AN: This is completely inspired by a wonderful tutorial on LJ by hackthis called 'How to Dress Your Man', which heavily focuses on the aspects of menswear relating back to the boys from Inception. Because, lets be honest, there are some well dressed men in this movie (although Arthur definitely wins overall). And so, after reading, and also having an interest in suits and the like (I don't have to wear them to be able to appreciate them), this has been written. Most of the details are from my own knowledge, but if anyone's interested, most of the styles and details are on the tutorial.
Eames had heard of Cobb's Point Man long before the two actually met. In the underground of the business of extracting, with professionals of such a secluded and niche trade, tales and rumours ricocheted from one group to another, an interwoven web of Chinese whispers. 'Did you hear about what happened to Westall's Forger..?'... ' I heard Tyler's managed to get himself a new Chemist. They're so hard to find these days, good ones I mean...'. Stories embellished by context and the teller, and Eames had learned to know better than to trust certain sources of information. But the words would get back to him sooner or later, especially if he'd been keeping low somewhere for a while – Cologne, Johannesburg, Ankara – and resurfaced from weeks, maybe months of disconnection from his contacts, ex-partners he'd worked as a Forger for. And in the gossip he heard over a drink with acquaintances, names were attached to tales, who was working for who, who had extracted what.
And one of the biggest names was that of Dominic Cobb. The original extractor, involved in the late Project Somnacin. And when that went down like a lead balloon in the eyes of the military, squashed by cynics and cost-effectiveness initiatives, when the information got leaked to the black market, Dom Cobb stayed legal. Legal until recently, and there were various explanations of why that happened but Eames was a little bit above taking tittle-tattle as solid truth. Cobb was an expert, the man who knew the secrets of shared dreaming better than anyone, a man who could extract anything.
Some people even said he'd been to Limbo, and had returned. Eames personally didn't give that one much consideration. Some things were a little too far fetched.
But as well as there being wild and inventive narratives of Dominic Cobb and his latest escapades – moving around almost as much as Eames did; Paris, Hong Kong, Algiers, making the Forger wonder what exactly he was running from that made him hide halfway around the world from his home country - there were also rumours of his team. Varying names over the years, some who stuck around for a while then left, some who couldn't hack it after a couple of missions. And then the ones who were always with him; shadows in the background of every event.
And Arthur was at the forefront of these.
He was a mystery man people said, and had just appeared on the scene with a background no-one knew about; apart from some time in the military that seemed all a bit hush-hush, if the difficulty getting hold of his records was anything to go by. He had worked with no-one else but Cobb, and most people didn't even know his last name. It was just Arthur. Cobb's second in command. The Point Man.
What people did learn from the gossip that went round in tides, one rumour receding before another swelled and grew and took it's place, was that he was efficient, reliable. Collected, suits as sharp as his wit, having as much comfort researching the mark to the point of anal retentiveness as he did in the field. And from what Eames had heard from Walsh; an old friend from his side of the world, Scottish accent rarely speaking anything other than fact he had heard first hand, he was pretty handy with a gun.
As Patterson's group of wayward extractors had found out when they broke the unofficial rules of the extraction business, and went after Mallorie Cobb (Dom's wife of many years, whose name was just as renowned for her revolutionary 'totem' idea) and tried to bully her into convincing her husband to stop taking what they considered 'their' jobs. Eames had never liked Patterson personally, not trusting the look in his eye or the way he acted like the whole world owed him something, a supercilious expression on a thin scrawny face, and he never had any sympathy for the man, even after he heard what happened. Eames – while not quite being able to describe himself as a gentleman – had a sense of moral boundaries, rules set in stone never to be trespassed upon. And going after a women was one of them.
The whole situation had turned nasty when Patterson had become violent; patience never being one of his strong points, and being in possession of a short fuse, especially when Mal had told him in no uncertain terms to get out, and had punched him when he tried to lay a hand on her. A broken nose did nothing for his temper, and then Cobb had come in, and while defending his wife, had been shot; Patterson's itchy trigger finger coming into play.
The Extractor had gotten off lightly with a pellet in the shoulder requiring a week resting the damaged ligaments, but Patterson hadn't been so fortunate when Arthur had hunted him down. The Point Man seemed to take a threat to his friends ( Dom and Mal appeared practically his surrogate family) quite personally, and no liberty had been spared tracking him down. Patterson had obviously been intelligent enough to know when to cut and run from something, but that didn't make any difference, and Arthur had still tracked him down regardless.
He didn't kill Patterson – Eames couldn't see him as that sort of person strangely enough, despite not even knowing the man, just taking the impression of him from hearsay and his own imagination – but whatever he had said when he caught up with him on the outskirts of Lagos (and according to Walsh, the Point Man hadn't even laid a finger on the bloke) must have been good, because Patterson hadn't stayed in the business long after that.
Last Eames heard, he had settled down in Kansas, working an honest job completely non-dream related.
So it was interesting when Eames finally met Arthur, the mystery man of so many Chinese whispers because initially, he would admit, he was a little disappointed.
