In Odessa, there’s a black box on the table Arthur’s claimed as his own. It wasn’t there yesterday. Arthur stares at it for a moment. No note. It rests on top of Arthur’s reports on the city’s raions. He lets it sit there through the morning and no one says anything about it.
Eames says, “Lunch, you buy me lunch, darling, and I’m yours.”
“I don’t want you if you’re that cheap.”
Hand to his chest, Eames sighs. “What if it’s the most expensive restaurant in the city.”
Arthur rolls his eyes and Eames smirks, “Only the best for Arthur.”
It’s almost one before Arthur stops to take a breath and the black box is still there. So he opens it.
A skeleton watch, the face completely open to show the gears. The hands are black, to show against the whir of engineering behind them. Platinum band. The numbers are exquisite, small, in a font Arthur hasn’t seen in years.
A card with his name on it inside the box, but the letters are printed, not handwritten.
Arthur removes the watch he’s wearing, one he picked up in L.A. two years ago when he was hiding from a mark’s security detail.
He sets the time on the new watch and slips it on. His face heats up.
A secret admirer. Fuck but this is moronic.
Then Eames calls, “Arthur, feed me! Arthur!” and he yells back, “Go play in traffic!”
“I’d rather have lunch!”
In Montreal, there’s a cardboard box sitting on Arthur’s chair. He knows because he almost sat on it, “what the hell,” and briefly, he thinks it’s the photographs he asked for, the glimpses of Donovan’s mistress.
But no, when he opens it, there’s another box inside, long and thin, not the size for photos unless they’re small, and Arthur frowns. He’s not in the mood for fuck-ups today, not even close, he was bored last night (and lonely, but he doesn’t think about it), so he went out and got drunk until he couldn’t even speak French anymore.
He’s hung over and tired and it’s all very unprofessional and he’s not lonely and the self-flagellation would continue except that he has coffee now and can focus on the important things.
Like where Donovan’s mistress got her diamonds because if it’s from Donovan’s safety deposit box, then they’re going to have a level set in a bank and Arthur isn’t a 20’s era gangster, he’s not John Dillinger, no matter how often Eames tells him he’s the best-dressed criminal he knows.
Eames isn’t here, thank fuck, because if he were, Arthur wouldn’t be able to shut him up, he always talks too much when Arthur’s hung over.
Mireille waves good morning and Arthur sort of waves back, then he remembers the box.
He opens it. And immediately feels the weight of the watch on his wrist.
A tie. A deep crimson with a dark gray houndstooth pattern, the crosshatching tiny and elegant. It’s stunning.
He checks the label. He couldn’t have done better himself. He checks the cardboard box for a shipping label, a mass of French he doesn’t want to look at too long, but there isn’t a name; it’s been routed through another mailing company.
He could research this, hunt this person down.
He sits there instead, sipping his coffee staring at his tie, until Smithy walks up and says, “Nice tie.”
“Thanks,” Arthur says, remembering: secret admirer, fuck.
“Great, I’m glad you feel comfortable enough to bring your wardrobe in with you, but I’ve got some bad news. Safety deposit box.”
He needs more coffee. Whenever he has a chance to sit down, he stares at the tie.
He doesn’t feel lonely.
In Brisbane, they’re working out of hotel rooms, a suite and two smaller rooms, which is annoying as shit because there are doors and a lot of chasing people down for information.
Mireille again and she sits on the mohair couch, chatting with Eames, her hand fluttering down on his arm every once in a while and Arthur watches them, wonders how Eames is so charming, he gets whomever he wants without question, he does everything he wants easy as breathing.
Except Arthur. Eames jokes and flirts, but doesn’t mean it and Arthur sometimes can’t take it, not because it’s unbecoming of two colleagues (and friends), but because Arthur wants him to mean it. He doesn’t think he could get Eames to be exclusive, even if it came to that, which it won’t because Eames is Eames is Eames, and he’s been smiling and making people smile back as he stole from them ever since he was a kid.
Arthur disappears towards the smaller bedroom in the suite, glad that he’s in a room of his own because he doesn’t want to hear it when Mireille and Eames inevitably spend the rest of the job fucking. They’ve kept their paperwork in here, to minimize clutter in the main areas of the suite, and the file on the mark’s husband is around here somewhere, there, Arthur saves it from vanishing down the back of the stripped bed.
Hammond comes into the suite as Arthur’s engrossed in the file, Eames gone to trail the mark, Mireille scowling at a maze.
“What luck, my brethren, please tell me this heist is gonna be worth it.”
“Do you have to use the word ‘heist’,” Mireille says without looking up. “We are not in a film, so stop, s’il vous plait. And I am not a man.”
