Title: Of Love, Waltzes, and Severe Emotional Repression

Summary: After the heist, Eames reveals his romantic, matchmaking side. Given that this includes rugby tackling, dance lessons and blatant mockery and harrassment, Arthur would much rather it stay hidden...

Notes: Sequel to Grumpy and Unloved - rather complete and utter fluffy nonsense. And the threat of tango lessons.

-o-

It's quiet in the walk out through the airport. Almost blissfully so. You can almost feel the relief pouring off Cobb in waves, and that's enough to make anyone grin like a madman. He can barely think for joy. Collecting his luggage from the baggage carousel, he watches as his old friend heads towards the final gate with determination in his eyes, finally going home. Somewhere behind him, Saito – who appears to have recovered remarkably well for a man who has been shot, aged into an ancient and restored back into his original body within the space of ten hours – is talking excitedly to Ariadne, describing the intricacies of the dream, his excitement with this new branch of technology. It's over, they've done it. Everything's perfectly still.

And just when he thinks it's going to last the rest of the day –

"Alright," Eames asks, in a sing-song type voice, "what was that?"

Arthur looks up from where he's rifling through his passport. "That," he points out calmly, "was an aeroplane, Eames. That's A-E-R – "

"Shush now, dear," Eames says quite calmly, taking Arthur's hand and patting it in the way one would a deranged mental patient - or a deranged Englishman, Arthur's inner voice adds rather viciously, "we don't have time for your completely unwarranted outbursts. Now. That kiss. In the hotel. Explain."

Ah.

Oh.

No.

Oh no.

This is most definitely not what he needs right now. Or ever.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, ok? It was worth a shot. Carpe diem, and all that. And then there was all that dire-peril, sneaking-around-from-gunmen-blowing-up-elevators-and-falling-off-bridges stuff, and with one thing and another, he'd kind of…forgotten about it. And when he says he'd forgotten about it, what he means is that he's hoping and praying that Ariadne has forgotten about it, because better that than say…discussing things. Certain…feelings, which inconveniently flare up each time she grasps some point about the mechanics of dream manipulation, or when she turns to ask him a question, dark eyes sparkling.

Those are the times when certain…feelings become wildly problematic. And he's not planning to talk about them. He's had a lifetime's worth of repressing his emotions, and so far it's worked out wonderfully for him, thank-you-so-very-much.

He doesn't even know how Eames knows about it. And if he's perfectly honest, he doesn't want to.

"Distraction technique," he growls, focussing on his shoes slightly more than is strictly necessary.

"Distraction, huh? For who? Did you just think," he clears his throat, and adopts what is most definitely the most atrocious American accent known to man, "Well gee whizz, Ariadne sure looks worried this moment, she could sure use a spot of good ol' fashioned kissin' to cheer her up?"

Arthur merely glares at him. "Is that what you think all Americans sound like? Forget that, is that what you think I sound like?"

"Stop nit-picking, answer the question."

"I was trying to draw the projections' attention away from the disturbances in Fisher's mind!"

"Oh, by how? Dazzling them all with your amazing kissing skills?"

…Possibly. It could have happened. He's not that bad a kisser, surely.

Eames just gives him a Look. The kind of I Can See Through To Your Very Soul And Penetrate Your Immense Bullshit kind of Look. It's incredibly disconcerting. He fans out a handful of travel brochures he picked up in the lobby and shields himself from it.

…They are promptly batted out of his hand.

"Listen, Arthur, if you saw me as the lovely little blonde and immediately felt the need to get something out of your system, I completely understand."

"Argh," says Arthur.

Eames drags his suitcase so it's directly in his path and then sits down upon it, one ankle crossed neatly over it. "Now then, old son, you might as well admit you have a thing for the little lady. You can't avoid me forever, you know. Just admit you like her."

"Go away Eames…"

"Of course, you'd be punching above your weight as it is – "

He decides to let that one slide.

" – but really, you never know. She might go blind! She might decide to be charitable! She might have a thing for stuffy, twenty-five going on two hundred and fifty fellows like you – "

Again, letting that one slide.

" – of course, the main thing is that you come clean and admit your affection to the world, or at least to me. It really is not the sort of thing you want to keep bottled up forever, Arthur, and when you think that you're already a pretty repressed guy already, just one more secret might all just blow up in your face – "

"Alright!" He shouts through a cage of his own hands, which have been clamped over his face in an – admittedly desperate – attempt to make Eames go away. "God, alright, if it will make you stop talking. There is," he forces through gritted teeth, "the slightest possibility…that my feelings for Ariadne are…less than entirely professional."

Eames rubs his forehead wearily. "You know, I think I remember a scene in Wuthering Heights where Heathcliff says something similar."

"I admire her greatly."

