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A Hook at One End and a Fool at the Other

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A fishing-rod was a stick with a hook at one end and a fool at the other.
-Samuel Johnson

 

"Holy shit," Arthur says as Eames enters the hotel suite.

"What's that?" Eames asks disinterestedly, moving to set his bags down; Arthur doesn't have that 'duck unless you want to take a bullet to the chest' tone of voice that he sometimes gets, so while he sounds fairly serious, Eames isn't too worried about it.

If only he knew.

"Holy shit," Arthur says again, eyes fixed on the telly. "They totally crashed their plane."

"Mmm?" That niggles something in the back of Eames's mind, and he glances at the screen and freezes.

"They totally crashed their plane," Arthur repeats. "The guy from River Monsters and his crew--they were looking for a new place to fish and their plane went down." Arthur's whole body is leaning towards the television from his perch on the couch, watching intently, as though he doesn't know if they're going to survive.

Eames's stomach flops weakly, like a fish in its death throes. "You're acting like this didn't happen, what, six bloody years ago." It must be a repeat of Jungle Hooks or something.

"Shh," Arthur replies, leaning in, his mouth parting unconsciously. Jeremy Wade is wading through chest high water now, looking shaken, and with good reason. Eames has never before watched this footage, and prior to tonight he'd had no intention of changing that fact. Still doesn't, really.

"I thought we had a job to do," he protests, thankful that Arthur is so fixated on the program that he doesn't notice how thin Eames's voice sounds.

Arthur waves his hand in dismissal. "Like I said, I take Sunday nights off." Actually, what Arthur had said in his email was something poncy along the lines of Sunday nights are for personal research. Eames just hadn't expected personal research to be a euphemism for--

"Oh my god," Eames says suddenly, fighting down a wave of nausea, "please don't tell me you've a hard on for Jeremy Wade."

"Why not?" Arthur replies, his eyes finally flicking up from the screen--albeit only for a brief second before they fixate back on Wade as he starts to stride through the jungle again, brushing off his cameraman's questions about how it felt to survive his first plane crash. "He's hot, he's fit, he's good with his hands, and he jumps into rivers full of piranhas without hesitation. What's not to love?"

Eames literally facepalms, because it's that or admit to himself that the man he's had a hard on over for several years now is currently drooling over... his father.

What even is my life, Eames thinks, and goes to make himself a drink.

 

* * *

 

Eames waits for the downtime between finishing this job (during which he'd confirmed Arthur's truly unsettling love for River Monsters) and starting the next before calling his dad. Which isn't really all that unusual; with their work schedules and penchants for traveling to out of the way places, he and his father sometimes go weeks without being able to talk. They keep track of each other by email, phone when they can, and every now and again if they end up in the same time zone they try to get together for dinner. It works for them; considering most people don't know that Eames talks to his father or that Jeremy Wade even has a son, and considering how much they both travel, it makes sense to have a fairly laid back relationship. Besides, anything more has proven to be disastrous in the past, much to Eames's mother's chagrin; Eames and his father are just too similar, sometimes.

"John," his father greets him, and he can hear the smile in his voice.

"Hey, Dad," Eames says, smiling despite himself. "How's the Niger?"

"Unbelievable," Jeremy enthuses. "Seriously, I've never been anywhere quite like it. How's Malmo?"

"Cold," Eames replies, because it is. "I'm never letting Arthur talk me into going to Scandinavia in January again."

"Still working with Arthur?" Jeremy asks curiously. "Or is this more of a vacation?"

"Just work," Eames replies, shaking his head; his father's seriously the worst gossip of all time. "Nothing more."

"You haven't taken my advice yet, have you," his dad says. It's not a question.

"Dad," Eames says flatly, "your advice was to get him pissed and shag his brains out, then declare my love. That's not what grown ups do."

"It worked for your mother and me," Jeremy chuckles.

Eames winces. "One, too much bloody information. Two, we see how well that worked out."

"Hey, your mother and I are still good friends, and we got you out of the deal. I count it as a win."

"Yes, well, I'm not looking to have his babies," Eames shoots back. "Besides, you don't know Arthur. He's--he's too posh, too proper, for that sort of thing. He'd just raise one eyebrow and push me in front of a bus to put us both out of our misery."

Jeremy clucks. "You'll never know if you don't try."

"Noted," Eames says, then changes the subject, because despite Jeremy's urgings, he has no plans to get plastered and jump Arthur, as much as he might like to try. "How's the fishing?" It's a huge concession from Eames, one he's only been making in the last couple of years as the show has taken off--during his teenage and early adult years, Jeremy's fishing had been a point of contention with Eames. He feels a bit badly about that, even still, and especially now that it's actually paid off.

