"You're not going to like that," Arthur warns, when Eames takes the glass of wine that's been handed to him. "Trust me."
"It's wine, Arthur," Eames murmurs, taking a sip, "how bad could it possibly--oh Christ, that's foul."
Arthur laughs outright at the expression of complete disgust on Eames' face as Eames glares down at the glass like it's betrayed him.
"What is this?" Eames demands. "Oh, ugh, it's like someone mixed vodka into grape juice, only so much worse than that, how do people even call this wine--"
"Don't be a baby," Arthur chides, taking the glass from him. "It's Manischewitz. It's Kosher."
And then, just because he's a bastard, he smirks and throws back Eames' entire glass, swallowing with one gulp.
"How can you drink that?" Eames says, stunned and horrified. Arthur shrugs.
"Practice?" he offers. "Every major holiday since I was thirteen, you know how it is."
"I assure you, I don't," Eames says. Arthur refills the glass and takes a much smaller sip, his eyebrows up. "I am not kissing you until you've rinsed your mouth out, darling, I want you to know that."
"Liar," Arthur murmurs, leaning close. "If I wanted to kiss you right now, you'd fucking let me."
"Not tasting like that, I wouldn't," Eames says softly, but he's already tilting his head, moving forward a fraction of an--
"Too bad my family's here," Arthur says, right against his lips, and pulls away so quickly it's like it never happened. Eames blinks and then glares, but mostly because the self-satisfied expression on Arthur's face is worth preserving.
"You are entirely impossible," he says.
"No," Arthur corrects, "you're mixing us up again, that's you."
Eames raises his eyebrows but doesn't reply, just bumps Arthur's shoulder too hard with his own and follows him to the table. Terrifyingly enough, he seems to be the only person in attendance who objects to the wine; the rest of them drink prodigious amounts, drink it like it's water, Arthur included. After his sixth glass, Eames reaches around and pickpockets him, lightfingering the car keys away before he can protest. Arthur doesn't even notice, which is always the easiest way to tell that he's on his way to being well and truly pissed.
And he's tense again, but he's still smiling, and he's making jokes, and he's brushing his fingers lightly against Eames' leg every couple of minutes. Eames thinks: we can get through this. Eames thinks: thank Christ, I've found the solution.
He shouldn't have let his guard down enough to hope.
Sharon is telling a story, the account of some couple in Florida they'd met on their last vacation, when everything goes badly wrong. She's very drunk, Sharon is--they're all very drunk, Eames has lost count of how many glasses Arthur has downed--and Ben is chiming in helpfully every few minutes, correcting the details. The summary seems to be that this couple got cheated on their rental fee, and Eames is unsure of the point of the whole thing until Sharon laughs.
"And I said to Ben, thank god we bought the condo when we did," she finishes, to amused laughter.
Arthur raises his eyebrows, and says "I didn't know you guys had bought the condo."
His tone is entirely pleasant, a simple inquiry, but he winces the second it comes out of his mouth. Eames isn't sure why, just knows that he loathes the expression, but he catches on quickly enough when Sarah's mouth turns down.
"You would if you ever called her," she says, giving Arthur an unimpressed look.
"That's between Arthur and Mom, Sarah, come on," Rachel says, looking between them with concern.
"Well," Sharon says, lifting her glass to take a sip, "she does have a point."
"Oh, god," Arthur says, pinching the bridge of his nose, "we're not going to do this again, are we?"
"You started it," Sarah snipes, narrowing her eyes.
"What are we, five?" Arthur snaps, downing the last of his wine and pouring himself another glass. Sarah rolls her eyes and Arthur takes another long sip.
"Mom bought the condo, what, three years ago?" Hannah says, and Eames can't tell if it's kindness or judgement in her tone--she's an odd sort. "Yeah, three years ago. Before Noah was born."
"Jesus," Arthur snaps, "I've called more recently than three years ago."
"Doesn't feel like it sometimes," Sharon murmurs. When Arthur turns to look at her incredulously, she raises an eyebrow. "Oh, what, Arthur, come on, it's not like it's any secret that you don't like to talk to me."
The line of Arthur's back is so tight that Eames could bounce quarters off it. He wants to set things on fire, he wants to pull a gun, but he knows that wouldn't be helpful. He leans in a little instead, puts a hand on Arthur's shoulder.
"Darling--" he starts, and he's going to finish with Let's go, let's just leave, you don't have to do this to yourself, but Arthur must mistake his tone for placating, for condescension. He shrugs Eames' hand off, doesn't even look at him.
"This is family shit, Eames, fuck off," he growls. And even though Eames knows he doesn't mean it, even though Eames knows that's just a product of the damn environment, it still stings for a minute, for just long enough to keep him from continuing his line of thought.
"It just didn't seem like something you'd care about, honey," Sharon continues, all put-upon wounded pride. "If I'd thought you were interested, I would have said."
"That's not fair," Arthur says, "you know that's not fair--"
"Well, I don't think it's fair that I fed you and raised you and you can't even stop by everyone once in awhile--"
"I have a demanding job!" Arthur snaps. "And I live on the other side of the damn country and--Jesus, this is Rachel's dinner, we're not going to play this game--"
"We always play this game when you're in town, Arthur," Sarah says sharply. "And you bring it on yourself, so don't even start."
"Oh, what the hell is that supposed to mean--"
"If you made more of an effort--"
"If you had ever respected my right to lead my own fucking life--"
"You guys," Rachel says, wineglass gripped tightly between her fingers, Mike's hand on her back, "seriously, now is neither the time nor the place--"
"Is it so much to ask that Arthur spends some time with his family, honey?" Sharon asks her, and she's not even looking at Arthur anymore, and Eames can feel himself vibrating with rage that has nowhere to go. He can't remember the last time he was this angry and this helpless at once.