Cobb had tracked the Forger down to a seedy room in Potsdam, west of the German capital and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg metropolitan region. Eames had had his head down after his last job, quietly scouting out more work while convincing his elderly neighbour in the flat upstairs that he was a businessman down on his luck, so as she was less inclined to call any polizei or BKA because a painfully British man (even when he disguised it with perfect German – like Britishness was something that any European could sniff out on you like a particularly bad smell) was acting less legal than she would have liked.
The Extractor just let himself into Eames' small flat, and had seated himself on the sofa that smelt like dog from the last owners, waiting for him to come back from the REWE Supermarket down the road.
He didn't even look surprised when Eames took one look at the strange man calmly and comfortably sitting on his sofa as though it was his very own and pulled a gun on him. And one of the things that made Eames place the gun back in its hostler was the way he had addressed Eames with his proposition, launching into it courteously even as he assured the Forger he was unarmed.
Serious, professional, a shade to his expression saying 'trust me' in such an open and honest way it was hard to resist.
Eames liked Cobb from the moment the man started talking – because in his world, people you felt you could truly rely on and trust were few and far between . That reason, and the price Cobb was offering, prompted him to accept almost immediately when he offered him a job (and he wasn't even thinking about how Dominic bloody Cobb – the original extractor, the veteran of the dream state – wanted him as a team member).
So within a few hours, the Forger had packed the little he had brought with him (and had even said goodbye to the old women in Flat 2b with a degree of fondness – despite her suspicious nature, she hadn't been that bad really) and was boarding a plane to Japan. It was an eleven and a half hour flight from Berlin to Tokyo Narita International airport, so Eames used the time to catch up on his Japanese – he remembered words and sentences vaguely, but he hadn't used the language since that forging he'd done with Osborne and his lot, must have been nearing five years since then – and reading the file Cobb had given him on the mark.
The Extractor had looked quietly pleased in his own serious way when Eames had asked extensive questions about the mark, and also on his mistress; how she acted, her mannerisms. So he must have been doing something right.
The flight left him jet-lagged, yet he had slept fitfully in short bursts on the journey, and despite Cobb's offer that he could adjourn the group all meeting until tomorrow, Eames hadn't been able to want to wait till then. He was going to meet Cobb's team – be a part of that team – and it was wrong to deny he was quite looking forward to this experience.
He had entered the warehouse they were using after dropping his luggage off at the hotel Cobb had booked him into for the duration of the extraction, sprucing up his appearance with a splash of cold water and a clean shirt, and Cobb introduced him to the other extractors that he would be working with. This would be a memory Eames would look back fondly upon in later years, but at this time he just took in everything with appraising eyes.
Nash, the Architect, seemed a jittery figure referring back to recollection, his eyes constantly in motion, flicking here and there, the nails on his hand gnawed to the quick. In fact, in the short time Eames was acquainted with the man, the only time he saw him still was when he was on the computer, eyes focused solely on the AutoCAD document as he formed layouts and structures that they would use for the dream levels. Architects, and Eames had been around many so could speak from experience, tended to be split into two categories; the conceptual and the tangible. The ones viewed their creations as just that, creations, and the dreamers barely restrained in reality, the ones that wanted to build and make with no limitations. Nash seemed to be in the former category, and they were always the ones he never seemed to warm to, although he was courteous enough to the man while they were together. And later in his life, when Eames met Ariadne on the Fischer job, he would consider her of the tangible category; the ones who lived for what they did and loved every part of the process because it lend itself to the finished piece.
But that day, Eames wasn't focused on any of that, tangents of thought of that form and loose structure only appearing afterwards. He didn't think about till afterwards how sad Cobb appeared, his bones styled from dull lead, how he scrabbled to reach the totem in his pocket after the mission was complete, hands closing around it and a sigh pervading his whole body with relief.
He was only focused on Arthur, because that was the day they met. It wasn't a memorable day, none of those clichéd meetings that films go on about; bumping into each other, one dropping their wallet and the other returning it only for them to lock eyes and fall head over heels in love. The sun wasn't shining, and it wasn't raining; none of that sort of rain that gets a character wet enough so they have to have pity taken upon them by their future love interest, but not soaking enough to warrant getting a cold afterwards. The weather was mild, verging towards cold, and despite a library full of literature disagreeing with him, there was no metaphysical thunderbolt striking him with realisation when he sighted the Point Man.
When Eames first met Arthur, he honestly thought he was a bit boring. Tailored, all simple straight lines, neat and tidy with no substance behind the mask. The closeted type, work orientated with little else. When he was introduced by Cobb, the man had been reading a piece of printed paper drawn from a Manila folder, leaning against his desk as though he wasn't aware of there being a chair he could sit himself down on. Giving Eames a good full-body view of what he had dressed himself in.
