ladyvader: (AE - Pet!Eames 5)
[personal profile] ladyvader
I just wanted to say THANKYOU once again for everyones wonderful response so far but also to say a massive EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE to the gorgeous arts that have sprung up from lovely peoples :D

If you've not seen them already then DO go see the WONDERFUL piccies [ profile] calliopeoracle drew for part 6 and the lovely [ profile] ifoughtthewar drew me a FAB rendition of a scene from part 7

Please feel free to flail and adore them for it, I know I do!!!!!!!!!!!! :D

ETA:Sorry to anyone who caught this on first post - apparently LJ thought I'd like it all in BOLD, no spaces... :S

Title: Pet [Part 8]
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 8300 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 [ profile] dreambastion, [ profile] arineat & [ profile] takola for the cheerleading, [ 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) [ profile] dysonrules. This one is ALL YOURS hon - you created the monster, I hope you enjoys it ;)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5a
Part 5b
Part 6
Part 7

Pet [Part 8]

Spring break came with a collective sigh of relief.

Ariadne (amidst infuriatingly constant queries as to precisely what had been said backstage that day) had stuck her tiny fists into her precious savings and come away with just enough to take her on a six day jaunt in whichever direction she chose – intent on thickening up both her portfolio and her inspiration for her final piece.

She’d taken it quite well when Arthur had refused her invitation to go with her, trotting out the excuse of finalizing his plans for after graduation, and feeling bad when she’d given him a tiny smile and nod, both of them fully aware that said plans had been essentially finalized back when he was fourteen.

The first weekend of freedom came with itchy feet. Arthur had spent so long being stiffly at ease that his body almost screamed to burn itself out (and he’d only sworn off the school track, after all), so he crawled out of bed that Saturday morning, threw on his running shorts, t-shirt and trainers, and launched himself out into the mid-morning light.

He ran until his playlist began to repeat itself, his lungs burning as his stiffened legs melted back into something workable, looping back to head toward the market to collect supplies for a truly well-deserved brunch.

He jogged all the way up to market door, snagged a basket as he strolled in, and pushed the sweaty tendrils of his now thankfully-much-shorter bangs from his eyes. He grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler shelf and browsed the deli counter, mind buzzing pleasantly with his appetite as he considered what to feed himself over the weekend, and then he slowly prickled with the sensation of being watched.

Turning slowly, it was all he could do to not curse and run away as he beheld Dom Cobb staring contemplatively at him.

“It’s – Arthur, right? I think we met before. I’m Eames’ friend,” the blond man said and stepped forward with a proffered palm. Arthur cursed whatever gods had cursed him to be always dripping sweat just when he needed to be well-groomed.

“Dom Cobb, Miss Girard-Hughes’ new husband.” Arthur nodded with a tight smile as he shook hands and glanced covertly to the side, hoped with every particle in him that Cobb was shopping solo today.

“That’s right; you’ve a good memory.” Cobb smiled easily and Arthur attempted to look slightly less uneasy as he shifted from foot to foot and pushed the now-phantom swathe of hair from his face nervously.

“Well, Miss Girard-Hughes was always very good to me. We used to talk about France a lot.” He smiled tightly and steeled himself. “Is she here with you today?”

Cobb laughed. “God no, she’s home with her feet very firmly up. The baby’s due next week so I’ve ventured out to fully restock all the groceries as I imagine we’ll be spending quite a while at home from now on.”

Arthur was surprised to find his joy 100% genuine despite the uncomfortable meeting.

“That's wonderful,” he beamed, “really great. You must be so excited. She’ll be a great mother. Do you know what you’re having, or..?”

Cobb seemed to expand with somewhat smug joy and Arthur couldn’t help but laugh at the enthusiasm that radiated from him.

“No, we decided to wait, so it’s going to be a surprise for us. We’ve got both names and unisex clothes and everything all ready, so it’s just about waiting now.” He smiled so widely that Arthur’s face hurt reciprocating it.

“That’s, that’s really great Mr. Cobb. I’m so happy for you both. I’d really appreciate it if you could send her my regards, actually.”

“Call me Dom, and of course I will, Arthur. She told me after I saw you last how fond she’d always been of you.”

They’d talked about him after Cobb had seen him making moon-eyes at Eames. Arthur swallowed past the knot of humiliation at the back of his throat, and forced his smile into staying put as he resolutely did not picture just how said discussion might have gone.

“That’s – that’s nice to know... Dom. Thank you.”

The florid man behind the meat counter turned to them with a smile and Arthur shook his head. “I, uhm – no thank you. Just looking,” he muttered and stepped away, aware of Dom’s steady stare on him.

“So, what’re you up to? Spring break, isn’t it?” Dom’s eyes were a different blue than Eames’ – lighter, less intensely-focused, but still they bored into Arthur as the warmth seemed to leech from both their smiles.

“Yes. I mean, yes, it’s spring break.”

Dom pushed his hands into his pockets, his eyes never seeming to stray from Arthur’s face for more than the space of a blink even as he winked and affected a conspiratorial tone. “Headed off for a little stress relief before finals start?”

Arthur quirked a brow, unable to keep the scorn from his smirk.

“No. Not really my thing,” he said, taking a step backward. “I’ve been finalizing my plans for after graduation... And, and I might be going on an art trip with a friend...”