"Being as I am actually right here," Arthur growls, "yeah, actually, it is, and this is exactly why."
"Well," Sharon says, narrowing her eyes, "if that's how you feel, it would be better if you hadn't come at all."
"Mom," Rachel snaps, horrified, but the damage is done.
Next to Eames, Arthur is completely frozen, his hand reached out towards his wineglass stopped in its tracks. Eames wants to reach out, to touch him, to pick him up and carry him out of here if he has to, but he's assuaged by the sudden bizarre image that Arthur might actually shatter under his hands.
It's ridiculous. Eames knows it's ridiculous. But in that moment Arthur looks like a statue, a still life: Man Reaching For Wine, Stabbed In Back. It's…terrible. It may be the worst moment of Eames' life, because at least when he was being tortured by the military or chased down by projections or crying into Arthur's sodding jacket he could bloody do something.
"I," Arthur says. His face flashes briefly from shock to guilt to hurt, and then settles into a detached, expressionless neutral, the look Eames usually sees right before he lets loose a round of gunfire.
"I apologize," he snarls, throwing back the whole glass of wine at once and slamming it back down. "You're right, I shouldn't be here, I'll just go."
He pushes back from the table and he's drunk enough that he gets up unsteadily, and Eames hates everything, because Arthur's face flashes again when he stumbles. It's the lack of dignity that gets him this time, and Eames wishes he could lend it, somehow--Eames wishes Arthur would trust him enough to let himself be caught. He steadies himself on the table instead and stalks out, leaving Eames blinking behind him.
And Eames is so angry he can't even move for a minute, just sits there, trying to remember how to breathe for long enough to get up and follow. Because Arthur will not appreciate it in the morning, if Eames reams these people out--it will not make Arthur's life any easier, and that's really all Eames wants.
But then Sharon says, "I'm sorry you had to see that," her mouth a thin, set line, and Eames can't help himself.
"Christ, I'm not," he snaps, standing. "Do you honestly wonder why he doesn't come home? Bloody hell, I wouldn't either, if I had to deal with you lot."
"This really isn't any of your business," Sarah sniffs, looking at him disdainfully.
"No," Eames growls, vicious and biting. "In fact, Arthur is my business, and I really couldn't be buggered about the rest of you, and if you think I give a flying fuck about your--family politics or whatever that was, you can, quite frankly, shove it up your arse."
His hands are balled to fists in his pockets as he exits the room, because fucking hell, he can't imagine it. His own childhood hadn't been any bloody picnic, and there had been days, certainly, when he'd tried to disappoint his parents just to see if he could. But this was worse--because god, what would it be like to have grown up like this, surrounded by love that was visibly conditional? How long had Arthur known he wasn't the person they were expecting, the person he'd been obligated to be, and lived with that?
And suddenly, a thousand things slot into place, a tangle of dangling threads he's never quite unraveled. Arthur, who has made all of four mistakes on the job in the entire time Eames has known him, and has looked stunned and sick at every one. Arthur, who built a career on knowing everything; Arthur, who followed Cobb across the world without a second thought. Arthur who never asks for what he wants, Arthur who said "just tell me I'm not doing it wrong," Arthur whose first defense is a strong offense. Arthur, who never trusts anyone. Arthur, who plays it close to the chest.
Arthur, who was supposed to be one person and grew into someone else.
"Bloody hell," Eames says, and runs.
It's pouring when he gets outside, but Eames hardly notices. He crosses the parking lot as fast as he can and finds Arthur at the car, trying to pick the lock. He looks a mess already, dripping and frantic and more than a little drunk, and Eames feels his heart leap to his throat.
"You took the fucking keys!" Arthur shouts, wheeling on him, furious. "You didn't even ask, you just fucking took them, you fucking thief--"
"If you think I'm letting you drive like this you're out of your bloody mind," Eames says, as calmly as he can, stepping forward. "Arthur--"
"No," Arthur snaps, shying away. "Fuck off, Eames, if you won't give me the keys then you can just go, alright?"
"Arthur, love, come on. Get in the car, I'll take you--"
"I can't get in the car," Arthur growls. "You idiot, I can't get in the car, I just walked out on my sister's rehearsal dinner--fuck, I can't believe did that, I can't believe I fucking did that--"
"I can't believe you didn't do it sooner," Eames says, because he can't, because there are a lot of things he wants to say to Arthur but he thinks Arthur is too pissed, too angry to hear them. "I can't believe you came here at all, honestly. If I'd had any idea this was how they--"
"Oh, don't," Arthur spits. "Don't, Eames, just--I don't need you to make me feel better, I don't need you to talk them down so I can feel like less of a fucking prick, alright?"
"That's not what I'm doing, you git," Eames says, feeling his patience slip. Arthur's lip curls up in a sneer, an expression that is trying for malicious but succeeds only in making him look young, and Eames curses Arthur's ridiculous, impossible tendency to lash out when he's hurting.
A learned tendency, apparently, fuck it all.
"My family life is none of your concern, Mr. Eames," Arthur hisses. It is the single cruelest thing he could have said, and what Eames wants, more than anything, is to make it possible for him to take it back. Not that he himself gives a fuck--he knows full well that Arthur doesn't mean it--but because of what Arthur will look like when he remembers saying it, because of the way he'll beat himself up in the morning.
"Do you want me to fight with you?" Eames asks, stepping close and glaring. "Is that what you want, Arthur? Because I'll fucking do it, I'll stand here all night with you if that's what it'll take. Is that what you want?"
"I want you to give me the car keys," Arthur snaps.
"Well tough shit," Eames growls. "You're trashed, and I like your face in one piece."
