Pairing: Arthur/Eames, Dom/Mal
Rating: Ermmm Hard R? IDK. Don’t read where someone might be peeking over your shoulder. Unless you don’t care. Then well done you, I’m impressed.
Words: about 9k /o\
Summary: “Besides,” Eames goes on, “I think we already established that I’m not most kids. I can remind you, if you’ve forgot.” From this prompt on inception_kink
Thanks to arithilim and cabayuki for double-checking my internet French, to lemniciate and vivitchi for beta work, to zarathuse for answering all my inane text questions and the alternate but superior title, and finally to anowlinsunshine for finding all my stupid errors like fifty times. Any remaining are my own fault (and feel free to pm me to correct hahahah).
The hardest thing about boarding school isn’t the work at all, though he’s at one of the more demanding schools in the region. No, the schoolwork comes fairly easy to him. It’s not being away from home, though he would prefer by far to eat his mother’s cooking in place of the mass-produced slop that gets served here. It’s not even the weather, though he certainly curses that enough every February.
No, the worst part about this insular little world he inhabits ten of every twelve months is undoubtedly his fellow students. Almost entirely spoiled and ignorant and completely irreverent unless faced with someone who had more money than they. Or at least better drugs.
Yusuf is good at that last one.
It wasn’t that he had no friends at all—there was Yusuf, for one, who was on the whole an excellent roommate even though Arthur lived in constant fear that he’d blow up the room or melt all Arthur’s clothes with some sort of acid. Ariadne was a year younger but far better company than any of the girls above her. And that was kind of it, except for the teachers he admired, but it was also how he liked things.
Homeroom is the most ridiculous class ever invented, he’s fairly sure. All it provides is an extra hour for people to wake up in, or whisper in, or check their facebook profiles in. Like they don’t get enough of that already.
He does work: the week’s math on Monday, when he’s the most sharp; English reading on Tuesday; Latin on Wednesday because it calms him down; history on Thursday and French on Friday. He leaves science til he’s with Yusuf because he’d be stupid not to.
Usually the teacher who’s assigned to make sure no one’s actually smoking up or something—he’s yet to see a teacher do anything in homeroom—just sits and reads or grades papers with a busy red pen, but today she gets up halfway through and vanishes. Normally this would be cause for an immediate flood of yells and paper footballs, but it’s Monday and as far as he can tell, no one actually uses the weekend to catch up on sleep except Arthur himself.
So everyone’s practically mute when she returns, followed closely by someone Arthur’s never seen before, which would be rarity enough on the campus, but he’s obviously a new student, which is pretty much unheard of after freshman year.
She pauses halfway through her introduction, right after the standard spiel of, “Class, new student,” etc etc etc, and just before the part where she should be saying his name.
“Eames is fine,” says Eames-is-fine, and Arthur’s pretty sure the teacher, who’s on the young side and a little silly already (it’s completely inappropriate to discuss vampire novels with your students, he’s certain), actually blushes.
Eames-is-fine smiles at her, drawls, “Thanks, love,” and then hefts his satchel and eyes the back of the classroom. Arthur looks to the empty seat to his right, where many a student had tried to sit before he drove them off after they proved too loud to sit near him while he was working. He’d chosen the back corner for a reason.
And apparently Eames-is-fine can sense Arthur’s growing consternation, because the charming smile he’d directed at the teacher and swept over the rest of the class grows into a definite smirk as he drops his bag with a thud of books and himself into the chair, settling into a lackadaisical slump that somehow manages to crowd into Arthur’s personal space at the same time.
He props his left foot on the leg of Arthur’s desk.
Two blonde girls whose names he always gets confused, cheerleaders with matching white SUVs, bear down on Eames-is-fine like stalking cats, ignoring the rules that require quiet study in homeroom.
“So you’re, like, from England or something, right?” It’s the tall one; she usually seems to be in charge.
“Got it in one,” Eames-is-fine confirms. Up close, it becomes clear he hasn’t even bothered to shave for class, and that the top two buttons of his oxford are undone. No tie in sight.
The girls look at each other and titter. Arthur tries not to sigh out loud, or growl.
He just likes his study time, is all.
Typically when someone transfers in at higher years, and especially in the middle of September, it means they’ve got some extremely rich potential donors funding their education. Students’ backgrounds are supposed to be private unless divulged by the students themselves, but such things always get around.
It’s Yusuf who reports the details to Arthur. How he gets them, Arthur has no idea.
But he doesn’t have anything on Eames-is-fine. Nor does Ariadne; all she knows are the stories concocted by the younger girls, that tend towards scandals involving a girl back in the UK, someone low-born whom Eames’ parents disapproved of, like characters from a Victorian novel.
“I’d bet on drugs, myself,” Arthur says after she finishes summarizing them over the school lunch of spaghetti and meat-ish balls.
“Not gambling?” she counters.
He considers, resting his chin on one elbow over the formica tabletop. “Possible. He’s certainly cocky enough.”
Two tables over, the very subject is straddling the bench that normal people just sit on, leaning towards one of the lesser blondes as he regales them with something that has the whole tableful of them rapt. His accent sharpens as his voice rises for the end of the joke.
“And then he wasn’t even on the lift!” he finishes. One of the blondes laughs without even thinking, but the one Eames is facing pauses.
“Um, what’s a lift?” she asks.
Unfortunately, it seems everyone else in the room is listening as well, so when Arthur can’t help the snort of laughter at the sheer confusion in her voice, it carries. Rather further than he’d intended.
The blondes ignore him as usual, but before Arthur looks away, he catches Eames-is-fine’s gaze, blue eyes focused on him not in the judgment or derision he was half-expecting. Instead he’s amused, sharing the joke rather than making Arthur the butt of it.
Arthur figures he’s got most people here pretty much pegged, but he has no idea what to make of that.
