Title: The Courting of Mr. Eames
Summary: Nobody courts like Arthur courts.
Author's note: So… this is unbeta'd. You've been warned.
Surprisingly, Eames is not the one doing the courtship.
This is, perhaps, the reason the courtship is awkward.
Well, maybe awkward isn't really the word for it. Unorthodox, then.
Painfully, painfully unorthodox.
Of course before any courtship can actually take place, first they have to meet.
Which they do.
In a supermarket.
Actually what happens is Arthur runs into Eames.
"Oh bugger," Eames says as he drops the tomatoes he'd been carrying and are thusly bruised spectacularly. "Alright there, mate?"
Eames is wearing a paisley shirt. He's wearing a paisley shirt and Arthur really should have realized he was in trouble when he saw the shirt, acknowledged it as paisley, and thought Eames looked decidedly fuckable anyway. Seriously. He had never considered bedding anyone who wore paisley before.
Quite unfortunately this does not occur to Arthur at the time.
"Would you like to go for drinks?" That's right- Arthur is the very definition of the word "suave."
Eames's eyebrows shoot upwards. "Uh…"
"To be clear, I didn't just say that."
Eames laughs and it's full and rich and makes Arthur want to say something like, "Actually, I did just say that. I said it, I meant it, and would you please come to bed with me? Thanks." Fortunately, that's when a feminine voice from two aisles over calls out an "Eames!" and catches his attention. He rolls his eyes and hollers back a, "coming poppet!" before turning back to Arthur.
"Right, another time then I suppose. Ta!"
Arthur should really be more upset that he's just been brushed off but all he can do is stand in the aisle and repeat the man's name.
That's probably where it all starts.
The Cobb's are great to work with. The best.
They still need a forger for the next job.
"Don't worry about it," Dom tells him. "We already know somebody. My wife's best friend is the best forger in this business." The problem is that Arthur doesn't know this somebody and thus this is cause for some concern. He doesn't trust forgers.
The doorbell rings and Mal goes to answer the door. When she comes back she's being followed by Adonis. Sex on legs. Arthur's walking wet dream, bad shirt and all. Of course, if this were a dream, he wouldn't be wearing a shirt. Or, at the very least, Arthur would be able to make it disappear.
He spends a moment to concentrate very, very hard on making the shirt disappear. And maybe make Dom and Mal leave because he's never really been much for exhibitionism.
"I agree that the shirt is a horrible, horrible color that shouldn't exist ever but glaring at it will not make it spontaneously combust," Dom tells him. Damn. The lack of shirt disappearance indicates reality. Arthur is sorely disappointed.
"You just have no sense of fashion," Eames tells him, wrinkling his nose. "Don't think I don't know Mal's the one who picks out your outfits in the morning."
"I'd pick out yours too, if you'd let me."
"Which I never shall poppet because I know if I let you anywhere near my wardrobe you'd set the whole thing on fire."
"I'd be doing the world a favour in my doing so."
"No taste, the lot of you," he declares before turning his sharp gaze to Arthur. It may or may not make his heart skip a beat. "Hello, you must be the point man. I'm Eames."
The "I know" that Arthur responds with while shaking the proffered hand may or may not come out a little stalkerish.
"You've met before then?" Dom asks.
"Briefly. In a grocery store. I kind of, ah, ran into him." He's really not helping his I'm-not-a-stalker case. Especially when he realizes he has yet to let go of Eames's hand. Oops. Eames shoots him an amused smile.
"I can tell we're going to have a lot of fun together, darling." Arthur licks his lips. He certainly hopes so.
"Mal tells me you enjoy a good shag."
"I enjoy many things Mr. Eames but as I am both young and male, yes, I do enjoy a good lay."
"Mal also tells me that you're not looking for anything permanent."
"I'm not. Are you propositioning me, Mr. Eames?" Say yes, say yes, say yes, say yes.
"Sorry darling, I'm not that kind of girl." Damn it.
"The kind that sleeps with men?"
"The kind that's easy."
"Ah." A pause. "So do you and Mal talk about my sex life while you braid each other's hair?"
"Don't be silly, pet, my hair is nowhere near the appropriate length for braiding. We paint each other's nails and talk about Dom's performance in the sack." Arthur nearly spits out his drink.
Eames's eyes are laughing. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
Surprisingly, Arthur really, honestly would.
Arthur's never had any troubles getting girls before. He's never had any trouble getting guys before either.
Normally, he's really quite smooth.
