ladyvader: (AE - Pet!Arthur 3)
[personal profile] ladyvader
It's possible I should be warning for a minor dash of cooties and gooseberries here but instead I'm going to reel at how quickly its got to this point, lol felt like FOREVER writing it. Hope you guys enjoy anyways ;D

Title: Pet [Part 4]
Author: LadyVader
Pairing/s: Arthur/Eames (Inception)
Category: Multi chaptered – Completed with postings once a week so to not destroy my poor beta’s brain.
Summary: AU fic - Arthur is in his final year of high school and finds himself entirely too interested in the new English teacher. Entirely inspired by the Police lyrics ‘Sometimes it’s not so easy to be the teacher’s Pet’.
Rating: R rated most parts for language etc, NC17 overall.
Word Count: 100k approx in full, this part 9900 approx.
Warnings: Shameless gacking of movie verse characters and dialogue, high school angst and an inappropriate relationship between teacher and student (if this is something that bothers you then please don’t read the fic).
Disclaimer: INCEPTION and its lovely molestable characters belong to Mr Nolan who incepted me into borrowing them: You’ve no one to blame but yourself Chris!
Authors Note: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] dreambastion, [livejournal.com profile] arineat & [livejournal.com profile] takola for the cheerleading, [livejournal.com profile] whisperedtones for the banner :D <3 and most of all to my evol, EVOL muse (and sadly put upon beta/ sounding board/ drill sargeant) [livejournal.com profile] dysonrules. This one is ALL YOURS hon - you created the monster, I hope you enjoys it ;)



Part 1
Part 2
Part 3



Pet [Part 4]

The next week, on Monday, Arthur performed his laps as per usual, sweaty and jubilant. He found Eames waiting, leaning on the barriers, watching him with a thoughtful expression.

“All better, see?” Arthur laughed as he jogged over, panting as he quickly closed the final distance with a few flipped handsprings and cartwheels. “Happy now, Teach?”

Eames rolled his eyes. “I’m headed home in a minute. If you want your java fix and a lift, I’d suggest showering quickly.”

Arthur beamed, saluting, and just like that, it became a habit.

He didn’t get a lift every day, but then he made a point of acting like he assumed he wouldn’t, even when two weeks passed with him getting a ride after each rehearsal, at least. Arthur told himself it meant nothing more than a lonely new teacher taking a shine to a pupil, and taking a sponsor-like interest in him.

It was hard to maintain that line of thought when Eames winked and flirted in his offbeat, brash way of his, and harder still when he called him darling and took such great delight in cracking his well-maintained facade straight down the middle. Arthur hadn’t laughed or talked so much in years.

Or masturbated, but then, that was a different matter entirely.

It was hard to not repeat his initial cockiness with the coffee; each time he was alone with Eames he found himself almost desperate to say something inflammatory, sexual, or overt, wanting to lean over and lick the knuckles of each finger that rested on the steering wheel, to set his teeth into the broad column of Eames’ throat, but thoroughly aware that anything even hinting at his obsession would end their tentative friendship forever. And so he chewed his lips to shreds instead when Eames sang along softly, unaware, to love songs, Arthur’s fingers cramping with the pressure of staying fixed in his lap.

“Sade? Seriously?” He snorted in derision as the radio sang honey-thick of ‘No Ordinary Love’. “You’re SURE you’re not a 40 year old woman?”

“Fuck you,” Eames replied thrillingly, tone level, “She’s making a comeback.”

Arthur sighed, shifting in his seat, trying to keep his eyes from straying to the mirror, not wanting to look at the back seat, the scene of last night’s dream, complete with sweat-slick bellies pressed together and Arthur’s wrists held down tightly against the leather (was the backseat even leather??) as Eames had ground their hips together at a maddeningly slow pace. “I’m thinking we need a veto system.”

“Okay, sure,” Eames agreed with a smirk, “It’s my car, therefore, I veto your suggestion to veto my song choices.”

Arthur rolled his eyes but cast a knowing smile toward the suddenly wary Englishman.

“We’ll see,” he said and bared his teeth, setting Eames to chuckling and Arthur wondering if it would be considered overstepping his mark were he to bite the man in retaliation.

++

“Oh, god, no. Not Phil Collins. Did he sell his soul to Disney, or can he just not get work now, anyway?”

~

“Eames, if you make me listen to Celine Dion, not ONLY will I quit the play, but I’m burning the auditorium down, too.”

~

“THE BEE GEES? SERIOUSLY? God, it’s like I’m trapped in a time warp here with you.”

~

“I swear Eames, if you start singing about the children being the future, they will NEVER find your body...”

~



“... Is that? It IS. Did we not already talk about Celine Goddamn Dion, Eames? Because I will HAPPILY -

“ALRIGHT ALREADY!” Eames roared after only two days of Arthur’s best disparagements, flipping the switch to change stations. “I get it – VETO – okay, Arthur? You have VETOED Celine Dion – can you PLEASE, GOD shut up now?”

“Certainly,” Arthur murmured, biting his cheek to hold back his smile as the car filled with more recent, if equally mellow, music and for a few minutes silence reigned, until Eames sighed gustily, having chanced a look at Arthur’s quirking lips.

“You,” he said precisely, his tone oddly dangerous despite the gleam in his eyes, “are SUCH a dick, Arthur.”

Arthur smiled, closed his eyes, and let his mind place him (just for moment) to the backseat once more, the ghost of Eames’ semi-amused scowl against his throat.

“I’m learning from the best,” he said throatily and Eames smiled the entire drive home.

++

The days rolled away, Christmas loomed bright and somewhat garish in the future, and the entire school seemed to settle, huddled into miserable clusters both before and after classes, winter falling heavily onto old and young shoulders alike. The sky was dark nearly all day long and even Arthur found the icy sting of the wind to be too much to bear for more than just the requisite few laps each day.

Besides, there was almost always a blue car lurking somewhere and it wouldn’t do to keep his impromptu lift waiting.

Ariadne had been giving him furtive looks for a little over a week and Arthur had been readying himself for her questions. He considered the lies he could tell and still have a clear conscience; it was very possibly uncool to outright lie to his best friend (and frankly, family) but he wasn’t ready to be judged for his silly crush any more than he was ready to talk about it.

