The final installment of the three-part series for this drabble collection! Little Arthur and Eames are adorable, of course, but older Arthur and Eames is where more fun is to be had.
Cinderella (Part 3)
When Arthur steps off the plane, he's eighteen years old and he's lost count of how many times he's been to London since the first time, when he was eight.
Without fail, as he takes a cab to his hotel, his mind begins to wander as rain patters lightly on the windows of the car. He allows himself to let a face form in his mind, a name, and the ring he's kept since he was eight years old feels like it's burning a hole though his pocket.
He squelches the thought, not desiring to remember how many times he searched for Eames every time he visited London, and in consequence, how many times he returned home disappointed, frustrated, and generally pissed at the boy.
He's a man now..., Arthur thinks to himself idly, but thinks of the now-man no more.
He's been coming to London frequently now, but it's only been in the last year for various business reasons. This time he's being introduced to a man named Cobb, who apparently has a prospective job for him. Arthur's heard of the man, and is secretly quite flattered and pleased he's being contacted.
He's determined this time to keep his mind on the meeting and be out of London as soon as it's over.
Not look for Eames.
Arthur grits his teeth and rolls his eyes at himself just as the cab stops in front of the hotel. Arthur pays, then steps out, popping open his umbrella before the rain can damage his suit too much.
Arthur actually likes London. He's always been fond of the rain, the dreariness, but also the serenity that comes along with it. He likes Londoners too, far better kept and polite than his neighbours back home in New York.
Dropping his bag at the end of the bed, Arthur looks around the hotel room. It's small, but he managed to request a queen sized bed; even if that bed takes up most of the room.
The meeting isn't until later that night, for dinner, which leaves Arthur to do whatever he pleases for four hours. He decides to rest, stretching across the bed and resolutely not thinking about how the hotel he's staying at is the same one where he received his first kiss.
Arthur is the first to arrive for dinner, which isn't surprising because it's ingrained into him to be early for everything. He fiddles with the edge of the tablecloth while he waits, tapping his foot. He passes the time glancing around at the other patrons, giving in to ordering a glass of champagne. When it arrives, he takes a sip, and as he sets the glass back down on the table, a man approaches the table.
Arthur stands as the man sticks out his hand. He's of medium height, with light brown hair and a charming face. "Dom Cobb." says the man, smiling as Arthur shakes his hand. Arthur returns the smile, about to open his mouth when Cobb continues. "I hope you don't mind, I brought an associate of mine along with me."
Out steps a man from behind Cobb. He's tall, taller than Arthur and quite a bit larger, broad shoulders draped with a suit that Arthur would consider attractive if it weren't for the hideously pink shirt underneath.
Arthur eyes the man curiously. Cobb grins, saying, "Arthur, this is Eames. Eames, Arthur."
Arthur immediately freezes on the spot, which happens to be in the middle of a handshake with Eames. Eames blinks rapidly a few times, and Arthur catches the obvious look of surprise that passes over his face.
Arthur rips his hand away and quickly sits down at the table.
The conversation actually manages to pass smoothly, what with Arthur completely diverting all of his attention to Cobb and Cobb's job proposition. Eames is mostly silent (for once, Arthur thinks viciously), and other than the few furtive glances in Arthur's direction, barely moves at all.
Cobb is brilliantly oblivious, for which Arthur is massively thankful. At the end of dinner-meeting, Arthur thanks Cobb graciously, promising to stay in contact, and hastily excuses himself to the restroom.
After his escape, Arthur tries to wash the emotions that are currently screaming around in his brain off, scrubbing desperately at his hands. He scrambles to regain some control, some understanding of the situation, and instead only manages to have his stomach tie in a knot.
He sighs, leaning back against the restroom wall. His hand instinctively goes to the pocket with Eames's ring in it, but Arthur decides otherwise.
Arthur closes his eyes, someone else enters the restroom. After a few moments, Arthur reopens his eyes to see Eames standing at the other end of the restroom, staring at him.
Arthur couldn't be more annoyed with himself for the way his heart flutters in his chest, but he honestly can't help it.
Has it really been ten years?
"You were really brilliant at dinner tonight, Arthur." Eames says, all smiles and charm. "Really, Cobb is quite looking forward to working with you."
Arthur is silent, but nods anyways, just to give some reaction. Eames cocks his head and asks, "Where are you staying?"
"Dean Street." Arthur says quietly, begging for his voice not to reveal anything other than indifference.