He licked his lips, suddenly seeing the week stretched out before him – empty and devoid of everything but the insistent, deriding voice in his head that mocked him for his dreams and lost happiness. He pictured Dom telling his wife how Eames’ little stalker had no life and was probably hiding in a bush outside his house whilst everyone else was off actually living while he was barely surviving...

“Actually,” Arthur said with his chin up, smile back and somewhat smug, “I should be going I still need to get stuff done if I want to make the train to Portland. I don’t know what I was thinking coming in here to start with, really.”

Dom blinked, slow and surprised, before he smiled and offered Arthur his hand once more.

“Sounds like you’ve places to be.” He grinned and squeezed Arthur’s palm. “Hope you have a great time. It was nice to see you again, Arthur. I’ll send Mal your regards once Eames and I head back.”

Arthur’s hand dropped to his side, boneless with shock as Dom released him and stepped back. “Eames?” Arthur echoed in what he hoped was polite surprise versus the croaked shock he knew he heard falling past his lips.

Dom nodded, sharp-eyed once more even as he smiled gently. “Yeah, I think I lost him in the freezer section, but he’s around here somewhere.”

Arthur’s basket, empty but for his partially-drunk water, weighed heavily on his arm as he kept his spine straight and pictured nailing his shoes to the floor to keep from simply sprinting away. He smiled perfunctorily as he said, “Oh. Well, that’s, uh... nice. Tell him I said hi too, I guess.”


Dom’s eyes softened - and GOD that was so much worse, being PITIED because he was a sad little schoolboy with a crush – and nodded. “Will do.

Arthur made an odd little waving gesture before he turned and walked exactly back as he’d come. He ditched his basket and walked directly to the Self Service station, scanning his water through and swiping his card. He jammed it back into his back pocket with shaking hands, needing to be OUT of there before...

He took three steps toward the exit and swigged deeply from his bottle as he felt eyes upon him again; he looked helplessly over to see Eames regarding him blankly from a nearby register line. Dom stepped up to join him as their eyes locked and, smiling, Cobb leaned in to whisper something to Eames even as he made the same tiny wave back at Arthur. Eames smiled stiffly as he casually saluted him.

Arthur returned the salute and then he forced himself to turn and walk sedately out through the automatic doors. Once outside, he swallowed gulp after gulp of cold, fresh water to drown the seething burn of misery deep within him. He drank until his stomach sloshed and he knew he’d need to walk home.

His stomach growled in protest and he realized he’d still not bought the fixings for his breakfast. No matter. He had enough at home to fix himself some scrambled eggs, and possibly something for him and Ariadne to nibble at on the train.

Later, when Ariadne launched herself at him, squealing and raving joyously about the fun they were going to have, he told himself the stupid wetness in his eyes was from where she’d smacked her bag into his side and not because he was stupid, sappy idiot.

Even later, when the long journey of the evening train was lulling into numbed posteriors and uneasy sleep, Ariadne asked him what had changed his mind.

“M’tired of being a stick in the mud,” he slurred drowsily and let his eyes drift shut to the memory of a softly sunlit afternoon and a beautiful man trying to convince him to live his life.


They spent the next six days on assorted trains and buses, staying in delightful and decrepit B&Bs, and basically traipsing around in search of Ari’s inspiration as she took pictures of the coast, the cities, the people and Arthur, always Arthur, no matter how much he objected.

They spent the Thursday before their return lying on their backs at the beach, shivering slightly despite their clothes and the vodka Arthur had snuck with him from home (he was sure Rick would forgive him), at least most of the way drunk as they lay staring up at the stars.

“S’cold.” Ariadne sighed and shifted closer to Arthur, as though he were somehow bogarting an unfair amount of body heat instead of shivering beside her.

“You want to go back?” Arthur asked, his kidneys seemingly becoming a bit too friendly with the pebbles that currently tried to dig their way through his back to get to them.

“Not yet.” She sighed again, happily this time as she blinked up at the sky. “Went by fast, didn’t it?”

“What – this? Yeah, I guess. Do you think you have what you need to get started now?”

She shrugged, her shoulder bumping up under his armpit where she lay with her head upon his out-flung arm. “Honestly? Don’t know. Hope so, though. Anyway, I don’t want to think about that right now.”

Arthur grinned. “Ok, how about we talk about something you DO want to think about then?”

Ariadne’s small fist shot backward, thudding neatly into his solar plexus, and he groaned through his laughter.

“Shut up. I already told you, it’s no big deal.”

“Sure, sure. Just after months of stalking him, he finally knows your name, and noticed that you’d stopped stalking him and asked where you’d been - which is tantamount to saying he’d missed you. You’re right, it’s TOTALLY not a big deal.”

He caught her fist the second time, so she had to make do with growling at him.

“The fact that he noticed I was no longer dogging his heels asking for more tips on how to better acid-burn holes into my work without damaging it does NOT indicate interest. Stop trying to get my hopes up, you asshole.”

She sighed again, huffily and Arthur rolled his eyes, waiting.

“He did make a point of saying he’d be at Rob’s party on Saturday, though.”

“Yes. Yes, he did.” Arthur grinned at the sky and ignored the muted pang that came from enjoying someone else’s happiness in the absence of his own.

“He didn’t ask me, though, did he? That’s practically a rejection.”