There’s no revelation as to why Eames-is-fine appeared, but the how is answered Tuesday afternoon, when Arthur’s looping around the track that surrounds the soccer field, falling quickly into the easy rhythm of his feet on the brick-hued ground. He prefers running the tracks through the woods, but the school has strict rules about letting kids out there when it’s been raining and they’d had a very wet weekend.
The first ball whooshes a few feet from him, far enough that it wouldn’t have hit but close enough to scare the hell out of him. He stops abruptly, clumsily, and looks instinctively to the field. Their soccer team isn’t really good, exactly, but they can generally keep the ball on the field.
Eames watches guilelessly from near the goalpost. No one else seems to even notice Arthur, so he settles his glare on the most likely suspect.
“Whoops,” Eames calls. “Very sorry!”
The apology would have been more convincing without the six other near-misses before he’s done the three miles he usually runs for practice. Each time, a freshman gets dispatched to fetch.
It gets to the point that he spends each revolution with one eye half on the field, eying the players as they run drills. It becomes clear almost immediately that Eames is running circles around the rest, literally and figuratively, and that the coach isn’t surprised by it. Both of which make the errant balls very clearly purposeful.
Bullying is of course something to be expected in a school like theirs, though Arthur typically manages to avoid it by dint of very clearly Not Giving a Fuck, and also because he’d nearly dislocated the shoulder of the first boy who tried. It was still one of his fondest memories.
The thing was, though, bullies usually did it for attention or dominance, and Eames was neither seeking the attention of his teammates nor did he seem to be following the near hits with the sort of threats or looks Arthur would typically associate with someone trying to bully him.
Whatever Eames’ purpose, Arthur triumphantly thwarts it when the last ball comes right as he’s finishing his cool-down lap. Instead of dodging or ignoring it, he catches it with both hands, looks over to where Eames-is-fine is smirking at him, not twenty feet away.
He starts walking, transferring the ball to his right hand. Eames watches his approach, eyes zeroing in on his face before moving lower down his body as he gets closer. He stands out, even wearing the same practice kit as all the other players.
Arthur stops when he’s close enough to push Eames over with his free hand. He grabs the ball in both, like he’s about to throw it in. Eames looks at it, back up again, and makes an obvious move to take it. Arthur waits until the moment he’s absolutely committed, then swipes it back and tosses it over Eames’ head, into the middle of whatever drill the rest of the team is attempting.
Eames turns to watch it land, and his smile when he looks back is absolutely delighted.
“Very impressive,” Eames says the next morning, feet on his bag and turned to the side at his desk.
Arthur doesn’t look up.
Eames pauses. “Your ball skills, of course.”
Arthur definitely doesn’t look up.
“I asked; no one else has noticed your ball skills,” Eames tells him on Thursday morning. “I asked a lot of people.”
“Galileo,” Arthur replies.
“What?” Again, instead of the usual dismissal Arthur gets when he deflects inane conversation by referencing the schoolwork he’s absolutely doing at that moment, Eames just sounds like he’s enjoying himself.
“AP Euro,” Arthur elaborates in spite of himself. “Reading about Galileo.”
Eames tips the top of Arthur’s textbook down with one hand, checking the page number. “I’m sure you know I’m in that class as well, and we’re not discussing Galileo until Tuesday at least.”
Arthur leans back, taking the book with him and out of Eames’ grasp. “Nothing wrong with advance preparation.”
“Arthur, there’s such a thing as too prepared.” No reply necessary to that, or to the way he shapes the elongated vowels of Arthur’s name with his absurd mouth, just a quick quirk in at the end like he’s preparing to kiss someone.
“I hear West Andover is absolutely thrilling on the weekends. Apparently there’s a cinema and everything,” Eames says, voice dripping with too many layers of innuendo for Arthur to separate.
“You need a car.” Most students have one, but Arthur doesn’t, and he can’t imagine Eames would, if he’s really fresh off the private jet from London. Yusuf does, but that’s not relevant.
“Oh, I’ve got one of those,” Eames says. “It’s just, the steering column’s on the wrong side, and so are all the other cars. Lives are at risk every time I’m behind the wheel.”
“I’m not driving you to Andover,” Arthur declares. “Ask, ah... Amanda. I’m sure she’d be thrilled.”
Eames pauses, shapes his mouth into a puzzled circle. “I don’t believe I know an Amanda. Here, at least.”
Damn, got the name wrong again. “You could pick that one,” he elaborates, pointing at the back of lesser blonde’s head.
“Hmm,” Eames muses. “I’m sure that would be... amusing. What do you think she’d do if I told her I was going to sit her in the boot.”
“I’m sure she’d let you stuff her in the boot,” Arthur says, and stills immediately. No way to correct that one. He darts a look around the room, but no one seems to have heard.
“Really, Arthur,” Eames admonishes, “there’s no call for such talk. A lady has a reputation to maintain, after all.” He’s leaned in so close Arthur realizes they’re practically whispering. So likely no one heard, but also more likely to draw the lax attention of the teacher reading at the front.
Sure enough: “Quiet work time, Arthur,” she berates. Arthur glares at Eames from the corner of his eyes, but it doesn’t do a thing to deter the deep complicit grin.
On Sunday evenings he has a late lunch with Dean Cobb, who isn’t in charge of Arthur’s year so no one can really complain. He’s something of a family friend, and even if he weren’t, Arthur would still prefer the company of him and his wife to most of his classmates. Sometimes he brings Ariadne, but usually he goes alone. He wouldn’t dare bring Yusuf—the potential fallout is beyond what he would bring on either.
And sometimes it’s nice to not have any other students around, even his friends. Both Dean Cobb and his wife, who teaches upper-level French, have been places, done things, and offer a perspective that isn’t prevalent in such institutions. They met in Paris and have traveled practically everywhere he wants to go, and then some. He doesn’t even know which he admires more.
Today, though, Mal’s accent leads his mind on a straight-shot path down to the only other person in school who doesn’t sound like everyone else.
“We got a new student,” he says over dessert, a question in the statement. “Just this week.”
