syllic: ([inception] specificity (with light))
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A Fool From Any Direction

arthur/eames, ~21,000 words (oh, [livejournal.com profile] syllic, hahaha), nc-17

written for this prompt at [livejournal.com profile] inception_kink ("Eames is a knight, and Arthur is a stable boy. Eames brings him little tokens from his quests and Arthur reverently removes his armor and lets Eames press him down sweetly into the hay").

with thanks to H.


A Fool From Any Direction

Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.



The new boy starts at the stables the day Eames’ youngest cousin marries. The first time Eames sees him he pays little to no attention, too busy teasing his cousin, asking if there’s a particular reason why Marguerite’s dowry had to include young male stablehands.

The next time Eames sees him, he sees only his hands. His fingers are long and pale, and very deft as they unsaddle Eames’ horse. He speaks gently, leading the horse away by the bridle. When Eames calls after him, he turns grudgingly, spinning slowly on one foot.

His mouth is set in a firm line and his eyebrows are drawn together, and he waits impatiently for Eames to address him, as if aggrieved to have to be of service.

“What’s your name?” Eames asks, amused, and the boy’s mouth turns down even more at the corners.

“Arthur,” he says, twisting the bridle in his hands as if to focus his attention elsewhere.

“Arthur,” Eames repeats. “I’m Eames.”




The boy turns out not to be a boy at all. He’s there to replace his brother in service under Eames’ uncle, through an arrangement made with his family. The brother has recently been granted a plot of land, and Eames’ uncle gave permission for him to be married, as long as he found someone to do his work under the master of horse.

“Congratulations on your brother’s recent happiness,” Eames says to Arthur, the next time he returns from a ride.

Arthur’s face darkens.

“Thank you, sire,” he says, so stiffly that Eames laughs loudly as he dismounts, handing Arthur the reins.

“Do I offend, Arthur?” he asks. “Perhaps you wish your brother were not happy?”

Arthur shakes his head.

“I am grateful for my brother’s happiness, and for his lordship’s kindness,” he says formally.

“But?” prompts Eames, leaning one hip against the entrance to the stables.

“But last week I was apprenticed to the shire reeve’s steward, and now I look after horses,” Arthur snaps.

He freezes, and when he turns to look at Eames his face is pale. He is clearly mortified.

Eames raises an eyebrow at him, saying nothing.

“I apologise, sire,” Arthur says quietly. It is there, in the grace of his apology and in the downward tilt of his head, that Eames sees his age. Arthur is slight, and his hands do not show signs of labour or battle, but he cannot be more than three or four years younger than Eames’ 25.

“Apologise only if you mean it, Arthur,” says Eames, quietly.

Arthur meets his gaze squarely, and does not say anything more.

Eames laughs, tipping his head in acknowledgment before he walks away.




He doesn’t know what makes him do it. He and Benedict are in Peterborough, and Eames is waiting for his cousin to wrap up his business in the cathedral yard. He’s wandering a back alleyway when he sees a man selling wax tablets, the sort that he once used for childhood lessons and which his uncle’s steward still uses for accounts, and before he can think further on it, he’s asking to see two.

The man takes one look at Eames’ clothing and quotes a ridiculous price, and Eames is tempted to return and take the tablets without any payment at all, to teach the man a lesson. But in that moment Benedict appears at the end of the street, calling,

“Eames, for pity’s sake,” and Eames fumbles the necessary coins out of his purse, shoots the merchant a vicious look, and rips the tablets out of the man’s hands.

He puts them in a saddlebag, and the edges rub against his calf the whole way home, like a pesky dog reminding its owner that it hasn’t been fed. When they get back to the stables Benedict dismounts quickly, shooting Eames a wave as he heads to report to his father. Eames takes his time, patting his horse and undoing the saddlebags slowly enough that Arthur begins to shoot him impatient looks.

There’s something wonderful about how quickly Arthur gets riled. His lips thin and his hands clench, and, if Arthur knew Eames any better, he’d know how tempted that makes Eames to find new ways to frustrate him every day.

“Here,” he says, bringing the tablets out from the saddlebag and handing them to Arthur.

“Do you want these to be placed in your rooms, sire?” asks Arthur calmly.

His eyes are blazing, but the forced curve of his mouth is pleasant enough.

“No, Arthur,” says Eames, amused. “I brought these for you.”

“Is this a joke?” Arthur asks.

“No,” says Eames. He does not elaborate.

“Would you like me to keep track of your expenses?”

Arthur says this with some disdain, but there is an eager gleam in his eyes.

“No,” says Eames again, smiling.

Arthur’s face closes down, and he says, acidly,

“Then, sire, if you could explain—”

“They’re for you, Arthur. To do with as you will. Keep household accounts. Write your love notes in them before you transfer them to parchment. Draw inappropriate figures.”

Arthur’s eyes narrow, and Eames laughs.

“Or not. Like I said. They’re for whatever you want.”

Arthur gazes at him for a few long, heavy seconds. Finally, he says, so distrustfully that Eames has to laugh at him again,

“Then. I suppose. Thank you.”

“No need to thank me,” says Eames, meeting Arthur’s discomfort with as heavy a dose of affable charm as he can.

He ducks out of the stables, turning to wave at Arthur from the door.

Arthur does not see him. He is running his finger over the edge of one of the closed tablets, and he does not look up.




Arthur spends the next few days watching Eames the way one might watch a sworn enemy who has recently been spotted lurking about one’s house.

Eames takes every opportunity to smile widely and guilelessly at Arthur, who, Eames discovers during this time, has a spectacular ability to turn down the corners of his mouth.

On midsummer’s day Eames rides with his younger cousins to the festivities in Peterborough, and the four of them return home only by virtue of their horses, which know the way.

They’re singing loudly and still passing a wineskin between them when Arthur emerges from the stables, a lone, lithe figure against the pale blue of the sky. His arms are crossed and his posture radiates intense displeasure.

“You’re drunk,” he says, as Eames dismounts.

Eames is too busy attempting not to fall over, having not extricated his foot from the left stirrup in time, so he doesn’t answer at first. He takes the stirrup by its strap and disentangles himself, then turns to look at Arthur seriously.

“Why Arthur,” he says, leaning closer, until he can see nothing but the deep groove between Arthur’s eyes, and the purse of his lips. “Yes,” he continues, following the cut of Arthur’s jaw with his eyes, turning his head to breathe gently against Arthur’s neck. “Yes, yes I am. Tell me, do you have something against drunkenness?”