He felt it building to a head one day when the skies had opened early on, the obviousness of his impending one-on-one time with Eames thrumming in his veins, setting him almost skipping to rehearsal. Ari’s eyes fixed on him as he walked through the door, boring into his skin as they ran scenes (and God, Arthur loved the physicality of embodying Hamlet now, no more read-throughs, just purely being him, losing himself in the details of who Hamlet was or should be, layers upon layers of minutiae until he knew, with intoxicating clarity, that he was the prince), prickling over his skin as Eames paused in front of him.

“Tell me you’re not running in that,” Eames ordered, eyes belying his tone as they each regarded the pouring heavens outside. Arthur smiled slightly, aware that Ariadne was abruptly closing in on him.

“I, uhm...” he started, stiffening as Ariadne almost collided with him, having almost dashed to his side. He prayed to every god he could think of that she’d not caught onto his crush without his input to lessen the damage somewhat, turning to face her as tiny hands seized his elbows, yanking him forward.

“I’m sorry,” she blurted, face almost paper white, “I need to do this, before-”

She cut herself off, a fist tight in his collar as she jerked him down to slam their mouths together, painful and clumsy.

It was over almost as soon as it had begun, but that didn’t stop Arthur from flinging himself backward with a startled yelp; his shoulders slammed into Eames’ chest and a hand rose to steady him on each side. Ariadne stood glaring at Arthur as both he and Eames gaped back at her.

“Oh real professional, Arthur. You sure you’re done or would you rather check yourself for cooties first? Geez! You going to do that for the actual performance, as well, or was that just a special take on it just for me?”

Arthur’s jaw dropped and Eames (the bastard) released him, laughing heartily.

Excellent work, Ariadne. Talk about taking the bull by the horns! I applaud your devotion to the role, however, I’m not sure Hamlet is ever in quite the right place for romance, hence Ophelia’s tragic death, but springing it on him like that might have even thrown Romeo for a loop!”

Arthur swallowed. “You... that’s why you’ve been acting so weird? You were planning to kiss me? You – you could have just said so.”

Her glare doubled, if anything. “You’ve been avoiding me, you asshole, otherwise I would have! Anyway, now that the dreaded deed is over maybe now we can rehearse properly without either of us acting like a terrified six year old girl!

Eames bit his lip, dropping his gaze to the floor and Arthur felt himself flush as Ari made to stalk away. He remembered he’d tried to distance himself from her so she wouldn’t realize how idiotic he was being about Eames, not even realizing just how idiotic it might have appeared he was being in general.



He reached out, his hand cupping her elbow gently as she passed him, huffing none too quietly as he drew her back, determinedly fixing his eyes on just her face, ignoring the prickle of Eames’ interest as he observed them.

“I loved you once,” he told her softly, stiltedly. Ariadne’s eyes widened briefly before her lashes fluttered low, not falsely coy, but somehow shy and sad despite the sweet hopefulness of her voice.

“Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so,” she murmured and he reached up his palms to cradle her face, his thumbs drawing distracted circles on her cheeks even as he let his expression crumple into sorrow and self-loathing.

“You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it -” he dropped his head and pressed a harsh, fervent kiss to her lips as though he was pouring the last of what had once been good in his life into that one desperate farewell, pulling back with eyes clenched shut and jaw tense as though what should have once been him rebelled at the words, “- I loved you not.”

Ariadne jerked herself back with a soft cry and even as Arthur watched her take a breath for her next line, he was smiling, unable to stay in character as Eames applauded them, eyes sparkling as Arthur blushed, unable to quell the desire to tell Eames he didn’t want a girl, biting his lip with a rueful grin.

“That – that was pretty good, right?” Ariadne was breathless, flushed and happy-looking once again, her temper as quickly washed away by positivity as it had always been, and Arthur felt a swell of warmth and pride rush through him.

“I never doubted it would be.” Eames smiled, clapping a palm on each of their shoulders. “And more to the point, neither of you were sick on the other so already we’re doing better than you expected.”

They each laughed and Arthur’s shoulders tensed as Eames dropped his hand from Ari’s shoulder and then his, already mourning the loss of contact.

“Now, before this charming proof of my excellent casting skills reared its head, we had been discussing whether or not Arthur was going to take a soggy sprint or whether he would prefer a ride home. As I’m headed his way, might I offer you one, as well, Ariadne?”

Arthur froze, watching as Ari’s eyes darted from him to Eames and back again. “A ride home? I, um, actually, I have my car so I’m... I’m good. Thank you, sir.”

Eames rolled his eyes. “Not you, too. Please, I see way too much of you lot between classes and cast for this formality bollocks. Outside of class you can call me Eames.”

“Everyone does, even his Mom,” Arthur added before he could help himself and Ariadne favored him with a look that told him Yes he really DID sound like a squealing fanboy.

“Thanks... Eames,” she said with an awkward smile, her eyes hawk-like on them both. Arthur swallowed past the lump of terror in his throat. “I’d best be heading out, actually. Arthur, I’ll call you later, yeah?” She smiled, her tone implying a question, but Arthur knew that look and even as he smiled back, nodding, he knew he was dead.

Arthur was tense in the car, his knuckles white even as Eames crooned gently along with the steadily escalating number of Christmas carols merrily swarming over the radio-waves. His head pounded with the rain, and he argued on autopilot with Eames that a Christmas song should not reference vampires or hooded claws, no matter how sweetly his singing the words feels like fire, I’m so in love with you set Arthur's soul alight.

He let himself in, having stood a full ten minutes in the rain, watching long after the car had driven off, feeling abruptly gutted by the loss, as though this fresh issue of Ariadne KNOWING had robbed him of his precious time with Eames outside of school.

A knot of fear and rage built in his stomach as he finally turned to trudge his way indoors and he wondered just how much of his feelings she had stumbled upon with just that one sweet offer from Eames and the blinding adoration no doubt written perpetually in Arthur’s eyes.

He sat, wet and cold, pondering whether to simply call her and have done with, when his cell vibrated in his bag.

Lifting it free, he flipped it open and blinked at it for a moment, Ari’s words waiting there, ready to rebuild or destroy him, until finally he forced himself to focus and actually read.

look – just don’t b stupid ok? ur amazing but he’s a TEACHER, don’t want 2 c u hurt.



Without thinking, he was texting back, throat thick with sudden absurd gratitude for the unexpected, but apparently necessary, outlet. It’s fine, just a crush and all ME, not him. Already stupid but nothing you need to worry about.



