|Bros Before Hos
Author: frustrateddalekalarm PM
Behind the snark and rivalry, Eames and Arthur are actually friends. Who would've guessed? This story now has a prequel called How Could I Forget The First Time We Ever Met, and a sequel, Love Will Make Fools Of Us AllRated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship/Angst - Arthur & Eames - Words: 7,976 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 2 - Published: 01-23-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6680783
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This isn't really angst. There just isn't a tab for melancholy, which is more like what this story contains... There is a prequel to this called How Could I Forget (The First Time We Ever Met), but this should probably be read first. And now there is a sequel, called Love Will Make Fools Of Us All.
Saito's hotel was located in the center of Tokyo. Usually, it housed the Japanese businessman's high-profile clients and business partners. For the next few months, however, only four people were allowed access to the hotel. And Saito himself, of course. After the Inception job, the Japanese man had been shocked to discover how relatively easily a mans subconscious could be raided, or turned against itself, even one as well trained and militarised as Robert Fisher Jr's. And so he had offered another job to those whom had helped him dissolve the Fisher-Morrow empire.
The further militarisation of his own mind.
Arthur landed in Tokyo a day before his teammates were set to arrive. He booked himself into the hotel at around midnight and walked up the stairs to the penthouse apartment. After having to rig an elevator to deliver a kick in zero gravity, Arthur had felt slightly distrustful of them. So he had been taking the stairs in every hotel he'd staid in for the last month.
He reached the room he would be living in until the job was completed and set down his bags at the foot of one of the king-sized beds. He then wandered over to stand in front of one of the large windows and surveyed the city around him. Tokyo was lit up as far as he could see, and Arthur marveled at both the city's complexity and order. He modeled much of his in-dream architecture on places like this.
Arthur turned around and lent against the window to catalogue the penthouse suite. Large, and open-planned, the room had furniture placed strategically so that there were clear lines to the door in case of an ambush, and, judging by the sound the windows made when he tapped them, they were bullet-proof. The decor was sleek and modern, minimalistic, so that the occupant could personalise the room quickly and easily, though Saito had set up a whiteboard and a circle of chairs in the middle of the room for planning sessions. The floors were carpeted, to make for a softer fall, and judging by who he would be working with, Arthur would be falling to the floor on a regular basis.
A buzzing began near his thigh, and Arthur reached into his pocket, unlocking his phone and staring down at the screen. It was a message from Eames, and the corner of Arthur's mouth twitched as he read it. The Brit may not have great spelling in his day-to-day life, but while working and texting Arthur, it was immaculate. Though he seemed to have a problem with capitalisation. One day, Arthur would fix that too.
arthur, darling. there's a very nice pub here. you should come. or can you at least set me up a bed in the suite. i may be slightly incapacitated tonight. cheers mate.
Arthur pushed himself off the window, and went into the bedroom opposite his. There, he pulled the edges of the doona out from under the bed and put all but one pillow into the cupboard. After knowing Eames for going-on fourteen years now, he was well-versed on how the other man preferred to sleep. He'd been on the receiving end of enough of the forgers rants to know it was just easier to have his sleeping arrangements the way he liked them. Especially if the Brit was intoxicated at the time.
He made his way to his own room, loosening his tie as he walked, and removing his jacket and waistcoat, which he placed neatly over the back of the single chair. Arthur then strolled into his ensuite, rolling up the sleeves of his plain white dress-shirt, and brushing imaginary dust off his navy slacks. He turned on the tap on the sink and proceeded to fill his hands with water, splashing it on his face and washing most of the gel out of his hair, before drying it quickly with a towel, and leaving it to settle in small, soft curls around his face.
Then Arthur picked up his phone and shot off a quick message to Eames:
Where am I meeting you, then?
Arthur and Eames sat side by side on barstools at a fine establishment which they were both too drunk to remember the name of, but whose praises they were happily singing none the less. Eames spun around far too quickly and ended up half off his seat, hugging Arthur's shoulders desperately in an attempt to stay upright. Arthur managed not to laugh at the forger, but only because, even when drunk, he still had his dignity. He could hear Eames mumbling, face pressed against his back, and maybe giggled a little. Okay, so he was lying about the dignity part.
Eames pulled himself up until he was once again at eye level with Arthur but did not seem to be able to unclasp his arms from the young man's shoulders. Arthur could see little more than grey eyes, stubble, artfully ruffled hair and overly-full lips which were forming words which he was having trouble understanding. The eyes closed for a moment, and Arthur gathered his bearings, so when they opened again he could make out, through a haze of alcohol, "Hang on, how did I get here?" Arthur giggled again, and pushed Eames off him, so that the forger was once again seated on the barstool.
