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Okay, so it looks like there will actually be another chapter after this one. I just couldn't wrap it all up here. :D So, the next chapter will be the final one. There were still some new suggestions, I'm pleased to report! ^_^

New suggestions!

[livejournal.com profile] we_reflamingos says, I really need to know that Eames has been able to deal with the trust issues Jack left him. And that Arthur can forgive past-Eames for fucking about with Emily in his head. I mean, I know it all looks good here and now, but there's always fallout after the immediate danger's been dealt with. ;_; Okay, let's see how that works out. :)

[livejournal.com profile] sarisa_rahe says, Can they eat the rest of the truffles, if they still have them? Preferably naked in bed after just having had mind-blowingly fantastic make-up/reunion sex?
Thank you for reminding me of the truffles! I have the feeling that the ones from the train are long gone (so wasteful!) but that doesn't mean there can't be more. :D

[livejournal.com profile] saigonostalker and [livejournal.com profile] twilightthief asked for, If we do end up getting an epilogue where Arthur and Eames finally get to have a real vacation, would it be asking too much for some little snippets where Eartha and Frank finally get their I-am-in-the-last-quarter-of-my-life-and-want-to-spend-it-quietly-with-the-person-I-love vacation? and I REALLY want/have this urge to have Eartha and Michelle and company to show up again!

Yay, I'm so glad! Because I like writing them. :D



These are older suggestions, some of them even from the beginning! But they are coming!

[livejournal.com profile] twisted_ream there's this huge spider on eames' back and he can't get it off and arthur just laughs AS OF NOW I KNOW EXACTLY HOW THIS ENDS, AND WHERE THIS FITS. :D

[livejournal.com profile] enoughglittersays, My one and only request for this story is that after this is all over, and they come through the other side of whatever you've got planned for them, I would love to see an epilogue or something where they finally get to go on vacation, and no one tries to kill them or torture them or torture-then-kill-them. Just...vacation. VACATION, ALL I EVER WANTED! :D

[livejournal.com profile] wirrrn asked for, Heat- rather than cold- becomes a problem. Haha, YES.

[livejournal.com profile] efcia asked for, Arthur, squinting his eyes in the sunlight and Eames watching him with a simple and pure joy. This is sweet. :D




And let's not forget:

TOUCHY FEELY.

[livejournal.com profile] hockey_joy Eames' nose to Arthur's ribcage. :D

[livejournal.com 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, [livejournal.com profile] gelbwax seconded that one. Poor Eames! ^_^ Okay, gotta fit these into the last chapter!

[livejournal.com profile] mydeerfriend Maybe a hand and the back of a knee or lips!

[livejournal.com profile] spndreamz Arthur's hair Eames' nose?



Onto the story!



** ** ** **
Chapter 15 - Ku'u Aloha
** ** ** **


It was hot. Just ridiculously hot. Seven weeks ago, Eames had been casting about in a frozen tundra searching for Arthur and hoping he was alive in sub-zero weather. He had wanted nothing but a little heat then.

And now, as Eames stood on a beach under the glaring sun, so close to the equator, sweat began to soak through his aloha shirt and into the waistband of his short trousers. Eames was used to the heat, he lived in it most of the year. But after weeks in Siberia, this was a shock to the system.

And he was still looking about for Arthur, who, so far, had not made an appearance.

Eames sat down on one of the beach chairs under a big umbrella and set down his fruity drink. It had started out all nice and slushy but was already melted. He took out his phone and again read his messages. Arthur had sent him the bloody plane tickets, signifying it was safe, and here he was, and Arthur was nowhere under this fucking burningly hot sun. It was just Eames, a bunch of tourists, and some surfers out in the ocean.

Girls and boys looked him over and he didn't know why, at the moment. He knew that he could look good if he wanted to, but right now he was wearing a hat and sunglasses. He wasn't showing off, wasn't even making an effort. He didn't have his shirt off or anything.

'Because you're like a billboard for sex, you ass,' Arthur had once told him. 'Stop complaining about it, Jesus.' Always so gentle and tender, his Arthur.

He watched the surfers for a while. Some looked like novices, and some looked like they'd been doing it for a while. They were too far away to make out what they looked like, but one of them had dark hair like Arthur and a similar build. Eames watched him for a few minutes before getting frustrated and grabbing his phone again.

I'm here, where are you he texted Arthur.

Again he was hit by a strange, alien case of nerves. He hadn't seen Arthur since their parting almost two months ago. Hadn't heard from him in seven weeks aside from one brief, anonymous message saying all was well. And before that, just one call: "I'm safe, are you?"

