Boltedfruit Archive

Cough

Published: 2018-12-31

Category: M/M

Rating: M

Words: 2,730

Fandom: Inception

Ship: Arthur/Eames

Characters: Arthur, Eames

Tags: Secret Saito Gift Exchange 2018, Sick Character, Fluff

Summary:

“Despite the heinous nature of your endlessly enduring patience for what you consider to be utter bullshit,” he says, starting after Arthur at an easy gate, “I am not put off by your proposition of our first date.”

 

“Not a date.”

 

“Keep telling yourself that, love.”

Author's Note

For the 2018 Secret Saito Gift Exchange! For Earlgreytea68 and their prompt "cough."

Arthur coughs.

 

Eames has never heard him cough before.

 

It’s loud and startles him so thoroughly he takes a step backward from the blueprints he’d been pouring over with Yusuf.

 

“Heavens above, Arthur,” he says, hand solid over his heart. “You sound like death.”

 

Arthur sends him a glare but otherwise ignores him. Ignores the clear invitation for rebuttal in his words. Eames huffs and turns back to his work. Yusuf proposes entering the next target’s warehouse from the east end—the one he well knows is heavily guarded—and honestly, it’s as if the man has forgotten how to do his job, and planning the entry and getaway was most certainly not his job. Next Yusuf will be suggesting using less and less amounts of Somnacin, not like they need it or anything—

 

Arthur coughs again, this time it’s a harsh grate into the bend of his arm. When Eames pauses in his work, again, to turn and regard the other man, he sees Arthur spend a solid two minutes rolling up each sleeve and tucking the ends in neat. A perfect image of the put together businessman. But Eames knows better. He recognizes the sheen of sweat at his temples, the cherry flush to the back of his neck, the way he braces himself against the table using his thighs rather than standing without the support. Recognizes it as very un-Arthur behavior.

 

He frowns and waits.

 

“Eames, really I think the east end’s our best bet—” Yusuf starts but stops when Eames holds up a finger.

 

He counts backward from ten in his head and nods at four when Arthur coughs again, this time into his cupped hand. Arthur makes a quiet hmph as he peers down at his palm, then reaches for a handkerchief in his back-left pocket.

 

Eames pulls his own from the breast of his tweed sport coat with a whistle and tosses it to him. Arthur barely turns in time to catch it. Off his game, then. Very un-Arthur, indeed.

 

“Arthur you’re sick, aren’t you?”

 

Arthur frowns at the hanky as if it offends him. Eames suspects it likely does, even as he wipes his mouth with it. He tucks it into a pocket and gives Eames a steady look before returning to his own work.

 

“My business is my concern, Eames,” Arthur calls without turning back. “Maybe you should mind your own.”

 

“Cheeky shit,” he mumbles, swinging his attention back to Yusuf’s impatient stare.

 

 

Two days and a broken arm later, Eames is in California and newly unemployed, arm in a cast and sling with a poorly hidden black eye.

 

Arthur takes one look at him in the bagel shop and shakes his head. Eames had been twenty-four hours behind him after the job in Dubai. He’d been right about not going in the east end entry, and he let them all know that, repeatedly, before he’d left for his own flight out after they fled the city, one by one.

 

“You need a ride?”

 

“Seeing as I thought I’d be back in London hours ago, yes. I do indeed require the service of an American vehicle.” He grins and can almost feel the way Arthur is surely rolling his eyes behind his Aviator’s.

 

“Hold on a minute,” Eames says, pointing with his good hand. “Aren’t those mine? Haven’t seen ‘em in a year!”

 

Arthur doesn’t answer him. “How long will you keep low?”

 

Eames reaches to snatch the shades from Arthur’s ever pristine face, but he evades him. Arthur’s lips turn up in that very, very subtle way that always rankles him to the core. The way that makes him angry when he thinks about it when he shampoos his hair.

 

“I usually keep out after failed jobs a week or three. I’m back at it quick enough, but it doesn’t usually involve a fractured radius.”

 

“It’s not your dominant arm,” Arthur tells him matter of fact. “You’ll be fine. I can give you a week and a half.”

 

“Then wherever am I to go?”

 

Arthur lets the Aviator’s slide down the bridge of his nose as he gives Eames the other look that drives him mad. The one that makes him smile when he’s working through long nights. The one that gets him in trouble when his thoughts slip to it when his charm isn’t working in a negotiation.

 

“Back to your flat in London.” His tone carries every ounce of duh within it that makes Eames thinks he’s been hanging out with Ariadne too much.

 

Arthur’s cheeks puff out and Eames raises an eyebrow, wondering if Arthur’s been overcome by some tremendous humor he’d not been made privy to. But then Arthur turns away and coughs, the air bursting out of him rough and unbidden.

 

Eames sees one red speck too many on the back of Arthur’s steady hand. Arthur’s always had the steadiest hands in the business.

 

“Huh.”

 

“Change of plans.”

 

“It’s nothing.”

 

Eames just pulls out his burner and calls the third number down. The first number is always Arthur.