It was surprising how much it hurt to realize what a stereotype he’d become, a student with an unrequited crush on the hot young teacher. He cringed. Perhaps this was truly why he’d avoided Ariadne - Reality was no competition for the heady sensation of What if that came with Eames’ warm smiles and oh-so-necessary attention.

His phone buzzed again. don’t kid urself – b careful ok?



Arthur smiled grimly.

Always am he replied swiftly and wished it didn’t feel like the cessation of a dream.

++

Christmas, when Arthur had been young, had taken YEARS to arrive once December began, each day longer than the last during that last aching stretch toward Christmas; and when Christmas Eve arrived, he’d spend all day trying to find ways to make himself fall, and stay, asleep so that the morning would be there just that bit sooner.

Nowadays it seemed almost instantaneous. No sooner had Arthur realized that the Christmas break would rob him of Eames once more than the dreaded week, and then day, arrived.

Arthur sat that morning, chin in his palm, gazing out into the hazy grey distance, the clouds beyond the buildings low and lit with the sort of heavy, muted light that accompanied snow. The class around him chattered about the possibility of a white Christmas, and was that even a good thing, anyway, and wasn’t anything a nice change from the rain, no matter how cold it might get, and ...Eames’ car wasn’t there.

He spent the majority of the rest of class squinting and straining after that, desperate to see the shape of it in the distant lot, the smudge of blue between the other cars there, but it was as distinctive to him now as that first irresistible peal of the ice cream van to a child, he would know it anywhere and, no matter how he focused or stretched, it remained stubbornly absent.

Classes on the last day were always a loss, teachers just as anxious to get away as the students, so Arthur allowed his melancholy to tail him from class to class, settling on his skin like a fine film of ice, cracking vaguely whenever someone spoke to him or touched him, and he’d swallow back the raging torrent of petulant disappointment, smiling as the cracks widened, wishing a hollow Season’s Greeting back to whomever necessary.

It wasn’t fair - a totally childlike response, to be sure, but if Arthur was honest with himself, had he still been in the habit of expecting a beautifully wrapped gift for being good all year, then he knew precisely who he wanted in a big, red bow. Knowing he wouldn’t get it was bad enough in and of itself, but to not even get a chance to just see him, hear him, just be near him before weeks of enforced cheerfulness was verging on UNBEARABLE.

Some bright spark had decided that, due to there being a new version of Dickens ‘Christmas Carol’ available on DVD, it would be a good idea to lump what few students remained (having not ducked out after lunch) into one of the larger classrooms and project the film onto a large screen before scuttling off to play staffroom Secret Santa, leaving them to all go quietly mad from boredom under the watchful eye of whomever drew the short straw.

Arthur had been idly doodling for the best part of the film, reflecting from time to time that at least this version wasn’t attempting to be either saccharine or a musical, when unexpectedly the door opened.

He didn’t look up, aware that the figure was making their way silently to the back, no doubt to confer with Ms. Liebowitz over something eggnog-oriented, using that tiny moment of light in the otherwise darkened room to note that part of his doodle resembled a lightning bolt, and so began shading it accordingly when some whisper of preternatural awareness made him pause and glance upward.

Eames.

Ridiculously beautiful, as always, sauntering down the line of crowded desks, hands sunk deep into pockets of trousers so wonderfully tailored (for ONCE) that the material pulled exquisitely taut over his rear, a black shirt tucked close to the broad, sculpted torso, the top few buttons visibly gaping as he paused, turning in the doorway, his face casually blank until he, somehow, caught Arthur’s gaze in the darkness.

He smiled, full and friendly, but before Arthur could do more than vaguely straighten in his seat, he was gone.

Something like a howl bubbled at the base of Arthur’s throat, but he swallowed it back, watching his hands shake where they rested on the desk and he wondered absently just when his feelings had so completely spun beyond his control.

He watched the remainder of the film with wide, almost unblinking, eyes and tamped down every last scrap of feeling that might betray him once the bell rang, scheduled as he was for one last mad dash around the town for Christmas presents with Ariadne.

He walked slowly, precisely, from the room as the last bell finally rang – needing the few minutes of extra time to get his game face on. They might be shopping as part of a group, but that didn’t mean Ari wouldn’t mercilessly grill him if she’d clocked Eames earlier.

Sighing, Arthur pushed open the outer doors, focused on simply reaching her car before she sent a search party out for him and then promptly stilled, stopping in his tracks.

It was snowing.

Arthur lifted his gaze to the darkening sky, just able to pick out the flakes falling from seemingly forever in the dim, growing light of the streetlamps flickering on, Christmas music being piped from somewhere on the grounds, the last cloying strains of White Christmas sitting heavily on the breeze that blew quiet and crisp as it swirled white flecks into Arthur’s lashes.

People were scrambling for the parking lot, a few of them throwing delighted snowballs as they went, but for the most part there seemed to be a hush falling over the grounds, as though the snow had issued a gentle, if firm, order that everyone flee prior to the inevitable gridlock that went hand in hand with the otherwise innocuous flurry.

Arthur quirked a snow-laden brow. It didn’t seem to be settling much, and he doubted Ariadne would take kindly to her emergency shopping trip being put off short of an actual emergency, but he just couldn’t quite seem to force himself from his spot, piano and jaunty Irish vitriol floating over the speakers now, drawing an oddly peaceful smile to Arthur’s face as he kept his gaze fixed on the flakes drifting down from on high.

Beautiful,” he whispered, letting his eyes flicker shut for the oddly sensual thrill of feeling the snow catch and melt against eyelids.

“It certainly is that,” Eames confirmed with a low rumble at his side and somehow Arthur couldn’t find it in him to jump, his appearance just so perfect, there and then - with the wintery air surrounding them, kissing Arthur’s skin with icy bursts, so when he opened his eyes, slow and catlike with satisfaction, part of him couldn’t help but wonder if he was dreaming.

Eames watched him with a lopsided smile, hands still in his trouser pockets though he now wore a double-breasted coat that made him look like he’d stepped out of a romance novel and Arthur couldn’t help but smile back.

“Ride home?” Eames queried with a lick at the flakes settling on his lower lip and Arthur swallowed back both a groan of approval and of loss, the moment gone with the realization that Ariadne was probably gnashing her teeth by this point.