Though he seemed confused about how he had ended up in another position, Eames did not seem to want to stop talking. "Arthur. Hey, Arthur." He slewed, voice slightly too loud for the practically empty bar. "Arthur, you know, you may have the other's fooled, but I know you. You're not really a boring stick-in-the-mud. You just are when you work. Why you got to be like that, Arthur?" He asked, jabbing the pointman in the chest weakly.
"Because, Mr. Eames," Arthur replied steadily, trying to hold himself up straighter and re-assume his dignity "I am a professional. And professionals are always…umm…professional." He finished, lamely.
"Ahh, yes," Eames hummed, "straight-laced, professional Arthur. You know, darling, you could let yourself have a little fun."
"But I do have fun." Arthur interrupted, indigently, words slurring together, "See, see, I'm having fun right now." And he grinned, hugely and drunkenly, dimpling, as if to prove his point. "You always make me have fun, Eames." And then he scowled. "It's not good, you know, though. You're ruining my, my…umm, my professional integrity. Yeah, that's it, you drag me out and make me have fun and then I loose my professional whatchacallit."
Eames laughed uproariously, and beamed at Arthur, flashing his slightly crooked teeth. "You know, I like you, Arthur. A lot. I'm glad I found you." And then his smile stretched wider as he finished "Even if you are an unimaginative stick-in-the-mud."
Arthur made and unintelligible noise and reached forward to punch Eames lightly in the arm, miscalculated, and tipped forward so that he was now sprawled all over the other man. "You know, Eames," He said, voice muffled by the forger's thigh, which was now pressed against his face, "I think we should go back to the hotel."
It took almost 10 minutes to work the key. but Eames was not bothered in the slightest. In fact, he spent all the time Arthur was struggling to turn the lock trying to convince the younger man to join with him in a rousing chorus of 'We Are The Champions'. Arthur refused on the grounds that it was terribly cliché. Eames had a smokey baritone voice, but unfortunately, he could not carry a tune at the best of times. And drunk, he seemed to invent his own key. However, his out-of-tune singing was broken up by the occasional right note, and this made them all the more sweeter. Arthur didn't mind though. He was really too out of it to notice the tonal failings of his companion.
After forcing open the door, the two men made their way into the suite, leaning heavily on each other for support. Eames knocked over a chair during a particularly arm-flailing section of the song, and Arthur giggled for the third time that night. He then had a fleeting worry that this was becoming a bit of a habit, before that thought was driven away by more pressing matters. Like the fact that there seemed to be a large, paisley monster wrapped around Eames' upper body. This distressed Arthur, so he pointed it out to the forger.
"Eames, you seem to have a large paisley monster wrapped around your chest. It may eat you. Perhaps we should burn it."
Eames looked down at himself, eyes widening comically in shock before he shook his head and chuckled in a condescending way. "Arthur. Dear Arthur. That would be my shirt. And I would prefer it if you didn't burn it when I was wearing it."
Arthur seemed to consider this for a moment, head cocked to one side, before replying "Well maybe you should take it off, then. It's hurting my eyes."
Eames nodded and removed the offending object, and Arthur was distracted momentarily by the tattoos that adorned his chest. He was sure that last time he had seen them they weren't moving so much. Again, he felt the need to inform Eames of this new development. "Eames, you tattoos are moving. Perhaps you should get that looked at."
Eames laughed again at the pointman and tugged him gently in the direction of his bedroom. "Come on Arthur." He drawled. "You are completely off your face. You should go to bed now."
Five minutes later, Eames deposited Arthur heavily on his bed, after removing his shoes, pants and tie. Arthur wriggled up and tucked himself under the bedcovers, looking up and Eames, wide-eyed. If Eames was a stupid drunk, he would have referred to him as 'adorable' at that moment. But even drunk, he had a sense of control.
"Arthur, darling." Eames drawled. "You're quite adorable." And then he leant down to ruffle Arthur's hair. Arthur slapped his hand away, hard enough to convay his displeasure at Eames' statement, but closed his eyes none the less. He then opened them again, and looked down at the forger's pants. The moving tattoos were giving him headaches. Though the pants were not much better.
"Eames" he moaned. "Your pants look like you got them at a bargain bin. They're offensive. Please remove them." And Eames promptly did so, shucking off the pants, and holding them in his hand with his shirt. "And now," Arthur said proudly, as if he had just thought of the best idea ever, "you should throw them out the window. So I will never have to see them again. Yes, that is a good idea, I think." So Eames made his way over to the window of the penthouse suite and threw his pants and shirt onto the lit-up streets of Tokyo below.