The silence between them was normal; it was how they did things. It just didn't feel normal this time.

He had left Arthur with a circle of bruises around his neck and a lingering feeling of mistrust between them. He missed Arthur, wanted to talk with him, was randy for him as he always was and wanted his company. But at the same time, he dreaded that first meeting. Everything that had happened between them had created some chasm that he wasn't sure how he should cross. He felt like he would need to tread lightly with Arthur, that there was some strange new territory between them and he didn't know how to navigate it. He didn't like that feeling.

Had Arthur thought about Ann? Had he thought at all about what Eames had done to him, mucking about in his head years ago? Eames couldn't deny that he'd thought about their pasts. There had been nightmares, too, ones he'd woken up from in a cold sweat, looking for something to fight. The allies he'd stayed with in Russia had tried to offer help, but it was something he couldn't even explain.

Well, he would just have to wait and see. Arthur did love to keep him waiting. Any longer, and Eames would start to flirt back with these tourists just on principle.

He took a sip of his melted drink and watched the dark haired surfer wipe out. He'd been doing pretty well before then too, perched on the board with grace and balance. When he surfaced, the only detail that Eames could make out was that he was grinning. He shook out his hair and limped a little towards the shore, pulling the board behind him. He sort of even had a bit of Arthur-like swagger, now that he looked closer. Maybe even more than a bit. The set of his shoulders, also similar. The slink of his narrow hips.

"Fuck me," Eames whispered.

Some passing blonde giggled and said "Sure" before walking on, blushing.

Eames set his drink on the chair and stood up. That dark-haired, grinning, sure-footed surfer reminded him of Arthur because he was Arthur.

Arthur, pulling a surfboard behind him. Black swimming trunks, covered in salt water, a bruise on his tanned thigh, and a smile like the sun. He'd known Arthur for the better part of a decade and he'd never seen anything like this before. Desire burned in him, sudden and sharp. And some strange regret, or betrayal. Why hadn't he ever seen Arthur like this? They'd been to hot places before. He'd seen Arthur out of context in the past. Why was this so new to him?

Then some girl high-fived Arthur and reached her hand up to comb it through his hair, which was wet, and seven weeks longer than it had been before. Arthur ducked his head and acted shy, which he wasn't.

Eames felt like he'd been struck by a train.

Sensing eyes on him, Arthur turned. When he saw Eames standing there, he looked actually surprised. He raised his hand in greeting. He couldn't seem to decide if he wanted to make his way up the beach or untie the leash of the surfboard from around his ankle, so he tried to do both at once. The girl gave him a hand with the leash, pulling it from his leg. Arthur handed her the board, thanked her, and then jogged up the beach.

Eames just watched him approach, flabbergasted.

"Hey," Arthur said, once he was standing before him. "I like your shirt."

Eames looked down at what he was wearing. It was just something he had picked up in the shop because it was what one wore here. It was black (he should have known better, with the heat,) with beige hibiscus flowers all over it. Not Arthur's style. "You can't possibly like this," Eames said.

"The Aloha shirt is a pretty old tradition, Eames. It's so often misread on the mainland, but it's actually considered formal wear here. You might as well be wearing a jacket and tie. And that's a nice one. Aloha shirts are just something you do here."

"Like surfing?" Eames asked. He felt strangely shy, as if some random hot man had suddenly started talking to him. "I didn't know you surfed."

"Neither did I," Arthur said. "Growing up in California, I hated all that stuff. I thought it was stupid, all those jocks and everyone else who hated me. But I gave it a try and I like it. It's all about physics."

"I see," Eames said. He sort of did. Arthur loved anything to do with testing his abilities, his balance and poise. And he was a physical person.

"Hey," Arthur said, and kissed him. He tasted like salt. "We have some things to talk about."

Something unpleasant tightened in Eames's chest. Yes, they had each gathered some data. They had to deal with the issues that their pasts had left behind.

"I got us a nice room. Fuck it's hot. Even the water is like bath water. I have the AC cranked and I need a shower. Then dinner? Then sex."

"We, we need to…"

"I'm right upstairs, come on. Did you check your bags? I hope you checked your bags already because I don't feel like carting your shit around. Do you have both PASIV devices or did you get rid of the extra? I hope you kept it; I wanted to look at it." Arthur took him by the arm and urged him along.