They talk for a while longer before Jeremy has to go; he's doing research for a shoot, and he's got a meeting set up with some of the local guides. "Be safe," Eames tells his father.

"I will. You too, John," his father says. "And say hello to Arthur for me."

It's mostly a joke, or at least it's how Eames is going to take it, because there's no way in hell he's ever going to pass the message along. "I'll give him your love."

"Give him yours, instead," Jeremy says lightly. "I bet he'd be more interested in it."

Oh, if only you knew, Eames thinks darkly.

 

* * *

 

"Seriously," Eames explodes in exasperation, "do we have to have a bloody fishing show on twenty-four-seven?"

Arthur just blinks at him over his files. "But it's a River Monsters marathon," he says uncomprehendingly. "It's on all weekend."

"Yes, Arthur, I'm well aware, thanks to Jeremy bleeding Wade continually popping up in the corner of the screen to inform us of this fact," Eames bites out. "Seriously, Arthur, can we please change the channel? If I have to watch another minute of fishing, I might explode." It's not just Arthur's obvious and unsettling admiration for his father; Eames spent too many weekends during his adolescence huddled in a rowboat with Jeremy, both of them there under duress and bonded only in their mutual fear of Eames's mother's wrath. While he and his father have come to like each other, Eames is fairly certain he will never, ever like fishing.

"This is the one with the bull sharks, though," Arthur tries. "What, don't you like Jeremy Wade?"

"I don't like reality television," Eames says. "And seriously, there's only so much a man can take. Please, Arthur."

"Fine," Arthur grumbles, reaching for the remote... and waiting for the camera to cut away from Jeremy (currently splashing water into a beached shark's mouth) before he changes the channel.

"Thank you," Eames says, returning to his work.

Arthur's grouchy for the rest of the evening. To Eames's mind, it's worth it.

 

* * *

 

"Get that, would you?" Eames asks as his mobile starts buzzing on the table next to him. He's hunched over a birth certificate, pen in one hand, loupe glasses over his eyes, trying to make sure he's got the seal just right. "Just put it on speaker."

"John?" his father's voice fills the room. "I've a lousy connection, I think--can you hear me?" Too late, Eames remembers that Arthur is probably his father's biggest fan.

"Just a minute, Dad," he calls, scrambling to pick up the phone without smearing red ink all over his forgery. Arthur's looking at him funnily, but hopefully that's due to the scramble and not because he's considering looking further into the mystery that is Eames's paternity. "Okay," he says once he's got the phone off of speaker. "I'm here."

"Here as in New York City, right?" his dad asks. "You haven't had to flee the country yet?" Sometimes it's still startling how much Jeremy knows about what Eames does, and even more startling that he's as cool as he is about the whole thing.

"No, haven't had to flee the country yet," Eames replies, trying to ignore the look Arthur's giving him. "I'm still in New York. Why do you ask?"

"I'm in town for a meeting with my producers this afternoon and thought I'd see if you wanted to have lunch. If you've time for your old man, that is," Jeremy teases.

"Yeah, I've time," Eames replies. "Lunch, ah, lunch would be good." He raises his eyebrows at Arthur as if daring him to disagree, but Arthur only frowns back like he's trying to sort out these new pieces he's been handed to the puzzle that is Eames. "Got anywhere in mind?"

"There's an Ethiopian place between 3rd and Bleecker I've been wanting to try. See you there around 12:30?"

Bleecker's a little closer to their base of operations than Eames would prefer, but he can't come up with a good reason to say no. "Sounds good," he says instead. "12:30."

"I'll see you then," Jeremy says, and hangs up.

Eames sighs and puts his phone away, reaching for his loupe glasses again. "Yes?" he says when it's clear that Arthur is still staring at him. "Before you ask, he is actually my father."

"His voice sounds familiar," Arthur says. "Is it anyone I know?"

"No," Eames replies; technically, it's true. "Besides, you Americans think we all sound alike."

Arthur rolls his eyes at Eames, but he lets it drop.

Lunch goes well, even if his father ends up signing no less than five autographs through the course of their meal and then their walk through Washington Square Park. They finally say their goodbyes and Eames puts Jeremy into a cab and sends him off to his meeting. It's not until the cab's pulled away that he realizes that Arthur's walking up the sidewalk towards him.

"Hey," Arthur says casually. "Finished with your dad?"

"Yes," Eames replies, trying to gauge how much of his father Arthur managed to see, if any.

"Good. I had some thoughts on the second level that I wanted to run past you," Arthur says, and Eames breathes a sigh of relief. It's short-lived, though; they pass a bookstore and Arthur pauses, and only too late does Eames recognize the face on the six-foot tall poster in the window. "Hey, Jeremy Wade is signing here tonight."

Eames rolls his eyes at both Arthur for being such a fanboy and his father for neglecting to mention this fact. "Is he."