He then turned around and grinned madly at Arthur, who smiled back. "Much better." The younger man said. "Now, Mr. Eames, I think it is time for you to go to bed." And so Eames turned around and unsteadily made his way out of Arthur's room. When it came to Arthur, Eames was a very agreeable drunk. He only made it half-way out of the bedroom, however, before he tripped, and landed sprawled across Arthur's legs. The pointman kicked him, hard and multiple times, and Eames groaned, pulling himself up so that he was lying next to Arthur, on top of the sheets.
Arthur stared at Eames for a moment, unsure of how the other man had ended up where he was, but then shrugged, and yanked the blanked out from under the forger and laid it over top of him as well. Eames sighed in appreciation, it seemed that the brain function required for speech had deserted him, and turned out the lamp beside the bed. He felt, rather than saw, Arthur nestle his head against his neck, and he lay very still, so as not to frighten the younger man away.
"Eames." Arthur said. "You know, I wouldn't tell anyone else this, you know. And if you tell the others I said this, I'll deny it. Because it's implausible. But Eames. you're…umm…well…you're my best friend, Eames." And then he nodded. Eames made a noise which was a mixture of contentment and agreement, and Arthur continued. "And Eames. I'm really glad you found me too." And then Arthur fell asleep.
Eames moved slowly, so as not to wake Arthur, and he wrapped his arms around the younger man, pulling him closer and pressing a soft kiss to his temple. Then he allowed himself to be lulled to sleep by Arthur's soft snores.
Eames woke up alone, hungover, and with only a warm spot and numb arm to remind him where Arthur had spent the night. He tried to simultaneously shake some feeling back into his arm and fight off a hangover, but failed on both counts. So instead, he rolled over sluggishly and dragged himself into a seated position. Eames took stock of the room around him, finding a suitcase full of Arthur's clothes, and nothing else. He tried to remember what he had done with the clothes he had been wearing last night, but thinking hurt too much, and he figured he would remember eventually. He then forced himself to stand and stumbled his way into the kitchen, staggering slightly and narrowly avoiding the doorframe.
Arthur was seated at the kitchen table reading the morning newspaper and drinking a coffee in jeans and a t-shirt. However, the picture of domesticity was ruined by the glare of disapproval he leveled at Eames when the older man appeared, hungover and in nothing but his underwear. Eames, however, did not seem to notice the look, his gaze fixed firmly on the pot of tea Arthur had made for him. He downed the tea in one gulp, fixed another pot, and then collapsed into the seat beside Arthur, all in total silence.
"I found your clothes this morning when I went to get the paper." Arthur said, conversationally. "They were in the gutter. Seems you threw them out the window. So I bought you some new clothes. Some nice ones. They're in your room."
Eames grunted his thanks, and then said, in a gravely voice "Thanks, mate. I think we had too much to drink last night."
"So it would seem." Arthur replied, dryly. "You know, just because we're friends, Eames, doesn't mean you can drag me out to a bar and get me drunk the day before a job's about to start. I'd appreciate it if that didn't happen again."
"Arthur, darling." Eames replied, voice regaining it's casual drawl, "I didn't drag you. This time I actually asked. And you know that next time I ask the same thing will happen."
Arthur didn't deny or confirm Eames' statement, but instead took a sip of his coffee and said, offhand "Yusef and Ariadne are arriving soon. And Saito is coming in this afternoon so we can go over some plans. You may want to get dressed."
Eames groaned, loudly, and clutched hard at Arthur's shoulder "Arthur, love, no, make them stay away. It's been so long since I've got to see fun Arthur, and now you're taking him away from me just as quickly. Oh, the tragedy."
Arthur laughed softly at the forger, and said, mouth curving slightly, "Only when we're woking, Mr. Eames. Fun Arthur will be available every break from the job. As always."
Eames laughed and drained his tea "And there is my final smile for a while. I shall treasure it deeply until the next time." And he stood and gave Arthur a small, casual salute before heading into what would be his bedroom. "Now where did you say my clothes were again?" He called to the room in front of him. Arthur smiled again.
Professionally, Eames and Arthur did not get along. While outside of work, they might like each other, when it came to the job, they rubbed each other the wrong way. Eames spent his time being overly annoyed at Arthur's work-a-holic mentality and tendency to talk down to those around him, while the forgers relaxed attitude and want to play down his intelligence (so as to have the element of surprise when it was needed, he always claimed later) frustrated the pointman to no end. Though they did work well together. Their attitude towards each other on a job, bordering on antagonistic, meant that they continued to push one and other to bigger and better achievements both in the real world and in the dreamscape.