"I kept…"

"Good. Did you eat anything yet? The restaurant is pretty good but we could get room service if you want. We have plenty of time to look around." He stopped pulling before they got to the glass doors of the hotel that Arthur had dragged him to. "We do have time, right? I'm here for ten days. Can you spare them? Or do you have something lined up?"

Eames didn't know what to answer first. This whole thing, seeing Arthur again, seeing him in this strange context, so free and relaxed when Eames had done nothing but worry for nearly two months, just rattled him everywhere. He had to stop and think. Tell him you can give him ten days, idiot.

Arthur waited expectantly.

"Yes," Eames said. "Yes, of course I can stay. That was the idea, right?"

"Okay, good," Arthur said. He led the way to the elevator, and then to his room.

Arthur blithely went about the room, dripping water everywhere and swearing because he was too cold with the air turned up so high. He shut it off, just when Eames was beginning to cool down. But then, Arthur was also soaked and shivering so he guess he'd have to just wait it out.

"They got your bags up here already, good," Arthur said. "Hey, if you want to unpack or whatever, while I grab a shower. Or maybe you want to join me?" He was stark naked now, dripping in the hall and looking at Eames, without shame or expectation.

"Umm. I'm going to get a drink from the bar and unwind a bit. If that's all right."

Arthur leveled him with that sunshine smile again. "Okay, take your time," he said, and disappeared into the bathroom.

Eames stood in the center of the expansive hotel room, sweating his balls off, just totally flabbergasted. He had seen Arthur relaxed, happy, and totally at ease before. Quite a handful of times over the years, in fact, when he'd run into him between jobs. He realized that this was their first actual, planned getaway - aside from the ill-fated train-tour one. And even then, Arthur had been on his guard from the start.

After all that had happened, here he was flouncing around without a concern in the world, as if everything that had happened two months ago had been just a nightmare.

Eames had no idea how Arthur compartmentalized. Or maybe he was having some kind of backwards stress reaction; that was also a possibility. Maybe he was on the verge of an honest reality-snap. Maybe he'd already had it.

"Fuck off," Eames told himself out loud. He was being ridiculous. Wasn't Arthur entitled to some happiness? Of course he was.

It was, in fact, why Eames had done what he'd done, just previous to coming here. He hadn't yet made up his mind if he was going to go through with it, either. He'd made arrangements, but had come here in caution, testing the waters with Arthur. Ten days was more than enough time to feel him out, see if Eames could safely go through with his plan. Got a job for us, he would tell Arthur, if he felt like he could.

But he had to put this out of his mind. If he was thinking about it, then Arthur would read it from him. The best way to keep a secret was to keep it from oneself. Eames had learned that over the years. He stopped that train of thought, tucked it away for another time, and started unpacking.

He would just ask Arthur how he was dealing with things, that was all. Just ask him straight out if he was all right, if they were all right. And if Arthur said 'yes' and meant it, then Eames would just have to follow suit and get his head straight, too.

He acknowledged to himself that he would not do this for anyone else. Most people, he would walk from in this situation. Hell, he would run. Should have run from Arthur years ago, maybe, but it was too late now.

A few minutes later, Arthur came out of the steaming bathroom, still naked. He walked around as if he were fully clothed. "Fuck, now it's hot again," he said, and turned the air back on.

"Difficult man," Eames said fondly. For all their worries—or his, anyway—he liked Arthur, that was the hell of it. Loved him, in a hard way, but liked him too.

Arthur sat down on the bed, hair wet and skin damp, and beckoned. Eames went to him as if he were on a string. Arthur backed up onto the bed and pulled Eames on top of him.

"I can wait until after lunch if you're hungry," he said. "But it better be a quick lunch, that's all I'm saying." He pulled Eames's face into his neck and tilted his chin up as if to say, Get started.

Eames kissed him lightly. Usually he could neck Arthur for hours, or at least close to it, if Arthur let him. Though often Arthur was the one growing impatient and trying to move things along. As it was, this time Eames just couldn't get into it. Not without talking, first. Arthur always drew him in too far, and once he was past the event horizon, there would be no turning back. Eames felt it crushing him like a dying star.

Arthur sighed heavily beneath him. "Okay," he said, relenting, "so you want to talk about what happened. I'd say 'tell it to my dick' but I think you're upset?"

Eames peeled himself away from Arthur. "Of course I'm bloody upset, you silly bastard." Arthur gave him a hurt look, just as naked as he was, and Eames wanted to kick himself again. "We need to get it out of the way," he said, softer. "I can't seem to stop hurting you. And two months ago, I hurt you quite badly."

