A/N: Sorry for the delay, guys. I had some trouble with this chapter. There seemed to be a lot of anticipation for Eames appearance and I really didn't want to disappoint. And I dealt with this by procrastinating. Not proud of it. I apologize. Also, forgive me if this chapter is not cracky enough.
Two weeks later, he and Eames end up working a job together. With the exception of a handshake in greeting, Arthur avoids the British man (and his knowing smirk) like the plague. The last thing he needs is for the Forger to harangue him about Ariadne and embarrass him with crude romantic advice in the middle of an operation.
And for the most part, Eames allows his colleague to skirt around him. In fact, he doesn't even make half-assed attempts to corner, ambush or harass Arthur. In retrospect, the Point Man realizes that this in itself (Eames refraining from harassing him is unheard of) should have sent alert and "beware" signals to his brain. He knows from experience that if Eames hasn't already pounced and ripped off the head of his prey, it usually means there's something more sinister brewing.
Three days before the day of the job (a relatively simple extraction involving New York's most notorious mob boss and the identity of his mole in the NYPD), Arthur receives a letter, a good old-fashioned one complete with a sealed envelope and postage stamp. From Ariadne. He may have been pleasantly surprised if it weren't for the fact that he had never given her so much as a clue as to his whereabouts, let alone his address. In fact, no one knows his exact address right down to the apartment number and zip code.
For a brief moment, he entertains the idea that Saito somehow discovered (bribed or tortured for) it. But he's almost positive that the handwriting belongs to Ariadne, and really, he's more curious about its content than how it got there. So pushing his suspicions aside, he neatly tears the envelope open with a letter opener (he finds it barbaric the way most people rip open letters), unfolds and reads.
I'm not any good with letters. In fact, I don't think I've ever written a letter that's actually meant for someone to really read. It just seems weird. Writing down words on paper when you could speak them out loud seems kind of pointless to me. And who even writes letters anymore anyway? With correct spelling and punctuation and the "yours truly"... Okay, you probably do, but other than you, I can't really think of anyone else. So me writing a letter was pretty much a dumb idea. Completely lame. But I'm doing it anyway so I might as well get to the point.
Here's the thing: I dream about you. Often. A lot. Specifics aren't important. What is important is that these dreams are driving me crazy and could possibly be ruining my life. I can't concentrate during lectures, I lose focus in the middle of an assignment, and I'm just all over the place.
I think I might need to see you. No, I know that I need to see you. Just to get whatever this is out of my system. So yeah, we need to see each other. I don't know when, where or how, but you're the Point Man, I'll trust you to fill in the details.
And suddenly, all of his suspicions are resurfacing and irritation surges powerfully though his veins. His right eye twitches. The vein in his forehead throbs dangerously.
"Eames," he growls through gritted teeth. The paper crumples violently in his hand.
Arthur's all flashing eyes and angry pout as he pushes through the heavy doors of the warehouse. in fact, his rage is so thick and blinding that he (almost) doesn't care that his tie is askew and his hair is sticking out in ridiculous tuffs. And he basically forgets that yelling incomprehensibly is thoroughly undignified when he zeros in on Eames.
He stomps up to the Forger and thrusts the wrinkled piece of paper into his face. "What is this?"
Eames eyes dart from the document in he's reading to Arthur's contorted face then to the offending item in his hand.
"That, dear Arthur, is something that belongs in a waste bin."
Impatience rising in his chest, the Point Man unleashes a growl. "It's a letter-"
"Oh, very good. I'm glad you've deduced that much on your own-"
"Oh, how is our favourite architect?" Accompanied by wide, curious eyes, Eames's interest could be conceived as genuine to anyone else. Arthur knows better.
The Forger chuckles, shaking his head. "You know, Arthur, you've always been too suspicious for your own good."
Arthur scoffs. "I steal information from people in dreams for a living. I can't afford not to be suspicious. I wouldn't be good at what I do if I wasn't."
The older man only smirks back in response. "So," he says, transitioning smoothly and nodding towards the source of the younger man's fury, "what's it say?"
"Right. As if you don't know."
The englishman sighs dramatically, feigning aggravation (almost convincingly if it weren't for the pure, unadulterated glee dancing in his eyes). Leaning back against his chair, the two hind legs precariously balancing his weight, he asks, "Really, Arthur, what must I do to convince you that I had nothing to do with this letter with which, might I add, you are so clearly obsessed."
Shooting the other man an unamused look, Arthur replies, "You can start by spelling Ariadne correctly."
This gives Eames a start, nearly toppling over backward in his chair. "What-" he begins to shriek, voice cracking and calm demeanor stripped off his face. Arthur's brows rise in surprise and his lips tip discreetly into a smirk. With a dirty look toward his companion and a manly cough to clear his throat (and all remnants of his girly scream), Eames rights the chair and himself firmly onto the floor. "I can spell the girl's name, thank you very much," he retorts back defiantly.
Ever the petulant child, Eames hotly snaps, "Yeah!"
"Spell it, then."
Rising to the challenge, Eames squares his shoulders and puffs out his chest. "A - R - I - A - D - N - E -" He pauses to shoot Arthur a smug, triumphant look. "E."
Face revealing nothing, Arthur questions, "Was that a double E?"
Eames rolls his eyes. "Don't act dense. You know I've spelt it properly, two E's and all."