Arthur is still as a statue. The fine hair behind his ear flutters as Eames breathes against it.

“When one is away from home, surrounded by other drunkards, making a shameful target of oneself for bandits, yes. I have something against drunkenness.”

He moves away abruptly, taking Algernon roughly by the reins and beginning to lead him away. Eames’ cousins’ stablehands have already done the same with his cousins’ horses, and Eames can see William and Robert and Julian walking unsteadily towards the house, spilling more wine than they’re drinking.

“Wait,” Eames says to Arthur, remembering suddenly that he has brought something for him.

Arthur stops, with a look on his face that clearly conveys that Eames has seconds before he turns away again, and Eames fumbles at his belt, unlooping his girdle bag and reaching inside for a small, cloth-wrapped parcel.

Arthur watches him impassively as he comes forward, unwrapping two peaches and holding them in Arthur’s direction.

“For you,” he says, and for an instant—only for an instant, the expression there one moment and gone the next—Arthur’s face looks open and vulnerable, confused. Then he looks at Eames, narrowing his eyes.

“Why?” he asks, and Eames shrugs, moving closer.

“Because I wanted to. I can vouch for the fact that they’re lovely; I had several at the fair grounds.”

He holds the sun-warmed fruit up to Arthur’s nose, so that he can smell it, and Arthur inhales deeply, almost as if against his will. Eames pulls one of Arthur’s hands free of the reins, and places the two peaches in his palm.

They’re standing chest to chest, and Eames allows his eyes to rove over Arthur’s face: his dark eyes, and his pink lips, and finally the hollow between his collarbones. He looks up again, keeping his gaze on Arthur’s mouth, and leans forward ever so slightly.

Arthur jerks back, looking deeply alarmed, and he fumbles with the peaches and the reins before looking back at Eames. He’s angry; there are two spots of colour high on his cheeks.

“I am not a foolish village girl to be wooed with fruit and empty words,” he spits, and Eames, light-headed from the wine and the sun, says,

“What about with wax tablets?”

Arthur’s nostrils flare.

“I have absolutely no intention of sleeping with you, Sir Thomas—” Eames starts at the unfamiliar name, though there’s a thrill to hearing Arthur address him by his given name— “and if you believe that I can be bought with trinkets, no matter how grand or useful they might be, you are sorely mistaken.”

“Arthur—”

“Furthermore, if you think that just because I have the misfortune of working in your uncle’s stables now you have some imagined right over me, if you believe you can take me unwillingly to your bed—”

Eames feels a burst of anger in his own chest, and he leans over Arthur, pressing him back against Algernon, and says,

“You can rest assured, Arthur,” leaning forward to look Arthur in the eye, “That I have never had cause or desire to have someone in my bed who wasn’t there of his or her own enthusiastic accord. And though if you were to come willingly to my chambers you would be very welcome,” continues Eames, brushing the back of his hand over Arthur’s fingers, which are curled tightly around the peaches and wet with sweetness where the skin of one peach has split, “You can immediately desist to worry that I will somehow wrench your virtue from you.”

Arthur must sense Eames’ honesty and see that he is truly offended, because he lowers his eyes, saying nothing.

“I do, however,” says Eames playfully, uncomfortable with the sight of Arthur repentant and unsure, “reserve the right to win said virtue. And allow me to say that there I have some confidence I might succeed.”

Arthur looks up, meeting Eames’ eyes angrily, as if his moment of remorse had never been.

“I am equally certain of the opposite, Sir Thomas, and I will have you know that I am not a man prone to changing his mind.”

“Arthur,” says Eames, reasonably, moving his hand to encircle Arthur’s wrist, and tracing the thin skin of the underside with one finger. He smiles solicitously. “All this Sir Thomas business is awfully formal. Eames, please.”

And, just as Arthur is taking a breath to no doubt cut Eames to pieces, Eames scurries away, disappearing from the stables before Arthur can have the satisfaction.




Prior to Arthur’s arrival, Eames had never had a particular stablehand. His cousins all had men who looked specifically after their horses, and Benedict had a page who actually took his horse from the entrance of the house to Benedict’s stable boy in the yard, but Eames has always allowed Algernon to be unsaddled by whoever shows up first. He loves his horse, and handsomely rewards those who look after him well; the arrangement has always satisfied him.

Arthur isn’t the fastest of the men working in the stable, but he is the most meticulous. In the last weeks Eames’ saddle has been consistently polished to a high shine, and his stirrups practically gleam, even in dull light. Algernon’s coat is well brushed and glossier than it makes any sense for it to be, considering how much time Eames spends riding around muddy fields on his uncle’s business.

He doesn’t realise how accustomed he’s become to Arthur’s methodical manner, but one day he rides up to the stables, and as Michael comes forward to take Algernon, Eames smiles, but yells,

“Arthur!”

Michael holds up a hand good-naturedly, as if to say, Who am I to get between a horse and its rightful keeper?, and Eames can see him fighting a grin as Arthur walks slowly out of the stable, chin held high and as disinclined to hurry to Eames’ service as ever.

Eames hands Arthur the reins, and then fumbles in the saddlebag.

“For Algernon,” he says to Arthur, extracting two apples from the bag, and then, “For you,” handing over a light tunic dyed in pale grey.

Eames has been watching a tear at the bottom of one Arthur’s tunics work its way steadily upward for the past five days, seemingly resistant to mending.

Arthur raises an eyebrow.

“I outgrew it,” says Eames, shrugging, and Arthur hands the apples back to Eames, holding the shirt by the shoulders and shaking it out in the wind.

Eames sees him take in the narrow shoulders and the crisp cloth, the new stitching. Arthur’s mouth twitches. When he looks back up at Eames there is no sign of a smile on his face, but his eyes are still dancing.

“I do like the thought of you in my clothes,” says Eames, waggling his eyebrows stupidly, and Arthur says,

“Oh, be quiet. They’re not your clothes and we both know it. But thank you anyway.”

“Does this mean you’ll let me watch you put it on?” asks Eames, dropping an arm over Arthur’s shoulders as they walk towards Algernon’s stall at the back of the stables.

“No,” says Arthur, shuffling out from under Eames’ arm and beginning to undo the saddle belt. His voice is cooler when he says, “It absolutely does not.”

“I don’t understand you, Arthur,” says Eames. He pitches his voice playfully, but he’s half-serious. “How does a man live without ever giving in to pleasure?”

