Arthur spends a blissful year of his life without Sherlock Holmes. They’re in London around the six month point, laying low after a job that Eames described as going ‘balls up’, a description Arthur privately agreed with. On the second day, over the Guardian, Eames says, conversational, “I’m going to pop round John’s for some tea, do you want to come?” and Arthur blanches so obviously that Eames is still laughing when he leaves.
That would be it, that should be it, but seven months after that they get a job offer, seven figures, that they can’t say no to. That wouldn’t be a problem, but there’s been no one like Dom extracting since he retired, his skills unparalled even half insane and with the spectre of Mal in his dreams. Eames can passably extract, and Arthur if it’s needed, but neither of them have the skill required. It’s odd, a sap smack in the middle of the British government, someone that Arthur should be able to extract alone, but a he’s stubbornly inscrutable even after a month of surveillance, and Arthur can’t get a read on him. Hell, Eames can’t get a read on him.
Arthur’s ready to scrap the job entirely, profit down the drain, when Eames says, between kisses pressed against Arthur’s sternum, “I have a proposition.”
“Is it sucking my cock?” Arthur asks. “Because you’ve convinced me.”
“You’re not going to like it,” Eames says.
Arthur looks down at him, and Eames rests his chin on Arthur’s clavicle. “I know someone who could extract for us,” he says.
“And you didn’t mention this a month ago?” Arthur asks.
“You won’t like it,” Eames repeats mildly, and Arthur rolls his eyes, gestures for him to go on. “Sherlock Holmes,” Eames says, and Arthur knees him in the balls in a pure, horrified reflex.
“Oh god why?” Eames says plaintively, rolling off.
“Are you trying to never get laid again?” Arthur asks. “Is that our new safe word? Because it’s effective, I’ll give you that.”
“No,” Eames says, curling into himself, a pitiful ball. “He could extract for us. He’s the only person I can think of who could do it.”
“No,” Arthur says. “No, and also fuck no, and also go fuck yourself.”
They fly to London the next day.
John greets them at the door, looking strangely unsurprised as he leads them inside. “Sherlock,” John says to a lump on the sofa. The lump sniffs. John prods at it, and it curls up tighter before uncurling, turning so the lump transforms into Sherlock, all long planes and exceptionally grumpy face.
“Did he scrap one of your experiments?” Eames says, with a faux-conciliatory voice Arthur can hear the mockery in. “Ban whips in bed?”
“You are a horrible man,” Sherlock grumps, which seems far below his usual standard of insult. He then blinks at Arthur. “Are you wearing Zegna?”
“Yes,” Arthur says, blinking back.
“I truly don’t understand why you put up with him,” Sherlock says to Arthur, and while Eames huffs beside him, Arthur can feel a bit of his hatred begin to thaw. Not much, but a bit.
Sherlock’s sulky attitude disappears the moment they tell him what they came for. “Can we start now?” he asks.
“You’ll have to change out of your pyjamas first,” John calls from the other room, where he’s watching TV.
“It’s dreaming, John,” Sherlock says derisively. “You don’t change out of your pyjamas for dreaming.”
John doesn’t seem to dignify that response, and after a minute Sherlock stomps into his room, coming back considerably better dressed.
“Now?” he asks, “can we start now?”
“I’m coming with you,” John says.
“Why?” Sherlock whines. “You’ll stop me from doing anything fun.”
“Exactly,” John says, and gets his coat.
Arthur, not for the first time, wonders what the fuck he’s getting into.
Within two days, Ariadne and Yusuf have flown in, Arthur has secured a warehouse, and Sherlock has sapped Arthur of his will to live. His enthusiasm is exhausting, and while John seems level-headed enough ordinarily, it seems to be contagious sometimes, the both of them feeding off one another until Arthur’s tired just looking at them.
Eames seems kind of down as well, especially since the first night, Arthur turned his back to Eames in bed and said “I am not fucking you with Sherlock in the same city.”
“What?” Eames had said, sounding heartbroken.
“He’ll deduce it,” Arthur says. “He’ll deduce the position, and the brand of lube, and how long it took to come. So no.”
