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Pleurant pt. 1



Arthur has watched Cara Lake's comings and goings for weeks now, and has her schedule memorized. She's gone for the night.

He arrives at dusk. Silence hangs over the cemetery on this unassuming, meaningless day in late October. The wind has picked up a bit, scattering leaves around his boots as he walks off the paths. He huddles a bit into his jacket. Standing behind an oak tree, he stops to take a long look at the mausoleum next to his grave. No one's there. All is quiet.

At the mausoleum, he crouches down, unpacking a few things from his backpack. Flashlight, a water bottle (in case he has to wait for a few hours,) bolt cutters, and potted blue violets ('watchfulness, faithfulness.') And his gun, of course. It still could be that this person, this Pleurant, is an enemy trying to trick him. Maybe he's lost his marbles, but he's not stupid.

Looking over his shoulder to make sure he's still alone, and leaning up against the mausoleum doors, he cuts through the chain holding the deadbolt. And this is how he will spend his last birthday as a dead man. In a mausoleum, on a stake-out for the man who had murdered for him, and kept him company. Weirdly fitting, maybe. Rising from a grave.

He shoves open the squealing metal doors. A gust of stale, musty air hits him first, but he slips inside anyway and pulls the door closed behind him.

Arthur has always considered himself a brave man. Especially after the last two years. But he's still a human man, and standing alone inside a mausoleum at dusk is enough to give anyone the shivers.

The actual smell hits him next; a low olfactory undercurrent to the dry rot of roses and dust. It's subtle, but it's there. Of course, how could it not be? Bodies are rotting behind those cement walls, and cement isn't forever. Rats, bugs, and the elements have worked their share of erosion on the tiny mausoleum. He pulls his shirt over his nose and mouth, trying to take shallow breaths. This is going to be a long night.

The stained glass windows on the eastern side fracture the light of the rising moon into shards of color. The pine trees moving outside in the gusting wind throw slithering shadows across the floor. There is nothing pretty or peaceful about the inside of this place.

Then the bugs come. Arthur's never been inside a mausoleum, but he knows at once what these flitting, buzzing insects are. Coffin flies. They swarm him, disturbed by activity in their tomb and drawn by his heat.

"Jesus, fuck," Arthur says, surprised by the sound of his own shaky voice. He swats them away with his arms. He's not going to be able to spend the whole night in here. There's no way.

A few of the pests fly directly at his face. If he hadn't pulled his sweater up they'd be trying to get into his mouth - and that's about all he can take. Fuck this; he'll hide somewhere else, maybe climb on top if he can. Arthur grabs his backpack from the floor, and, still waving his arms around to shoo the flies, and opens the mausoleum doors. Fresh air has never smelled so sweet.

He walks around the side of the mausoleum, and stops so suddenly he almost topples.

There stands the cloaked figure next to his grave, the moon and pines behind him, against the silhouettes of the many headstones. For a second, Arthur can only stare. The Pleurant.

Then the figure stumbles back a few steps, one hand over his chest, the other reaching inside his long, black coat.

Arthur fumbles for his own gun in response. It's grown dark; he can't see the other person's face to read his intentions.

"Can't be," the figure says.

Eames. Eames. Eames!

"Eames! Eames!" He's saying it out loud as he reaches toward him, filled with knowledge, filled with the understanding that he's known all along, and how could he just not have seen it?

Eames takes a few more steps back, out of his reach. One arm still reaching to pull his weapon from his coat. "Can't be, can't be," he repeats.

"It's me! It's Arthur!" He's trying to keep his voice down but can hardly contain it. Finally he grips the sleeve of the black coat and pulls him closer.

Eames struggles, pulling away, trying to get Arthur's hand off his coat. In the process, his hood falls away. He stands in the moonlight, flushed and panting like it's the middle of summer and he's run all the way here.

He's in a spiral of panic, which Arthur doesn't understand, but knows he's got to defuse. "It's me," he says again. "Eames, it's me."

"You died," Eames says, drawing his hand out of his coat. It's not a gun he's holding, but a red poker chip. He rubs at it obsessively, yet almost absently.

"You're awake," Arthur says, confused and frightened. "Sorry I scared you. We're awake. God, fuck, it's good to see you. What are you..." Doing here? he finishes mentally. It's obvious what Eames is doing here. Leaving flowers. Because...

"You're the Pleurant." He feels like he should be surprised, but he isn't.

"How are you alive?" Eames asks, eyes wide, body still pulling away from him. "I saw the pictures."

Arthur stares, feeling frozen to the spot. No; there's no way that Eames thought those were for real. "Those pictures... Eames, I faked them. They were so shitty. You were supposed to see that. You had to know."