There was nothing Eames liked more than carefully considered menswear. He himself didn't dress up much unless there was occasion for it, but he could appreciate a fine bespoke creation as much as the next man. Arthur was wearing an American suit; a single breasted navy blazer, two silver buttons fastened at the front neatly and notch lapels, all over trousers of the same colour. When Eames was to see Arthur from the back later on, he would note to himself how well those pants actually fit the Point Man, not too tight but certainly giving Eames a view he could admire. It wasn't spying on him, he wasn't a pervert. He'd just happened to have glanced over and the view was there. It would have been a shame to let the moment go by un-chronicled by appreciative eyes.
But from the front, Eames only took in the two piece suit, crisp white shirt underneath – and Eames could bet the Point Man was the sort of traditional fastidious man who actually wore cuff links where they were meant to be worn. He couldn't see from the angle he was at, but he would have bet good money on the odds. And the man had a tie. Plain silver grey. Grey. No pattern; no chequered or stripes or even polka dots. Which was one of the first things that slightly bothered Eames about Arthur, made him judge the man even before he knew him. There seemed no colour about Arthur, no passion to his clothings or appearance – brown hair swept back giving him a somewhat severe look – and even when he shook Eames' hand, there was a detachment in his welcome. Like he wasn't comfortable getting too close to a stranger, the whole attitude reminding Eames of a poker game; not giving anything away, keeping the cards close to his chest.
And Eames felt slightly cheated by the mortal man in front of him. Not the bad-ass he'd heard tall tails of, not the man who, if all rumours were to be believed was military ex-black ops/secret agent/Oneirology expert/born in the US/Foreign parents but raised secretly in the US/ actually from Mars (but that particular 'fact' had been told to him by Mad Jeff, who while being a lovely man who was a solid architect in his own right, also took pills to combat delusions and paranoia and probably would fail most psychiatric evaluations).
Of course, Eames didn't really know Arthur then, and over time would come to discover that most of those stories (the plausible ones anyway) weren't far off the truth. But right now, standing before him, Cobb saying his introductions for him, although from the looks of things Arthur had already expected his arrival, all Eames could see was someone who looked frankly a bit boring, a stick in the mud looking not a day over twenty six. Not the sort of person he could gel with easily at all.
"I'm glad that you'll be working with us, Mr Eames" Arthur held out his hand, all business, and Eames shook it so as not to appear rude. Good lord, he'd even used Mr.
It was worse than Eames had feared.
"Why, thank you, darling. I dare-say we'll get to know each other quite well" It hadn't meant to come out slightly flirtatious as a reply – because Eames would not, definitely wouldn't become involved with someone as conservative as Cobb's Point Man – and 'darling' had been an add-libbed addition he hadn't intended, but he couldn't very well recall back his words. So he just smiled playfully, trying to make light of it.
Arthur's brow had crinkled slightly at the endearing term, a frown of possible disapproval marring the control he held (which Eames suspected he'd probably been holding in check since they met, as there was no way a well dressed pretty boy like Arthur was going to take in Eames'... more liberal clothing sense and not want to make a comment about it being suitable for a charity shop – maybe the brown tweed jacket and gingham shirt that he'd worn weren't really meant to go together, but he'd never cared that much before).
And there it was, a spark; some expression of emotion. A flash like something in flight, flicking out of existence soon after birth. But it had been there. Eames had seen it, and it had been something he had fixed upon; the light that had illuminated those brown eyes even just for a second.
Eames had grinned then to himself, and to Arthur, winking to the man. There was a challenge right there in the control he had witnessed and the lax areas of humour, a challenge to bring Arthur out of his shell, to see that light again that had fascinated Eames so. Drawing out the man underneath with coaxing and time. And he would resort to childish nicknames and playground taunts if he needed to.
He felt he would be using the term 'darling' a lot more often.
Over the few jobs they did together, Eames learned a lot about Arthur. Some details he had guessed at from his first impression – things like Arthur's precise focus and liking everything just so – but much to the surprise of the Forger, there were disclosed aspects to his personality which Eames had not picked up up till they were quietly revealed. Which was really saying something. Eames' job was to know people, and he'd built his whole life and whole career on learning individual's habits and quirks to be able to impersonate them, figuring out what made them tick.
Yet the Point Man was an enigma; a man whom he couldn't pin down. Who appeared uninventive and unimaginative, but who turned up flashes of original ideas from nowhere like they were pulled from out of a top-hat in a magic act, who closed himself off whenever conversations got too personal for his liking but who Eames had seen chatting up a mark, lax and flirtatious that one time when it turned out Eames' wasn't the man's taste, but men like Arthur were. Arthur started out being one thing then twisted expectations while remaining oblivious to any differences.
Eames didn't understand Arthur. Which only made him all the more fascinating.
The seasons changed in cloaks of colour and weather depending on where they'd set up and jobs came and went, and Eames' teasing insults and Arthur's cutting replies matured into familiar actions with caricatures of true malice behind them. He began to enjoy Arthur's company more – not that he ever really hadn't, but the conversations changed into that between friends instead of stilted small talk about the weather and the job. They argued about their favourite TV programmes, made bets on ridiculous things (although Arthur learned quickly that doing any sort of gambling with Eames was a sure way to lose a lot of money).