"Then what the fuck are you doing here?" Arthur cries. "Give me the keys or fuck off, how much clearer can I fucking make it--"
"Damn it, Arthur," Eames hisses. He pushes Arthur against the car and holds him there, the rain dripping down between them, Arthur bristling like a wet cat underneath his hands. "Your self-defensive bullshit isn't going to work on me, darling, so you'd best try another tactic."
"I fucking hate you," Arthur snaps.
"I don't believe you," Eames says at once, because Arthur needs to hear that. "I don't believe you, you can go ahead and call me every name that comes to mind and I still won't fucking believe you, Arthur, I know you fucking love me."
"How could you possibly know that?" Arthur asks, raising his voice. "It's not like I go out of my way to show you, it's not like I'm even any fucking good at it--"
"Is that what you think?" Eames demands, and he's shouting now, to be heard over the rain and the wind and the furious pounding of his own heart. "Because that's shit, Arthur, that's such shit, you couldn't be any fucking clearer--"
"I don't need you to do this," Arthur yells. "I didn't need you to come after me and I don't need you to fucking coddle me--"
"Well I didn't think I needed you to come to London," Eames snaps, "and I was bloody wrong, wasn't I?"
"This isn't the same thing!"
"It's exactly the same thing," Eames shouts. "Christ, Arthur, just because no one's kicked it doesn't mean it can't be hard, I'd kill anyone else if they talked to you like that--"
"They're my fucking family, Eames, what the fuck do you want from me--"
"Nothing!" Eames cries, grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him. "Nothing, that's my whole sodding point, I don't want anything from you except you."
Arthur's mouth, which had been open around a retort, falls shut. He blinks at Eames in astonishment for a second and then, in a much smaller voice, says "Shut the fuck up."
"No," Eames says, lowering his own voice. "No, Arthur, I'm not going to do that. Christ, what do think I'm doing with you? Do you think I'm just--just waiting around for you to fuck it up? Because that's not fair, you don't get to do that, that isn't how this works."
"I think," Arthur says, and stops, like he's got no idea what comes next, like he doesn't know what to do at all.
"I think you're punishing yourself for no fucking reason," Eames says quietly. "And I think you're a lot better at this than you give yourself credit for, and I think your family can be buggered for all I care, and I know that there is nothing you could fucking do to make me look at you like they do."
"Eames," Arthur says.
"I love you, you fucking asshole," Eames growls. "It's not a--that's not collateral, Arthur, you don't owe me anything for it, I just do."
Arthur blinks up at him for a second, a deer in the headlights, lost. Then he sighs, and all the fight goes out of him, leaving him limp and exhausted against the car.
"Fuck," he says, on an exhale.
Eames presses his advantage and kisses him, sliding a hand up to cup the side of his face, forcing himself to be gentler than he'd like. Arthur groans into his mouth and shudders and pulls himself up by the soaked lapels of Eames' jacket, clawing at him, biting and vicious, but Eames doesn't bite back. He just stands there, a solid presence, rubbing his thumb across Arthurs' cheek and catching his lips again and again until they finally, finally kiss him back.
Arthur makes a different kind of sound then, a guttural, desperate whine, even as he lets himself go softer, stops himself from trying to hurt. He kisses Eames properly and whines and Eames thinks, Oh, Arthur, says "Oh, Arthur," before he can help himself. Arthur's hands aren't fisted in his lapels anymore, they're in his hair, on the back of his neck, and Arthur is flush against him, pressing them together wherever he can.
"Can you just," Arthur says, pulling back just far enough to rest their foreheads together, to refuse to meet Eames' eyes, "can you just drive, please."
"Yeah," Eames says, running his thumb across Arthur's cheek one last time. "Yeah, love, of course."
He gets Arthur in the car--which actually takes some maneuvering, because he's stumbling drunk, especially now that the adrenaline has worn off--and climbs into the driver's seat, starting the car. He turns off the radio and hands Arthur the cigarettes; Arthur takes them but doesn't smoke one.
After a couple of minutes he bends down and puts his head between his legs.
"Eames," he says, "Eames, fuck, I'm really drunk."
"That you are," Eames confirms, reaching out a hand and resting it at the back of Arthur's neck.
"I have to," he says, "I have to--to go back, my sister, I can't just--"
"What you have to do is take a shower," Eames says firmly. "Rachel will understand."
"I should call her," Arthur murmers.
"I will call her," Eames says, "when we get the hotel."
Arthur doesn't say anything for a minute; Eames rubs the back of his neck a little. Then:
"Wait. Wait. We're not staying in a hotel."
Eames shrugs, pulling to a stop at a red light. "I booked one before we got here, just in case."
"Oh," Arthur says after a long minute, sounding faintly amazed. "I, ah. I didn't know that."
Then he burps and shudders, and Eames sighs.
"Darling, if you're going to be sick--"
"Don't say that word," Arthur moans, "god, no, shut up, shut up and drive, Eames."
"Okay," Eames agrees, "I can do that."
He stops talking, but he doesn't take his hand from the back of Arthur's neck either, and after a minute he feels Arthur's fingers brush against his thigh and then tighten uncomfortably.
"I am holding on," says Arthur, "until the car stops spinning."
"You can hold on for as long as you like, love," Eames tells him, and doesn't miss the way Arthur loosens his grip, delivering something that could almost be a caress, before he tightens his fingers again.
The concierge doesn't bat an eyelash at the state of them when they stumble into the hotel half an hour later. Arthur can't even walk straight anymore, that last downed glass of wine having hit him at some point on the drive, so Eames has an arm around his shoulders. He'd had to tip the valet considerably more than he would have liked to get him to agree to get into the soaked-through driver's seat.
