Author Notes: Slowly meandering out of my hiatus, mainly by stalking the inception kink meme. Written for a prompt at the Inception kink meme which was to adapt the "Le Marias" short from Paris, je t'aime to Arthur/Eames, where Eames assumes Arthur speaks French and miscommunication ensues. I probably made this a LOT fluffier than the requester had in mind, though, lol. All dialogue in French is in italics.

Pairings or Characters: Arthur/Eames
Word Count: 2,566
Summary: Eames first notices him on a drizzly Monday afternoon in Paris.

to someone unknown

Eames first notices him on a drizzly Monday afternoon in Paris.

It's not that he particularly stands out in any way. He's wearing a dreary sweater - which Eames suspects was sewn by an elderly aunt - beige slacks and loafers, like a book store clerk or librarian, but he's clearly too young to be anything but a student. Eames just happens to be stopping at his favorite cafe for a hot cup of tea when he looks to his left and sees the young man sitting outside under one of the umbrellas. Everyone else is inside, because it's warmer and less wet, but he doesn't seem to notice the weather.

Eames sees him reading a book - he can't tell from where he's standing, but he suspects it's a novel, likely urban fantasy - and pecking slowly at a croissant, as if he has all the time in the world. Even as the line moves forward, he finds his head constantly swinging around to catch a glimpse of the boy outside. The man behind him in line eventually starts nudging him and Eames realizes he's up to order.

"What will you have?" the cute French girl behind the counter asks, twirling a lock of red hair around her finger.

"Just tea, thanks," Eames says with a wink. He's not entertaining any thoughts of taking advantage of underage girls, of course, but he's not above flirting back. She smiles and blushes a bit before taking down what type he'll be having and pouring him a mug. He gives her another wink as he grabs his tea and heads for one of the empty seats by the window.

The young man is still outside, but he's put down his book for a bit to rifle through his bag. Eames strains his neck to get a peek at the title and finds his prediction of urban fantasy to be incorrect. Instead, he sees Whitman's Leaves of Grass, and Eames grins at the young man's taste in poetry. He sits up, having found whatever he was looking for, and reaches to take another piece off of his croissant.

Eames watches him eat and read for another twenty minutes before he realizes his tea's been finished for quite a while and he actually has things to do, other than stare at young French boys. He takes his time leaving the cafe, staring at the young man out of the corner of his eye, even as he walks out and crosses the street. He takes one more glance back as he stands on the corner, chuckling to himself before strolling away.

Eames doesn't have a chance to go back to the cafe until Wednesday the next week. It's sunny this time, but when he arrives, the young man from before is still the only one outside, reading a book and taking his time with a croissant. He's wearing another god-awful sweater, and Eames wonders if he has terrible taste in fashion or if those sweaters are ridiculously comfortable and worth the embarrassment.

He hasn't been expecting to see the boy again, though he'd found himself thinking about him often and realized he was hoping to see him. And while he normally isn't one for entertaining thoughts of silly dreams like soul mates or fate or any such nonsense, he thinks it must be some kind of sign that the boy is there again. He slides inside, orders a sandwich off the lunch menu and waits for his order, leaning against the counter to stare out the window.

"Here you are, sir," says the redhead from last week, squeezing his arm gently to get his attention.

"Thanks, love," he purrs, getting a giggle and a blush in response. He grabs his plate and heads outside, taking a deep breath before walking up to the young man's table.

"Er," he says. The book in the boy's hands is a collection of Allen Ginsberg today as he looks up at Eames and raises his eyebrows in surprise. "May I?" he asks, motioning at the chair across from the boy. He stares for a bit before quickly shaking his head. Eames smiles and pulls out the chair, sliding into it quickly. He puts his sandwich on the table but doesn't touch it, and he realizes the young man is staring at him, expecting him to say something else.

"Right, ah, bonjour," he manages awkwardly.

The young man's eyebrows knit together, but after a moment he greets back with a quiet, "Bonjour."

Eames glances down at his sandwich and wonders if taking a bite would improve the awkward atmosphere. But the young man won't quit staring, and he feels like he needs to start talking, but he has absolutely no idea what to say. So, of course, he starts with the most ridiculous thing possible.

