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[personal profile] ladyvader
Ok, so this feels surprisingly wierd lol but here be the last part. I loved writing it and I think posting it helped me hold onto that feeling awhile longer so thankyou to everyone who has read it :) I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have lol.

One fast everlasting THANKYOU to [ profile] dysonrules without whom this would be at best unreadable and at worst unwritten ;) danke hon ♥

Alrighty, on with the show: (scusi the delay by the by, the word limit is MURDER)

Title: Pet [Part 11a]
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, these parts 16000 approx overall.
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
Part 10

Pet [Part 11a]

The graduating class of 2011 was lucky. Only the year before the robes has been an interesting shade between mustard and (as Yusuf had wonderingly put it) vomit – whereas this year’s robes were an arrestingly sleek navy, with a subtle sheen that somehow implied ink versus unlucky bridesmaid, and Arthur couldn’t help a slightly pleased look as he darted a glance at his reflection in the car window once more.

“Alright, Your Highness, enough with the preening or you’ll miss the ball entirely, and if my car turns into a pumpkin you will most definitely be buying me a new one.”

Arthur gave in to the impulse to poke his tongue out at his mother, enjoying her surprised gurgle of laughter on this, the most ‘grown up’ and serious of days, before tucking her hand into the crook of his arm and allowing him to escort her onto the school grounds.

The ceremony was to be performed upon the sprawling lawn before the front steps of the Academy, a sea of foldout chairs spread across the grass, ready for the amassed families and graduating students, with two welcoming arms out flung either side of the grandly dressed dais One line of chairs waited for the students immediately awaiting their diplomas, and the other was for the teachers lined up ready to shake their hands as they descended, free of their high school shackles, to be absorbed into the happily teeming crowd of friends and family.

As a ‘W’, Arthur knew he was in for quite a wait before he was summoned to the waiting chairs, eventually beckoned up just behind the T’s to smile broadly at Ariadne, who breathlessly shook hands with her former teachers as she made her way down past the congratulatory line. Arthur sneaked an amused glance to where Ben and Ariadne’s other assembled family watched misty-eyed.

Rob rolled his eyes, stiff-shouldered where he sat beside his father, his diploma already clutched tight. He sent a weak smile Arthur’s way before he faced forward once more, leaving Arthur to watch the slow but steady, proud parade of former students make their way across the stage. He resolutely did not stare, dry-mouthed, at the elegantly attired, visibly elated vision that was Eames as he stood alongside the other faculty members, shaking each new graduate’s hand as they passed by him.

The experience was, Arthur concluded as he made his way from the waiting chairs to the official line up, then up to the podium itself, decidedly surreal.

The entirety of his academic life, his world, in fact, from the age of five upwards, had revolved around this one, seemingly monumental (possibly inconsequential) moment, and it felt like nothing now – or perhaps it was just him, Arthur thought darkly with a wry twist to his mouth as he stepped forward to receive his diploma, smiling broadly so that his mother would see it and be proud.

Perhaps it was simply that his awareness of Eames and overall longing for the endless ache of wanting to be over. Perhaps he had wished his final year away with nothing left in him to be gladdened by his final step into adulthood.Perhaps he had spoiled this for himself. And then Principal Caine passed him his diploma and, shaking Arthur’s hand, smiled so warmly at him that somehow Arthur was comforted by it, and smiled back at him, frank and slightly abashed, as the older man said softly, “Well done, my boy. Well done.

The lump that rose then in Arthur’s throat grew as he turned to face the clapping, beaming crowd. He turned his tassel to the sound of an ecstatic whoop from his mother before he made his way down off the dais, toward the assembled teachers and – though he’d watched them smile and speak to each student in turn – he found himself oddly stirred by the extra squeezes to his palm, their warm tones and gazes as he accepted congratulations from each of them, until he found himself quivering before Eames. His palm was firmly clasped and blue eyes that reflected the sky sparkled at him. Distantly, Arthur wondered if he had been even slightly prepared for this day, after all.