"I hurt you too," Arthur said. "So what? We're human. That's what people do, Eames, they constantly hurt each other and then decide to let it go. Or they decide not to. I know we're in a different kind of situation than most people, with the dreaming, but still, that's how it goes. You're still thinking of Jack?"

"Yes," Eames admitted, tiredly rubbing his forehead. "Aren't you thinking of Ann?"

"Not really," Arthur said. "I mean, yes, at the end. Her obsession drove her to do something drastic. Sure, I think about her; she died protecting me. But it was just obsession. From what I can remember, she wasn't exactly kind to me. Her feelings never stopped her from drugging me, lying to me, using me or whatever else she decided to try."

"I did the same, back then," Eames said.

"And then we fucking got over it," Arthur insisted. "We're good together, Eames. We're good together. Jack was someone you were with for, what, four months? Big deal, I've been in relationships with women and men for longer than that and never looked back. I've played video games for longer than that. And I'm sorry, I know you have some feelings over it and this is all very callous of me, but I've been here for the better part of ten years, watching your back, and Jack was nothing to you. Get over it."

And that's how it was with Arthur. He confronted his past and he dealt with it - or he didn't. But either way, he put things in their place and moved on. Eames admired him for it, actually.

"I need to show you something," Arthur said. "It's probably stupid, but it made something click when I saw it."

"By all means," Eames said.

Arthur leaned over the bed and pulled his laptop from its case. He crossed his legs and fired up the computer, patting the bed beside him. He was so shameless with his lack of clothes, Eames was impressed, and a little confounded. Normal people weren't that comfortable with themselves when trying to work out difficulties with a lover. Or whatever they were. Call a fig a fig, Michelle's voice taunted him. That little tyke - what had become of her? He wondered.

"Okay, there's a few things," Arthur said. "I don't know if you're interested, but I was. I needed to follow up, to see if we'd been made, since this went national. I've read every single article and commentary about the situation on the train. Every last one; it actually took me all seven weeks. And they keep coming. Here's the weird thing. No one on the train seems to have any knowledge of our names."

"Isn't that a little odd?" Eames asked, wondering what Arthur was getting at.

"Of course it's odd, fool. They do remember our names. I'm pretty sure by now they know that we're not special agents or whatever, but they don't seem to care. People keep asking them, 'didn't you see their IDs?' But they all gave different names. But here, read this for yourself."

He turned the laptop to Eames and scooted back against the headboard.

A black and white photo of Eartha and Francis greeted him. Francis had his arm around Eartha and they were smiling.

No Civilian Casualties On Russian Train Hijacking read the headline. And beneath it, Passengers credit mysterious special agents for their safety.

He read on.

"It was our first vacation after my treatment," says Eartha Doyle, from their modest New England home. "We were hoping for an adventure. We sure got one."

Eartha, 72, is a breast cancer survivor. Her husband, Francis, a World War 2 veteran, sits beside her. "We were scared, that's for damn sure," he says.

Eartha and Francis were among a small group of tourists who were tossed off the train and left to die in a Siberian blizzard. And they would have died, they both insist, if not for the heroic actions of two men on board the train, one American, and one from the United Kingdom. When asked their names, the two grow quiet.

"Alex, I think the American boy said his name was. And the other was James? Yes, that's what I remember."

This information is in conflict with different sources on the train, who cite the men as "Michael and Mr. Bloom," "James and Robert," and in one instance, "Herbert and Fritz." It's possible that the two men—who may or may not be agents involved in special forces—gave various undercover names over the duration of the trip. When contacted, neither the British nor the US Armed Forces can come up with any connections, nor can offer any knowledge as to their actual identities.

"I'm sure we would have died out there if Alex hadn't come searching for us, and his partner hadn't backed the train up," says Francis.

When pressed with questions regarding their appearance, she becomes vague. "It was very dark out there," she says. "One had dark hair, one had light hair. They were both extremely nice, such sweet men."

They are very forthcoming regarding details of the perpetrators, however. Their physical descriptions match those of the bodies identified by the authorities. All four of the hostage-takers were killed. The passengers seem to agree that they turned on and killed each other, and no shots were fired by either of the two mysterious agents. (Early ballistics evidence seems to support this, showing shots fired from the perpetrators' guns.)

Questions of Stockholm Syndrome are being bandied about by the press, but all passengers insist that neither of the two mysterious men ever threatened them, and insist that they seemed more intent on minding their business until they were forced to act.