 

Arthur drags the tip of his other pinky through the red speck and it stains his skin rosy. He frowns, and it’s almost funny how sad it is.

 

He sighs and thinks, it’s always Arthur.

 

 

“Didn’t think we’d be seeing you back so soon.”

 

It had been a feat testing even his levels of patience as they’d flown to the states. Being forced to fly with a fractured arm and in need of several stitches from a job gone wrong in Dubai was the least of his troubles if Arthur was sicker than he seemed. And Marwa, a tiny Jordanian chemist from Yusuf’s connections was able to fix him up quick enough when they’d landed before he’d wandered off for a bite to eat. So why not Arthur?

 

Eames shrugs and throws a thumb towards Arthur who’s standing stoic behind him.

 

“Not for me, I’m afraid. This one’s had a nasty cough the last week—”

 

“Few days.”

 

“Week,” Eames insists. “Bit of blood.”

 

“Ah,” Marwa hums. “Come on, then.”

 

Arthur turns away to try and stifle another cough when Eames turns to tug him forward. He jerks a finger toward the door leading to the backroom, not allowing for any argument.

 

Marwa’s shop has always been a bit of a fascination for Eames. In the early days when he’d first started working forgeries, Yusuf had introduced them on a chance job in San Francisco. Marwa’s shop was tucked away in the Tenderloin. A shoddy little thing with rusted gutters and no windows, paint peeling off the walls and a layer of fine black something that he strongly suspected to be mold growing in the bathroom. But that had been fifteen years before, so it was really anyone’s guess if it was still there or not. She had a stick of incense on the counter and really, that was all the difference he could see between then and now.

 

There are innumerable shelves lined with all manner of vial and color of Somnacin, not dissimilar to Yusuf’s own hole in the wall in Mombasa. But here the walls are closer, and he can see Arthur having a difficult time of it as he walks ahead.

 

Eames chances placing a steadying hand on his lower back and is both surprised and pleased when Arthur allows it.

 

Marwa leads Arthur to a cot and he sits, listening dutifully as she pokes and prods at him. She finally hands him a single blue vial and instructs him to sip from it each night at six, and never after food.

 

He throws it in the bin as soon as they’re outside.

 

Eames slaps him on the chest and Arthur doesn’t bother dodging it.

 

“We just spent a good bit of money on that,” Eames gripes, debating the merit of reaching his good arm through the rusted green slots of the bin.

 

“It’s nothing serious. Come on, let’s grab some takeout and head back to mine.”

 

“Despite the heinous nature of your endlessly enduring patience for what you consider to be utter bullshit,” he says, starting after Arthur at an easy gate, “I am not put off by your proposition of our first date.”

 

“Not a date.”

 

“Keep telling yourself that, love.”

 

 

Arthur’s flat is in the financial district, because of course it would be. It’s clean enough to look staged and maybe it is, for all Eames knows. He has no idea how much time Arthur spends here. He knows Arthur has an apartment in Leeds and Seoul. There used to be a place in Tokyo, but seven jobs ago he’d cut that one loose.

 

This one is cold. He spies a switch on the wall and flips on the heat while Arthur sets out their food on the coffee table, not bothering to hide the sigh he lets out when he toes off his Oxford’s.

 

 

“So,” Eames says around a mouthful of Lo mein. “You seem to think coughing up blood isn’t something to fret over.”

 

Arthur swallows down a bite of veggies. “Ever hear of arterial nosebleeds?”

 

He nods and Arthur seems satisfied with that.

 

“I have a cold. The coughing sometimes gets my nose to act up. Nothing I’ve not dealt with before.”

 

“Well then, maybe treat your cold.”

 

Arthur sets down his takeout and settles back into his sofa. Eames shadows him, letting his lips smack as he sucks the grease from his fingers.

 

Arthur tracks the movement. “With what? Chicken soup and blankets?”

 

“Exactly. I knew you weren’t stupid.”

 

Arthur huffs and sinks lower into the cushions. “Too busy.”

 

“Not anymore. And I’m here. You are in the ideal situation of not having to do anything for a few days. I’ll take care of everything and have you right as rain in no time.”

 

“Let you, a one-armed man, spoon feed me my medicine and tuck me in at night? Unlikely.” He snorts, and Eames doesn’t miss the nervous little inhale he takes right after.

 

“Only if you ask nicely.”

 

“Jesus, I forgot how annoying you can be.”

 

“I’m sorry, was that before or after our last two jobs we worked together. Back to back, wasn’t it?”

 

That finally pulls a laugh from him and Eames grins, feeling warm and triumphant.

 

 

After, Eames tosses the takeout and takes out the trash. Goes to an app on Arthur’s phone while he’s showering and orders soup and Nyquil. If for no other reason than to see the annoyed bend of Arthur’s face when he sees the delivery tomorrow.

 

Eames doesn’t tuck him in, though it’s very hard not to try.

 

 

Arthur wakes at noon the next day and he squints at Eames when he sees him on the sofa. His hair isn’t brushed and he’s wearing sweatpants. He finally lifts a hand in a wave before he sees the medicine on the kitchen counter as he reaches for the fresh coffee Eames had brewed not an hour past.