As such, two of their team-mates almost died of shock when they found the two men sitting together on one of the large black couches in the hotel room, watching television and laughing together quite amiably during the lunch break on the first day of planning.
Saito and Ariadne had only worked with Arthur and Eames once, and this had been in a warehouse, where the team split up for lunch so as to not arouse suspicion. Because of this, the architect and the Japanese businessman had never seen their team-mates in any situation that did not involve work. And so, they were unaware of the fact that, outside of the job, Eames and Arthur were actually friends. Yusef knew, of course. But he was Eames' best friend. Well, aside from Arthur.
Ariadne and Saito spent a disproportionate amount of time discussing Eames' and Arthur's friendship, which they thought to be a new development, until Yusef stepped in and told them that Arthur and Eames had been friends for almost 14 years now. They just chose not to show it while working, so that their enemies would not be able to use the knowledge of it against one another. It was partly true.
Usually, Eames' and Arthur's chatter, coupled with the television, was at a level that could be considered a pleasant background noise during the breaks between work sessions. However, on occasions, it reached a level that could be called obnoxious. Or startling. It was on one of these days that Ariadne finally worked up the courage to join the two men on the 'modern' couch. She had wanted to sit with them ever since she had discovered that anything like friendly television-watching went on between the two of them, but she had thought of barging in on them like that as intrusive, and she'd learned her lesson about curiosity after Inception. Cobb still had trouble looking her in the eye. However, Eames' and Arthur's voices had reached such a level that the entire penthouse apartment was involved in their conversation, whether they liked it or not.
Ariadne flopped down in between Eames and Arthur, barley holding back her wince as she collided with a couch that was far too solid. Sometimes she resented modern architecture for being so sleek and angular. The two men, now either side of her, caught each other's eye over her head, but made no other reference to her unannounced arrival between them. Instead, they turned back to the television, and Ariadne was surprised to find they were watching a quiz show. She was hard-pressed to find what could possibly be so exciting about a program were people answered question after question, that had inspired the shouting and laughing she had heard before.
But she soon found out. Both Eames and Arthur seemed to be in the habit of mercilessly and ruthlessly ripping apart the contestants on quiz shows. Every question that was asked they knew the answer to. Often quicker than the contestant. Often before the quizmaster managed to read out the choices for the answer. Often before he'd even finished the question. And they seemed to be in some sought of competition with each other, that involved shouting out the answer as fast and as loudly as possible.
Ariadne was starting to wish she had never joined them.
Who penned the phrase "Survival of the fittest?" The quizmaster asked
"Herbert Spencer!" Both Eames and Arthur shouted together, before turning and beaming at each other over Ariadne's rapidly declining head. They then returned their eyes to he television as the multiple answers were read out to the contestant.
"She's going to say Charles Darwin, isn't she." Eames moaned "The bloody great stupid twat. Honestly, what are kids being taught these days?"
"Come on, Eames," Arthur placated, "Have a bit of faith. She didn't fall into that chiwawa trap. She may know more than you think."
And then they both groaned loudly, as the quiz show contestant said, with much confidence, "D. Charles Darwin."
"I'm sorry." The tele continued, "The answer is A. Herbert Spencer. Better luck next time." And Arthur and Eames high-fived loudly over Ariadne's head.
"See, what'd I tell you," Eames said, loudly, laughter edging in to his voice. "Idiots. The lot of them. Don't know why they even try, failing a simple question like that. You knew it, of course Ariadne?"
Both men then turned slightly to look questioningly at the woman between them. Ariadne swallowed loudly and nodded, not trusting her voice. She hadn't know. Sitting between Arthur and Eames made her feel a little inadequate. She wished she could slip away, un-noticed, and maybe have a safe, quiet conversation with Saito. Or maybe risk being blown up by Yusef.
"See, Ariadne's a smart one." Arthur cried joyfully, and Ariadne could never get used to seeing Arthur like this. It was so unlike him when she saw him at work that she could've sworn they were two separate people. It would seem Arthur was a master at self-control. Who had a split personality. "Not like those idiotic dicks." The pointman continued. "Honestly, how do they get up in the morning knowing they're such failures?"
Ariadne's feelings of inadequacy were increasing. As was her fear for her team-mates sanity. She almost wanted to cry. And then to jump for joy when Eames said, casually, "Change the channel, darling. These people are damaging my delicate sensibilities."
