ladyvader: (AE - Pet!Verse Colour)
[personal profile] ladyvader
Posting a little early this week due to my day attempting to be a MONDAY (grrrr) but hopefully that'll make up for the fact that this bit is a little shorter than the others, BUT thats so the last part can go up unbroken next week so I swear I'm not being mean or owt ;)

An extra thankyou this week to the very helpful [ profile] mordyn4 who gave me the info I needed (roughly 8 million years ago now lol) in order to be able to use french in this part, with the translation showing up if you mouseover the text ;D so yeah lol if you see french, grab thy mousie :D

Title: Pet [Part 10]
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 6400 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
Part 8
Part 9

Pet [Part 10]

May brought with it such a smorgasbord of strain and horror that Arthur had allotted himself only so much reaction per event in order to limit the damage done to his poor, burdened psyche, etc, etc (Ariadne might have added the last in explaining his calmness to Rob), but it was still a valid behavioral practice, no matter how many times Rob coughed ‘unhealthy repression’ and ‘denial’ into his hand.

He handled the finals with his usual aplomb, and even managed to crush his panic down each time someone mentioned the dwindling weeks until Graduation (and the growing, sharp stab of horror at what that meant in terms of ever seeing Eames again) but, once the second rehearsal kicked back in with barely two weeks before the first (and final) actual performance, Arthur was a wreck.

He’d barely managed to deal with the shivery, hot-tight ball in the pit of his belly that accompanied all the speculative looks - the attention garnered by Ariadne’s piece was just this side of truly disturbing - but he’d managed to dial it down to almost ignorable with judicious use of his iPod and the internal phrase it’s really very flattering (both of which were Rob’s ideas, so Arthur had mostly forgiven him for his part in the art show debacle) but then, suddenly, he had to push it all down and away, focus on just being the Prince, but somehow – he just couldn’t.

He had rehearsal with Eames twice a week again, tortured by both his beauty and distance - always so close but utterly unobtainable and WORSE, so much worse, was that he treated Arthur exactly the same as the rest of them (even when the scouts came, leveling significant looks Arthur’s way with every word he spoke, even when he stood toe to toe with Arthur in full costume and, inside the spotlight, when it had felt like they were the only two people in the world) and when he assembled them and grinned semi-sadly and expressed how he would miss them after he (and they) moved on, telling them how proud he would always be of them and what they had achieved together, he met Arthur’s eyes for exactly as long as he met the steady, adoring gazes of the others all clustered about him, and Arthur felt like nothing.

On the last day of May, Arthur stood, resplendent in his first scene finery, looking about him with newfound awe as all of the assembled set and costumes (and lights and just everything) seemed to accumulate and reform into something new and AMAZING before him.

The curtain seemed suddenly rich and vibrant by comparison to the blacks, browns and greys of the overall set design, the floor itself gleamed where the boards had been lovingly polished - not only to look good but to also draw the eye to the age and majesty of the place. It was beautiful, certainly, but ideally every member of the audience would agree that a new modern wing would be needed to match the age and integrity of the old auditorium to better keep the inspiration and Arts alive.

Music swelled quietly around him and Arthur moved to step into Hamlet’s opening position, idly enjoying the subtle yet quietly, almost proudly, tragic pieces that Eames and the sound team had chosen to emphasize the opening, brief interval and finale – when suddenly he skidded. His feet found no purchase against the wood and, flailing, he fell forward, cracking one kneecap painfully against the boards as he went, but he managed to catch most of his weight on his protesting palms.

“Arthur!” He heard Eames exclaim and even as he attempted to lift a palm, trying to stand up to reassure everyone, he slipped and fell back against the floor as his shoes protested the slick polish of the wood.

“Careful! It’s...”

Eames skidded, slipped and face-planted onto the boards barely a foot from Arthur with –everyone would later attest to on pain of death – a manly yelp and Arthur (for all his control and ability to internalize at the drop of a hat) completely dissolved into laughter.

Ow.” Eames said plaintively from where his face was still mostly mashed against the wood, though he turned his head just far enough to send them all an amused and self-deprecating smirk to reassure the worried onlookers.