“Yes,” Mal agrees. “Mr... Eames. He’s was supposed to be in my class.”
“He’s not.” Arthur’s in that class.
“No. He’d be bored; We’re doing something of an independent study. He’s reading Rousseau and Diderot.”
“I didn’t know that was an option,” Arthur says, trying not to sound as petty as he feels.
She watches him over the rim of a delicate porcelain teacup. He knows from experience how much milk and sugar she’s poured into the coffee.
“You should consider doing conversation practice with him,” she says.
“Maybe,” is all he’ll concede. He’s heard the conversation Eames has to offer, and there would be something infinitely worse about experiencing it shaped into the sensual French vowels.
But it’s not like he’d ever be able to refuse Mal anything, so two weeks finds him sat at a table in the common room of Eames’ dorm, the newest building on campus. It’s also a small kitchen where students can prepare food for late study sessions or if they miss meals, and someone’s left the remains of last night’s canned ravioli feast to congeal by the sink. There’s a streak of something on the fridge door, reminding Arthur of why he risks accidentally drinking an entire vial of some mystery narcotic to use the small refrigerator Yusuf smuggled in.
It’s Sunday and most of the students are at church or doing all the work they’d avoided on Friday and Saturday. Arthur doesn’t have much to say, and he’s pretty sure trying to start a conversation would lead immediately into complaining that he hasn’t been able to properly do work in homeroom since Eames arrived. Instead, his head is filled with all the inane facts the girls quiz out of Eames each morning: his favorite color (orange), his birthday (coming up in November, there’s already a party in the works), what his father does (“something very serious”), which wrist he wears his watch on. Or maybe Arthur investigated that one himself.
“Would you like something to drink?” Eames asks. He’s using that tone Arthur can never figure out, that sounds half-mocking and half-indulgent and Arthur was right, so much worse in French.
“Are you sure?” Eames crosses to the fridge and opens it wide, surveying the contents. “We’ve got... all sorts of things.” He gestures expansively.
“Are any of those yours?”
“No,” Eames says cheerfully, bending down to investigate more thoroughly. “I think these are Fischer’s.” He brandishes of bottle of expensive, glass-bottled tap water. “Gets them shipped in every week.”
“He doesn’t keep them in his room?”
“That’s where he keeps the beer, of course,” Eames admonishes.
“Oh. Well. Yes, then.”
“Good man,” Eames says in English, then tosses him a bottle and sweeps the door shut with one foot. “Let’s go, then.”
“Go?” Arthur keeps to French. “We’re not supposed to go anywhere.”
“Who said we had to stay here? Smells like the alley behind a bad pizzeria.”
It totally did. “Alright. Follow me.”
“Ooh, Arthur, order me around,” Eames crows. Arthur doesn’t need to turn around, he can picture the smug smirk curving Eames’ mouth. Not only that, but he’s switched back to French.
“Shut it, Mr. Eames.”
Most of the students don’t go near the woods except to smoke up or for one of the parties the school seems to pretend don’t happen. Arthur isn’t really an outdoors type, but he likes the solitude.
Eames trails him across the grounds, silent until Arthur ducks under the sign proclaiming which alumni donors funded the purchase of the land.
“You don’t like it here at all, do you?”
Arthur pauses, surprised by the frankness of the question, and that Eames would ask it at all.
“It’s not the worst place on Earth, usually... But it does breed a certain lack of perspective that sometimes makes me think it is.”
Eames laughs softly, perhaps in agreement, perhaps not.
“Why? What do you think of it?”
“Ah,” Eames says, opens his mouth but doesn’t say anything, like he’s actually considering his words for once. “No real reason, I suppose. You just tend to seem completely miserable.”
And there’s a sentiment he’s heard before: from his parents, from teachers, even from a random commuter on the train to New York once. If Arthur’s not smiling blindly he must be unhappy, if he’s not focused intently on the other people around him he must be bored or lonely.
“I’m not miserable.” He’s not going to elaborate though, and Eames waits for a moment before he gets the hint.
“It’s not much different from anywhere else I’ve been, except back home no one’s quite so hung up on given names.”
“No one would care here either if you’d just tell them.”
Eames grimaces. “I’ll give you a hint: it has four syllables and you couldn’t possibly come up with something worse if you tried.”
“You know there’s only one logical guess from that.”
Eames thinks, smiles as the reference dawns on him. “That’s closer than you would think.”
“Oh,” says Arthur, sort of amazed. “That does sound pretty awful. Why don’t you just... change it?”
“Ah,” Eames utters, like he’s thrown by the rather obvious question, but continues in a rush, back to English. “It’s a matter of—it’s just. Well, it was given to me by my mother, for some reason, and she, well, she died shortly after so I’ve always felt I should keep it.”
“Oh,” Arthur says eloquently.
Eames shrugs, biting into his bottom lip and then releasing it slowly. “Ça pourrait être pire,” he observes. It’s true, of course, things could always be worse. Arthur takes it as a neat way to end that unintended branch of the conversation. Probably how he was meant to.
But it’s a while before he can think of anything else to begin with.
Yusuf wakes him up, bleary and glaring, at some awful hour the next Saturday night. Or Sunday morning. He’s not sure.
It’s never pretty to combine Yusuf and morning, so Arthur doesn’t try to make sense out of anything he’s mumbling, just follows his pointing finger to the half-open window.
Eames beams when he pokes his head out, despite Arthur’s attempt to destroy him with just a look.
“Arthur! Mon ami!” he calls in a half-yell, half-whisper that isn’t quiet at all.
“Something of the utmost important has come up!” He’s grinning up in absolute drunken sincerity.
“Really,” Arthur says, unimpressed.
“Yes. But I have to say it your face.”
“This is my face, Eames.”
“Well, yes—obviously. Don’t think I don’t know!” All cheerfully lascivious. Arthur hopes none of his neighbors have woken. “But you know what I mean.”
“You can’t come up.”
“Then come down here!”