Hammond looks confused and Arthur says, “Thus, she is not ‘brethren.’”
“Your explanations are delightful,” Hammond says, wandering towards Arthur. “Now tell me about the hubby.”
A knock on the door and Hammond changes his course to answer it. A few muffled words, then Hammond is back. “Arthur, you spend more money than anyone I know.”
A box, another damn box, Arthur’s name printed on a card, and he’s kind of worried now, whoever this is can find him, now he’ll have to do some fucking research just to protect himself, holy shit.
Someone in the dreamshare community. No civilian could find him this well.
He swallows. “Uh, yeah, thanks.” He takes the box and scuttles off to his own room.
A shirt from one of his favorite tailors. A simple button-down, high thread count, the color of wine. In fact, it would go with his new tie.
From the same secret admirer.
A little color in your life, says a card tucked between the buttons. Printed, of course.
Arthur might go crazy.
He mimics the shirt in the dream and Eames whistles, “Someone gained some imagination.”
“Why not, we’re just waiting for an elevator,” Eames says, arms crossed, grinning at Arthur’s reflection in the elevator doors. “We have time.”
“No, you’ve got Mireille,” Arthur bites before he can stop himself.
Eames looks genuinely annoyed. “Beg pardon? That woman would chop my hands off if I tried to touch her. She prefers her men and women to be a tad more” – he makes a complicated gesture – “subservient and willing to bend at the knee.”
Arthur gapes at him and the elevator dings and Eames escorts him on, still talking, “Not that I wouldn’t mind being dominated, but no, Mireille might scar me. Adventure is one thing, but sheer terror...”
He winks and Arthur glares at him.
“Eames, why are we having this discussion.”
“You tell me.”
Arthur wants to shoot him, but he can’t, they actually need Eames.
In Naples, Arthur is researching, alone. The rest of the team won’t arrive for another week and he had time on his hands, so he decided to get a jump on it, this one might take longer and require more effort. And he gets to walk around Naples. What’s wrong with that.
He wakes up to a buzzing noise. A text on his phone. Blocked number.
Arthur glowers at his phone. Then he checks the message.
A name, an address, a time of day, a date. The date is tomorrow.
Fucking fine. It might be a trap, it might be a meet, it might be nothing. Arthur can handle all three. He buries himself in research until late in the night, smoking and sipping on wine.
The address is hard to find, the ancient European cities are never laid out well, and he finally finds a small door crammed into a wall. The sign overhead just has the name in the text, and it swings on rusty hooks, the wood worn with age and weather, the paint chipping off.
Gun in his waistband, knife against his ankle, Arthur opens the door.
A little old man with white hair and glasses bustles forward, talking in quick Italian, smiling as if he’s delighted to see Arthur. He waves him in and Arthur’s Italian is too rusty to be fluent, but he gets by.
Glancing around, there are mannequins with jackets buttoned on them, cravats puffed and knotted at their throats, silk ties in careful rows. Bolts of fabric piled on tables and a little old woman nods at him, giving him a delicate glass of grappa.
He discovers he’s in this tiny store for an appointment. A fitting. For an Italian suit. He looks closer at the mannequins and sees that the tailoring is amazing.
He’s in a lost sartorial heaven.
The old man and woman get him situated and he hurriedly hides his gun and knife as best he can, the woman filling him with grappa as the man measures and clucks his tongue and talks about the weather, the grape harvest, the best restaurant in town, Arthur has to go there and get their specialty, a seafood linguini.
Arthur laughs and promises he’ll go.
He goes to pay for three suits, “for you, I include the waistcoat, yes, each one with the matching waistcoat, for your lines are made for them,” only to discover they’re paid for, by that fucking secret admirer, and the man carefully writes out a ticket for Arthur, his handwriting slow and beautifully-formed. The suits will probably be done before the job is even over.
The woman whispers, “You are built like the young demigods of the old days,” and when Arthur tries to tell her no, flustered and embarrassed, she shakes her head, her long hair in loose braids, “no, you are lean in muscle,” she squeezes his arm, “quick and your body has an intelligence, you do not see; they were like that, warriors, athletes, they throw the spear, kill the stag, and run for days, you are like them.”
Utterly enchanted, Arthur thanks her. And he’s alone in the city, so he asks if they might show him where that restaurant is, he doesn’t order food so well in Italian, and they laugh. Tonight, you come back after sunset, we will go.
When the team arrives, Arthur wears one of his new suits, a light shade of black, and Ariadne squeals when she sees him, “look at you!”
Eames shakes his head. “You spend all your money on clothes, don’t you. You are worse than my sister. You’re worse than anyone’s sister.”