“Well done, Mr. Wright,” Eames said with the same sort of visibly restrained pride he’d exhibited when introducing his cast to the suitably impressed talent scouts. It was all Arthur could do to not step forward and just lean into him – borrow his strength for just the barest moment, so that he could continue on – and then, suddenly he was terrified, cold with loss before he’d even let go, and he knew then, with a sickening wrench, that this was supposed to be it, that he had to answer him, let go, and move on.

His hand spasmed in Eames’ grip and he felt Eames’ warm thumb tip just barely stroke over the edge of his palm, just to steady him, and he blinked back the rush of gritty, hot gratitude in his eyes. He squeezed Eames’ palm in turn before releasing him, just as he ought, and softly, he said, “Thank you, sir.”

By the time Arthur had reached the end of the line, it was all he could do to not weep, instead taking his seat and swallowing hard against the lump in his throat, telling himself the day had simply taken him by surprise, and nothing more.

Once the ceremony had concluded, and the pictures had been taken, and after everyone had tossed their graduation caps high enough to thoroughly lose track of whose was whose, Arthur found himself standing around with his parents, who insisted (somewhat mortifyingly) upon talking to other sets of parents in a manner that made him, Rob and Ariadne squirm like the eight year olds they’d last been when this sort of parental bonding had occurred.

Tuning out of the conversation, he turned back to gaze at the school he would never again attend, and found himself smiling softly, almost regretfully, as he regarded the building and all too easily pictured just how it would go on without him and his friends, exactly as it had before them, and as it always would.

He was disrupted from this surprisingly melancholic train of thought as someone knocked his shoulder heavily in passing. Glancing around him, he realized he had unwittingly wandered away from his family and drifted back a few paces closer to the school itself. Eames regarded him mockingly as he strode backward now, hands in his pockets as he kept his gaze locked solidly on Arthur’s.

Eames shook his head mock-sorrowfully, tutting gently. “No looking back now, Arthur,” he called softly, “Only forward.”

And then he smiled, so bright and beautiful in the sunlight that it burned Arthur - through and through again - until his eyes watered. His own smile quavered with the devotion that still rose toward Eames like the ocean reaching for the moon. Eames’ smile faltered as the loss hung heavy between them again, but then his mother was calling his name and Arthur knew, even as he turned back the barest moment later from answering her, that Eames was gone, back inside the school. For a moment – just one moment, just to feel it – he let himself sway with the shattered heartbeat that threatened to tear him in two, before he gathered himself and – smiling – faced forward and walked off into his future.


It had started raining sometime around 11.30pm and Arthur had tipped his head back into it, delighted, before letting Rob drag him back under the awning and push him down to sag feebly into a chair. Smiling, he watched Ariadne still dancing her jubilant little heart out, Yusuf her orbiting, adoring satellite, his eyes and smile wide as they talked, laughed and kissed to the clamoring, insistent beat.

Ben, in his wisdom, had decided that if his daughter simply had to party herself sick over their collective newfound freedom from enforced academia, then she had best do it where he could at least set a few boundaries – thus was the punch liberally spiked but all car keys had been collected at the door and a thankfully subtle adult presence lurked at the edges of the joyously celebrating group, all dancing madly to the hired (and thankfully excellent) DJ beneath a giant marquee that had been set out in case of the now warm but heavy rain.

“Ah, young love.” Arthur clinked his glass against Robert’s as he tumbled down into the chair beside his, leering in an exaggerated fashion as he leaned over Arthur to nuzzle at his jaw.

“Just say the word, my prince, and we too can gaze adoringly at one another and smooch ecstatically until the dawn approacheth...”

Arthur snorted, amused right up until Rob tilted his face to slant his lips over his, soft, warm and easy, before settling back into his chair, one eyebrow raised expectantly, even as something serious lurked behind his teasing, irreverent grin.

“Um...?” Arthur said slowly, drunk enough to be thrown by the situation, and Rob smiled gently, almost soothing as he reached out a hand to lightly smack Arthur about the head.

“Oh, don’t panic. Honestly, you’re such a goddamn girl, Arthur. I just figured I’d give it one last try. I know we’re friends and all, but you’re still ridiculously hot, y’know?”

Arthur barked a short, shocked laugh and took a steadying, deep swallow of his drink, bolstered by the familiar amused glint in Robert’s gaze.