“No.” The doors locked at set hours every night, and could only be opened with a student ID card, which was of course logged into the system and brought to your attention by your dean the next day, or in an emergency.
“Pull the fire alarm,” Eames suggests.
“Everyone could use a little Saturday night excitement. Especially you!” Eames says obstinately. Arthur meets his gaze, determined to be obstinate right back.
After a short stare-off, Eames’ smile widens. “I’m going to tell you whether it’s to your face or not. How many people do you want to wake up?” he asks, no longer even pretending to keep his voice low.
“Jesus Christ,” Arthur curses, defeated. “Just a second.” He pulls on a sweater and jeans over the underwear he usually sleeps in, extremely annoyed.
Eames looks positively gleeful when he reappears at the window. Not that he had anything to be unhappy about: he seemed to be a very cheerful drunk, and he’d won yet again.
But when Arthur leans too far out and swings his leg over the peeling white sill, Eames looks like he’s panicking. He opens his mouth, undoubtedly to say something stupid.
“Shut up,” Arthur says preemptively. Eames actually does, but still watches him like he expects Arthur’s about to jump to his death.
And jump he is about to, getting both legs out before before he crouches and leaps out. He’s done it before, knows what branch to aim for and exactly where it will hit him. Of course, he isn’t generally half-asleep, so his miscalculates a little and ends up a lot closer to losing his grip than he likes, but he’s certainly not going to show it. He swings down the layers until he’s just above Eames, who’s standing where he typically drops and doesn’t seem inclined to move. So Arthur transfers over a branch, lands neatly on both feet.
“Et voila,” he says, not showing off in the least.
Eames stares, all drunk focus and, up close, flushed red cheeks. Arthur doesn’t quite know to do with the attention, much more than he’d expected.
“It’s, uh... grown. The tree. Used to be harder.”
“You wanted something?” Arthur reminds him. It makes Eames smile, slow and wide like he’s surprised Arthur remembered.
“I did, I did. You have to hear this.” He settles an arm over Arthur’s shoulders, the sort of thing he usually doesn’t like because no boy in high school like being reminded that others are taller than he is, but Eames does it so absently, instinctively, that Arthur permits it, and also lets Eames lead him on some indiscriminate path away from the residence buildings.
He doesn’t exactly follow the story, mostly because the build-up involves a lot of names he recognizes but can’t attach easily to a face, so by the time he’s identified one player there’s another he has to work on. The basic gist, though, is that Eames had managed to convince one of the lesser blondes that they didn’t drive on the other side of the road in the UK, they all drove backwards, flipped the whole car around so the engine was in the back and the doors opened the wrong way. That was actually when it got good, because Eames pulls off the best impression of her bewildered face Arthur’s ever seen, and then he commences with a dramatic back and forth between her and Robert Fischer when Fischer tried to convince her that Eames had been messing with her.
“And then she said, I shit you not, ‘Shut up, Robbie, like you even know what you’re talking about! You’re from New Jersey.’” Eames finishes. “I think she’s my new favorite person. What a sassy wench.”
“Too bad she’s so damn stupid,” Arthur says.
“There is that,” Eames concedes. “If she’s lucky Fischer’ll have inhaled too much suede protectant or whatever to even remember.”
“Suede protectant?” Arthur repeats, incredulous.
Eames waves a hand. “I didn’t get too close a look.” He stops on the grass behind the science wing, flings himself down with the abandon of one settling in for a while, so Arthur follows suit, but chooses to sit with his legs stretched out and crossed instead of Eames’ loose sprawl.
Dark eyes watch him from the ground for a long moment. “Now aren’t you glad you came outside instead of spending all your time sleeping?” It’s more an announcement than a question, imperious and overarching and so ridiculous even Eames is laughing at it.
“I’d be glad to get eight hours of sleep like I planned.” Arthur says, holding Eames’ gaze. But he doesn’t say no, and that’s as much as he’ll give.
“It is rather late.” He seems to consider something, then rolls over towards Arthur in a sudden burst, settling with his face practically in Arthur’s lap.
“You shouldn’t sleep here,” Arthur says. “I’m not.”
“Why not?” His voice is muffled against the waistband of Arthur’s jeans, words slurring like he’s already half-gone.
“First off, you’ll freeze.”
“You’re always such a logical thing,” Eames complains.
“I for one am just going to bite the bullet and enter after hours for once, with my—” He puts his hands to his packet, stands up to check the back ones as well, though he damn well knows he’s not going to find anything. “Oh.”
Eames squints up at him.
“I forgot my card,” Arthur explains, sighing. “Should’ve expected this would only end with me staying out until seven A.M.”
“You’ll be fine!” Eames declares, drawing out the last word dramatically. “I’ve got mine and I’m not really bothered with keeping a perfect record.” He rolls up, grass in his hair and imprinted on the side of his face. “You know, I’d have agreed to go back a lot quicker if you’d just told me you were coming to mine.”
After a few minutes of walking, Eames puts his hands in his own pockets, perhaps to better look the part of a casual stroll home, and Arthur doesn’t miss the way his face changes. He eyes Arthur sideways.
“Let me guess,” Arthur says flatly.
“It’s nothing we can’t fix,” Eames insists. “I can get someone up—”
“Or you could get someone up—”
“I don’t see what the problem is.” Judging by his face, he really doesn’t.
“Eames, I shouldn’t have to explain to you how much you are not calling one of your friends to come let us in so I can stay in your room,” Arthur says, voice threatening to rise.
Eames opens his mouth.
“No,” Arthur insists, and turns smartly on the ball of one foot.
“I do have my car keys!” Eames calls behind him.
Arthur stops. Sleeping in a car hasn’t ever been on his list of things to do before he died, except perhaps on a cross-country road trip, under the stars in Arizona or somewhere else remote and beautiful. Not the parking lot of his high school like a drunk prom queen.
“I’m not a drunk prom queen,” he says suddenly. Just to make it clear.
