This comes from the 64 Damn Prompts on LiveJournal (by rashaka). I will, most likely, be working through all 64, because I can't bear to leave such a lovely thing unfinished. I will also include the song that helped me write it/find inspiration/that I thought fit the mood.
P.S ~ I'm particularly fond of this plot line, so I'll most likely revisit it with a sequel or something.
Prompt 35: Hunger
Music: Is It Any Wonder, by Keane
For as long as he can remember, it's always been NathanandEddie, or EddieandNathan. They're a single entity, not joined at the hip but at the brain. They finish each other's sentences, and do that creepy talking-without-talking thing that drives their friends absolutely nuts. When they fight, if they fight at all, they tend to bicker like a married couple. Wherever one is, the other is close behind, or already there and waiting. All through high school, they're best friends, always having each other's back—punks with too much bravado and a talent for saying just the right thing to get themselves in the middle of turf wars or gang feuds or anything else that their friends despair of them ever surviving.
The ensuing fights, however, provide the perfect opportunity for a bit of light-fingered wallet lifting, which is how the whole thing really gets started.
It's not about the thrill, or the crime. Not really. Nathan's family is struggling from his mother's death, a declining number of patients, and an increasing number of bills at his father's practice. His father is clinically depressed, and he has three younger siblings he has to take care of. Money is painfully short for everything, and he has to find some way to pay school fees and get food on the table. Eddie is in a foster home, but he and the other kids might as well be out on the street, with the care they're getting. The foster mother has a tendency to vanish for weeks at a time, forgetting to pay the rent and the power, and then turn up right before Child Services stops in. They both need whatever they can bring in, and what better way to get what they need than together?
So they work together, and they take what they need, and if some right bastards or rich snobs end up a few hundred lighter, who's to say it's them who did it, or that it wasn't karma?
When they get out of high school, get through enough college to know that it isn't what they want to do with their lives—either of them, not that one would go anywhere or do anything without the other right behind or beside or in front of them—they go into business for themselves. It works, Nathan knows, because they work. They work, together, no matter what. Eddie is the charming one, the people person, the judge of personality and the chameleon who can fit in absolutely anywhere—who can drink any challenger under the table and walk away without so much as a stagger, or fleece them at cards with a smile and a laugh and make them laugh too as he takes their money—while Nathan is the quiet, focused one, able to lift their wallets or valuables without anyone being the wiser, limber enough for the most acrobatic heists—good at scaling walls without any kind of anchor or sliding through air vents like a snake. And they're good at these tricks. Really good.
They start small. Wallets, watches, jewelry, all taken from the unsuspecting and unknowing right before their eyes. But then it gets more challenging. Cars, homes, safes—those are harder, need more planning, another eye. And it's also where their talents truly get the opportunity to shine, because the little cons? They're good at those. But the big things? Vaults and diamonds and lots of cash?
That's where they're brilliant.
Nathan does the planning. His ideas are wild, bright, incredible—just outside the bounds of possibilities, as though he doesn't acknowledge normal human limitations as even existing, let alone applying. Even laws of the universe seem to bend to his will. Where everyone else sees a straight line, he sees a maze in the fourth dimension, untouchable but absolutely extraordinary all the same.
But ideas alone do nothing. Eddie is the string to his kite, the gravitational pull that keeps him (for the most part) in orbit. He takes Nathan's ideas, his impossible schemes, and turns them into something doable—more than doable. Eddie knows people, who know people, who know yet more people (the majority of whom owe him favors), so that everything they could ever want or need is little more than a phone call away. It means that they always have something to work with, someone to work with, and Eddie can bring Nathan's dreams down close enough to earth that they change from unattainable to a-sure-thing. Nothing is out of their reach, be it paintings, jewels, artifacts, money, or oh-so sensitive blackmail material.
They're good at what they do. The best. It's a title they can be proud of. And "conman" might be a dirty word to most polite circles, but they're confidence artists.
Eddie is the confidence.
Nathan is the artist.
Together, they're a single entity, weird halfway-there telepathy and all, and Nathan knows that there's nothing in the world that could possibly drag them apart.
It's just not them.
It's stopped being about the money a long time ago, Nathan acknowledges, watching their mark. Claude Michelson, billionaire owner of Galaxy Industries, collector of rare items, soon-to-be-victim of the oldest trick in the conman's book.