“Are you calling him a girl,” Yusuf says, “because I don’t think he’s a girl.”
“I’m glad he’s not,” Eames replies lightly, grinning.
Arthur flips him off.
In Barcelona, shoes. Arthur’s rather irritated because someone knows his shoe size.
The job goes perfectly.
The shoes go in his bag.
In Zurich, he gets a hat. Technically, he’s given a fedora. Arthur doesn’t think of himself as a hat person though he does appreciate them in a stylish manner, how they go with a suit, but again, he’s not some swashbuckling gentleman thief with a cocky grin and, shit, he’s not in Ocean’s Eleven or some shit, he doesn’t –
He gets a hat. Dark gray with a faint pinstripe and the milliner claps her hands. Her German is rapid with Austrian pronunciations and she devolves into French at one point, matching the hat to the suit he’s wearing, one of the suits he got in Naples.
He doesn’t wear it to work. When the job’s over and he’s back in New York, he wears the hat with a blazer and jeans to a restaurant where he eats and reads with his own pleasurable company.
He dangles it from a finger as he smokes at his apartment.
His phone rings and he checks the time (on that watch, the gears ticking) and it’s Eames. “Love, I’ve got a job for you, if you want it.”
London, of course, nothing too difficult, a two-man job.
“I hear you’ve been getting presents,” Eames says. “Should I be jealous?”
“Yes, Eames,” Arthur sighs, sarcasm dry, “you should be insanely jealous of my sugar daddy.”
“I am, truly, Arthur, especially if you call him ‘daddy.’ I bet he likes that. Older, distinguished, spectacular in bed? Did he set you up with a love nest? Do you meet at exotic locales and never leave the bedroom?”
“Eames,” Arthur starts because the Brit sounds actually curious, actually jealous, and that’s not happening, the conversation has gone on long enough, soon Eames’ll start asking about sexual proclivities and chocolate mousse or something. “Never mind, I’ll see you in London.”
“Wear your new hat.”
He stares at the hat as he hangs up. And then the sky falls.
Arthur books a ticket to London as fast as he can.
In London, he doesn’t tell Eames he’s there yet. He dresses with care: the watch, the tie, the shirt, the dark gray suit (with waistcoat, for you, I include waistcoat), the shoes, the hat. It’s a smoky mix of blood-wine and ash and he likes how it looks, slim and lethal.
He wonders why Eames can’t dress himself.
Eames answers the door of his flat in athletic shorts and a faded t-shirt with a hole in the side, barefoot. His hair is a mess and he looks like Arthur’s woken him, a mug of tea clutched in one fist.
“Arthur?” Then his eyes widen and Arthur pushes his way into the flat.
“Is this what you pictured?” Arthur asks.
Eames nods, as if he has to answer truthfully or be damned. “Yes. Except…”
“It’s real.” And Eames grins, big and boyish, and Arthur realizes he’s only seen that grin when Eames is talking to him. To him only.
He’s so oblivious.
“You look like you’re ready to kill someone, then go out to eat and celebrate,” Eames says, sounding awed and Arthur laughs.
“I could kill you, then go out to eat and celebrate.”
“I like that idea, darling.”
Arthur laughs again and kisses Eames and Eames’s hands are gentle when they touch him, as if worried about wrinkling Arthur somehow.
So Arthur bites his lip and Eames pulls him in tighter, Arthur drinking in his taste and smell.
“Why—why do this, why did you—“
“Because I wanted to take it all off you,” Eames says, bold, but Arthur’s doubts flare up, this is Eames and Eames is Eames is Eames, he can’t just walk away from this after a weekend of fucking, this isn’t something they just do when they’re in the same city.
He wants and Eames rubs at his wrist under the watch.
“Arthur, what do you want me to say.”
“That you—“ Mean it, he thinks. He doesn’t say it.
Eames tips the hat backwards off his head, nuzzling along Arthur’s throat. “I spent so much bloody money on you, you should thank your sugar daddy for wanting to keep you in clothes instead of naked constantly.”
“If I’m your sugar daddy, then I get to keep you. Bound to me by expensive gifts, of course.”
He kisses Arthur and that’s it. Arthur knows.
“Of course,” he agrees, grinning into the kiss as Eames makes a noise, Arthur’s fingers sliding into his shorts. “So where’s my Bugatti?”
Eames groans, either due to the Bugatti or Arthur stroking him, it doesn’t matter.
“Now I get to have you. Isn’t that how this exchange works?”
“I’m not a rent boy, Eames.”
“Yes, you are.”
“I should be offended.”
“But you’re not.”
No, he’s naked and licking at Eames’s tattoos and Eames makes him take off the watch when he accidentally bangs his arm against Eames’s forehead.