“Thought you’d already crossed me off your list and moved onto pastures new?” he quipped and was rewarded by Rob’s smirk and shrugged shoulders as he slumped back into his own seat with smug satisfaction radiating drunkenly from every pore.

“We-ell,” Rob drawled, “it’s true that - having been spurned by you – I have, indeed, found solace in the arms of another-”

“-and another....”

“...and then a few more for luck,” Rob winked as Arthur grinned, “But I have found that friendship with you is worth far more than a simple, tawdry tumble.”

Arthur held out his glass and Rob clacked his against Arthur’s once more; a salute to their now firm and fond friendship, and they each took a hearty gulp, smiling as their eyes burned from the myriad of mixed alcohols, handily sloshed together into Ariadne’s Graduation Party Punch.

“It was just closure, y’know? Leave no deed undone, no word unsaid and all that trite fucking garbage. I just want to start this new phase happy, y’know? Ditch all the baggage, redress the regrets... Dr. Phil shit, basically.”

Arthur began a smile that faltered, falling into a frown even as a soft laugh built in his chest as he spluttered, “Right... Wait, what? I was part of your baggage list?”

Rob pulled a face, a light flush of embarrassment staining his cheekbones and darkening his already alcohol-rosy skin.

“No! No... Well, sort of, only in the sense that, well, I’d wondered, y’know, if I hadn’t hit on you back when you were still all crazy broken-hearted and shit, if maybe it might have turned out differently. It’s not like I was pining for you or anything, just kind of thought about it once or twice, and only because we’re so good now, like, maybe it should have been more... y’know?”

Arthur blinked, slow and deliberate to detract from how his hands wanted to curl in on themselves to keep from shaking in mild horror. “And... kissing me then, that helped?”

Rob smiled, broad and mischievous, and Arthur felt his building panic recede somewhat.

“Oh, it helped. Hot though you may be, my friend, you are not for me and I am not for you. Am I right?” He quirked a brow and Arthur was hard pushed to not beam back at him in turn.

“I’d say you’re right,” he agreed, mock solemnly, and Rob sniffed, affecting his father’s now-famous, disdainful glance toward Arthur.

“Of course I am. I’m always right, Wright. Right?”

Arthur held out his glass once more and this time their toast sloshed each of their drinks up and over the sides of their glasses.

“Right,” he agreed seriously and they each affected a mature, comradely pleasure with the other’s company before laughing together like idiots and heading back to the punchbowl.

“After all,” Rob grinned as they drank and danced until the room spun and lunged about them, “we’ll only have this moment once – might as well do it right.”

And, as Ari and he spun in wide, whirling circles, their gripped fingertips all that kept each other from falling directly to the floor, he tried to ignore that sick, tight feeling of wrong that Rob’s words had evoked in him.

It stayed all throughout the prerequisite slow dancing that brought the evening to a close, and lasted through to helping Ben and Ari put everyone into cabs or family cars to drive home. It coiled miserably and painfully in his gut as Ari chattered nineteen to the dozen from the backseat, laughing with Ben about the day itself and the party and everything, it seemed, so that Arthur was forced to speak out past the lump of lead in his throat, affecting mirth and merriment in turn until they left him, waving and smiling gaily (painfully so) on his driveway.

He turned as though to walk inside and then stood, simply staring as the rain soaked through him. He looked at the apartment that had been his home for so long and wondered why the thought of walking up the stairs and heading indoors felt so repellent to him now.

His head spun, lopsided and aching and somehow empty, as he slowly turned back to look upon his street as the rain fell through the darkness, giving everything a barren, almost haunted look beneath the streetlights. He knew, with every fiber of his being, that it was simply not where he should be.

He walked at first, slightly unsteady as some still higher functioning part of his brain objected and tried to talk him back home and into bed, walking slowly with careful, contemplative steps as though he might suddenly change his mind, only to find that the further he moved down his road, the more the knot loosened deep within him.

He walked faster then, his wingtips clicking somewhat defiantly on the sidewalk and slapping in and out of shallow puddles until his socks were as saturated as the rest of him, but the rain didn’t bother him, nor the darkness. He crossed the street that brought him out of his own neighborhood and far, far closer to his destination, he couldn’t help but walk faster still and then, as his foot lifted back up from tarmac to sidewalk, he ran.

