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At the End of the Pier

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Arthur loves Chicago. He loves landing at O'Hare or Midway with the knowledge that he can disappear in seconds--in a taxi, on a train, on a bus, on another plane, even by boat if he so desires. He loves melting into the city, mixing into the mess of people in the Loop, just another urbanite or businessman in the crowd.

Today he's walking down Navy Pier--more touristy than he usually prefers, but it's pleasant enough despite the late afternoon crowds of families and teenagers: the stores to his left, the water and boats to his right. He walks past the food vendors, the Ferris Wheel, the salsa band playing on the pavilion, the Spirit of Chicago as she makes a slow, lumbering turn towards open water, watching all the while for a familiar figure, and in the end Arthur finds him exactly where he expects him to be--sitting on one of the benches at the very end of the pier, looking out over the harbor.

"Arthur," Eames drawls from behind his aviators, not bothering to look up. He's demolishing a funnel cake with his nimble fingers, tearing it apart and eating it in bite size pieces, the plastic fork ignored. There's a smudge of powdered sugar on his lower lip and a light dusting on one knee of his slacks where the wind chased it from his paper plate. He's wearing a grey polo shirt that stretches across his chest to emphasize his muscles, tattoos just peeking out from beneath the sleeves, and with the sunglasses and his wind-ruffled hair, it's enough to make him a nicely Chicago kind of dangerous. It's a look that suits him. Arthur approves.

"You wanted to talk?" Arthur asks, leaning against the railing and declining the offered funnel cake.

"Always so wary," Eames tuts. "Sit down, Arthur, and talk with me a while. I'll not bite."

"Not unless asked?" Arthur says dryly, sitting down next to him.

Eames grins. "You know me so well."

Arthur crosses his legs and looks out at the lake, his elbow just barely brushing Eames's. His skin is almost certainly sun-warm; Eames is always a furnace on the coldest of days, and even in the cool breeze Arthur imagines he'd be soothingly warm to the touch. "What brings you to Chicago, Eames?"

"Oh, you know how I adore the American Midwest," Eames replies, separating another piece of funnel cake. "So lovely and wholesome and full of easy marks."

There's something different about Eames, something Arthur can't quite put his finger on, and it's got him on edge. "And now me."

"And now you," Eames agrees easily, turning to look at him for the first time, if briefly. Arthur can't see his eyes through the sunglasses, which doesn't help his unease. "Which I absolutely approve of."

"Why's that?" Arthur asks, looking back over the lake; the Spirit of Chicago is just now steaming slowly past them, across the harbor rather than directly out towards open water.

"Because your being here means no one has managed to fulfill the contract out on you, darling."

Arthur doesn't move for a second, his breath catching; this is what he'd been picking up on, why sitting here with Eames has him tense enough to bolt. He curses himself for ignoring his instincts, letting his history with Eames override his good sense, then tries to settle on his best escape--the water is likely to be cold but not lethally so, but there's nowhere to hide once he's in it, not unless he can make it around to the boats. On the other hand, he's not sure that Eames is ruthless enough to open fire in a crowd of civilians. Beyond that, he's thinking of the CTA transit card with seventeen dollars' fare in his shirt pocket, the easiest place to get a cab in the Loop, airfare from Midway to Atlanta to anywhere else. "Are you here to kill me, then?"

Eames's laugh is low and mocking. "Arthur, if I were going to kill you, the last thing I'd do is announce my intentions. I may be a gambler, but that doesn't mean that I believe in a fair fight."

A wave of nauseous relief passes over him as several things slot into place, suddenly--they're sitting in a public place, out at the end of a narrow peninsula with at least four Chicago police officers between them and land, by Arthur's count; furthermore, Eames's tight polo and slacks leave no room to conceal a weapon, except maybe a knife at his ankle. And while Eames is dangerous enough on his own, Arthur is fairly confident in his ability to hold his own, especially when he's armed and Eames isn't. "So what's the plan, then?"

"There we go," Eames murmurs, and he grins at Arthur while licking the powdered sugar from his fingers. "That, my dear, is up to you. This is an easy enough town to disappear in, or I'm sure you've any number of hidey holes to run to. I'll even offer a place of mine--well, friends of mine," he amends. "Rather discreet friends of mine. If you want company, that is."

It occurs to Arthur that Eames offering to go on the run with him and watch his six is perhaps the most romantic thing anyone's ever done for him. "You could have called," he says, disapprovingly, although they both know he doesn't really mean it.

"What, and not hear from you for the next six months while you handled the problem on your own? As fun as that may be, Arthur, I'd rather not. The world is just that much more dull when you've gone to ground." Eames wipes his licked fingers with his napkin, then looks at him expectantly. "So what's the plan, then?"

Arthur stands and straightens his suit coat. "I have some thoughts." He looks out over the water one last time, saying a mental goodbye. "How do you feel about international travel, Mr. Eames?"