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03 December 2010 @ 11:39 pm
The Space Between I and You (2/?)  
part one

It was late when they finally stumbled over the threshold to their flat, weary for different reasons. Arthur had noticed Eames’ persisting silence, though he sadly couldn’t pinpoint when it had started exactly. He had a sneaking suspicion it was around the time they finished their job in the anus of a snowman they call Russia, but his days were a blur at this point.

All he could do, in the taxi to the airport, on the plane, in the taxi back to home, was occasionally try and engage Eames in conversation. But at most all he would do was grunt, if he even did anything at all.

Arthur hoped that being home would help soften Eames’ mood towards him, so as he began unbuttoning his coat, he asked, “Eames, are you feeling alright? It’s not the flu again, is it?”

“I’m fine,” Eames replied quietly. His voice was rough with disuse, and sounded tired. He unbuttoned his coat, hung it up, and immediately went to the bedroom. There was a sound of a nightstand drawer being opened.

Arthur frowned, feeling an unease settle in his stomach. He laid his coat along the back of a nearby chair and went to their bedroom, the scarf he still wore around his neck forgotten.

“Eames?” he asked gently as he walked up behind the forger. He reached out and placed a hand onto his shoulder. “Are you sure? Here, let me feel your forehead...” and Arthur started to move around him to do just that.

Eames flinched visibly at Arthur’s hand on his shoulder, then completely pulled away from the hand that was reaching out to his head. He moved away from Arthur on the bed, not making eye contact, and started to pour himself a glass of scotch. He said nothing.

Arthur’s hand twitched. He’d never been rejected by Eames before, which wasn’t a point to make about himself so much as about Eames. Eames was rejecting him. Something was wrong, very wrong, and Arthur had missed something vitally important, maybe worse so than when he slipped on the Fischer job.

He sat down gingerly next to the other man and rested his hands on his knees before he said, “Eames... Is there... Is there anything you want to say? To me?”

“Not particularly,” Eames drawled quietly, taking a long swig from the glass of alcohol. It burned his throat. And it felt good.

Arthur watched Eames drink. There was something wrong in the action, like it wasn’t done for the pleasure of a buzz, but more to drown out something, to add fire to a burning you already felt in the pit of your stomach. He reached his hand out, let it hover in the air for a moment with indecision, then laid it gently on Eames’ leg. “Anything unparticular, then? I’d...really like to know, you’re being a bit weird...”

Eames took the glass away from his lips, and closed his eyes at Arthur’s hand on his leg. His body tensed and he gave a slight grunt. He would love nothing more than to go to bed early for once, his body flush against Arthur’s like usual. But there was something that stopped him. He opened his eyes again and rubbed his nose. The burning in the back of his throat didn’t leave. Instead, it moved to the back of his nose and his eyes.

“I’m being weird, you think? I think I’m acting quite appropriately for the given situation,” Eames replied, looking intently at the glass in his hand.

“Given situation?” Arthur repeated, confusion coloring his voice. He eyed the clues written in Eames’ body language: the glass held tightly enough to break, tension roiling off him in waves. It didn’t settle well at all with Arthur.

“Somehow I don’t think you mean to say you’re celebrating another successful job,” he said after a moment, quietly. With the greatest of care, Arthur reached over and pried the empty glass out of the other man’s grasp. He realized, with startling clarity, this was the first time he’d seen Eames drink on his own in, well...so very, very long.

Eames didn’t even try to get it back. He just let his hand fall back down to hang beside the other over his knees. He felt utterly defeated, and he certainly looked the part. Pale, dark circles under his eyes, his whole face painted with an indescribable melancholy.

“No, that’s not what I’m referring to,” he said quietly, passing a hand over his face again.

Arthur frowned as he took in Eames, all of Eames collectively. He couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with the other man, couldn’t even know where to begin. He seemed tired, bone-deep tired, and weren’t they both at this point? How many jobs did they have one after the other lately where Arthur was barely able to pull himself away long enough to even nap?

Far too many, and this seemed like a reasonable explanation for Eames’ behavior...except for the drinking; Arthur would have to puzzle that out later.

“I know you’re tired, Eames,” Arthur said as he set the glass on the bedside table. “I am too, very, very much. What do you say we go to sleep? Maybe you’ll feel better in the morning...”

“It’s not just because I’m tired, Arthur,” Eames said softly, hands clasped together as he wrung them. There was no usual pet name replacing Arthur’s name.

Arthur straightened up slightly, alertness preparing him for something because Eames’ words, they didn’t bode well. And Arthur would be lying to himself if he said he didn’t feel his heart drop at the way the other man seemed so...fragile.

He dared to place a hand over Eames’, his fingers tangling in a once-familiar manner but something was off. Arthur asked as neutrally as he could, but something kept tugging and catching on his words, “What is it then, Eames?”

Eames looked down at their fingers entwined, but looked back up almost immediately. It was almost too painful to look at, and the rock in his stomach was heavy. He almost felt as if he were going to be sick.

“You see...” he started, then paused, inhaled through his nose. His voice was strangled. “The man I love seems to love someone else.”