"Oh, c'mon," Arthur replies, scribbling down the time in his moleskine. "You took a three hour lunch."

"To see my father," Eames points out mildly.

Arthur ignores him. "I can totally take a couple hours for dinner."

Arguing any further would only make Arthur suspicious, so Eames lets it drop. He does, however, text his father once they get back to the warehouse. Sorry, can't recall, was that a meeting with your producers or a book signing?

both, comes the reply a moment later. didnt think youd be all that interested in latter and is usually full of ppl i have to pay attn to. but will make time if you want to come?

No thank you. Can't stand watching Arthur fanboy over you. And then, after he's hit send, Eames thinks, shit before hastily pounding out another text. He doesn't know who you are. You are NOT ALLOWED to tell him. And then, even though he's 99% sure his father's completely straight, Or sleep with him.

lol. Eames thinks it's incredibly bizarre that his dad knows the term. will be on my best behaviour.

That's what I'm afraid of, Eames sends back.

:-D Jeremy replies. Eames shakes his head, deciding that encouraging his father will only aggravate the issue, and flings himself into work in a vain attempt to ignore the fact that Arthur is skiving off of work to go fawn over his dad.

That evening, after Eames has alienated their extractor by being a prick and then annoyed their chemist by asking the same questions over and over again because he can't be arsed to pay attention to the answers, Arthur comes back looking like the cat that got into the cream. "And how was your signing?" Eames asks snarkily.

"It was good," Arthur replies, ignoring Eames's sulk, which takes half the fun out of it. Eames perseveres anyway. He's a champion sulker, especially where it comes to his dad. "He's even more amusing in person than he is on his show. Hotter, too."

Eames rolls his eyes. "If you're into a man old enough to be your father."

Arthur shrugs, flipping open a file folder. "Maybe I am."

"And did he sign anything for you?" Eames asks. "Your breast, perhaps?"

It's Arthur's turn to roll his eyes, but he reaches into a bag and pulls out a dog-eared, out of print copy of Somewhere Down the Crazy River (Eames had complained at the time of its publication that he was angry at his father for stealing the title of his own autobiography) and slides it down the table to Eames. "What, you didn't buy a copy of River Monsters: The Bestselling Book Named After the Bestselling Television Show?" Eames asks dryly, but despite his teasing, he handles the book carefully--it's been out of print for two decades now, and last he'd heard it was going for nearly two hundred pounds on the used book market.

He's almost afraid to see what Jeremy's written, but it's short and sweet: To Arthur. May all your dreams come true. -Jeremy. Eames snorts quietly to himself and lets the book fall closed. "Hardly a declaration of his love for you."

"Give him time," Arthur replies, holding out his hand for the book without looking up. "I'm sure he'll come around."

"I wait with bated breath," Eames snarks as he hands it back, nowhere near ashamed of his pun.

 

* * *

 

They're in a pseudo-Venice, all canals and brickwork, with bridges that lead in a large circle. "It's not so much a maze as it is a big loop," Ariadne explains as she walks them through it. "Like a labyrinth--you just have to keep turning right, basically."

"What happens if you turn left?" Eames asks, just to be contrary.

Ariadne shrugs. "You swim. And you end up on the opposite bank, which isn't actually the opposite bank. I folded everything in on itself, so it's kind of a Mobius strip. You'll just end up halfway across the labyrinth."

Eames blinks. It's terrifying how intelligent Ariadne is sometimes. "Well done," he says, looking around again.

Beside him, Arthur snorts. "You've got some interesting projections," he says to Eames in a low voice.

Eames follows his gaze to where a figure sits in the bow of a gondola, floating past. It's Jeremy, wearing his usual khaki pants and polarized sunglasses and flicking a lure into the water. At least he doesn't have a camera crew, Eames thinks.

"I thought you didn't like reality television," Arthur teases as Jeremy disappears down the canal.

"I don't," Eames replies, making a face. His father doesn't show up again on that job, but it's still disconcerting as all hell.

 

* * *

 

"For the record," Eames shouts over the gunfire, turning down an alley, "I never want to work in the Congo ever again. Any of it--Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Congo River, Zaire, I don't care--if it is now or ever has been named 'Congo' I want no part of it. If I never see a conga drum again I will die a very happy man."

"Noted," Arthur grunts, snapping off a pair of shots before turning to run alongside Eames. "Where are we going?"

"To the river," Eames replies as they hit the quay. "I have an idea."

They weave through carts and crates, ducking among the detritus of Kinshasa's port as Eames keeps an eye on the boats, Arthur watching their six. Finally, he sees what he's looking for. "This way," he tells Arthur, leading them out onto a pier.