But even "simple" has its thrill, and that's what it's all about now. Their families are well off, their futures aren't at risk of anything but massive amounts of jail time if they're caught, and they're rolling in enough—stored safely away in offshore accounts—to be sitting pretty well into old age. But there's always one more mark, always one more challenge to be had, one more plan to flesh out. Without that, they get bored, and that makes for disasters of epic proportions.
"Having fun?" Eddie drawls, sliding up beside Nathan where he stands off to the side of the party, idly tapping the briefcase he holds against his leg. The brunet's eyes are bright with a combination of mischief and excitement that most people who don't know him would pass off as enjoyment of the party and a little too much sampling of the bar. But Nathan sees it for what it is, and smiles back at his partner—just a quick grin, all teeth and well-concealed nerves.
"Of course," he agrees, drumming his fingers against the briefcase he holds. It looks for all the world like a nervous twitch, the gesture of someone who is carrying a very valuable item that they can't wait to have taken off their hands—calculated, of course, to display that exact image to Michelson and entrench him in his own confidence and his belief in their sincerity. It doesn't matter that the Babylonian crown that they're carrying is as fake as Nathan's posh accent, but Michelson wants to believe that it's the real thing, so he's easy to convince. He's also had it analyzed a dozen times over at a lab of his choosing, but that was easy enough to fake. Todd Cage, the head technician, had been more than happy to falsify the results when he learned who was getting fleeced. Something about a girl, but Nathan hadn't listened after that revelation. Girls are always trouble, no exceptions.
Now they're just waiting to make the handover and get paid.
Nathan's favorite part of the entire game will be here shortly.
"Gentlemen," Michelson says, sweeping over to them like he owns the world—and he does, or at least a large part of it. Nathan files that movement away to be copied later. He might not be able to pull it off, but Eddie will. "I trust you are enjoying yourselves?"
"Of course," Eddie says, echoing Nathan's answer of just moments before. But, unlike Nathan, he manages to make it sound like he lives for licking Michelson's boots, as though there's no place in the world he'd rather be at the moment.
They trade just the briefest flash of glances out of the corners of their eyes, and Nathan has to consciously keep his face neutral and not grin. There isn't any place he'd rather be, actually, but that's not for the reason Michelson thinks. If anything, it's the opposite.
"The transfer?" Nathan asks, jumping in. He sounds nervous, as he has every time they've met. He even spent the better part of the second meeting waxing lyrical about the dangers of thieves everywhere. The irony isn't lost on him, but it makes for a rather forgettable character, especially for an art dealer. He jiggles the case again, then lifts it, flicks the latches, and opens the lid, showing the golden crown nestled safely in black velvet, and manages a nervous, twitchy smile. "Once this is done, we'll get out of your hair."
"Indeed." Michelson is staring at the key, eyes hungry. He pulls out a tablet and taps out a few rapid commands, then nods. "Transferred. Now, it's been lovely doing business with you, gentlemen, but I believe my guests need attending."
They don't, but Nathan understands the avarice in his eyes. He wants the crown, and he wants it for himself alone. He flicks a quick glance at Eddie, who's already got his iPhone out. Catching Nathan's eye, he nods. The exchange went through. Nathan bites back a grin and hands over the briefcase to Michelson, who takes it as though it is the most valuable, breakable thing in this room. It's not, wouldn't be even if it were the real thing, but Nathan knows very well that with some things, the monetary value is the least important part.
He walks away, and Nathan looks at Eddie. "We're—"
Eddie grins at him. "Oh, yeah."
"Just like the thing in—"
"That place with the ferns—"
"With that girl—"
"And the pool—"
They grin at each other, fierce and bright, because they're doing what they love, and they're rich—even more so now—and they don't care about that, not when they can read each other's minds and anticipate every move before it comes. They're a pair, and they're the greatest conmen of their age—maybe of any age—and they're EddieandNathan, or NathanandEddie, and everything just works.
Their departure is a blur. They don't hurry, because there's no need—this con isn't time sensitive, and if they've played their cards right, Michelson will never know he was fleeced. And all the while, they're both fighting to contain the fierce, wicked joy that's bubbling up, the knowledge that they've done this and gotten away with it. Finishing a job is like walking on air, and they both are swimming in that feeling as they take a cab back to their hotel and an elevator up to their room.