Arthur’s fingers flexed unconsciously as the words pierced him like a dagger in between his ribs. He shook his head, trying to clear it, but, what? “What?”

Eames yanked his hand back quickly, a frown setting into the corners of his mouth. “You know what,” he said, his voice now tinged with annoyance, but still weighted with despair.

“No, Eames,” Arthur said, a hardness creeping in his tone as he felt himself being buffeted by too many different conflicting feelings. “I don’t know what. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

All he wanted to do was go to bed, to finally sleep in what seemed like forever, but no, Eames was not okay, and Arthur would never not be okay if he had let that slide. So Arthur would have to be excused in having a little ire at trying, trying to be understanding just to have it thrown in his face with cryptic statements.

Eames snorted and stood up suddenly, taking a few steps forward then stopping, running a hand roughly through his hair. His movements were jerky and angry. “You don’t think I notice your behavior towards Ariadne?” he snapped. He sounded more vapid with every word. He turned a little towards Arthur, but still could not look at him.

“I know you’re an all rounder, Arthur. I’m a fucking forger, you don’t think I pick up on that kind of thing?”

Arthur’s eyebrows shot upwards as his eyes closed, the accusation like dumping a pile of papers on a fire and nearly smothering it. But then it all catches, and soon there’s a blaze, and right now Arthur’s chest felt like burning.

He opened his eyes and stared at Eames, the corners of his mouth in a downward arch. “Eames,” he said quietly, a low undercurrent in his words, “I have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.”

Eames made a disgusted noise in the back of his throat. “Don’t be daft,” he said. His words were always cut off when he was angry. “You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve been courting her for weeks.”

The last sentence was strained. His hands were firmly on his hips, and his entire back looked tense. It was like looking at a wall.

Arthur stood, one hand on his face like he was trying to physically wrap his mind around Eames’ words, the other balled into a fist on his hip. His body shook slightly from an intense controlled restraint, like he had too much to say and not enough room to say it.

Courting Ariadne? Eames, that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard you say, and that’s an understatement. Where, where’d you even get a stupid idea like that?” He held his hand out to his side, a gesture of reception twisted by the acidic atmosphere.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I believe a more familiar term would be flirting?” Eames turned a little more towards Arthur. He fidgeted a bit, his arms crossing in front of his chest and weight shifting from foot to foot. “‘Babe’ might not ever be an affectionate name I would call someone, but I know you Americans are fond of it. As I’m sure she was.”

Arthur scoffed, about to tell Eames he most certainly does not flirt, but the other man kept going, the implications making him pause as ‘babe’ sparked a memory in his mind. And with that, Arthur was beginning to see the pieces falling into place, and it made him feel sick.

“That, that was nearly months ago, Eames,” he defended a bit unsteadily, like he was being forced to admit something he couldn’t bear to face. Like a feral cat being backed into a corner, he had to strike out no matter how blindly to escape, to make it go away, to dismiss. “And, it’s not like you don’t do the same thing all the time. What, what difference does it make if I’ve started to pick up your habits?”

“It was not months ago,” Eames snapped, the volume of his voice going up a peg. He wasn’t sure exactly, but it had to be less time than that. It felt like just last week to him. Everything had felt like a blur lately. He wasn’t even sure what day of the week it was today.

He paused, rubbed his eyes roughly with the heels of his palms, and inhaled deeply. He lowered them again and looked back at Arthur, making eye contact for the first time. His face was turning red.

“The difference, between my habits,” he said, the last two words with a sarcastic sneer to his voice, “and yours, is that at the end of the day, I get into bed with only one person.” Voice suddenly soft, he added, “And you don’t.”

Arthur stood stunned, locked into place by Eames’ eyes and the things he could believe of him. Ordinarily, Arthur could maintain a calm, collected way of thinking, but this was all driving him back into old habits. No matter how far you run, certain things stay with you forever. It was like a disconnect, and he was merely an observer as the irrational side of him pressed on.

He stepped forward, just one step, and stilled as he tried to clamp down on his anger, but that didn’t stop it from flaring behind his eyes and into his voice. “You think I’m a fucking cheater? You? What the fuck, Eames,” Arthur spit out, and inside he really wished he could stop. He had never wanted Eames to see this side of him, much less be subject to it.

“I seem to recall in the beginning that you were ready and willing to fuck anything that could qualify as human, so don’t pretend that you now have some high moral ground from which to judge the things I do or don’t do.” It was like breaking his own heart, worse because it was Eames, and Arthur had never wanted to hurt him, ever. But he was lost to an unthinking rage, and idly wondered if he could ever forgive himself for not being able to control this after so many years.

Eames saw the snap in Arthur’s face way before Arthur even opened his mouth, but it was still stunning to hear such poisonous words out of the other man’s mouth. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen him so mad, but he knew Arthur would lose his temper eventually.

It didn’t stop his jaw from dropping slightly at the second comment. Those words were like a slap in the face, and he could feel his whole face get red, the white-hot rage starting to build in his stomach like boiling water. He tried to respond to that, but instead he just opened his mouth a few times, and hated himself even more for not knowing what to say.