"I've been in hostage situations, thank you very much," says Francis. "This isn't my first rodeo, as they say. I know what you're getting at, and it isn't so."

The main perpetrators have been identified as Ann and Jack St. John Whitelock, brother and sister, and Giles and Mackenzie Sorin, brothers, all from the UK.

This does not seem to have been a terrorist attack, and no demands seem to have been made on any of the passengers.

"We don't know why they did it," Eartha says. "Maybe they were just crazy. It's all very sad."

When asked if they plan on taking any more trips, the couple say that they will.

"We're fine," Francis says. "Can't let these things scare you into a foxhole."

The couple says they've made plans to take another trip, this time to a warmer place.

"Not going to tell you where, though," Francis says.


Eames finished the article and set the laptop aside. He rolled Jack's real name around in his head, trying to grab onto it, to remember if he'd known that name or not. Whitelock, Whitelock… It didn't even ring a bell. The Sorin brothers did, though. At least the name; he'd never seen them during or after the time he had stolen from them.

"We're the good guys," Arthur said. "That's what I can't get over. They turned us into some sort of heroes. But I think that was necessary."

Eames lifted one shoulder in agreement. Sure, if that made people sleep better at night, and it gave them something aside from the terror of their hijacked trip to focus on, then so much the better.

"One more thing," Arthur said, pulling the laptop back. "I thought you might want to see this."

"Michelle?" he asked.

Arthur smirked and called up a web page. He scrolled to the bottom and handed it to Eames. The address bar read "http://dollymop.tumblr.com/" . Her background was a glaring white-and-pink checked monstrosity, and her bio was on the left.

Hi, I am Michelle Fairholme, from the lov-er-ly state of New York. Please don't stalk me. I like vintage clothes, theater, photography and yes, Pokemon. If you have a problem with that, come at me bro.

"Just start at the bottom and scroll up," Arthur instructed him.

Smiling, Eames did just that. The first entry on the bottom had been reblogged over 1000 times. It was a picture of Michelle, Daniel and Helen standing under the open shelter, after the raid. It must have been taken even before they'd gone to say goodbye, because Michelle wasn't wearing the dog tags yet.

The attached article was somewhat similar to the one with Eartha and Francis. No, the Fairholme family could not name the two men who had "saved the train" in the words of their young daughter. Yes, they had been harmed by the hijackers, who had struck the young girl. And no, the family would not be frightened into staying at home.

"We raised our daughter to be strong and brave. We're proud of her," Helen was quoted as saying.

The article made no mention of the dog tags.

Below the article were Michelle's own comments: "In case you guys are wondering, YES, I was on that train you're all hearing about, and here is the proof. What a way to spend the week, you guys. I AM OK, nothing permanent, haha. Maybe one day I'll get to go back to Russia. Umm. On second thought maybe not. Anyway. Here's the article, read it and enjoy my fifteen minutes."

The reblog notes were from some of her friends ('FUCK I WAS SO WORRIED ABOUT YOU,' 'Chelle, please don't ever leave me again', 'Dollymop is famous!', 'When are you coming back to school, I need to interview you!' and 'I love you babygirl! Stay strong!') and some were obviously from strangers ('What a brave family! Bravo!' and 'You can't make this shit up, people,' to 'Do we honestly believe that these people don't know who was on the train with them? Come on, someone's bullshitting here.')

Eames scrolled up. Next was another picture of the family, the three of them, in front of their large, landscaped home. A black standard poodle sat pressed up against Michelle's thigh. 'Charizard was happy to see me!' the caption read. 'You can always count on your dog to be glad you're alive. Even though he has no idea what happened.' Reblogged 342 times.

The next photograph was a close-up of Michelle, from her chin down to the dog tags hanging over her shirt. Her chin was tilted up in pride, and the information on the tags blurred out. 'A gift', was the only caption. Reblogged over a thousand times. The comments ran the gamut from 'cool' to 'shopped' to 'I can almost read the numbers, I just need a little more time.' It was strange, seeing his own handiwork posted on the internet.

The top picture made him catch his breath. It was titled 'LOVE' in bold letters. This photograph was also purposely blurred. She had taken it at Church On Blood, probably only a minute or two before Ann had gotten to her. The angle suggested that she'd been on the other side of the open arched alcove. In it, Eames was pushing Arthur up against the wall of the church, one hand holding his wrist, the other cupping the side of his face as he kissed him. Arthur's hand was clutching tightly to Eames's olive green peacoat, drawing him closer. Two sets of footprints, in sharp focus, led up the hill to the alcove. He felt breathless just looking at it, that same falling sensation he'd felt at the time of the photograph.