Arthur's own eyes roll to the back of his head. "God, you're a failure as a Forger, Eames. How can you not even bother to learn the correct spelling of your Forge's name?" At his colleague's blank look, he spiels on. "How is it that you even get recruited for jobs? I don't even know why Cobb always insists on hunting you down when we all know it's a pain in the ass just to find you and when there are tons of decent Forgers just a phone call away!"
A frown mars the Forger's features. "What the bloody hell are you spewing on about, Arthur?"
Arthur lets out an undignified groan, shirt coming untucked as his hands fly heavenward exasperatedly. "Ariadne is spelt with one E!"
Suddenly, Eames's deft fingers are reaching out and snatching the wrinkled sheet from Arthur's grasp. His eyes move quickly to the bottom of the page and when they catch what he's looking for, he lets out a dismayed groan. "Fuck."
"Yeah, that's right. Now do you mind explaining what the fuck you're doing actually involving yourself in Saito's madness? Did he bribe you? Because we all know you don't actually give a horse's ass about me and that man's got a boatload of money to throw at people."
"I cannot fucking believe this," Eames says, as if Arthur hadn't spoken. "I actually take the time to spell-check the entire letter on Microsoft Word before transferring it onto paper and her name, her goddamn name is the one word that's not on spell-check?" His voice, which had started dangerously low at the beginning of his tirade, has now crescendoed to a point where Arthur is seriously beginning to fear bodily harm. Possibly a chair to the face. "Bill fucking Gates!"
Though he knows he shouldn't, Arthur can't help but feel the need to laugh at Eames's little conniption, especially since a spectacular shade of red has claimed the Brit's complexion and his eyes are bulging out rather ridiculously. It's all too hilarious. Somehow, he manages to keep himself in check. "Spell-check wasn't exactly designed for correcting misspelled names, Eames."
"Well, I never once saw a squiggly red line under your name, Arthur," Eames bites back accusingly, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Don't look at me like that. I didn't tamper with your computer if that's what you're thinking." As the Forger's eyes narrow further, Arthur concludes that that was indeed what he was thinking. "Arthur's a pretty common name. I'm sure if you'd typed in Saito or Cobb or Yusuf or even your name for that matter you'd get some squiggly lines."
"Don't be a smartass! The sheer stupidity of Microsoft has effectively ruined this operation! If Bill Gates is such a bloody genius he should have invented a spell-check system for names -" A glossy sheen of delusion glaze over Eames's eyes. "Name-check!" he exclaims shrilly.
He then leaps over to Arthur, grabs him by the shoulders and shakes his lean frame, exclaiming, "We've got to perform inception on Bill Gates!"
Shrugging the strong grip off his shoulders, Arthur eyes the eager man wearily. "We are not incepting Bill Gates."
"But why not?"
"Because." The answer is definitive.
The Forger considers this a moment. "You're right, Arthur. Absolutely right. Why should I let Gates take credit for such brilliance? It was my idea, wasn't it? I should get it bloody patented and maybe, just maybe, I'll let old Billy buy it off me!" He grins widely. "Sometimes, Arthur, I amaze even myself."
The Point Man in turn shoots him a look that conveys that he clearly does not share the sentiment. "So you admit to forging this letter?" He waves the paper in front of Eames's face for emphasis.
The Englishman shrugs, unaffected, his moment of delusion and insanity vanishing in an instant. "I suppose I've admitted as much. But really, it was for your own good."
"What are you talking about?"
Another shrug. "Just that you're the kind of person that never really goes for the things he wants in life. Especially the things that are staring him directly in the face, things he could have if he would just risk a step forward and reach out. If you ask me, it's rather cruel what you're doing to yourself."
"Then it's a good thing no one asked you."
"We - "
"Saito and I -"
"-thought you could use a little push, you know, to get the ball rolling, so to speak."
When Arthur fails to respond, Eames adds for clarity, "You being the ball, of course."
"Well, you know what? Thanks but no thanks. I don't need you shoving love letters down my throat or Saito playing some twisted game of matchmaker. I'm perfectly fine without everyone trying to mess with my life. And I'm perfectly capable of handling my own love life."
Eames's lips twist into a coy smile. "Oh, so you do admit that you've set your sights on the lovely Ariadne."
"Wait - wha - I never said that."
The Forger tuts. "Not in so many words. But judging by the way you're blushing right now, I don't think the words are really necessary."
Arthur tries to fight down the flush creeping up his neck. "Just -" he pinches the bridge of his nose instead, "stop meddling in my life, okay? You, Saito and whoever else you've managed to recruit."
"Oh, Arthur, you are positively smitten."
With a vicious glare and an offending hand gesture, Arthur turns to retreat to his corner of the warehouse. But something he's put on the backburner of his mind impatiently demands his attention. "Hold on," he says angling his body back towards Eames. "How did you find my address?"
"Saito owns half the condominiums in the Upper East Side, darling. Including yours," the Forger replies easily, settling back into his chair.
Slightly dumbfounded by this new bit of information, Arthur almost misses Eames's sly wink and the breezily added, "Oh, and don't be surprised if Ariadne does actually write you. Well, more like writes you back, really. You made it abundantly clear in your last letter just how much you enjoyed that kiss."
I'm sorry it wasn't as cracky as I'd hoped. Reviews are love.