He wouldn’t have said it so confidently if Sherlock hadn’t done that exactly, earlier that day, gleefully repeating the sex they’d had the night before in excruciating detail, until Arthur was red, and John was red, and Eames was saying “I lasted at least thirty seconds longer than that.”
“No you didn’t,” Sherlock had said.
And no, he hadn’t.
So when Ariadne and Yusuf come, Arthur is beyond relieved, hoping they can distract Sherlock enough with the presence of more saps to abuse so Arthur can take a nap and maybe blow Eames while Sherlock’s systematically humiliating them.
He never said he was a nice person.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Ariadne flies in first, and when she gets to the warehouse they’ve settled in, Sherlock stands and eyes her. Ariadne draws herself up to her full height, which still means Sherlock’s dwarfing her.
“Hm,” Sherlock says, with a hint of a smile, and says nothing.
“Oh come on,” Arthur says. “You’re not going to say anything?”
“She’d very likely hit me,” Sherlock says.
Arthur gives him a disbelieving look.
“And John wouldn’t stop her,” Sherlock adds.
“Nope,” John says, not looking up from his paper.
Arthur glares at the whiteboard until Eames comes over, hand settling on his hip. “Deep breaths, darling,” he says, and Arthur settles for glaring at him instead.
“Hey,” Ariadne’s saying, and Arthur looks over to find her with her hands on her hips, looking like she wants to hit John instead. “You won’t stop me because I’m a girl?”
“Do you have military training?” John says.
“No,” she says.
“I only protect Sherlock from grievous injury,” John says, and turns the page. “Everything else he deserves.”
Sherlock lets out an exceedingly offended huff.
“I’ll give him grievous injury,” Arthur mutters, and Eames murmurs, “I know,” consoling into his ear.
Arthur prays, he prays for Sherlock to be verbally abusive to Yusuf, but it’s even worse. Sherlock and Yusuf seem to hit it off immediately, which is terrifying. Yusuf’s common-sense is outmatched by his scientific curiosity far too much as it is, and with Sherlock prodding him along with probing questions, Yusuf just seems to get more and more excited.
Arthur is waiting for the entire warehouse to blow up. When it’s only a small fire, it’s a tremendous relief.
Arthur tries to stay clear of Sherlock, do his own work. Sherlock slips into dreams with Ariadne, the two of them discussing paradoxes, discussing limits of space with their hands flying, and Arthur starts to believe John’s statement, a year old now, that Sherlock knows everything. It’s incredibly irritating.
Ariadne seems to love Sherlock’s dreams, comes out looking almost high, and Arthur would be surprised, but then, she’s wandered into the depths of Cobb’s absolute mania, into limbo, and come out fine, so he supposes even Sherlock can’t break her enthusiasm.
Sherlock and Yusuf continue their discussions, which get so scientific that Arthur, who is fairly well versed in the chemistry of Somnacin, only understands one word out of three. So Arthur keeps his head down, ignores everyone, while Eames slacks off and chatters to John, who is taking his Sherlock sitting very seriously, perhaps because Sherlock is in the vicinity of at least five firearms, a lot of volatile chemicals, and a device Arthur thinks Sherlock could probably take over the world with.
Eames comes over occasionally, tries to rub out the knots that are curling into Arthur’s shoulders, but Arthur shrugs him off, because every time he does, Sherlock seems to be watching with his clear eyes. Eames quits trying after awhile, instead attempts to teach Sherlock how to forge. Sherlock’s forgeries are perfect, absolutely perfect in detail, but entirely unusable, because something always seems the slightest bit off. Their eyes are never right. Eames seems relieved by it, and honestly, Arthur is too. The fact Eames is the best forger in the business is about the only excuse Arthur has to stick to him like a burr, and if Sherlock takes that away, Arthur will want him dead. More than he already does.
Of course, it’s impossible to avoid Sherlock entirely. There’s a night when it’s just the two of them staying late, Eames and John rolling their eyes at one another and going to dinner together when neither Arthur or Sherlock responded to their increasingly frequent begging for food.
“You don’t like me very much, do you,” Sherlock says, not looking up from Yusuf’s table.
“How’d you get that idea?” Arthur asks, kicking his feet up onto the table.