"What do I have to do to get you to sleep with me?" he asks Eames who has opened his front door to get the mail.
Remember, normally quite smooth.
Eames blinks. "Arthur? Why are you outside my flat at seven in the morning propositioning me?"
"Because you are really, really good looking." He could actually recite an ode or eight about it.
"Well, I can hardly argue with that. Come inside then." Score. "Mind you, I'm not letting you in because I intend to shag you; I'm letting you in because you looked like you were about to recite an ode or seven about my undoubtedly alluring physical features and I really can't let you do it out there lest the neighbours think poor of me."
"I beg your pardon?" Ooh. Begging. He really can't be blamed for the mental images that word managed to conjure up. "Focus Arthur."
"It was actually eight odes. Three of which were dedicated to your lips."
"Is this how all your seductions go? Because I admit your first impression had me expecting something more… subtle."
"Seeing as how normally my seductions end in a bedroom, I'd have to say that this seduction is not normal." Or failing. Arthur really hopes it's not failing.
"Or failing. There is the distinct possibility that this seduction is failing." Damn it. "You mean you say things like that and people actually sleep with you?"
"To be fair, I'm usually smoother than this but for whatever reason being near you turns off my brain to mouth filter. There's also a small chance that it lessens my inhibitions somewhat."
"A curious thing, that."
"Definitely." A pause. "So, bedroom?" he asks hopefully.
Eames laughs. "I think not, pet. I wouldn't want you stealing my drawers or anything when I wasn't looking."
"I'm not actually stalking you or anything."
Eames, who'd been in the process of loading his whites into the washing machine, pauses to glance up at Arthur. "I never accused you of any such thing."
"I can tell you were thinking it."
"I was thinking nothing of the sort. Though it did briefly occur to me that it's odd for you to be in a Laundromat a good two hours away from where Mal told me you live given that you don't seem the type to machine wash your suits."
"I'd never!" Arthur replies indignantly. "Wait, you asked Mal where I live?"
"I did," Eames confirms as he carefully measures out detergent and adding it to the machine. "For curiosities sake."
"Because you'd like to come to my bed?"
"Because I also thought it odd that you and I went to the same supermarket, book store, and bakery."
"Not stalking you," he repeats. Just to help get his point across because he's pretty sure Eames doesn't believe him.
"It's all very coincidental, I'm sure," Eames says dryly. "Shouldn't you be using those point man skills on an actual mark?"
"Business has been slow recently," he responds with a shrug. "And besides you're much more interesting to look into."
"I'm flattered, I think."
"You should be. I brought you tea." Eames looks sceptical but takes the offered drink that Arthur's holding out.
He takes a sip. "It's Earl Grey," he says wondrously.
"You brought me my favourite tea?" Arthur shrugs.
"It's not like I knew it was your favourite or anything- a person would have to be blind to not notice the boxes upon boxes of Earl Grey you keep in your cupboard."
Eames smiles softly and takes another sip. A minute passes and then, "You're totally stalking me, darling."
Arthur glares and then steals a pair of Eames's underwear when he's not looking as revenge.
"It's not like I blame you for the stalking or anything, pet- you're a point man. It's probably second nature to you or something."
"No, Mr. Eames, my job involves me knowing excruciating details as well as possible hazards, and has me doing a multitude of various tasks, but stalking is not among them."
"Oh. In that case, I am suddenly far less forgiving towards your stalking tendencies and feel that I should point out to you how I am slightly perturbed by the fact you have taken the liberty of breaking into my apartment, sitting on my bed, and watching me sleep."
"Not a common occurrence for you then, I take it?"
"Quite frankly, no."
"Oh." A pause. "Are you perturbed because you feel a sudden need to jump me? Because if that's the case, you really shouldn't hold back on my account. Really."
Eames groans and buries his face in his pillow. "Please tell me you have a good reason to be here."
"You mean apart from being available should you feel the sudden need to jump the person nearest to you?"
"Yes. Apart from that."
"Oh. Not really then, no, though now that you mention it I wouldn't object to getting food."
"You woke me up to ask if I wanted to go out for breakfast?"
"As I was watching you sleep, it would have been counterproductive to wake you. You woke up all on your own Eames; don't go blaming me. And really it's more like brunch now considering how it's a quarter past eleven."
Eames raises his head. "I slept till quarter past eleven? Normally I'm up much earlier."
"You looked really tired yesterday. I turned off your alarm clock because I figured there wasn't any harm in letting you sleep in since you didn't have any plans for the day."
