Yet even as he said it, he was checking out the sorry state of the mattress. It was filthy, stained, torn up, and probably crawling with bugs.

"Don't think so quite yet," Eames said.

Arthur turned to him and stared, again just admiring. Eames's eyes were almost blue in this light instead of their usual green-grey. It probably would have been enough that Arthur liked him, but for him to be standing there being so hot, on top of that, and in this really incredible house - well, he thought he was behaving himself quite decently, all things considered.

"Christ, Arthur, control yourself," Eames said.

"What? I didn't say anything."

"You're giving me sex-eyes again."

"That's just how I look." He was about to go on, when he caught sight of a tiny, gleaming thread over Eames's shoulder. At the end of it, a fat, round spider dangled just by his ear. It dropped onto the back of his shirt. "Eames," Arthur said, "just hold on. Don't move, don't freak out."

Eames's eyes widened as he said, "What?"

Arthur crossed to his back and tried to grab at the web. Eames figured out what he was doing and let out a yelp about two octaves higher than his normal voice. His arms flailed and he danced around saying, "Fuck, fuck! Get it off, whatever it is!"

"Hold still," Arthur ordered him.

He cupped the spider in his hand, its spindly, prickly legs clinging to his palm.

"Did you get it?" Eames asked.

"I got it, you sissy."

"Throw it out the fucking window," Eames said, shuddering all over. The hair on his arms was standing up.

"No. You can't drop them that far; they'll break." He opened his palm and looked at the spider. It was a fat orb weaver, benign enough. It took a few tentative steps up his hand, then scurried to his wrist and up his arm. He cupped it in his other hand and then took it to the window, where he set it on the sill. Maybe it would catch some bugs there.

"You're letting it stay," Eames said, in that way he had of making questions sound like exasperated observations.

"Eames, there's got to be about ten thousand spiders in this house, just one more isn't going to make a difference. There are probably at least a hundred in that mattress alone. I walked through five webs on my way down the stairs to the cellar, for fuck's sake. If you looked into the walls, you'd find thousands of them. You can't really get rid of them. Besides, this kind doesn't really want to bite you, they just want to be left alone. The only spider you have to worry about up here is the brown recluse. Those will fuck you up."

"Suppose there are any in this house?" Eames asked.

Arthur couldn't hold back a laugh. "Who knows? They could be anywhere. I can't believe you took down a train of bad guys and ran across the top, next to a fucking cliff, and you scream like a five year old over spiders. Jesus. I'd think that bullets and five-hundred-foot drops would hurt a little worse."

"They're crawly," Eames said, by way of explanation.

"I have an affinity for spiders," Arthur said. "You just have to learn to live with them."

"Right," Eames said, glancing around nervously, frowning and fretful.

"Show me the barn and the generator," Arthur said.

Eames led the way again, this time outside and to the barn. Dusk had fallen and it was getting harder to see anything in the dim light. The barn was old, but not as old as the house, clearly a later addition to it. The shingles here were a worn brown, shoddy and in need of replacement. The roof probably leaked too, but Arthur wasn't going to be storing hay in there any time soon. Probably wasn't going to be storing anything in there aside from the genny.

Inside, a few bare light bulbs dangled from the rafters. Eames found the switch and hit it, but none of the lights came on. Clearly no one had been here in years. It was only by the last of the day's light that Arthur could take a look around.

He went to the genny and checked it over. It was, in fact, brand new. Eames had obviously brought it up here himself, probably in a mad rush.

"Nice," Arthur said, crouching down on his good knee and appraising it.

He looked up to the lofts, where a grimy square window let in a bit more light. Then he looked again to the rafters and at first wasn't sure what he was seeing.

"Are those meathooks?" he asked Eames, gesturing to the long, curved, rusted pieces of metal that hung down along one wall.

"Looks like they are," Eames said. "Guess we can do without them. Unless you're into something kinky."

Arthur was into plenty of kinky shit, but meathooks did not figure into his fantasies. He gave Eames a side-eye and saw that he was standing in the doorway, still looking unsure, with his hands in his pockets.

"Well, it looks great," Arthur said. "Everything, I mean."

"That's good. Also, there's a stream up the hill back there. A kind of pond further back. It's got ducks and such."

"Sounds nice," Arthur said. He didn't give a shit about ducks. He gave a shit about how solid this house looked and how far off the map it was. He gave a shit about the fact that it didn't have an address and offered a place to hide out, and also some good escape routes. He gave a shit that he could probably meet Eames here, if he ever called on him from across the world. That their usual plan of splitting up after a dangerous job and then meeting in random places around the globe could change to something safer.

"'Tis nice," Eames said.

"It all looks good, is what I'm saying," Arthur said.

Eames came over and wordlessly offered him a hand as he was getting up. It was getting dark now, probably time to get out of the barn before they stepped on a nail in the dark and got tetanus or something.

"So, you're in, then?" Eames asked.

"Yeah," Arthur said. "I'm in."

"Good. I'll go ahead and finish the papers, then?" Still unsure.

Arthur pulled him out of the barn, into what was left of the light. "Eames. I'm in. Yes, finish the papers."

Eames smiled at him. "Right, then. I'll actually go and get on that now." He turned to make his way back to the house.

Before he got to the porch, Arthur reached out and gently trailed a finger down the back of his neck. Again, Eames cried out in a high voice and jumped away from him.

Arthur laughed until he was doubled up, tears streaming from his eyes, and ribs spasming. He had to take a second to collect himself, while Eames just scowled at him, threatened him, and called him a fucking tosser.