“...slippery, Eames. The floor here is slippery. Thought you might like to know.”

He lay there and laughed for a long moment with Eames’ exasperated but fond smile filling his vision, even as he turned his face back to the wood and laughed silently. His shoulders shook beneath his still perfectly fitted suit jacket, and he chuckled until, with judicious leaning and with Rob tugging carefully at one of his arms, he - and then Eames – were pulled free of the overly polished spot. Despite a frenzied brushing and numerous disclaimers of guilt from both the caretaker and the stage crew, the stage remained perilous in a good five separate points and all of the main cast - and a few unlucky crew members - fell over at least once during the rehearsal.

Eames was delighted.

“Well, guys and dolls,” he said and laughed with a somewhat manic smile as he rubbed his palms together, “I confess that, with the ratio of rehearsals to performance being what it is for this little play of ours, I had been trying to ignore the old tried and true superstitions. But I have to say I’m bloody over the moon to find that now, on our MOST important dress rehearsal, we’ve managed to botch it almost COMPLETELY. Arthur giggled almost every time someone fell (don’t try to look innocent you sadist, we all heard you), at least half of you stumbled over your lines for fear of falling, Maurice got his robes tangled in the set, and the lights - and music - were late for the final curtain. BLOODY FANTASTIC.”

He beamed at all of them and Arthur smothered a grin of his own as several people looked horrified, gutted by such damning words, unaware of the tradition to which Eames was referring.

“So, with the prerequisite HORRID dress rehearsal now behind us, we can safely say that tomorrow night we will be nothing short of MIRACULOUS. And so therefore my dear, sweet cast – I relinquish you from your last rehearsal.” He affected a quick bow and his mouth quirked into something bittersweet before he straightened with a smile once more. “It’s been wonderful, folks. Have a GOOD night, rest up, do NOT panic and I’ll see you all back here tomorrow for the main event.”

Arthur felt a pang so sharp his eyes watered and he tilted his chin down as Eames walked past him, presumably to address the faulty lighting issue, and a wave of misery washed over him. It left him swaying even after he changed back into his jeans and t-shirt, still somber as he stood waiting for Ariadne as she struggled free of her many layers of chiffon and such behind one of the larger screens. Arthur’s face was pinched and downcast as Eames brushed back by with Principal Caine in joyful tow.

“Chin up, Arthur,” he said gently over his shoulder, “It’s nearly over with. Just one last go of it and you’re a free man again.”

Arthur’s answering smile felt so sharp he wondered briefly that his teeth didn’t just slice right through it. “Yes, sir. Looking forward to it, sir.”

He told himself the normalcy of Caine’s indulgent laugh and jocular comments about teenagers with free time on their hands was worth the sudden pinch at the corner of Eames’ mouth at his politely flippant words and Ariadne’s cold, disappointed silence as she drove him home.

“That was unkind, Arthur,” she said as he stepped out at his house. “It’s not like you don’t know how he feels – he was just being nice.”

The ticking clock beating behind Arthur’s eyes had grown into a pounding drum and he couldn’t help but raise his voice to drown it out.

“How he felt isn’t the fucking issue. I never asked him to be nice, I never asked him for anything!

“Yes – you did.”

Ariadne’s mouth was a thin white line on her suddenly flushed, defeated face. “Don’t hate him now for not giving you what you both wanted, not when his hands were tied before you even met.”

She leaned over and clicked the passenger door shut, smiling bleakly up at him through the halfway unrolled window.

“It’s not his fault your time is up, Arthur. Really, if you think about it, it’s the best thing for you both. It’s like he said. You’re almost free of this.”

He blinked at her for a long moment and nodded before turning around and walking inside, wondering as he heard her car pull away when freedom had started to seem so empty.


June burned.

Arthur awoke on the first day - his last as the Prince - stuck to his pillow with sweat from dreams that had savaged his heart, soul and libido from the moment he’d first drifted off until the second his eyes snapped wide – the imprint of Eames’ quick smile and hooded gaze still seared the insides of his eyelids.