"Rough night?" the concierge asks.
"You could say that," Eames agrees, as Arthur stumbles forward. Eames bunches the fabric of his shirt and tugs to keep him from pitching over entirely. "I have a reservation under Smith?"
"Subtle," Arthur says, in what he obviously fondly imagines is a whisper. Eames winces slightly. The concierge just smiles, though, and punches a few buttons, handing over a key.
"I'll just have some Advil sent up in the morning, shall I?" he asks.
"You're going to get a fabulous tip," Eames tells him, guiding Arthur toward the elevator. "A tip you will not even believe."
The man just laughs. "Have a good night, sirs."
Once inside the elevator, Arthur gives up the ghost entirely and slumps into Eames' arms, his dripping head curving into the crook of Eames' neck. "In the morning, this will not have happened."
"Of course not," Eames murmurs, rubbing his back.
"I can feel it moving," Arthur complains, going slightly green. "The floor. It's all--just. Make it stop moving."
"Don't think about it, pet," Eames advises, mentally berating himself for choosing a top-floor suite. "Close your eyes."
"Worst elevator ever," Arthur mutters, but he complies. When they get off their door is nearby, and Eames guides Arthur to the bathroom, turning the shower on.
"Do you still want me to call your sister?"
"Oh, god," Arthur says, sitting down on the toilet and cradling his head in his hands. "Oh, god, I walked out on my--"
"Stop that," Eames says. "Get in the shower, I'll be back in a minute, okay?"
"Mmhmm," Arthur agrees, fiddling with his tie. Eames considers staying and helping him, but he knows that could lead to Rachel not getting a call at all, and Arthur would feel terrible about that in the morning. He rescues Arthur's mobile from his pocket, wipes it off on a towel, and steps out into the main room, closing the door behind him.
Rachel picks up in one ring. "Jesus Christ, Arthur, I'm so sorry--"
"My apologies, actually," Eames says quickly, cutting her off. "It's Eames, Arthur's--indisposed."
"Eames, oh my god, is he okay?"
"He's fine," Eames says, warmed by the genuine concern in her voice. "Completely pissed, but fine. He's in the shower."
"God," Rachel breathes, tinny through the speaker. "I'm so sorry, I honestly didn't think--"
"It's fine," Eames tells her quickly. "He wanted me to tell you he's sorry for leaving."
"Tell him to shut the fuck up," Rachel snaps. "Of course he left, I wouldn't have expected him to stay."
"I knew I liked you," Eames laughs. There is a loud noise from the bathroom and he looks at the door, concerned.
"Well, likewise," Rachel says. "Look, if you guys don't want to come tomorrow, I'll totally understand."
"No, no, don't be silly," Eames says, edging toward the door. There is another, more muted crash and then everything is silent except for the sound of the spray. He narrows his eyes. "He wouldn't miss it; we'll be there. I'm sure Arthur will call you in the morning, okay? I've got to run."
"Okay," Rachel agrees. "You're sure he's--"
"Honestly, he's fine," Eames says. "I think he might have fallen over in the shower, though."
Rachel laughs. "Yeah, he's not so good with the whole standing thing when he's that drunk. Look--thank you."
"Not at all," he says. "Enjoy your last night as a single woman, yeah?"
"I will. Take care of my baby brother," Rachel replies, and he can hear the smile in her voice.
"I'm telling him you said that," Eames says lightly, and hears her laughter as he rings off.
He puts the phone down and goes into the bathroom, where--
"Oh, Christ, Arthur," Eames says, torn between laughing and punching a wall. Arthur's sitting on the floor of the shower, still mostly dressed, with the towel bar in his hand. There are two holes in the drywall above his head, presumably where it used to be attached.
"I, uh," Arthur says, blinking, "I couldn't--balance. I'm sorry."
"Give me that," Eames says, prying the bar out of Arthur's hands and climbing into the shower after him, pausing only to kick off his shoes. "And stop apologizing, darling, bloody hell."
"I'm really drunk," Arthur slurs, his head dropping to his chest. "I can't even--when the last time was, that I was this drunk."
Eames remembers the last time, though he doesn't mention it as he crouches down to undo the buttons on Arthur's shirt. The last time had been when Mal died, when he'd powered through so much vodka that Eames had worried after his liver for weeks. He's seen Arthur drunk since then, of course, even plastered, but he only does this to himself when something's really wrong.
Not that Eames can talk about unhealthy alcohol-fueled reactions to unpleasant situations, but still.
"You've plaster in your hair," he says, instead of I am never letting you near these people again. Arthur just nods, his head lolling to the side. He lets Eames strip him down, leaning forward when Eames prompts him to and being generally surprisingly cooperative.
"Can you stand?" Eames asks, once Arthur is down to his boxers. Arthur narrows his eyes and looks Eames over.
"You're all--dressed," he says.
"That's true," Eames agrees. "Would you prefer it if I wasn't?"
"Yes," Arthur decides. "Because...dignity."
Eames bites down on a laugh and starts pulling his own clothes off as quickly as he can, wanting to get them both out of the shower before the water runs cold. Arthur reaches out and touches the tattoo on his chest, rubbing at it.
"I didn't like your family either," he admits, very quiet. "But I, you know, they're just--it's family, I didn't know how to tell you, I don't ever know how to tell you stuff--"
"Well, you're not alone in that," Eames offers, pushing Arthur's hair up out of his eyes. Arthur smiles at him, hazy and unfocused, the edges of his dimples showing.
"I thought that was your whole thing," he slurs. "With all the yelling, and the--the yelling. That I'm not alone in shit. Wasn't it?"
