About Chelsea Mornings and Black Coffee

When Arthur wakes up alone in the bed, relief and regret hits him simultaneously. Eames isn't there and he isn't sure why that affects him the way it does. He takes quick stock of his surroundings – he is naked under the horrendous floral-patterned covers of Eames's bed, in Eames's flat. Or at least the flat Eames has been renting for the duration of the latest job: two nice, airy rooms in a in Chelsea, with the sound of the rain and the early morning London traffic slightly muffled by the doubleglazed windows. He can't believe he broke his own rule about staying over – a rule that most emphatically stated: don't ever. He and Eames had fucked before, on jobs, just quick encounters to let off steam, couldn't really call them one-night stands if they didn't last the night. So why was this night different? It was nothing new when Eames told him to come over in a low whisper, nothing new when they started kissing against the front door the moment Eames closed it behind them, nothing new when Arthur had to shove him away just to retain the self-control to make it to the bed, nothing new when they fell into bed together. But afterwards, when Arthur was forcing himself to get up, to get dressed, when he was on the point of walking out the door, Eames rose on his elbows and murmured

"Hey, at least give us a good night kiss, pet."

Arthur gave a long-suffering sigh, and bent down to for the kiss. He was just humoring Eames. But Eames's mouth was sweet, and his hands on Arthur's shoulders were warm, and Arthur couldn't help closing his eyes and losing track of time. The kiss just didn't stop. Arthur gradually proceeded to lose his tie, his jacket and his waistcoat before climbing back into bed and being divested of the rest of his clothes. They made love slowly, sleepily, and afterwards Arthur felt absolutely boneless and more content than he could ever remember being. He knew he wasn't being himself, so he did what he always did whenever he suspected he was mentally compromised, by poisoning, dreams, pain or concussion: he tried to recall the steps to disassembling, cleaning and reassembling a standard AK-47 assault rifle. Normally he could do it without thinking, but now he was distracted by Eames' hand in his hair, slowly stroking him. He found it ridiculous that something that innocent, something that simple could feel so tremendously nice, and while wondering about that, he must have fallen asleep.

He remembers vaguely worrying through the haze of bliss clouding his mind that Eames misinterpreted what they did, that he would start thinking of them as a couple and that Arthur would be forced to explain that he couldn't and wouldn't be up for a normal relationship, that he absolutely wasn't cut out for domesticity. However Eames wasn't here in the morning, so it seems like Eames had the decency to not make him talk about this mortifying lapse of judgement. He must have left the flat to give Arthur some time to leave, and when they meet again at work they could ignore whatever this was. From Eames, this was a surprisingly mature decision. It seems like Eames understood what Arthur wanted, and gave him that and nothing else. Now they can go back to working on the Sutton job, and everything would be as it always was. So why did he still feel that little, annoying stab of disappointment?

He picks up his clothes from the floor, puts them on and uses the full-size mirror on the opposite wall to try and look vaguely respectable. He more or less manages to straighten his creased clothes, but it's impossible to smooth his hair down – it keeps sticking up in the middle, reminding him of Eames's fingers mussing it up, and he can't even tell if the feeling suddenly hitting him like a punch in the solar plexus is anger or longing.

To get to the front door he has to pass through the kitchen, and there he almost runs into Eames. Evidently he hasn't left like Arthur imagined. The forger is standing barefoot on the tiles, wearing only boxers, cracking eggs into a pan. Arthur curses himself for not hearing Eames sooner, then curses Eames for still being there, then curses himself again for not being able to come up with anything to say.

"Morning, love." says Eames instead. "Slept well?" Eames turned to him with his usual slightly cheeky smile, his usual casual swagger, and unsurprisingly, he's gorgeous shirtless with a wooden spoon in his hand, and Arthur wants to punch him. Because it turns out that Eames didn't understand what Arthur wanted, not at all. Eames must be thinking that last night meant he wants the entire relationship thing, and that Eames will do things for him, lovely things like stroking his hair and kissing him sleepily, and Eames will expect him to reciprocate, and Arthur won't, he can't. Arthur knows he was never any good at these kinds of things, he can't just let go and be sweet and domestic and soft and sleepy and gorgeous like that, and if Eames doesn't know yet, he's an idiot. And Eames being disappointed in him - that would be - Arthur stops himself from even thinking a melodramatic superlative like "unbearable" and concludes "unpleasant". Eames made him breakfast, and looks so cheerful and hopeful, he probably thinks they will eat the scrambled eggs together and talk, but Arthur had never eaten breakfast in more than ten years, the idea of eating eggs in the morning nauseates him, and he was never any good at small talk, especially of the romantic variety. Trying to pretend that he is would make the entire thing even more embarrassing. So he is going to do the right thing, the sensible thing, the thing that's best for both of them. He is going to refuse breakfast, and then he's going to explain clearly and concisely why Eames has got the wrong idea.

"You are making me breakfast." Arthur states, finding that this is as good a starting point as any.

