If Eames were asked he would have denied how terrible he felt about Arthur having to take a trip. A 'job related, might take a little longer than I thought, but I'll be sure to call you when I can' sort of trip that was to take place sometime before Christmas. Arthur hadn't wanted to be very specific about where he was headed, but Eames supposed that since it was a trip for Saito, it could have been anywhere. Eames still worried and Eames was certain that he was going to be lonely with Arthur gone.
Cuddled up together in bed, Eames clung to Arthur a little tighter than the cold warranted- from his angle he could see the alarm clock and knew that soon, very soon, Arthur would beg to be released so he could take a shower and prepare to leave.
"Eames," Arthur said, his voice softened by sleep. "The alarm's gonna go off soon."
Eames huffed a sigh against Arthur's neck and kept his face there- secretly, Eames was certain that if he stopped looking at the clock it would make time stop and keep Arthur from leaving. Eames was not-so-secretly pathetic.
Resigned, Arthur carded one hand through Eames's hair. "Separation anxiety isn't usually your problem. Now, as for me, that's different." Arthur was now, if not exactly wide awake, at least more alert. "I'm going to be fine and I will come home to you soon."
Eames moved just enough to pull his face away from Arthur's neck and level a glare at him. "Knock on wood and spit three times over your left shoulder! I'm not eager to have you disappear and not say anything about it. I said I was sorry, there was nothing I could do about it before!"
Arthur smiled at him fondly. "You are such a superstitious man."
The Forger shoved at Arthur's shoulder and gave him a look that said he wouldn't be satisfied until what he had asked for had been done.
So Arthur got out of bed. He knocked three times on the dresser next to the bed and very politely mimed the action of spitting three times over his left shoulder because he wasn't willing to actually spit on his bedroom carpet. He offered Eames an expectant look and waited for his approval.
"My great-great-grandmother on my father's side wouldn't believe that you really discouraged the devil that lurks over your left shoulder, but I'll take it."
But Arthur was already preparing to shower, slipping out of what he had worn for bed and walking naked to the bathroom, intending to take a shower while Eames stayed safe in his nest of blankets.
"You're overreacting," Arthur said, not even looking over his shoulder as he entered the bathroom and shut the door.
Eames said nothing, but consoled himself by wrapping himself tighter in their blankets and hugging Arthur's pillow which still held some of the other man's warmth and smelled like his shampoo.
It was so comforting that Eames fell asleep, not noticing when Arthur finished his shower, collected his bags, and pressed a kiss to the other man's forehead.
"I've been delayed," Arthur said over the phone. "I'm waiting for an 'I told you so, darling'."
Eames said nothing for a moment, really considering it. But then, he remembered that what happened before had been much worse and much harder on Arthur who had created the Eames bear in his loneliness.
A six month separation when they weren't more than co-workers with heaps of sexual tension; this six month separation led them both to create teddy bears in each other's likenesses. Those bears shared a spot on top of the dresser, or at the head of the bed, or even on the couch.
But now, as Arthur was telling him that this trip was going to take him longer, Eames was having a thought. He walked over to the dresser where the two bears were sitting and had an idea.
"I'd never say that, darling," Eames said as he picked up the Arthur bear, still smartly dressed and equipped with the red die totem in the pocket of its slacks and silver briefcase meant to resemble a PASIV attached to one paw. It was a loving recreation of his darling, complete with a nifty little gadget that would play a recording of the other man's voice once the bear was hugged or at least squeezed around the middle. But he didn't need to trigger the recording- Eames knew for sure that Arthur loved him. He heard him say it all the time, but still as he was faced with a delay Eames wanted to feel reassured.
He didn't hug the bear, but felt better just looking at it. Stress and worry relieved if only briefly, Eames smiled to himself and said, "I know that you'll come back soon, Arthur. Call it a gut feeling- and since when have you missed out on Christmas?"
This got the laughter Eames wanted. "Eames, I've told you a million times," the Point Man mock chided, "I'm Jewish. I don't celebrate Christmas."
"But you do with me?" Eames was certain that Arthur would be rolling his eyes.
"I'd celebrate with you even if you choose to celebrate Hogswatch."
"But how do you know that we really don't live in Discworld and are dreaming about being dream thieves?"
Arthur sighed, but it was a fond sigh that Eames was missing already. "And if you're a member of the Thieves Guild then I'd be a member of the Assassin's Guild."
