Title: Everybody Needs Somewhere To Go
A/N: With massive thanks to dancinbutterfly for American-picking and pointing out where I'd managed to invent whole new words. ♥
Arthur doesn’t see Eames for seven months after the inception job.
He doesn’t miss him, obviously, because that would imply a level of attachment that Arthur doesn’t feel for anyone except for maybe Cobb. Still, it feels strange because the rest of them are still working together, but no one’s heard from Eames since they parted at LAX, not even Yusuf.
“Maybe he’s been arrested,” Ariadne suggests. She sounds worried, like she doesn’t realise how many times that’s already happened to Eames or that he always walks free.
“Maybe he’s met someone and settled down,” Yusuf says. He doesn’t quite look at Arthur when he says it, which is stupid. Arthur and Eames fuck when it suits them, it doesn’t mean they owe each other anything.
“Or maybe he’s standing right behind you,” says a voice, amused and English and familiar.
Arthur stops himself from leaping out of his chair before he can really start, but Yusuf jumps up to give Eames a hug and Ariadne gets a kiss on the cheek.
“Arthur?” Eames asks, lips curled up in a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “Aren’t you going to greet me?”
“Oh,” Arthur says, standing slowly, “Were you gone?” It’s a poor effort at nonchalance, but Eames is wearing a smart grey suit, creased from the plane ride but still unmistakably by Cerruti and Arthur is justifiably distracted.
Eames smiles at him softly and doesn’t try to hug him or kiss his cheek. Arthur tells himself firmly that he doesn’t spend the rest of the day feeling like he’s waiting for something.
“Where have you been?” Ariadne asks. She’s pushed her chair up against Eames’, smiling at him like she’s genuinely pleased to see him. Arthur barely remembers them talking to each other during the inception job, but apparently they made friends when he wasn’t looking. He hates that he missed something as simple as that.
Eames shrugs lazily. He looks tired, but well, a little fuller around the edges like he’s been living comfortably. “I went home for a while, that’s all.”
“You have a home?” Yusuf asks before Arthur can.
Something flickers in Eames’ expression. He leans forward. “Yusuf, my dear, I have an estate.”
Yusuf laughs, so does Ariadne. Arthur doesn’t, because he suspects that Eames might not actually be bullshitting.
“Are you back for good or is this just a vacation?” Arthur asks. They’re ten days away from a reasonably big job and Arthur isn’t going to let Eames distract them if he isn’t also going to help.
Eames shrugs. “If you need me, I’m back,” he says like it’s just that simple.
“We don’t need you,” Arthur tells him. He ignores Ariadne’s glare because it’s true; if they’d needed a forger for this job, Arthur would have found them a forger. He waits for Eames to frown then adds, “But we could probably use you.”
Eames’ smile is aggravatingly smug. “Arthur, you are, as always, too kind.”
People in their line of work tend not to have close ties with family and friends. Arthur’s closest living relatives, for example, are a cousin in New Jersey who he emails twice a year and a grandmother in a nursing home in Missouri who thinks he’s his father and that the year is 1963.
Eames is usually no different, which is why the idea of him having moved home for seven months is so incongruous.
Back at the hotel that evening, Arthur wastes hours trying to track down possible cons that Eames might have been part of instead. He looks at dream work first, but Eames has never done a dream job Arthur hasn’t known about, so he looks into regular, real world crime.
Frustrated and annoyed, Arthur snaps his laptop closed and stalks into the shower. He’s rinsing his hair when a possible answer clicks into place in his brain.
It takes Arthur ten minutes with Google and Eames’ real name (which they both pretend he doesn’t know) to find what he’s looking for.
He stares at the screen for another half hour, trawling for additional information even though Wikipedia has already told him everything he needs to know.
Then he goes to Eames’ room.
“Good evening, Mr Eames,” he says when Eames opens the door, “Or should I say Your Lordship?”
Eames falters, staring at Arthur. Then his shoulders tighten. “Come in,” he says, stepping back.
The inside of Eames’ hotel room is tidier than Arthur would have expected. His clothes aren’t in the closet, they’re folded neatly inside his open suitcase, ready to run if need be. Arthur’s impressed, but he’s not distracted enough to show it.
“Your father died,” he says, and it sounds more accusatory than he meant it to. “You didn’t think you could tell us?”
“Well, it does rather fuck with my secret identity, doesn’t it?” Eames says blithely then walks over to the minibar. “Drink?”
“Yes,” Arthur says, sitting down on the uncomfortably hard sofa in front of the television. “A large one.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Eames says and pours them both half a plastic cup of bourbon.
“It’s not as though I even want the bloody title,” Eames tells Arthur some time later. He’s looser from the alcohol, but not exactly relaxed.
“No?” Arthur asks. They’ve moved from the sofa to the bed and Arthur’s lying on his stomach, because the room has started to spin when he lies on his back.
“No,” Eames agrees earnestly. “Sadly it’s not the sort of job one can resign from.”
Arthur feels something tight knot up in his belly. “So what?” he asks, hoping he sounds casual. “You need to move home?”