"I saw you dead, Arthur," Eames says. "I saw you on the slab." He scrubs his mouth with the back of his hand and takes a few more steps away from him. "Two years."

Arthur keeps his distance. "You knew, Eames. Just think. In the back of your mind, you had to know. You talked to me. With the flowers, I mean."

Eames looks at him, shocked. "And you were the other killer. That was you."

Arthur doesn't like thinking of it in terms of "killers" and "victims" but he's got no choice.

"I didn't know it was you," he tells Eames. "Or...if I did, I didn't know I knew. I just knew that I had an ally, someone who was helping me. Talking to me. Keeping me sane." He stops, thinks about that, and laughs out loud. Nothing about this is sane.

"Two years," Eames repeats. "I came tonight to say goodbye one last time and here you are. How am I supposed to...?"

Arthur reaches out. Eames flinches away, but Arthur insistently presses his hand to the side of his neck. Eames's pulse is racing. He runs his thumb along the stubble of his jaw and says, "I'm so sorry. You were supposed to know."

"How was I supposed to know? No one told me." Eames's eyes are wide and still wary, but he's not pulling away. "You didn't tell me."

"I didn't want anyone else involved, Eames. It was dangerous and it was my responsibility."

"I went underground for you. I killed for you."

"That's not my responsibility." He doesn't release his hold on Eames. "I'm sorry that I couldn't tell you. I honestly did think that you knew. I'm sorry that you suffered because of it. But I didn't make the decision for you."

Eames reaches up and grabs his wrist. At first Arthur thinks he's going to push him off, turn away, and disappear. Eames's eyes are unreadable now. But instead of pulling his hand away, he rubs his thumb along the inside of Arthur's wrist.

"I would have helped you," Eames says. "If you'd called me. I would have stayed with you."

"I didn't want that. I mean, yeah, if I had to do this with anyone else, I would have wanted it to be you. But I set out to take care of it myself. If it means anything, you did help me. Not only with taking care of some of those guys, but just by talking to me. Leaving messages. Why? Why did you do it?"

Eames lowers his eyes to Arthur wrist, where his thumb is still stroking. When he looks up again, his eyes are soft. He doesn't speak. Instead, he rolls back the sleeve of Arthur's coat and presses his lips to the inside of his wrist.

Arthur thinks again of the stupid pictures. The broken wrists on all of the dead men. Or at least, he's trying to think. Eames's mouth is soft and warm on his skin. For a few moments all he can do is stand there, staring at Eames in the moonlight. He thinks maybe his mouth is hanging open.

Eames moves his mouth up the sleeve of Arthur's coat, kissing nothing but material. Somehow it doesn't change much; Arthur can still feel his intent, the heat of his mouth.

"I didn't know," Arthur says. "I mean, I didn't know that you wanted... or that you felt..."

"I thought about you every day," Eames says. "I was ready to say goodbye." He grips Arthur's arm and then releases, grips and releases like he can't decide what he wants.

Arthur's still got his hand on Eames's neck, feeling his thudding pulse. "Are you angry?"

"Yes," Eames says.

"Stop being angry."

He's not sure who moves first, whether Eames pulls him in by the arm, or he pulls Eames in by the neck. Maybe both at the same time. For a moment, his feet aren't even on the ground, and Eames is crushing him in his arms.

"You're alive," he says, harsh, into Arthur's neck.

"Yeah, I am." Arthur crushes him back, until neither of them can breathe.

Then, suddenly, his back is pressed up against the outside of the mausoleum and Eames's mouth is hot against his lips. The kiss is angry at first, all desperation and demand.

Arthur makes a questioning noise against Eames's mouth, because he's still not sure how this even began.

Eames draws back to look at him, searching his face. He looks just as confused as Arthur feels.

The next time their lips meet, it's without the previous anger. There's some desperation to it, something he's never seen before in Eames, as if he's pained, exposed. One hand keeps stroking his wrist, as if his fingers can heal what never happened. The other creeps under Arthur's jacket and around his back.

It's so warm, so close and he's been so starved for human contact, all he can do is respond. And it's not just any human contact – it's Eames.

Eames, whom he'd missed over the last two years. He'd thought about other people, wondered about them, hoped they were doing well. But missed them, more than any other human being? No – just Eames.

Nothing feels better than Eames's hands roaming under his coat, pulling his shirt free and finally touching his skin. Arthur arches against him so only his shoulders are braced against the side of the mausoleum.

Eames peels his collar down, finds the spot on his neck that he's never told anyone about, and makes it his own. He mouths at that spot, nipping gently and closing his lips over Arthur's pulse. All Arthur can hear is his own ragged breathing. He clutches Eames's arms, his hair catching against the cement.