Arthur is quiet as he hangs the saddle on its hook. Then he says,

“Your cousin Julian runs up debts with every merchant in town. Last year he disgraced both the baker’s daughter and the blacksmith’s wife. I heard that he ordered seven bolts of velvet and silk and cotton from London recently, to have entirely new clothes made for him in the middle of the year. Why don’t you partake in any of those pleasures?”

Eames laughs.

“My cousin Julian is the second son of a earl. I am that earl’s bastard nephew.” He smiles, probably a little bitterly. “The opportunities that are open to us in life are hardly the same.”

Arthur looks at him evenly, for a long moment.

“You may be a bastard,” he says, not flinching away from the word as another man might, “But you are a bastard whom the earl recognises as his nephew. I am the son of a cobbler. Would you not say that what we two can do in this life is also hardly the same?”

They look at each other for a few silent breaths. Eames can feel Arthur’s eyes boring into his, and the skin at the back of his neck prickles.

“I understand,” he says, perfectly serious. And then, mischievously, “Does that mean that you’re only resisting my considerable charms because of—”

“Oh, get out,” says Arthur, motioning exasperatedly towards the stable door.

“All right,” says Eames, amiably, because though Arthur is rolling his eyes, there is something like fondness in his voice.




When Eames was fourteen, his discovery of what people were truly like underneath their surface pleasantry—particularly when out of sight and earshot of one’s powerful uncle—had been quick to lodge itself in his chest like a splinter. When imagining what kind of man might draw him into a friendship as an adult, already wise in the counterfeits of the world, Eames would not have described a man of Arthur’s constitution.

But though nothing about the way in which they interact is peaceable, Eames nonetheless finds himself developing an abiding affection for Arthur’s prickly, fairly disagreeable self. It is born out of respect for Arthur’s sharp mind and his quick tongue, and out of a sense of recognition of his capacity for loyalty, which is not unlike Eames’. It is grounded in the knowledge that Arthur, who has little experience of working in a large household and who, Eames suspects, will never truly abide a master of any sort, no matter the length of his service, always tells the truth.

For weeks after Eames had given his word that he had no intention of drawing Arthur into anything Arthur did not want for his own sake, Arthur had continued to watch him with suspicious eyes, testing the boundaries of Eames’ assurance with sharp words and refusals. When Eames had done as he had said he would, and when Arthur’s cutting commentary on everything from Eames’ half-hearted attempts at seduction to Eames’ ability to shod his own horse failed to draw anything more than amusement from him, Arthur had looked at Eames for a long moment, as if to say, Fine. I can meet you on these terms.

Ever since then their unspoken understanding has involved mostly half-hearted advances from Eames (he knows better than to spook a skittish horse further) and acerbic after acerbic observation from Arthur. Eames gives as good as he gets, because he, on principle, has never taken a punch (verbal or otherwise) lying down. Not even when outnumbered, lost, and too drunk to see straight in a public house somewhere in Cambridgeshire, and certainly not in his own stableyard.

Like good combatants, though, they also develop a solid system of détentes. Arthur helps Eames compile inventories for his uncle’s lands. Eames brings Arthur books that he’s recently finished with and then listens to Arthur speak about them, often at stupefying length. They both make fun of Julian and of Eames’ other cousins, but whenever they’re caught laughing together, Arthur makes excuses and quickly finds somewhere else to be.

It’s almost harvest time when Eames’ uncle decides to have a jousting tournament. Eames has never completely grasped the logic of these things, but he supposes that when one has tilting lanes, political friendships to upkeep, and more land than one knows what to do with, jousting tournaments seem like reasonable pursuits.

Eames is also more than passably good at it, and more often than not he comes out with some gold for his trouble, so he’s as happy as the average man when his uncle announces his plans. Not as happy as Julian, whose habitual heavy drinking at dinnertime makes most things sounds grand; but not as unhappy as Benedict, either, whose pious discipline does not approve of jousting tournaments.

At all.

“What, exactly, is the point of all this?” says Arthur, kneeling to attach Eames’ greaves with a great heaving sigh of disgust.

“We hit each other with sticks and then someone gets gold at the end of it, Arthur. Hopefully us.”

Arthur looks up at him, curving an eyebrow.

“I can safely say that I want to have no association with this practice whatsoever, gold or not,” he says, and Eames pats him on the shoulder, which is clad in his uncle’s red and white, and says,

“Too late, I’m afraid.”

“No, really,” Arthur says, hefting Eames’ first lance with surprising ease and motioning him impatiently out the door when Eames tries to take it from him. “What’s the purpose here? Of the expense, the social pageantry?”

“Could you possibly try to contain yourself, Arthur?” asks Eames, tightening a vambrace as they walk and trying not to drop his helmet. “I can’t think all the fun you allow yourself to have can be good for your health.”

Arthur declines to comment, but something in the set of his jaw tells Eames that he was actually expecting an answer, rather than being difficult for sport.

“My uncle has to give the impression of wealth and power,” he says as they approach the lists. “This also allows the landed men of the county to release the frustration of any quarrel without having to go through the trouble of the actual quarrel itself, which my uncle would have to arbitrate.”

Arthur nods seriously.

“Also,” Eames says, stopping to pick up a flower that someone has thrown from the makeshift stands, “My uncle is very rich. I think he gets bored sometimes.”

Arthur allows one corner of his mouth to lift up by the tiniest increment. Eames threads the flower through his chainmail.

Julian has just finished tilting, and Eames is about to ask Arthur to fetch Julian’s destrier from him when Arthur presses a damp piece of parchment into his hand.

“What’s this?” asks Eames, squinting in the bright sunlight.

He can see a series of numbers scribbled in neat lines across the parchment, and he looks at Arthur, confused.

“The other side,” says Arthur, as if this should be perfectly obvious, and Eames flips the scrap in his hand to see

Fitzwilliam. Favours hits to the outside shoulder; drops lance before strike. Left elbow weak.
Woodville. Drops inside shoulder to allow blow to glance off: strike on outside shoulder.
Neville. Strikes breastplate; aims to unseat. Thrusting forward to strike first best course.


“What…?” Eames says, and Arthur rolls his eyes as if extremely put upon.

“They’ve all been here for over a week, Eames,” he says, gesturing to the men gathered in the tilting lane.

“Yes…?” says Eames, still unsure of what Arthur is saying.

Arthur jabs a fingers towards the lists, then towards the parchment.

“These are the men you’re likely to face in the first three rounds, if you get through and all goes as expected based on my calculations of how they will fare based on skill. Most of the pageboys and the rather astounding number of people these men have brought with them talk, particularly after they’ve been drinking for a few hours. I have, in an anticipatory move totally foreign to the likes of you, I’m sure, taken advantage of this fact.