Eames’s laugh is pained but real. “Can you imagine me as the lord of the manor? I’d scandalise the scullery maid and corrupt the stable boy.”
Arthur can actually imagine it perfectly, so he does see Eames’ point. “Do you actually have a scullery maid?” he asks. He doesn’t point out that Eames hasn’t answered his question.
Eames’ smiles fondly. At first, Arthur thinks it’s fondness for home but then Eames’ says, “Oh Arthur, always so literal,” and Arthur realises with a not-unpleasant rush of warmth that it’s fondness for him.
It’s easier now, half drunk and comfortable, to reach over and pat awkwardly at Eames’ hand and say, “I’m sorry about your father.”
Eames stares intently at the cracks in the ceiling and doesn’t look Arthur’s way. “Yes,” he says, “So was my mother.”
Arthur doesn’t say anything else. He’s not going to make Eames talk if he doesn’t want to.
Slowly, Eames turns his head so he’s looking at Arthur. Arthur widens his eyes slowly until he can only see one of Eames. That’s better.
Neither of them says anything for quite a while. Eames’ eyes are a very interesting colour.
“Arthur,” Eames says, blowing whiskey-smelling breath against Arthur’s face, “This is the part where you offer yourself up for some comfort sex.”
Arthur doesn’t mean to smile but he can’t help it. “Is it?” he asks, stretching out comfortably. He tries to roll over onto his back except, woah, the spinning thing is still happening. He settles for lying on his side instead. “Come get it then.”
Eames doesn’t move, which is okay because Arthur didn’t really expect him to. There are specific parameters surrounding when they fuck and this situation doesn’t meet any of them. There are far too many feelings in this room right now for that.
Eames does reach across the gap between them, though, and press the flat of his hand across Arthur’s stomach, warm through Arthur’s thin shirt.
“I’d move home if you’d agree to be my lady,” Eames tells him, eyes sinking shut.
“You’re drunk,” Arthur tells him because he can’t decide if Eames is joking or not.
Eames doesn’t say anything, just lets his head drop down onto the comforter, breath slowly evening out.
Arthur doesn’t have much of a hangover in the morning, so he manages to sneak out of Eames’ room without waking him.
Because Arthur’s real life never goes as smoothly as his dream life, he walks into Ariadne in the corridor.
She looks from Arthur to Eames’ door and back again and raises one dark eyebrow. Arthur is sure the Ariadne he met nine months ago wasn’t capable of such innuendo-laden eyebrow action.
“His father died,” Arthur tells her flatly, moving around her to get to his own room.
The distressed little noise Ariadne makes follows him down the corridor. Once he’s in his room, he leans back against the door and asks himself why the fuck he betrayed that confidence.
Three hours later, when Eames walks into the abandoned loft they’re using as a base, Arthur understands his thinking or can, at least, excuse it.
Ariadne stands up from her drawing board, tucks her hand into the crook of Eames’ arm and leads him back out of the warehouse.
“Where are they going?” Yusuf asks, frowning a little like he can’t decide if he minds not having been invited. Arthur knows how he feels.
“Research,” Arthur says vaguely, looking around for Cobb or something else to distract himself with.
Unfortunately, Cobb is on the phone with Philippa and none of Arthur’s work is quite distracting enough so he spends ninety percent of the ninety minutes that Eames and Ariadne are gone chewing on the inside of his lip and worrying about everything and nothing in particular.
They come back clutching coffees and muffins and bags from the Apple Store. Eames is grinning and swinging his free arm, his posture loose, more relaxed than he’s looked since he came back to them.
All of Arthur’s formless worry oozes away and he takes a deep breath in for the first time today. He catches Ariadne’s eye and wants to mouth thank you but it’s really not his place to thank her for being Eames’ friend.
He nods instead. She shakes her head at him, smiling.
The job doesn’t pass without a hitch, they never do these days, but all the hitches are contained within the dream, so they’re still able to wake up twenty minutes before their mark and slip unnoticed out of his hotel room.
Their conclusion is that the mark isn’t cheating on his husband. He should probably divorce him for being a suspicious bastard, but that’s Arthur’s unprofessional opinion so he doesn’t voice it.
“So all that went rather well,” Eames says. They’re supposed to be heading straight back to the loft, but he veers left into a bar and everyone follows him in.
“I’ve never seen anyone get shot down so many times as you did in that dream,” Ariadne tells Eames, sounding impressed.
“I know!” Eames spreads his hands and pouts a little. “He didn’t even appreciate my Colin Firth. My Colin Firth is irresistible.”
Ariadne wrinkles her nose. “I don’t know, isn’t he kind of old?”
Arthur bursts out laughing at the expression on Eames’ face and follows Cobb to the bar rather than stay and listen to Eames explaining the sexual awakening inherent in Colin Firth in a wet, white dress shirt.
“I really should be getting home to the kids,” Cobb says, but he doesn’t complain when Arthur orders him a beer.
“The kids are fine,” Arthur tells him with all the confidence of a man who saw his parents maybe a quarter of the times Cobbs kids see him and hasn’t turned out too bad.