He ran as fast as his body would let him, skidding and slipping over wet paving slabs and slick asphalt, spinning around corners with arms that spiraled and sliced through the night air to better keep his balance. His breath burned in his chest even as his skin tingled and tightened. The airflow and rain chilled him in his flight and his body circulated the alcohol in his system faster, and then yet faster, so that his mind swerved and spun within his skull with only a few wild thoughts making it through the chaos, but then, they were the only ones that mattered at that point.

Eames,” Arthur panted as he reached his drive, too raw and rushed to be heard above his labored breaths, but calling for him all the same as his shaking, dripping body powered him up the path to stop, swaying and suddenly unsure, before the doorway.

“Eames...” he said again and lifted a fist to knock urgently – painfully - upon the wood, taking deep, gulped breaths as he watched the darkened living room window, waiting for Eames to snatch it wide as he had before, waiting, watching, and then, with a tiny, disconsolate noise of need, he knocked again – longer, louder.

A light came on somewhere within; Arthur could see it just at the very edges of his vision, his stare unwavering upon the door. He could see how the window reflected its weak rays somewhere inside and Arthur took a polite step backward, rocking slightly on his heels as the door opened slowly, the blackness beyond only broken by the bulk of Eames’ body, his shocked, slack expression doing nothing for the roiling, horrified begging at the back of Arthur’s mind as he clasped his hands together and tried to not reach out and touch.

“A-Arthur?” Eames rasped in bewildered disbelief, blinking as his expression sharpened, focusing on the gently resonant ring of droplets upon the ground outside, the limp darkness of Arthur’s clothes and hair against his skin, and the way he swayed and gasped before him. “Jesus fuck, you’re soaked, get in here!”

He closed his palm around the firm knot of Arthur’s wrist bone and jerked him across the threshold with a huff of surprise as Arthur stumbled forward, knocking into him before snatching away, determined to not cling and drip and beg like a weeping teenage girl.

“Please,” Arthur said and swayed, his hand reaching to cover where Eames’ still gripped him, holding his eyes even as he panted and rocked on unsteady feet, “Please, please just let me say good bye to you, the real you. I – I don’t, I can’t just – I need closure, or something. I – I need this... please let me, let me...”

Eames lifted a hand to grip at Arthur’s shoulder, steadying him where he’d been gradually tilting to one side, and frowned at him. Arthur would have said more but his teeth took that moment to begin chattering and Eames sighed, releasing him.

“You’re dripping wet, Arthur. Let me get you a towel or something, hm? Then we’ll see if we can’t sober you up some.”

He turned to walk up the stairs and Arthur let out a noise suspiciously like a sob and grabbed at him, his wet hands fisting into the sleep-warmed material of Eames’ t-shirt and he was gasping, “No, please” even as Eames gently detached him.

“Arthur,” he said and met his gaze steadily (albeit with tired, shuttered eyes), “You’re shivering and wet and until that is rectified we can’t talk about anything else. Now, I’m going to go fetch something to sort you out, so why don’t you take a seat. I’ll be back in just a minute.”

He pushed Arthur toward the living room and jogged quickly up the stairs. The room lurched and spun about Arthur as he tried to gulp down the horror and humiliation building in his chest.

He looked down and saw the water dripping from him, pooling around his feet and, shaking his head violently, he staggered backward, away from the leather chairs and sofa, to wrap two shaking hands about the newel post at the base of Eames’ banister. Easing himself onto the lowest step on the staircase, he rested his head against the cool, solid wood and bit his tongue to hold back something like a sob.

It wasn’t fair, he decided brokenly as the floor and walls about him continued to buck and slant before, forcing him to close his eyes and lean more fully into the wooden spindles.

He’d just wanted to talk to Eames, to tell him how necessary and wonderful he’d been, to tell him how they couldn’t just part without Arthur being allowed to look his fill and break his heart over his farewell, to tell him he would miss him and... and...


He awoke to the sensation of a dry mouth and throat, and a deliciously cool pillow beneath his aching head.