Arthur snorted with laughter, shaking his head in disbelief, but did as he was told anyway, and Ariadne was pleased to see some sought of game-show replace to quiz one. It was in japanese, which she didn't speak a word of, but which it seemed Arthur and Eames were reasonably fluent, as they looked like they had an idea about what was going on. Ariadne was much happier with the choice of television this time around. She didn't see what Eames and Arthur could possibly do to up the contestants on this show.
She was soon proven wrong, however, as the first game, which seemed to involve one contestant throwing stuffed animals at another, who was trying to run up a treadmill, began. "No, you stupid twit!" Arthur shouted "Throw it at his feet. His feet!" And Eames cackled manically along side him, egging Arthur's rants on.
Ariadne tried to sink into her seat.
"I think maybe they're cousins…"
Saito turned slowly to see what it was Eames sounded so confused about, and then smiled softly as he saw the pointman and forger seated on a horribly uncomfortable black couch watching television. "Brother and sister, actually." He said casually, and the two other men turned their heads around quickly to looked surprisedly at Saito.
Eames then beamed at the Japanese business man and patted the couch next to him. "Saito, oh wise and wonderful employer." He crooned "Come, sit with us and explain the complexities of this soap opera, which we are obviously too simple minded to understand." Saito thought the Brit was over-doing it slightly, but caved to his pleading and sat, in a dignified manner, between the the two other men.
Arthur turned to him and smiled softly, but Eames remained beaming. "So how is everyone related?" Arthur asked, confused "It seems we've missed somethings."
"That you have, Arthur." Saito agreed. "Six years of things, in fact." He then began to explain all the twists and turns in the lives of the families who lived in the fictional world they were watching. Arthur and Eames were actually very good listeners, and hardly interrupted Saito as he continued to talk for another 15 minutes, covering one implausible detail after the next, and the other two men nodded along at appropriate points.
After his explanation, the three men settled down to watch the soap. Saito knew that Eames and Arthur expected him to leave after his explanation was complete, but secretly, he rather enjoyed the show. Everyone has their guilty pleasures.
Eames and Arthur seemed to have gathered the gist of the show by the end, and had only interrupted Saito's viewing experience a few times in order to clarify some of the more intertwined points of the soaps story lines. All three men were watching the show far too intently, and Eames and Arthur were sure they understood the plots by the end of the half-hour. However, just before the credit began to role, the two characters who Saito had informed them were brother and sister began kissing.
Eames suddenly shot up much straighter in his seat, and Arthur made a strange sought of choking noise, before spluttering "But I thought they were brother and sister…"
"Oh, they are." Saito said amiably. "They just don't know it yet." He then glanced casually down at his watch and said, off-handedly "Days of our Lives is on next. You guys don't mind if we watch that, right?" And then all three men then slumped back into the uncomfortable couch and stared at the television.
Eames winced slightly as a large crash carried from the kitchen to the chairs on which he and Arthur were sitting. He made a move to get up and see what was happening, but was stopped by a hand on his shoulder, and Yusef shoving a beer in his face before sitting opposite the other two men. "Let them have their fun, Eames." Yusef said calmly. "We've earned these beers." And he passed a third to Arthur, and the three men clinked them together lightly and took large gulps.
"You, know, Eames, you didn't used to be this helpful" Yusef mused. "I remember a time when you walked out on a job when the pointman asked you for assistance with some research. Something about incompetency making you mad."
"Yeah," Arthur continued "I remember the first time you worked with Dom and you walked out because the brushstrokes on his copy of Monet's Water Lilies weren't exactly correct. And then Mal hunted you down and dragged you back by your ear."
Eames and Arthur fell silent at the mention of the late Mrs. Cobb, and Yusef looked awkwardly between the two. He himself had never worked with Mal, or, as a matter of fact, with Arthur before Inception, but he could tell by the reflective looks on both men's faces that she was something special. Something magnetic. "So, Eames, what's come over you, then?" Yusef asked, trying to break the tension.
Arthur's eyes snapped back into focus, and he grinned hugely. "You know, Yusef, I think he's going clucky on us."
Yuesf nodded along in agreement. "Yeah, Arthur, I think you may be right. He is getting a bit older. Maybe he's reached that age where his instincts kick in and he wants children."
"You know," Arthur continued "With the way he's been looking after us lately, being so helpful and all, I think he may just be projecting his desire for children onto us."
"You may be onto something there, Arthur." Yusef said. "I worked with an extractor who had he same thing happen to them. She got kind of scary for a while, making us take regular naps and making sure we had enough to eat and drink each day. Maybe Eames will be ringing the doctor when we sneeze next." And the two men dissolved into laughter.