"I… That statement is both alarming and sweet in equal parts. I'm not entirely sure which one I'm supposed to be acknowledging it as."
"I wasn't really going for either."
"Endearing it is then. Now get out so I can change."
Arthur wonders when Eames will realize that he's emptied out his entire underwear drawer while he was sleeping.
"I never took you to be an underwear thief," Mal tells him conversationally when they've all gathered at the Cobb's for dinner.
"It was for revenge."
"I was not aware that refusal to sleep with someone was a crime punishable by underwear theft."
Arthur shrugs. "The more you know…"
"I'd ask you about your intentions but you've made them fairly obvious."
"A shame really because they're hardly appropriate material for the mindset of that of a delicate lady."
Mal laughs. "Charming as ever I see, Arthur, though I do wonder why you can't show more tact towards dear Eames."
"I don't know," he replies honestly.
"I suppose it's alright in any case- Eames finds your courting style to be… amusing. Unusual, quirky, and eccentric but amusing nonetheless." Arthur frowns.
"I'm not courting anything."
Mal gives him a look that appears to be a mix of pity, disbelief, and incredulity. "I'm afraid that's where you're wrong, Arthur. If that's what you truly believe then I assure you you're courting trouble." Mal sighs. "You're lucky I like you Arthur or I'd have to tell you to stop seeing Eames. As it is, I'll just tell you that when you fuck things up, you should consider doing a Victorian style courtship. Eames has difficulties staying upset when you shower him with old style Victorian ways. Personally, I blame Jane Austen."
The appropriate response would probably be to deny fucking anything up in the near future. Except Eames. If there is fucking, Arthur would sincerely appreciate Eames being there. That would be the appropriate response.
Let the records show that Arthur is terrible at picking the appropriate response outside of work.
"You just said fuck!"
"Are you purposely ignoring everything else I just said or are you honestly appalled that I just swore?"
"You're- but- why- you can't say that! You're Mal. You're supposed to be elegant and motherly and charming. You're not supposed to swear."
"So sorry for being real, Arthur," she replies dryly.
"That's an odd thing to apologize for," Eames says, slipping into the conversation. "Everything alright there, pet? You're looking a little- Oh my. Whatever did you say to him, poppet? It looks like you've gone and broken him."
"I am not broken."
"Well," Mal says mischievously. "Perhaps not yet." Before Arthur can question what she means by that, Mal is already asking Eames what color his underwear is today.
Eames blinks. "Seeing as how your darling point man has felt the need to relieve me of my undergarments, I'm not wearing any. I thought I already complained to you about this earli-"
Eames is cut off by Arthur's rather abrupt nosebleed.
"Please don't jump," he tells Eames who is standing by the open window of his eleventh floor hotel room.
"I wasn't planning on it," he replies but doesn't step away from the window.
"They blame Dom for it," for Mal's death.
"That's what I heard."
"Do you blame him too?" Eames is silent, contemplating.
"I don't know," he says at last. "I like to think I knew her very well and never, not once, did I ever think her life would end this way. So, I guess, I blame him a little because I know Malorie Miles was not a suicidal person. Even then, though, I can't bring myself to hate him. I'm not even angry at him.
Right now, all I'm capable of being is sad."
"Sad enough to jump?"
"Sad enough to consider it." Arthur tenses and edges closer to Eames.
"Who do you think bailed me out the first time I landed in jail?"
"No," he says with a smile. "My mother. Mal couldn't bail me out because she was laughing herself silly in the cell beside me."
"Please don't jump," Arthur repeats.
"I'm not going to jump."
"I thought you said-"
"If they blame Dom, he can't stay here. Who's going to look after Philippa and James? Mal can't do it. She can't do much of anything, anymore."
"You can't stay here."
"Weren't you listening? The children-"
"You said the only thing you were capable of right now is feeling sad. Right now, if you stay here, sooner or later it will be the end of you."
"So then where do I go?"
"Dom and I-"
"I said I wasn't angry at him. I said I didn't hate him. I said those things and they're true, but right now, I can't work with him. I just can't."
"But then where do I-"
"Somewhere. Anywhere. You just can't stay here."
"I can't lose you too. I can't. I have to keep Dom together right now so I can't be with you but please, please, stay alive until we meet again. Otherwise I think I'll break too."
Silence and then, "I hear Mombasa is nice this time of year."
Arthur offers back a shaky smile. Oh thank God.
Sadly, he doesn't question why losing Eames would make him fall apart.
Arthur talks Ariadne into kissing him. She complies.
