airgiodslv picked 3412 which is Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered by Ella Fitzgerald (I can’t upload it because it’s an iTunes song, grr, but here’s the YouTube version). I kind of cheated a little. Or a lot. Um. And it’s too long for comment fic, so it gets its own post.
Title: The Smile of Garbo and the Scent of Roses
Contains: genderbending in a dream.
The Smile of Garbo and the Scent of Roses
Arthur isn’t a forger, obviously, but there’s one impersonation that feels so natural that he’s managed to perfect it without much difficulty.
He doesn’t do it on other people’s dimes, but the job’s over, everyone’s gone home and he’s alone in his hotel room with a PASIV and an itch under his skin that just won’t go away.
He dreams himself into a smokey bar. It’s not very original but Arthur isn’t doing this for originality, just comfort. He stands in front of the mirror in the ladies’ room and examines the fall of his dress, adjusting the heartshaped neckline until it sits perfectly over his breasts.
He smiles. He looks tasteful; it isn’t a word he’d usually apply to himself, but he likes it.
His hair, when he looks at it, is long and chestnut brown, falling in waves just past his shoulders. It’s based on Ariadne’s but he doesn’t think she’d mind. He used to use Mal as a template for the little details, but that feels wrong now.
The door opens behind him and two girls in full skirts and bouffant hairdos come tumbling in, laughing and obviously a little drunk. They smile at Arthur and Arthur smiles back; nobody finding anything amiss.
One of the girls goes into a cubicle and the other steps up beside Arthur, pulling a red lipstick out of her purse and smearing it on.
Arthur can’t help watching her in the mirror, touching his tongue to his own lips, wondering if would feel sticky or smooth, warm or cool.
Her eyes meet his. “Would you like some?” she asks.
Arthur hesitates but, well, she’s his projection; she’s not going to have any communicable diseases. “Thank you,” he says, taking it.
His hand shakes a little, which is just plain ridiculous, but he manages to copy what she’d done, only dabbing a little to the centre of his top and bottom lips, pressing them together to spread it around.
She smiles at him, taking the lipstick back and walking over to her friend who’s washing her hands. “It suits you,” she calls over her shoulder.
Out in the bar, Ella Fitzgerald is crooning into the microphone. Arthur squints but no, that is definitely Ella Fitzgerald; it’s a good job he’s not trying to convince anyone else that this is real.
“A gin and tonic,” he tells the bartender, who nods and smiles. Arthur hates having to make conversation when all he wants is to order a drink, so the bartender doesn’t talk to him.
Arthur takes his drink and drifts down to an empty table near the front. He’s wearing heels and it takes him a few steps to remember how to swing his hips, but he doesn’t trip and he doesn’t make a fool of himself.
He slips into his seat, take a sip of his drink, smiling at the impression his lips leave on the rim of the glass. The tonic is bitter and he drinks slowly, leaning back in his chair a little and allowing himself to breathe.
This was what he’d wanted when he decided to come here: peace, quiet, good music and a chance to step out of himself into someone more comfortable.
Arthur finishes his drink just as a few couples get up to dance. They whirl elegantly around the small dance floor and Arthur taps the toe of his Herbert Levine pumps in time with the music, breathing, just breathing.
“Well,” says a voice at his elbow, “This is simply lovely.”
Arthur jumps and wheels around. Eames is sitting beside him, looking around the room with a tiny smile.
“I-” Arthur starts to say then stops. Eames shouldn’t be here; this is private.
Eames’ smile fades when he finally turns to look at Arthur and no, Arthur thinks, this isn’t happening. He’s not ashamed, but this isn’t something he’s ever wanted anyone else to know.
But, “I do beg your pardon,” Eames says, frowning, “I expected to find to find a friend of mine, not-” He breaks off, leaning close. His eyes slowly widen as he breathes quietly, “Oh my god. Arthur.”
Arthur stands up abruptly. The dancers on the floor, the patrons at their tables, even the bartender all turn to stare at Eames.
Arthur forces himself to relax until they settle back down even though seeing Eames ripped limb from limb might be satisfying right now. Then he marches away.
Flustered, he can’t get the sway of his hips right and he almost trips until, suddenly, there’s an arm around his waist and Eames is saying in his ear, “Don’t run off, I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
He sounds so genuine and Arthur wants to believe him so he stops, turns around. “Through here,” he says, pulling Eames out onto a conveniently placed balcony.
The night air is cool and it blows Arthur’s borrowed hair across his face, sticking it to his lips.
Eames is there, carefully brushing the hair away before Arthur can.
Arthur freezes. “Don’t touch me without permission,” he says because it’s too easy like this to enjoy Eames being a gentleman.
Eames steps back. “My apologies,” he says formally, “And sorry again for gatecrashing your party. You have my full permission to shoot me in the head if you’d like me to leave.”
It’s tempting, very tempting. “No gun,” Arthur says regretfully. He folds his arms. His dress is tears of black lace with a gathered organdie bustline. It scratches faintly against his forearms and he feels suddenly, fiercely vulnerable.
He feels the forgery start to flicker and it feels almost like some part of Arthur is dying with it.
“No, don’t,” Eames says quickly, reaching out like he wants to clasp Arthur’s shoulders but dropping his hands before he touches him. He smiles crookedly. “That’s a beautiful forgery, darling, don’t ruin it on my account.”
Arthur doesn’t know what he wants but, in the end, he feels easier in this dream and this place in this body so he lets the forgery settle.
Eames nods approvingly and Arthur’s about to get mad when he realises that it’s professional approval; he’s always been a little bit greedy for talented people to think he’s talented too.