The Gala would begin in early afternoon, giving people time enough to admire the varied delights assembled for them and their (ideally) ready checkbooks, and Arthur had promised he’d be on hand to both steady Ariadne’s nerves as the countless masses and future investors perused her very soul (as she put it), and then afterward he planned to double back, collect Mrs. Moore and his parents, and then redo the entire damn tour before slipping away to step into Hamlet’s royal (albeit burdened) shoes.

It had seemed like an excellent plan when he’d made it but, with hours between him and what felt like the slowly descending sword of Damocles, it felt arduous enough that his heart was already hammering behind his ribs as though it was desperate for escape.

He pondered running, but no matter how tempting the mindlessness of the track might seem, he was fairly certain that adding yet another trip toward the school grounds might actually be soul destroying.

The water, on the other hand, seemed to whisper soothingly as the sun bounced and shimmered at its edges, as though there were actual fish contained within, setting ripples darting back and forth beneath the light, and promising cool relief. As he slid into the pool, he wondered again if it was possible to pack it and take it with him.

He swam gentle, easy laps, propelling himself smoothly, face turned in against the water’s cool caress, and exhaled bubbles that tickled the sides of his face in such a way that he found himself helpless to not smile beneath the surface as he cut cleanly through from end to end. The tension washed from him with every stroke.

After a while he stopped, midway down, to float aimlessly, and amused himself with the rose colored light that shone through his eyelids where he kept his face serenely tipped towards the sun. His hands and feet idly circled against the chilled lap of the water that cradled him and he was content to just drift until his mother called him, reminding him it was time to be getting ready. He opened his eyes to find everything brighter and sharper than it had been before he’d taken time to simply be, and he smiled. He felt ready.


Mrs. Moore was almost obscenely delighted with the art show, which would have been slightly more upsetting had Rick not made the mistake of telling Arthur he thought he looked constipated within Ariadne’s earshot, and (despite numerous apologies) she had proceeded to defend her work like a lioness with a single cub. Amused by his mother’s attempts to mediate between Rick’s protestations of humor and Mrs. Moore’s demands for a copy (for the front of her fridge no doubt), Arthur took his chance and quietly slipped away.

The attendees were everything and more that Mr. Caine and the board had been hoping for, it seemed, as Arthur found himself passing several politicians, elite businessmen, journalists, and even a retired actor as he made his way toward the auditorium. H noted the air of smugness radiating from the assembled staff and exhibiting students as Dyson’s reputation soared even higher than it had been before.

The entire situation seemed somewhat surreal to Arthur, and so it was with a wry smile (versus his standard clutch of fearful adoration) that he greeted Eames as they fell into step as they each neared the auditorium doors.

“Bloody madhouse here, today.” Eames grinned and Arthur chuckled at the slightly harassed look the apparently put-upon teacher wore.

“Can’t put on a show to appeal to the masses without actually inviting people en masse,” he quipped and Eames shot him a mock-disgruntled look.

“You’re looking a bit bloody cucumber-cool there, Arthur. Please tell me that’s not just an exquisite front for the terror that's going to leave you speechless mid-stage?”

Arthur flashed him an abruptly evil grin. “Perhaps I’m a robot after all?”

Grey eyes narrowed ferociously at him and Eames’ lip curled back over his teeth as he growled softly at him. “Bite your tongue!”

“Well, that’s a variation on ‘break a leg’ I’ve not heard before.”

Eames waved an airy hand. “Pssht, I laugh in the face of bad luck tonight. We’ve endured sickness, wrath, seemingly homicidal lighting rigs, costuming emergencies and a floor best suited to a roller rink. Short of lightning physically striking the bloody building I don’t think there’s a lot left the old superstitions can do to us now.”

“I could still forget all my lines?” Arthur offered mock solicitously and Eames smirked winningly back at him.

“Well, then I’ll go on and show you up.”

“You won’t fit into the costumes and then Patsy will kill you.”