He opened his mouth to thank him, to pretend that he wouldn’t give all his upcoming gifts (and possible past presents), for the chance to spend just a few more precious minutes with him beneath the swirling skies but, before he had a chance to speak, he heard his name being called.

Frowning, both he and Eames turned to see Robert bloody Fischer, of the baby blue eyes and (Arthur had a sneaking suspicion) steadily growing crush on Arthur’s Hamlet to his Laertes, stood midway between the parking lot and the school, shivering visibly as he waved.

“Arthur! Ariadne said to come and get you or we’ll never make it to all the stores!”

Arthur lifted a hand, signaling back what he hoped would be seen as an affirmation that he’d be right there versus please, sit too close to me in the backseat like at rehearsals, before turning back to Eames whose smile, it seemed to Arthur’s admittedly overly wishful gaze, no longer fully met his eyes.

“We, uh... we’re all going Christmas shopping,” he all but whispered and Eames’ mouth twisted, the non-smile Arthur had previously met and loathed making an appearance as he jerked his head toward Fischer.

“Off you go, then,” he said, gruff but cheerful, just as he should be on this, the last day of term, and Arthur felt his prior sensation of contentment all but shrivel inside him. He nodded as he turned away, trudging with a stupidly heavy heart.

“Arthur. Merry Christmas,” Eames called after him, his voice somehow muffled by the music and sparse flakes in the few feet between them. Arthur raised a hand in acknowledgement and called back, “And to you, too, sir,” because he couldn’t trust himself to look back without turning back for him entirely, so he clenched his jaw and let Fischer’s well-meant wittering and the fading music drown out the echoes of Eames dismissing him with what sounded like regret.

...can’t make it on my own – I’ve built my dreams around you.

++





Christmas came and went as it always did, in a blur of family visits and presents that had been agonized over forever, but almost immediately forgotten in the hubbub. Arthur loved his family, really he did; he visited his extended family with his Mom and Rick on Christmas Eve, spent the day itself overeating and smiling lazily over nonsensical, yet somehow wonderful familial idiosyncrasies, but between bites of turkey and amusing asides to various cousins, he’d find himself staring back out into the darkness, the snow long since melted, and felt his stomach twist with the sensation of something missing.

Then, just like that, Christmas was done again for another year and Arthur found himself standing in the false white light of his local store once more, picking out ingredients for his traditional ‘Post Christmas bash’ with his neighbor, Moore.

She’d adored Arthur ever since he and his mother had moved in just down the street from her and, by sheer coincidence, she had known his father when he was Arthur’s age.

He’d adopted her as a sort of honorary grandmother, albeit not right away. In fact, he’d found the way she had stared and stared at him, and talked about how nice a boy his father had been to be endlessly creepy, but then one day he had missed his bus, on purpose, as it happened, not quite sixteen and more than happy to let the then star running back (a senior, almost cherubically good-looking, not really his type, but then who gave a shit about that at 16?) test his newly awakening sexuality via a series of casual make-out sessions after football practice. If only his teammates had shared his somewhat cavalier attitude toward their experimentation.

Arthur had preferred to walk home versus standing around to wait for the next bus, his split lip and stubbornly bleeding nose too-uncomfortable between their joint aches. The blood had soaked into his collar, tacky and thick against his skin. He’d not made it more than a few steps past Moore’s house before she’d exploded out of it, clucking wildly before all but dragging him inside. Arthur prided himself on his self-sufficiency, but when five rather stocky teenaged boys had taken valuable time out of their day to kick the shit out of him, it had felt rather nice to find himself coddled.

She had talked about her sons and her grandchildren, but it had taken Arthur several chance visits (the store, a package from his mother, a particular brand of vinaigrette she told him she could never find) before he realized the self-same people she adored with her massive heart were somewhat remiss in returning her affection.

Now it was two years later and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do without their bimonthly dinners. He would write, he surmised as he carefully selected the ingredients he knew would please her (but not set off her temperamental tummy), and that way she could show the letters to her varied groups of equally terrifying older ladies and he could send her things without it looking like he was fussing, a quality she pretended to loathe in him.

Arthur moved into the baking aisle, picking out the necessary items for dessert, having decided on pineapple upside down cake. She’d taught him to cook (badly) and then delighted at how he’d flourished and exceeded her tutelage, so now every time he went over he’d make something for them to stuff themselves silly on. He preferred slow-cooking so the house would fill with the scent of it, teasing them both, and while it cooked they’d watch old movies. It was enjoyable for them both; she henpecked him fondly and he shared the softer, still vaguely childlike side of himself with her. It was comforting somehow, and Arthur adored it. And her.

“Well, well, well, he even bakes ladies & gents. Astounding.”

Arthur tensed, eyes flickering shut for just a moment, his fingers still just brushing the baking powder shelf as he quickly assessed whether his infatuation had become worrying enough for him to have auditory hallucinations. He turned slowly to regard the man who leaned against the shelves on the opposite side of the aisle.

“Eames,” he breathed with something a little too close to reverence and the man in question smiled crookedly.

“Hello darling,” he crooned, “Did you have a nice Christmas?”

Eames straightened, moving away from the shelves and swaying slightly before he stepped closer. Arthur took quick stock of his flushed cheeks, heavy eyes and lazy, sexy as fuck, smile before grinning widely himself.

“You’re drunk,” Arthur said softly, the rest of his teasing admonishment going unsaid as Eames stepped close, a finger lifted to his lips, and glanced about him as though the School Board might be hiding behind the self-rising flour.

“Shush, you. I’m tipsy. It’s entirely different, I’ll have you know.” He attempted an officious look, only to ruin the effect entirely as he swayed again, smirking. “But look at you, darling, so domestically blissful here in the cake aisle! Are you planning on wearing a pinafore? I’m going to need pictures, you realize, not to mention at least a slice of whatever you cook up. I refuse to believe you’re anything short of a closet gourmet, therefore I DEMAND some of... whatever it is. What is it, anyway? What are you baking? Making? Baking.”

Arthur gaped and a laugh bubbled up and out of his mouth before he could control it. Eames squinted at him and mock pouted, the flush to his cheeks deepening somewhat.

“Oh god, you’re trashed.” Arthur chuckled, disbelieving and oddly delighted all at once, “What are you even doing here?”

Eames sighed, shifting to lean on the shelves directly beside Arthur. His head dipped and his voice lowered to conspiratorial, so much so that Arthur couldn’t help but lean close to hear whatever secrets he was about to impart.