Eames feels his heart constrict in his chest. "Yes," he says softly, "yes, Arthur, that was my whole thing, you're right."
"Don't make that face," Arthur instructs, closing his eyes.
"The face," Arthur says, "like you're all--surprised and shit, the--I'm too drunk for the face, Eames, you always do stupid sappy shit after that face and I can't, I just, I am not…right now. Composed. That."
"Sorry, love," Eames murmurs, and kisses him, kneeling over him in the shower spray. Arthur makes an I-told-you-so kind of of noise but kisses back, sloppily and betraying his dizziness by entirely failing to put his hands where he clearly means them to go, and Eames has maybe never been so grateful for the knowledge that this is reality, that this--this--is his life.
He does, eventually, break away, and gets Arthur to stand up and wash the plaster out of his hair. Arthur leans into him and can't keep up a conversation and spills most of the shampoo onto the floor, and Eames sort of can't wait to tease him about it in the morning, to start bringing him back to normal. He grabs them both towels and lets Arthur think that he's actually made a hit when he twists his up and attempts to whap Eames with it, never mind that he has, in fact, delivered the blow to the doorframe.
"Hey," Arthur says, when Eames pushes him onto the bed, "hey, hey, Eames, hey."
"Hey," Eames says, flopping down next to him, "what?"
"I don't," Arthur murmurs, reaching out and finding the patch of stubble Eames had missed shaving that morning. He rubs at it, his brow furrowed.
"You don't what?"
"Hate you," Arthur sighs, closing his eyes.
"Ah," Eames says. He can't control the ridiculous smile that breaks over his face, but Arthur's not looking, so it's probably not too much of a problem. "Well, thanks, pet. I don't hate you either."
When Eames wakes up, he's alone.
"Fuck," he mumbles, unreasonable panic gripping him, "oh, fuck," but then he hears footsteps padding forward and blinks. Arthur slides into bed next to him, an expression of undiluted agony on his face.
"The guy came," he murmurs, groggy, "with the Advil. I thought I should take them."
"You must have the hangover of your life," Eames returns, trying not to let the relief that he's not done a mortification-based runner show through in his voice. "All the sugar in that stuff--"
"Could you talk quieter?" Arthur asks, wincing. "Be quieter in general, actually. Breathe less, maybe."
"Poor thing," Eames laughs, pulling Arthur against him. Arthur makes a muffled noise that Eames thinks is probably rage, but he reaches a hand up into Arthur's hair and kneads his fingers gently against his scalp until he quiets.
"Feels good," Arthur mumbles.
"I bet," Eames agrees cheerfully. "You're going to have to pay the deposit on that towel bar, you know."
"God, shut up," Arthur groans. "Are you like--are you incapable of shutting up?"
"Clinically," Eames says, grinning.
"You're such a bastard," Arthur complains. His voice is gravelly, a dry rasp in the dim light, but he's almost smiling.
"Mmm, yes," Eames says. "Although I imagine you'd find me considerably more intolerable if I stopped rubbing--"
"Don't you dare," Arthur growls. "I feel like something died in my mouth, Jesus."
"That's the morning breath," Eames teases. "It's always like that, I'll have you know. You're just usually too out of it to notice."
"Do you know how loud you snore?" Arthur demands. "Do you? Because it's loud, Eames, it's really fucking loud."
"Lucky thing you sleep like the dead, then, isn't it?"
"I think I am the dead," he grumbles. "Did you raise me up from some grave last night? Is that what's happening?"
"Yes, obviously," Eames informs him. "Wasn't that vile wine at all. You have only me to blame."
"Necrophilia is gross, Eames," Arthur mumbles, but he shifts in a little closer.
Eames grins at him and presses a kiss into his hair, knowing full well he's too exhausted to protest. After some minutes, Arthur sighs and rubs his face against Eames' bare shoulder, rather than bothering to lift his hand to do the job.
"I have so much fucking damage control to get to," he mutters.
"So you do remember last night," Eames sighs. "I was rather hoping I could convince you it had all been a hallucination."
"What, and lose the memory of you screaming in the rain like a crazy person?" Arthur asks. "But I was planning on cherishing that."
And that's the thing about Arthur--he always says the things he means the most with the heaviest sarcasm. Eames' grin is almost painful.
"I think you've got time to go back to sleep," is what he says. "We don't have to be anywhere for a few hours yet."
"Can't sleep through a hangover," Arthur mutters. "Have to take it like a man. Next step is coffee."
"Ah," Eames says, his brow furrowing. "Well, if you're sure. I can go get--"
"Are you worrying about me?" Arthur demands, pushing himself up to glare at Eames. His left eye is still slightly yellow around the edges from that ridiculous carjacking attempt, and his hair had dried funny, leaving half of it sticking straight up. The whole effect makes him look absolutely, utterly mad.
The things Eames would do for him are staggering, actually. It doesn't bear thinking about.
"You said something died in your mouth," Eames says innocently. "That would concern anyone."
Arthur narrows his eyes in a contemplative glare. Then he bends down and kisses him, forcefully and with tongue.
"Christ," Eames says, pushing him off, "ugh, I take it back, that is so much worse than the standard-issue horrifying."
"Told you," Arthur says, victorious. "And don't be an idiot, I'm fine."
"I'm serious, actually," Arthur says, running a thumb along Eames' jawline. "I'm sorry I was all--you know, fucking trashed and everything last night, but you. Uh. Thanks."
"You don't have to thank me," Eames says. "I meant it all, you know."
"Even the part where you called me an asshole?" Arthur asks, his mouth quirking.
"Especially that part," Eames says solemnly, and then he kisses Arthur again, disgusting breath be damned. Arthur laughs against him and pulls back.
"I'm going to brush my teeth," he says, "for the next hundred years."