At the door of the house, on the porch with chipped paint, Arthur's conscience caught up with him. He took Eames by the arm and dragged him close. What started out as a placating "sorry I teased you" kiss on the temple quickly turned heated and breathless. Arthur had him by the belt-loops on the back of his pants and felt his self-control slipping. He wanted to push him down onto the warped wooden steps, pin him, and make him forget about spiders. The impracticality of this idea vaguely occurred to him, so he slowed down, limiting himself to nipping kisses.

"You're too much, Arthur," Eames said, when Arthur let him breathe again.

"How did I get you?" Arthur asked. "How did I manage this?"

Eames drew back and looked at him curiously. "Shall I list the ways?"

"No," Arthur said. "I don't really need to know."

"You don't want to hear that you're brilliant, the best there is, that I've no fear when I need to put my safety in your hands?"

"No," Arthur said. His curiosity was general and didn't require praise.

"Or that I think you're beautiful and you look as smashing in swimming trunks as you do in thousands of pounds worth of suits? That your accuracy and competence get me hotter than anything?"

"Jesus, no," Arthur said, laughing a little.

"I'm smitten with you, Arthur. Have been for years, that's why I had to seduce you."

"Oh fuck, here we go again with this," Arthur said. "I seduced you. You basically just said so yourself."

"You attracted me," Eames clarified, pressing his hand between Arthur's shoulder blades and pulling him closer even as he argued the point. "But it was I who instigated the affair."

"Right," Arthur said. "You instigated it with my hand reaching into your pants."

"More or less, Arthur, as I was the one who put your hand there."

"You're so full of shit," Arthur said, "or you were too drunk to remember. Okay, maybe you guided my hand, a little, but only after it was already down there."

"I definitely had my hand on your hand before it went into my pants."

"When you say 'pants,'" Arthur said, "do you mean trousers or underwear?"

"I wasn't even wearing what you call 'underwear' that night," Eames said. "It's your memory that is in question here."

Arthur rolled his eyes. "Okay, well either way, I was definitely feeling you up before you even knew what hit you. I seduced you."

"I was the one who asked you out for drinks."

"I go out with my teams all the time," Arthur said, "and it never ends with me jerking any of them off. I only did that with you. And these last few years, you're the only one." It was out before he realized it, yet again, and it was the most basic truth.

Eames drew back a little, too close to comfortably look him in the eyes but still doing so anyway. Arthur created a little space between them too, as Eames searched him out for something. He didn't know what.

"I know that," Eames said. "It's true for me too. I mean, here we are, right? Making this investment, sharing a safe house. I've never considered doing such a thing with anyone else. And I haven't really desired anyone else in quite a long time, either. I've got an Arthur, you see. Anyone else seems a bit superfluous."

"That can always change," Arthur said. He felt suddenly afraid, cold, as he said it. But logic and practicality were important to him. He wasn't some 16 year old sap, he was an adult who knew how things went. The best of things sometimes went south. It was the way of life.

"Of course," Eames said. "Anything can change. Look at Mal and Cobb. Good things end all the time, no matter how true you think them at the time. But now. Here, and now, I can tell you that I haven't wanted to fuck anyone else or even to really waste my time going to Russia or Hawai'i with anyone else. No one can make an actual vow that nothing will ever change between them. That promise doesn't exist."

"I agree," Arthur said.

"But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy what you've got. And what I can tell you is this: Should this thing we have ever change, or should we ever want to end it, you'll still have my loyalty on the job and off of it. I will never sell you out." Eames pulled him closer, stroked his hair the way that Arthur had come to first endure, and later enjoy. "If we were in our nineties and still going on like this, snogging like teenagers on a porch, I wouldn't have any complaints. But I won't ask it of you because you can't promise it and neither can I. I won't force you into a vow to grow old with me. But I'll do my damnedest to see that you do grow old."

"I can give you the same promise," Arthur said. "I'll always have your back. And if this ever ends, I'll still never betray you. You'll always have my respect as a colleague. And you'll always have my protection. I know it's been like that for a few years with us, but now's a good time to say it."

The magnitude of the words hit him. It was so much more meaningful than a few rounds of vigorous sex every few months. A vow like this, between career criminals, carried more weight than any piece of paper they could ever sign. It was a promise that even Dom and Mal couldn't keep. The words were heavy, but not a burden. Instead, Arthur felt like something had been lifted off of him. When he next kissed Eames, it was with the kind of joy and abandon he associated only with him.

"Let's go in," Eames said, lowering his head to press his lips to the open V of Arthur's shirt. "I've got those frozen things you call 'pizzas' in the freezer." He kissed lightly under his jaw. "And I bought alcohol as well, so we can drink on it."

"That sofa is new enough, right?" Arthur asked.

"Yes," Eames said against his neck, "no stains or diseases, safe for shagging on."

"Maybe I just wanted to sit down," Arthur said into his hair.

Eames lifted his face and laughed against his cheek. "You're full of shit. Come on, then."

With a glance off to the east, Arthur saw the moon rising over the carriage house on the hill. The tree-frogs came awake, singing in the distance. Yes, Arthur thought, this house would do just fine as a safe-house. A place for both of them to rest.

He took Eames's hand as they went inside.

** ** ** **

Thank you all, so very much! ^_^ For the comments, all so wonderful. For the suggestions, the support during a difficult time, for the beautiful art, and really just for reading. Everyone, thank you. :D
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