"Do you believe in soul mates?"

The boy blinks back at him.

"Ah, I don't myself, not really. It's such a silly thing, isn't it? That one person in the entire world is meant for only one other person, and no one else will do. It's a nice thought, though, I suppose," Eames rambles. When the boy says nothing, he feels a sudden dread that he's terribly embarrassed himself, but finds himself incapable of stopping.

"I suppose if I did believe in soul mates - not that I'm saying I do, of course - I'd have to wonder how I would know. I've certainly dated plenty of people, many of whom I was very happy with. But what if one of them was my soul mate? None of them felt particularly more important to me than the other. Are soul mates people who you meet and you just know? Or are they the ones that know how to do that special thing with their tongues and- oh, I guess I shouldn't be talking about something like that in the middle of the day, should I? Or are they the ones who can cook just like mum and make you think of home every time you're with them?"

The boy is still holding his book open, but his eyes are focused entirely on Eames. The stare makes him feel both strangely giddy and horridly self-conscious. But if he hasn't embarrassed himself in the eyes of the young man beyond all repair already, he has little to lose.

"Or is a soul mate that person you see sitting outside of a cafe, reading poetry, that you just can't get out of your head?"

The young man has put the book down by now, but he's still silent. Eames waits for some kind of response - a look of disgust, a simple 'I'm not interested,' a smile, anything - but the young man just stares. Eames lets out a sigh and starts to stand up from the table when the boy suddenly grabs him by the wrist.

"My name is Arthur," he says quickly. Eames blinks down at him before grinning wide.


His sandwich, a simple turkey and cheese on toasted bagette, which he's ordered dozens, maybe hundreds of times before from the same cafe, tastes unusually spectacular that afternoon.

Eames makes sure there's time in his schedule to visit the cafe at least every other day for lunch. He makes sure there to get there after noon, because he's discovered that Arthur never shows up before then. Eames figures it's because he takes mostly morning courses - which he finds a bit ridiculous, since when he was in school, he never got out of bed before two unless someone was offering sex and free breakfast.

Arthur always takes a table outside, sitting in one of his array of horrible sweaters with a different book almost every time, and Eames always slides into the chair opposite him. Arthur doesn't say much - or anything at all, really - but Eames doesn't mind. He does most of the talking between bites of his sandwiches, but he makes sure to talk about less absurd things like soul mates, focusing more on things like literature and the merits of genre writers like Gibson and Asimov, which he hopes Arthur finds interesting. He hasn't been told to fuck off yet, so he figures he isn't boring Arthur to tears, at least.

But today is unusual.

Today, there's a girl with him.

Eames stamps down on the irrational flare of jealousy as best he can while he steps inside to order his lunch, throwing glares out the window every chance he gets. His bad mood is so apparent, even the redhead behind the counter doesn't bother trying to flirt with him today. He slams his money down on the counter and stomps out with his sandwich the second he can, only taking a calming breath as he reaches the door to head outside.

Stop being a twat, he thinks to himself as he heads towards the table.

Arthur spots him, and though Eames offers a smile, Arthur looks absolutely horrified at the sight of him.

Eames wonders if he should even bother, but suddenly the girl sitting with Arthur turns and catches sight of him, too, and compared to Arthur's look of fear, she's practically bursting with excitement. He finds this more than a little disconcerting, but before he can say anything, she's flying out of her chair to grab him by the arm and drag him back to their table.

"Ariadne," Arthur hisses, glancing at Eames long enough for him to catch the desperation there. Ariadne ignores him, though, pushing Eames into the chair across from Arthur before sitting down next to him.

"So, you're the mysterious stranger," Ariadne practically purrs, not even bothering to hide the way she looks him up and down. "Arthur won't tell me a thing about you, but I knew if I followed him here I'd meet you eventually. I waited with him for three days before you finally showed up!"

The jealousy flares back up at the thought of Arthur sitting with someone else while he had been busy at work, and while he does his best to ignore it, he realizes he must have looked upset for a moment because Ariadne begins to apologize.

"Oh, please don't think I'm stalking you or just trying to piss off Arthur or something! I promise my interest in you is not ill intentioned," she laughs.