It’s the middle of day on a Wednesday in October so the bar’s almost empty and Yusuf’s sudden laugh carries over to them easily, closely followed by Ariadne’s voice raised in protest.
Arthur turns around to see that Eames has pulled Ariadne to her feet to re-enact what can only be the ballroom scene from Pride and Prejudice. They’re dancing and laughing and Ariadne is flushed but looks pleased.
Arthur looks away. There’s this clawing need in his belly and it’s getting worse. It’s horrific, terrifying and strangely comforting all at once.
“Are you all right?” Cobb asks, leaning his elbows on the bar beside Arthur.
“I’m in love with Eames,” Arthur tells him. He doesn’t mean to put it quite so frankly but he’s not sorry he said it.
Cobb just looks at him.
Arthur sighs. “You already knew?”
“You didn’t?” Cobb asks, his frown exaggerated like he’s teasing. It’s been so long since Cobb looked anything but worried that Arthur’s forgotten how to read him. He pats Arthur on the shoulder before picking up their drinks. “Don’t worry, you’ll get over it.”
Arthur blinks at Cobb’s back as he heads to their table. Right, because Cobb knows all about getting over things, he thinks a little meanly.
The thing - and it’s quite something, really - is that Arthur doesn’t want to get over it. He wishes it hadn’t happened at all, but it has and the idea of not having it, not loving Eames for as long as he’s allowed has become unacceptable.
They end up staying to have dinner in the bar, which Cobb begs off because he really cannot be away from his kids that long. Then Ariadne and Yusuf decide to head off in search of ice cream but Arthur catches Eames’ eye and they silently agree to go back to the hotel.
Eames is undressing Arthur before his door is even fully closed.
“All that talk of Colin Firth turn you on?” Arthur asks, tipping his head back against the door so Eames can suck more easily on his throat.
Eames shakes his head, his stubble dragging on Arthur’s. “All that flirting with the mark and getting shot down and watching you try not to look too happy about it,” he says, “That’s what’s turning me on.”
They make it to the bed and Eames drapes himself over Arthur, hips rocking comfortably between Arthur’s thighs.
“Were you jealous, Arthur?” he asks, picking up the conversation like there wasn’t a four minute break to slot themselves together and gasp into each other’s mouths.
Arthur rolls his eyes automatically. “You wish,” he starts then stops himself, saying instead, “Yes.”
Eames stills, eyes widening. “You were?” he asks slowly as if he’s expecting a trap.
Arthur nods. He feels helpless lying here, waiting for Eames’ reaction, so he does what he always does and takes action. In this case, that involves flipping them over so Eames is on his back and Arthur is braced over him, hands on either side of his head.
“Are you moving back to England?” Arthur asks, not really changing the subject, just moving it on.
“I already told you I’m not,” Eames says mildly, even though he’s said nothing of the sort. He reaches up and traces his fingers across Arthur’s forehead, like he thinks that will help him read him better.
If Eames really could read Arthur’s thoughts, all he’d see in this moment would be relief.
“I was wondering if you’d like to take this outside the bedroom,” Arthur tells him, keeping his voice steady. He puts his thumb over Eames’ lower lip before Eames can say anything. “And no, I don’t mean public sex.”
Eames’ lips curl up into a slow smile. He flicks the tip of his tongue against Arthur’s thumb until Arthur moves it. “Darling?” he asks. “Are you saying you want to date me?”
That’s exactly what Arthur’s saying. “No,” he says, “I’m asking if you’d consider giving us a chance.”
“Us?” Eames echoes, still smiling.
Arthur hates him.
“Shut up,” Arthur says and sticks his hand between them to jerk Eames off and make him stop with his self-satisfied fucking smirk.
After, once Eames has come wet and warm over Arthur’s wrist and Arthur’s thrust his way to orgasm against Eames’ stomach, Eames presses strong fingers into Arthur’s back until Arthur relents and lies down against his chest.
“Well, that was lovely,” Eames says, drumming his fingertips on Arthur’s spine, “But aren’t you going to tell me why you’ve suddenly decided you want a whole shebang with me?”
Arthur blows out a breath, watching it stir Eames’ pale chest hair then lifts his head.
“It’s always been you,” he admits, even though it’s more than a little embarrassing. It’s been Eames for him since he was twenty-two years old; it’s ridiculous that it’s taken him this long to feel okay with that. “I’m just. You might have noticed I’m a little independent.” Eames’ expression is the definition of no, shit? but Arthur lets him off for once. “I’ve never really needed anyone.”
“And now?” Eames asks softly. He looks serious now and Arthur was wrong, this was easier when Eames was teasing him.
Arthur knows the correct answer, but he wants to be honest for once, not right. It’s a new experience for him. “I still don’t need you,” he says, then adds, before Eames’ smile can falter, “I mean, I don’t need anyone, that’s not going to change. But you’re the only one I want.”
Eames looks at him carefully.
“Is that enough?” Arthur prompts.
Eames opens his mouth, his smile curving up like he’s going to say something flip and elaborate. Then he pauses, tilts his head, and all that comes out is, “Yes.”