Eventually he manages to push the long, black coat from Eames's shoulders. Eames backs away. For a long moment they just look at each other, like neither of them knows how this happened.

Arthur grips his coat and pulls him away from the mausoleum, until they're on equal ground. The mausoleum doors swing in the evening breeze. He looks at them over his shoulder.

"Not here," he says.

"What?" Eames says against his lips.

"Coffin flies."

Eames pulls away, this time giving Arthur his attention.

"Coffin flies," Arthur repeats, jerking his head over his shoulder toward the open door. "I'm not even kidding, there were tons of them and they were attacking my face while I was in there."

"About that," Eames says. "Why were you lurking inside a mausoleum? I watched you rise from the grave and I nearly shit my trousers."

"I thought I'd wait for the Pleurant and find out who he was," Arthur explains. "I just wanted to know. And to thank him. For helping me, and for the flowers. For everything."

"So you thought you'd repay him with a heart attack."

"I didn't really think it through," Arthur says. "I just wanted to see you. I brought you flowers."

"Oh." Eames kisses him again and Arthur turns them both, backing away from the mausoleum. He pulls Eames along with him until the back of his foot comes into hard contact with something. By the time he realizes he's backed into his own headstone, it's too late: their momentum brings them both to the ground.

Arthur lands on his ass first, which hurts like hell and is going to leave a bruise. Eames gains control at the last second and throws his arms out, catching his fall so he doesn't crush Arthur.

"We just tripped over my grave," Arthur says.

"I don't want to talk about your grave." Eames says, pushing him back onto the grass and kissing him again.

Arthur pulls him closer by the back of his neck, one hand still on his chest where he can feel Eames's heart thudding quick and heavy.

Eames kisses his throat again and Arthur tips his head back, offering himself. His legs fall open to cradle Eames's weight. He can't get enough. No one's touched him in two years, other than in passing. Certainly he's had no sexual contact, but that's never been too much of an urgent problem for Arthur; he can go without if he needs to. But not a single person has touched his arms, his face, his skin, even in a friendly manner. He feels like a man who's just spent months starving and dying of thirst in the dessert, only to be given Ambrosia at the end of the ordeal.

Ambrosia, he thinks, this time of the flower. Your love is reciprocated.

Eames's fingers are frantic at the top buttons of his shirt. Arthur lets him open them, and reaches for Eames's belt buckle. He undoes the front of his pants impatiently.

"God, Arthur," Eames says, pressing his face to the exposed skin in the open V of his shirt. He gives up on the rest of the buttons and starts kissing his chest through the material. Then he rucks Arthur's shirt up and kisses a line down his stomach.

Arthur's trying to get his own pants undone, and so is Eames, and Arthur gives up and reaches again for Eames's pants and they can't seem to get their act together.

The laughter that bursts out of Arthur surprises both of them. The whole thing is so frantic, and the entire situation so insane—two years of flowers, Eames's ardent vengefulness, coffin flies, the rising moon, and tripping over his own headstone to rut on the cemetery ground—he thinks he's probably well around the bend by now. He can't stop laughing.

Eames looks up at him, startled at first. Arthur sees the moment of clarity when it happens, as if Eames has stepped back and taken in the big picture too. And then they're both laughing. Eames lowers his head and laughs against Arthur's stomach, curling one hand around his thigh. Arthur threads his fingers through Eames's hair.

It's hysteria, plain and simple. But that's all right. More than all right, maybe. Necessary.

It tapers off slowly. Eames moves up to rest his head against Arthur's chest, listening to his heartbeat. Arthur curls his hand around the back of Eames's head and hopes that this doesn't signal the end of what had been building up.

Apparently not. After a few quiet moments, Eames's hand slides back down, from his ribs to between his thighs. Arthur plants one foot against the ground and winds his other leg around Eames's hips, pressing up into the touch.

"We should do this properly at some point," Eames says, kissing his collarbones. "Didn't come prepared for this."

"Yeah but... This is good for now."

Eames slides up so they're face to face, chest to chest. His hand leaves Arthur for a moment to free himself from his pants, and then he grips them together.

Arthur wants to cry out in surprise, but they're in a cemetery before Halloween and anyone could easily come walking through here. He bites his lips and arches up.

"Thought I'd never get the chance," Eames says, before pressing their mouths together.

Reaching down between them, Arthur covers Eames's hand with his own.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he's aware that, as an adult and international fugitive, he's spending his thirty-third birthday humping in a cemetery. Perhaps he'll consider the implications of that later. For now there's only the friction, Eames's hot skin against his, their joined hands moving together.

