Eames first thought as he came through the door of his flat and saw the young man sitting calmly on his couch was, "Shit, I'm going to die."
This was shortly followed by, "Huh, I'm not dead yet."
He shut the door and put his coat on the rack. He swept his eyes over the flat to find Arthur's suitcase and computer bag were neatly stowed next to the coffee table. Arthur's gun was in full view, clip out on the table as well – a good faith signal if ever there was one. It wouldn't take him long to put it together and put a bullet through an enemy, but he made no move to reach toward it. A bruise was blossoming over the left side of Arthur's face and there was blood on the cuffs of his shirt. "How badly hurt are you?"
"I'll live." Arthur's voice was rough. "But I'm going to need a little help." He turned his head slowly toward the door. "And maybe some stitches." That came out a little slurred. Eames' nerves twitched at that as his medic's training kicked in.
"I'll get my kit." He frowned. "Can you make it to the bathroom or shall we do it right where you are?"
Arthur grimaced. "I'll make it."
"Arthur," he said repressively.
"I'd prefer not to though," he added. His eyes dropped to the floor. "I really wish I didn't have to do this, but you're the only person I know who I can trust to sew me up."
Eames nodded. "Not at all, luv. Don't worry your pretty little head."
"Oh God. You are going to hold this over me for years," Arthur muttered. Again, it was slurred.
"I'm going to patch you up." Eames placed the med kit onto the scarred coffee table. He blinked. "You spread newspaper on the couch."
"I know I'm bleeding, but I don't know if anything's soaked through. Even if it is a write off as the ugliest couch in creation, I'm still going to end up sleeping on it soon." There was no shrug to accompany the thought and Eames' gut clenched.
"Let's get your shirt off, so that I can see the damage. Tell me what happened."
The younger man grimaced. He closed his eyes and started unbuttoning his shirt. The white silk was a total loss, Eames assessed as the bloodstains came into view. "I was staying with Reggie Bellamy. He's a fuck-buddy up near Mrs. Pendleton's. He got pissed that he couldn't crack my security and decided to assert his dominance. He had alcohol poisoning and no pulse when I left."
Eames cleaned the cuts. "What did he hit you with?"
"I didn't even know you were in town."
"I've been doing independent study with Mrs. Pendleton. That degree I never finished. I didn't have time to talk to anyone, so I didn't call. Sorry." The apology was off-handed, habitual. "I don't want to bring anything to Mrs. P's doorstep. She's close with the cops still."
Eames carefully sewed shut one of the whip marks. "What did he hit you with?"
"A belt?" Arthur was guessing. "I... I'm a little fuzzy. I was going to kill him, but he was already dying. My prints are going to be all over the place. I've been there a month."
Eames fixed another slash. "We're going to Emergency and you're talking to the police. You're pressing charges against Bellamy. That way, when they find him, no one's going to question that it was self-inflicted."
Arthur didn't speak.
"Yes, sir." Arthur rallied for a little sarcasm, but he was obviously not up to their usual verbal sparring. "Do you have anything for pain in there?"
"I do, but you'll not get any until you've had a scan to make sure your lovely brain isn't going to seep out your nose."
"Right. I hate you. A lot."
Eames just snorted.
PC Williams fished out his pad. The nurse at the front desk pointed him to bed twelve. "The doctor should be in there with him. His friend is there too still." She obviously approved of the victim's mate.
"Thank you, ma'am." Williams never disrespected nurses. His wife would string him up by his balls if she found out. He stopped in front of bed twelve, just outside the privacy curtain.
"No, sleeping, luv. Not until we've looked at your brain."
There was a chuckle. "Keep him awake until after the CT scan. Good work on the stitches. I think they're looking for a new shift nurse."
"Appreciated, but no. I've steady work now."
"Right," a third voice said sarcastically. "Steady."
"No lip from you or you're sleeping on the couch without a pillow."
"Might be safer that way. God knows the last time the pillowcases were washed."
Williams cleared his throat. The doctor poked his head out. "I'm looking for Mr. Arthur? I'm PC Williams from Metro Police."
"Come in," the third voice said. "Did you bring a camera or should I have Mr. E here do the honors with my phone?"
"Let the poor man introduce himself at least."
The two men were not what Williams was expecting. The one sitting with his shirt off was American, and from the starburst scar on his shoulder, the victim of a shooting. Given the other man who was lounging in the chair with a welcoming smile, possibly former military. "He did. His name is PC Williams," Mr. Arthur pointed out sharply. The lines by his mouth indicated pain. He offered his hand. "Phillip Arthur," he introduced himself. "Call me Arthur. That's Eames. He's the one who sewed me up and demanded I talk to someone."