“Of course not,” Eames says, suddenly behind him, arm on the shoulders and everything. “But just imagine if you were.”
“No, thank you,” Arthur says, firm.
The parking lot is key-locked as well, and even if they had their cards, it wouldn’t open for them. This leads to a brief dispute over who’s going to hoist whom up and over the thick, rubber-coated steel cable guards, the first of which runs about a foot over six feet of concrete foundation. It takes Arthur several minutes of hard arguing to convince Eames that he’s capable, finally winning by telling Eames that if Arthur can’t do it, he can mock him in homeroom all week.
“Always full of surprises,” Eames says once he’s over. Arthur glares at him. “But always so terrible at accepting compliments.”
In lieu of responding, not least because he has no idea what to say back, Arthur watches him unlock the car, which is unshockingly an SUV, something European, less square than the hulking American models most of the students drive. “You don’t have your wallet but you have your car keys?”
“I’m sure there was a reason for it at the time,” Eames says once they’re in the front seats, heated air blasting over their cold hands. “Ah, yes! Drove to Andover. Halloween supplies, you know how it is.”
“Ah.” That he does. Every year the students run a little rampant in the nearest acres of the forest. The self-imposed limits of stop when the ground starts sloping up have been effective thus far, so the administration basically stays out.
“I’m sure you’re already finished with everything,” Eames says. Arthur considers lying, but he knows Eames will call him on it later, so he might as well take advantages of the last vestiges of the alcohol in Eames’ blood now.
“Nope. Don’t really participate.” He closes his eyes, sinking back into the seat.
“That’s certainly not going to fly this year,” Eames announces. “I’m going to be James Bond, you could be one of my many ladies.” He pauses, evaluating Arthur’s face. “No? I’ll think of something else, don’t worry.” He reaches out, laying one hand on Arthur’s knee like he’s soothing away Arthur’s overwhelming distress.
Arthur opens one eye just to express how very unnecessary it all is.
“Sleep already?” Eames asks in response. “It would be so much better in the back.”
And it is, especially with the back seat folded down so they can both lie down, at least mostly, on different levels, like bunk beds at camp. Even drunk Eames knows better than to sleep with the car on to keep the heat going, but it’s warm enough to be comfortable.
The last thing he hears before his eyes slide closed for the last time is Eames’ sleepy mumble: “I was a little concerned you would sleep in your uniform, you know. Glad you don’t. Not that the uniform is bad, just you shouldn’t wear it all the time, and—”
“Go to sleep, Mr. Eames,” Arthur says.
He can tell it’s still early when he wakes. Eames is out cold, face smushed in one arm, across the trunk.
The clock in the dash reads 7:30, so he should be able to get in. Moreover, it’s early enough that he shouldn’t have to explain himself to anyone if he keeps an eye out for the faculty who jog in the morning.
He slides out, closing the car door as quietly as he can, and jumps out the same way he got up before he remembers it’s unnecessary. He only takes a couple steps before he’s running, for no apparent reason. He runs the whole way back.
On Monday morning, he passes Ariadne at the same time and place they always do. This time, though, Eames is standing with her, very blatantly looking her up and down and than holding his hands up, parallel like he’s framing something.
Arthur nods at Ariadne, but looks quickly away when he sees Eames’ head start to rise, suddenly and inexplicably very grouchy with him. He hides showily behind his calculus book during homeroom, and doesn’t look up when Eames compliments his tie. It’s his favorite tie; he wears it practically every week.
There’s no reason for Eames to notice it today.
One week before Halloween and the air has developed that crisp, cool edge that you can smell when you inhale. He’s managed to avoid more late night escapades, and sort of to forget the first one. Mostly.
Ariadne’s lying face-down on his bed, challenging him in their calculus game (and about to win, but he’s not going to admit that until the bitter end), while Yusuf measures something on his desk. Arthur finds it best to gloss over all details.
“But no, you can’t solve it like that,” Ariadne protests. She pauses, gets that look he knows well for the one right before she slots it all together. But before she can finish it up, there’s a loud noise from the hall and the door literally bursts open, doorknob thudding against the wall. Yusuf nearly shrieks, and whatever he’d been working with ends up in an awful powdery mess on the floor.
“How did you get in here?” Arthur demands. Ariadne perks up, and Arthur’s flush of annoyance deepens.
But Eames is leaning back out, looking down the hall. “This is the right one, thanks, love!” he calls. Arthur can picture whatever girl it is blushing before Eames whips back around and slams the door again behind him.
“Really, Arthur, I didn’t peg you for the type to ask ridiculous questions. It wasn’t even locked.”
Ariadne sits up. “I think Yusuf thought the headmaster was busting in with the feds,” she says.
Yusuf is indeed still looking a little shell-shocked.
“Sorry about that, mate,” Eames says, clapping one commiserating hand on Yusuf’s shoulder heavily. “No feds in sight, I swear.”
“Why are you here, then,” Arthur tries.
“We have to make sure they fit, you know,” Eames says cryptically. He looks at Arthur, then pulls his eyebrows down, confused. “You didn’t tell him?” he asks Ariadne.
“No, I thought you were going to.”
“Tell me what?” Arthur practically yells. Being the only one confused always makes him cranky.
“Halloween, of course,” Eames tells him. “It occurred to me last week—while I was asleep in that damn car, actually, and don’t ever let me do that again. I don’t care who sees us.”
Ariadne arches an eyebrow in the corner of his eye, but he very purposefully does not look at her. If he pretends nothing’s worth commenting on, perhaps she’ll forget.
“I’d have told you in the morning, but you were already gone. Not very good form, by the way.”
That she was unlikely to forget.
“It couldn’t be just anything,” Eames is continuing. “Since you somehow dislike Halloween to begin with, and because you’re much more careful with your uniform than anyone else here. Look better in it, too, which is completely relevant. Something classic, but recognizable to the right sort. Some other factors, less relevant.” He waves them away without explanation.
“You’ve made a lot of generalizations about me,” Arthur says, narrowing his eyes.