Eames sighed long-sufferingly. “Do shut up, Arthur, there’s a dear.”

Arthur grinned and they pushed through the doors together, stepping from the newly sprung, enthusiastic June sunlight into the cooler, shadow-dappled interior of the auditorium.

They paused, briefly, and took a moment to gaze at the rich, glowing russet of the classic curtain Eames had insisted upon for the added ‘old school theatricality’ edge, its heavy folds concealing where Arthur knew the opening scene lay ready, perfectly set out and ready for them because it had to be.

He swallowed and Eames bumped Arthur’s shoulder with his own, smiling even as his own gaze remained fixed on the stage.

“Not getting jitters on me now, are you, darling?”

A wave of gentle, oddly comforting heat rolled up and over Arthur’s skin and a smile tugged at his lips at the pure happiness of hearing the word murmured in that same, irreverent tone he’d missed so much. He bumped Eames’ shoulder back.

“Not even slightly, sir.”

They grinned at each other before Eames cleared his throat and gestured forward.

“Well, come on, then. Your country awaits you, Your Highness.”

“And your people await you, Mr. Director.”

Eames rolled his eyes long-sufferingly before shunting Arthur slightly forward with a quick shove to his spine.

“Well, then, Lay on, MacDuff, by all means. Far be it from me to keep my people waiting.”

They walked shoulder to shoulder briefly, able to hear the gentle rush of voices behind the curtain as they drew closer until suddenly Arthur paused, frowning.

“Wait a second - And damned be him that first cries, Hold - Enough? Did... did you just damn us?”

Eames chuffed a soft laugh and shoved him stage-ward once more.

“Are you planning on crying out Hold, Enough mid-play, my Prince?” he mocked, none too gently, and Arthur revisited a prior urge or so (to call him a dick and kiss him senseless, ideally at once) before he rolled his eyes.

“Well – no, obviously not but-”

“Then, clearly it is of no consequence. Now off with you – I need you ready.”

He pushed Arthur once again, this time with his palm at the nape of his neck and Arthur’s eyelashes quivered shut as Eames’ fingertips dragged against his skin.

He quickly ascended the steps to the now expertly expanded stage, and paused a few feet from the curtain to look back over his shoulder. He restrained an evil smirk as he called out innocently, “You do know we’re not actually doing ‘Macbeth’, right?”

Eames’ face contorted in horror as he registered Arthur’s having actually named the Scottish play, and took a swift step forward as though to follow him at speed up onto the stage. Arthur barked a quick laugh and shot through the curtains, heart hammering as he moved forward to beam excitedly at a clearly enthusiastic Laertes and knew with a sudden, swift certainty that this would be one of the greatest nights of his young life.


The lights were bright enough from most points on the stage to grant the illusion of isolation from the audience, with only their occasional approving murmurs of response drifting up to him. Even then, the Prince did not hear them, even if Arthur almost could. He knew his mother and the others were out there somewhere in the darkness, and the weight of their assessing (and likely adoring) gazes was strangely comforting as he trembled lightly beneath his suit and assumed royal veneer.

He had worried that he wouldn’t know his lines (or place or cues or name) but as the music gradually faded and the curtains whispered their way wide, baring him to both the light and the darkness, Eames’ ebullient, rallying words to them all, just prior to curtain up, floated across his mind like a bright, brilliant bubble of hope and steadfast belief.

‘People will always tell you a perfect opening night is impossible. Now, all we HAVE here is an opening night, so I’m going to tell you what my father told me; there’s no such thing as impossible, only BLOODY DIFFICULT, and that's why I’ve worked you so hard, pushed you for PERFECT when you were already excellent, because I knew you’d need it, WE’D need it, to get here, to where we are tonight. Ready and bloody BRILLIANT.

We’ve aced the rehearsals. I know you know this stuff, and we’re going to blow the sodding roof off with our sheer, overwhelming brilliance so that they’ll HAVE to pay for a new theatre - so let’s give them what they’re paying to see, yeah? I picked you all because I knew you’d be amazing and I’m not sure if any of you have ever noticed but I’m NEVER wrong, so get out there and make me proud, but be sure to ENJOY YOURSELVES. It’s going to be FANTASTIC and it’s all down to you lot. It’s been a pleasure and an honor both, and I thank you.’