"Make it two hundred," Eames calls to his retreating back. Arthur flips him the middle finger without looking round, and Eames smiles and turns to the problem of how the hell they're going to get dressed.
They end up showing up at Arthur's parents' house in the most ridiculous clothes imaginable.
"I can't believe I'm wearing this," Arthur mutters for the fifth time, looking down at the sweatpants with distaste. They're grey and fuzzy, and go well with his t-shirt, which reads "I &hearts NY."
"It was all they had in the shop," Eames lies, glancing away when Arthur looks pointedly at his own plain black t-shirt. "And I think you look smashing, really."
"Ass," Arthur says, knocking. He hadn't bothered slicking his hair back, and it's falling into his face, soft and loose.
Really, the whole ordeal was almost worth it, to get Arthur out in public looking this ridiculous. Almost.
The door swings open a second later, a haggard-looking Sharon behind it.
"Oh, Arthur, thank god," she says, pulling him into a hug. "Honey, I'm so sorry--"
"Ugh, Mom, get off," Arthur says, but there's a little fondness there. Eames is not so quick to forgive, but he understands as well as anyway the inexplicable ties of family, the ways they can creep past your defenses and really, really stick.
He slides in past them and raises an eyebrow at Arthur. Over his mother's shoulder Arthur nods, jerking his head towards the stairs, so Eames leaves them to it and goes to pack up their things.
When he comes downstairs, suitcase in hand, Arthur and his mother are in the kitchen, sitting at the table with Sarah. Not wanting to disturb them, Eames goes into the living room and sits down, taking his poker chip out of his pocket and flipping it across his knuckles.
When he glances up, there are two small faces by his knees.
"Hello, sprogs," he says cheerfully. "How're you guys?"
The older one--Noah, Eames remembers--tilts his head to the side. "You talk funny."
"I'm British," Eames tells them. "That means I'm from England."
"Bwitish," says the smaller one, whom Eames vaguely recalls as being Sam. Eames pokes him gently in the stomach and he falls to the ground, cackling.
"Where's England?" Noah asks. "Is it as far as Connecticut?"
"It's much, much farther," Eames tells him, chuckling. "All the way across the ocean."
"Do you and Uncle Arthur live there?" Noah asks, curious. "My mommy says Uncle Arthur lives far away and that's why we don't see him a lot."
"No," Eames says, "Arthur and I live in Los Angeles. That's in California. It's far too, but the other way."
"Oh," Noah says. Then he says: "Daddy says that Mommy and Uncle Arthur had a fight, and that's why she's so sad."
"Did he now," Eames says, fighting the urge to pry secrets from a four year old child.
Noah nods. "He says that sometimes people are mean when their feelings are hurt."
Eames does not say And sometimes people are mean when they're evil bitches , because that would be wrong. "That's true."
Noah wrinkles up his nose. "That's true," he repeats, mocking Eames' accent. Eames laughs delightedly, reminded forcibly of Arthur.
"If it's that game you want, let's try something easier," he says. "Repeat after me: how now brown cow."
"That's like a Dr. Seuss book!" Noah cries. "Wait, I'll get it."
This is how Eames ends up sitting on the couch with Noah on one leg and Sam on the other, reading "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?" to riotous laughter.
"You say it so funny," Noah giggles. "Read it again, read it again!"
"Honestly, sprog," Eames starts, and then he hears footsteps. He glances up and sees Arthur, Sharon and Sarah standing in the doorway, watching him. Both women's cheeks are wet, and Sarah's got huge circles under her eyes, like she didn't sleep at all. Perversely, Eames kind of hopes she didn't--but he hopes that they can make amends, too, if only for Arthur's sake.
There's still tension there--it's visible in the way the the three of them lean away from each other, in the tight lines of their body language. But Eames supposes that's how these things go, when it comes right down to it; a dance of give and take, of loving and being loved. He means to consider it further, actually, and then is distracted by Arthur's expression.
He's still in that stupid shirt, and his hair still looks ridiculous, and he is looking at Eames with honest, undeniable affection written across his face. He catches Eames' eye and quirks a smile at him, his eyes crinkling at the corners, and mouths I'm okay.
"Ah, well," Eames says to Noah, feeling warm all over, "perhaps one more time."
The service is beautiful.
Rachel looks amazing, in a simple, elegant dress that clings as she walks, that familiar dark hair piled up at the back of her head. They've had the synagogue decked out in gardenias and lilies, which Arthur cites as an excuse for the fact that his eyes are red from the second the ceremony starts.
"Really, pet," Eames says, "after all the times you've denied having allergies--"
"Shut up, Eames, Arthur growls, and Eames takes pity on him and lets it go. He keeps watching, though--the way Arthur smiles at his sister is soft and open, like he's thrilled for her. When she and Mike stomp on the glass (which is a Jewish tradition Eames is going to have to look into at great length, because what), Arthur blinks hard and visibly bites the inside of his cheek.
Eames takes his hand. Arthur won't look at him, but he squeezes, hard, just once.
At the reception, afterward, Eames sits at the head table with Arthur. The conversation is still loud and riotous, skirting blatantly offensive in places, but the criticism has been curbed somewhat. Arthur's mother slips and makes a comment about his suit at one point, and calmly, almost unthinkingly, he turns to Eames.
Eames smiles at him, lets his gaze rake over him appreciatively, and says, "I, as ever, heartily approve of your sartorial choices."
Arthur grins, lazy and relaxed, and Eames thinks that maybe this is how people get through these things, tethered to one another when they can't hold on anywhere else.
There is dinner, and then there are speeches. Arthur gives a brief one, after the best man and the maid of honor, that Eames hadn't known he was planning. It's short and heartfelt and he doesn't use notes, and by the end of it Rachel's eyes are shining.