Eames glared at the pair of them. "Firstly," he growled "I don't want children. I like other people's kids, but only because I can give them away at the end of the day, and don't have to deal with them when they start crying." Then he smiled. "And secondly," he continued "I think you made a mistake trying to psychoanalyse me. I'm not the one who's father figure is barely six years older than him, and toeing the line of insanity. Nor do I have a disturbing love for my cats." And he leaned back into his chair and sipped his beer, smiling smugly.
Yuesf and Arthur stared at Eames blankly for a moment, before Arthur made an indignant noise. "Cobb is no father figure of mine." He growled "He's more like a bother-who's-footsteps-I-should-avoid."
Yusef, too, sounded put-upon "And what my cat and I have is pure and beautiful. She keeps me happy and calm when everything else is getting out of hand." He then looked up to find Arthur and Eames staring at him strangely and gulped down more beer, fearing he had said too much. Arthur and Eames shrugged simultaneously and each drank from their bottles as well.
"Hey Eames," Arthur said, "Remember the first time we worked together, and you tried to..,"
Arthur stopped mid-sentence and Eames ceased his nodding and laughing as both men dropped to the ground hard. Yusef, not being trained to react in emergency situations, simply stared dumbly at the kitchen where the sound had emanated. There was a shriek, and then a stream of swearing in both japanese and french, and Ariadne could be seen storming out of the kitchen in disgust, arms waving wildly in the air, Saito following quickly after her.
Yusef looked up at the two men who had been on the floor mealy seconds ago, but who were now standing as if then had never dropped. He marveled at the quick reflexes the army had drilled into both Arthur and Eames. And then he spoke. "Eames, this experiment with sharing the cooking duties does not seem to be going well,"
"No," Eames agreed. "It doesn't. Perhaps we should just do it from now on." Arthur nodded along with them, and then all three men downed their beers and Eames and Yusef headed off into the kitchen to salvage what food they could.
Arthur was surprised as anyone when he suggested the team visit the local bar after a particularly grueling day on the job. Saito's mind was more vicious than they had anticipated, and did not take well to the installation of Arthur's projection of himself into his mind in order to lead his subconscious security. And the team had been in need of a break. However, usually, it took all of Eames' attentions to convince Arthur to one beer during work breaks. To have him suggest to visit a bar during time allocated to work, or even around said time, was unheard of.
However, the team (minus Yusef, who was on the verge of a breakthrough) did indeed find themselves at the first upscale establishment they came across. Arthur went to save a table and Saito disappeared with the owner of the bar, presumably to buy it out so that they would receive only the finest alcohol available, which left Eames and Ariadne to fetch the drinks.
Arthur hated sitting alone a bars. It made him feel out of place, and out of soughs, but also gave those around him ideas. After all, how often was it that someone came alone to a bar simply to drink? Besides, Arthur wasn't that keen to be seen as a 'loner', or whatever it was being called these days. He stared intently at the table, avoiding eye contact, attempting to lessen the awkwardness that came with being alone in a place filled with groups. Reaching forward, he picked up a complementary sachet of sugar and shook it between his thumb and finger, a nervous habit he had developed after being left alone at bars too often by Eames while the forger had disappeared to the bathroom, or somewhere more shady.
Arthur thought back to their job. Saito, though he was completely willing to have an increase in subconscious security, seemed to have an extremely perceptive mind which reacted adversely to any intruder, particularly one who was trying to enforce his own image to lead and co-ordinate said security. After much discussion, it was decided that Arthur's image would be the one to remain within Saito's mind, simply because he looked the most professional out of the dreamers, and so he would be the most likely to be trusted by Saito's subconscious. However, they were encountering more problems they had anticipated, and the japanese man's mind was vicious in the way only a desperate and mostly-untrained one could be. Arthur had been killed more times that he cared to remember, and knew it would be a long time before he dulled the image of Eames being burnt alive. Even now it made him shiver in horror.
"Excuse me, sir." A voice startled Arthur out of his thoughts, and his head snapped up to see a waiter looming over him, hand wrapped lightly around the arm of a tall, willowy blond, all pale skin, blue eyes and full, red lips.
"Yes?" Arthur said, testily, annoyed at being interrupted from his thoughts, but not-so-subtly eyeing up the girl in front of him. She, in turn, was running her eyes up and down his frame, and Arthur wished he had decided to wear something nicer than dark jeanes and a black shirt, and had not left his hair to loosen from its gel to settle in soft curls around his ears and forehead.
The waiter smiled "Complements of the gentleman at the bar." He said, and stepped back to allow the girl to sit opposite Arthur, which she did, greatfully.