He’d bowed and Arthur had felt a pang low in his belly, of pride and bittersweet pleasure, but as he’d crossed the stage to assume his opening position, he’d known Eames was right - they knew this and they were going to be BRILLIANT because they owed it to Eames, the school and themselves.

His skin prickled with a sort of pained delight as he listened to the others reciting, perfect and somehow sharper than they’d ever been before, and he felt a surge of pride rush through him.

This was their night and they were going to achieve the impossible.

He turned slightly into the light, took a deep breath and then let Hamlet speak.


The interval was (for wont of a better word) excruciating.

Eames moved through them - quick and dazzling like lightning - forcing life back into his suddenly terror-locked, zombie-style cast as he tossed words of encouragement about like confetti and clapped shoulders and shook trembling hands. His words were warm as he smiled upon them all, benevolent and brilliant in the dim light behind the curtain, until they were all reassured and ready once again.


Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
for he was likely, had he been put on,
to have proved most royally: and, for his passage,
the soldiers' music and the rites of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

James, Alec, Sahed and Michael (a thankfully sturdy quartet) lifted Arthur tenderly as the music swelled, their palms braced at his spine, thighs, calves and shoulders as he let his head tip back and his arms fall wide (majestically, as they’d practiced) and the curtains crept slowly closed and then, shockingly, it was over.

Arthur stood and trembled, his hands lifted to hold his huffed disbelieving breaths closer to his face, cupped about his lips and nose as he swayed in place. He swallowed his shock and bone wobbling terror as Ariadne beamed at him, bright and beautiful, already moving to take her place among the procession. The cast stepped back through the curtain in groups until the main players emerged singularly to take their bows.

Arthur would go last, of course, as lead and so, silently, dumbstruck by the steady, tumultuous applause building out in the light, he waited as, one by one, the others left him in the darkness.

He moved toward the gap, the slice of light slanting through the rich, red velour illuminating a bare stripe of light backstage, and he kept a steady eye for his cue to join them. He startled slightly as Eames stepped silently up to stand beside him.

He had shucked off his jacket at some point during the performance, his hands shoved deep into his pockets, dove grey shirt sleeves rolled up over his forearms, and Arthur fought to keep his face turned forward, determined to resist the urge to cast himself at Eames, to rest his head upon those shoulders and take comfort in being held there in the strange limbo-like state behind the curtain, to let the world slow and leave him stranded in his arms.

He heard Eames take a slow, deep breath, then another and then he spoke softly.

“You... are magnificent-

Arthur turned his head to meet Eames’ gaze, both of them half facing and half turned from the light so that each stood half lost in the shadows. Eames seemed oddly dangerous where the darkness pulled at him, his eyes unwavering even as his tone fell soft and somewhat infinitely sad between them.

“-try to always remember that, would you?”

Arthur’s lips parted, dry and unsure even as he moved to reply, but already Eames’ heavy, warm hand was at his back, nudging him forward toward the light, and then there he was, center stage and deafened by the applause and well meant (if undignified) cheering, blinking into the light and attempting to smile before he bowed.

He dipped low and blamed the sudden movement for the heat and grittiness of his eyes as he straightened up, lifting his own hands high to renew the applause that would signal Eames’ appearance and, as the crowd grew louder, demanding the director, he appeared, his jacket back in somewhat rumpled place as he smiled and charmed all assembled there before him. He was so exquisitely composed, in fact, that Arthur wondered if he had dreamed that wishful, wanting, broken tone backstage, and it wasn’t until Eames clasped his shoulder somewhere during his grateful (yet wallet loosening) speech, that he felt at all connected to the situation, swaying beneath the weight of his palm with such a rush of warped relief that he briefly wondered if he would pass out.