Arthur taught Eames about good coffee and even better cuisine, tried to direct him into more tasteful clothes even if the advice wasn't acted upon, and attempted to convince the man that Star Trek was definitely a better franchise than Star Wars. Eames on the other hand, took Arthur out of the workplace and showed him the hidden beauties of the world – made him stand in an airport arrivals lounge just to show him the myriad of emotions and context all merging into a constant of joy as people reunited, hugging each other tightly, bags forgotten, showed him how to appreciate the simple pleasure of snow when they were in Switzerland, getting Arthur away from his desk to indulge in creating a snowman – helped teach him how to relax and not focus on work, and similarly, tried to counter Arthur's opinion with the argument that Star Wars was obviously a better franchise than Trek would ever be.
And one day, Arthur actually smiled at him. Not complete, not fully open, but definite in its shades. It was not just a smirk, a laugh held back from one of Eames' bad puns, but an honest-to-god smile, quick and barely formed but there. Affectionate and caring and all those feelings in between. Maybe not perfectly free, but things like that came in time. And Eames' heart flipped for just a moment before the motion was gone, and it was all business behind that suit again.
But there was the ghost of it behind his brown eyes, and it did not fade for a long while.
The moment when he really realised how much he'd underestimated the Point Man was when a tentative meeting to explore a job opportunity had ended up with Cobb being kidnapped before he even got there. Some company he'd taken a job against, that was usually the story, with money to spare to hire cheap or costly guns, depending on how effective they wanted the job to be.
Eames had been on the continent for a while before Cobb had called him back a job – the relatively simple one that they had just completed –, and had spent as much time as he could winding Arthur up as well as his official duties. It was a job in itself, he often considered; it was hard work, the man replying to most of his teasing comments with just one of his patented withering glares, yet it was a reward to Eames whenever he got a snarky deadpan reply as a response. It meant he'd got somewhere, meant he was getting closer to winning.
He hadn't wanted to leave the country this time. A sensation in his gut told him to stay, that signing on with Cobb and Arthur to be a full member of the team was where he would feel most at home. He felt comfortable with the two, and there was something about dying with people in dreams that brought you closer to them. Yet Eames had already become restless having spent three months on the same ground, and he was pining for different scenery on different ground no matter how much his heart argued against the leading head that he should stay. Arthur had offered, quietly, like it was an afterthought, that Eames could stay with him if he had nowhere else to go or if he needed some time to secure a place. The idea of that had appealed so badly, something so homely and right about staying, being able to bother and tease Arthur to his heart's content, yet Eames had turned down the offer, ignoring the hesitation in his own voice.
He was ten minutes from boarding a plane to Rio de Janeiro when his mobile rang its tinny irritating tune. Arthur, the screen dictated, and he took the call with quick fingers stabbing the green answer button.
The Point Man delivered him the news in a clipped tone, requesting whether Eames wanted to help with the situation. It sounded hard for Arthur to be having to ask for aid, but the words flowed from his mouth however stiltedly.
"I would appreciate it if you would help me find him"
Eames never boarded that plane.
As soon as Cobb had been lifted off the radar, Arthur appeared to have morphed in the Forger's eyes into that efficient dangerous soldier that Eames remembered hearing about. He wasted no time, launching immediately into data of possible suspects, attempting to track Cobb's phone and only pausing a second when that avenue did not work to sigh deeply before continuing another track. Eames was assured that even if he hadn't stayed Arthur would have found Cobb, but he treasured the fact that Arthur had wanted him to stay, wanted his help. Rarely did people rely on Eames as a friend, rather than a professional.
Arthur tracked Cobb's whereabouts through conversations with contacts; underground extractors and calling in favours from people Eames couldn't imagine being anything other than military personnel. Eames called those on the black-market that Arthur hadn't known of, people he could trust, and having a few people in debt to him from lost poker games helped them with the jigsaw.
Eventually, after what seemed like three days non-stop searching – and he didn't think looking back he'd actually seen Arthur sleeping anything other than catnaps during that time period– the two of them ended up in Mexico; having been able to secure a flight suspiciously quickly making Eames guess that one of Arthur's friends were involved somehow. The trail had stopped with a man named Santiago. Drug dealer mostly, dealing with arms and corporate favours on the side so the police would leave him alone.
The most important fact was that he knew – or they had been told that he knew – where Cobb was.
And Arthur – looking completely out of place in the heat and local area of Hidalgo, one of the municipalities bordering Mexico City in his usual suit (at least he had had the sense to strip his jacket and tie off, leaving only his waistcoat and shirt which had the sleeves rolled up over the elbow, impressively managing to look as refined and controlled as he always did) – had waltzed into the home of a man who could probably have them both shot on sight like he had nothing in the world to fear, and greeted him as he did everybody; with a distanced respect and courtesy that Eames had been privy to when he first met Arthur.