Arthur's never been slow on the uptake, and he immediately starts to untie the boat as Eames jumps into the pilot's chair. "Tell me you know how to drive this thing," he says, tossing the first rope in and moving to untie the second.

Eames smirks. "Never underestimate the importance of a childhood raised on James Bond movies, darling," he calls as he strips the starter wire. "Or a misspent youth that included larceny and auto theft." Neither of which helped teach him to handle a boat as much as a childhood spent fishing unfamiliar waters with his father, but he's not quite ready to own up to that yet.

Arthur jumps aboard just as the engines roar to life, and Eames digs his satphone out of his pocket before tossing it to Arthur; he's going to need both hands free to handle the wheel and the throttle in the heavy current of the Congo. "Don't ask why, just dial my father--er, he's in there under 'Jeremy'--and ask him if he's upriver or down."

Arthur throws him a strange look but does as he's told. "No, I'm Arthur, actually," he shouts over the engine noise and the wind as Eames tears out into the harbor, then throws himself to the deck at the solid thump-thump-thump of bullets hitting the hull. "Just a minute, Mr. Eames," he yells into the phone, then drops it and shoots back.

"Just stay down unless they've got a boat," Eames calls, hunched over the steering wheel as he navigates around a ferry, buying them time and putting as many obstacles between them and the shore as possible. "And get the damn answer, Arthur--I don't want to have to double back and hope no one notices us."

"Are we really looking up your dad?" Arthur yells as he scrambles to catch the phone where it's sliding around on the deck, and then he's got it again. "Sorry. Eames wants me to ask if you're upriver or down." He nods, then calls "Up!" to Eames.

"Right," Eames says, hauling the wheel round and sending them off to starboard, heading east. "Tell him we'll ring him back once these bastards stop shooting at us."

Arthur relays the message and hangs up before any further damage can be done, thank God, scanning the harbor behind them.

Eames steers them through the wide river channel, sticking to the shipping lanes; if the police come after them, they're going to be better off blending in with the river traffic than they are hugging the shore, and this way they don't have to worry about accidentally running aground or fouling the prop. Arthur keeps looking at him expectantly, so he sends him to the bow of the boat to keep an eye out for any debris in the water. It's not until they get to the far side of Ile M'Bamou that he cuts the engine and pulls out his phone.

Jeremy picks up after half a ring. "John?"

"It's me," Eames confirms, hyperaware of Arthur hanging on every word, even though he's scanning the river behind them for trouble. "We're alright."

"Thank god," Jeremy says. "Still in DRC, I take it?" They'd met up for dinner a few nights ago in Brazzaville, before Jeremy and his crew had gone up the river to film and Eames had gone across it to meet up with Arthur.

"Unfortunately," Eames replies. "I'm hoping you are, too, otherwise I'm going to have to come up with a new plan."

"We're about a hundred and twenty kilometers upriver from Kinshasa, on the Brazzaville side," Jeremy tells him. "There's a tributary that feeds into the Congo there, and that's where we've set up camp. Can you make it up here or should I come out to find you?"

It occurs to Eames that most parents don't offer to run towards gunfire, even for their lone offspring. "I think we'll make it," he replies, checking the fuel gauge. "We may need to stop and buy more petrol, but I'm hoping not--we're a bit, ah, conspicuous at the moment."

"Be safe," Jeremy tells him. "And keep me updated. We're not doing anymore filming this afternoon, so no one gets to complain if I come your way."

"Will do," Eames says. "And thanks."

"Of course," Jeremy replies, as if charging down the Congo in a speedboat is something that parents do for their children every day.

Arthur turns to look at him when he hangs up. "Is this where you casually mention that your dad works for MI6?"

Eames laughs easily; the more nervous he gets, the more cavalier he is. "His employers are American, actually."

It's clear Arthur doesn't know how seriously to take him. "And he just happens to be in the Congo."

"Lucky us," Eames says.

Arthur looks dubious. "Yeah. Lucky."

They pass the rest of the trip in relative silence save for Arthur calling out in warning when he sees a piece of debris in the river. The sun's on its way down by the time they see a lone figure sitting on the shore with--of course--a fishing pole. There was a time in Eames's life that the sight would have annoyed him, but now it's a welcome relief.

Jeremy stands and sets his pole aside as Eames lands the boat on the sandy beach. "Dr. Livingston, I presume?" he calls, catching a rope and helping to haul the boat out of the river current.

"That's my line," Eames retorts good-naturedly, and Arthur--

Arthur is standing motionless in the stern, staring at Jeremy, one hand still on the motor he'd tilted out of the water when they landed. Eames just shakes his head and lets Arthur have his little moment or whatever it is, and jumps over the gunwale and onto the beach.