After their names, I trust even you can understand that I’ve listed their weaknesses. I didn’t feel able to predict whether you’d go past the third round, or whom you might face if you did, but when you finish your second round I should have a better idea.”

Eames grants Arthur one short, very admiring look. Once he is certain Arthur has seen it, he says,

“You are actually the least fun man I’ve ever met in my life. Having spent some time in your company, I feel I can confidently say this now.”

Arthur blows a long-suffering breath out of his nose, and then turns on his heel. He returns a few moments later with Julian’s destrier.

“Well, to say that you are by nature the stupidest man I’ve ever met would not be accurate,” he says, holding Eames’ gauntlets as Eames pulls his helmet over his head.

Arthur waits for Eames to flip the visor before handing him his gauntlets, and then continues,

“I am convinced, however, that when it comes to the cultivation of stupidity, you really needn’t fear that you’ll ever meet your match.”

“Oh, Arthur,” says Eames, raising a gloved hand to his breastplate. “Please, say you’ll always be this kind.”

“I hope someone knocks you off your horse with a hit to the head,” Arthur answers, face blank.

Eames smiles as widely as he can, and puts his foot to the stirrup.

“Well, go on then,” he says, because he knows it riles Arthur to be hurried. “Give us a hand.”




The king takes a late summer progress and summons Eames’ uncle to Lincoln, and Eames and his cousins are instructed to accompany him. They ride to Doncaster with the king’s party, and only begin the journey home when the king continues to York. The August heat is oppressive: the sun beats down on them relentlessly, and under his doublet Eames can feel trickles of sweat making their way down his back.

They are less than half a day’s ride away from home when the weather turns. The temperature drops and a cool wind begins blowing steadily from the northeast as clouds roll in overhead. Eames turns his face into the breeze, content for the first time in days.

In his satchel there are two books for Arthur, as well as a small vial of ink. Eames hopes they make it home just before the rain begins. Then he can shuck off his heavy clothing, stable Algernon, and have just enough time to annoy Arthur before walking to the fields, where he intends to stand for as long as possible, letting the rain streak down his face.

He sees Arthur before he sees his uncle’s house. He’s a dark shadow against the golden fields, one arm bent to shield his face as he looks down the road. His face is not visible, but Eames knows the angles of his shoulders and his hips, and the darkness of his hair. Eames is quite busy thinking of the endless fodder that this will give him for mockery—“Couldn’t wait any longer, could you? Had to make your way down the road to wait for me?”—so he can’t quite put his finger on what alerts him to the fact that something is wrong.

Maybe it’s the tense line of Arthur’s arm and his shoulders, or perhaps it’s the fact that he’s pacing as he watches the dust that the horses are kicking up. Arthur is not prone to pacing. Eames watches as Arthur takes a step forward and raises a hand, almost as if he’s about to call out, and it’s the sight of Arthur getting ahead of himself—Eames and his family are much too far to hear anything Arthur says—that makes him certain that something is the matter.

He draws Algernon level with his uncle’s horse and asks his uncle’s leave to deal with household business. If his uncle thinks the request is odd he doesn’t say so; he nods, and Eames spurs Algernon forward. They’ve been riding for days and the poor horse hardly has anything left in him, but he obediently breaks into a canter, carrying Eames down the road.

Arthur stops moving when he sees Eames break away. At least Eames assumes that Arthur knows it’s him, though at that distance he can’t be distinguishable from the other men, all dressed in red and white.

“What is it?” he shouts as soon as he can see Arthur’s face, which is lined with something much deeper than Arthur’s usual thoughtfulness.

Algernon trots to a stop at Arthur’s side, and Arthur looks up at Eames and says, quietly,

“My sister-in-law is ill. She took a fever three days ago. The village healer has been, but she says she needs to be bled. James is away—” James is Arthur’s older brother, Eames thinks—“And he took the horse, and all the silver we’ve been saving with him, to buy seed and two pigs. I—”

The sight of Arthur’s clenched fists, of his desperately unhappy face—Eames knows that nothing in the world upsets Arthur more than being caught unprepared—makes an answering desperation burst to life somewhere beneath Eames’ sternum. He reaches for his satchel and places it in front of him, and moves forward in his saddle. He takes his left foot out of the stirrup and holds a hand down to Arthur.

For a moment there is familiar exasperation on Arthur’s face (“If you think I am getting on the back of your horse, Eames, you have another think coming”), but then Arthur is reaching up to grasp Eames’ hand, and swinging back to perch at the edge of Eames’ saddle. It’s not comfortable for either of them, but Eames simply stands in his stirrups to make more room and says,

“Hold on.”

The rain, of course, starts halfway to Arthur’s brother’s fields. It comes down with a vengeance Eames did not expect, matting his hair to his forehead and making his doublet feel as heavy as armour. Arthur’s fingers are clenched at Eames’ lower back, holding on to his tunic, and Eames can feel how cold his skin is.

Algernon stumbles and trips in the mud as Eames turns him off the road, but he does not falter. Eames leans forward to whisper to him and to pat his neck, and Arthur leans with him, a heavy weight at Eames’ back. When they reach James’ cottage Arthur dismounts stiffly and Eames follows as quickly as he can, equally stiff in his wet clothing. The thought that Arthur will be the next to catch the fever is heavy at the bottom of Eames’ stomach, and he pushes Arthur in front of him, trying to get him in the house.

The cottage is stuffy and hazy with juniper smoke. The village healer is at Arthur’s sister-in-law’s bed, and she turns a craggy face to look at Eames and Arthur as they enter. Her eyes are sombre.

“Change,” Eames says to Arthur, moving to speak to the healer. He empties the contents of his satchel haphazardly on the floor by the fire as he walks past, hoping they can be salvaged.

“I don’t have any clothing here,” says Arthur through chattering teeth, and Eames turns back around, gripping Arthur by the shoulders and spitting out,

“Go put on some of James’, you fool.”

Arthur begins rummaging in a small chest, and Eames stalks forward to the bedside, careful not to drip on the bedclothes.

“I’ve rubbed her with water and vinegar,” says the healer, shaking her head. “But I think now she needs to be bled. The physician is at home, but he would not come without payment, even though I told him this family was in the earl’s service.”

Eames is not surprised. He nods, and heads back towards the door. He fumbles at his doublet’s laces with stiff fingers, not seeing the point in continuing to wear the sodden thing. He’s contemplating slicing through the ties, but then Arthur’s fingers are there, undoing the knots and pushing the velvet off Eames’ shoulders.