"Sir." Williams nodded to them. "Tell me what's happened then, Arthur."
He sighed, his dark eyes focussing on the floor instead of anyone in the room. "I've been staying up north with an old... friend, let's call him. Taking a private class from Mrs. Pendleton on criminal profiling. I got home with dinner and he was in a state because he wanted to know why he couldn't get into my phone. He can't get into my phone because he's a shit hacker, but I didn't tell him that. I said that if his crypto wasn't up to it, then at least I knew it was safe. That pissed him off. While he was busy grumbling, I went to plate up dinner. I turned when I heard him coming up behind me and he smacked me with a frying pan." Arthur gestured to his face. "I smacked into the table or counter or something when I fell. Pretty sure I was out cold, or at least scrambled enough that I don't remember him dragging me to the bedroom. There's brush-burns on my face, so I'm guessing he grabbed me by the ankles." His eyes flicked up for a moment, then back down to the ground. His fingers tightened on the side of the mattress until the knuckles were white.
He swallowed. "When I came to, he'd tied my wrists to the headboard and had decided that beating an unresponsive body was therapeutic." His voice was dry, but there was an echo of terror there that Williams recognized from other victims of domestic violence. "He got tired and then drank himself to sleep. I worked my wrists free," he held up one bruised and scraped wrist. "Then, I grabbed some of my things. The important stuff at least and grabbed a train down to Eames' flat. I asked him to sew me up and he decided I needed to come to the emergency room to get my brain scanned because he's pretty sure I'm concussed." Arthur lifted his head. There was shame in his eyes.
"And this 'friend' is named?" Williams prompted.
"Oh, Reggie Bellamy. Um, I think it's Reginald really, but no one calls him that." Arthur offered the address as well.
"We'll be pressing assault charges then."
Arthur nodded jerkily, then stopped. "That was a mistake." Eames offered a small bowl. "I'll make it." He breathed through his mouth for a moment. "Yes, I want to press charges. I want that stupid fuck in prison for a year or two. Or at least for a few weeks so I can clear out all my stuff and find someplace else to crash until I finish my coursework. I obviously need it," he added to Eames. "Didn't even think Reg was capable of hitting anyone."
"How long have you known Mr. Bellamy?"
"Hell, I don't know. Five years or so? I think? We weren't dating or anything, just occasionally sleeping together or crashing together. Computer programming jags. We have a couple of apps together. I've been staying there a couple weeks. I had a bag stashed in the closet just in case with a razor and that sort of thing." Arthur tried to shrug, but the damage to his back stopped him. "Eames will take some pictures and I'll forward them to you. Will that work or do you need to do it?"
"I have a camera on the way," Williams said. "Now, can I get Mrs. Pendelton's address from you as well?"
Arthur fished out his phone and retrieved the address. A few minutes later the CT scan tech arrived to whisk him away. "I'm not sure if I should follow him or not," Eames said as he looked after them.
"And tell me your part of it, sir."
Eames snorted. "I came home to find the poor bugger sitting on my couch bleeding. Surprised he didn't just crash, but he's stubborn enough to stay awake until I could look at him. He's going to be a solid bruise tomorrow on his face."
Williams grimaced at that. He'd had the misfortune of falling off of a curb and smashing his nose when he was a kid. He didn't envy Arthur at all. Poor bastard.
"Mr. Arthur, this is PC Williams."
"Hello? You're the one they had take my statement and the pictures right?" The concussion had left Arthur's memory a bit scrambled. It was mostly better and thankfully there was no bleeding on the brain.
"Right," Williams confirmed. "I'm calling to inform you that Mr. Bellamy passed away. There'll be a detective coming to talk to you today."
"Sure. I'm still on Eames' couch. He's been torturing me with history lessons."
Williams chuckled. "The detective will let you know when you can get back into the flat."
"Thanks." Arthur hung up after a quick goodbye. "So, there's a police detective coming to visit. What needs to be hidden away?"
Eames glanced around the room. "Only your weapon. Shall I tuck that away in my safe?"
Arthur's fingers trembled at the thought of not being able to reach his gun. He swallowed, then nodded. "That's best."
The other man studied him for a moment. He crossed the room and sat down on the couch next to Arthur. He put a careful arm over his shoulders and pulled him close. He didn't say anything. Eventually, Arthur settled in against his warmth and closed his eyes. Eames sat with him until his breathing evened out. "I've got your back, Arthur, always. You know that," he murmured.
"I hate to take advantage."
"Shut up, Darling. Let me have your weapons. No need to tempt fate."