Eames shrugs. “I like psychology.”
“Well, what is it then?” Yusuf interrupts.
“Gatsby, obviously,” Eames says. Ariadne laughs and grabs the bag he’s apparently been holding in one hand the entire time, which Arthur hadn’t noticed once.
“Makes you Daisy,” Eames tells her.
She’s clearly pleased, even more so when she upends the bag and a ridiculously lovely array of clothes fall out. “Oh, my god,” she gasps. “Where did you get these?”
“Basically just recut things my father and step-mother wore one year,” Eames says dismissively.
“We can’t ruin these in the woods,” she protests.
“No, you can. You must. I insist,” Eames says. “But first you have to try them on.”
“Are you going to be Nick, then?” Arthur asks. “Tom?”
“Absolutely not. You’ll pry double-oh seven from my cold, dead fingers.”
He holds out, feeling uncomfortable—he hates surprises—and like he’s lost control of his own life, something he hates even more. Ariadne won’t stop prodding him, though, and under all his imperious bluster Eames starts to look a little troubled.
“Obviously we should have told you,” he says, “but I didn’t really think it would be a problem.” And Arthur relents.
It fits kind of perfectly, of course, more Redford than he’d expected, all white with a coordinated vest. It’s not tailored like 20’s-era suits, though, which is a damn good thing. He’d look like a child in it.
The dress fits Ariadne like it was made for her. Eames looks between the two of them before announcing they should be paying him to dress them all the time. Arthur finds he has trouble meeting Eames’ gaze, strangely uncomfortable.
Every year on Halloween, Mal wears a genuine Venetian masquerade mask to class all day, and she looks more beautiful than anyone else he’s ever seen. Cobb doesn’t seem to care about the holiday at all, which Arthur likes about him.
Most people wear their costumes all day, even the ones without masks acting unrecognizably, treating class like a party. Arthur thinks about it, standing in the middle of the room looking between the white suit and his uniform.
Eames looks right at him as soon as he walks in, almost late as always. He ignores the blondes and other kids attempting to get his attention, calling out costume guesses as he strolls down the aisle between the desks. He plants both hands on the edge of Arthur’s, leans forward.
“You’re looking very... Regulation today, Arthur.”
Arthur looks up at him, face first then down. He’s done something a little different with his hair. It makes him look older. The stubble’s still there, contrasting with the dark, double-breasted suit, jacket hanging open to reveal a leather holster with a water pistol in it. God, does Arthur want to pull on his tie—it could be a little tighter, in all honesty, but the knot’s very nice.
Eames licks his lips.
“I’ll change at lunch, if it means that much to you,” Arthur offers, voice pitched low.
Eames smiles slow. “Good man.” Then he settles into his own desk, but turned completely sideways so he’s got his feet propped of the legs of Arthur’s chair again.
“Don’t you want to touch my gun?” he smirks.
True to his word, Arthur takes the shortcut back to his dorm after French, shucking the uniform as quickly as he can and leaving the pieces of it on the ground at the foot of his, which he doesn’t think he’s done in seventeen years of life. He puts the costume on piece by piece: all the buttons on the shirt before the vest goes on, tie knotted and tucked under the vest before the jacket.
He’s glad as soon as he sits down across from Ariadne, who looks better in the filmy white dress than any of the girls who’d chosen the holiday to show off their slutty lumberjack or police officer or librarian outfits.
“Much better,” Eames announces, dumping his tray down and straddling the bench next to Arthur. He leans in, whispering, “Fischer’s dressed like a dolphin, it’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Said he lost a bet.”
Arthur looks up, trying to find him at the usual table.
“No, actually, that way,” Eames corrects, placing a hand on his shoulder to change the angle of his body. Arthur can’t really help himself, he looks down before he looks over, at the sharp contrast of Eames’ navy pinstripes to his white and the tanned skin of his long fingers. Then he remembers what he’s supposed to be seeing and jerks up again.
“That’s,” he says, looking, “extremely...”
“Weird,” Ariadne finishes, staring at Robert Fischer, the kid who lands on the roof of the main building in a helicopter once a month, wearing some sort of polyester dolphin suit with fins over his arms and a long nose that keeps hitting his friends in the face.
“Maybe because of the name? Fischer/fish?” she proposes, dubious.
“Dolphins are mammals,” Yusuf corrects.
“I know, but do they?”
“Was the bet with you?” Arthur asks, intrigued.
“I almost wish it were,” Eames says, sounding a little wistful. “But no, it appears someone else here enjoys making people look ridiculous just as much as I do.”
“Is that what this is about?” Arthur asks, gesturing down at himself.
“Of course not!” Eames says, indignant until he actually looks at Arthur’s face. Then he changes entirely. “I have faith you’d know if it were.” He checks the time, makes a face and gets up. “Look, I have to go call my father, time zones and all. I’ll be by after dinner. Don’t make plans, any of you. If you already have, cancel them. Mine are better!”
Arthur considers inventing other plans, or perhaps stealing Yusuf’s car and escaping into town for the night—not technically allowed, but he has a spotless record thus far; one blemish won’t be a huge deal. But Ariadne actually seems eager to cavort through the forest with her drunken fellow students, and even he doesn’t feel like just disappearing alone.
He’s pretty sure that at the beginning of the semester, he’d have had no problem with it.
“You should give my plans more credit,” Eames says, swinging his legs off the side of Arthur’s bed.
“I’m not sure I would call the relatively happy coincidence that you’d forgotten to put away your car keys a ‘plan,’” Arthur says, leaned against the wall on the opposite end. Yusuf and Ariadne are still laughing from the other end at Arthur’s retelling of The Night with No End.
“You don’t know that.” Eames looks at him with a pouty twist to his lips, holds it for a second and takes a long, exaggerated swig of his drink before turning back. “You should have seen him, though!” he tells the others. “At one point I thought he was going to have a bloody aneurysm.”