When Eames opens the door, Algernon is standing by a tree, not moving despite the fact that Eames did not tether him. Eames says,

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” and Arthur nods.

He does not say anything in reply, but his long fingers circle Eames’ wrist and squeeze once.

The physician is not inclined to ride out into the storm when Eames gets there, but Eames uses a combination of his size and his name to frighten a younger man in the house, probably the physician’s son, into fetching another horse. Eames rides at the physician’s left flank the whole way back to Arthur’s brother’s house, urging both horses to trot faster.

The bleeding requires the physician to draw the bedclothes back from Arthur’s sister-in-law’s bed—“Anne,” says Arthur quietly. “Her name is Anne”—and so Eames and Arthur leave the physician to his business, with the healer to supervise.

The process takes some time, and Eames and Arthur huddle unhappily by the door, facing the wall. They sit in silence, doing their best to ignore the sounds coming from the bed. It’s hard to hear anything but the rain, but every once in a while Anne will let loose a dry, reedy scream, and Eames and Arthur will say nothing, though Eames does not think he’s imagining the way Arthur curls a little further against him, although it’s almost imperceptible.

When the physician is done, Eames pays him generously enough for his trouble that he only grumbles minimally about having to ride home in the rain. The healer declares she will stay the night—Eames gathers she is Arthur’s mother’s friend—and Eames shuffles awkwardly towards the fire to pick up his bag, his damp clothes still clinging to him uncomfortably.

Arthur crouches next to him, helping Eames place his things back in his satchel. When he picks up the two books, which Eames is happy to find are hardly damp at all after their time in front of the fire, and moves to put them in the bag, Eames waves him off with one hand. He’s too tired to explain, but Arthur seems to understand. They repeat the same process with the ink. When they stand up, there’s an odd, bitter twist to Arthur’s mouth.

Eames dips his head towards the healer. Anne is asleep. As they reach the door, Arthur looks at him, and says, crossly,

“I gave all the silver to James. How could I have done that?”

Eames wants to mock him, but all he can offer at this point is a tired smile.

“You’re right, Arthur,” he says after a moment of silence, in which Arthur does not slide his eyes from Eames’. Eames is apparently unable to resist the temptation of at least a small amount of ridicule. “You should absolutely have foreseen that Anne would fall ill with a fever, that the healer would be unable to do anything, that my uncle and his household would be away with the king for an extra day, that the physician wouldn’t come on your or the healer’s word, and that Anne would worsen. How could you not have known?”

Arthur shakes his head at him, not rising to the bait. He seems truly angry.

“No,” he says tightly. “You don’t understand. I gave all the silver to James, and he’ll spend it on the seed and the pigs.”

Eames leans forward a little, encouraging Arthur to keep going. When Arthur stays silent, he prompts,

“And…?”

“And we can’t pay you back, Eames,” Arthur spits, in one angry rush. “Not now, not this year. Judging by the amount of coin you gave the physician, possibly not ever.”

Eames feels an odd combination of things: frustration, and wry amusement, and anger, and exhaustion, and, almost unwillingly, affection. He doesn’t say anything. He just gives Arthur a long, silent look, which he thinks will more than communicate how he feels about Arthur’s foolishness.

“Yes,” says Arthur, after a moment. “Sorry. I— Yes.”

Eames snorts.

“Thank you, is what I’m trying to say,” Arthur finishes waspishly.

Eames places a hand on Arthur’s shoulder, and says,

“I’ll send Michael or Matthew on when I get home. Get them to fetch me if you need. Don’t come back until James returns.” Then, “She’ll be fine, Arthur.”

Arthur drops a cheek towards Eames’ hand, but reverses the movement almost as soon as it begins. He flushes. Eames raises his knuckles and brushes them once against Arthur’s face, and then he whistles for Algernon.

Algernon plods out of the shadows, looking disgruntled, and Eames pats his neck and his flank once more before he mounts.

He looks at Arthur one more time, standing against the light of the doorway. Then he forces himself to cluck tiredly at Algernon, and begins the long ride home.




The daughter of a minor nobleman whose lands are at the western fringes of Eames’ uncle’s is married, and the man sends a rider to extend an invitation. It wouldn’t really do for Eames’ uncle or Benedict to attend, and Julian and William have plans to go hunting. Robert dislikes most social gatherings that don’t involve his brothers, and when Eames’ uncle looks at him, he raises a hand, not looking up from his letters, and points at Eames.

“Will you go, Thomas?” asks his uncle, and Eames, who can’t see why anyone would go out of his way to avoid a party, says,

“Of course, uncle.”

His uncle suggests that Eames take Matthew with him. Benedict looks over from where he’s going over accounts with the steward and says,

“Eames has his own stable hand now, father. The boy whose brother has lands across the creek.”

Eames’ uncle shakes his head as if to indicate his utter disinterest, and says,

“Fine. Take the new boy, then.”

“Yes, uncle,” says Eames, obediently. “But I’m going to need to borrow a horse.”




“If you can give me a single reason why it makes sense for me to go to this thing, I’ll come,” says Arthur.

He is shovelling hay into Algernon’s stall.

“It’s a whole morning’s ride through the flattest, driest part of my uncle’s lands, and you’re very pleasant to look at,” says Eames, immediately.

Arthur looks at him, unimpressed.

“If you expect me to endure your company for a whole morning, I’m going to need an actual reason.”

“You spend whole mornings with me all the time,” says Eames. “That doesn’t even make sense.”

“Not voluntarily,” says Arthur.

“Yes voluntarily,” says Eames. “Last week I was supervising work in the fields and you came to fetch me when it was time to eat.”

Arthur opens his mouth as if to retort, then settles for turning his attention back to the hay.

Eames smiles. He thinks for a moment, then says,

“I know you want me to give you a reason for riding half a day to drink at someone’s wedding, tiring two horses instead of one and leaving the stable one pair of hands short, which doesn’t make sense to you. I don’t really have one. My uncle told me to take someone with me, probably to give the impression that I’m more important than I am, and I suspect I really will get horrendously bored on my own. I might be forced to start drinking on the way.”

Arthur has some sort of irrational notion that drinking while riding always results in being murdered by bandits. Eames has tried to make sense of it (“I don’t understand, Arthur; did bandits seize you as a child? Did they take you away from your sums and reading and force you to play in the fields?”), to no avail.

It works immediately; Eames swallows a laugh at the sight of Arthur’s outraged face only by sheer force of will.