Jeremy pulls him into a tight embrace as soon as he's close. "Let's skip the gunfire next time, shall we?" he says against Eames's shoulder, then lets go. "Or at the very least ring me back as soon as the shooting stops."

"I had to make sure we'd gotten safely clear," Eames says, "and I wasn't going to let you torment Arthur any more than I had to." He turns in time to see Arthur's feet hit the sand, his eyes flicking back and forth between them. It's as close to shocked as Arthur ever gets, and it's a pity that Eames can't enjoy the moment as much as he'd like. Eames rubs the back of his neck awkwardly. "Er, Arthur, this is my father. Dad, this is Arthur."

"Jeremy Wade," his dad says with a flash of white teeth, reaching out a hand for Arthur to shake.

"I know," Arthur says, and then shakes himself and takes Jeremy's hand. "Oh fuck. I mean, it's a pleasure."

Jeremy laughs at that. "Come on, then," he says, turning towards the smaller river. "I'll take you to camp. Have you eaten?"

Arthur trails behind them as they hike along the smaller river, which is fine with Eames. He and Jeremy talk--a little about Eames's job, a little about the special Jeremy's filming, a little about Jeremy's brother's dog, Seamus. It's surreal, in a way; they're in the hills of the Congo, a few hours and several miles of river removed from being shot at, having a conversation that they might otherwise have over coffee and scones in Somerset.

Jeremy introduces them around to the guides and the film crew, none of whom blink an eye at the star's son and his friend dropping in on their remote location, and then he leaves them at his tent 'to freshen up' while he gets them something to eat.

The moment he's out of earshot, Arthur punches Eames in the arm, hard. "You son of a bitch," he says. "This is some ridiculous con, right? You've convinced Jeremy Wade that you're his long lost son in order to get in on his crazy Discovery Channel money?"

"Icon Films, actually," Eames corrects, hating that he knows that, "not Discovery per se. And no. As much as I might try to pretend otherwise some days, he's my real dad."

"Why would you try to pretend otherwise?" Arthur asks, clearly perplexed.

Eames gives him a Look. "You really think the terms 'globetrotting extreme angler'--especially before, as you put it, the 'crazy Discovery Channel money'--and 'good father' are all that compatible? We get along now, but it's not always been easy."

It's clear Arthur doesn't know quite what to say now that he's ripped open this scab. "He never showed up in your background check."

"Yes, well, he wouldn't. He's not on my birth certificate, nor is there anything official to connect us. He and Mum had a fling at uni, and Mum ended up pregnant. He wasn't nearly as... responsible as he is now," Eames says, dry as can be, "and so she figured she'd raise me on her own. Which she mostly did."

"Oh," Arthur says. And then, "I can't believe you never told me, you jerk."

Eames merely rolls his eyes.

Jeremy comes back with food then, and Eames falls on it like a dying man. He hadn't realized how hungry he was until the plate of food appeared in front of him. Arthur and Jeremy are talking fishing, with Jeremy telling Arthur of the massive catfish that live in the Congo, so Eames tunes them out in favor of focusing on his food. By the time he finishes eating and tunes back in again, Arthur and Jeremy are... pulling their shirts off.

Eames blinks, alarmed. "What are you doing?" he blurts out.

"Trading war stories," Jeremy says as if it's the most natural thing in the world. He curls an arm up, showing Arthur the silver line curving around his bicep. "Line wrapped around my arm. One of my mates cut it before it could get too deep, but it was a near thing."

Arthur twists, showing a puckering scar on his left shoulder. "This one was in Mumbai," he says, and Eames thinks, I can't sit here and watch this. He stands abruptly.

"Right, all of that running has worn me out. I think I'll go have a lie down. Let me know if anything exciting happens."

Arthur nods and launches into his story about Mumbai. Eames was there, and in fact dug the bullet out of Arthur's shoulder, so he doesn't pay attention. Jeremy nods at him, looking amused, before his attention returns to Arthur's story.

 

* * *

 

When Eames was twenty-five, he'd picked up a case of malaria on a job. He spent the next two weeks vacillating wildly between hot flashes and chills, living on a steady drip of artesunate and amodiaquine, and pain and nausea medication that alternately made him hallucinate wildly when he was awake or dragged him down into horrifying fever dreams. He'd emerged from one of the worst of those to a cool hand pushing his sweaty hair from his forehead, and then he knew he was seeing things, because Jeremy was there at his bedside.

They'd had a row three years previous, over something that had felt monumentally important to a young and self-righteous Eames, the kind of fight that ended in shouting and slamming doors and vows. And Eames had kept his; he'd had no contact with Jeremy, to the point of shutting down conversation with his mother if she'd tried to bring him up. Eames had thought he'd never see Jeremy again, and had thought he was fine with this, but then without warning Jeremy had shown up at the side of his hospital bed in Mombasa and caught his hand and told him he was going to be alright. And Eames, wracked with pain and fever and terrified that he was going to die, clung to his father tightly like he was never going to let go.