Arthur stops listening, because quite frankly he doesn’t even know if he thinks Eames was joking or not. It really could have been his plan. Somehow Arthur’s come to know him better than he knows anyone in the world save approximately five people, two of whom are also in the room, but sometimes he still has absolutely no idea what Eames will do next. Perhaps it’s just Eames that knows him. At least well enough to do an impression that makes Yusuf laugh until he’s crying.
He slumps back into the corner, hard angle softened by the pillow he brought from home when he first started school here three years ago.
Eames grabs his right ankle and tugs. Arthur frowns at him, position unchanged except for the one foot that’s longer resting on the bed.
“Not drunk enough,” Eames decides. He drops Arthur’s leg but leans forward to pick up the empty cup Arthur’s already emptied, refilling it with the whiskey concoction Eames had mixed earlier. “Either of you two?” he asks, waving the bottle across the room. “Same standard for everyone: you’re not leaving til I can drag you across the bed by one foot.”
“Does that go for you, too?” Ariadne asks, but still slides off Yusuf’s bed and holds out her cup.
“You’re welcome to try any time,” Eames offers.
Soon it becomes clear that Eames is either drinking half what they are or is able to handle it twice as well. Probably the latter, but Arthur certainly wouldn’t put it past him to purposely—
Everything tilts, and before he can figure out the exact details of Eames’ genius plan, the man himself is smirking at him from above. “Up and at ‘em, Your Greatness.”
“You’re not doing that to me.” Yusuf’s already standing and ready.
“I thought we were supposed to do it to him.” Arthur tries to grab at Eames’ tie, but he’s already gone, so Arthur sits up instead. “And you’re not bringing that outside.”
The whiskey bottle hangs, nearly finished, from Eames’ hand. Eames eyes it, then locks onto Arthur’s eyes. “It’s your party, Mr. Gatsby,” he says, bringing the bottle up to his mouth.
Arthur didn’t really mean that Eames had to drink the whole thing, but he’s certainly not going to tell him to stop. He’s got his head tilted back a little, not enough to break eye contact but enough that he can wrap his lips around the neck and drain the entire thing in long, smooth gulps. Seems he can go a decent amount of time without needing to breathe.
He drops it empty on the ground and takes a deep, gasping breath, wipes the back of his hand over his mouth.
Oh, is about the limit of Arthur’s thoughts.
The best thing about the woods at night is you don’t even have to work hard to avoid people you don’t want to see, so after Ariadne’s swallowed up by a group of girls in her year and Yusuf heads off to conduct his less-than-legal business, Arthur can consider his task of participating in the Halloween party fulfilled.
Triumphant, he declares the realization to Eames, then begins to march home.
Eames reaches out and grabs him by the back of the collar, though, reeling him in then leaving his hand there, fingers angled up into his hair.
“As near as I can tell, that’s the direction of the keg. Awful beer they bought. Not even worth approaching.”
“Ah,” Arthur says vaguely, pondering how that could be. “I have an excellent sense of direction.”
“I’m sure you usually do.” The fingers wrap gently around the back of his neck, holding firm so Eames can steer him in a different direction. Arthur hopes Eames doesn’t get used to this, since he’s not going to permit it when he’s not half-asleep or very, very drunk.
But he is very, very drunk, and it’s basically November and he’s outside at night wearing white poplin, and Eames is warm, particularly in his clingy drunk incarnation. Maybe warm enough to huddle into, just a bit.
“You don’t smell like a distillery anymore,” he realizes. “Or maybe I’m just used to it.”
“I’d bet on that one.” Eames stops, turns in towards him and fists his hands in the white lapels of Arthur’s suit. Arthur recognizes this bend in the path: if they head just past it, they’ll find the trees planted by the class of 2007, too close together to all thrive. But Eames is walking him back, staring at him with glassy eyes and red cheeks, just the handful of steps until Arthur’s back hits a tree, then Eames moves into the one more step separating them.
Arthur’s stomach drops in shock, and he draws back, tilting his head against the bark. Then adjusts his perspective on the six weeks, and things click into place a lot more readily. “I shouldn’t really be surprised by this, should I?” he blurts out.
Eames snorts softly. “Not one bit, darling,” he whispers, angles his head to fit better but doesn’t lean in, just watches, and while Arthur definitely hasn’t refused, he could see how reluctance could be inferred, so he grabs Eames by the perfect knot of his 007 tie and pulls him in.
“I always did spend too much time noticing your mouth,” he says, and leans into the minute distance between them.
Eames smiles against his mouth, lips holding soft against his own for a long, still moment, nothing but the forgotten, distant noise of the party and the pair of them, until Arthur simultaneously opens his mouth and winds his fingers into Eames’ hair.
Then Eames melts against him, presses in with a leg braced between Arthur’s and flattens his hands on Arhur’s chest. The suit has far too many layers. His lips part with a low moan, tongue slick in Arthur’s mouth.
Arthur yanks hard to loosen the tie, moves both hands under the back of Eames’ jacket, pushing it off. Eames shrugs it to the ground behind him, weight braced on Arthur’s chest and the leg between his thighs. He pulls the shirt out of Arthur’s pants and glides his hands up under, breaking the kiss when they’re trapped by the buttoned vest. His fingers are cold, slotted in Arthur’s ribs.
“Too many bloody buttons on this thing,” he murmers, lips moving wet against Arthur’s.
“You’re the one who gave it to me.” Arthur ignores his own clothes, focuses instead on working down the buttons of Eames’ shirt, one at a time from the top.
“I’ve learnt my lesson. Only velcro for you from now on.”
Arthur finishes the last button, flattens his palms against Eames’ hips and then circles them, dragging, and pulls in with both arms so it’s just the fabric of their clothes, catching, until he can feel the hot swell of Eames hard against him. Eames’ eyes screw shut; mouth opens; hips still.
Arthur moves: holds Eames with two hands and twists up with his hips, angling forward to suck on Eames’ bottom lip, slide his tongue into his mouth.