He sat up, moaning softly as he reached for the Tylenol tablets he could see on the bedside table, and chased them with a gulp of the gloriously cool water he’d found alongside it, mentally thanking whoever had been thoughtful enough to...


Arthur sat fully upright and took in his surroundings with wide, protesting eyes.

He was in a large, barely lit bed that perched beneath a window where the rain slicked the pane, dulling what looked to be the blue predawn light into murky grey, its shade casting itself over everything in the room so that Arthur was hard pushed to tell where shadow left off and texture and color began.

He shivered slightly then, aware of an odd, clammy sensation and, shifting, he found himself stripped but for his equally rain soaked boxers around which a towel had been firmly wrapped before, it seemed, he had been placed into this large and otherwise empty bed.

Eames’ bed.

Eames had undressed him and put him to bed.

Arthur glanced again at the night stand where his watch, cell, keys and wallet all sat, dry and carefully placed where he could easily find them.

Arthur’s heart swelled and broke a little under the weight of such possibly-humiliating kindness and he swung his legs around and out of bed, pleased to find that his head no longer swam, and that the world had ceased to tilt and twirl like a merry go round.

He regarded the wide, shadowed space before slowly making his way toward the open door just off to one side of the bed. His fingers spanned against a cool tile wall until he found and flicked on the light switch, wincing as his reflection blinked back at him, rumpled and still mostly bedraggled, from the bathroom mirror. He rinsed his mouth out and splashed his face with water that seemed too loud, echoing in the tiled, empty room as he unwrapped the towel from about his hips. He dried his face and scrubbed at his hair until it resembled something slightly less mop-like, and then turned to stare at his shirt & suit, hung up and drying against the radiator. A fierce clutch of tenderness made his chest seize so painfully that his eyes watered.

He shut off the light and leaned against the doorframe, standing there until his eyes readjusted to the rain-darkened room and the sluggishly building light, before he walked back toward the bed where a pair of sweats and a t-shirt lay draped across the footboard.

Stripping quickly out of his still-damp boxers, he snatched up and donned the sweats, then gave the wide, warm bed a considering look as he hovered, uncertain, at its foot.

He was sure he should crawl back into the embrace of bedding that had no doubt smelled like Eames (had he but taken a moment to check upon waking) and sleep until his stomach caught up with his head – and until his heart ceased to flutter like a small, frightened bird in his chest – but there was an emptiness about the spread-wide comforter and indented pillows that mirrored a gaping loss in him and so, dropping the t-shirt back onto the footboard from nerveless fingers, he steeled himself and went to find Eames.

He glanced through the other doors that stood open as he went on tiptoes across the landing. He found only another bathroom, an office, and a horribly empty room filled only with labeled, stacked boxes that caused a low coil of dread to form in his belly. His fingers were tight and trembling on the banister as he slowly descended the staircase.

The wood groaned gently beneath his tentative footsteps as he stopped midway down; his eyes flickered about the grey-washed living room. The watery light gave the shadows a sharper definition, stretching from point to point so that the room was cocooned in an almost otherworldly glow and there, in the long line of light reaching weakly from the windows, sprawled across the larger leather sofa, was Eames.

Braced high on the balls of his feet, Arthur crept down the rest of the staircase, crossed the floor on near-silent footsteps, and followed the sound of Eames’ deep, even breaths until he stood over him, just looking. His breath caught hot and high in his chest as he took in the face half-turned into the sofa cushions, the jumbled drape of his limbs over and off of the side of the sofa itself, and for a moment, it was all Arthur could do to just stand there and watch the steady expand and fall of his ribs beneath his t-shirt and wonder at the vulnerability that a pair of black sweats, a black t-shirt and bare feet could evoke.

Sighing softly at his own despondence, his heart trembled against his ribs as he dipped down – close enough to touch – to lift the fallen blanket. He draped it back over Eames, skin prickling at the proximity, and stood for just a moment more to simply look before he walked over to the window, hands deep in his pockets, and watched the impending sunrise attempt to light each raindrop in turn against the glass.