“I don’t have a horse,” says Arthur. A beat later, “And before you ask, no, I am not riding with you.”

“Now, Arthur, it really isn’t as unpleasant as all that, is it?”

“That was the once, Eames, and Anne was ill.”

“Well, actually,” says Eames, thinking of the night two weeks ago when he had ridden Arthur back to his parents’ house in the village, after night had fallen while they’d still been working on the inventories in Eames’ rooms, and of the Thursday before, when Arthur had found Eames in the fields and let him know his uncle was looking for him, and wanted Eames to hurry back.

“Eames,” says Arthur. His tone is low and dangerous. “That was the once.”

“Of course it was,” says Eames, genially, willing to do his part to keep the peace. “I remember now. Anyway, you needn’t worry: Matthew has already found you a horse.”




On the way to the festivities, they ride past the mulberry brambles at the edge of the forest. Arthur keeps his face turned away from Eames when he says,

“When I was a child, my father sometimes brought me here, in the summer. When your uncle said we could.”

The mulberry brambles are a half-mile long stretch of mulberry bushes that, by all accounts, began growing of their own accord in the time of Eames’ great-uncle. Each year they produce bucketloads of fruit, and Eames’ family has always allowed the villagers and the nearby farmers to come pick their own in the late summer, provided they don’t abuse the privilege.

“When I was a boy,” Eames counters, “sometimes my uncle would send me and my youngest cousins with whomever the steward sent to sell the mulberries at market, in Peterborough.”

He pauses.

“My cousins would always get bored and run off to do something else, but I would always help with the selling. Sometimes I would sneak a coin when the person in charge wasn’t looking.”

“Sometimes?” asks Arthur, arching an eyebrow.

“Or every time,” says Eames. “One of the two; I can’t quite remember.”

“They never caught you?”

“I made sure to always stay in plain sight of them, so I was always the least likely culprit,” says Eames. “I’ll have you know that I have extremely quick hands, Arthur. Perhaps I can show you, one day.”

Arthur’s nose twitches, which usually means that he wants to chastise Eames for making an inappropriate comment, but doesn’t want to admit he has noticed the comment’s inappropriate nature in the first place.

“Why did you do it?” he asks eventually, turning to look at Eames. “What if you’d been caught?”

Eames shrugs.

“At first I wasn’t sure if I might fall out of my uncle’s favour,” he says. “He loved my mother very much, but that was never a guarantee. Better to be caught stealing with some silver put away than to be sent away and caught without silver.”

Arthur keeps looking at him, as if he knows there’s more to the story. There is.

“I used to keep all my coin at the tip of a boot under a loose floorboard,” Eames says. “I kept adding to it until the year my mother died.”

“And then you stopped?” Arthur asks.

Eames does not want to avoid a direct question, but neither does he want to say something Arthur does not want to hear.

“And then… I was old enough to have a trade, whether my uncle welcomed me in his household or not. But.”

“But?” asks Arthur.

Eames is still reluctant to continue. Arthur waits him out.

“I have always liked a challenge,” says Eames. “And some part of me has never forgotten what it was like being told I could never have things, simply because of who I was. Because of my birth. So… sometimes I would take things, simply because I could. Not from my uncle, of course, who in the end, it turns out, has shown me nothing but the kindness I didn’t expect from him as a boy. And not from anyone who didn’t deserve it.”

Arthur’s mouth is pursed. Unsurprisingly, he does not approve.

“It’s what I was best at,” says Eames, shrugging. “However unconventional the skill might have been.”

He cannot find it in himself to feel ashamed, though Arthur’s displeased face brings him as close to it as he’s ever been.

“I know you are skilled with numbers and with inventories, Arthur, but there is something in this world, though you may not yet have found it, that will call to you in a way no other thing does, because you can do it in a way no other man can. It is not easy to resist that call, even if it comes from a place that you might not have chosen for yourself. I would argue that it does not always make sense to.”

Arthur’s face loses some of its critical cast. When he looks at Eames, however, his eyes are still calculating.

“Don’t look at me as if I rob old people and children by night,” says Eames. “Because I do not. And I have not, in fact, taken something that was not mine by right since I was a teenager.”

There is a long silence. They ride through it companionably until Arthur turns to him, and says,

“We are different.”

He gives a slow, grave nod, as if considering his own statement.

“Yes,” Eames agrees. “We are.”

“I wonder what it means,” says Arthur, “that I do not care. Not even when you say things like this.”

He sounds honestly surprised, and Eames cannot help a smile.

Sometimes Arthur, who has spent an age considering each of life’s possible eventualities, is wonderfully young.

“The things you bring me,” says Arthur suddenly, turning to him. “They aren’t…?”

“Like I said,” says Eames. “I haven’t done it in a very long time. Now, if you want me to steal or otherwise behave improperly for you, you only have to ask,” he continues, only half-joking. “But no— I haven’t done it yet.”




It’s the looks, at first, that tip Eames off to the fact that something is happening. The house has been busy with a visit from the Earl Marshal, and Eames has been cheerfully enjoying the freedom that comes with this kind of affair. Everyone in the house—from Eames’ aunt and uncle to the cooks—has his or her full attention on attending to the Earl’s every whim; this usually means that Eames can do as he likes.

His uncle has expressly ordered him to make himself scarce: the Earl Marshal has a son, and to say that there is no love lost between him and Eames would be a gross understatement. Eames once (very) narrowly avoided being run through by the Earl’s guards after a fight with the Earl’s son, whose name is also Thomas. He did manage to get two very satisfying punches in before Benedict had to step in, though.

For the past week, Eames has been moving through the corridors like a shadow, doing his best to avoid the Earl’s retinue and spending most of his time in the fields or the village. He’s attempting to continue to do just that when he catches Ella and Mary, who tend his aunt’s rooms, looking at him and whispering. When the episode is repeated in the next corridor—this time it’s Henry, his uncle’s page, who doesn’t whisper, but stares fixedly at Eames as he walks past—Eames begins to get the unpleasant feeling that he’s done something—though he doesn’t know what—and that he’s about to end up on the wrong end of his uncle’s wrath.

It’s a silly habit, assuming he’s in trouble before he knows the details and when he hasn’t done anything, but that doesn’t stop Eames from walking more quickly towards the kitchen, trying to make his way out of the house. When his aunt’s clear, high voice calls,

“Thomas; a minute, if you will?” in what Eames thinks is a deceptively pleasant voice, he curses softly before turning, saying,

“Of course, Aunt Catherine,” and heading towards her chambers, from where she is beckoning to him with one elegant finger.