“Eggnog,” he whispered. “Don’t really get it so much on my side of the ol’ pond, but Cobb insisted we try his mother’s recipe. Well, it’s a little bloody disgusting but it packs QUITE a punch and, although you lot don’t do Boxing Day, I didn’t see why I should have to miss out on the grand old tradition. There was still quite a bit left in the fridge so I thought ‘Why not?’. Only today I didn’t have a sodding huge roast dinner lining my stomach so...” He shrugged, loose and lopsided, and Arthur felt his body clench with the realization that (in Eames’ own prior words) this was Eames the bloke, not the teacher, but just before the surge of affection sent him giddy, a few choice words seeped through and yanked Arthur’s stomach over into knots.

“Cobb?” he repeated casually, trying to figure out how on earth he was going to control his reaction when Eames confirmed that, yes, he’d spent the holidays with his lover, and his lover’s mother’s stupid eggnog recipe, feeding each other bites of turkey and curling up, replete with food, just waiting to have the energy to turn to each other, eyes meeting in the muted glow of the Christmas tree lights and...

“Yeah, Cobb. He and Mal – that’s your former Miss Girard-Hughes, Arthur - insisted I spend the holidays with them, which is bloody decent when you consider it was their last chance for a Christmas together before the sprogs come along, but trust me, there’s not a soul alive who could have turned down an offer to eat Mal’s cooking. Oh, oh Arthur, do you hear that?”

Eames lifted his head, tilting back against the shelves once more, an expression of sudden reverence stilling his features into almost beauty. Arthur’s breath caught in his chest at both Eames’ words and his ridiculous, overwhelmingly gorgeous face.

He didn’t spend Christmas with a boyfriend.

Arthur smiled, bright and triumphant with the security of Eames’ closed eyes to spur him on. “Hear what?” he queried, almost too brightly, his own ears nothing but the distant murmur of the other shoppers and whatever Muzak the shop was piping through.

Some Enchanted Evening,” Eames semi-slurred with an almost blissed-out expression. Arthur realized the bad sax being played through the tinny speakers was, indeed, that very song. “Some enchanted evening,” Eames repeated, singing low, and grinned as he stepped forward with a hand reaching out to claim Arthur’s free hand. The other curved around the elbow of the arm currently supporting Arthur’s shopping basket, “You will see a stranger, you will see a stranger across a crowded room – and somehow you know, you know even then - that somewhere you’ll see him again and again... what? Not accompanying me this time, darling?”

Arthur blinked, trying not to cast himself further into Eames’ attempt to draw him into an actual slow dance, before shaking his head and grinning as Eames clucked at him.

“Well, at least dance with me, then. If you stay put like that, people will assume I’m trying to steal your shopping versus bust a move.”

Arthur quirked a brow and let Eames sway them gently in place, merely stepping from foot to foot in time with him. “I’m not sure this is precisely bust a move music, Eames,” he said, mock severely, and was rewarded with blunt fingertips tightening on him.

“Shush, dearest, you’re ruining the moment.” Eames hummed gently, keeping perfect time with the crackling, possibly slowly dying, saxophone on the speakers even as he spoke. “You didn’t answer my question, though. How was your Christmas?”

“It was good. Great; I saw my family, ate too much. Y’know, the usual.”

Eames smiled, still humming, the noise rich and low, curling through Arthur like smoke, the tilt of his lips inviting and intimate. Arthur swallowed hard, talking to keep himself from leaning in and up (god, Eames really was taller, how did he always forget that?). “And today I, uh, well I sort of have this long-standing thing with my neighbor where we eat, and watch movies, and just sort of chill out together. It’s, it’s great, I really like it so, I, I’m baking her an upside down cake and we’ll watch the Wheel and a movie, and..”

He broke off at Eames’ wide smile, his eyes bright and almost proud. ”That,” he interjected with relish, “Sounds like a bloody perfect Boxing Day. Well done, you.”

Arthur tried to not blush and failed, wetting his lips quickly, trying to ignore the odd look they were getting from a woman hovering near the end of the aisle. “What – what is this Boxing Day thing you keep mentioning, anyway?”

Eames grinned and Arthur’s basket dug a little deeper into his ribs as they shifted closer to each other slightly, innocently, as they semi-spun in place, and Arthur felt his heart ache with it.

“It’s basically an old English holiday. Something about giving to the poor on St. Steven’s day, the day after Christmas, but now it’s mostly about cutthroat sales, which is a shame because most importantly, it’s about sleeping off all the food from the day before in front of the telly, preferably with loved ones, and then eating more once you can stand it. How do you feel about being dipped darling?”

He hummed melodically once more, loudly, as the song reached its passionate crescendo and Arthur laughed, giving up on trying to judge the truth of what Eames had just told him in favor of clenching his thighs, his feet stilling in place as he gave Eames his best serious face.

“Eames, if you even attempt to dip me I promise you they will never find your body.”

Eames caught his tongue between his teeth and chuckled. He squeezed Arthur’s hand just as a frantic blond man collided with them.

“Oh, oh god, Eames, let him go. God, I’m so sorry. He’s British and drunk, and he’s just being friendly and, for god’s sake let the nice man go, Eames!

Arthur blinked as Eames rolled his eyes, and each of them then stared at the ferociously squinting man. “Relax, Dom, Arthur’s fully aware of just how drunk and British I am, right, darling?”

Arthur favored the verging-on-distraught man with a calm smile and wondered briefly if it was nice to be just-friends with Eames without the laser slice of want flashing through him with every word he spoke.

“It’s really okay.” He spoke steadily, watching his own calm spread across to permeate the stranger. “I’m used to him, although the drunk thing’s new. Otherwise it’s pretty much old hat.”

Arthur extricated himself gently. The song ended and reminded Arthur to let go before Eames let him go, offering his now-free hand to the other man.

“I’m Arthur. Dom, was it?”

Dom nodded, looking slightly steadier as he shook hands. “Dom Cobb, friend and unfortunate escort of inebriated Englishmen. Nice to meet you.”

They each grinned and Eames snorted gently. “Oh good, now you can bond over what a bloody pain I am. Clearly I should have cut and run before you two had a chance to meet.”

“Don’t worry, Eames; we were bound to meet at the support group sometime, anyway,” Dom soothed him mockingly and Arthur felt an unexpected stab of loss to witness the reality of a friendship he knew he had no real claim to, no matter how delighted Eames seemed to be to see him.