He stood there long enough for the slight chill that came from the wind and rain beyond the window to reach out and lightly kiss his skin, forming goosebumps, his nipples peaking, and then, just as he was considering the hard choice between donning his still-damp clothes and disappearing into the grey morning light or sidling quietly back upstairs to lie, awkward and longing, in Eames’ bed, just hoping that the man wouldn’t hate him or treat him like a child when he awoke, something changed.

The silence, abrupt and oddly terrifying, brought him free of his thoughts. The lulling rhythm of Eames’ deep, even breaths was suddenly, horribly, absent and Arthur steeled himself to not move, fingers tensing in his pockets as his gaze fixed on the solid darkness of the sofa’s reflection in the pane before him. He struggled to keep his own breaths relaxed and unchanged as he watched Eames’ feet swing silently down to the floor, the whisper of the blanket falling and the gentle groan of couch springs giving audible testament to where Arthur watched Eames slowly sit up, watching him in turn.

“You’ve got it wrong, y’know,” Arthur said quietly after a beat, his spine held straight and stiff as he kept his gaze steady on the pale orb of Eames’ face in the window, “When an unwelcome guest stops by, you make them sleep on the sofa, not you.”

Eames ran his hands over his face, his shoulders low as he slumped into the gesture. Arthur swallowed.

“Of course, it’s easier if you just toss said unwanted guest out on their ear and then forget they were ever here to start with.”

“You were drunk. Not to mention soaked to the skin.”

Arthur stiffened, mortified even as his skin prickled with the knowledge that Eames knew precisely how wet he’d been.

“Yes,” he said carefully in return, with what he hoped was subtle emphasis, “I was.”

He watched with a sad, almost starved gaze as Eames wearily rubbed at the bridge of his nose. Arthur’s eyes fixed on him, heavy like an almost physical touch as they catalogued every detail to be gleaned from the slightly blurred and somehow more accessible man reflected in the window pane.

“I’m sorry,” he said, breathless and rushing as he fought to explain himself before Eames could think even less of him, or ask him to leave. “I’m so, so sorry to have showed up here so late and put you to so much trouble, it’s just that I... I just...”

He broke off, swallowing the surge of need and devastation that threatened at the back of his throat with every breath, and let his eyes fall shut against the weight of Eames’ gaze, not quite matched to his upon the foggy glass.

“I just couldn’t, couldn’t leave it - this – without seeing you, really seeing you, not dancing around with pointed, painful smiles and awkward handshakes in suits and pretending. I...”

He turned, licking dry lips as he faced Eames with his hands clenched in his pockets, hoping the darkness still masked the uncertainty he knew still trembled beneath his skin.

“I wanted to say goodbye, plain and simple. Just, not to the man in the suit I’m not supposed to miss the way I’ll miss you. I, I wanted – I wanted to see you, just – just one last time...”

He wrenched his eyes back from where they had held on Eames’ down-tipped profile; the Englishman’s eyes were hooded, his expression closely guarded by darkness. Arthur spun back to face the window in an attempt to haul back some small portion of dignity to hold him upright until he could walk out of there.

“Just once,” Eames echoed, his voice so quiet that Arthur wondered if it had actually been him who whispered it. His eyes abruptly widened as he watched Eames rub his hands roughly over his face, shaking his head even as he saw the shine of his uneven teeth, a huff of soft laughter made him surge slightly in place.

“You came here, knowing it was probably wrong and... and possibly futile, and... Christ, I have no idea why that would surprise me.”

Eames voice was soft, conversationally soft, and almost meandering from word to word, “You – you’re so bloody brave aren’t you, Arthur? You risked my wrath, such as it is, and your... not your pride, you’re better than that, but certainly your sense of personal well-being, your self-esteem - your dignity - to come and see me just one last time and I, I couldn’t even...”

He made a strange sound, like a laugh torn free from a sob and abruptly rose, ducking forward even as he stood, his face in his hands, before jerking back upright. He roughly palmed his hair back over his skull before facing where Arthur had half-turned back to him, Eames’ name heavy on his lips, freezing as their eyes met in the dim light.

They stood a moment, frozen with the shock of actually facing each other, it seemed, until Eames sighed and slumped back slightly to lean against the closest arm of the sofa, his gaze heavy where it held Arthur’s with something like resignation.