Eames followed, closing the door behind them, and witnessed Arthur as he began to question Santiago with no hesitation. Making it very clear that he knew that Santiago was aware of Cobb's location, and that it would be a lot easier on all the parties involved if he shared it with Arthur. There was no threat in his words; the emotion restrained solely to his tone and expression. The Point Man did nothing explicitly, but there was a sense of danger, of it being a bad idea to deny this man especially when you were the only thing between him and his closest friend and colleague.
The man, who was getting on in years judging by the worsening smoker's voice and blackening teeth, either ignored the blatant warning alarms or didn't recognise them for the threat they posed, for he had laughed loud and long after Arthur had said all he came to say. He raised his head with a renewed arrogance, having tensed himself into a smaller stature when two strangers had walked into his home, and had just told Arthur to fuck off, spitting on the dusty ground before them.
So Arthur had left without a word. Not going along any lines of overused bravado; promising to return or that the dealer would end up regretting his actions. Merely inclining his head in a farewell before turning and leaving.
And when Eames had came out of the house a second behind him and asked him what they were going to do now, the Point Man had replied that it was probably time to go and set up the PASIV. They would come back at nightfall.
Arthur hadn't wanted Eames to come along the second time around, not comfortable with the data he'd recovered from a source about the security arrangements to the small house (the man was wealthy enough to be able to hire guards to watch for burglars chancing a break in), but the Forger was nothing if not stubborn. He had told Arthur that it wouldn't do if he got himself hurt (and it definitely wasn't because Eames was worried about the Point Man's safety) and so had stuck to his guns and refused any arguments with Arthur on the subject.
The Point Man had paused, then given one of those rare but treasured smiles, thanking Eames quietly, almost as though he was embarrassed by the man's loyalty, hadn't expected such a level from the Forger.
That night, the two had crept into the man's house; Arthur silently setting up the equipment while Eames sedated the already sleeping man with the correct measurements of compounds to keep him under for the amount of time that this would take. Arthur estimated low when Eames had asked how long, so presumably the Point Man had already been in possession of some sort of idea about how they were going to retrieve this information.
Then the two of them had seated themselves down and plugged themselves into the IV lines. Then they'd entered the dream state.
Santiago had been surprised to see the two of them suddenly there, jolting up from the wooden business table he was sitting at with a projection of some business man he most likely knew on the outside, but the man was suitably convinced that it was a dream. Convinced enough to deny Arthur the information a second time when the Point Man quietly asked. His laughter was just as free and cocky this time, boasting that they'd probably torture Cobb first, get them to tell him everything they wanted to know about extraction before they put a bullet in his head. He joked that they'd probably toy with him first, that when a man had a family it was a lot easier to mess them up from the inside. Screw with his head, make him wish he was dreaming, and deny him his precious totem just to screw with him some more.
Turned out that that had been a bad thing to say in front of Arthur. His expression shuttered into hard lines, and when he nodded imperceptibly to Eames with a signal they had prearranged, there was no emotion in his face. The sort of look that was worse than screaming anger or blazing hatred because there was no way you could tell how deep the violence went.
Eames pulled out a Beretta from behind him, and aimed, the safety off and trigger pulled in one deft motion that came from practice.
The projection, who had been menacingly making advances in his direction – subconscious really was a bitch sometimes – bent over and collapsed to the floor; a neat circular hole in his head where a bullet had struck. Santiago had gasped and gave a quiet scream he couldn't quite contain in his fright. But that wasn't the last of it, because Arthur had pulled out a revolver from where it had been tucked down the waistband of his trousers at the back, and shot him in the foot.
Santiago had screamed louder then, more from the shock then real agonising pain. He swore, staggering back down onto the chair behind him, staring at his foot and the blood over his loafers, speech flooding from him in a torrent of mixed up expletives jumping from English to Spanish.
Arthur, with no hint of remorse, told him honestly that he would pull the trigger again if he didn't tell the Point Man where Cobb was.
Eames had never thought he could consider Arthur frightening before that moment. Arthur was the guy he joked with, the youngest of them all in the team (three of them with Nash taking time off on the continent) ,who he'd always considered the most breakable because of that fact, who behind his suits that closed him off possessed as many weakness and foibles as the rest of them. Arthur was the correct one, the one with a strict moral code of his own devising that he constantly adhered to, yet who for all his nobility outside the dream world, wasn't above hurting someone if it was necessary. He was subconsciously hurting someone, with no lasting damage after the dream ended, and maybe that was the line for him where something became acceptable. But maybe it wasn't, because Eames saw how Arthur handled his gun like it was a secondary limb attached to his hand, how he held it steady with hands clenched firm, and got the strongest feeling that Arthur would have done this even outside a dream if it meant saving a friend.
Eames had done worse in his lifetime, so it wasn't really his place to get on his moral high horse and judge. And Arthur looked so damn dangerous; cool and professional and totally at ease with the weapon in his hand. Eyes piercing into Santiago, unflinching. Daring him to deny him one more time.
And Eames would have been lying if he said that that image of Arthur didn't turn him on a little bit.