From there on in it's slow, and measured, and delicious. He spreads himself out under Eames as they move together, unable to control the rhythmic "Mmm, mmm" sounds he can hear himself making. Eames is trembling against him and Arthur wants to tell him, It's okay, I'm alive, I'm right here, but that can come later, when he's actually got words. Right now there's just sensation: the slide of their hands, the cold grass under his back, lips on his skin. The moon between the pines and the chill air. An owl calls from one of the trees.

Eames whispers his name and shudders, speeding up and tightening his grip. Arthur chokes back a cry when he feels him spill between their joined fingers. And then he's tightening his thighs around Eames and thrusting up hard, following him seconds after.

Eames collapses on him briefly, before propping himself on one forearm. He doesn't seem ready to move yet, and for now, Arthur is more than fine with that.

Eames tucks his face into Arthur's shoulder. "Don't disappear anymore."

"I'm sorry."

"No more apologies. I get it. Just never again. All right?"

Stroking his hand over the back of Eames's head, Arthur considers his words carefully. Sex can't decide this moment for him. That's a huge promise to make. "I don't have any plans to. It's not the kind of thing I can pull off twice. But if I ever have to go off the grid for a while... Are you saying you want to, what? Be with me?" Amazingly, he can feel himself blushing after he says it. They're lying pressed together, sticky and sweating on each other, and he's blushing because he said, 'be with me'. Arthur wonders briefly about his hang-ups.

"That's what I'm saying," Eames says.

He thinks about the last two years. About how unhealthy he felt during that time, and still feels.

"Yeah," he says. "I can do that. Not disappear, I mean. From you. I'll tell you. And you? Can you do the same?"

"Arthur, of course," Eames says, leaning up farther to look down at him.

The breeze stirs between them, and Arthur shivers. Now he's sticky and chilly. "We should get up."

"Yeah." Looking somewhat sheepish, Eames gets off of him and searches for a place to wipe his hands.

Arthur gets to his feet, holding his pants up, and retrieves his backpack. Gingerly, he grabs some napkins out of it and offers a few to Eames. It's awkward, to say the least.

"Trust you to carry around napkins," Eames says.

Arthur wipes himself down. There's nowhere to put the napkins except back inside his backpack, because the last thing he wants to do is leave their DNA everywhere. As he folds them as well as possible (this backpack is going into the trash later,) he finds the flowers he'd brought, as a gift to the Pleurant.

"Oh," he says softly, pulling them out. They're a little crushed, with about half the soil missing. He tries to put the soil back in, patting it down. "Umm. I brought these for you."

"Hmm?" Eames turns to him, buttoning up his pants and tucking his shirt in. "Oh," he says, taking the small square pot. "Blue violets? Watchfulness?"

"And faithfulness," Arthur says.

Eames takes them, looking as awkward as Arthur feels. "And I brought, well... The cyclamen was to say goodbye."

Arthur goes to his headstone and finds the flowers knocked on their side, probably from where he'd tripped. He sets them upright. "You can leave them here," he says. "There's really nothing to say goodbye to."

"Wouldn't mind saying goodbye to the past few years," Eames says.

"Me too."

They stand under moonlight for a long moment. Eames looks thinner, exposed, and still lovelier than Arthur can remember. As if the last two years have whittled him down and left the heartwood. The laughter is gone now, and so is the hysteria, the frantic touches and words. The owl calls from one of the trees again.

"I'm in a hotel," Eames says.

"Oh, me too," Arthur says. "My lease was up a few weeks ago."

"The Bayview Inn."

Arthur's pulse thuds in his head; he can actually hear it ringing in his ears. "Fuck, you are not," he says before he can stop himself.

Eames rubs his hand across his face, the picture of disbelief. "Bloody hell," he mutters. "I was going to ask if you wanted to join me there. But I suppose I don't..."

"I will," Arthur answers, maybe too quickly. "I mean. I'm going there anyway, but. I'll go and, you know. Be with you. If that's what you meant."

"It is what I meant."

"Oh. Good."

"I think we both drove here," Eames says, "so..."

Arthur closes the distance between them and kisses him, surprised by his own gentleness. It's a slow kiss, and somewhat brief, but still leaves them both breathless.

"So I'll meet you there," Arthur says. "And we should hurry. Before the real ghosts come out."

No sooner are the words out of his mouth than the noise of many footsteps startles them both. Accompanying it are voices – many, and hushed. A giggle.

"Fuck," Eames says. "We've got company. Go, I'll meet you back."

They turn to flee, but just a tad too late.