“I should go.” He smiled, shoving down the sudden gaping lack in his existence and Eames’ smile fell away. Dom watched them both with an almost absurdly blank expression.

“Cakes to bake and whatnot?”

Arthur smiled, just tilting up the edges of his lips, eyes cast down as he told himself to not cling to the moment like a desperate idiot. “Exactly,” he agreed, before casting the same slight, polite smile on Dom. “It was nice to meet you, Dom, have a nice New Year.”

“And you,” Dom replied, frowning slightly and staring at Arthur, who fought back a grimace as he realized exactly what it was that Cobb was slowly putting together.

“You have a great rest of Boxing Day, Eames,” he said, stepping back as though he could outrun what he suspected was coming. “I’ll see you in the New Year.”

He had almost turned around, almost walked away when Eames replied, all easy, plummy vowels and warm tones. “I’ll see you in a week or so, then, Arthur. Rehearsals first day back, don’t forget.”

Arthur didn’t quite have time to prevent his slight cringe as Dom’s eyes narrowed.

“Rehearsals?” His voice lashed out, casual if you couldn’t see the fixed point of his suddenly sharp gaze.

“Arthur’s my Hamlet.” Eames smiled and Arthur swallowed, wishing he had the excuse of alcohol for the way Dom had found him, smiling and besotted no doubt, and not even trying to break free of Eames’ arms.

“You go to Dyson’s?” the slightly taller man asked, squinting again, “Did you ever have Miss Girard-Hughes for English?”

Arthur nodded slowly, flushing as he imagined Dom going home to tell his wife how wretchedly one of her former favorites was behaving. Dom smiled tightly.

“It’s funny, I wouldn’t have taken you for a student,” he said carefully and Arthur bit back the urge to yell his age directly into the older man’s face, but knowing the action would lose him whatever few points of adult behavior remained to him.

“Well, I really must go,” he said apologetically, ignoring Dom’s last. “This cake won’t bake itself. You both have a great New Year. My regards to Mrs. Cobb.”

He ducked around them both, turned the corner of the aisle and in the Plexiglass front of the opposing freezer section he watched them watch him walk away before Dom leaned close to Eames and said something low and urgent that made Eames’ face set hard, all traces of his former warmth dissipating. Arthur all but ran to the checkout to escape the sight of it.

Hours later, full of pineapple cake and vermicelli, it was still all he could see in his head, Eames’ face freezing as Cobb utterly gave him away.

Bastard.” he whispered, knowing Moore’s TV would drown out his anguish and hoped against hope that Eames had been drunk enough to forget it, and him.

++





The New Year crested and broke over Arthur’s life.

He lay in bed, listening to the cheers from surrounding houses as the ball dropped. He’d spent the prior four hours partying in an appropriately hearty manner at Ariadne’s house. Her birthday was January 1st and she had always preferred to celebrate it at midnight, thus combining two parties, but with just the one killer outfit, and he’d lay odds that she hadn’t deleted her phone footage of him (drunk and singing Lady Gaga) in retribution for his leaving early, but he’d felt his buzz descending into melancholy and had departed before it became pitifully visible.

He watched the lights of his muted television reflected on his ceiling, bone-weary and still slightly fuzzy around the edges. The walk home had taken the edge off of his inebriated blues, leaving him distant and dizzy at the edges of his own thoughts, watching his memories as if from afar.

His thoughts swirled and eddied as his eyes drifted slowly shut to a distant (and awful) rendition of Auld Lang Syne, and he vaguely recalled that you were meant to kiss someone as the year changed so that you might have a chance to kiss them all year long. With that in mind, he clutched his memories of Eames close to his chest and dreamed so vividly of breathing him in, tasting him, mouths pressed tight and tender so that when he awoke to a brand new day and year, his lips were sore and swollen.

++

A week later found Arthur and Ariadne crammed between the seething masses as everyone poured back into school with news far too important to wait for more than a few steps inside the halls. Vitally important gossip was exchanged and friendships were renewed after the aching void of a two week separation.

They struggled the distance to their lockers and Arthur pretended he wasn’t still terrified that Dom Cobb had said something about his obvious crush to Eames. Ariadne pretended she wasn’t about to crack her collarbone craning for the merest hint of her own deathly-absorbing crush.

“You do realize,” she said, eyes on the corridor even as she sorted books from locker to bag and vice versa, “That we are both horribly, teen TV show CLICHE pathetic, right?”

He raised a disdainful eyebrow at her, tone as lofty as his expression. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said precisely and she laughed, turning to face him before swallowing her mirth with a splutter and ferocious blush as Arthur stepped aside to let a fellow senior with thick dark hair and a wide, friendly smile brush past.

“Bloody chaos isn’t it?” He laughed and continued on his way. Arthur bit the inside of his cheek as Ari appeared to swallow her tongue while struggling to think of something to say before the boy passed out of range.

“Yeah,” she agreed and he (Arthur knew his name was Yusuf, he’d heard it sighed often enough) smiled vaguely as he disappeared into the milling crowd.

“Chaos...” She sighed sadly and watched him go before slowly turning to glare at Arthur, whose mirth was approaching body-shaking levels too great to be concealed. Before she could roundly berate him, his shoulder jerked, knocked by someone who passed by in a rush and her eyes widened.

“Christ, sorry, Arthur. Bloody madhouse this morning.” Eames favored both Ariadne and the horrifically struck dumb Arthur with a tight smile before moving on, barking at any students lingering in his path as he fought his way onwards.

“Umph.” Arthur said faintly. His hands trembled at his sides before he glared at Ari in turn for her own squeak of laughter.

“Not one word,” he growled and she mimed locking her lips and throwing away the key.

He rolled his eyes and sorted out his own books quickly before locking up and turning in the direction of his first class. “I’ll see you at lunch, then,” he said sweetly, formally, and smiled.

She lifted her bag to her shoulder and smiled in turn. “Absolutely. See you, then.” She twinkled and they each turned to stroll away, Arthur pausing as he reached the turn at the foot of the staircase.

“CHEM GEEK LOVER!” he yelled quickly before diving out of sight and darting up the stairs. He grinned madly and laughed delightedly as he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket before he’d even reached the top step.

got it bad SO BAD - HOT 4 TEACHER!!!!!



He deleted it (just in case) and grinned all the way to class.