Arthur felt no compunction in hitting a girl (or at least one he was practically related to and who was being a moron besides) and lightly smacked her forehead with his free hand. “Stop that. That sort of thinking is just pointless. It’s negative and stupid, it’ll lead you to expect the worst, and then you’ll be all dark and angst-ridden with him, whereas if you go along ready to dazzle his face off he’ll most likely fall at those microscopic things you call feet.”

“So, you’re saying that positivity leads to good things and negativity to bad things? Wow. Profound. Really.” She snorted.

“And hate leads to the Dark Side, yes,” he agreed and it was worth it when she elbowed hm.

They were silent for a beat and then, “Do you ever think life would have been more fun for us if you’d been straight and I didn’t know every last thing about you?”

Arthur snorted. ”Not really. Might have been more fun if YOU had been a gay man, though. You’d feel HONOURED to know every last thing about me.”

She laughed. “I’d need to turn Yusuf.”

Arthur closed his eyes and yawned. “He wouldn’t stand a chance. Doesn’t,” he slurred and moved to sit up before sluggishly hauling them both to their feet.

They made it back up off of the beach and onto the street before Ariadne broke the silence, still shivering where she remained glued to his side.

“Neither did he,” she said in a horribly sincere voice and Arthur felt sobriety slap against the walls of his skull; every cell in him knew precisely who she meant.

He opened his mouth to say anything that might change the subject, pleasant or otherwise, but she was already continuing, her hand slipping up and into his where it had tightened at her shoulder. “It’s just bad timing, really. Graduation’s only a few months away, I mean... Maybe-”

“No. I just. No, Ari. It’s done.”

Something about the finality in his tone kept her silent all the way back to their motel, but it was the fact he’d said it without thinking, and meant it, that kept him staring at their ceiling until it was time to get up and get ready to catch the bus home.


Saturday brought Robert Fischer’s 18th birthday party and Arthur wanted to go about as much as he wanted an extra hole in his head. But, as Ari’s designated ‘wingman’, he was obligated to attend, and if it just happened to make Monday seem further away then so much the better.

They spent the prerequisite few hours making sure everything she might possibly wear had been tried on and reviewed before promptly choosing one of the original three outfits that she’d stated she’d probably wear when discussing it that morning.

She looked wonderful, just on the careless side of effortlessly put together, as though yeah, she’d dressed up, but the fact she looked THIS GOOD? Purely coincidental.

Yusuf certainly seemed to think so.

Ariadne and Arthur had arrived together and he’d left Ari chatting, and bubbly with nerves, with the birthday boy himself as Arthur made his way out to the kitchen to secure them each a glass of the (hopefully spiked) punch.

As he’d turned to leave, glasses in hand, he’d found Yusuf before him, smiling but clearly somewhat uncomfortable. “You, ah - you came with Ariadne Rittner, didn’t you?”

Arthur blinked and rapidly smothered his grin with a hearty gulp from his drink; it was definitely spiked.

“Yeah. Yeah, we came together. You’re Yusuf, right? I’m Arthur.” He painstakingly trapped the two glasses against his body before offering his hand with an easy smile. He cruelly left a beat before continuing, “Her stepbrother.”

Yusuf’s smile was almost exactly as brilliant as Ariadne had previously raved about at that moment and Arthur didn’t bother to hide his own wide smile before passing over Ariadne’s drink.

“Here, why don’t you take this for me and I’ll grab one for Robert, too, so we can go wish him a Happy Birthday?”

“I – I already wished him Happy Birthday,” Yusuf whispered as he followed a step behind Arthur to where Ariadne was clearly visible being charming and effusive at Fischer’s side.

Arthur rolled his eyes. “So do it again. Christ, don’t make me regret helping you here, man. I’d really hate to have to do the whole I’ll kill you thing.” He paused, barely a few steps away from where Ariadne frowned at them as though Arthur was merely teasing her with Yusuf. Arthur looked over his shoulder to meet Yusuf’s quizzical gaze. “Of course, I totally WILL kill you if I have to.” He cocked a brow meaningfully and Yusuf saluted him with his glass, grinning.

“Not going to be a problem, I assure you, Arthur.”

Arthur smiled again. “Good answer.”

They arrived without further delay, passed around the dubious punch and, almost effortlessly, Arthur appropriated Robert and demanded a tour, ignoring Ariadne’s slightly-panicked look as he and Fischer left her with the clearly smitten Yusuf.

Fischer’s house was a modern miracle of glass and metal – so modern it might have been clinical if it hadn’t been for his father’s obviously very expensive taste in art and furnishings. They weren’t to Arthur’s taste, but he couldn’t help but be impressed as he found himself swept from office to library, to study, to kitchen, to pool, to gym, and then up to Robert’s bedroom. Robert clicked the lock behind them and only then Arthur realized what Ari’s look had signified.

“Um,” Arthur said with an unyielding wall behind him and Fischer’s limpid blue eyes before him. Robert touched the wall on either side of Arthur’s hips with his fingertips and licked his lips prettily as he gazed up at Arthur.

“I hoped you’d come tonight,” he said softly and stepped close enough for Arthur to feel the heat coming off of his admittedly nice, if petite, frame. “I was hoping we could talk.”

“You locked your bedroom door because you wanted to talk to me?” Arthur queried dryly and mentally kicked himself as he watched Robert’s pupils dilate.