Michelle had added a description to this one, too.

'Haters to the left. This is a random couple from a different tour that I saw at this church one fine morning before all the trouble started. If you can't see the love in this picture then YOU ARE BLIND and I feel pity for you. Love is the same whoever feels it, and I believe in calling a fig a fig, and not an olive!! It was obvious watching this couple that they have been together for a long time, maybe even college sweethearts. You could feel that they trusted each other with anything and everything. This is what a real relationship should be like, people! If you have this, you are lucky! You should always treasure it! If you find something like this… never let it go.

Umm yes I am a bit of a creeper LOL. Oh, this style is called BOKEH for those who are interested. That's why they're blurry.


Eames stared, slackjawed. This one, too, had over a thousand reblogs. When he clicked on the comments, they ranged from 'OMFG SO SWEET' to, 'hot, I'd like to be in the middle of that' to, 'Could these be the two mysterious secret agents, revealed?' It had been reblogged by a group called fuckyeahprettymen, which Eames found strange since no one could even see their faces.

He looked again at the picture. It was a beautiful photograph, from an artistic standpoint. But, Arthur's hand clutching his coat… that's what he noticed the most. That, and the sharply contrasted footprints leading up to them.

Was that how others saw them? Was that how Arthur saw them?

"I need you to make a decision," Arthur said, his voice soft. "It's not an ultimatum. I don't do those. But after all this time, I think I get one request. Are you going to give this another chance?"

"Arthur," Eames said, closing the distance between them. He put his hands on Arthur's shoulders, still warm and damp from the shower. Slid his fingers over his neck, over his shoulder blades. "Arthur, that was never in question. I was never going to try to end this. I just needed a bit of a talk, that's all, really. Sometimes it takes a while for my head to clear, you see."

"Well," Arthur said, "mine's pretty clear. Are you going to need more time? I'll wait." He pulled back, teasing, shifting his legs and darting his eyes to the side. "I'm a patient man."

"Sometimes you are," Eames said, stealing the space back. "Other times, not so much. Wouldn't want to try your patience for too long."

Arthur let out a satisfied groan when Eames kissed him.

They had nine more days. Eames was pretty sure that he could wrest a few more of those sounds from him in that time.

** ** ** **

On the second day, Eames woke up with his face pressed into Arthur's ribs. It was just the different time zone that woke him, as it was still dark. The heavy slatted blinds in the room were drawn, and the AC droned and rattled. The clock read 4:53 AM. He had to have a piss. It was torture getting out of the bed.

When he came back from the bathroom, Arthur murmured, "Could you lower the air?"

Fuck, it was so hot already, he was sweating. He reached out and grabbed Arthur's foot, which felt cold. Arthur grunted and jerked away from him. Eames lowered the AC because Arthur was obviously some sort of lizard. He was going to buy him a hot rock or a heating lamp to bask under.

Even though it was as hot as balls, he resumed his position with his face on Arthur's chest, his arm thrown across his stomach. He was awake now, no longer even that tired. He turned his head and kissed the center of Arthur's chest, breathing him in. He smelled like hotel soap. Arthur sighed back into sleep as Eames curled his hand around his ribs, gently feeling the slow rise and fall.

He held tenaciously to the peace of pre-dawn. Nothing was going to shatter it this time. Just a few weeks without work, without stress, without the PASIV. That was all he wanted. Soon enough he would be itching to work again, both of them would. Because they loved the dreams, they loved the money, and, admittedly, they both did love the challenge.

But not yet.

** ** ** **

On the third day, they went around town on foot and drank slowly all day, getting smashed in tiny increments until dinner. Arthur fucked him on a reclining chair at the beach at night, when no one else was around. Or at least, he was pretty sure no one else was around. Arthur tugged his hair and bit the side of his neck so hard he left a dental imprint that someone could make a cast of, if they had to.

** ** ** **

On the fourth day, Arthur went surfing and swimming in the ocean, and Eames fell asleep under an umbrella until he dehydrated. Arthur helped him back to the room, calling him an idiot and a fucking careless bastard. He put him under the cool shower and spent the rest of the afternoon bringing him water after water, cranking the AC even though it was obviously making Arthur freeze. Eames huffed and rolled his eyes and got annoyed, and Arthur refused to have any kind of sexual relations with him for fear of knocking his electrolytes out of balance, but really he was just mad at him for being stupid.

** ** ** **

On the fifth day, Eames made it up to him and many electrolytes were lost.