"Excellent! Me too!" Eames exclaims, and Arthur comes very close to hitting his head on the wall.
Eames continues. "Are you cabbing? Why don't we take one together?" Arthur shrugs.
As the exit the restaurant, Arthur briefly wonders if Eames doesn't remember him. His stomach twists harshly at the thought, but Arthur realises it's entirely possible. Eames gave no signs of recognising that Dean Street was where he and Eames had originally met.
They walk to the corner of the street and Eames asks, "Have been to London before?"
Arthur's really convinced that Eames doesn't know now. He even wonders if maybe this Eames isn't his Eames.
Eames turns to grin at him, eyes sweeping over Arthur in a clearly appreciative glance.
No, this is definitely his Eames.
Arthur decides to cut through the bullshit. "Yes, but my first time was when I was eight."
Once again, he doesn't miss how Eames falters, slightly missing a step. Eames coughs.
"Really? With who?"
"My parents." Arthur replies, pausing briefly to hail a cab. "Although I didn't see them too much, I spent most of the visit out."
As they stand on the street corner, Eames's face is hidden in the shadow of a street lamp. So Arthur can't see his expression when Eames says softly, "Did you have a good time?"
The cab pulls up and Arthur gets in without answering, scooting over to allow Eames inside. Eames slides in, leg brushing against Arthur's and Arthur's traitorous heart quickens.
Eames gives directions, and then Arthur gives his response. "Yes. It was wonderful."
Eames is silent again, but he presses closer to Arthur. Arthur inhales deeply. He feels Eames's breath on his neck, whispering in his ear, "I'm glad."
Arthur surprises himself when he huffs out a laugh and adds, "Yes, well, it's not like the boy I got to know bothered to contact me afterwards..."
Eames pulls away a little to stare at Arthur. Suddenly, he takes Arthur's hand, opening it up, and Arthur realises had taken Eames's ring out of his pocket.
Eames stares at Arthur's hand in awe, then says, "I had no idea." It sounds like the words almost got caught in his throat.
Arthur doesn't respond, aware of how close their faces really are now.
The cab coming to a halt in front of the hotel is like an electric shock. Arthur even jolts, quickly paying the cab driver and getting out, thinking, Air, I need fresh air...
Eames crowds behind Arthur the entire way from the street to the hotel elevator, like he's afraid Arthur is going to run away. Arthur realises that Eames might not be so incorrect in this thought.
Eames's fingers grip Arthur's arm, pulling them back together so that Arthur is forced to face Eames. "I looked for you all the time." Eames says. "I never stopped looking. Every time I was out, every time I saw someone with the same stupid mop of hair as yours. I've been looking for you for ten years."
Anything Arthur had planned on saying, which probably wasn't much, immediately dies in his throat, his mouth going dry. He looks up at Eames, thinking carefully before saying, "I came to London as often as I could." It was an inadequate response, but Arthur couldn't think of much when Eames's blue eyes were that wide and that close.
Eames opens his mouth like he's going to reply, but stops himself, choosing to close the gap and crush Arthur's lips with his. For a fleeting moment Arthur's heart positively explodes in his chest, and then he presses back into Eames, putting ten years of frustration and heartache into the kiss.
They pull away when the elevator doors open to Arthur's floor. Arthur pulls Eames out by tugging on his belt loops and Eames breaks the kiss to laugh darkly, then kisses the corners of Arthur's mouth like he did when they were little. Arthur feels a shiver trickle down his spine.
As Arthur fumbles with the key to open his door, Eames says slowly, "You said something about me not contacting you...I never knew who you were, other than your name and what you looked like."
Arthur opens the door, then turns to frown at Eames. "Yes I did, I slipped my address in your coat pocket."
Eames's face screws up in concentration as he remembers back, then switches into a grin. "Uh, I'm pretty sure I lost that jacket shortly after you left."
Arthur gapes at him, but soon can't help the laugh that escapes from him. "I can't believe it!" He says incredulously. "I thought you had forgotten about me!" He continues to laugh, and Eames looks like it's the best sound he's ever heard.
"You better make it up to me." Arthur says quietly after his laughter has died away, the two of them having shrugged out of their clothing and are now moving towards Arthur's bed.
Eames presses his thumbs into Arthur's hips, enjoying the satisfied sigh it elicits. "Don't worry, I will." He says, then pulls Arthur onto the bed.
Hopefully this is a nice conclusion to the little series for everyone! I'm back, of sorts, having a little bit of updating here and there to do.