++

The day moved slowly, as was often the case when rehearsals were scheduled, and Arthur found enough time to have several internal discussions with himself as to whether or not Eames would even remember their conversation/impromptu slow dance on ‘Boxing Day’, and each time, just as he’d decided he’d behaved with appropriate decorum, Cobb’s narrowed, somehow all-seeing eyes would be there, cataloguing his blushes and tremors, even as he extricated himself from Eames’ arms and Arthur knew there was no way he wouldn’t warn his friend that his silly little student had a painfully apparent crush on him.

Arthur cultivated a plan, loathe as he was after the long, ridiculously empty days without Eames over the holidays, but it seemed essential that he give him a wide berth, not obviously distant of course, but just enough so that the man wouldn’t suspect him of hanging on his every word, keen to be near him.

Of course, having a plan never guaranteed sticking to it.

Maurice was out with tonsillitis and while not having him around was always a plus to almost everyone forced to share space with him, Eames hadn’t really enforced the understudy rule due to a) there only being one performance and b) without a ‘BLOODY GOOD REASON’ all absences would result in full replacement.

Tonsillitis, like Chicken Pox, was (unfortunately) just such a bloody good reason.

Maurice was away, hopefully puffed up like the bullfrog Arthur knew he was, for at least a week, and with Eames running them through the entirety of the play at least once a week they simply could not afford to be a man down, such as he was.

They’d run through the majority of Act 1 with the somewhat brilliant Fischer doubling as both Father and Son and it was painfully obvious to all how much it was slowing them down. Fischer would be confident as Laertes only to stumble back, script in hand, as Polonius.

“Stop – stop.” Eames stalked onto stage, clapping his hands onto Fischer’s shoulders while Arthur bit the inside of his cheek to not openly howl with jealous fury.

“Robert, you’ve been doing a stellar job here, thank you sincerely, BUT this is getting ridiculous. No one expects you to be your own Father here, not only is it a Freudian nightmare, but it’s bloody wrecking the runtime of my otherwise fine and shiny rehearsal. So, with that in mind,” he plucked the script from Fischer’s hand and tossed it offstage, much to the merriment of everyone present, “I will now be assuming the role of Polonius. Which is to say I will be reading his lines, and Mr. Maurice will be providing the performance upon his return. Therefore, it remains with you all to behave as though there were no change at all – understood?”

A rumble of excited assent rolled through the cast and masked the pounding of Arthur’s heart, which beat in double time as a shiver of excitement chased itself over his skin at the thought of actually acting with him.

They started Act II and it was all Arthur could do to not bounce on the balls of his feet with glee. Eames made no move to inhabit the role in place of Maurice, instead he watched the cast with hawk-like intensity as he moved amongst them, halting the performance time and again as he attended to each separate nuance that required his attention before slipping seamlessly back into his non-invasive impression of – oh.



Arthur held his hand before his lips, covering the smile he couldn’t quite hide.

Eames was mimicking Maurice – his dropped shoulders, the slightly laconic way he let his head hang, his neck extended in what would seem polite interest had Maurice not been such an utter dick. Arthur moved to where he would enter during scene II, biting his lip as he watched Eames.

He was giving the others Diet Maurice, less snide but still him enough that they flowed precisely as they had with him running the lines before. Eames’ impression was so subtle that it merely seemed as though he were speaking more quietly, affecting Polonius’ insidious nature, whereas instead he was hinting at Maurice’s low, mocking tones, hands in his pockets, head cocked just so...

Arthur shivered and shook off his giddy appreciation, before walking forward as a distracted, broken prince with vengeance in his veins.

Eames fed him his cues perfectly, oozing back and forth between addressing himself and Hamlet, stepping in and out between the prince’s meandering gait, barely insinuating himself into his madness before retreating and the entire time his eyes burned into Arthur’s like a brand.

They progressed through the act, stopping at III due to the late hour (much time having been wasted with poor Robert’s aborted attempt to step in as Polonius), and Arthur felt a twisted sense of pride at having survived the ordeal of acting alongside the obviously talented object of his ill-placed affections, his trousers having tightened just watching him, let alone weaving the legendary words between them.

Ariadne bounced over to where Arthur stood, still sparkling from her own interaction with Eames, tossing Arthur a cheeky wink as she scooped up her bags. She mouthed, ‘Have Fun’ and laughed as he offered her his middle finger as she danced away.

Arthur sighed. It was nice to have a friend who respected him enough to let him make his own mistakes, but sometimes he wished he was more able to open up. It was starting to feel as though his skull was sloshing with the sheer amount of repressed feelings he was keeping from her (everyone), but he knew if he told her just how much he was feeling she would make it her life’s mission to get him past his own stupidity until Eames was just another teacher. Arthur just wasn’t ready for that.



Not yet.

He waited until more of the cast had dispersed before he shouldered his bag and made his way to Eames’ side, hands sunk into his pockets as he tried to mask his frank appreciation with amusement.

“So,” he began, blood cooling slightly as Eames appeared to tense, “You make no attempt to fill the role yourself, because that would set us reacting differently to the new stimulus as characters. You need us to retain our preset deliveries and see Polonius and not the person playing him?”

Eames raised a brow. “Precisely,” he replied smoothly and Arthur grinned.

“But you didn’t want to just give us a blank character reading lines any more than you wanted to give us your Polonius.” His smile broadened as Eames stilled, his interest caught. “So you gave us Maurice instead.”

Eames blinked, once, twice, and turning slowly to fully face Arthur, crossing his arms over his chest. He leaned back against the edge of a desk. “Go on,” he said quietly and Arthur felt a thrill at having seemingly surprised the older man.

“You didn’t emulate him completely, you gave us just enough to not really focus on you unless you slipped back into yourself to direct us, but you were him, more subtle than he is, and a lot less abrasive.” Eames winced and Arthur bit his lip, laughing softly. “That is to say he has a certain way of holding himself and speaking, even when in character and you delivered it with a softer but innate sense of him, so that it was impossible to react as though he wasn’t there.”

Arthur swallowed at the odd light in Eames’ eyes then, shrugging loosely.

“All in all, it was amazing,” he concluded. “Eames, I am impressed.”

Eames’ mouth twisted wryly and he inclined his head mockingly. “Your condescension, as always, is very much appreciated, Arthur. Thank you.”