“Why are you here?” he asks, “I thought you left.”
“My flight was cancelled,” Eames tells him, “So I came to pay you a visit.”
Arthur tips his chin up, unimpressed. “So, after breaking into my hotel room and finding me hooked up to the PASIV, you thought that was an invitation for you to join me?”
Eames winces. “Precisely,” he says, which isn’t an apology at all, but Arthur has already gotten one of those, he doesn’t wait for another.
It would be easy to get mad, but he holds out his hand instead, wondering if Eames will actually play this game with him. “For gatecrashing my dream, Mr Eames, I think you owe me a drink.”
Eames takes his hand, of course he does. “Certainly.” He hesitates. “Forgive me, I don’t know your name.”
Oh. That’s not something Arthur’s ever thought of. He comes here to unwind, not to meet people. Ella’s voice floats out to them and he can’t steal her name but, “Rosemary,” he says.
The corners of Eames’ mouth turn up. “Ah, Ms Clooney,” he says and leads Arthur back into the bar.
Arthur expects them to return to his table, but Eames puts a hand on his hip and says, “Wouldn’t you like to dance? It’s much more fun than just watching.”
“No,” Arthur starts to say but yes, yes damn it, he does want to dance. “Don’t think I’m going to let you lead,” he says instead.
Eames blinks like he’s honestly surprised that Arthur’s agreed. “Of course not,” he says, recovering quickly, and whirls Arthur onto the dance floor.
Arthur laughs, only just staying upright, lost in the middle of what is suddenly a sea of other dancers.
Eames pulls him closer. “Well, there’s no danger of anyone seeing you,” he observes, looking around, and Arthur doesn’t know if he’s mocking or teasing, but the way his fingers curl around Arthur’s feels affectionate.
“He’s a fool and don’t I know it, but a fool can have its charms,” Ella sings from the stage and Eames laughs.
“Don’t read anything into that,” Arthur warns him, resting his chin on Eames’ shoulder because it feels like the thing to do.
Eames doesn’t say anything, just presses his cheek to Arthur’s hair, and they dance.
Arthur loses track of time for a while and he barely notices when Ella is replaced by Edith Piaf until Eames pulls to a stop, cocking his head.
“Is that our cue?” he asks.
“Oh,” Arthur says, shaking his head, feeling like he’s just woken up rather than just about to, “Yes.”
Eames looks, not disappointed, maybe just a little sad. “How long do we have?”
“About ten minutes,” Arthur says.
He makes up his mind before he realises he was even trying to decide something, grabbing Eames’ hand and tugging him off the dance floor, back to their balcony.
Once outside, he’s not quite sure what he was planning to do. His legs are starting to ache from wearing the heels for so long and his arms are chilly in the night air.
“If I offer you my jacket, are you going to punch me?” Eames asks.
“Yes,” Arthur assures him, but he doesn’t object much when Eames steps close to him, his sleeves rough and warm against Arthur’s arms.
It’s a pity, Arthur thinks vaguely, that Eames isn’t dressed to match the period; he’d look good in a single-breasted pinstripe suit.
They only have seven minutes left, but they look out at the view and don’t say a word. Arthur has never designed anything beyond the bar, but looking out now, he can see the twinkling lights of an anonymous town glittering below them.
“You really do look beautiful,” Eames says, not looking at him.
Of course I do, Arthur thinks, this isn’t real.
“If I were to buy you a dress like that in reality?” Eames asks.
“I wouldn’t wear it,” Arthur says, a little apologetically because it is a kind thought. “This is only for dreams.” He doesn’t qualify exactly what this is and Eames doesn’t ask. Arthur has always liked the fact that Eames fully respects other people’s rights to keep secrets. Unless he’s being paid to steal them, of course.
“Arthur,” Eames says, but Arthur’s there first, turning to face Eames and putting his hand on Eames’ cheek.
His hands are smaller in this body and he realises that he’s imagined black polish onto his fingernails. He takes two seconds to worry that that’s anachronistic, but then Eames is bending down to kiss him and he forgets to worry about anything.
Eames’ kisses are soft, careful, but his arm is tight around Arthur’s waist, keeping them flush together.
Arthur parts his lips and deepens the kiss. He can taste it when his lipstick rubs off onto Eames’ tongue. His breasts are crushed against Eames’ chest and he’s never experienced anything like that before. It makes his breath catch, his hands clutch at Eames’ shoulders.
“We only have five minutes,” he says, wondering how far they can get in that time.
“Yes,” Eames agrees and kisses him again.
Arthur slides his hands down Eames’ back to cup his ass.
Eames pulls away.
“We’re not having sex here,” he tells Arthur; he’s smiling but his tone is serious.
“We’re not?” Arthur asks. He feels dizzy, off-centre, and not just from Eames’ kisses.
“This is your escape,” Eames says, stroking his hands down Arthur’s sides, fitting them around Arthur’s hips, “You’ll regret doing something sordid in your perfect dream, in your beautiful dress, and you'll probably blame me.”
Arthur frowns, surprised to find that Eames knows him well enough to be right. He loves this place because there’s no expectations here; adding sex would add expectations.
“In a different dream?” he asks, because he has to know.
Edith is getting louder.
“I’d be all over you,” Eames assures him. He tips his head. “Also, in reality.”
Arthur looks down at himself in his female body, his vintage dress, his stylish shoes. “I don’t look like this in reality,” he reminds Eames.
Eames laughs and presses his mouth to the corner of Arthur’s. “Since when has that ever bothered me?” he asks.
Arthur turns his head and they’re kissing when the dreams ends.