He allowed himself to be paraded about the room, presented to sponsors old and new as he attempted to be both witty and urbane while also displaying how truly humble he was (and concealing the terror that came of being treated like the prize poodle at a dog show), and agreeing with Principal Caine on every third word that sounded like an earnest entreaty for funds. And then the world started to spin together, sounds and lights and people blurring into one and –

Eames’ hand squeezed, heavy and reassuring, at his shoulder once again.

“Dreadfully sorry,” Eames smiled in such a way that all surrounding felt inclined to smile back at him, “but I believe Arthur’s mother is looking for him. She’s not had a chance yet to praise her darling boy, here, so I promised I’d direct him back to her should we cross paths.”

He patted Arthur quickly, steering him as one might a blindfolded child and, with another terrifyingly disingenuous, yet charming, smile towards the investors, he simply removed Arthur from them.

Arthur took a deep, steadying breath of relief and managed to smile gratefully at his savior who steered them both away, at quite some speed, until they abruptly halted at the other side of the room.

“Thank you,” Arthur breathed with a broad if weary smile and turned toward Eames to continue further on this thread, only to have the Englishman remove his hand and take a step back from him, inclining his head politely.

“Not at all,” he said smoothly and, turning, he melted back into the crowd.

Arthur blinked in confusion, but before he could do more than shift to take a step forward, thin but powerful arms encircled him, almost chokingly, from behind, and then Mrs. Moore was crowing her delight into his ear as Arthur’s mother looked quietly and fondly on, her eyes suspiciously wet as Mrs. Moore raved and praised and adored him. Before long Arthur found himself too busy hugging and being hugged to do more than cling to the word magnificent and wait for reality to kick in.


They had a late, celebratory dinner at a restaurant that Arthur had loved as a child because the chandeliers over the dessert displays shone blue and pink and reflected said colors back over the delicious delights below – he’d never quite had the heart to tell his mother he’d outgrown the fascination, or that he made a far superior chicken parmesan with one hand tied behind his back, but all in all it was a lovely meal.

He spent most of it just smiling, giddy with relief and numb with anticlimactic regret. Mrs. Moore was visibly weepy-eyed as she retold Hamlet’s death scene, starring Arthur as the greatest actor ever seen, obviously, and her devotion kept him laughing even as his mother’s frequent hand clasps had him surprisingly damp-eyed on a second’s notice but, by the time he finally stumbled – facedown – into his bed, his prevalent feeling was of profound gratitude. For all that his heart felt like it might cleave itself in two, he wasn’t sure he’d change the whole night for anything.

He dreamed of shadows that whispered soft, loving things to him and a beam of light he couldn’t quite step free from, and when he awoke it was already too late to do more than dress himself and wish he’d had the courage to reply.


Much of his time that day was spent in helping Ariadne achieve a state of non-panic that meshed elegantly with her Look how pretty I look BUT NO TOUCHING (ok maybe some touching) dress her father had besottedly bought her. She’d tried on the medieval themed ball gown for a laugh in a store a few weeks back and they’d both been quietly stunned by just how much it suited her (more so by its price), but once Ben had seen her in dress rehearsal (albeit briefly - Eames had insisted on no spoilers, not even for family & friends), and then in the store wearing a far more fashionable version of Ophelia’s loveliest gown, he had folded so quickly Arthur had been forced to fake a coughing fit to disguise his involuntary laughter.

He spent a fun (and fraught) few hours lazing on Ariadne’s bed, peering upside down at her, his head tilted over the side of the mattress until the blood rushed into his skull and he laughed giddily as she tried out various different hairdos (before selecting the one she’d dismissed hours before, naturally) and make up styles before she was eventually blushingly satisfied with the results.

He left her to her soothing bath and much needed chill-out session prior to her ‘real’ rigors of beautification, kissing her on the cheek and whispering that she’d stun all who looked her way, barring Yusuf, who would, of course, be so far BEYOND stunned that he would gaze at her all night in a manner similar to a 13 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.

The last earned him a sound thwack on his ear but not before he’d had his own peck to the forehead in return.