Arthur rolled his eyes and huffed an amused laugh even as he turned to leave, but he halted as Eames’ voice poured over him once more. “How?” Eames drawled and, on looking back, Arthur found Eames’ eyes fixed on him in the same way they generally were during his monologues, sharp but curious and ever so slightly warm.

Arthur swallowed. “How?” he repeated, voice slightly stilted.

“How could you tell I was, I mean, what difference did you perceive that made it apparent to you that I was echoing Maurice?”

Arthur paused, blushing despite the innocence of the situation. “You, uh, you hold yourself differently, , I mean. Easier, more... loose, I’d say.”

Eames smiled briefly, the corners of his distractingly beautiful lips turning up before he schooled his features into seriousness again.

“Could I not simply have been tense? Stiff shoulders do not automatically infer Mr. Maurice, after all.”

Arthur quirked a brow, reading the challenge in Eames’ gaze. He withheld his smile and crossed his own arms over his chest, smirking in turn.

“Maurice is self-important. He pushes himself forward to be noticed even when he isn’t speaking or being spoken to, and it’s resulted in a distinctly turtle-like neck that I’ve often laughed about. The same overinflated view of his own opinion has generally rendered everyone as useless to him, before they even speak, mostly, so he always angles his head a bit away. He shoves his hands in his pockets, because I think he thinks it makes him look either deeply interested, or massively bored, which works for him whether he likes the person he’s talking to or not.”

Eames was still, very still. Waiting. Arthur trembled slightly (he hoped not too visibly) and continued.

“You, on the other hand, look more... open.” He cringed as Eames’ mouth twitched, and he rushed on before he could begin waxing poetic. “That is – even though you put your hands in your pockets a lot, too, it’s as though you’re looking encouraging, steady, and all your poses, like now, with your arms crossed, you look like it’s done to hold you in place while you do whatever it was worth pausing for.” Arthur swallowed and dropped his own arms to gesture loosely at Eames, striving desperately for the nonchalance that would make it obvious he did NOT, in fact, spend all his hours watching or fixating on Eames’ every move, “Right now you’re reclined almost, leaning there, but your shoulders and your head are straight, like you’re interested in the conversation. Maurice holds himself differently, overextending and leaning for interest, or slumping and twisting away to show that he’s not into whatever’s going on. It’s just details, really.”

Eames stepped away from the desk and straightened as he moved toward Arthur.

Details, Arthur, are ENTIRELY what this is all about. The words are there already; a director will shape you into the performance as a whole that he or she requires, but the character, the very soul you can bring to a part, is what makes it more than just some guy reading words in a spotlight. Arthur,” Eames placed a hand on his shoulder and looked directly into Arthur’s eyes, his tone almost stern, “You noticed all those things and I was only playing at it, trying to keep things on schedule. That's good. That's great, in fact, because if you can SEE them, then you can act them, write them, shape them-”

Arthur winced vaguely under the weight of such glorious praise. “I don’t think I could do what you did today...” he began, only to quiet under the pressure of Eames’ other hand on him, each palm resting on the edges of his collar, framing him, and Arthur knew he would be able to feel him trembling.

“I’ve always been good at just picking up other people, their quirks, but what you did today took me years of acting and drama school to pick up. Don’t downplay it, darling, it’s really very impressive.” Eames smiled and Arthur couldn’t help but grin back at him.

“So, are you saying I could be better than you then?”

Eames affected a glower, dropping his hands as he turned back to shuffle his papers together. “Impressive? Yes. Different? Yes. Better?” He smirked at Arthur over his shoulder. “Well, we’ll just have to wait and see on that, won’t we?”

Arthur felt a frisson of something like certainty roll over his skin, a mental image of knowing Eames in years to come and being brilliant enough at whatever he did to warrant constant praise and adoration. It left him heady for a moment before reality flashed back through him like ice water.

He blushed.

“Well, I’ll try to not let you down, Eames.” He grinned. “Of course, being responsible for both casting and direction, I think it’s safe to say they’ll all blame you if I suck, anyway.”

Eames gave him a severe look as they each walked toward the exit.

“Arthur, I chose you, therefore you categorically will not suck, if only because I will it so, understood?”

Arthur ducked his head and nodded mock-meekly. “Yes, sir, Mr. Eames, sir,” he said contritely, biting his lip to keep from smiling, and failed miserably when Eames snorted and lightly cuffed him on the head.

“Stop that right now, or I’ll stick you in sodding detention for being downright creepy.”

Arthur laughed as he saluted and turned to walk away, headed for the bus stop. He ignored his internal monologue of don’t walk too fast, he might call you back, say it looks like rain, shiver, pretend your bag’s heavy, but paused when Eames called his name.

He turned back, surprised when Eames moved to catch up. “Arthur,” he said and Arthur’s stomach fell at the uncomfortable look on the older man’s face.

Oh god, this is it, this is where he tells me my crush is becoming an embarrassment except when he laughs about it with his girlfriend – boyfriend – HUSBAND over dinner...



Eames sighed, eyes skipping briefly up toward the sky before dropping back to Arthur’s.

“Arthur,” he began again, “look, I just wanted to say I know I’ve given you a fair few lifts recently, and I know you know it wasn’t a set thing, but I didn’t want you to think I’d simply forgotten you or was displeased, but I have something I need to do for a friend in the evenings now, so I won’t be around, or headed your way, come rain or snow or even that god-awful bloody hail again, okay?”

Arthur breathed deeply for a moment, his eyes on Eames’ openly apologetic and uncomfortable expression, tamping down the hysteria that raged at the back of his skull.

No more just being with him without everyone else around, no more singing, no more coffee, no more ‘darling’, no more...

Arthur grinned and decided the odd look of suspicion on Eames’ face was merely a result of his own jangling nerves that influenced his perceptions. “That’s fine. Like you said, it was never a set thing, though it was great, thank you. But I’m beyond used to the bus, so it’s totally fine.”

Eames pursed his lips slightly before he nodded abruptly. “Alright then. I’ll see you tomorrow, Arthur.”

“See you tomorrow, sir.”

Arthur was at the bus stop before he realized Eames hadn’t objected to the honorific and the knot of unease it produced sat low in his gut long after the bus ride home.

“Just stop it,” he whispered to himself as he lay in bed that night with the creeping sense of loss growing in him with every passing hour. “He wasn’t mine to lose.”

Somehow the thought brought him little comfort.



tbc
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