"He also told me to bring you this." The girl said, voice flirtatious, and passed Arthur a beer, which he raised to Eames, sitting at the bar, grinning hugely at him. Eames smirked back, winked, and toasted Arthur, but the younger man had already engaged in conversation.
Eames' eyes drifted from Arthur and the girl, deep in conversation, back to his beer. The smile slipped from his face as he contemplated the amber liquid before him, and then he took a huge gulp. It was times like these that he hated coming to pubs with Arthur. The younger man chatting up some girl, and him, sitting alone and getting pissed, watching and waiting.
Eames saw Ariadne watching him from the corner of his eye, and quickly re-affixed the smile onto his face. And for a moment, he was afraid that she had figured everything out. His secret, that he had tried to bury so deep that he himself would forget it. That every time he tried a new forgery, he tried to throw it off with his skin, because he wanted desperately not to feel the way he did. But the secret always stuck around.
He was sure Mal and figured it out. She was smart and lovely and always so in tune with those around her. Beautiful Mal, with her brown curls and her french lilt and her huge loving heart. Eames had not missed the looks she had sent his way, and he knew that she had known his secret. It was a tragedy she had passed. She may have been able to help him.
And of course Yusef knew. Yusef knew almost everything about Eames. He was, after all, Eames' best friend (apart from Arthur), and who was he going to tell anyway? His cat? No, Yusef knew Eames' secret, and he tried, he really did, to help Eames fix it.
But no one else knew. Not even Arthur.
Especially not Arthur.
Eames' gaze flicked back to Ariadne for a moment, and he smiled thinly at her. She retuned the grin, much more enthusiastically, and Eames breathed a sigh of relief. She didn't know. His secret was still safe. Eames gulped down some more beer.
Ariadne's brows furrowed in confusion. She glanced at Eames again, and the man threw a smile at her, which she returned happily. But she was still confused. There was something different about Eames. She subtly ran her eyes over the man, who seemed too focused on getting drunk to pay attention to her, trying to decide what had changed. He was still wearing the same bright coloured shirts he seems to favour, and physically, he looked the same as she remembers seeing him every other time they have been together. He's avoiding eye-contact, but that's nothing new. He always does, unless he's talking to Arthur. But there is something out of place.
And then she realises. It's his smile. Whenever Eames is genuinely happy or amused, his smile flashes, all open-mouthed and crooked teeth. But now, he does nothing more than curve those wonderfully full lips into a pale imitation of his true smile. Into a fake smile. Something is bothering him. And her insatiable curiosity, which she had been working so hard to quash, demands an answer as to what.
Ariadne casts her mind back to everything she can remember about Eames, every interaction she's had with him, or that she had observed of him with another. And then it clicks, and she almost laughs. She'd never really thought of Arthur as attractive, but that was because she'd always viewed him as a mentor, or as an older brother figure. But she supposed that if she looked at him from a completely objective point of view...
Eames smiled again at her, that tight, troubled smile, and Ariadne grinned back, as enthusiastically as she could, trying to capture the man in conversation. However, Eames turned straight back to his drink, downing about a third of it in one go, and Ariadne realised she would need to take the more direct approach.
"Eames?" She asked, and the forger looked at her cautiously, "can I ask you a question?"
"Ask away, dear Ariadne." Eames replied, sweeping his hand in an extravagant gesture that had a smile tugging at Ariadne's lips.
"Well, it's just that. Now, stop me if I'm being too forward, but." She paused awkwardly, and Eames raised his eyebrows at her, encouraging her to continue. "It's just, um, how long have you been in love with Arthur?" She blurted out, all in a rush.
She watched as Eames went pale for a moment, and she wondered if she had gone too far, if her curiosity had jepardised another budding friendship, but then Eames spoke. "So, you did notice, then." Ariadne nodded. "Well, if you must know," Eames continued, "It happened not that long after I met him. I would've been 20, and Arthur was 17. So around 13 years, now. Sad, isn't it?"
Ariadne looked at the man opposite her, mouth opened in shock, as she processed this new information. Eames was in love with Arthur. Eames had been in love with Arthur for 13 years. Eames had been in love with Arthur for 13 years, and no one had told Arthur. For 13 years.
She supposed that was why she had never heard of Eames in any sought of relationship that lasted longer than one night. She had thought it was because the man was not interested in anything committed, he just enjoyed flirting. But now she knew that, instead, he had harbored a 13 year desire for his co-worker.
"Ah, you look shocked, Ariadne" And this time, Eames really did flash her a smile. "I'm rather pleased I managed to hide it so well, perceptive girl as you are. But now, you're probably wondering how I could stand having a love unrequited for so long, yes?" Ariadne nodded, and Eames continued, "Well, it's not as simple as all that, of course."