He’s surprised when he walks in to find his uncle sitting in his aunt’s greeting room, looking out a window. Benedict is also there, and Julian is sitting in a corner. He smiles enthusiastically when Eames walks in: the scene is ominous enough without it, but at the sight of Julian’s grin, Eames knows immediately that something has actually happened.

“How hard can it be, Thomas, to avoid vexing the Earl’s son for one week? One week, Thomas—seven days. Could you explain to me why that isn’t possible for you?”

Eames starts at the sound of his uncle’s voice. He lets the activities of the past few days shuffle quickly through his mind. When he cannot come up with any reason why his uncle should be cross, he says, simply,

“Uncle?”

“You know I have no objections to you or your cousins doing as you will with the men and women in your service, as long as you treat them with the respect they deserve.”

“I do,” says Eames cautiously. He does not want to commit himself to anything before his uncle makes things clearer.

His uncle heaves a long-suffering sigh, but if Eames is not mistaken, there’s something like a smile in his eyes, despite his otherwise stern demeanour. His aunt is doing a poorer job of hiding her amusement; she has turned her face towards Benedict, but Eames can see a smile in the curve of her cheek.

“Really, cousin, awfully selfish of you,” says Julian, still grinning.

“Could I trouble you to say what—?” Eames begins, but his uncle interrupts.

“It’s one thing not to want the Earl’s son to interact with our servants in any considerable manner,” he says. “I think we can all agree that avoiding that is a wish this entire family shares.”

Two years ago, during another one of these visits, Benedict had found the Earl’s son in his rooms, pressing Benedict’s unhappy scribe into a corner. Benedict had said nothing, simply requesting the scribe’s help with something elsewhere in the house, but that’s how the business with Eames and the Earl’s son had originally begun, after a chance meeting in an inn.

Eames nods at his uncle, beginning to get some idea of what this might be about. If this is going where he thinks it might be, he can safely say that the peace his uncle has asked him to keep with the other Thomas is, as of this moment, a thing of the past.

“Despite that,” his uncle continues, holding up a finger at the sight of the changing expression on Eames’ face, “I am sure you can understand that some subtlety might have served us all well, in this matter.”

“Uncle,” says Eames. “It is my experience that the Earl’s son has considerable trouble understanding anything that even approaches subtlety, but I really have done my best this week—”

“Really, Thomas,” says his aunt, speaking for the first time. “Why not send the boy home for the week, if the other Thomas was causing trouble? Was it really necessary to make a spectacle in front of all the Earl’s men? In front of our entire household? Right as we were all returning from the gardens? I cannot imagine how you could have made a bigger hash of this. Whatever possessed you to tell that boy to say that? Your capacity for making trouble is not inconsiderable, Thomas, but even I must say that this has been by far your finest hour. If we can call it that.”

Eames clenches his jaw.

“Aunt Catherine, I haven’t—”

“The look on his face, though,” says Julian, gleefully. “I mean, it wasn’t the wisest thing to do, needless to say, but good heavens, I would almost say it was worth it, just for the look on his face.”

“It was quite good,” Benedict acknowledges, quietly.

His small smile seems like a foreign thing on his usually grave face.

“What did he say again?” asks Julian, and Eames looks between them, trying to glean enough information to know what grievance it is, exactly, that he can add to his long list of resentments against the Earl’s son.

“‘I am in the service of Sir Thomas,’” begins Benedict, quietly.

Julian laughs. Even Eames’ uncle smiles.

“‘And I would advise you, sire, that he does not take kindly to interference from any man. No matter who that man might be.’”

Julian is positively hooting by now. Eames can imagine it: the haughty, inappropriate, insulting tilt of Arthur’s jaw; the icy contempt with which he would have made every word drip.

“Cool as a king in his own hall, as if he weren’t speaking to a man ten times his better,” says Benedict. “Of course you had to go and find someone just as bad as you, Eames.”

“Of course,” says Eames, unaccountably amused.

“Memorable looks on the Earl’s son’s face aside,” his uncle cuts in, seriously, “It was really a very foolish thing to do, Eames. Now, I understand that this boy may be… special to you, and far be it from me to tell you what to do in that regard—” His uncle would not hesitate to intervene for an instant, if the circumstances of Eames’ birth were different, but Eames finds that in this instance, that old bitterness is fairly easy to bear— “but you will apologise to the Earl’s son. And though I only gave the impression that the boy was to be punished, because god knows he is not at fault here; only you could have put him up this madness—” Indeed, Eames thinks wryly, Only I— “I trust you will handle the matter with some delicacy, going forward. Have him take two or three lashes—”

Eames has no idea what his face looks like, but his uncle stops mid-sentence, then says,

“Or send him home and say he took two or three lashes; I don’t care. Just give the impression that the matter has been dealt with, will you?”

Eames looks around the room. They’re all looking seriously at him, but the air of amusement that Eames noticed as soon as he walked in has not entirely faded.

The look on Thomas’ face really must have been something.

He smiles.

“Of course, uncle,” he says, bowing ever so slightly. “I’ll do so. And… I apologise.”

“Oh, Eames,” says his uncle affectionately, the way he used to when Eames was a child, and would return muddied from the forest in the clothes his uncle had gifted him with just that morning. “I wish I could find it in myself to be stricter, because we all know we can’t afford to upset the Earl Marshal, but really… you should have seen the look on his face.”




Eames is not surprised when he walks into the stables and finds them seemingly empty. He has already stopped at the Earl’s rooms on the way, to apologise more than once to the Earl himself, citing attachments and foolishness: I’m sure, sire, that you can…, complete with self-conscious smile and embarrassed slope of the neck. Thomas had glared murderously at him the entire time, but Eames had been the picture of remorse, and Thomas had been unable to do anything but stand by as the Earl accepted Eames’ apology, saying,

“I remember what it was like to be young, Master Thomas, and to feel…”

Something about his face had suggested to Eames that the Earl, too, might have enjoyed the look on Thomas’ face.

Eames makes his way to the back of the building, where he can hear the soft brush of bristles over hair. Arthur does not look up when Eames enters Algernon’s stall, but Eames knows that Arthur knows he’s there. His shoulders are hunched, and there is a bright flush making its way up his neck.

Eames does not say anything. Eventually Arthur finishes brushing Algernon’s coat. He moves to put the brush in its place, still silent. When that is done, he looks at his hands for a long moment—they are interlaced in front of him, and he’s clearly fighting the urge to wring them—before looking up.