“I – I know you’re gay. I’m not saying I’ve been stalking you, or anything, but I’ve been watching you for a long time now. You never date girls, and there were all those rumors about you and Jake Webber a few years back, and... and Ariadne said something that made me think that maybe-”

“I’m gay,” Arthur cut in, unable to stomach the deductive reasoning behind whatever was going on. “What of it?”

Robert pressed closer. “I was wondering if maybe, y’know, maybe you and I-” Robert eased himself up onto his toes and spoke the rest of his query against Arthur’s lips, “-might give it a go?”

He pressed his lips quickly, chastely, to Arthur’s and then pulled back quickly to assess his reaction.

Arthur blinked. “Give what a go?” he asked hoarsely.

“Whatever you want.” Robert plastered himself to Arthur’s front and kissed the underside of his jaw. “It’s my birthday. I figured, why not spoil myself?”

Arthur gripped Robert’s wrists before they could finish stroking over his chest.

“Um, that’s really flattering, and all, but... I’ve never been with anyone, really, so I’m not so much on the casual. But - thanks.”

He tried a smile, but it wilted under the weight of Robert’s disappointed gaze as he pulled away, folding his arms over his abdomen in a classic self-hugging maneuver.

“Sure, yeah. Sure. Sorry. Me, neither. I mean...” Robert pulled a face. “Crap, I’m sorry – I’ve never even kissed anyone up until now and you’re so… Well, y’know, and I thought you’re nice, too, so maybe we could just... do it, but it’s fine, it’s fine.”

His words were steady, but his eyes were too-bright in his abruptly pale face and Arthur felt remorse roll through him.

“Look, you – you’re hot, Robert. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to be with you, or anything. I’m just in a bit of a shitty place right now so I totally shouldn’t be with anyone. I – I’m sorry.”

Robert shrugged, and a rueful smile tugged at one corner of his lips.

“It’s okay. Really. I mean, it’s just that I promised myself I wouldn’t turn much past eighteen and still never been fucking kissed or anything, so I figured now would be as good a time to try something. But it’s not like it’s going to break my heart. I mean, I’m embarrassed and pissed that I’m staying a virgin and all, but – we’re good, y’know?”

Arthur smiled back. “I appreciate your picking me, at least. It’s a big compliment.”

Robert shrugged and scrubbed a hand over his face, blushing, and Arthur allowed himself a long, considering look at his sharp cheekbones, nicely styled hair and ridiculous Disney-esque face. He took a breath before he reached forward to draw Robert back to him.

Robert blinked and opened his mouth to speak and Arthur cocked a brow, shushing him.

“I didn’t get you a gift,” he said dryly and kissed Robert even as he laughed.

It was – nice, Arthur decided.

He kissed Robert for a few long minutes, his hands never straying from where he gripped the shorter boy’s waist. He actually needed to tilt his face down to Robert’s, but beyond the general pleasure that came from pressing his lips to someone else’s it, left him unmoved.

Arthur pushed Robert back after a while, gently, separating their lips on Robert’s softly regretful sigh.

“You sure you don’t want to just give me my gift for next year ahead of time?” He smirked and Arthur laughed, surprised by how easy it was.

“Sorry... it’s tempting, I’ll give you that, but I still kind of love him, so-”

He froze and his heart slammed into his sternum on impact.

He squeezed his eyes shut and fought to breathe, taking a long moment to realize Robert was talking to him; his hands rubbed down Arthur’s arms as he gazed at him in alarm.

“You okay? Arthur – ARTHUR – you’re freaking me out man, what’s wrong?”

Sorry.” Arthur swallowed, his eyes unfocused on the floor. “I guess I never said it out loud before.”

A beat passed and Robert’s blue gaze gentled in sympathy as he shifted to one side to part hug, part support Arthur. “That you love him?”

Arthur ground his teeth, abruptly OUTRAGED that Robert could say it so easily, like it wasn’t the worst fucking thing to happen to Arthur since Eames – the man he LOVED, apparently, God damn it, UNFUCKINGFAIR – had pushed him away, and he nodded stiffly, his eyes clenching shut again as Robert squeezed him in sympathy.

“I’m sorry – I didn’t realize...”

“Was a secret,” Arthur said shortly and felt something of the load lift with the bizarre freedom of saying some bastardized form of the truth out loud, and breathing slightly easier as Robert nodded.

“He’s in the closet?”

Arthur laughed softly, mirthlessly. “Something like that.”

He slanted a wry look Robert’s way.

“Look – you’re gorgeous, smart, funny and nice. I’m a head-case right now. I’d be no good for you and pretty soon you’ll be beating them away with a stick, so please, when you think back on tonight could you please forget this part and just remember me as a pretty good kisser?”

Robert pressed a soft kiss to his mouth almost as the last word crossed his lips.

“Way better than pretty good I’d say – but what do I know? I’m still a goddamn virgin,” Robert quipped back with a humorous look and decidedly melodramatic head toss.

“Join the club. We have matching jackets,” Arthur deadpanned and Robert’s mouth formed an ‘O’ of shock.

“Wait, you fell in love with guy, he broke your heart and STILL you didn’t lose it?”

Arthur snorted and nodded, bizarrely heartened to hear the entire debacle reduced to such ridiculous terms.

“Wow, I feel less frustrated already.”

Arthur clapped him warmly on the shoulder and stepped away, missing the solidarity of the wall. “Glad I could help,” he said dryly. Laughing, they moved back to the door, only to stop when Arthur placed his hand on Robert’s arm.