“I saw Ariadne’s show,” he said gruffly and Arthur’s brow crinkled at the conversational leap. Eames dropped his gaze low enough to hood his eyes almost completely. “And I saw... I wanted–“

He cut himself off again and licked his lips with something that looked like frustration before something surprising and sweet, almost a smile, tugged at their corners.

“I saw you before classes even began. I mean, I saw you running round the track the weekend before term. I was going over my lesson plans up in the stands and you ran past me time and time again and never looked up once, and I thought Christ, I hope that’s not a student and then there you sodding well were, right smack in my class. God, I was so disappointed.” He laughed, short and sharp, as he crossed his arms over his chest and Arthur turned mostly back toward the window, somehow unable to bear the weight of Eames’ sudden honesty full on.

“I told myself that that was it, no big deal,” he continued, “I’d hoped you were staff, but you weren’t, so that should have been that... only, you were you and you were – are – brilliant and... and biting and funny and god, so many different things I normally flip over. I just kept making it worse for myself – pushing you in class and toward doing Hamlet and – fuck’s sake all those self-flagellating lifts home and... god, I just wanted to kiss you... I wanted to kiss you so much...”

Arthur trembled, turning his back to the room in an attempt to steady himself, watching the window with his breath caught in his chest as Eames rose from the arm of the sofa and walked up to stand just behind him. Arthur’s skin blazed at his approach and for a beat they each simply stood there and breathed.

“I told myself that it was for you when I backed off, at first – thought you’d realize what a creepy fuck I was being eventually, thought you’d notice how much I wanted you. But it wasn’t for you, it was all me... after Boxing Day Mal ripped me to pieces, told me how stupid I was being, how she knew and adored you and if I didn’t back the fuck off then she’d skin me. And I thought that's it, that's enough and I tried so hard to just be your teacher, not even the piss poor friend I’d been trying for, just Mr. Eames and... it was awful and I just couldn’t do it. But I told myself I’d never, never let you know how I felt, what I was thinking, and then, then that day when you...”

Arthur stiffened, visibly, it seemed, because suddenly a warm palm whispered over the rigid line of his shoulders and Eames’ hot breath brushed at his nape. His hand dropped to rest lightly at Arthur’s waist as Eames continued huskily,

“And then I had to tell you no... and then, then I had to let you when you pretended we’d never kissed.” Arthur shuddered and Eames’ arm slid around him, dragging his forearm across the quivering tautness of Arthur’s belly until his palm cupped the ridge of his hip and his back rested against Eames’ cotton-covered chest. His lips were warm and regretful as he dipped down against Arthur’s nape to speak.

“So then I was going to leave, back then and now. Walk away and never see you again like a fucking coward and here you are... beautiful and brave and, and I was just going to let you go. I took a fucking picture on my phone of Ari’s photo of you, tried to pretend like I wasn’t fucking doing it. I only barely took it out of my pocket – and then when I got back to my car it was just this awful blurred-out image of what might have been your lower lip, and possibly the line of your thigh and I just sat there, sat in my car and I couldn’t do anything but look at that sodding picture and try to tell myself I could make do, that I could get through a world where I’d never see you again as long as I had that stupid fucking picture.”

Eames dropped his forehead to rest at Arthur’s nape and sighed shakily. His hands crossed over each other to clasp at Arthur’s hips, gripping hard enough to bruise, and Arthur’s eyes stung. Eames’ mouth was hot against his skin as he whispered, shaking and self-loathing against his flesh. “I’m so sorry, Arthur... I... I tried so hard to save us both and all I did was make us miserable...” He swallowed and Arthur felt Eames’ sorrow, his words like a brand upon them both. “I’ve been so fucking stupid.”

Arthur moved, clean and sharp, as though moving through water once more. He turned in Eames’ arms without dislodging his hold, his own fingers spearing through the hair at Eames’ nape as he jerked him close, smirking even as he bit his tongue to keep from spilling all the desperate words still lodged deep in his chest.

“C’mere, stupid,” he said gruffly and wrapped his arms about Eames in turn, shivering with delight as Eames swiftly turned his face in to press tightly at his throat, each clinging to the other as though reality might intercede at any moment and rip them apart once more.

TBC in Part 11b
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December 2011

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