Eames waited expectantly. "And?"
Arthur sighed again. "And Saito could definitely be Vetinari. If you keep me on this phone any longer trying to discuss who our teammates and acquaintances would be in that universe, I can't get home any faster."
Eames would have made some other comment, like how Yusuf would make a fine Alchemist or that Ariadne could be on the Watch. He hadn't figured out what role Cobb would take, but given time he'd come up with something that would make Arthur laugh. But Eames wanted Arthur home soon, so he said nothing else. Well, not really because he had to work his way through a goodbye.
"I love you, darling."
"I love you too," answered Arthur, who sounded a little tired. "I'll call you as soon as I can."
'As soon as Arthur could' had turned out to be a little longer. He missed Christmas. The delay forced Arthur into spots with poor cell coverage. There were many dropped calls. But Arthur was quick to email Eames and Skype when he had the opportunity. It was better than no contact at all, but Eames still felt awkward as he wandered the apartment they shared and dreaded the thought of going to work without Arthur there…
But, he did have an idea about that. Simple in its brilliance, Eames thought that he should do what Arthur did when Eames had been absent for so long before.
Eames hummed to himself as he set up the Arthur bear's desk.
Yes, the Arthur bear which Eames had made sure had its own spot in the warehouse. Eames had persuaded himself that if he could see something that reminded him so strongly of Arthur, he wouldn't felt quite so lonely as he waited. At this point, Arthur's return had been delayed by another week. The last communication ended with Eames trying to wheedle information out of Arthur as to what Satio wanted done and where they were.
It sounded like this:
"It's cold here," Arthur had said.
"It's cold in plenty of places, darling."
"It's snowing and I'm on important business for Saito. I have to help deliver something…"
"If you tell me that Saito is the new unconventional Santa and that you're working as one of his elves, I will be so jealous!"
Arthur neither confirmed nor denied Eames's suspicions. So, in his loneliness, Eames brought the Arthur bear to work with him, certain that there would be no repercussions or questions.
Dom was the first to notice the bear. He wouldn't have noticed it at all if he hadn't seen the stack of phone books in Arthur's chair. The bear was sitting on top of the phone books so it appeared to be the right height to use Arthur's desk. There was a laptop computer open in front of it, the glow of the screen illuminating the bear's brown eyes. It was kind of creepy.
But not as creepy as Eames bringing the bear a cup of coffee.
Far from looking disturbed by Cobb's presence, Eames smiled brightly at the Extractor and set the cup of coffee on the coaster Arthur usually put his beverages on. It was decorated with a print of Escher's Ascending and Descending.
The coaster wasn't what was worrying Cobb.
"Hello!" The Forger said, clearly pleased to see him. "I was getting our Point Bear some coffee!"
Cobb blinked and tried to think of an appropriate response to Eames's…odd behavior.
But what could he say? He tried a few things out, privately. 'Have a new friend there, Eames?' Or 'Feeling a little lonely?' And, Cobb's favorite, 'Arthur is probably going to kill you.'
"Well," Eames said, looking well rested and eager to work. "I'm going to get started tailing our mark."
Cobb couldn't get a word in before Eames left him alone in the warehouse. Though, of course, Cobb wasn't really alone. He looked over at the occupied desk and the well dressed teddy bear that was apparently sitting in for their absent Point Man. And, Eames had called it a Point Bear.
Steam was rising from the cup of coffee Eames had prepared for the bear, which was predictably still and silent. Regardless, Cobb checked his totem to be sure that he wasn't dreaming. And even though he was sure, he cleared his throat and said, "The real Arthur isn't going to be happy about this." And then, "Your coffee is going to get cold."
Ariadne was unexpectedly pleased with the Arthur bear. She thought that it was adorable! When Eames had spotted her loitering at Arthur's desk he was a little too slow to stop her from removing the bear from its stack of phone books.
"Oh my goodness, you made one for him too!"
"How do you know that?" Eames asked, eyes narrowing and missing the point that she was holding the evidence.
"Me and Arthur gossip like junior high girls," Ariadne said with a straight face, not even going into the story of that one long ago visit to Build-A-Bear workshop. "This bear is so sweet! It's even frowning like Arthur does!"