Eames gives him a long, cool look. Arthur blushes to the roots of his hair, but does not look away.

“Darling,” says Eames, evenly. “I cannot be sure, you understand, what with our long history of passion clouding my judgment as fully as it has—”

Arthur has the good grace to lower his eyes, ever so slightly.

“But,” says Eames, smiling because he just can’t help it, because Arthur’s sheer daring deserves copious quantities of admiring acknowledgement, “It is my impression that you called?”




It’s funny, and yet it isn’t at all.

Eames sends Arthur home to his parents’ for two days, but when the Earl Marshal decides to extend his stay, Eames has no choice but to call Arthur back.

“The Earl and his family won’t be returning home before meeting the king on his journey to London,” says Eames, when Arthur walks into the stables on Thursday.

Arthur’s back is perfectly straight, and his face gives nothing away. Eames takes this to mean that people have been staring at him again.

“I need to report to my uncle on the harvest in the northern and southern fields, and I could use the help making sense of the records the steward gave me. I’m sure there was a time when I knew perfectly well how to manage this myself,” he says, self-deprecatingly, “But alas, it appears that time is no longer. Sorry you had to come back.”

Arthur gives him a small nod. Eames smiles fondly at him, walking towards him and brushing a hand carefully over the curve of his shoulder.

“They’ll forget, Arthur,” he says. “Don’t give them a reason not to.”

Arthur crumples his face into an unhappy frown, and suddenly—just like that—Eames realises that keeping the smile on his own face is taking considerable effort.

“It’s not to say that I could ever be easily forgotten, of course,” he teases, though his heart isn’t quite in it. He’s trying to make sense of what he feels, which means that his mind is only half on what he’s saying.

“No, Arthur, but speaking truly: you need only keep the pretence up for a few more days, until the Earl and his wretched son are gone.”

“I’m not—”

Arthur makes an incoherent, frustrated sound low in his throat, as if he can’t take a moment more of it. Eames has never known him to really lose his temper (though he suspects it will be something to watch, whenever it does happen), and he doesn’t do so then. He only frowns more heavily and kicks at a bale of hay with the tip of his foot, almost like an afterthought.

“Come, now, don’t be like that, pet,” says Eames, peaceably.

Arthur narrows his eyes at the name, and says, crossly but clearly amused despite himself,

“Oh, be quiet.”

Eames shrugs good-naturedly.

“Not that I like to be the one to say it, darling,” he says, meaning the opposite, “But you are the one who informed the household of our secret assignation, of the long hours we’ve spent putting together… inventories. Of the way in which you have sometimes allowed me to press you into sweet-smelling hay, and—”

Arthur’s eyes blaze, cutting Eames off mid-mockery.

“What,” he says coolly, looking up at Eames through narrowed eyes and letting his words come like a challenge, “You’d rather I had told him he could do as he pleased?”

Eames doesn’t think about it. When he looks up he’s already taken three steps, and he’s trapped Arthur into a corner by Algernon’s stall. He’s not entirely sure how he got there.

“You know perfectly well that—” he begins, but then the sight of Arthur’s wide eyes and parted lips makes him lose track of what he means to say.

Arthur is breathing quickly, and Eames feels his own breath speed up in response.

“What? I know perfectly well what?” Arthur asks in a low voice, and Eames presses one hand against one of Arthur’s wrists, holding it against the wall. Arthur’s skin is warm beneath Eames’ fingers, and feels parchment-thin: Eames can feel the rapid tremble of Arthur’s pulse.

Arthur’s eyes will not settle on Eames’. He looks down at their hands, and at the collar of Eames’ tunic, and over Eames’ shoulder at the wide corridor of the stables.

In response, Eames looks carefully at Arthur’s face. He looks for any sign that Arthur is unhappy, or hesitant. Arthur does look unsure, but the lines of his forehead, and his mouth, and at corners of his eyes, are smooth.

“I,” says Eames, a little dry-mouthed. “I—”

“Oh, Eames,” says Arthur suddenly, going completely pliant against Eames’ chest.

Eames starts.

“What…?” he asks, confused, because he knows Arthur, and where a minute ago he was unsure but relaxed, now he seems utterly willing, but Eames can tell he’s actually nervous, unyielding.

Arthur winds the hand that Eames isn’t holding down upwards to curl in Eames’ tunic, and pulls him forward slowly.

Eames allows himself to be led. He breathes deeply against Arthur’s neck, and Arthur curves himself into Eames, putting his lips to Eames’ ear.

“He’s watching,” he whispers, all breath and practically no sound, and Eames fights the urge to laugh at how quickly this has turned ridiculous.

“What?” he says, speaking equally quietly against Arthur’s hair. “Who?”

“The other Thomas,” says Arthur, so venomously that Eames can’t help laughing any longer, and does.

He tries to disguise it, pressing closer to Arthur. Arthur winds his right foot up and curls his heel against Eames’ calf, and Eames shudders closer without thinking.

“I hate that man,” he says, holding himself still against Arthur and running the tip of one finger against Arthur’s collarbone.

“Yes,” says Arthur, tilting his head back ever so slightly. “I know.”

Eames is just thinking about pressing his lips against the soft skin of Arthur’s neck—they need to pass the time somehow—when Arthur relaxes against him. His body tenses, and his knees lock, but Eames can tell he’s more at ease than he was a moment ago.

“He’s gone,” Arthur says, still quietly.

Eames nods, and takes a small step back. Arthur is looking at him steadily, a tiny smile playing in the dips of his cheeks.

Eames smiles back, trying to regain some sense of footing. He’s happy the other Thomas is gone; unfortunately, so is whatever was pulling them together before he arrived, like a fragile, thin strand of silk.

“I hate that man,” he repeats, shaking his head, reaching down to brush some imaginary dust from his breeches.

He shuffles a little, and sees Arthur’s feet doing the same. His boots are scuffing swirls in the dust.

Eames looks up.

Arthur’s eyes are warm as they watch him, and the air between them is heavy with unsaid things.

It’s funny, the entire thing. And yet it also isn’t—not at all.







Onwards to part ii.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-09-03 06:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mikhale.livejournal.com
Arthur has some sort of irrational notion that drinking while riding always results in being murdered by bandits. Eames has tried to make sense of it ("I don’t understand, Arthur; did bandits seize you as a child? Did they take you away from your sums and reading and force you to play in the fields?"), to no avail.

WHY IS THIS IS THE CUTEST THING EVER? WHY???

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