“You’re sure you won’t come?” she asked, her mouth a perfect moue of deliberately pretty disappointment, and he laughed as her still overly made-up lashes clumped together when she attempted to add puppy eyes to her arsenal.

He had a brief mental image of himself, ill-lit by the nearby dance-floor, shadows and light racing over him for dominance, awkward in his tux even as recent interest spurred guys and girls alike into approaching him, trying to not stare at Eames in his doubtlessly exquisite formal dress as he stood amongst the faculty, laughing and impossible and unavoidable and unattainable and beautiful and...

“No. I’m good, it’s not for me.” He smiled and shrugged at her. “Besides, it’ll be easier for you to get your smooch on without my beady eyes watching your every move, making idle death threats over your likely compromised virtue and OW...”

He danced away from her and adopted a heavy limp as he pouted and favored the shin she’d kicked. He grinned as she shoved him away with a half-hearted threat and an evil grin, before promising to take pictures of the full outfit later on and to text him should anyone be wearing/doing anything truly hideous.

He made his way back to his street with a spring in his step.

He had plans, such as they were, and - despite their not quite matching up to the dreams that he couldn’t help but still carry with him - he had no intention of doing less than thoroughly enjoying his night.

After all, he only had so much time left to spend with Mrs. Moore before time, tide and life drew him away. They had decided that tonight they would feast and watch as much of The Return of the King as they could bear (Mrs. Moore had read the books but resisted the films up until recently, although she refused to accept anything less than the extended version, swearing she owed Tolkien that much), and then eat whatever ill-advised dessert they chose.

He swung by to collect her from her door with a bow and a flourish, taking another swat to his head for his troubles and laughingly, they caught the bus to the Market.


An hour later they still had no set plans for the main meal and eight possible desserts in mind. Arthur was slowly losing the will to do more than dial out for pizza and then consume his body weight in ice cream, tiramisu, pecan pie, or chocolate cheesecake (they still hadn’t decided which) when, turning, he found himself face to face with what he assumed was a hunger induced hallucination, right up until the vision – denim clad and sporting a basket filled with readymade Indian food – spoke his name in surprise.

“Arthur...? You – here?”

Arthur let himself take a second to absorb the sight of Eames’ vaguely rumpled, casual appearance, the sheepskin and denim jacket open over a well-worn t-shirt, his stubble and mussed hair suggesting precisely the kind of stress-free day he’d joked about having once ‘this whole bloody mess is over’. all of it ridiculously mouth-watering to Arthur. He smiled, slow and warm like he’d longed to just yesterday with his words still warm upon his skin and in his heart, and said simply, “Hello, Eames.”

Eames looked at him in seeming astonishment as he took in Arthur’s own less than formal attire, blinking owlishly as he licked his lips.

“You’re, ah – why aren’t you at the Ball, Arthur? I’ve been informed by almost every teenage girl in the universe that it’s the place to be tonight.”

Arthur cocked a brow, crossing his arms over his chest and smirked as Mrs. Moore stood and ogled Eames unabashedly at the periphery of his vision.

“Well, I suppose the answer to that would be that clearly I am not a teenage girl.”

Eames pulled a face and Arthur chuckled, and then added, “Besides, I already have a date for tonight. Taking no small amount of shameful pleasure in Eames’ widened eyes as Mrs. Moore stepped up to take Arthur’s arm, batting her eyelashes coquettishly in a way that would guarantee Arthur nightmares were it not for Eames pole-axed expression, he said, “I believe I’ve mentioned my neighbor to you before. Eames this is Mrs. Moore. Mrs. Moore, meet Eames. We had him for English this year and he was the mastermind behind yesterday’s performance, I-”

“Oh yes,” she interjected, gushing, her hands already outstretched for Eames’, clutching onto him with a happy sigh, “I saw you afterward, being all humble about its success. Well, I think you’re wonderful, if only because you cast my dear boy, here.”

Eames squeezed her hands in turn and smiled, full and friendly, and it took all of Arthur’s slowly draining willpower to not simply topple forward against him.

“I’m starting to see why Arthur would find an evening with you preferable to the formally attired masses back at Dyson’s.”

