Eames is a brilliant singer — some say, indeed, the most brilliant singer — and so this spring, aged just-past-thirty, Eames finds himself living and working in Paris and singing the part of Lescaut at the Bastille Opera House. The only really terrible thing about any of this is that Eames is far away from his brilliant — most brilliant — husband, Arthur. Eames misses Arthur awfully.
Tonight, he is thinking about the spring air, the roll and whoosh of traffic on the road where he’s walking; Eames is thinking about how he will continue his hunt for the best tea in the 14e arrondissement tomorrow; he is pondering the white blooms on that caged tree, trying to decide if they’re cherry or apple blossoms. Eames is definitely not thinking at all about Arthur, not even a little. That’s why it’s so surprising, when on turning into the lobby of his modest hotel, Eames sees Arthur standing at the concierge’s desk, having an argument.
For a moment Eames’ mind darts to and fro, half-convinced that he must be imagining things. Maybe he’s asleep and dreaming, or maybe that man just strongly resembles Arthur. But then Eames blinks, and his pulse steadies, and he’s able to admit that his first impression was correct: against all odds and reason, that is Arthur standing in the hotel lobby. Arthur, who’d hung up the phone not sixteen hours earlier making pitiful noises about all the work that needed doing at the conservatory.
Eames loves Arthur very much. He loves Arthur to the moon and back, he loves him like meat loves salt, he’ll love him forever and always, and for as long as Eames is living.
But all this love aside, Eames can never quite resist teasing Arthur when the opportunity presents itself.
So Eames sidles up casually, Arthur too involved in his argument with the concierge to notice him, and eavesdrops long enough to gather that Arthur is trying to gain admittance to Eames’ room, and the concierge is insisting he cannot allow such a thing. Arthur is answering in perfect, if American-sounding, schoolboy French; the concierge is refusing to debase his mother tongue in such a way, speaking in perfect, if French-accented, schoolboy English.
(Something Eames is trying not to notice, because it is distracting, is that Arthur is wearing his leather Zegna coat magnificently; more, his hair is neat in spite of just having gotten off a transatlantic flight and he — he smells heavenly, perfect, familiar, dizzying, lovely.)
Eames’ French is far worse than Arthur’s, so when he interjects he does so in his best haughty British accent, announcing that he’s never met this man before and would the concierge be so kind as to eject him from the premises, as Eames can’t be troubled by every mad fan off the streets in the privacy of his own hotel.
The concierge is about halfway through assuring Monsieur Eames that he will take care of this American with all due haste when he notices the way Arthur is glaring daggers at Eames and Eames is grinning back at him gleefully.
"May I introduce my husband," Arthur says in French, very drily indeed. Je vous présente mon mari, just like that.
Eames smirks an apology at the concierge and wastes no more time, because Arthur’s coat and hair and scent are all very well, but Arthur’s brown eyes are irresistible, always have been. Arthur is stiff and annoyed at first, resisting Eames’ helpless embrace, but he gives in when Eames doesn’t relent, huffing out a wonderfully annoyed sigh and putting his arms round Eames at last.
It’s not easy to let go now that Eames has an armful of Arthur, but they are still in the lobby and the concierge is still two scant feet away, so Eames pulls back and wraps his hand around the handle of Arthur’s suitcase, rolls it towards the little antique lift at the other end of the lobby. Arthur follows closely. They’re not quite touching, but their shoulders are brushing, their arms, and Eames wants very badly to kiss Arthur’s quirking mouth, but he knows very well that loving someone to the moon and back means that once you start kissing them you might not be able to stop.
It’s a nice hotel, after all.
So Eames lets the back of his free hand swing against the soft leather of Arthur’s coat, clutches the suitcase handle, and darts hungry quick glances at Arthur, the circles under his eyes and the line of amusement flickering at the margin of his mouth.
"It was going to be a lot smoother," Arthur says when they gain the privacy of the lift. “There was going to be candlelight and champagne."
"Yes, well," Eames says, doing his best not to laugh outright at the disgruntled look on Arthur's face.
"Why should I travel with our marriage certificate anyway?" Arthur bursts out. "I mean, what if I were a woman? What if I'd changed my name and I was Mrs. Eames, would they still grill me to death at the front--"
It's half self-defense, of course; let Arthur get started on Big Brother and gay rights and counter-terrorism and there would be no stopping him. But the other half of the impulse is pure selfish want, Eames pressing Arthur to the side of the lift and kissing his mouth hard and long, gripping Arthur's arms and it's not really smooth, it's Eames' own version of getting trapped at the front desk except Eames is doing it to himself, caught in a sudden overwhelming surge of loneliness.
It doesn't make any sense, of course, feeling lonely now with Arthur in his arms, but loneliness is always the worst the moment before it ends. Usually it hits Eames in the walk up to the house, or in the last moments walking through the terminal before catching sight of Arthur at the luggage carousel, usually Eames is actually alone and can ride it out until he's washed up right in front of Arthur and it all recedes.
"Eames," says Arthur, and pushes him back gently. "The elevator stopped."
Eames hadn't even heard the ping of the bell, the quaint sweet sound of it that's been so pleasant to him at the end of a long day of rehearsal the last week. He steps back from Arthur, somewhere between embarrassed and grateful, and trips over his own feet trying to capture the handle of Arthur's suitcase and roll it out into the corridor.
"Ah, when," Eames says, digging for the keycard, clumsy fingered, "when did your flight get in?"
Arthur tells Eames when, and says something about how he'd gotten into the city, and something else about forgetting to stop at an ATM and being down to his last euro when he'd bought the champagne, which is warm now anyway.
Eames isn't listening at all, really.
"You're not listening at all, really," Arthur observes, smiling, carefully hanging up his coat.
"You came all this way to surprise me," Eames says, just now realizing how grand a gesture Arthur has made.
"Well," Arthur says modestly, "and to go shopping."
"Darling," Eames says, ignoring him, getting his arms around Arthur's waist with a little less desperation this time. "You must have missed me terribly."
"Right," says Arthur, "I'm the one who was calling every day and making pathetic noises and"--
"You were very brave to hide it," Eames says against Arthur's lips, between kisses.
When you are away from someone for a long time, your memory does a funny job, rewrites the other person slightly to fill in the foggy places. Arthur-in-Eames’-head is not quite the same person as Arthur-here-now, but it's delightful, finding all the places where Eames’ brain has been picturing Arthur just a little wrong: rediscovering his smoky voice and his muscle-roped forearms and how easy it is to make him smile after all, the lines that animate his dear face and the sweet indescribable scent that always lingers just behind his ears.
"Did you miss me?” Eames asks, not really knowing what he's saying, having gotten lost somewhere between unbuttoning Arthur's waistcoat and loosening his tie.
"I missed you," Arthur answers anyway, voice a little rough as his fingertip pulls down on Eames' lower lip.
“Do you love me forever and always?” Eames asks.
“For as long as I’m living,” Arthur answers, never smiling, quiet and serious and earnest and exactly like the brilliant Arthur that Eames remembers.