"Do you know what this is?" Arthur said to the man before him, who was cringing back into the chair he was seated on, staring dead ahead at the gun Arthur was gesturing at with fearful eyes. It was said in such a calm way that without the gun in his hand and on a different topic, it would be akin to discussing the weather "It's a Colt Python. .357 Magnum. It's a personal favourite of mine, and they're pretty hard to come by, what with the manufacturers discontinuing the line. It's a shame really, because it is a good weapon"
He looked down at Santiago "So bearing in mind that I'm telling you all this, think of what it could do to you. Dom Cobb is a very dear friend of mine, and I should like him back, in one piece if I can help it. And I will do everything in my power to stop him being hurt. So if you don't tell me what I want to know, then that's your prerogative. But bearing in mind that I've still got this gun, no matter what type it is, that's a very bad idea" He moved the muzzle down to touch against the man's kneecap, a gentle caress from the cold steel that still garnered the desired reaction of terror in Santiago "See, if you don't tell me, then I'm going to click the hammer of his gun down and pull the trigger. Now, you're a smart man, you've been around guns enough, so I don't have to tell you what happens then."
"Arthur" Eames whispered so only the Point Man could hear, flicking a glance out of the window of the dream building that they were in – he didn't know exactly where, one of the reasons why he hated going into a dream without an architect so much. Never knew where anything was. "Projections are moving in outside. They seem a bit pissy"
Arthur gave a nod to indicate he'd heard and turned back the the quivering man, who was steadily growing paler with fright as the discussion progressed "It would be a shame to waste a bullet, but let me assure you that I have quite enough cartridges in my chamber to get through both your kneecaps and more. So I ask you again. Where is Dominic Cobb?"
In a tone like that, Santiago needed no more convincing.
It took another twenty seconds for the man to relay the details in a stuttering voice and then – just as the projections started banging on the doors, fists making an echoing sound in the empty room apart from the three of them and a dead projection – Arthur gave himself the manual kick by putting the gun to his head and pulling the trigger without hesitation.
Eames closed his eyes, turned his head away from the corpse now at his feet, swallowing his fear and an instinctive reaction to reach into his pocket for the poker chip he would find there, before he too followed suit. And found himself awake again, his body feeling cramped from how he'd been sleeping, with Santiago unharmed and still doped up lying on the bed oblivious to the strangers still in his room.
Arthur was already packing the PASIV away, mobile phone in hand, getting in touch with some of his mates so they could get flights to where Cobb was. He had what he wanted now, so it was time to clean up and move to the next task.
Those rumours had been right.
Efficient. And fucking deadly.
The idea of Arthur being ex-black ops suddenly didn't seem so far fetched as he had once believed.
He saw the first true complete emotion he had been privy to displayed on Arthur's face when they were finally reunited with Cobb. And he had to admit, it was something that was worth waiting for, delicate and unconscious – and Eames was sure that if Arthur knew how much he was giving away to a man who read people like the pages of books, he would have made the effort to appear detached. But to Eames' delight, Arthur didn't think about that, discarding his reserved image to reveal a second skin of sudden and violent emotion that the Forger had only ever seen flashes of.
He wrapped Cobb in a tight hug, the two of them smiling at each other in that familiar way that spoke of a close connection. Not love, because Eames was pretty sure Cobb was straight as a ruler even if he wasn't so sure about Arthur, but something like family. And damn, Eames thought Arthur looked bloody hot when he smiled like that.
It was glorious in its rarity, and it was more passionate than Eames could have imagined, the relief in his eyes not held in check, his happiness bold and brazen and open for the world to see. There was something about that smile that made it seem like everything would be alright, that nothing would go wrong so long as that expression was still on Arthur's face; a slow and languid upturning of the mouth that included his whole demeanour along with it. He had looked younger, as though the whole world had been pulled from his shoulders .
Eames had only seen one of those types of smiles perhaps once or twice in his lifetime. Something honest and untainted by all the badness in the world.
Something inherently beautiful to the Forger.
And it had been Cobb, not Eames – never Eames – that had induced that reaction, that had brought Arthur from his shell without even a word.
The Forger wasn't jealous. He wasn't that petty.
He was also a bad liar.
Wanderlust crept up slowly, terminal as cancer as the longings for change of surrounds began to gnaw at Eames. He became more twitchy the longer they stayed on this mission, and it began to seep into his dream state, the levels based in his subconscious invaded by anachronistic elements; a Moroccan souk clashing out of place in Nash's created down-town Los Angeles, a traditional ryokan pulled straight from his time spent in Japan slotted in-between two gleaming high rise buildings out the corner of his eye. He wasn't sure whether the others noticed or not, and no comments were made regarding the bizarre elements of his dream state, but he knew that sometime it would be time to leave again.