“Friends, yeah?”

Robert nodded, rolling his eyes and blushing.

“Good,” Arthur grinned, “In which case I can trust you to keep it quiet when I say there’s more than one closet case around, one in particular whom I foolishly encouraged a year or so back, and who now hates me for not letting him have his heinous way with me. He likes to display said hatred with truly stunning displays of pathetically hypocritical homophobia.”

At Robert’s curious stare, Arthur continue,. “I think you’ll figure him out pretty quick, but just as a friendly word of advice – don’t go near him. He’s trouble.”

Robert nodded and they stepped out of his room and made their way downstairs to get another drink, heedless of the stares that accompanied them, until they realized Ariadne was as wide-eyed at their approach as everyone else.

“Well, I’d say you’re out now if you weren’t already,” Arthur said in a low voice and Robert laughed into his drink.

“Excellent – I always wanted to be a phony stud.”

They clinked their glasses together and laughed, the embarrassment of having fictional party sex more than made up for by the pleasure of a new friendship.

And, Arthur thought hopefully, if he could just drink enough, he might even be able to forget. But when the next day dawned – bright enough to hideously exacerbate Arthur’s truly apocalyptic hangover – more than just his head hurt, and he remembered everything.


By Monday everyone had heard some variation of the ‘Arthur and Robert fucked in his room at the party’ rumor, and the words buzzed around Ari and Arthur even before they made it through the doors.

“It would be funny,” Ariadne said mockingly, “If it weren’t quite so sad.”

“Shut it, you,” Arthur elbowed her lightly, “You spent all damn night making goo-goo eyes at Yusuf and talking about everything but how much you like him. At least I fictitiously got some.”

Ari opened her locker and threw him a coy look from beneath her lashes.

“I did hear something about how it didn’t start fictitiously...?”

Arthur sagged forward against the metal lockers and sighed.

“Precisely how long have you been discussing me with Robert?” he muttered darkly, his mouth mashed so tightly to the metal that the words slurred against each other.

“With Robert? Only since yesterday, but I had thought to set you two up awhile back, y’know... before.

Arthur turned to regard her seriously, attempting to read her eyes as to whether or not Robert had told her all about his artless confession, but thankfully there was simply too much humor in her face for her to know.

He sighed. “Don’t think like that anymore, alright? I don’t need setting up – not with him or anyone else.”

She nodded and, closing her locker, turned to walk next to him, only to freeze as Nash rammed into Arthur, shoulder-barging him hard enough to knock him back against his locker. Nash spat “Fag” at him with a truly venomous glare before striding away, laughing nastily.

Ariadne gaped, her mouth open in horror. but Arthur laughed and threw a wry look to where Robert stood with horrified realization dawning on his face.

He was trying to still his mirth long enough to explain to poor Ariadne (who actually looked quite distressed) when a gentle touch on his arm had him turning, expecting to see Robert seeking confirmation of his suspicions.

“Arthur,” Eames said and appeared oddly pleased, both in general and by Arthur’s laughter, which strangled and died in his chest as he stared at the object of his awful, pointless WASTED love before him. “Sorry to interrupt, but I thought you, and Ariadne, of course, might like to know that Mr. and Mrs. Cobb are now the proud parents of little Miss Phillipa Cobb.”

Eames’ joy, so wretchedly concealed as he all but bounced on the balls of his feet with a smile almost comically wide, was too infectious to not sweep through Arthur entirely, taking him over.

“That's great,” he enthused, “Dom must be thrilled! I mean, Mr. Cobb. Was Mrs. Cobb okay? I mean, beyond the obvious?”

Eames laughed, and it was as though the past two months had melted away, leaving nothing but warmth and Arthur’s recurring desperation to hurl himself into his arms.

“Oh, she’s fine – she’s great. Leave it to a Frenchwoman to look gorgeous within minutes of giving birth. They’re both great. Dom’s beside himself, obviously, but yeah, they’re deliriously happy.”

“I’m glad.” Arthur smiled and for a moment they just stood there – happy – and it wasn’t until Ariadne added her own congratulations that Arthur blinked and Eames’ smile dimmed somewhat as the spell broke and reality rushed back in.

“Well, I’d best be off, and you two had better get gone to homeroom, as well. Sorry to’ve held you up, but I never could keep good news to myself.”

His smile matched Arthur’s – no teeth, all twist – and, with a quick nod, he strode off, leaving Ariadne and Arthur blinking, still half-smiling in his wake.

“Well, that was nice of him,” Ari said carefully and Arthur gave her back the same smile that Eames had parted on, agreeing before he walked swiftly away to class.


The day progressed slowly, stymied by bullshit rumors about the party until both Robert and Arthur had to abandon their previous (if un-discussed) policy of simply ignoring the gossip hounds and began answering all queries with the same thing – the truth.

“Nothing happened,” Arthur said (for the umpteenth time) as he walked into rehearsal with Ariadne, questioned literally as the door swung wide.

With the start of the new semester came the single rehearsal per week, with this last exception before they’d go back up to two in early May. The rehearsals this week fell on Monday and Thursday as the month ended and March rolled over into April, but Arthur had yet to decide whether the lack of proximity to Eames would make his life better or harder.

The murmurings and speculative looks continued amidst giggles and behind cupped palms as they took their places, ready to begin. Arthur closed his eyes to better clear his mind, only to hear Browning’s maliciously gleeful voice cut across the shadows to where Robert stood.