Eames was about to snatch his teddy bear co-worker away from the young Architect when she did what he had been worried she would do. She hugged it.
"I love you, Eames." The static laced recording of Arthur's voice played in the warehouse, forcing Eames to freeze for a moment and then spring into action.
"That's enough of that, thank you!" Eames tugged the bear out of Ariadne's arms and put it back in its spot. Eames busied himself by typing at the laptop. Not Arthur's laptop, of course, but if he were to bring the Arthur bear to work it would require Eames's not-as-nice- but-still-functioning laptop. An Arthur bear without a laptop would be like any other toy that lacked an important accessory; it would be like having the Barbie without the Dream House.
Eames opened up his email and stared at the screen. He had no new messages.
"Don't feel bad, Eames." Ariadne was attempting to be a comforting presence at his side, not getting too close to the bear. "Arthur missed you just as badly before. But, he never took the Eames bear to work with him."
Eames hummed to himself. "Arthur told me that he kept it at home. That he had a lot of research related jobs that didn't require him to go on site." Then he shrugged. "I'm pretty pathetic, right now."
"Yes," Ariadne said with a quick, decisive nod. Ignoring the glare Eames sent her way, Ariadne mentioned how she thought that the Arthur bear was missing something.
"He's been staring at that computer screen a lot," she began, thinking to herself aloud. "Arthur would have put on his glasses by now."
Eames didn't even ask her how she knew that Arthur would have put on his glasses by now, especially if he had been stuck working for such a long time.
"I could make him a pair?" Ariadne suggested, looking like she would enjoy nothing more than to make a pair of glasses for the Arthur bear. It was a slow day and nearly all of her work on the model was completed.
"I think that would ease the strain on his eyes," Eames said finally. He stood at her work table with the Arthur bear at hand to see how the new glasses would fit and watched as she took some wire and carefully made a very simple pair of glasses fit for a small teddy bear. They had no lenses and Eames wasn't so far gone as to insist on them. The frames were delicate ovals teased into shape with a pair of pliers and the glasses were worn by wrapping the wire gently around the Arthur bear's head and fitting the frames over each eye. The bear was placed back in front of the computer, ready to do what Point Bears did best.
Eames pronounced it a success and got back to work, leaving Ariadne sitting at her desk and staring at the newly outfitted bear.
"Okay," she said to herself. "Even I have to admit that it's a little odd. Very sweet, but still odd."
"But Yusuf, he has to go down and check the architecture and banter with me!"
The Chemist was dead set against hooking the Arthur bear to the PASIV.
"Eames, I understand that you miss him, but I'm not uselessly pumping good Somnacin into a teddy bear's arm. It will not enter the dream with you like a dreamsharer would. I could have a long talk with you about how an object that lacks sentience isn't likely to dream. But I'm busy and need to see how well this compound is working. Hop to it!"
Eames was sitting on a lawn chair, holding the Arthur bear (sans little wire glasses because he hadn't been working at the computer for very long today). He was a little put out that Yusuf wasn't even going to try. Where was his scientific curiosity? Where was his sense of fun?
He asked Yusuf this and only got "It appears that you are having enough fun for the both of us, Eames," in reply.
His team had been very lenient with his behavior. Eames knew this deep in his heart. But that didn't stop him from sitting at the corner of the Arthur bear's desk and horribly flirting with it.
"You're looking very cute today, darling."
"I don't think I can watch this anymore," Yusuf said from behind his cup of coffee, watching the scene from his corner of the warehouse. Both Cobb and Ariadne had chosen to stand with him, watching with a little worry.
"I think that we should call Arthur," Cobb said finally, squinting at how Eames was silent for a moment and then laughed at something. He wasn't sure, but he was willing to bet that Eames was allowing for brief silences to stand for the Arthur bear's replies or comments. Or, god help them, his answering flirtations. Cobb shuddered and shared a glance with his Architect. Of course they had more than just a working relationship; they had gone on several dates and were working well together, but he couldn't help but think that this was going to be a position they would be divided over.
And he was right.
"I don't think he's doing any harm," Ariadne muttered, waiting for someone to mention her encouragement of Eames's behavior.
"You made the bear glasses so it wouldn't strain its eyes!"
Cobb was pretty sure that it would upset Ariadne if he seconded Yusuf's complaint.
They watched as Eames laughed again. They grew more worried.