She simpered and drew herself back to smooth Arthur’s hair behind one ear with a decidedly smug expression. “Well now, I tried to make him go, but he said with all the craziness of packing up, his time tonight would be far better spent entertaining a mad old lady instead of stepping on a lot of peoples’ toes on the dance floor, and who am I to argue with him? Especially when he said he’d do all the cooking.”

HEY – I never called you a mad old lady!”

“Packing up?”

Eames and Arthur spoke as one and Mrs. Moore smiled at Arthur sweetly before answering Eames’ question in a proud tone. “Oh yes. My boy here is moving to France. Not quite three weeks until you go now, is it, Arthur?”

Arthur had tilted his head to answer her, but froze as Eames’ hoarse voice broke in. “You’re going to France?”

He appeared stunned, almost horrified, and Arthur felt himself bristle.

“Oui- pourquoi, ca ne te dérange pas j'espere?"

He spoke in seamless French, aware (after years of lessons and his perfectionist mother’s ear) that his accent was flawless. His smile ached as he forced it onto his face. Eames blinked, still and shocked before him.

” Non, pas du tout, je... je suis juste surpris, je... et le lycée alors?”

Arthur shrugged nonchalantly, his spine stiff beneath the weight of forced indifference.

“C'est une tradition familiale en quelques sortes- mes parents se sont rencontrés a Paris, ils y etaient allés afin de mieux se connaitre séparément et au final ils ont chacun trouvé l'autre. Apres que mon pere soit mort, ma mere m'a ouvert un compte d'épargne afin que je puisse y aller aussi- pour mieux me connaitre, trouver ce que je voulais faire de ma vie."

“Et- tu pars dans trois semaines, c'est ca?” His tone seemed somewhat strained, but perhaps that was merely his intonation clashing with his French accent, Arthur thought dully.

He nodded as Mrs. Moore burst in, “Oh – you two, it’s so WONDERFUL, it’s just like watching Amelie!”

Arthur snorted softly and smiled. He tossed Eames an amused look only to find the other man’s gaze locked low, his face taut and weary, as though he’d suddenly dropped a night or three of sleep.

“Well, it certainly sounds wonderful.” Eames smiled tightly, reverting back to his mother tongue. “You must make sure he sends you lots of pictures. Paris is truly spectacular, you’ll love it.”

He addressed his words to Mrs. Moore and Arthur found he couldn’t tell if they were meant for him or not. It was as though a veil had fallen between him and Eames, shutting out all warmth and light and Arthur shivered suddenly, unable to think of how best to redress the loss.

“Well, I don’t want to keep you from your repast, going by Arthur’s usual levels of excellence I’m certain it will be mouth-watering. I wish you both a pleasant evening. Arthur...” He hesitated, his eyes finally glancing back to Arthur’s, laser bright, burning in opposition to his coolly polite tone and smile, and Arthur swallowed. “Until tomorrow.”

He nodded to them both, smiling perfunctorily, his shoulders crowded low and stiff, and then he walked away down and through the housekeeping aisle.

“Tomorrow,” Arthur echoed weakly, his eyes on Eames’ retreating form, and Mrs. Moore nudged him with a pointy, delighted elbow to his ribs.

“So close now, isn’t it, sweetheart? So nearly free. I bet you wish it was tomorrow already.”

He dragged his gaze from where Eames had turned off, disappearing round the corner at the furthest end and, smiling, he wrapped an arm about her shoulders and squeezed. He frowned, mock sternly.

“You expect me to rush headlong into my graduation without seeing Frodo reach Mount Doom or without stuffing myself full of cheesecake first? Perish the thought!”

And so, laughing, he whisked them back into the fresh desserts aisle and vowed to enjoy this, his last night of grandmotherly coddling without any further interruptions.

Later, as he watched the credits roll and he and Mrs. Moore applauded, he allowed himself a tiny, watery smile and found himself swallowing against the lump in his throat.

After all, it was the end.

TBC <- in this case, C stands for Concluded :S *is wierded out*

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