Arthur’s been at his desk for the better part of an hour before Eames finally wanders in the door. Here’s the moment, now, the moment he’s been pretending he’s not anticipating. He doesn’t look up from his desk, doesn’t even pause in his work on the PASIV; he’s situated himself so that his peripheral vision gives him all the information he needs.
Eames comes in; the door swings closed behind him with a squeal. Cobb is too absorbed in his plotting and planning even to turn away from the window in acknowledgment — but he’s not the one Arthur’s worried about. Cobb’s been in the business a long time. Not much fazes Cobb, anymore — and certainly nothing about Eames.
Ariadne, though — Arthur clocks the exact moment she looks up from her work to see Eames entering. It’s chased almost instantaneously by a second, long look.
Arthur keeps turning the screwdriver in his hand as though he’s executing a breathlessly delicate step in electronic maintenance. (In reality he’s just freeing the IV line spool, a chore he does nearly every day because the damn thing keeps getting stuck and he hasn’t had time to — rebalance — probably needs a whole new —)
Fuck. She’s still staring, and she hasn’t said a word.
Arthur lifts the IV spool free, one clean easy motion, then allows himself to turn his head towards Ariadne and Eames, to see their respective faces.
Eames is stifling a yawn behind his fist, balancing a cardboard tray of lattes in the other hand, nodding a hello to Ariadne and then to Arthur. Eames couldn’t give a shit, in other words; no surprise there.
Ariadne’s harder to read, her dark hair loose and getting in the way of her expression as she slips down from her drafting stool and comes over to Eames to claim her soy caramel whatever.
Arthur seizes the same excuse and stands up, walks over. He’s aware, as he goes, that his shoulders are a little too stiff and square. He probably looks ready for a fight, but there’s no helping it. Arthur’s never been much of an actor and even if he was, there’s something about Eames that’s always made him gut-level overprotective — as though Eames — Eames, of all people — needs Arthur defending him.
But needing Arthur or not, Eames has Arthur in his corner.
Arthur closes in on the coffee, wriggles his own drink free while Eames obligingly holds the tray steady for him. Arthur divides a look between Eames — still couldn’t give a shit, sleepy — and Ariadne — wide-eyed, frankly curious, but not obviously hostile or amused. She’s taking Eames in with a long pan of his body, not troubling to disguise her staring: Eames’ shoulders covered up by a neat sunny yellow knit shrug, the rest of him sheathed in a watermelon pink sundress with a sweetheart neckline, an ivory sash, a full skirt that ends just above his knees. And on his feet, matching ivory sandals with a modest heel. He’s gone light on the make-up today, just a hint of liner and something dark on his eyelids, shiny-glossy lips because Eames knows his best feature, and that mouth has always been utterly sinful.
He looks very pretty; he always does, of course, in trousers or a skirt or nothing at all.
Arthur gives up any pretense of distraction and watches Ariadne closely, waiting for her to speak.
“Well,” she says mildly, at last, “some people grow beards.”
“Cheers to that,” Eames says, and taps his drink — still trapped in the tray — against hers, grins at her.
“I hate skirts, myself,” she says. “But you have really nice legs.”
“Mm, just had a wax, reckoned I may as well put it to good use,” Eames says, then lifts his chin and bellows, “Oi! Cobb! Your — fucking — what’s it? Macchiato? I’ve got it here.”
Arthur’s relief is better than the first sip of coffee, rolling over him as the adrenaline ebbs. Ariadne’s cool; everything’s fine.
He should go back over to his desk and keep working on the PASIV, but he waits while Ariadne returns to her model of the dream layout, while Cobb shuffles over moodily to claim his drink, still wrapped up in whatever problem he’s working.
Then it’s just Arthur and Eames, still standing by the door. Arthur has work to do; Eames has to — well, do whatever it is that Eames does. Sit around the place looking delectable and making sarcastic comments, mostly.
“Yes, Arthur?” Eames prompts him, smiling a little. He won’t come right out and say it, but it’s clear from his smirk that he knows Arthur’s hackles were up a moment ago. He thinks it’s cute, the way Arthur leaps onto his metaphorical horse and gallops up with armor shining.
Arthur scowls defensively and takes another sip of his latte. “Nothing,” he says, and still doesn’t move.
“Nothing?” Eames repeats, all bland pleasantry layered over teasing.
“Just —“ Arthur hesitates. “You changed your mind about the shoes?” Again in his peripheral vision, Arthur notices Ariadne’s head coming up, ears practically pricking with interest. “I thought you were going to wear the — the silver flats.”
“Here I thought you weren’t listening,” Eames says fondly, and ducks in for the briefest of kisses, as if they share workplace displays of affection all the time, as if this isn’t the first time they’ve ever done so.
Cobb continues pacing, oblivious; not really news to him, anyway. Ariadne buries a wide smile behind the rim of her coffee cup, or tries to.
“The heels make my arse look fantastic in this frock,” Eames says. “Don’t you think?”
Arthur might have just taken the plunge into casual affectionate pecks on the lips in front of co-workers, but he’s a long way out yet from inspecting Eames’ ass while Ariadne pretends not to watch. He just grunts and rolls his eyes, takes his coffee back over to the gutted PASIV. Eames perches on a chair, crosses his legs at the ankle, and starts in on his own busy schedule of smirking at everyone while they do actual work.
Later, much later, when Ariadne’s dreaming up a city and Cobb’s in the other room talking to his kids, Arthur chances a look across the workspace to where Eames is bent (in all innocence, naturally) over Ariadne’s drafting table, paging idly through her designs.
“You were right about the shoes,” Arthur says gruffly; and if Eames turns his head back over his shoulder and grins delightedly, Arthur only sees it dimly in his peripheral vision.
He’s got work to do, after all.