His mum had come too, of course, and together they took turns sitting vigil at Eames's bedside, wrapping him in blankets when he shook with chills, wiping his face with a cool cloth when he was burning up, holding his hand and talking him through the hallucinations when they came. His father was especially good at the last part, and dimly Eames remembered that he'd been through this himself, when Eames was still in school.

One particularly bad night, Eames had woken screaming, cold to the bone with the certainty that he was going to die before dawn. Skin crawling and full of dread, he'd confessed everything to Jeremy--the petty larceny of his youth, the forgery of his adulthood, dreamsharing, all of it. Every sin, every slight, real or imagined, he laid bare to his father.

And Jeremy hadn't flinched. He'd stayed sitting on the edge of Eames's mattress, never letting go of Eames's hand, and murmured absolution as the early light of dawn started to filter through the windows.

The next day, when Eames woke to sunlight streaming through the windows and the fact that he was still very much alive, Jeremy hadn't given him time to be embarrassed about the fact that he'd spilled everything the night before. Instead he'd launched into his own stories--the plane crash of four months before, the twelve stone fish that had hit him in the chest and landed him in hospital, the time he'd had malaria-induced hallucinations and been convinced that Winston Churchill was standing in the corner of the ward, watching him.

From that point on, Eames and Jeremy'd held no secrets from each other. Eames continued to lie wildly to his mum, who seemed happier not to know what sort of trouble he was getting up to anyway, but he and Jeremy had come to something of an understanding. They still fought tooth and nail if they were left alone for too long, but it was surprisingly nice to be able to ring your dad and drop in for dinner in Brazzaville when you both happened to be in the Congo at the same time.

And, apparently, to drop in on him when you subsequently needed to hide out in the Congo.

The tent flap flips open then, interrupting Eames's thoughts. "I'm going to show Arthur the gear," Jeremy says. "Want to come?"

"No, I'm good," Eames replies, holding up the book he's scrounged up, because there are very few things more boring than looking at fishing reels, or more aggravating than watching Arthur check out his father's arse.

"Suit yourself," Jeremy shrugs easily, then grins. "I see why you like him."

Eames very nearly throws his book at him, but at the last minute reminds himself not to risk tearing the mosquito netting. "Of course you do. He's your biggest fan."

"He's not that bad," Jeremy says. "I haven't had to sign any body parts yet."

"Yet," Eames snarks. "He's probably afraid your signature'll sweat off before he can get to a tattoo parlor to immortalize it."

Jeremy shakes his head, amused. "I guess I'd better wait until we leave the Congo to autograph his arse then."

Eames rolls his eyes. "Please don't tell me where you end up signing him."

"What, you want to find it for yourself? Kidding," Jeremy says, holding his hands up in surrender. "Anyway, try not to get in too much trouble while we're gone."

"I'll try to contain myself," Eames says dryly. "No promises, though."

And with that, Arthur and Jeremy are tromping down to the water side by side like new best friends.

Arthur still seems to be taking Eames's reluctance to reveal his paternal lineage personally when he stretches out on his sleeping bag that night. "I can't believe you didn't tell me," he says again, after Eames has turned out the lantern.

Eames stares into the darkness. "Would you have believed me if River Monsters had come on and I'd said, Oi, Arthur, that guy with the fishing rod's my dad?"

"I might have," Arthur retorted. "I definitely would have if you'd introduced us in New York."

Eames sighs. "I figured you of all people would understand why I wouldn't want anyone to know who my father is. Too risky."

"But I'm not anyone," Arthur says, sounding almost petulant, and then his sleeping bag rustles as he rolls over to face away from Eames. "Whatever."

Eames isn't sure what to say to that, so he doesn't say anything, just lies in the darkness listening to Arthur's breathing and the sound of mosquitoes, and further beyond that the river.

 

* * *

 

"John, right?" one of the camera operators says the next day as they load gear into the boats. She's short, with black hair and an unplaceable accent, and the kind of biceps and shoulders beneath her tank top that come from holding a camera all day. "I'm Maida. It sounds like you're with me today."

Eames tears his attention away from where Jeremy and Arthur are leaning over the map together and offers her his hand. "Please, call me Eames."

"Eames, then. Have you been on many of these shoots?"

He shakes his head. "First time. Don't worry, I plan on staying the hell out of your way and letting you work. I've no interest in dragging this out any longer than it needs to be."

"Good," Maida replies with a laugh, "because the mosquitoes here are hell and I'd prefer to not get malaria if I can help it."

"Excellent decision," Eames tells her. "Nasty stuff, malaria."

"So I'm told."