"Right. In a minute."
"Hello, Inspector." The man at the door took a long look at his ID, as though committing it to memory. "Arthur's on the lounge. He's still recovering from his concussion, so if he looks as though he's going to throw-up, he probably is." Inspector David Wigglesworth – "Wiggs" to his friends and colleagues – followed the apartment's owner into the main room. Sitting on the nation's ugliest chintz couch was a dark-haired man with half of his face mottled with bruises, bandages on his wrists and an oversized tee-shirt that he must have borrowed from his roommate.
Wiggs introduced himself again. The young man started to stand, then sat abruptly. He swallowed hard. He offered his hand from the seated position. "Phillip Arthur. PC Williams said Reggie's dead?" The dark eyes studied him, but it was hard to say if he was relieved or upset. Given the bruising, it was possible that he didn't know himself.
"Yes, Mr. Bellamy died last night."
"Well, fuck. Guess that means I can't sneak in and get my stuff while he's at the store." Mr. Arthur grimaced. "What happened?"
"We're just starting the investigation."
"Did someone break in? I locked up when I left. At least, I'm pretty sure I did."
"When you left was he still alive?"
"I didn't check his pulse. I was concentrating on being quiet and quick." Arthur bit his lip, eyes focussed somewhere outside of the room. "He was on the couch with a bottle in his hand. I didn't hear him snoring, but I didn't go close enough to check or anything. I'm pretty sure he was just sleeping off his drunk. I wasn't exactly in the mood to make sure he had water and aspirin in the morning either." The young man scowled furiously. His face was exceedingly mobile.
"So, you snuck out and did you lock the door."
Arthur closed his eyes. His hands moved in random patterns, no – he was putting a bag over his shoulder and checking for his wallet. He pulled the door shut and a hand lifted to fix the lock. "Yes, I did. And I made it to the bus station before anyone saw the damage. Oh, shit, Eames! I need to call Mrs. P and tell her why I'm not at class today!"
"I'll take care of it, luv," his roommate called from the other room. "Her number's in your mobile?"
"Yeah. Under Dr. Pen. Thanks," Arthur called back. "Sorry. Yeah. Locked the door, then made my way down here."
"Why not to the local clinic? Or to someone closer?"
Arthur blinked at him. "Eames was a medic. I... I didn't want to go to the clinic because I didn't have insurance." He seemed uncertain of the answer – as if he knew there was something wrong with the logic. "I knew he could stitch me up as well as any clinic."
"All the way down to London? A bus, a train, and a cab?"
"And I knew he would... he would keep watch because I wasn't up to it." he grimaced. "And Reggie doesn't know about him. To be fair, Eames doesn't know about Reggie, so that evens up. Didn't. Crap." Arthur frowned. “Eames is... safe,” he said finally. “I know I can trust him not to take advantage when I'm confused.”
“Any clinic would have stitched you up,” Wiggs said quietly. “Victims of domestic violence are covered under NHS no matter who they are.”
Arthur blinked at him. “I'm not British,” he said carefully. “I'm not even Canadian.”
Wiggs gave him a sad smile. “Doesn't matter.”
“So I don't have to budget as much for the hospital visit as I thought? It might be subsidized? I'll have to talk to the billing office then. I just figured I'd wait for the bills to show up and panic about it then.” Arthur worried at the split in his lip. “What happened to Reggie?”
“We're still waiting on the coroner to determine the cause of death.”
“Oh.” Arthur hugged himself a bit. “Is there anything I can do to help? I don't know his medications or anything. I don't think he took anything on a regular basis.”
"Walk me through the night."
The young man shrank down further for a moment, before he sat up straight and lifted his chin. It would have been more impressive if he didn't look as though he were going to throw up on Wiggs' shoes. "I got home after class with a bag of take-out. Reggie was in a lather because he couldn't crack the security on my phone. I told him that if his crypto wasn't up to it, the I'd done a good job. He grumbled a bit and I went into the kitchen to dish up dinner." He paused and swallowed, dark eyes narrowing. "I heard him come up behind me and I turned around to talk to him. He bashed me with a frying pan and I must have hit something on the way down because I don't remember him getting me to the bedroom. I've got brush-burns on my face, so I think he dragged me. It's all foggy, but he had me tied to the bed-frame and was very enthusiastically beating me. He finally got tired of that and stumbled off to drink for awhile. I worked my way free and came down here. He was on the couch when I left. Like I said."
Wiggs nodded. He'd already been convinced that the death was accidental. There was nothing in Arthur's story that needed challenging. Not right now. And if he did confess to something, he could easily point to his concussion as making his confession unreliable. He shook his hand. "I'll just talk to Mr. Eames and let you get on with your day."