Arthur thanks God that he still has it (with women at least).
Later, when the job is done and Cobb is back with his children, Eames sidles up and stands beside him.
"Losing interest in me, pet?" It's said in a casual tone but Arthur can see how Eames is holding himself more rigid than usual.
There's a lot Arthur could say in response. "Never," for example, which would be the closest to the truth so evidently, he won't say it. "She has nothing on you," might have worked. "If only, if only," but then Arthur would have to admit to things he's not ready to admit, so that option's out too.
Instead he says, "And if I am? I'm tired of your cat and mouse game when all I want is a quick fuck." It's obviously the wrong thing to say. Obviously. Except maybe not, because Arthur's gone ahead and said it anyway.
"A quick fuck?" Eames repeats quietly.
"That's what I said Mr. Eames."
"That was quite a lot of trouble to go through for just a roll in the hay."
Arthur shrugs. "I heard you were very good in bed."
Eames's answering smile doesn't quite reach his eyes. "Why, Arthur, I'm flattered. If that's all you wanted you should have just said so. It would have saved us both quite a bit of trouble."
Arthur snorts. "I thought I was being fairly obvious."
"Not obvious enough, I'd have to say."
"Well, we can't all be perfect."
"No, I suppose not," Eames agrees. There's a pause where both men are silent before Eames straightens and turns around. He starts to walk away before seeming to realize that Arthur's not following. "Right, aren't you coming then?" he calls over his shoulder.
Arthur raises an eyebrow. "And where are you going."
"I've a sudden desire to get completely and utterly pissed which may or may not end with that quick shag you've been after for years." This is followed by what Arthur surmises are Eames's best bedroom eyes and really, how can he say no to that?
"Can't we skip the 'getting smashed' part?" he asks, still nursing his first drink.
"Don't be silly, Arthur," Eames answers downing his third glass of God knows what. "This part is absolutely necessary."
The sex is fantastic. Everything Arthur imagined. Best fuck he's ever had.
But it's quick and hard and fast and that's it. There's lust, but no love; (fantastic) technique, but Eames is almost… dispassionate about the whole thing.
He doesn't let Arthur kiss him.
He doesn't call Arthur pet names.
And most importantly, when Arthur wakes up (much, much) later, he isn't lying in the bed beside him. In fact, the spot where Eames was lying is cold and the only evidence of his presence is a note on the bedside table reading, "Thanks, that was fun. –E"
It shouldn't bother Arthur. It's what he wanted right? Just a quick fuck. In fact this is great, isn't it? This way they can avoid the awkward morning after. So, logically, it shouldn't bother Arthur.
But it does.
Oh God, he fucked up didn't he?
Ariadne calls him.
"You did something incredibly stupid right now," is how she greets him. Not even a "hello, how are you? Guilty? Yeah, I had a feeling." Just jumps right to the point. Good old Ariadne.
"How do you even know these things?"
"I'm a woman."
"That statement is obvious, uninformative, and very unhelpful to the typical woman stereotype."
"Well I figured since you were supporting the typical American male stereotype by being a heartbreaking player with an aversion to a monogamous relationship-"
"Monogamy? I haven't slept with anyone else in a very long time. Wait, he wanted a relationship?"
"And you're oblivious. Really Arthur, you're hardly winning any points here, either globally or personally."
"He never said anything about this!"
"Well it's not like Eames is completely innocent either."
"So then why are you on his side?"
"I'm neutral. Technically, I'm not on anyone's side."
"So you know where he is?"
"I'm fairly sure, yes."
"I'm not telling you."
"I thought you said you weren't on his side?"
"I'm not on yours either."
"That's… decidedly unhelpful."
"You're the point man, Arthur. You'll figure it out."
He calls Yusuf.
"He's not in Mombasa," is the first thing Yusuf tells him. Arthur frowns.
"No, this is Yusuf."
"No, I mean Eames isn't in Mombasa?"
"I just said that. Really, Arthur I know you're American but there's a limit to how ignorant you're allowed to be."
"Have you been talking to Ariadne?"
"I think she's a little bitter I didn't sleep with her."
"I think you're just upset she wouldn't tell you where Eames was."
"I didn't ask for your opinion."
"Then it's very odd for you to be calling and asking about Ariadne."
"No, Yusuf. I thought we covered this?"
"I'm calling about Eames."
"What about him?"
"Where is he?"
"Not in Mombasa."
Arthur hangs up.
He calls Saito.
"I do not know the whereabouts of Mr. Eames, Mr. Arthur." Damnit.