The minute the door closes, Nathan is on Eddie, both of them laughing and crowing with delight, hands everywhere and so, so hot. They burn, the two of them. They burn together, and Nathan couldn't imagine it any other way.
Eddie fucks him hard. He always does, after a job that goes well. It's a sort of tradition. After all, they were both each other's firsts—in everything, which is as it should be—and this just…happened, after their first big job. It's a release of tension, a celebration, another rush to follow the first one of getting away with the con scot-free. Skin on skin, breath mingling, sweat-slick bodies in a human knot on the hotel sheets as they touch and kiss and screw each other sore.
Nathan thinks that he first realized he was in love with Eddie while doing this. It's hard not to know himself when he's so tangled up in the man who means absolutely everything to him. And it's not like it's that much of a revelation anyway. Everyone loves Eddie. They all adore him. That isn't even a con, it's just him. But Nathan loves him in a way that's a little different than how most people do, because Nathan knows everything there is to know about Eddie, what makes him tick and what drives him forward. Love…that's just another easy step in the chain of their lives. Loving Eddie makes sense.
Eddie doesn't know, of course. Or maybe he does, and he just doesn't say anything. Nathan isn't sure, and that in itself is something strange, because he and Eddie live in each other's brains on a near-permanent basis. Uncertainty just doesn't factor in.
But in this, at least, Nathan is pretty sure he's alone.
Still, that's okay. They're still NathanandEddie, or EddieandNathan, and they can still have half-conversations that drive everyone else nuts but make perfect sense to them, or hold an entire conversation without a word being spoken, or pull off a heist that would make the A-Team jealous. Nothing will ever come between them, and that's how it should be.
But something does.
That "something" is pretty, about 5'8", with black hair and lovely brown eyes. Surprisingly, Nathan doesn't hate her on sight, even when Eddie pulls him aside and whispers, "This is it, Nate, I think she's the one!" Because, really, everyone loves Eddie, and he accepted that a long time ago. Still, she's the younger sister of an FBI agent who has been a pain in their ass for years, and if Nathan didn't know his partner better, he'd accuse him of getting caught up in his own con.
But this is Eddie, and there's no way that would happen. Which means that this is real, and even though they can read each other's minds and finish each other's sentences, Nathan has no clue what Eddie is thinking going off and getting married to the sister of a federal agent. Not that he'll say that, because Eddie is happy, and if he's happy, Nathan can at least be happy for him, even though looking at the wedding invitation—where he's to be best man—pinned to his message board makes him want to shout and throw things. And it's not like they've ever said what was between them, if there ever really was anything that wasn't just in Nathan's head.
It's just…this isn't them. Instead of EddieandNathan, or NathanandEddie, there's Eddie and there's Nathan, on opposite sides of the country, and that's never happened before.
But Nathan is starving for that, the closeness and the knowing and the mindreading and all of it. He's hungry for that connection in a way he's never needed to be before, and he hates it, hates that Eddie could cure the hunger and no one else will ever be able to.
But if Eddie wants his house and his family and his Labrador and his white picket fence, well—Nathan can accept that. Mostly. Maybe.
Somehow, it's not a surprise when Eddie turns up on his doorstep three years later, carrying a duffle bag smiling at Nathan as though there aren't three years of complete silence between them, as though they just parted ways yesterday and Nathan's world hasn't become hollow and dull. Nathan had a feeling, knew who it was before he even opened the door, and this is Eddie, so he just steps aside and lets him in. Eddie flops down on his new couch in his new apartment in a new city as though he's always been there, as though Nathan is still his partner instead of kind of sort of possibly Tony's partner now, and that's just normal. Nathan flops down next to him, passes him the bottle of beer he'd been drinking, and that's normal, too. Somehow, Nathan knows, they're still NathanandEddie, or EddieandNathan, despite three years and a wife and another partner. They're still a they.
It helps, quite a lot, that Eddie isn't wearing his ring anymore.
Sometime after midnight, when they're still sitting in silence, Nathan looks over at Eddie. "So she—"
"You told her—"
"Had to. I missed—"
And really, that's all there is to say.