"Ariadne, please," Arthur begs quietly, and Eames is now far too curious as to why Arthur is suddenly so adverse to him being here that he decides there's no harm in talking with this Ariadne girl, even if he didn't care too much for how close they were.

"I'm curious, then, what is this interest you have in me?" he asks, mouth curling up in a grin.

"See, Arthur here has been abandoning me. We used to spend every afternoon together- oh, don't look at me like that, there's nothing romantic about it," she says suddenly, laughing before Eames even realizes he'd been making a face. "We room together, that's all. He used to never leave the apartment, either. He thinks he's terrible with people or something, but he's just kind of shy. But anyway, I finally got fed up and dragged him here, and he liked it well enough that he came every once in a while."

Eames glances at Arthur, who is starting to look a bit pink in the face, and wonders why he's letting Ariadne talk about him when he's sitting right there. Eames had thought of Arthur as quiet, but not particularly shy, but maybe they'd both been underestimating just how shy Arthur was.

"But then he starts coming here every day, and not just for a half hour lunch, but for hours. And you know that can only mean one thing, right? So, I'm here to make sure you're suitable."

"Suitable? Suitable for what?"

"For dating Arthur," Ariadne clarifies, as if it's the most obvious thing in the world.

"I understood that!" Arthur suddenly shouts, pointing an angry finger at her. Eames turns to stare at him, surprised and more than a little confused.

"You speak English?"

Arthur slaps a hand over his mouth as he realizes his mistake before his entire face and even his ears start to turn a burning red. Ariadne laughs and steals a bite of Arthur's untouched croissant.

"It's the only thing he speaks. He's absolute crap at French."

"Ariadne!" Arthur hisses between his fingers.

"Oh, come on, he'd find out eventually. You can't have a burning romance when you have no idea what the crap he's saying."

"I know some French," Arthur protests from beneath his hand, but Ariadne gives him a look.

"Yeah, like how to ask where the bathroom is, or how to count down from six."

"Wait, you speak English?" Eames repeats, and both of them turn their attention back to him.

Arthur's eyes dart back down to his lap as he mumbles a miserable, "Yes," into his fingers.

"This whole time, you didn't understand a word I was saying?"

Arthur shakes his head and looks so miserable he may start crying, which Eames finds makes it unbearably difficult to restrain from pushing the table out of the way and kissing him right then and there.

"Well, bugger me. I'm going to have to start all over."

Arthur looks up from his lap slowly, hand falling away from his mouth. Ariadne grins wide and pushes out of her chair.

"Looks like you pass," she smiles before leaning down by Eames' ear and adding, "If you hurt him, I will end you, slowly and sure to make a big mess."

Eames finds he rather likes this Ariadne now that he isn't mistakenly jealous of her, despite the threats to his well-being. She squeezes his shoulder before walking away, waving good-bye to Arthur, whose jaw is now hanging open as he continues to stare.

"Something on my face, love?" Eames asks, trying to fight back a laugh. Arthur shakes his head quickly and sits up straight, fingers digging nervously into his terrible sweater. When it's clear that he's still too embarrassed to say anything, Eames leans forward over the table and stares at him until Arthur brings his eyes up to meet his gaze.

"I've got two questions for you."

"O-Okay," Arthur nods.

"Why didn't you tell me that first day I came up to you?"

Arthur's blush deepens and his eyes dart back down to his lap, but he answers quickly, "I wasn't sure what you wanted. You just came up to me and started talking and I just really..."

His voice tapers off into a mumble and Eames doesn't catch the last of it.

"What was that, darling, I didn't quite catch the end there."

"And I just really liked hearing you talk to me in French ," Arthur finishes in a rush, and it takes Eames a moment to understand. He starts to grin wider when Arthur's ears turn completely red as he adds, "But your, um, British accent. I like that, too."

Eames feels what he swears is his heart fluttering, but he finds that terribly cliche and silly. So, of course, when he reaches over and tips Arthur's chin up to bring his eyes back up, he asks the most terribly cliche and silly thing he possibly can.

"So, tell me, Arthur. Do you believe in soul mates?"