"How did you know I was calling about Eames?"
"That is not a valid answer."
"Well, given that you feel the need to fulfil the typical-"
"Ariadne already spoke with you, didn't she?"
"She would make a wonderful point man."
"No. She wouldn't. Please notice how she doesn't actually gather information- she prevents me from getting it."
"Is there any reason you have yet to call Mr. Cobb?"
"I- how do you know that?"
"If you don't want to tell me how you get your information, you can actually just say that. There's nothing wrong with it- I won't judge you or anything."
"Perhaps not but to simply say so is far less entertaining."
"So you can't tell me where Eames is."
"I could, but I will not."
"You were expecting something else?"
"Yeah, actually. Like cryptic advice in the form of a proverb that's totally useless to the situation or something."
"Would you like cryptic useless advice in the form of a proverb?"
"Anzuru yori umu ga yasashi, Mr. Arthur."
He doesn't call Cobb. He goes to his house.
Cobb answers the door before he even gets a chance to knock on the door.
"He's not here."
"Does no one believe in a proper greeting anymore?"
"You'd really rather debate about the long lost art of saying 'hello' when you could be fixing things with Eames?"
"You'll tell me where he is?"
"No, but I would have punched you if you had said yes to the question."
"I thought you were neutral!"
"I'm on Eames's side." Arthur sighed. This was going nowhere.
"Great. I'll see you around Cobb."
"I used to tell her," Cobb says wistfully from the doorway, "that Eames should have been born French, what with his obsession for romance. She didn't agree. 'With his manners,' she'd say, 'and the way he looks for love like a character from a Jane Austen novel, the only thing he could be is English. That and the world would be terribly deprived if he lost his darling accent.'" Arthur doesn't ask who she is; he doesn't have to.
"I thought you were on his side?"
"I am," Cobb nods, "thus it is my duty to hint at where he is cryptically so you can fix things."
"Don't fuck it up," he shouts when Arthur's walking away. "More. TRY NOT TO FUCK IT UP, MORE!"
Dom has always been a master at instilling confidence.
Eames is at Mal's grave.
He's murmuring to her, tracing her name gently with his right hand while holding a bouquet of her favourite flowers loosely in his left.
Arthur takes a deep breath and walks up to him.
"Dom is a dead man," Eames says conversationally.
"I kind of fucked up."
Eames blinks and mutters a, "Oh, so we're having this conversation now, are we?" before raising his voice and saying, "Look, Arthur, it's really not your fault. We just… we have different ideas on how this whole thing is supposed to work and they just happened to clash. Maybe it's a difference in cultures."
"Very good Arthur. You have once again proven your skills as a point man to be unrivalled. Except, perhaps, by Ariadne."
"No, I mean- it's not that different, America and England."
"You spell colour wrong. You drive on the wrong side of the road. You call football 'soccer'."
"And seeing as it's not that different, it can't possibly be due to a difference in culture."
"You- never mind. Fine, it's not a difference in culture. I suppose it's my fault then. So are we done here? You didn't mess up, it was me. Don't feel guilty."
"No, we are not- are you breaking up with me? Oh my God you are! It's not you, it's me. That's what you just said!"
"Actually I said it was my fault-"
"You can't break up with me."
"Of course I can't, we're not even dating."
"Arthur, if you went through all that trouble to track me down just to inform me that we are not, in fact, dating-"
"So go out with me."
"I- wait, what?"
"If you go on a date with me, you can dump me after. If you want."
"I- to clarify, you want me to go out with you so that I can dump you right after?"
"Well I'd really rather you didn't but-"
"Because, maybe you spell colour with a "u" and I spell it without one but in the end it means the same damn thing. And if that's not enough… if that's not enough, just remember that we, at the very least, spell love the same way." He can't believe he just said that.
"I can't believe you just said that."
"Shut up, I'm trying to make a romantic point."
A pause. "We didn't spell it the same before."
"Well we do now and that's all that matters."
"Just one date, yeah?"
"Yeah." For now.
Eames huffs and looks at Mal's grave again before offering a small smile. "I suppose I can do one date." A pause and then, "I guess Dom's no longer a dead man."
"If it's any consolation, he did say he was on your side."
Eames rolls his eyes and smirks. "Of course he did, the interfering arse."
(Except maybe not because I never got to that Victorian courtship that Arthur's going to have to go through. So I don't know, I'll leave this at fin with a possible sequel. Readers are, of course, welcome to leave a comment regarding their opinion on whether I should or should not end this here.)