It was the way things worked in his world, how it had always been. He couldn't settle down, didn't know how. It was too easy to become impatient with his environment, taking it all in greedily and experiencing it all only to find all the excitement and wonder fading over time. He never stayed in one place for long, usually managing three to six months before the urge to travel compelled him along a compass line. But this time, he hadn't noticed how long he'd been with Cobb and Arthur, how he'd slotted so comfortably that he probably would have been able to hang up his roaming shoes to stay. For all his long of new things and new sights, he enjoyed the familiarity of being with friends, of seeing them every day. He had been here for nearly ten months without really noticing the passage of time, had forgotten his compulsion to leave for Rio at the three month mark with the whole business of Cobb, and even though the urge to depart was calling him siren-like to unexplored out-of-the-way places, he found he didn't really want to fully.
He bought a plane ticket to the first place he saw in a travel brochure, would most likely make his way out of the tourist spots and fade into the local culture, but he kept looking at it with distaste, a compulsion to rip it up. Dispose of it. He fidgeted more these days, and Dom noted how jumpy he was getting. He wanted to leave, needed to satisfy an sensation he had always followed, but at the same time... he didn't. Didn't want to leave Cobb, didn't want to leave Arthur.
But Arthur had noticed something, as on the morning when Eames was supposed to be packed and two hours from flying out, he turned up at the Forger's door with his car to take him to the airport. Eames hadn't told him about the ticket, but he wasn't surprised that Arthur had found out. And the Forger knew it was inevitable that he had to leave some time, but seated himself in the passenger seat with a heavy heart.
Arthur passed him over a small rucksack. Eames shot him a confused look.
"I took the liberty" was all he replied, and Eames opened the top to find some rudimentary luggage stowed away neatly; toiletries, clothing (all one colour, so Eames couldn't imagine he'd wear them much), passports and a small amount of funds to cover initial costs.
"You shouldn't have darling" What was meant to come out as a gibe at Arthur's mothering tendencies turned affectionate when he spoke it aloud. Damn his sentimentalities, but he'd miss this.
"I've explained your leaving to Cobb" Arthur said as he flicked his indicator to turn right "We were all getting a little worried about you"
"Arthur, I – " Eames didn't know what he wanted to say. Arthur, I don't want to leave. I don't know how to say goodbye. Arthur, I'm sorry, but I just can't stay.
But the Point Man seemingly recognised his apprehensions on a simple level, as he swivelled his body to gaze at Eames seriously.
"Eames, I know you want to leave. Maybe not us, but instinctively, you don't want to stay put. You're your own man, you can do whatever you want. I can't begrudge you that. And whenever you want to come back, you're welcome. There will always be an extra bed made up for you at my flat"
"Am I not permitted to share a bed with you?" Eames flirted, and Arthur gave a short smile, then a look that was almost akin to fondness.
"Just look after yourself Mr Eames?"
"For you, darling" He didn't know quite how he imagined that comment in his head, but it definitely wasn't as emotive as he spoke it, so he continued to hide his blunder. "I know you'll be keeping tabs on me anyway"
They had reached the airport and Eames leaned forward to get out of the car.
"Someone's got to keep any eye on you" Arthur replied, and Eames shot him a smile, torn between staying; staying here with Arthur and his deadpan humour, or leaving and missing that closeness every time he caught sight of someone in a suit.
"I'm sure you'll do an admirable job, darling"
And then he got out of the car, bringing the case with him, not looking back at Arthur just in case his resolve wavered. He faltered briefly, and pivoted, and saw Arthur nodding gently.
His flight to Kenya was in an hour. And he always could return later, when his wanderings had been satiated.
He could always come back to Arthur.
That thought alone allowed him to keep walking away.
The Present, the Fischer Inception, and they're reunited again; still snarking at each other, so familiar with it now that they kind of forget that it comes across as genuine animosity to the two recent recruits to the team. Yusuf, maybe not, because he had to put up with his strange sense of humour in Mombasa, but Ariadne definitely. But it is good to see Arthur again, and although they get little time to actually converse what with the time constraints of the mission, there is always enough time to catch up over cups of hot liquid – coffee for Arthur, and Eames is stereotypically British with his tea – finding out what the other has been up to, even though Eames knows Arthur keeps tags on him enough to know where he is, and Eames isn't too shabby at finding out the same sort of information regarding the whereabouts of Arthur. Not much ever changes, and Arthur still jokes about Eames lack of clothing taste, and Eames always retorts with comments of stick-in-the-mud and how the Point Man doesn't have any imagination.
And Eames swears that Arthur is wearing tighter suit pants this time just to frustrate him.
He wouldn't put it past the Point Man.
There is a spark of jealousy that he has rarely experienced before when he learns that Ariadne shared a kiss with Arthur on the second level– the newbie architect, who barely even knows Arthur, Eames thinks irritably, who should be in school instead of on a criminal job (she is competent, and a great asset to the mission, and he knows his misgivings are only his jealousy given too much limelight). Eames rarely goes for emotions like jealousy, as he usually barely stays long enough to experience any such feelings, but this is Arthur. He's only looking out for him, the Forger rationalises, making sure he doesn't get hurt. A guy like Arthur, someone might try and take advantage of him, might string him along and mess with his heart until they get what fun they want and leave. Arthur doesn't strike Eames as the sort of guy who knows what to do when it comes to romance, so maybe he hasn't noticed the doe eyes Ariadne keeps shooting in the Point Man's direction.