"Let's draw straws to see who calls Arthur," Cobb suggested.
Eames's phone was ringing, but it wasn't on his person. It was sitting on the Arthur bear's desk.
The ringtone filled the warehouse, drawing the attention of all four dream sharers.
"I will keep calling you to see. If you're sleeping, are you dreaming. If you're dreaming, are you dreaming of me. I can't believe you actually picked me."
The chorus of Blue October's "Calling You" played once more before Eames snatched up the phone and answered the call. But he didn't take it outside. No, he put the call on speakerphone.
"Hello, darling!" Eames said, placing the phone in front of the Arthur bear and stepping away. This way, it was almost like he had given the Arthur bear a voice! "How are you doing?"
"I'm tired, overworked, and have just been told that my job has been given to a small teddy bear."
Eames was silent and still, turning to look at his teammates and shaking his head slowly and sadly. As if telling his boyfriend about the teddy bear had somehow been a great betrayal. Ariadne looked away briefly while Cobb shrugged. Yusuf was just honest.
"Yusuf here," the Chemist called out, confident that Arthur would be able to hear him on speakerphone. "Eames wanted to hook teddy bear Arthur up to the PASIV to, and I quote, 'check the architecture and banter'."
Arthur was silent over the phone, clearly processing this. "Anything else?"
"He brought Arthur bear coffee and set it up in front of a laptop to work," Cobb offered.
"I suggested that Arthur bear could use some glasses- you know how strained your eyes get after you work for so long," Ariande said, defending her actions despite how ridiculous they were.
"And did this interfere with Eames's work on the current job?"
Eames cleared his throat, shooting a look around the room as if to demand their silence. They were quiet and waited. "I have worked diligently for the two weeks you have been missing in action on whatever mission Saito has sent you on. I honestly didn't believe your last explanation, darling."
"You didn't like the one where at Saito's request I'm journeying to Mordor to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom?"
"But one does not simply walk into Mordor," Cobb said with a solemn nod.
"You would strut," Arthur said with great authority. "You would strut your way through Mordor and not have a care in the world while I go destroy the Ring."
"I think that we're off topic now," Eames complained. "So I'm doing odd things because you're gone and I miss you."
"He's being pathetic!" Yusuf called as he walked past, already eager to get back to work. "Flirted with the bear yesterday and it was a little bit sad. He's gone into withdrawals and I'm afraid that if you don't come back soon, Eames will marry the bear."
There was a noise. There was the sound of a door opening and after a second the phone call was ended and Arthur actually stepped through the warehouse door, putting his cell phone away and smoothing down his heavy winter jacket.
It took a lot of restraint (or what was left of it) for Eames not to tackle the Point Man as he entered the warehouse. He stopped himself just shy of the other man, looking him up and down, as if he was checking to see if he was all right.
"I'm in one piece, Saito doesn't need me anymore."
"You're never going to say what he needed you for, are you?"
"The three sets of non-disclosure agreements I signed say that I really shouldn't. But, see? I'm back and I'm okay. I'm just late- so much for spitting three times over my left shoulder!"
Eames had gotten closer through the course of this conversation. He was less than a couple of inches away.
"You missed Christmas, darling!"
Arthur rolled his eyes at him. "But I'm in time for New Years. I think that should count for something."
Eames couldn't stop himself now. He reached over and hugged Arthur like he was the only thing that could soothe him- as if he hadn't actually had a small stuffed animal that would have served just as well. Arthur didn't fight him on it- he hugged him back, just as tightly.
"I stopped at the apartment before coming here because I wanted to drop off my luggage. So, I brought this with me so you could ditch work."
Like it was the best magic trick in the world, Arthur pulled away from Eames and then took the Eames bear out of one of his jacket's pockets and presented it to the Forger.
"Here, the teddy bears can sub for us while we do something else."
Eames jokingly fanned himself, as if Arthur had said something risque. "Oh, don't say things like that in mixed company, darling!"
Arthur actually blushed. "I'm not saying no to that, just so you know. It's just that I'm really exhausted from all the travel. Can I just go to sleep with you?"
Eames smirk slipped into a smile, because even though he had an Arthur bear he didn't sleep very well without the real Arthur next to him. It was sad and a little embarrassing.
They left without many complaints from their co-workers and the two teddy bears were left on the same table, sitting side by side.
Just like they were meant to.