Arthur had said some hurtful things to him in the past, but nothing like that.

“Fuck anything?” he repeated, finally gathering what he could of his writhing thoughts, his hands balling into fists. “Is that really what you think of me?” He was seeing red and could feel his pulse behind his eyes.

He looked away for a few seconds, biting back a strong, violent urge to do something he’d regret, then turned back. “Well, why didn’t you tell me what you thought sooner? I would’ve skipped you on the food chain and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Arthur keened on the inside, but his face was twisted into sneer. “Oh please, who are you kidding, you were damn near begging for it, every time.”

Eames scoffed. “I was begging for it? Please.” His face was twisted in an ugly scowl, and he was starting to feel his stomach creeping into his throat.

“I apologize for returning your advances. According to you, it was a mistake,” His tone was still laced with venom, but his voice cracked halfway through the word mistake. “I’m sure she would never have to beg you for it. Since you love her and all of that.” He waved his hand in front of him to add an extra shot of tepidness to his words.

Suddenly Eames is thinking of a night months ago, when he had whispered those three little words into Arthur’s ear as he drifted off to sleep. They had startled the other man, and he had not replied, and Eames had assured him that he didn’t have to reply then, he could say it whenever he was ready to.

Eames swallowed hard, feeling hot, angry tears building up behind his eyes. He fought to keep them back.

Arthur stiffened at Eames’ remarks, then he could feel every ounce of vitriol drain away as he realized Eames had heard. He thought back, mind swimming with memories because oh, Ariadne, that’s what this was all about. And as the hot fury died away with little more than embers left behind, Arthur felt reasonably in command of himself again, only to realize that he was going to have to pick up the pieces left behind by his outbursts. Yet again.

He stood in front of Eames, one hand across his chest and rubbing his arm as his other hand hung limply. His next words wavered, like they were on the brink of being something else. “Eames, I,” he began, then cleared his throat because why should his heart suddenly be there instead of his chest where it belonged? “I don’t, I don’t love her. She...it’s not like that.”

“Then what is it like?” Eames asked, and he struggled to keep his facade, keep it collected. But he was having trouble keeping the crackles out of his voice, and his eyes were burning so badly he was afraid to blink for fear of going blind.

“You tell her you love her, but you’ve never told me.” he adds, the anger in his voice quiet and dangerous. He looked down at the floor.

Arthur flinched physically, eyes closed and he has no excuse. His head fell downwards, and he could feel it coming now, his heart bound and determined to splay itself all over the floor.

“Eames,” he began, voice ragged and torn as it broke on the name, looking up at Eames. “I...” and he can’t even bring himself to continue.

Eames shook his head and as he blinked, a few angry tears trail down his face. “Yeah, I thought as much,” he said, his voice thick and cracking.

He wiped a hand across his face as he turned sharply, and strode across the apartment, plucking his coat out of the closet and opening the door to the apartment. He slammed it behind him, and didn’t look back.

Arthur could only look on as Eames left, stunned and shamed into place. He felt so many emotions, too many, rolling through him to be able to process that yes, this was actually happening. He felt the familiar compulsion to check his totem, but real or dreaming, he couldn’t just let Eames leave, not like this.

It couldn’t have been more than four minutes for him to pull himself together and resolve to go after Eames. Another minute to stuff his feet back into his shoes and whip his coat back on. And little under a minute to lock the door and run down the two landings and rush out onto the empty street.

It took him six minutes when Eames only needed three to disappear.

Arthur stared out down the street one way, then whirled around to look the other way. Gone, and there was no way Arthur could even begin to guess which way he went even if he could catch up to him with that long a head start. He breathed in and out, forcing himself to think calmly, rationally. It didn’t matter where Eames had went, he could just call him and talk to him that way, explain things that way, though it was the kind of thing that should be done in person, face to face.

He pulled out his cell and speed dialed Eames’ phone. He could just imagine that ring tone he always found a little annoying playing in Eames’ coat pocket, telling him that hey, Arthur does care, that sounds a bit like the sound tinkling quietly near their building.

Arthur walked back up to their building, following the sound. It was a lot like the ring tone he always found a little annoying but couldn’t bear to make Eames change. He pinpointed the source that is exactly the ring tone, coming from the phone Eames discarded in the trash bin.

He picked the cell up as he clicked his closed, and silence surrounded him. He dusted Eames’ phone off, he wouldn’t want it to be dirty when he returned, Arthur thought as he made his way back up to the empty apartment. He hung up his coat, toed his shoes off, and sat on the couch as he waited for Eames to come home after he’d cooled off. But the waiting was drawn out into hours, and as Arthur passed out, he couldn’t help but wonder if Eames was ever coming back...

shoppermaniashoppermania on December 4th, 2010 08:06 am (UTC)
oh, this is so good/ heartbreaking! Can't wait for more ♥
shiverelectric: mermaid!fotcshiverelectric on December 4th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks, more will be up soon!