 

Eames feels like he’s in an alternate universe.

 

Eames waits, expecting an expletive at the very least. But all that happens is Arthur swigs back a swallow of the medicine and pour his coffee. Then he takes a seat beside Eames and fiddles around on his phone.

 

It’s odd. Odd to see Arthur so—

 

“Stop staring at me.”

 

“You’re being very good.”

 

Arthur raises an eyebrow. “How is that?”

 

“Not shooting me when you see me here in the morning. Also not shooting me when you see I’ve bought you supplies and made you coffee.”

 

“I told you I’d let you stay here for a while. And thanks.”

 

Eames sets down his tablet. He’d been prepping for new jobs.

 

“Thanking me, in fact, when you could be shooting me. Strange, all of it strange.”

 

Arthur shrugs. “You caught me on a good morning.”

 

“You were like this yesterday, too.”

 

“I’m sick, Eames,” he says, tone firm.

 

He knows when to let a subject drop with Arthur. Often he’s pushed too far and sent Arthur off into a bitter silence that usually lasts months. And if he was being honest, he’d rather not put himself through that again. Somehow, over the past six years since the Fischer Morrow job, he’d gone from curious about Arthur’s whereabouts between jobs to outright worry.

 

And he is not an anxious person. Arthur makes him anxious.

 

“Hm. So, there’s some promising work in Shanghai…”

 

 

Arthur naps most of the day away, only wakes long enough to eat some dinner Eames got from a corner Thai place. He starts coughing again and swallows down more medicine before Eames is ushering him back to bed. No more blood, thankfully.

 

He follows Arthur into his room because he’s unsteady on his feet again and Eames hates it. When he settles back into the pillows, he runs his hands through his dark hair, smoothing it back as much as possible without the aid of any product. Eames tosses a throw over him and watches him settle.

 

Eames notices Arthur’s kept his handkerchief. Orange and green and sat folded neatly next to the box of tissues on his nightstand.

 

Arthur realizes where he’s looking.

 

“Thanks for that. You can take it back, I washed it.”

 

“Not that the sentiment isn’t appreciated, and long overdue with all the many sufferings I take to make your job easier, I think no. You keep it.”

 

“I said I washed it. It’s not contagious.”

 

“I’ve been in your general area for a few days now. If I didn’t want to get sick, I wouldn’t be here.”

 

Something passes over Arthur’s face. His expression smooths out into something Eames isn’t used to seeing. It’s soft, and it unnerves him.

 

“What?” he finally asks, resisting the urge to fidget.

 

“You ever think about your service?”

 

It comes out of left field and Eames shakes his head, confused why Arthur is bringing it up.

 

“Now and again, like anyone would I suppose.”

 

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I spent nine years in. You did twelve, right?”

 

“Officially only six.”

 

“Officially.” Arthur laughs a raspy laugh. He closes his eyes and settles a hand over his thigh, palm up. “Come here, Eames.”

 

He flexes his fingers and only opens his eyes again when Eames makes no move to join him.

 

“Eames. I said come here.”

 

He nods. “Not sure I’ll be welcome come the morning.”

 

Arthur rolls his eyes. Sits up and reaches over to grab his wrist. “You think because I’m sick, I’m delirious and can’t possibly consent to whatever it is you think I’m asking?”

 

“That about sums it up, yeah.”

 

Arthur tugs him forward and Eames relents, allowing it. Arthur is staring up at him, fingers slipping from his wrist to his palm, holding his hand. It’s terribly distracting.

 

“I’m sick, not drugged. Come here. Just let me feel you next to me.”

 

He pulls again and Eames breathes out, but Arthur doesn’t let go, so he’s forced to climb his way over Arthur’s legs to the other side of him. He pauses, looking up when Arthur makes a small sound. He thinks he’s hurt some suddenly fragile part of his sick body and he opens his mouth to ask when Arthur leans forward to catch his lips with his own.

 

Arthur kisses like he knows what he’s doing and it’s languid and everything Eames has ever imagined it would be and more. He feels Arthur wind his fingers through the hair at his nape and he kisses harder, sucks Arthur’s tongue when he feels it gentle along his lips.

 

Then Arthur pulls away so suddenly he fears he’d somehow bitten him. But he starts coughing again and Eames silently hands him the tissue, settling at his side while the fit calms down.

 

“I hate being sick,” Arthur groans.

 

“Does it happen a lot?”

 

“Sometimes. Once a year if I’m lucky.”

 

Arthur turns to face him and Eames can see the hint of a smile.

 

“Does this happen a lot?” he asks, and he can tell Arthur knows he’s asking something else.

 

Arthur shakes his head. “No.”

 

“I can’t say I haven’t been waiting a long time for that.”

 

“Maybe I got tired of being alone.”

 

Eames grins, because that’s wrong. “Impossible for you.”

 

Arthur’s smile is slow then, and Eames wants to kiss the dimples that appear, so he does.

 

“Maybe,” Arthur tells him.