"I was the one who found Arthur, you know." Eames said, and Ariadne's eyes widened in surprise. "Yes, as shocking as it may seem, given Arthur's apparent hero-worship of Cobb, he would never have entered the dreaming business if it weren't for me. A fact that I am infinitely grateful about, but which always fills me with guilt whenever I remember it. After I left my strictly Church of England boarding school, I joined the army. And soon I was placed in some of the first military experiments with the PASIV device."
Eames now seemed to look into the distance as he reminisced, and Ariadne listened, spell-bound, to this rare insight into her co-workers lives before Inception.
"The first year was hard." Eames continued "They were still at the point where no other uses for the device were discussed. It was used only to train soldiers to be able to kill and maim each other without any consequences. Of course, there were consequences." And here, Eames adopted a wry smile, "Most of the original test subjects went insane. I think I'm one of only three still alive."
"Anyway, after a year or so, the British army developed an exchange program with the American. They, too, were working with the PASIV device, and together the two armies decided to expand their knowledge of the device by experimenting on different uses for it. So I was sent over to America to help with the new research. Which is probably what saved my life."
"One day, during a weekend off, I came across a small cafe on a side-street in New York, so I went in, hoping they made tea, when I saw this miserable-looking boy sitting in a corner. Judging by his attire, he went to some pretentious prep-school, and so I went over and sat with him. He was so small and sad and beautiful, and I just wanted to make him laugh. And that was how I met Arthur."
"After that, whenever I got leave I visited the same cafe, and every time, Arthur met me there. We'd just talk. I'd try to make him laugh and he'd tell me all about himself, and it didn't take long before I fell in love. But technically, he was still a minor, and I was in the army. The American one at that, who were very strict on their 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. Bloody prudes, the lot of them. So instead, I did the only thing I could think of to keep Arthur around. I convinced him to join the army. I got him into the dream-share experiments, and then a year and a half later we left the army, along with a stolen PASIV device, and ran off to Paris to meet up with the professors who were studying it there."
"And that's how you met Cobb?" Ariadne asked, voiced hushed.
"And Mal." Eames nodded. "And after that, Arthur and I entered into the dreaming business in essentially the same roles we have today. Only then, it was on the slightly more legitimate side of things. And that's all you really need to know about Arthur and I. We try not to work together too often. Having obvious ties is dangerous in this business, seeing as it isn't, technically speaking, legal. But whenever we're in the same country we meet up at a pub and get hammered, or just talk, and we end up asleep together and then I fall that little bit more in love, and Arthur is none the wiser."
"So why don't you just tell him?" Saito asked, and Ariadne and Eames spun around in shock, Ariande almost falling off her chair, and Eames glaring at the japanese man, muttering something about everyone knowing his secret. "Because I was sure you and Arthur were already together. I was sure you too were in love."
Eames let out a huge sigh. "No, I'm afraid I'm not going to tell Arthur." He then stole a glance at the man in question and gestured half-heartedly. "I mean, just look at him, chatting up that girl. He's young and beautiful, and he doesn't need someone like me to be something like that in his life. No, all Arthur wants from me is friendship. And I'm perfectly happy to give that to him, for as long as he'll take it. I can only hope that one day Arthur will turn around and see how I really feel about him, but until that day, I can only be the best friend for him that I possibly can. If that's what it takes to stay close to him, then I'll do everything in my power to make Arthur happy."
Ariadne felt tears well in her eyes, and she flung herself at Eames, arms around his neck, and hugged him tightly. Saito, too, reached forward, and gripped Eames' shoulder tightly. "If there is anything I can do to help. Any time you need support..." He trailed off, and Ariadne nodded her agreement into Eames' shoulder. Eames smiled sadly at his new friends, and murmured his thanks, just as Arthur and the girl got up to leave the pub.
A/N: What is this? An ending to something I have come up with that is not happy? Well, I guess there is a first time for everything...I feel sad for Eames because I know that this is how one of my friends feels about his best friend, who is a girl. The only difference is that she knows how he feels about her, and she still doesn't want to be anything more than just friends. Which has got to suck. At least Arthur doesn't know, so there's still a chance for them, I guess...And I know the introductory paragraph hinted at something like an action fic, where the team goes in and has to battle projections and survive against the odds to militarise Saito's mind, or whatever, but that would require a plot and substance, and I'm no good at those two things. Hahaha. Anyway, constructive criticism is greatly appreciated, and reviews are love, and make me want to write more. Thanks for reading.