Maida turns out to be surprisingly easy company, although Eames suspects that's got plenty to do with the fact that, true to his word, he stays the hell out of her and everyone else's way and lets them work, hunkering in the bottom of the boat with his book. Every time he looks up, he sees Arthur watching his dad intently, as if he's hanging on his every word, so Eames mostly tries not to look up.

After lunch, he and Maida split off from the group to do some location shots while the other camera works on getting some closer interviews with Jeremy. "So is this Arthur's first time meeting Jeremy?" she asks as they motor down the river.

"He met him at a book signing a few months ago, but he didn't know that he was my dad," Eames replies.

"Yeah, the shine doesn't seem to have worn off yet," she says with a grin, which draws a smile from Eames. "I'm sure you're used to that, though."

"How long have you been working with him?" Eames asks, because he's not really interested in discussing his and Jeremy's past.

"Two years now," she replies. "Say what you will, but it's always interesting."

Eames nods, watching the trees slide by. "I'm sure it is."

When they get back to camp, Arthur and Jeremy are sitting on the beach. Arthur has one pant leg rolled up, showing off a pale scar on his calf and talking animatedly; by the time he's finished, Jeremy is pulling the waistband of his shorts down enough to expose one hip and the scar there (and nothing else, fortunately, although it's a very near thing).

Next to him, Maida snorts. "This is why I'm hanging out with you and not them," she tells him matter-of-factly, as she starts lugging her gear back up the hill to camp. "The overwhelming stench of bromance is kind of killing me."

That night, Eames surely and methodically cleans everyone out in a game of poker. It makes him feel better until Arthur and Jeremy have both busted, at which point they go back to talking animatedly to each other about something that happened on the boat that day.

Eames is sulking in his tent with his book afterwards when Jeremy finds him. "Here," Jeremy says, sliding a bottle of whiskey beneath the mosquito netting. "Would you take my advice already?"

"Your advice?" Eames asks coolly.

"About Arthur," Jeremy replies.

Eames blinks at him for a long moment before realization sets in. "I'm not--" He lowers his voice to a sharp hiss. "I'm not getting him pissed and taking advantage of him. Especially not here, of all places."

"Suit yourself," Jeremy says, although he makes no move to retrieve the bottle. "But you should at least talk to him."

"About what?" Eames grumbles.

Jeremy just looks at him.

Eames sighs. "If he were at all interested in me, don't you think he'd be talking to me instead of following you around the whole time?"

Jeremy raises one eyebrow. "I asked Arthur what kind of work he does. He told me he gathers information." He smiles enigmatically. "I'd have to say he's certainly taken the opportunity to hit me up for information."

That's... well, no, that's pretty much what he would expect from Arthur. Still. "About me?" he asks, frowning.

"About you," Jeremy confirms. "Who else do you think we'd be talking about?" And he disappears back outside before Eames can reply, you. He considers for a moment, then cracks open the whiskey and takes a long drink.

Arthur shows up about half an hour later. "Hey," he says, sticking his head in the tent, "c'mere."

Eames isn't anywhere near drunk, but he's had enough whiskey to be agreeable. He pulls on his shoes and follows Arthur. "Yeah?"

"Come on," Arthur says, indistinct in the darkness. Eames follows him down to the beach, picking out a path carefully.

Arthur stops on the sand and looks up at the sky; the stars spin out above them, the spray of the Milky Way easily visible this far out from any significant light pollution. Eames stops next to him, and they stand there quietly for a long moment, shoulder to shoulder, heads tilted back and looking at the cosmos.

Eames feels like he should say something, but he doesn't know what; when it comes right down to it, he's never known what to say to Arthur. He can't imagine declarations of love going over well, even if he were the type to make them, but he can't really see Arthur going the 'nice shoes, wanna fuck' route either. Eames can almost feel the moment hanging pregnant between them when Arthur breaks the silence.

"Hey," he says, and when Eames turns to look at him Arthur leans over and kisses him.

"Oh thank God," Eames says, although it comes out completely unintelligible, being as his mouth is otherwise occupied with Arthur's. The kiss starts out sweet but quickly becomes filthy as years of repressed longing come crashing out.

"I should've done that years ago," Arthur murmurs once they come up for air.

"Years?" Eames asks weakly, still a bit dazed by the whole thing.

"Fuck, we're idiots," Arthur laughs, and then kisses him again, and then they're too busy to talk for a while.

Later, back in their tent with sand in uncomfortable places (Worth it, Eames thinks, absolutely bloody worth it), Arthur stirs against his chest. "I like your dad," he murmurs. "He's pretty cool."

Despite his blissful languid looseness, despite the fact that Arthur is, at this very moment, wrapped around him like he's never going to let go, Eames feels a flicker of anxiety at that. "But you don't, y'know, like like him, right?"