"Holy fuck! The Pleurant!" someone yells, massacring the pronunciation.

Arthur dodges behind the mausoleum and Eames pulls his coat up over his head. Instead of running, however, he turns to face the group of wanders, backlit by the moon. As he does so, he flares his coat dramatically.

The entire group screams as one.

"Let's get the fuck out of here!" one of the guys bellows. "Get the fuck out, go!"

"Holy shit!"

"Oh my god!"

The entire group turns from him and runs like hell, screaming and babbling all the way.

Arthur presses himself against the back of the mausoleum, heart pounding. After a moment, Eames joins him. The hood has fallen away from his head again.

"That was close." He's smiling, though, and so is Arthur.

The voices recede into the distance. But soon the screams turn into breathless laughs and distant exclamations of 'Did you see that?' and 'Holy shit, was that real?'

"They'll be coming back," Arthur says.

"Then let's go." He leans over and kisses Arthur once more, quick and light. Then he draws the hood over his head, pulls the coat tight around his waist, and turns away.

He disappears around the side of the mausoleum and is gone into the night.
** ** ** **


Holed up in a hotel with his team, Eames is in the middle of a six week job in England. Summer signals its end with seven straight days of rain and wind. He hasn't seen Arthur in two months.

Since resurfacing, Eames found his way back into his old circles. Apparently he had been assumed dead. Yet, work presented itself to him as soon as he showed his face in London. If he's alive, if he's got no one running him down, then he's a known safe-bet. His friends missed him. Mourned him, even. He'd done to them exactly what Arthur had done.

But that's nearly a year ago now.

"Eames, come on," Scottie says. She's sitting at the hotel computer, going over security footage of their mark. Scottie is running point on this one. "Join the living. No pun intended."

Daniel, the architect, is hooked to the PASIV on the bed, working on escape routes. Dave, the extractor, peers over Scottie's shoulder at the security feed.

"I've got a clear visual of him typing his security code," Scottie says.

"Ah," Eames says, turning away from the window, and from his thoughts. "Excellent."

A knock at the door interrupts their work. They stare at each other, wary.

"Did anyone order tea?" Eames asks. "Or anything?"

"Maybe Danny did?" Scottie says.

The knock comes again.

Eames grabs his gun and goes to the door. He knows better than to look through the peep-hole. Instead he just opens it and stands back.

"Got some flowers here," says the man on the other side of the door. "No name, just to be delivered to this room on this date. Someone's birthday here?"

Eames tucks his gun away within easy reach and comes around the door. A delivery man stands holding a bouquet of pink flowers.

"I'll take them, thank you," Eames says. Because holy shit, his birthday. He hadn't even remembered. The man hands them over—a vase, even, not just a bouquet—and leaves. Eames closes the door behind him.

"Let me see those," Scottie says, rising quickly once the delivery man is gone. "Who sent them? Did we get made? Who knows we're here?"

"It's all right," Eames says. "It is, in fact, my birthday." He doesn't blush. He never blushes, ever. But he does feel a tad warmer than he had before.

"And someone sent you flowers, mate?" Dave asks. "Scented flowers? Pink flowers?"

"Fuck off with your genderizaton of color," he says.

"Holy shit," Scottie says, "they're from Arthur, aren't they?" She hides a smile behind her hand.

"Ah," Dave says, "flowers from pretty Arthur, risen from the grave."

"Fuck you, he is pretty," Eames says. Though he is a little tired of the 'risen from the dead' jokes.

"Well what sort are they?" Scottie asks. "Let's have a look."

"Why don't I have a look while you lot get back to work. As it's my birthday."

"Carnations, is it?" Dave asks.

Daniel sits up on the bed and removes his line. "I'm thinking about building us a... What's this, why is Eames holding pink flowers?" He reaches for his totem.

"Because it's his birthday and his zombie lover Arthur sent them," Scottie says. "It's sweet, in a twisted sort of way."

"I think 'vampire' for Arthur," Daniel says, "rather than zombie."

"And I think 'twat' for you," Eames says. "Go back to sleep."

"Tut tut," says Dave. "Go on, what sort of flowers?"

"Camellia," Eames says, placing them on the table.

"Does that have a certain meaning?" Scottie asks.

"In fact it does," Eames says. "Since the days of old, camellia has signified 'get back to work and stop bothering me.'"

"You're so mean when you're not getting shagged," Scottie says, and turns back to the computer.

They're good mates of his, this team. He doesn't mind if they know about Arthur, and he doesn't really mind the teasing and prodding.

The meaning of the flowers is only for him, though. It's what he'll hold onto until the job is over and he sees Arthur again.

Pink camellia - I long for you.




End.
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