** ** ** **

On the sixth day, they hiked up a mountain and then down into some deep, dark cave that Eames could have done without. But Arthur was wearing khaki shorts with a lot of pockets as if he were some sort of explorer, and he was obviously very excited over the whole thing. They looked at a waterfall, which was lovely, but nothing Eames hadn't seen before. A beautiful couple on their honeymoon, man and woman, invited the two of them for drinks and to perhaps go back to their room afterward. Arthur declined, looking modestly down at his shoes and pretending to be shy in order to let them down gently.

When they were gone and he and Arthur were alone on the trail, Arthur turned his ridiculous sex-eyes on Eames and asked, "Unless you wanted to? You could have watched him fuck me."

"I'd have been busy with the lovely missus," Eames said.

Arthur went from sex-eyes to death-glare and pushed Eames back up against a coconut tree. He glanced around furtively as he went to his knees and undid Eames's trousers.

Eames dug his fingers into the bark of the tree. It was quick, almost brutal, with an edge of teeth. That put an end to Arthur's little litmus test, and later, Eames laughed at Arthur's failed attempt at making him jealous.

** ** ** **

On the seventh day, Arthur found a store that sold the same kind of chocolates that he'd stolen for Eames the first night on the train. They went to a show, watched ridiculously attractive people dance, listened to music, and, in Eames's estimation, got bitten by too many bugs. And this was from a man who was used to hot-weather bugs.

After dinner, Arthur spent an hour on the lanai talking on the phone to Cobb. As Eames was coming out of the shower, Arthur laughed raucously and Eames had to stop and consider how far Cobb had come since being reunited with his children.

At one point, Arthur turned to look back inside, probably just to see if Eames was doing anything interesting (he wasn't; he was looking at a menu.) Arthur was facing the sun, lit up by it. He shielded his eyes with his hand and squinted, peering in the door. His simple 'what are you doing in there' gesture filled Eames with unexpected joy. Or maybe it was seeing Arthur in the sun instead of in a blizzard. Or maybe it was just seeing Arthur.

Then Arthur spent a few hours, still on the lanai, catching up with the articles he had missed about the hijacked train. He hacked into some American newspaper's database, frowning and saying that someone had dug a little too deeply. No, it wasn't a cause for concern, he had taken care of it, it was just an annoyance to have to do this on his vacation.

They rented a bad porno and ate the box of chocolates, laughing at the actors. Then Arthur showed him how he thought it should be done.

** ** ** **

On the eighth day, Arthur woke up before dawn, sitting up and hastily wiping away tears. Eames draped an amiable arm across his shoulders and pulled him down to the bed, not intimate but companionable, and Arthur let himself be pulled. "She died for me," he said. "I have to remember that. I can't let myself forget."

Eames knew better than to kiss him or pet him, as that was too distracting and Arthur needed to think. He just kept an arm around his shoulders, his nose in Arthur's hair, breathing him in and waiting it out.

"Sorry about that," Arthur said. "And here I am telling you to get over it."

"That's all right," Eames said. "Perhaps we're not meant to get over it. We just work around it. Yeah?"

"Yeah," Arthur said. "I kind of bullied you about it last week. Sorry. I'm not good at things like this."

"You are," Eames said. "You've got your methods. I've got mine. So long as they still complement each other, that should be all right."

Arthur nodded against his shoulder.

That day, they went to a museum and stood under the bones of a sea creature that dwarfed busses.

"That's the kind of thing that's swimming along with you in the ocean," Eames told Arthur.

Arthur withered him with a glance and said, "The incident of injury in the ocean as compared to the number of people actually in it is so small it's not even worth mentioning."

** ** ** **

On the ninth day, Arthur decided to give surfing one last go. The waves were a little bigger this time and he wiped out hard enough that Eames was jumping off his chair, spilling his melted drink everywhere.

Arthur had twisted his knee in the sand and looked at Eames like it was his fault, which was fucking ridiculous.

Eames rolled his eyes and lent him an arm back to the room.

"This is your fault," Arthur griped, sitting on the bed as Eames wiped beach sand off of him and surveyed the damage.

"Yes, yes," Eames said.

"You jinxed me."

"You're a child." Eames tugged on his calf, checking for unusual motion.

"Ow, you fuck," Arthur said. "I bust my leg and the first thing you do is go jerking on it?"

"Hush. You're fine, nothing's torn. You've a sprain though."

"And get this fucking sand off of me, I hate sand."