Eames gives up on Arthur’s shirt, starts in on his belt, pulls it off with one hand and opens the button on his pants with the other. He gets the zipper pull to an angle where all he does it yank the empty buttonhole and the whole thing’s undone, using the other hand on his own pants. Arthur shoves Eames’ underwear down his hips with conveniently placed hands—but Eames is palming his shaft, fingers circling low, at his balls, before the slides his hand inside the opening at the front—and Arthur’s movement’s stall.
Somehow Eames gets both their cocks in one hand, and all Arthur can do is watch, watch, watch, from them moving together up to Eames’ face, his closed eyes and open mouth and cheeks flushed dark. But then he has to touch, now that he’s seen it, first one hand to Eames’s lips, which Eames turns his face into, runs his lips up the fingers til he can suck the tips into his mouth. Arthur couldn’t stop the noise he makes at that if he tried.
The other hand he slips down to tangle with Eames’ around them both, sliding his thumb in the wetness collected at the tip. He pulls lightly at the fingers in Eames’ mouth. Eames sucks hard at them once more, runs his tongue along the pads and then lets them go, meeting Arthur’s eyes for a heated instant. But then Arthur moves them down, wet, to cup Eames’ sac, drawn up tight. He’s close.
Eames’ head drops, and Arthur can feel his moans against his throat, and then the way Eames’ mouth opens and his teeth scrape down Arthur’s skin. He sucks hard where they stop, breathing fast and hard, gusting air over the wet slick on Arthur’s neck.
His hands stall, so Arthur picks it up again, stroking their cocks and making small circles against Eames’ balls with the damp tips of his fingers.
Eames breaks against him, free hand twisting hard in Arthur’s hair and breath gasping. His cock pulses and he’s coming, on Arthur’s stomach, into their hands. He thrusts slowly a few more times into Arthur’s grip and ducks his head, breathing heavily.
The hand in Arthur’s hair slides down his front and Eames tightens it across his hip. His hairline is damp against Arthur’s neck until he moves, biting once under his jaw and moving down. He pumps once, twice, with the hand still slick with his own come, then looks up at Arthur. The knees of his suit are going to be a mess, and Arthur probably could have been finished just by following up on that thought, but Eames stills his hand low on Arthur’s shaft and sucks the head into his mouth and it’s the best thing Arthur’s ever felt. He grabs Eames’ hair in both hands, tries not to pull too hard.
He thinks Eames’ mouth might actually be the perfect fit for his cock, lips a hot wet circle and tongue moving up and down the underside before he flicks the tip across the head and then flattens it, a long, smooth, slow stroke that draws a low, strangled moan from Arthur’s throat.
Eames hums at the noise. His eyes flick up to Arthur’s face and Arthur can see the pleased look in them, and he’ll never to admit that’s what does it, so abruptly he only has time for a strangled gasp and tug at Eames’ hair before his eyes snap shut and he’s coming.
The tree suddenly isn’t enough to lean against any more, so he slides down to sit on the ground, leaning into Eames’ arms, meeting Eames’ lips for a long, wet kiss that tastes like them both, and letting him bear them both down. He’d be more concerned about the combination of white suit and black dirt if the thing weren’t already in such a terrible state. Besides, he feels so relaxed, more than drunk and more than just getting off, that he can’t find it worth dwelling on.
“Should start a blog.” Eames’ lips are warm where they brush against his neck. “Places to sleep at Andover Country Day that aren’t the dorms.”
“Not sleepin’ here,” Arthur says, though it’s mostly his own stubbornness keeping him awake.
“If you make me get up,” Eames vows, “I’ll...”
Arthur waits, stifling a yawn. “You’ll what?”
“I’m getting to that.” Eames’ miffed voice is decidedly less than threatening, especially when Arthur knows his pants are somewhere halfway down his thighs. The threat remains, though. Of something.
“You know,” Arthur says, “I wouldn’t even care about that line from most people. But I never really know what you’re going to do.”
“I should damn well hope not!” Eames says, indignant. One hand pokes Arthur sharply in the ribs, once, then flops to rest somewhere near his heart. “What a boring sod that would make me.”
That’s kind of true, but at the same time, Arthur’s always liked his ability to read and predict people.
“Think of it this way.” Eames’ voice is unusually serious. “If you trust someone, you don’t need to know what they’re planning all the time.”
It’s the most novel idea Arthur’s heard in a long time.
Monday mornings are usually his favorite mornings. He’s never tired on Monday mornings. But apparently, even when he is, he still wakes up at the same time and he’s still the first student in the halls.
He takes the calc book from his locker and closes it softly, leaning his forehead against the cold, painted metal. Turning his head to look into the sharp golden sunrays arcing down the hallway doesn’t work, either.
“Arthur asleep at school! I wish I had a camera!” A shadow falls over his face. Opening his eyes reveals Eames propped casually against the lockers, looking far too louche and comfortable for eight in the morning when Arthur was quite aware he hadn’t gone to bed until after two. The brilliant glare reflecting down the hall outlines his profile.
“Technically, I sleep at school every day.”
“I suppose you’re right, of course. Typical.” Eames doesn’t look like he cares. He wraps one hand around Arthur’s neck and tugs, meeting his lips with a small humming noise of contentment.
“You’re never here this early,” Arthur points out when Eames follows him into the classroom.
“I have to get here early or someone will take my spot in the back with the cool kids,” Eames says, earnest tone like he means it.
“Most kids don’t think it’s cool to sit in the back and do homework,” Arthur points out, opening the math book to where he marked the page last week.
“Well you’re not doing it now, are you?” Actually, Arthur had intended to, but it didn’t look like that was going to end up happening. “Besides,” Eames goes on, “I think we already established that I’m not most kids. I can remind you, if you’ve forgot.”
He seeks Arthur’s eyes over the calculus book. His expression isn’t any different than it had been two months ago over European History, Arthur just knows how to read it now.
And he can’t find anything to argue with there.