There is really no explanation for why Eames is still in Arthur’s bed in the morning. He came last night with the express purpose of breaking up with Arthur, to tell him, "Sorry, love, I just don't think-" Yet here he is. This is probably the tenth time he’s failed to follow through with this plan. He’s lost count a bit. Arthur probably hasn’t.
Arthur is awake next to him right now, eyes half-open, watching the hand Eames has on Arthur’s hip. Eames honestly is not sure he can make himself stay away, and god, that’s terrifying.
“I’ll make breakfast,” he says desperately, and forces himself to disentangle. Arthur turns away onto his side under the pretense of dozing off, but Eames can see the line of Arthur’s tense back through the thin blanket.
Arthur pads into the kitchen a half hour later, towel around his neck as he pats his face dry, pajamas still on. Eames teased him about it at first, back when they were fast and loose, two people who tumbled in bed for a night, nothing serious, and Arthur just replied, “Why would I eat with a white starched shirt on?” with such a seriously perturbed look on his face that Eames tumbled him right back into bed. He has no idea where they stand now, but it’s not the same as it was then.
“Just to remind you,” Arthur says, startling Eames, “At any given moment there is a high probability that someone will come looking for me, or for you, and they will try to kill either of us. There is a slightly lower probability that they succeed, but it's still likely.” He looks at Eames for a moment with his dark eyes before he sits down at the counter and tucks into breakfast like he’d been making some idle remark about football. Eames raises an eyebrow at him, going for nonplussed, but they both know he gets it.
Even so, Arthur chews and swallows a bite of omelet before saying, “Something to think about while you lead me on this wild goose chase.”
Eames reaches out across the counter to lay a hand on Arthur’s arm.
“I know,” he says, and some of the tension bleeds out. Arthur switches his fork to the other hand, so that he can keep eating while Eames uses his fingertips to draw patterns and doodles and words onto the soft skin of Arthur’s palm.
That day one of the architects, James, says something that makes Arthur laugh. Really laugh. Eames can tell because Arthur did his version of a double-take, a split-second pause where he frowns before breaking out into laughter. It shouldn’t bother him that other people can make Arthur laugh; he’s seen Cobb do it before, and Ariadne. It shouldn’t make him accidentally snap his pencil in half. He hadn’t even known people could do that outside of films, and throws the remnants away in bemusement.
It does bother him when Arthur leaves early to have dinner with the architect. The two of them say good night to the rest of the team, and as Arthur passes by to get to where James is waiting for him at the door, Eames is waiting for him.
“What are you doing?” Eames asks lowly, quietly enough that no one else can quite catch it. Arthur raises his eyebrows.
“Exploring my options,” he replies, and keeps walking, smiling at James when the man opens the door for him.
Arthur doesn’t come home late that night; he’s back before Eames is even done with his dinner, and sheds his shoes and jacket carefully before going into the bedroom to change.
“Hey,” he says on his way to the room, and Eames doesn’t reply.
When he comes back, he’s dressed in pajamas again, and leans over Eames’ shoulder to steal the fork from Eames’ lax grip and try a bite of the pasta.
“Mmm,” Arthur says. Then, “What’s wrong with you?”
“James didn’t seem like such an attractive ‘option’ after all?” Eames asks, coolly enough to hurt Arthur with his tone. He feels cold dread and anger in the pit of his stomach, and he’s garnering for a fight.
But Arthur just replies, “No, I thought he was great. He showed me some sketches at the restaurant. He’ll mesh pretty well with Ariadne, I think,” with a tone of confusion in his voice. “Why, you don’t like his work?”
“What?” Eames asks, turning around slowly.
“What?” Arthur asks back, brow furrowed. Then it smooths out and he says, “Oh. You thought I was talking about exploring options outside of our dysfunctional relationship.” He puts a palm on Eames’ chest and shoves until Eames leans back enough that Arthur can sit in his lap and resume eating the rest of Eames’ dinner. “No. You’re the one looking for the next best thing. I’m in it for the long haul.”
Eames has no idea what to say to that. “Arthur-” Arthur cuts him off by waving his free hand, chewing a mouthful of pasta.
“Take your time. I’m not looking around. You don’t have to feel pressured to figure things out,” he says, and even as he talks he seems to lose his appetite, putting the fork back on the plate.
“I’m more full than I thought,” he says, and moves to get out of Eames’ lap. Eames wraps his arms around Arthur’s waist to keep him, rests his forehead on the plane of Arthur’s back.
“I hope you realize how uncomfortable this is for me,” Arthur says after a moment. He places his hands on top of Eames’.
“Come to bed with me,” Eames murmurs into Arthur’s warm skin, covered by a thin worn t-shirt that used to be Eames’.
“There’s an episode of Man Vs. Wild I wanted to catch,” Arthur disagrees, and laughs when Eames swings him up in his arms, punching Eames in the shoulder before looping his arms around Eames’ neck.
“I don’t know if this helps or makes it worse, but for the record, I am in love with you,” Arthur says that night, looking at Eames with his sincere eyes and a self-deprecating smile. “Don’t worry about it. I just wanted to say it. You know, before the assassins come and get me or incept me into falling in love with a cat.”
“You’d know to blame Dom for that one,” Eames replies, at a loss.
“One would think that the team would be smart enough to take care of those particular details,” Arthur says, and then rests his head in the crook of Eames’ shoulder. Eames always thinks Arthur feels so small when he’s nestled in Eames’ arms. “Are you going to stay the night? I need to figure out if I should get the extra blankets or not. It’s going to get below zero tonight.”
“Below-? Are you using Fahrenheit?”
“Yes, because we are in the United States,” Arthur stresses, and Eames can just hear the eyeroll. Eames presses his mouth to Arthur’s temple, closing his eyes.
“Don’t get the blankets. I’ll stay.”
“Hmm,” Arthur says, and tightens his arms around Eames.