Arthur snorts, glancing up with a wry twist to his lips. "Jealous much?" he asks before kissing Eames so thoroughly that it leaves no doubt which member of Eames's family he prefers. "Besides, he's too old for me."

"Damn right he is," Eames grumbles, pulling Arthur closer.

He wakes the next morning to the sound of the tent flap peeling open; Arthur mumbles something and buries his face against his shoulder, pulling the edge of the sleeping bag up over his chin. It's so ridiculously endearing that Eames almost doesn't mind Jeremy's smirk as he looks them over.

Almost.

"Say it," Eames sighs with resignation.

"Nothing to say," Jeremy replies, grinning. "Nothing at all."

They make their escape from the Congo that afternoon, carrying crates and blending in with Jeremy's film crew. Arthur and Eames stick with the crew until their stopover in Paris, then split off to go their own way.

"Where to?" Jeremy asks as they say their goodbyes.

Eames shrugs. "Paris for now. Arthur has an apartment here now, apparently. Maybe Mombasa after, unless we've a job somewhere else."

"Keep me posted," Jeremy says. "And be safe."

"You as well," Eames replies, and then catches Jeremy in a hug. "Thank you."

"Any time," Jeremy replies. "Although maybe with less gunfire next time."

Eames snorts. "I'll do my best."

"That's all I ask," Jeremy says, then waves to Arthur. "Don't let him get into too much trouble," he calls.

Arthur looks amused. "No more than usual."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Jeremy replies with a grin, then saunters off to catch his flight.

Eames watches him go for a moment until he disappears into the crowd. If he's being honest with himself, it's because he's not sure what happens next, and that's a little terrifying. Finally, he makes himself turn to face Arthur.

Arthur's standing there with his hands in his pockets, a small smile quirking his lips as he looks at Eames. "So."

"So," Eames says uncertainly.

"So there's this great fish market just around the corner from my place," Arthur says, fighting to keep a straight face.

Eames gives him a Look. Arthur dissolves into laughter. "Or not," he says between giggles.

"Arthur, you seem to be operating under the delusion that I'm going to let you out of bed at any point over the next few days," Eames says sternly, although he can't help the smile tugging at one corner of his mouth.

Arthur grins broadly at that. "I can live with that."

 

* * *

EPILOGUE

Eames wakes to Arthur crawling back into bed naked, sprawling against him as though they weren't in Mombasa in the middle of a heat wave, as though it weren't already 30C and getting warmer. Eames throws a lazy arm around his back; after two months of waking to Arthur in his bed, he's still basking greedily in the knowledge that Arthur is all his.

"Did you know your dad was asleep on the couch?" Arthur mumbles against his chest.

Eames doesn't even bother to open his eyes. "Did he make coffee?"

Arthur nods. "He said something about breakfast, too."

"Good," Eames murmurs, already mostly asleep again. "He remembered."

He wakes again once the sun's up fully, beating in through the window and making it too hot to sleep. Arthur's sprawled across the other side of the mattress, hair tousled and mouth open, snoring quietly.

Eames makes it to the door before Arthur stirs, and it's not until he's got the door open that two things happen: Arthur mumbles "Pants" and Eames realizes his father's sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and flipping through the Sunday Times.

"Oh pants," Eames says, naked as the day he was born. "Hullo, Dad."

"John," his father greets him, clearly doing his best not to smile.

Eames shakes his head. "Hold that thought," he says, then turns and closes the door behind him before going back to flop across the bed. "So my dad's out there in the kitchen."

"Told you so," Arthur says, sleepy and utterly without sympathy. "Hours ago."

Eames thwaps him with a pillow. "Hush. I was sleeping then."

"He said something about coffee and breakfast," Arthur says, curling into Eames unconsciously, almost like an afterthought.

"He better have. It's in the rules--if he kips on my couch, he makes both." Eames rubs a hand over his face, trying to wake up. "We might have to add in a rule about advanced warning so as to prevent anymore naked interactions."

"Wait," Arthur says, shamelessly burrowing into the crook of Eames's arm, "wait, there are rules. Which means this happens a lot."

"One of the downsides of being a globetrotting extreme angler," Eames replies. "Dad put his stuff into storage a few years back. Tends to rotate between me and his brother and a couple other people, when he's not working."

"Good to know," Arthur yawns. "I'll do my best not to shoot him in the future."

"Definitely advanced warning," Eames says, burying his nose in Arthur's hair. "You're not allowed to shoot my dad."

"Noted."

Eames's stomach growls as the smell of breakfast cooking starts to waft in from the kitchen. "We should probably get up so you can fawn over your hero s'more."

"Shut up," Arthur grumbles. Eames catches his arm before he can grab the pillow to thwap him back.