"Course I'm not, don't be silly.' answers Eames, not even looking up from the eggs he's stirring.

"What is that, then?"

"Oh, that's for me." Seeing Arthur's incredulous frown, Eames adds "Just because you abhor the institution of breakfast doesn't mean I have to skip it too."

"How do you know I don't eat breakfast?" asks Arthur, because it still seems like the safest question to ask.

"What kind of forger do you think I am?" demands Eames, a trace of genuine affront creeping into his voice. "You never eat anything before 2 a.m. unless your internal clocked is whacked out by jetlag or a long time spent dreaming, and even then you stick to dry biscuits."

Arthur is momentarily speechless by Eames' casual analysis of his eating habits. Meanwhile Eames puts some bacon into the frying pan and the oil sizzles up angrily. Fumbling with the pan, without turning around to face Arthur he adds

"There's coffee on the counter." Arthur walks over to the counter almost on auto-pilot, finds the half-full coffee-pot. There's nothing to drink from, and Eames seems to have forgotten he is even there, so he opens random cupboards until he finds a chipped mug, with "Keep calm and carry on" written on it in capital letters. He pours out the coffee, and can't help wondering what Eames' angle is. He didn't throw Arthur out, but he puts no pressure on him to talk or eat. It doesn't have to mean anything. Eames is just being as unselfconscious as usual, not giving a flying toss who sees him frying bacon in his boxers. Arthur takes a sip of the coffee, black and unsweetened, scalding hot and really bitter. Just what he needs this morning, his head is already clearer. He turns back to Eames who piled all his fried food on a plate and is sitting down at the table. Picking up a manila envelope from the chair, he gestures at Arthur.

"What is that?" asks Arthur, taking the envelope out of Eames' hands.

"Early this morning a courier from the Cranford-Carter network was here, but I didn't have the heart to wake you. She dropped off the new intel they managed to gather last week. Look into the part on Sutton's mother."

Arthur runs through the pages of transcripts and photographs while Eames eats.

"I've been thinking" the forger says through a mouthful of eggs "that if that thing about her affair is true, there must be some unresolved resentment back there."

"Do you mean to use her as an in?" asks Arthur.

"Well, it's a much better one than his cold fish of a girlfriend or his couch potato brother. I can't see a strong enough emotional connection with either of them, no possibility of catharsis. But the mother who he blames for the divorce, maybe the death of his father, that's a bloody goldmine."

"But can you forge her at such a short notice?"

"I should be able to. It's risk though, I could do with a really thorough background check on her."

"On it." snaps Arthur. He picks up his laptop from the bedroom and settles back down at the table opposite Eames. He's written a to Mr Lin, the information broker who usually knows about everything happening within the London Orbital Motorway, asking if he has any confidential information available on a Mrs Georgina Sutton, and he's planning on having a look through her online purchases for a start. He takes a sip from his coffee before it goes cold, and accidentally catches he eye of Eames who is cutting up toast into little squares. He suppresses a wince at the realisation that he meant to leave, or meant to have a strict, cold discussion about it all. Instead he is sitting at the breakfast table with the man who had his lips on Arthur's throat and his hands under Arthur's clothes less than eight hours ago, calmly discussing professional details of their next assignment.

"Is the coffee all right?" Eames asks, and his smile is warm but a little absent. It's not the smile of Eames trying to win someone over or Eames trying to prove a point, in fact, it seems to be utterly unintentional. Arthur nods, because it's true, the coffee is all right. He waits for a econd, but Eames doesn't seem to expect a longer answer. Eames makes no move to lean over the table to kiss him, or to coax him back to bed, or to get Arthur to admit how embarrassingly he fell apart last night in his arms, or force him to confess that he desperately wants that to happen again. No, he's just sitting, spearing a bit of scrambles eggs on his fork with his right hand while rifling through through grainy surveillance shots or Mrs Sutton with his left, as if this happened every day. Maybe for Eames this isn't a milestone, this isn't something they have to talk about. Maybe Eames has no intention of trying to turn them into a normal couple. Maybe he is content with them sleeping together on jobs, waking up in the morning and working together with the practised ease they established over the years. And if Eames is not chasing him, maybe Arthur can stop running away.

Arthur almost drowns in the wave of relief that hits him. If Arthur accidentally gives a mile, Eames still won't take an inch. If Eames knows him well enough not to offer him breakfast, maybe he won't misunderstand if Arthur asks for a little more than that. He is almost staggered by the possibilities. He could track Eames down between jobs when he felt like kissing him, and Eames wouldn't make him move in. He could call him without having to make up a professional excuse, and Eames would know he doesn't need to hear sweet nothings, only the sound of his voice. He could let Eames stay over and cook him fried dinners and sleep in Arthur's bed and have glorious morning sex, and Eames would never call him out on wanting this, because Eames understands. Arthur doesn't even try to keep the grin off his face when he answers:

"Yes, the coffee is excellent."