“Hey, Fischer, nice call on encouraging Ophelia’s madness. I’d take a swan dive too, if I found out my boyfriend fucked my brother!”

“Nothing happened,” Robert muttered darkly, face flooding with color at the exact time Arthur sneered at Browning. “Oh, real mature there, Peter. Really, an outstanding witticism. Did you spend all day thinking that up, or did you get ol’ Maurice there to do it for you?”

Browning flushed, ducking his head as Maurice muttered and colored angrily, and Arthur snorted, having scored a direct hit it seemed. He threw a semi-smug look in Ariadne’s direction, only to find her large-eyed, sorrowful gaze fixed on... Oh.

Eames’ knuckles were bright white where his hands clenched on the customary clipboard he used for his notations during a performance and his jaw clenched so hard he appeared to be in pain as his eyes snapped shut.

He shook it off nearly instantaneously, face livid as he took in his assembled cast.

“If we’re QUITE done with the Gossip Girl bollocks do you suppose we might bloody get on with it? Far be it from me to interfere with your scintillating social lives, but we’re performing this thing in roughly ten weeks and you lot are behaving like children. ENOUGH.”

He stalked to his usual observation point and glared ferociously at all of their shocked faces. “Now, the light cues aren’t ready today so we’re going on my mark and anyone botching it is in for a world of trouble. Get to your positions, you’ve got 30 seconds.”

The cast rushed to assume their starting points and, just before the first word was spoken, Arthur met Ariadne’s eyes from where she stood in the wings. Arthur felt rage rise in him at the sympathy he saw there.

Arthur swallowed and spoke his lines perfectly, moving about the stage to a pattern he could follow in his sleep now, and all the while he fantasized about punching Eames square in the jaw.


A good few hours of Eames’ acidic commentary plus snide sotto voice jibes from Maurice & Company, and Arthur was more than ready to leave. In fact, he was ready to walk out, never return, and spend the rest of his days curled up at the bottom of a large bottle of whatever seemed most blindingly effective.

“I’d ask if you were okay,” Ari murmured as she hurried alongside him and attempted to match his furious strides. He all but bolted out into the rain after rehearsal let out. She continued, “But I think we both know the answer’s a resounding, emphatically pissed NO, right?”

“It’s not fucking FAIR,” he snarled, stopping briefly to let her catch up before all but dragging her with him. “He can’t just push me away and then fucking rant and rage like it’s something that's been done to him, and he can’t act like he’s JEALOUS for Christ’s sake when, not only have I fucking well done NOTHING to get jealous about, but he doesn’t have any RIGHT to behave that way in the first place because it’s HIM who doesn’t want to be with ME and it’s not, it’s NOT. GODDAMNED. FAIR, Ari... I’m fucking sick of always feeling awful when I’ve done nothing more than want him, I... It’s not fair...” he finished feebly, the anger dropping away from his words like leaves in Fall - sudden - until just the bare bones of him remained. He stopped to rub his trembling, weary hands over his face.

Ariadne stepped close and butted her head against his shoulder as they had always done back when they were still carefree children. He snorted fondly, only to jerk in shock as she was suddenly dragged away with a startled scream.

“Careful, Rittner,” Nash cooed mockingly, “Pretty little thing like you shouldn’t hang around with one of them. You’ll have people thinking you don’t want a real man.” He leered down at a furious, if frightened, Ari and Arthur surged forward only to find himself held back by Browning’s heavy, ham-fisted clutch.

“Hey, now – easy there, fag,” Browning sneered mockingly in Arthur’s ear as he attempted to put Arthur in a headlock, “Don’t want to have to rough you up for your boyfriend.”

Arthur responded with a reverse head-butt, slamming the back of his head into Browning’s face and neatly breaking his nose.

Browning shrieked wetly – girlishly – and released Arthur as blood gushed down his face before he doubled over. Newly freed, Arthur punched him somewhat viciously in the stomach.

“Wright – WHAT THE FUCK?” Nash began, throwing Ariadne from him so roughly that she overbalanced and fell over, before he roared and charged Arthur as though the sight of blood literally brought out the bull in him.

Arthur held his ground, planting his feet, and when Nash met him with a forward rush he himself might have been proud of, he seized the fist already swinging for him, jerked a foot behind Nash’s leading leg and threw him bodily to the rain-soaked ground, then added a swift kick to his stomach for good measure, pulling back to do so again and...

“ARTHUR,” Ariadne said urgently and, slowly, Arthur placed his foot back on the floor and felt the blood-burning rage slowly recede until he could hear Browning’s choked retches and Nash’s pitiful groans as he lay, shuddering, at Arthur’s feet.

He crouched, throwing a swift reassuring look at Ari as she stepped quickly forward as though to stop him. Arthur leaned down until his lips were right by Nash’s ear.

“If you or your asshole friends ever come near Ariadne again I will destroy you – you got that?” He started to straighten as Nash stilled, before adding scornfully, “Oh - and you might want to tell your buddies that it was one of US who kicked your ass, okay?”

He rose, accepted his bag from Ari’s shaking hands – it was wet and dirty from where both she and it had been cast to the ground – and his jaw tightened again even as Ari squeezed his forearm and said his name softly, urgently.

Arthur looked quizzically down at her before turning slowly to follow her gaze.