"Joy, more hours of cat-naps interrupted by the sadistic Englishman who's decided to do concussion checks." Arthur's voice carried easily, as though he were on stage and Wiggs' lips twitched.
"Doctor's orders," Eames called back. "Done with the detective already? I thought you'd at least offer him tea." Eames came into the front room again.
"The last time I made tea here you yelled at me for thirty-five minutes straight because I did something unforgivable to your mug."
"You used a Lipton teabag from the bottom of your satchel. You know damned well there's always tea in the cupboards. Mrs. Pendleton's a sweetheart isn't she? She wishes you well and says that whenever you're ready, just come to the flat. She also mentioned that she has a guest room and if you'd just asked, she would have rented it to you."
"Reggie's is free," Arthur pointed out. "Dinner and sex and he's just fine."
Eames snorted. He dropped the phone into Arthur's waiting hand. "Can I get you a cuppa, Detective?"
"No. I'm fine. Let's step into the other room and chat."
"How much to keep from telling all your deep, dark secrets, dear?"
"How much do you want me to tell your mother about what you got up to last year?"
Eames shuddered. "I do not understand how you can talk to that woman on a regular basis!"
Arthur's lips curled up into half-smirk. "She likes me." Eames bopped the top of Arthur's head with the back of a knuckle before he escorted Wiggs into the guest room. As soon as he stepped into the artist's studio-office combination he knew what Arthur had staked out the couch. There was a long table on one side of the room with half-completed projects, an easel in the middle of the room facing a still life of a stuffed lobster, two cement oranges and a half-drunk bottle of Pinot Grigio. Eames waved at the stool near the table and took the stool at the easel.
"What is your relationship with Mr. Arthur?"
"He's my friend." Eames waved a hand. "My best friend. The sort you could call on a Saturday night to get you out of the nick as long as he wasn't the one sitting on the bench next to you." He paused. "No, definitely to get you out of the nick as he'd never be caught doing something stupid on a Saturday night. My mum loves him to pieces and she actually wore black for a year when we broke up."
Wiggs raised a brow. "It was a serious relationship then?"
"I think technically we may still be married. Though we did have a year's separation at least and we've not been exclusive." Eames seemed disturbed. "I'll have to ask if there was paperwork to sign or something. When he showed up last night, just sitting on the couch, I thought it was going to be a 'talk.' You know the kind you have with your girl when she's angry at you? But then, I saw the bruising and there was blood on his cuffs. I sewed him up because the gashes were pretty ghastly and you never know how long it will be before someone sees you in Emergency. His speech was slurring, so I knew he had to go to get that checked properly. PC Williams came to take his statement right before the CT scan. The doctor offered me a job, but I'm a battlefield medic. I'd go mad in a hospital."
"You're both former military?"
"Yes. Arthur left as soon as he'd served his time because of the unenlightened American view of homosexuals at the time. Fools. He'd have given them everything if they hadn't tweaked his nose about something stupid."
"When did you find out about Mr. Bellamy?"
"That he and Arthur were friends? Last night about the time Arthur explained what had happened. Never heard of the bloke before." He shrugged. "Heard he was dead. Good riddance. Anyone who does that to someone they're in a relationship with deserves it."
"You believe it was a serious relationship?"
Eames snorted. "Arthur doesn't do serious well."
Wiggs debated asking more about his relationship with Arthur when the doorbell rang.
"If you'll excuse me, I don't want to have to clean up anymore horrible bodily fluids." Eames didn't wait for an answer before he snapped. "Sit down, Arthur!" on his way to the door. He peered through the peephole. Wiggs watched with raised brows. "Christ, it's Mum."
"Then let her in."
Eames scowled at his ex-husband. Wiggs smirked at the interplay. Eames opened the door. "Hello, Mum. Arthur's got a concussion and contusions. Do be careful of him."
Eames' mother was dressed neat as a pin down to matching gloves, purse, and hat. Her hair was light blue and her suit soft pink. She patted Eames' cheek on the way by. "I'm so glad you're getting back together."
"We're not..." she ignored him and greeted Arthur with a gentle kiss to the forehead.
"Poor, Darling. I'll put the kettle on and you'll tell me what horrible person did this."
Eames shut the door with a bang. "Inspector, shall we repair back to the studio? I don't think my stomach can handle the sweetness that's about to occur."
"Courage," Arthur murmured as they passed him. "And don't show fear. She can sense it."
Wiggs' lips twitched. He was going to drink on this day for years.
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