"Keats and Wordsworth could hardly express such tender sentiment."

"Alright, I like her! Now will you please shut up?"

"Ha!"

Eames starts doing a little victory dance. It is utterly disturbing.

"Alright alright, no need to overdo it."

He shrugs happily, not in the least bit perturbed. "Fair enough. So what are you going to do about it?"

Well, so far his entire game plan has been based around doing absolutely nothing at all. It's a pretty solid strategy.

Try telling that to Eames though.

"No, no, no, old man, that will never do!" he exclaims when Arthur tells him of this, quite frankly, sterling proposal. "Faint heart never won fair lady, you know."

Oh God, this cannot end well. He's beginning to feel that horrible, deer-caught-in-the-headlights feeling that one so easily experiences around Eames.

He only admitted this to make the guy shut up. Eames is decidedly not shutting up. What is wrong with his world?

"Eames, please…"

"Take my advice, Arthur, and sweep the little lady off her feet. You could do with taking advice from a true professional." The Englishman smiles, seemingly oblivious to strain of utter despair passing over his friend's face. "Now, once we've found ourselves some place to get settled – yes, I'm sure we can coax out a little of the romantic in you…"

He contemplates about walking straight out of this airport, standing square in the middle of the highway and waiting for death.

-o-

So he's thought about it, and there's no way in hell a universe created by a benevolent god would allow him to suffer through…this.

Leaderless, and somewhat abandoned, the team have set up shop in a relatively cheap – well, as Saito describes it; in actual fact the bathrooms are paved with marble and there's a pool on the ground floor – hotel waiting for a new job. So far, the search for said new job has led the others to go out hunting down new leads and cruelly, heartlessly abandoning Arthur to the tender mercy of Eames. And his so-called 'Romance Lessons'.

He'd already questioned whether or not romance was something you could actually teach, and was promptly hit over the head with a rolled-up newspaper.

Arthur's thought it through, and there is no way that there is anything more completely excruciating than being sat down and being quizzed on everything he would or would not do on a date, including location, attire and conversational skills – 'If you even mention a word like specificity, Arthur, she will kill you. She will jam a fork straight into your heart. And I wouldn't blame her' – until his head spins. Or so he had concluded until about five minutes ago, when Eames announced to the hotel room as a whole that he was going to have to teach Arthur how to dance.

"Why? How is that in any way helpful?"

"A: supposedly a woman can tell a lot about a man from the way he dances, and B: it will completely and utterly humiliate you."

Well that was certainly true.

"Shall we start with the tango?"

"Argh."

The notion of the tango is swiftly jettisoned. Even Eames is charitable enough to realise that every drop of blood raining from Arthur's face through sheer terror is probably not healthy.

Honestly, there is something decidedly wrong about waltzing around an abandoned hotel room with one of your oldest, and most infuriating, and most decidedly male friends. He's making up for it by attempting to stamp on Eames' foot as often as was humanly possible.

"This is ridiculous."

Eames scoffs. "Well yes, of course, if you think stepping on Ariadne's foot is going to help you get lucky, then I should certainly say so – "

"Not that," he retorts hotly, pushing the thought out of his mind as if it's a white-hot poker, and gestures to their hands. Or rather Eames' hand, which is resting on his waist. "This. Shouldn't I be the one leading?"

"Eh?"

"You're teaching me to dance. With Ariadne. Unless she's been taking some particularly odd dance lessons, shouldn't I be allowed to lead?"

He snorts. "Well I'm not bloody following!"

"This is stupid! The point of these lessons – "

"The point of these lessons is that you do as you're told! And when I believe you're fit and able enough to lead – "

"How difficult can it be? You're doing it."

"While I deeply enjoy your input, Arthur, can I respectfully suggest that you shove it? If you don't pack it in, I may damn well start on the tango lessons."

"What - you're going to tango me against my will?"

A grave look is flung his way. "It's been done before, and believe me, it's not pretty."

"I want to lead!"

Eames grits his teeth. "Well look now, if we were married – "

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!" The sound that's just escaped from his mouth is most definitely an indignant squawk. "Just where exactly are we going with this, Eames?"

"All I'm saying is if we were, I would definitely be the one to be leading."

He folds his arms tightly across his chest. "Yeah, well, I respectfully disagree on that point."

Eames just Looks at him. Again. He's getting a bit damn sick of that Look.

"What?!"

"Well if it's a toss-up between the two of us – " He breaks off and gestures unhelpfully.

"If it's a toss-up then what?"

"Oh, come on, you would most definitely be my wife."

"Hey!"

"Well, look at you!" Eames squares his broad shoulders and looks down – yes, down, and does he really think Arthur can't see that he's standing on his toes? – at him. "If we were in a relationship – and let's be brutally honest, darling, you'd be damn lucky to have me – there's no way in hell that you wouldn't be the more…submissive one."