“Most people don’t like me,” Sherlock says, not self-pitying, just a statement of fact. “But you dislike me for a different reason than most people.”
“Oh?” Arthur asks, watching Sherlock’s back as he continues whatever minor experiment (calamity) he’s doing now.
“Most people dislike me because I know more than I should,” Sherlock says. “You dislike me because you don’t.”
“Excuse me?” Arthur says.
“You’re not used to not being the smartest in the room, are you?” Sherlock asks.
Arthur doesn’t answer, but that seems to be answer enough for Sherlock. “No one can always be the smartest person in the room,” Sherlock says, turning to face Arthur, and if he didn’t know better, it’d almost sound like sympathy.
“Even you?” Arthur asks.
“Except for me,” Sherlock says, back to his smug self, and Arthur, for some reason, smiles at him. Sherlock, for some reason, smiles back.
After that, Arthur can handle things a bit better, even though Sherlock greets him the next morning with a concise “I see you have returned to regular sexual intercourse. You never needed to halt for my benefit,” and Yusuf responds to that information by giving Eames a high-five. He tries to do the same with Arthur, but Arthur gives him a withering look until he puts his hand down.
It works, weirdly, the entire thing works, Sherlock with his fingers in everyone’s business but Arthur’s, letting Arthur work on his own, not asking anything about the mark’s background, nothing, like some odd professional courtesy. Arthur appreciates it.
Arthur never gives Sherlock any information on their mark, partly because he doesn’t seem to need it, needs the cover the basics of the dreaming and let his deducing slide in with ease. It may also be partly because Arthur is a little afraid that Sherlock will look at the man’s file and figure out every secret he knows without dreaming at all, and Arthur may not be a proud man, not overly so, at least, but his ego would not be able to handle that.
So it’s the day before the job when Arthur slides the file over to Sherlock, and within ten seconds Sherlock is laughing. It’s not his usual laughter, not the derisive one when someone is apparently too stupid to live, or the short burst when John seems to surprise him. It’s threaded with amusement, deep and long, and it makes him sound almost human. Everyone in the work room pauses to stare, and then John goes over to him, peers over his shoulder. And starts laughing.
Arthur’s starting to be annoyed he’s missing the joke. “Okay,” he snaps. “What’s so funny?”
“You want me to extract from Mycroft,” Sherlock giggles.
Arthur blinks. “Who?” he asks. It’s not the name on the file, not David Eldersburg, stodgy, middle-management, receding hairline Eldersburg, who’s been stuck without promotion for five years.
“Mycroft,” John giggles.
“What?” Arthur asks. He’s lost the thread of the conversation somewhere.
“I assumed I’d be extracting from someone of inferior intelligence,” Sherlock says. “Oh, this will be good.”
Arthur must have misheard, because it sounds like Sherlock just said someone was as smart as he was.
“He may even be someone with superior intelligence,” John says, and Sherlock jabs him viciously with a pointy-looking elbow. John doesn’t even seem to flinch.
“I’ll do it,” Sherlock says, clapping his hands together.
“You will not,” John says.
“Why not?” Sherlock asks.
“You are not extracting from England itself,” John says. “Also, Mycroft pays your portion of our rent. And is your brother. ”
“My nemesis,” Sherlock says sulkily.
“No,” John says.
Sherlock pouts, then stands in a whirl of coat. “I cannot do this,” he says, eyeing John. “For I have an exceedingly irritating conscience.”
“What?” Arthur manages. It’s about the only word he has left in his vocabulary.
“Sorry lads,” John says. “Um. Ariadne.”
“What the fuck just happened?” Ariadne asks.
For the second time in a year, Arthur puts his head in his hands and resists the urge to cry. He doesn’t know what he did to deserve this, other than steal into people’s minds and take their secrets, other than maybe kill a few people, mostly in self-defense. The point is, he has never done anything to deserve Sherlock Holmes. Genocide wouldn’t deserve Sherlock Holmes.
“There there,” Eames says, suddenly behind him. “The bad man is all gone now.”
Arthur kicks back blindly, landing a blow to Eames’ shin, and feels dimly better once Eames is hopping around the room, cursing. But only dimly.
Fucking Sherlock Holmes.