"To my big sister," Arthur finishes, clearly conceding the two-minutes argument as a wedding gift. "May you know nothing but happiness."
He vanishes after that, but Eames knows full well he's gone off somewhere to avoid being emotional in front of the universe. Hedging his bets, he goes outside for a cigarette by the back door, and is rewarded by Arthur sidling up next to him a few minutes later.
The bastard takes his smoke, but Eames doesn't mind so much.
"That was quite a speech," Eames says, watching Arthur exhale. The man is very attractive with a cigarette in his mouth, and Eames is maybe a little tipsy on champagne.
"Was it?" Arthur says, slanting him a sideways grin. "I kind of winged it."
"You're kidding," Eames says, laughing in surprise.
Arthur shrugs. "I meant to write something, I just--I couldn't get it to sound right. I figured it would come to me."
"Well, nicely done all around, then. She looks lovely," Eames offers, nodding toward the window. Rachel and Mike are silhouetted through it, laughing with a friend.
Arthur smiles. It's not…well. It's a happy smile, certainly, but there's a little twist of sadness in it too, caught at the corners of his mouth. It says things about growing up Eames thinks he is still too young to know.
"She does, doesn't she," Arthur says, staring at her contemplatively, his smile deepening a little. "I knew she would."
Eames kisses him then, slow and quiet, with no agenda at all. He just knocks the cigarette out of Arthur's hand and moves, working Arthur's mouth open carefully with his own, while Arthur lets a hand rest on the small of his back. He tilts his head and exhales softly into Arthur's mouth, feels Arthur draw breath as he shifts ever-so-slightly closer.
When Eames pulls away, Arthur's eyes are still closed, and for a second he just stands there like that. Then he blinks, slowly, twice, and a soft grin winds its way onto his lips.
"You're a little off," he says, and Eames thinks he means it as an insult until Arthur reaches out and straightens his tie. It's an oddly intimate touch--from Arthur it's practically a declaration--and Eames beams at him and lets him do it, allowing his own expression fall to a smirk when he's done.
"Shall we go back in," he asks, "or was there anything else wrong with me?"
"Really, you're just going to toss me that?" Arthur laughs. "God, you don't have any sense of self preservation at all, do you?"
"You seem to have removed it," Eames admits. "Go on, then. I did set you up for it. List my flaws, darling, I can take it."
"Nah," Arthur says, "too easy," and he threads his fingers through Eames', doesn't let go when they walk inside.
Then there is the dancing. Eames has never been to a Jewish wedding before, and had not expected the business with the obnoxious music and the dancing circle and the tossing people up in chairs. He helps lift Rachel's, though, Arthur next to him, dodging her feet when she kicks.
"Don't drop me," she laughs, "oh, fuck, don't drop me--"
"Langauge!" Arthur yells up and her, and laughs when she leans down a little to smack him.
He dances with her later, when some of the guests have trickled out. They make a hell of a picture--that dark hair and those high cheekbones, Arthur's suit and Rachel's gorgeous dress. They're talking as Arthur whirls her around, and Eames is leaned against a pillar, watching them, when Mike comes up next to him.
"She married me," he says, staring at her, in the tones of someone who has already made this statement repeatedly to his various groomsmen. Eames laughs.
"That she did," he agrees. "You're a lucky man."
"I keep thinking this is a dream," Mike admits. "Like I'm going to wake up and be back in high school, and she's just going to be that girl in my English class who doesn't know I'm alive."
"This is reality," Eames assures him, almost choking on the irony of it as he flips his totem in his pocket. "Hold onto it, mate."
"You too," Mike says, nodding at Arthur. He's got his head thrown back in laughter and Rachel is grinning at him, her eyebrows up.
"Yeah," Eames says, giving in to the stupid, soppy grin that he's been trying to hold back all night, "yeah, I intend to."
Mike claps him on the back and walks over to the dancing siblings, curving his arm around Rachel's waist. She laughs and breaks away from Arthur, leaning back into Mike's embrace, and Eames can see that Mike is saying something, something that involves the words "my wife." Arthur laughs and nods, and then he turns his head and sees Eames, meets his eye.
And for a second, it's just the two of them, smiling at each other across a crowded room, all the bloody mess it took to get them here forgotten.
"Hi," Arthur says, when he's crossed the dance floor. He stops in front of Eames with his arms crossed, his sleeves rolled up, his suit jacket long gone.
"Hi, yourself," Eames replies. He reaches out to touch Arthur's sleeve, playing at the fabric idly. "I suppose this is the point where I ask you to dance, hmm?"
"If you wanted to be cliche," Arthur agrees. "And if you were in the mood to be on the receiving end of a lot of politely-disapproving glares."
"When am I not in the mood for that?" Eames wonders aloud. Arthur snorts. "That's practically my permanent state."
"I thought you liked your disapproval delivered with more hostility," Arthur says, quirking an eyebrow.
Eames smirks at him, but his voice comes out a little more honest then he means it to. "That's just with you, love."
"Ah," Arthur murmurs, "my mistake."
"I am perfectly content to drag you out back and whirl you about in the parking lot," Eames admits. "We could be that couple from every shit movie ever produced. Think of how mortified you could be at yourself in the morning, Arthur, it's worth considering."
"Or," Arthur says, stepping close, "we could not do that."
Eames raises his eyebrows. "You're not actually considering dancing with me."
"And what if I am?" Arthur asks, letting one of his hands drift to rest on Eames' hip. "Will the surprise give you a heart attack? Am I going to need to check your blood pressure? I like my decisions to be well-researched, after all."
