They argue all the time. Eames has said more than once it's how they show affection. Arthur disagrees, which just proves Eames' point.
It's a well-known fact that any job they're both working on will be entertaining and successful, because as much as they snipe at each other, they are amazing at planning for anything and reacting quickly enough to go around whatever goes wrong.
They argue and they fight, and more than once they've left each other bloody. But they don't go to bed angry. It's one of two rules Arthur set in stone before he invited Eames to live with him (wherever he's living that day). No matter what they've been 'discussing,' no matter what's been broken or yelled in anger, they sleep in the same bed and they let go of the rage. And Eames has been thankful for that rule of Arthur's more than once. (The other, as well. Making contact at least once a week, no matter what, has saved Eames' life half a dozen times. Arthur's, too.)
So this fight… Eames doesn't think it'll be any different. A job Eames wants to work, that Arthur doesn't. an extractor they've both worked with before: Eames five years ago, Arthur three. Arthur nearly died during the job; nothing went wrong with Eames'. And while normally that history would have Eames turning down Fitz's offer, the mark is someone against whom Eames holds a mighty grudge, and Arthur's major problem is that Eames won't tell him what that grudge is.
And finally, Arthur says, "Fine. Take the goddamned job. But don't expect me to have your back when Fitz sticks a knife in it." He slams and locks the bedroom door, and Eames stares at the dark wood in shock.
He flips an old poker chip from one finger to the next and thinks, Not a dream, then. Fuck.
Eames waits, standing in the middle of the flat, for an hour. Arthur never opens the door.
The hotel bed is too big, too cold, too empty. Eames catches a flight the next day, to another hotel bed that is even bigger, even colder, far more emptier. He greets Fitz with a smile, charms the architect, who he knows by reputation, and triple-checks every fact about the job. It goes flawlessly, until the moment the mark looks at his forge (a gorgeous brunette) and smirks, and then projections are holding him place, unable to reach a weapon or fight his way out.
He hasn't spoken to Arthur in three weeks.
"Daniel," Seth attempts to purr. "Dear Daniel. It's been, what, twenty years?"
A fucking trap. Twenty years after the fact. Should've known Seth wouldn't forget, either. Should've known Seth couldn't let it go.
"We're going to wake up, Daniel," Seth tells him, "and then we're going to take a trip. Get to know each other again."
Seth shoots himself in the head. The projections tear Eames apart.
Fitz is gone, of course. And the architect. And Eames tries to fight his way out.
He should have told Arthur why he hated Seth so much. Shouldn't have taken the job.
Should've called Arthur yesterday.
He hates the name Daniel. Loathes it, really. Seth is the only one to ever use it, and Eames hasn't answered to it in… twenty years.
His mother called him Danny. School mates called him Dan. The SAS called him Watson, and the illicit dreamsharing community called him Eames. Arthur calls him Eames.
And Seth… Seth calls him Daniel.
Eames wakes up tied to a chair and has no way of knowing if he's dreaming or not. Seth has his poker chip, and a smirk, and wandering hands that have gotten wrinkled since the last time Eames felt them. "You were going to come back, weren't you, Daniel?" he asks, leaning in to run the chip along Eames' jaw. "Going to, what? Break my mind wide open? Get revenge?" He laughs. It sounds like a mad scientist cackle.
This man used to be terrifying. Eames tries to beat back the childhood terror. Seth isn't so large, now. If Eames weren't restrained, if Seth didn't have three mooks in the room (and however many outside)—Eames could destroy him. Rip him apart.
If Arthur were here… together, they could kill everyone in this building and go out for lunch (or breakfast, or supper).
But Eames is restrained. And Seth does have mooks. And at the first touch of Seth's tongue, Eames is fifteen again, is ten, is eight. Is helpless and trapped and completely at Seth's mercy.
He closes his eyes and endures.
Eames sleeps and dreams of Arthur. Arthur, lightning-quick, with a sharpened, shiny blade. Arthur, smiling. Arthur, warm and pliant, head on Eames' chest, listening to his heartbeat. Arthur, muttering about how stupid American Idol is, while watching it and sometimes humming along. Arthur, covered in flour and glaring at Eames while fighting his grin.
Arthur. Eames should have called him yesterday. The day before? Stupid, useless fight. Shouldn't go to bed angry. Never know what might happen.
Eames still doesn't know if he's awake or not. Or even why he's here. Seth should just kill him and be done with. He must know he's dead if Eames ever gets free. (Fitz, too. Deaddeaddead, so very dead. Eames is good at that. Almost as good as Arthur.)
"I've learned about you, Daniel," Seth says, holding a glass of cold water to Eames' lips. "You're famous, now. You were good at forgery, other petty cons, right after the forces kicked you out. But what you do now?" He chuckles. "I was surprised, to be honest." He pats Eames' cheek. "Never thought you'd amount to much, Daniel. You were such a good toy."
Eames isn't eight anymore. Isn't fifteen, and a stupid kid. He's a man, a dangerous man. He knows better.
"Kill me, Daddy." Eames purrs the words, just to show Seth how it's done. "You're dead, otherwise."
Seth doesn't believe him. That's fine.
Eames doesn't believe himself, either.
He thinks he's dreaming, when Arthur kicks down the door, shoots all the mooks, and shoves a sharp, shiny blade into Seth's gut. He gently unties Eames, presses a kiss to his forehead, and helps him out of the chair.
Arthur hands him another knife. "Can you?" he asks.
"Are you sure I'm awake?" Eames asks in reply. "I don't know anymore."
Arthur grips his hand, helping him hold the knife. "Try to forge, Eames," he says quietly. "Try to shake off the injuries. Can you?"
Eames tries. He tries so very hard. He can't remember why it didn't occur to him days ago. If he'd been smaller, he might have slipped the ropes.
He can't forge. Can't become someone else. He's trapped in his bruised, broken flesh.
He's not dreaming.
With Arthur's help, Eames kills Seth. Slowly. It's as satisfying as he'd always imagined it to be.
Better, actually, because Arthur is with him, and Arthur is wonderful at causing pain. (Eames doesn't believe he was in the American military. Or the government. Definitely the private sector. He might even ask, when they get home.)
Arthur settles him into the sleek car waiting outside, and then goes back in to clean it up.
Eames wakes up to a quick injuries assessment. "Will I live, doctor?" he slurs.
"Yes, Mr. Eames, you will," Arthur tells him, a calloused hand on his face. "You bastard. You were supposed to call a month ago."
"A week, then," Eames mutters. "I'd wondered."
Arthur's frowning. Beautifully. "Bloody hell, I missed you," Eames says. "But, didn't you swear to not save me, when Fitz stuck a knife in my back?"
Arthur's frown is replaced by an expression Eames doesn't know. He'd thought he'd seen all of Arthur's expressions, from his embarrassed smile to his you will die now glare, but this one, he doesn't know. "Fitz told me about Seth Donavan," he says quietly, rubbing at his eyes. "I discovered Daniel Watson years ago, but Donavan…"
Eames looks away. "I survived." He closes his eyes, focusing on his body. A dull ache everywhere, sharper in his shoulders and the naughty bits, but nothing he hasn't felt before. The mattress beneath him is firm. His face feels clean. And he's wearing boxers he knows he left in the bedroom when he walked out a month ago.
"I missed you," he says again, looking back at Arthur. "And, you were right."
Arthur carefully lies down next to him, resting his head next to Eames' on the pillow. "I missed you, too," he says. "Go to sleep, Eames. I'll be here when you wake up."