"Are you calling me the girl?" He can begin to feel himself fuming. "This from the man who came into the warehouse the other day humming Les Miserables…"

"That is a very moving musical, and I challenge anyone not to watch it without shedding a tear or two!"

Arthur snorts.

"This is utterly insane."

"Fine," the other man growls, and promptly switches their hands around – leading to a lot of hissed about where and where not it is appropriate for hands to be, and how Arthur will never get a girl to so much as look at him if he's as skinny as a rake (He objects to that. He is not skinny, he's attractively lanky. Eames cuffs him about the head when this is pointed out.) – so that Arthur can take the lead. "Have it your own way then, you old stick. And while you do so, you might as well practice your polite dinner conversation. Or conversation in general. Having known you many years, I can happily state that you are God-awful at it."

"Eames, polite conversation around you is restraining myself not to criticise every aspect of your personality."

"You, sir," Eames informs him with injured dignity, "do not have the soul of a poet."

"Thank-you."

"Now come on. Quote Wordsworth to me. Tell me my hair is like tortured midnight and my eyes like two shooting stars."

"…I most certainly will not."

Eames spins lightly on his toes. "Come on! Just pretend I'm Ariadne, go on."

Oh God, this is ridiculous. He is honest to God five seconds away from just standing next to the wall and repetitively smacking his head into it, because really, pretending he's talking to her? A little difficult, considering that when he glances over all he can see is Eames's stupid, shabby suit and complete lack of ability to shave. And while he might – not that this will ever be admitted, of course – find it almost sort of endearing on the Englishman, it's distinctly odd to look at when considering Ariadne, who knows how to dress and who's chin is, mercifully, bristle-free. And Eames is Eames, and Ariadne is Ariadne, and the two are most definitely different, and one of them makes him nervous and his palms clammy and his heart do that weird flipping-over-on-its-side thing and guess what world, it isn't Eames.

It's difficult enough even contemplating this. Eames is just making it that much harder.

"I am not pretending you're Ariadne!" he replies, and alright, he's sort-of shouting just a little bit and his friend's looking at him as if he's the one who's mad – rich, coming from him, the savage little voice inside his head mutters – and none of that really matters that much. "Alright? There is just no way that I'm pretending you're her, because you're a damn nightmare and Ariadne isn't, alright, she's smart and funny and smells nice and doesn't go around knocking all my notes on the floor – yes, I know that was you – and she's a really great girl and – and – and I am most definitely not talking to you about this anymore!"

Ok.

Well – wow.

So much for his wonderful repression of emotions plan.

For a moment Eames falls deathly silent, which is a little awkward, because, well, it's two guys dancing, alone, with romantic music and no conversation. On the other hand, silence from Eames is something of a miracle, and should not be taken lightly.

"Arthur?"

He knew it was too good to last. Resisting the urge to swear, and gritting his teeth, he glances up to glower at the other man, only to see him looking almost – can it be true? – sheepish.

"You're going to do just fine."

And, well, there's nothing really to say to that, because doing anything would actually admit that he's slightly nervous – which is a complete lie, because he's completely and utterly terrified. And that was actually for once quite a nice comment from Eames, and he goes for a shoulder pat before realising that that might be just the overly touchy cherry on top of the awkwardly sentimental cake. He settles for a grin instead. "Oh. Well, tha – "

"Hey guys, Saito thinks he's found a new – "

They both turn. And yep, guess what, there is something worse than being nagged, mocked and generally just badgered into a goddamn freaking dance lesson with Eames, and that is being badgered into a goddamn freaking dance lesson with Eames that your team has decided to walk in upon. As in Yusuf, Saito, and yes, that includes Ariadne. Whose eyes are worryingly wide right now.

"Ohhh my," finishes Yusuf rather weakly.

Arthur starts batting away at Eames' hands rather frantically. "No, no, no, no, no, not 'oh my', this is not an 'oh my' moment, do not say 'oh my'..."

"Oh my," mutters Eames, rubbing wearily at his forehead.

-o-

The day he finally decides to ask her out – well, the first time he decides without chickening out three seconds later – Eames rugby tackles him around the ankles as he heads to the door. Not only does this send him careening into the door frame and start off a particularly impressive nosebleed over the pure white carpet, it also gives the Englishman an opportunity of frogmarching him to the wardrobe and putting every item of clothing he wears under excruciating scrutiny. He's forced to change. Twice.

He seems more nervous that Arthur. And Arthur is pretty damn nervous.

The second he steps out of the door, Eames hollers after him that if he doesn't, and this is a direct quote, get this 'brand-spanking, sparkling perfect', he will be coming after him with a terribly heavy hammer and finding a new place to keep it. He tries his best not to grin.

-o-