"Darling," Eames says, in all seriousness, "if you dance with me right now, I may actually expire in shock."
"Try not to," Arthur advises. Then: "I'm leading, asshole," pressed against his ear like a promise, and then, Christ, then Arthur is actually dancing with him.
"Your sister dared you," Eames says, following his steps.
"Wrong," Arthur says, the corner of his mouth twitching.
"Yusuf dared you," Eames tries. He's not used to being led in this situation, but he's a fairly excellent dancer and he knows it, so it's not particularly hard to keep up. "Or…or Ariadne, or Cobb, someone here is filming this to send back to the team, and in exchange you're going to get--"
"Still wrong," Arthur says, and he's laughing now, quiet and warm. "Guess again."
"Is this some kind of defiant gesture to the more resistant members of your family?" he asks. "Because--not that I'm complaining, mind you--we could have just as easily defiled one of these tables."
"It's not a gesture of defiance," Arthur says, trying to trip Eames up with a complicated backstep that does not phase him in the slightest. Ballroom dancing lessons as a child had paid off.
"Several of them seem to be looking at it that way," Eames offers, glancing around, and Arthur is still smiling. Unwilling to release him to get a hand on his totem, Eames ticks back through his steps, but he knows how he got here.
"Fuck 'em," Arthur says, and kisses him.
"I am out of guesses," Eames admits when Arthur pulls back. "Your motive is completely beyond me, I can't come up with a single viable thought--"
"Fucker," Arthur says fondly. "Is it so hard to believe that I just like you?"
"Oh Christ, you admitted it," Eames says, letting his eyes go wide in exaggerated shock. "I was kidding before about expiring, but I think--I feel faint, darling, quick, get the smelling salts--"
"You are such an asshole," Arthur laughs. "You'll notice that I didn't say I know why I like you, because I don't. I really, really don't."
"Yes, you do," Eames replies, grinning at him and dropping the act. Arthur rolls his eyes, but he doesn't stop smiling, not once, until the end of the song.
"You can dance, Mr. Eames," he says, letting him go. "It's a shock, I assure you."
"A proper gentleman learns these things," Eames says, giving him a mocking little bow.
Arthur wrinkles his nose. "You're not a gentleman."
"Well, obviously not," Eames returns, "as I've just let you parade me about. My mother would be so appalled."
"Your mother can--" Arthur starts, and checks himself.
"And so can yours," Eames laughs, squeezing his hand. "All things considered, I think we've done a rather good job of it, setting down roots as far away from both of them as possible."
"We could get a cell phone," Arthur muses, "that we never turn on. We could tell them it's the landline."
Eames blinks at him, and Arthur flushes slightly. "Oh, come on, don't look at me like that--I know it's terrible, I just--"
"I cannot believe I never thought of that," Eames interrupts, stunned. "Oh Christ, how many bloody phone calls--'Oh, darling, I've seen the most dreadful photo of you, if you're going to be a ruffian at least try not to get photographed at it--oh, is it your birthday, terribly sorry, my mistake.' It's like talking to ice, I could have let her leave messages and then deleted them--"
"I really, really don't like that woman," Arthur mutters under his breath.
"Well, I really, really don't like Sarah," Eames returns. "Or several of the others, truth be told. I'll tell you what. Let's go home, hmm, and set up that cell phone. We can get pissed and check the messages in six months, they'll never be the wiser."
"That," Arthur says, "is the best idea you've ever had."
The house smells rank when they get inside.
"Jesus," Arthur says, wincing and jerking back, "we were only gone for a week. The hell?"
"Well, uh," Eames admits, putting down his suitcase, "I rather thought you'd object to the idea of an impromptu holiday if I reminded you about the chicken in the fridge."
"Asshole," Arthur snaps. "God, Cobb has a spare key--and, fucking hell, so does Yusuf, so does Ariadne, you couldn't have called one of them? Oh, ew, it's like something died in here."
"You gave Ariadne a spare key?" Eames asks, rummaging around in the cupboard for a trash bag and possibly something to cover his face with. "I'm surprised she hasn't come in and redecorated, you know how much she hates the sofa pattern."
"I told her that if she ever broke in without our permission I'd tell Yusuf how much cream she gives that damn cat," Arthur says, distracted. "Jesus fucking Christ, Eames, there are fruit flies."
"That'd be the bananas," Eames says, glancing over at them. Arthur turns a full force glare on him, and he takes a step back, hands up. "I forgot about those! I honestly did! Please try to recall how much you enjoyed Monte Carlo, darling, I know you can."
"You enjoyed Monte Carlo," Arthur says. "Of all the self-indulgent places to pick--"
"I won ten grand!" Eames protests. "In twelve hours, no less, and you won nearly as much at the craps table, I'll remind you."
"I'd give it all for our kitchen not to smell like ass," Arthur growls. "I'd give twice as much."
"But you're tan," Eames says. He finds a dishtowel in a drawer and ties it over his face, hoping to prevent the worst of the smell from assuaging him when he opens the fridge. "There's no putting a price on that."
"You look like a deranged bank robber," Arthur informs him, very stern, but his mouth is twitching at the corners.
"Yes, well," Eames says, fanning the trash bag out and handing it to Arthur, "needs must, etc. Cover me?"
"If I have to actually shoot anything," Arthur mutters, holding the bag as far away from his person as possible, "I just--if there are actually things living in there, Eames, I swear to god it will be the end of you."
"And I will die a proud death in the name of true vengeance," Eames agrees readily. He takes one last deep breath, and adds "Alright, this is it. If the smells take me, do know that I love you."
"Melodramatic ass," Arthur says. "Let's just get it over with."
Eames nods and puts his hand on the handle. "Brace yourself, darling," he says, and opens the door.