Eames stood, his shirt almost entirely transparent in the downpour, gazing back at the two of them, fists clenched, his bag dropped haphazardly onto the muddy grass. Eames seemed frozen mid-run from his car, the door still open where he’d apparently launched himself down the incline between the parking lot and the main school grounds. His face was an intense blend of abject fury and the shock that had apparently stayed his feet.

Even with the distance and the curtain of rain between them, Eames’ eyes burned into Arthur’s and, rather than give into the urge to close the gap and cling to him, Arthur gave him a stilted nod, only waiting for Eames’ slow mirror of it before he turned and led Ariadne away.

They sat in her car in silence for a full five minutes, their hands tightly linked, before Ari made any move to put the key in the ignition.

“It’s not fair,” she said softly and Arthur was surprised his sob sounded so much like laughter.


April came as a surprising relief to Arthur.

His regular needed, necessary, REQUIRED routine was almost as it had been back at the beginning of September, only now he swam instead of running, and instead of falling into a coma during classes, each lesson where he didn’t have Eames was like a balm to his raw nerves. The few he did have with him was like a sweet sickness that turned him inside, a feeling that lasted almost until the next time Arthur saw him.

Rehearsals, by comparison, were surprisingly simple.

Eames sat out in the darkness, only interjecting when necessary – trying to hone them to the point where it would only be diamond-style polishing they’d need to receive once the last few weeks rolled around before the gala. Arthur happily wore Hamlet’s skin, only flashing back to himself long enough to hear and react to direction before blending, almost seamlessly, back into character. The only indicators of Eames’ presence were the slight dizziness when he spoke Arthur’s name from the shadows, and the pounding of his heart that followed, negligible, Arthur decided, in comparison to anger, grief and longing.

Slowly (achingly slow, in fact, on the nights where he just let himself stare at the ceiling and dream) Arthur managed to carve himself out a sort of existence. It wasn’t living but, in the short term, it’d do.

Robert joined Arthur and Ariadne now and then for varied lunches, shopping trips and such. He was quite helpful when it came to throwing Ari repeatedly into Yusuf’s orbit as they actually ran in a few of the same circles. Such encounters slowly eased Ariadne from her strained chipmunk squeaks into actual conversations with Yusuf when she ran into him between classes.

Hanging out with Robert was surprisingly easy. Arthur had thought it would be awkward, or that Robert might attempt to further their friendship into something more or worse, that their continued association might cause their fun little friendship to get stomped under the heel of pathetic high school bigotry but, somehow – it worked.

The first week or so after the incident (as Ari had taken to calling it with amused glances shot at Browning’s terrifically blackened eyes) the other students had tracked them with both curious and wary stares. The truth about the incident itself had never come out, but enough people had guessed at something approaching the basics to buy them all a little breathing space.

People watched to see if Arthur would abruptly sweep Rob into his arms, or (hopefully) a brawl would break out between Rob and Ariadne for his love (because nothing could be more fun than an all-out “He’s MY Man” Jerry Springer style fight to alleviate third period boredom), but when nothing of interest occurred no matter how closely people watched them, the interest waned to the point where they became commonplace and the masses were forced to concur that both Robert and Arthur’s original statements were correct. Nothing had happened and, it seemed, nothing was going to.

Ariadne was being drawn steadily deeper into her own head as she began work on her final piece - her inspiration having finally, definitively struck (although she remained suspiciously tight lipped about it) – so Robert’s addition to their lunch table made it a little less silent, if more distinctly hormone-addled once Robert developed a powerful crush on his personal trainer and proceeded to wax poetic about his thighs at a moment’s notice.

It was surprisingly normal and... nice.

The almost humdrum pattern of his days left Arthur feeling oddly bereft at times but, for the most part, he clung to the meager contentment he’d somehow managed to carve for himself out of chaos. He swam each night until he could fall into bed and sleep without dreaming.

If he looked back at himself, tilted his head and squinted, he almost seemed happy.


“It’s you.”

Both Robert and Arthur paused mid-step and their gazes flickered to a stubborn-yet-panicky Ariadne as she drew up alongside them, her hair in disarray and her bottom lip showing all the signs of having been ruthlessly chewed.

“Me what?” Both boys answered in chorus and Robert laughed, though Arthur could only manage a smile as his gaze remained on Ari’s pale little face.

“You, Arthur, not you Rob,” she said and Robert affected a disappointed stance and sigh, which somewhat lessened the tightness about Ariadne’s eyes.

“What’s me, Ari?” Arthur smiled and squeezed her close, knowing she was a sucker for a good hug. He felt her melt against him within seconds.

“Yurmuhrtfynl,” she mumbled remorsefully against his sweater and he laughed.

“I’m what now?”

She sighed gustily and pulled back just far enough to look up, earnestly, into Arthur’s face. “You are my art final. Pictures I took of you running and stuff.”

Arthur’s grimace was instantaneous and almost as swiftly punished as Ari reached up to cuff him. “See, that's exactly why I couldn’t tell you, you dick. Look, I’m sorry, okay? I know you hate when I take your picture, but there was one of you in the rain and it really inspired me, Arthur. I NEEDED that; I couldn’t see past it. I couldn’t use anything else, even though I knew you’d hate it, but I need your permission to continue because it can’t be displayed without it, and I HAVE TO DISPLAY THIS, ARTHUR! It’s POWERFUL. I love it and you KNOW how I hate my stuff, normally, so I thought we could swap. You normally love my stuff, so I figured this time it’s okay if you hate it just so long as you let me use it, because I need it – GODDAMN IT, ARTHUR, SAY SOMETHING!”