"So..." he starts the inevitable conversation one day "You and Ariadne..." Eames confronts the man about in in a jokey definitely-not-that-interested curious way, letting the conversation tail off intentionally. Arthur will get what he means.
The man in question glances up at him lazily as he rifles through his desk for a file he's looking for.
"Me and Ariadne what?"
Eames gives an awkward cough, feeling uncomfortable, and getting the sense that Arthur damn well knows how discomfited he is. He runs a finger round the inside of his collar to loosen it, and tries to pass the whole things off as a disaffected swagger.
"Why what two people do when they're in love darling"
There is a confused look shot his way.
"I'm not in love with Ariadne"
"Ah, but you did kiss her" It takes great effort to not sound bitter about that.
A sigh, and Arthur straightens up to consider him seriously "Eames, that was for the mission"
"It's nothing to be ashamed of Artie, she is admittedly a very beautiful women..."
"Eames!" Arthur rubs the bridge of his nose, calming his temper "For one, stop calling me Artie. Two, while she may be very beautiful – " Eames isn't getting jealous at that, he's not even going to rise to that... "a kiss sometimes is just a kiss"
"So if you were to kiss me then," Eames flirts, trying to keep the whole thing light and airy "then would that be just a kiss?"
"No, Mr Eames, that would be a punishment"
Arthur smiles at him in that way, and there is humour in his voice. Eames affects being wounded by Arthur's comment in the game of pretend they run, and doesn't even hide the fact he looks pleased regarding the Point Man's comments about Ariadne.
It's been preying on his mind for some time. Arthur. Always Arthur, constantly Arthur. He doesn't know how it happened, wonders why the hell life threw him this curve-ball to deal with. Falling for the Point Man was not part of the plan. It made things complicated, made things difficult. But Eames was all for complicated things so long as the basics were simple, and they really were. Eames liked Arthur. Wanted to court him, date him, whatever the term was. And if Arthur wanted that too, then it was all very simple.
Eames has never been the sort of man to worry over things long, so summoning a complete lack of self-regard and dignity, Eames finally kisses Arthur. Properly, gentleman-like, pressing his lips chastely against the Point Man's, throwing everything into this one moment, into one light superficial touch just in case he's wrong and buggered this one up. Doubts whine at the corners of his head, begging to be let in, but he ignores them and concentrates on experiencing this, taking in every feel just in case he can never have this again.
"Mr Eames, what are you doing?" is all Arthur says when he moves his head away. And damn, he knew it, knew Arthur wouldn't want this like he does, told himself that it was ridiculous to think otherwise.
"What does it look it?" It's fair to say the comment is a little defensive, but oddly, Arthur is smirking like something is funny.
"Whatever you're trying to achieve, you aren't really going about it in the right way. You surprise a man with a kiss like that, it should have a bit more to it" And suddenly there is nothing restrained and conservative about the man who is currently crushing his lips hard against the Forger's hard, an outpouring of passion and attraction that Eames had never even though to hope for. Arthur is doing this, Arthur feels the same, and the simplicity is so glorious for a moment he wants to never stop smiling – even though his lips are a bit busy. Then tongues are getting involved, and Eames doesn't think he'll ever be able to imagine him as serious and well-to-do again without recalling how undone Arthur looks at the moment as Eames runs fingers through his hair and spoils the carefully slicked back affair.
He looks so good partially undone that Eames is all for stepping that up to eleven. Then;
"I love you" he blurts out like a goddamn schoolboy, and Arthur stops. He wasn't meant to say that, Jesus, way to go to frighten him off, and for a terrifying second, he thinks he might have ruined this because he's an idiot – a stupid, bumbling idiot. But then Arthur's smiling again, a smile that fills up his entire appearance and makes it lighter, shining, the smile bringing to the forefront all the beauty in the Point Man, and he replies with conviction and a gentle tone.
Then they're kissing again, thank god they're in Arthur's flat and not at the warehouse, and those suits that Arthur's been wearing ever since they first met are a little bit of an inconvenience that needs to be sorted out. It's one of his favourite's on Arthur, it has to be said, something Brioni, a brown jacket with grey pinstripe, wool, with a silver waistcoat underneath made all of sharp lines that accentuate the Point Man's build, with an in-seam to the trousers that seems down-right criminal. It is a nice suit, but the idea of the Point Man out of that, with Eames dragging him out of that jacket, unpopping the buttons of his shirt slowly and teasingly, pushing the braces over the curve of his shoulder blades and down, using the tie to lead Arthur away from the living room to the bedroom, is something that appeals to Eames greatly.
And it turns out that the best part of Arthur and his suits is actually getting him out of them, especially considering what happens then between the two of them.
But then Eames is a little bit biased.
-Thoughts? I'm a little bit worried about how the ending turned out, so if anyone has any comments please feel free to review and mention it. Thanks for reading =]