"Then let's get you rinsed off so I can get a wrap on this. Shall I help you?"

"No," Arthur said. "I got it." He hauled his sorry arse off the bed and hobbled into the shower.

Eames watched him go, feeling so exasperated, and fond of him at the same time. And a little irrationally angry at the entire ocean.

When Arthur came back, there was another bruise spreading over the front of his thigh, from where the board had come up and hit him. He sat on the bed and pulled himself back, gingerly straightening his leg.

"It's cold in here," Arthur said. "Can you…"

"Lower the AC, yes, yes." Eames did so before grabbing one of the self-adhesive bandages from his kit and climbing back onto the bed. He settled between Arthur's thighs, quite aware of the different context of his position. Yet Arthur was smirking at him.

Eames kissed the inside of his knee. When Arthur didn't protest, he lifted his leg gently and kissed behind it.

"That doesn't actually help," Arthur said.

"No? Studies prove you wrong. Kissing floods you with dopamine and oxytocin. It's a pain-killer." He wound the bandage just the right side of tight and pressed it closed on his thigh. Then he kissed just above the bandage. "Kissing has profound effects on health and healing." He kissed his way higher. "And studies also show that it's good for your teeth. Removes tartar."

"That's disgusting," Arthur said. But he was already starting to show a flush on his skin that wasn't from the sun.

Eames crawled up until he was face to face with Arthur, bracketing his hips with his hands. "Is it?"

"When you put it that way, it is." Arthur leaned forward anyway. His eyes slipped closed as easily as his lips parted.

Eames teased him until Arthur grabbed the back of his head and pulled him into a proper kiss. And, god, he could kiss Arthur all day, if there weren't so many other parts to him that demanded attention. Yet, he'd had Arthur in every way possible; there was no longer any need to rush. He could take his time, these days. Except that Arthur was shifting under him, pulling him down and tilting his chin back.

Eames was careful of his knee, not wanting to bend it at any awkward or uncomfortable angle. This was going to be tricky.

"Going to be a bit stiff on the plane tomorrow," Eames said.

Once the words were out of his mouth, he remembered what he really wanted to tell Arthur. What he'd wanted to say since he had come here, what he'd put out of his mind so as not to give anything away.

"I'm stiff now," Arthur said, with humor in his voice.

"So you are."

And so it was after, that Eames said to him what he'd wanted to say. About an hour after, actually. After he'd made him writhe a bit, and curse and sweat, after he'd pulled the most deeply satisfied groans and hums out of him. After Arthur, panting and spent underneath him, had said, "Fuck it's hot. God, this heat, I'm sticking to you. Can you turn up the AC?"

"Difficult, impossible man," Eames said, smiling against his neck. "Unappeasable. 'It's too fucking hot, it's too fucking cold,' he said, in perfect mimicry of Arthur's west coast bitchy drawl. "'I hate snow, I hate sand, you jinxed me, Mr. Eames, the train I was on got hijacked, my life is pain.' It never ends."

"Fuck you," Arthur panted.

Eames licked across his clavicles, kissed his throat and felt Arthur swallow hard, his breath hitching as if he were ready to go again.

Eames wasn't ready. No, not yet. He'd worn Arthur out, and now it was time to tell him what he needed to tell him.

"I've got a job lined up," he blurted out, which was how he usually broached this subject anyway. "I need you for it. Interested?"

Arthur ran his fingers over the back of Eames's head. If the abrupt change of subject jarred him, he kept it to himself. He shrugged. "What's the job?"

"Low risk, high return. Simple extraction. Northeast USA. This one's easy, Arthur. I'm not ready to go back into the fire yet." That, at least, was true. The best lies were always the ones that were closest to the truth.

"When?" Arthur asked.

"Two days' time. Would have asked you sooner, but I didn't like to bring business into our time here."

Arthur seemed reticent, a little closed off. That was okay, for now.

"Unless you've already got something else lined up?" Eames asked. He knew Arthur didn't.

"No," Arthur said. "I wasn't… I mean, I'm not ready to go back out there, guns blazing, either. I was hoping for a few more days."

"That's all right, then," Eames said. "Don't worry about it."

He knew Arthur would worry about it. It was mean of Eames to do it this way, maybe.

"No," Arthur said. "I'll go with you. If you need me. Low risk and high return? That sounds okay."

"Good," Eames said. He kissed Arthur wetly, moved from the cradle of his thighs, and went to turn the AC higher.

** ** ** **



Can anyone guess what Eames is up to? :D

16/16 - My Blue Heaven
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