Arthur blinked then inhaled, briefly dumbstruck by her outburst.

“Okay,” he said and she blinked in turn.

Okay?” she parroted and Arthur reiterated his quick squeeze before releasing her and stepping back.

“Okay. You can use my picture. You’re right, I hate having my picture taken and,” he winced, “after this moment I’m probably going to block all mention of people seeing it, but if you need it-” he shrugged and grinned at her startled expression, “-it’s yours.”

She gaped. “I spent all day working myself up to have you fight me over this.”

Arthur grinned and ruffled her hair in the way she’d always hated. “Well, then, that can be your punishment for turning me into Arts & Crafts boy, okay?”

“Pfft, more like SUPERMODEL BOY,” she snarked and traded high fives with Robert as they walked into rehearsal laughing. Arthur’s rolling eyes stilled abruptly as the newly-perfected set stood before them.

For weeks they had been able to work with most of the set in place, but not all of the props had been ready. Some of the staircases, additional levels, and effects rigging had yet to be altered but now, walking into the auditorium, it looked absolutely perfect.

Arthur walked toward the stage slowly and a smile split his face wide as he looked upon his castle. The sides branched out into separate sections that would pass for different areas as the play went on; they were still mostly blank but clearly set up for their first scenes. The sudden sense of occupancy was so startling that Arthur felt absurdly nostalgic.

His eyes were greedy as he took in the fake windows, moving forward to gaze up at the elegantly (but cost effectively) decorated rooms, and then his eyes fell upon the varied props and set dressings laid out across a large table, all ready and waiting to be implemented as the play progressed. Even though there was quite a selection of interesting items to try out and laugh at or wonder over – there was one in particular that drew him across the room to run an awed hand over it.

The colors (once mostly subdued by damp and mold and things he still preferred to not think about) were subtle yet vibrant, and the overall effect was gloriously elegant as its border twined about itself while still leaving room for the rich, evocative main design – a man and woman intertwined on a swing with bright bursts of blooming flowers all about them – to draw and please the eye.

He dug his fingers in against the worn textile and closed his eyes, smiling, unable to relate the current sensation of old (but soft) material beneath his fingers with the dripping, reeking mass that he’d had to all but scald from beneath his nails on that fateful day.

“...and he quotes Han Solo. Be still my heart.”

“Shut up and help me pick up your damn rug.”

Arthur snorted softly and couldn’t help but smile at the memory, his fingers smoothing back and forth over the twisting vine at the border as he reflected on the difference between then and now.

“Cleaned up nicely, wouldn’t you say?”

Arthur’s fingers spasmed lightly against the fabric as his body briefly fought, and lost, the fight against the warmth that stole straight up and through him at both Eames’ voice and the recollections it brought.

“It’s unbelievable.” He laughed softly. “If I didn’t sort of remember the edges here, I would think you had bought another and just ditched the mold magnet.”

“Oi,” Eames scolded mock indignantly as he walked up to stand beside Arthur and smoothed his own broad palm against the happy figures at the center, “I’ll have you know I put a lot of work into transforming the mold magnet - as you bloody called it – into the vision of aesthetic loveliness you see before you today!”

Arthur gaped and met Eames’ eyes without flinching (even inwardly) for the first time in weeks. “You’re not telling me you cleaned this?”

Eames affected an insulted expression and Arthur bit the inside of his cheek to hold back both the laugh as well as the longing.

“How very dare you, Arthur? I’ll have you know I could have cleaned this had I but both will and time...”

“...and an arsenal of carpet cleaning materials and industrial grade disinfectant...” Arthur continued, grinning, and was rewarded with precisely the swat of old that still had him grinning even as the light blow barely ruffled his new hair.

“Less bloody cheek from you, Your Highness.” Eames smirked and Arthur couldn’t help but beam, turning his eyes back to the rug... no – tapestry.

“Well, whoever cleaned it - it looks amazing, you were absolutely right to take it.”

Eames dropped his voice. “We, Arthur. We took it, so if I go down I’ll take you with me, remember?”

Arthur smothered his laugh with a fake cough as the loud bark of mirth had several people (Ariadne included, damn her eagle eyes) looking their way.

“Sure thing, boss,” he choked and Eames sniggered.

They spent a moment in silence, looking down at the tapestry with badly concealed amusement until a sudden prickle of extra warmth rolled down Arthur’s right side as Eames stepped casually closer.

“Are we okay – you and me?” he asked softly and something broke in Arthur so hard it hurt to do more than simply stand there breathing for a moment.

He felt Eames tense at his side as the smile dimmed from his face and he said nothing, wondering how it was that no blood ran up to fill his face, no rage poured from his throat past his lips and no warmth seemed to have ever found home in his skin.

“Yes, sir,” he said quietly, steadily, and walked with studied indifference up to the stage to take his position.

He pretended he didn’t see Ariadne’s bitten lip as he passed her, just as he ignored the quizzical, worried expression on Rob’s face and worse – worseworseWORSE - he made himself pretend he hadn’t seen Eames’ head dip forward as his whole body sagged, as if the weight of misery settled over him as heavily as it crushed Arthur’s heart back to the ground where – apparently – it belonged.


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