Sometimes, Arthur really loves his team.
This isn't one of those times.
"What do you want to do?" Ariadne asks, as their mark stirs her strawberry ice cream. "We can play whatever game you want! How about hide and seek?" She's standing on the table, crouched down with her hands on her knees like she's still taller than Bethany.
She's barely got any height on a four-year-old in the real world.
"No." Bethany's fingers are sticky from the ice cream, and there's a smear of pink across her cheek. Arthur jumps back when she makes a grab for him, and she laughs. Her spoon drips onto the table. Eames pats his shoulder, once, and then pushes him forward. It's kind of like every horror movie ever.
"I hate you," Arthur says, catching his balance before he can topple over, and barely restraining himself from doing something ill-advised and unprofessional like turning around to punch Eames in his stupid fuzzy face. Or stomping his foot. He barely manages to avoid sliding in a drop of strawberry ice cream when Bethany grabs him.
She tries to pet his head and her fingers stick to it. Arthur's pretty sure he'd rather be shot. She coos though, the way only a little girl can. "That's okay, baby," she says, abandoning her spoon to the floor so she can stand and sway side to side, patting his back a little too roughly. Eames sounds like he's about to choke, but Arthur doesn't think he could get that lucky. "We'll play a game you'll like, I promise!"
"Okay," Arthur says in an even tone of voice and in no way squeaks, fuck you very much, Eames and Cobb. He gives them a thumbs down behind Bethany's back, because he doesn't have fingers to give them the sort of gesture he'd really prefer. It's reluctant, but he has to ask, "What game are we playing?"
Bethany laughs again, close enough to Arthur's ear to make him jump back, trying to get away. Her iron grip doesn't let him get very far.
Cobb, from a nice, secure place on the floor, squints. "Please tell me you're better with Phillipa when you watch her," he says. He kicks his stupid furry feet, where they're spread out in front of him. Even Arthur's pretty sure that should warrant more concern.
Arthur would point that out, too, if it weren't for Bethany's ability to completely derail him by ignoring their conversations to tell Arthur, gleefully, "We're gonna play wedding!"
"Wait," Arthur says. "Wait, what?"
"Wedding!" she helpfully repeats, at a much, much higher volume. She holds Arthur out at arm's length to inspect him. Ariadne has her chin in her hands. Paws. Whatever. "Don't you like weddings?"
"Arthur," Cobb says, warningly, his stupid mouth twitching like Arthur doesn't know him well enough to know he wants to laugh. Arthur's pretty sure he liked Cobb better when he was crazy.
"I, for one, think a wedding sounds like a fabulous idea," Eames butts in. He's standing on the edge of the table with his hands on his hips.
It's a good thing they aren't the dolls with the moving eyeballs, because Arthur would be permanently looking at the back of his head from how hard he just rolled his eyes. "You always think a wedding sounds like a fabulous idea. You're like Bride magazine."
"Arthur," Eames says, voice pitched higher in delight, "have you been reading up on flower arrangements again? Was it the cakes that drew you in? The dresses? You know I won't judge you. I only want you to have the wedding you've always dreamed of."
"Don't be mean." Ariadne hits Eames on the arm, and even from a distance Arthur can see that it's weak. Through the rush of gratitude, he makes a mental note about training her better. She says, "Arthur can read all the chick magazines he wants. He seems strong enough not to let them make him feel ugly." She grins like she's told the best joke ever. Cobb laughs like he agrees with her.
Arthur reminds himself—again—that he doesn't actually want to set his entire team on fire.
Mostly because Yusuf is up top making sure their vitals stay steady and not participating in this blatant assholery. Yusuf may live.
"I like weddings," Bethany says, and sits Arthur down at the end of the dresser and starts trying to comb the fur at the top of his head to one side with her fingers. "You," she says, very seriously, "will need a hat."
"The better to hide my shame with," he says.
"Wouldn't be the first time," Eames says brightly, dangling from the edge of the table for a second—for long enough for Arthur to get irrationally worried that he'll get hurt—and then drops to the floor. He tumbles, but it's mostly for show. For the way Bethany claps her hands and giggles. "Remember the time in Cancun," he asks when his rolling stops and he's lying on his back, smiling up at Arthur. "It's perfectly okay if you don't. You had had a lot of tequila, and I have photographic evidence of that one."
"Wait," Ariadne says. "What?"
"I hate you," Arthur says, again, because he's spent a lot of time trying to erase the memory of all the neon orange swim trunks and frozen margaritas.
Eames, of course, is fantastically unconcerned. At least he is until Bethany steps over him to pick Ariadne up off of the table to sit her next to Arthur.
Arthur eyes her suspiciously, and it's Eames' turn to say, "What? What just happened? That didn't just happen, right?" Which, actually, is almost enough for Arthur to see the humor of the situation.
"Oh," he says, innocently, "you want me to marry Ariadne." Bethany drops a white scarf over Arthur's head, and secures it in place with a tiara. He pushes it off his eyes to see her nodding, and it would take more than this indignity to keep him from grinning widely at the way that Eames squawks in protest.
"Who else would you marry?" Bethany asks, tying a black handkerchief around Ariadne's neck, while Ariadne tilts her chin up obligingly.
"Me," Eames wails, flailing his arms just a little bit. Arthur grins so hard he thinks he may break something. Eames stomps his foot.
Cobb walks over to pat Eames on the shoulder, and says, "I think I should get to give away the bride."
"Oh, fuck off, Cobb," Eames says, clearly still distraught. "You cannot encourage this nonsense!"
"You just were," Ariadne points out, while Arthur smirks, wedding veil and all. He and Ariadne hook elbows.
"Gramma says babies need a mommy and a daddy," Bethany says, sounding sad and using the most selective hearing that Arthur has ever seen. And he works with Eames on a regular basis now. She smoothes Arthur's veil, and straightens his tiara.
Arthur grabs her hand before he really thinks about it. Since he's currently a fucking Care Bear this means letting go of Ariadne to wrap both short, fuzzy arms around her wrist. Cobb collapses in laughter, muttering something about babies, and Arthur raises an eyebrow until Eames helpfully kicks him. Twice.
"Bethany," he says, tugging on her wrist until he falls backwards and she giggles, again. "Come on, now, don't both your daddies love you?"
"Duh," Bethany answers, rolling her eyes. She manages to sound like Arthur is the dumbest person she has ever had to put forth the effort of speaking to. He's kind of impressed. "They're my daddies. They love me best."
"Then that's all the matters, isn't it? Wouldn't you rather have two daddies that love you best?"
Bethany tilts her head and considers it before nodding. "Gramma's mean, and she's a mommy."
"That's some vast generalization and a logical fallacy or two," Arthur admits, "but I'll take it."
"Oh," Cobb says, muffled through his hands, "I see how you are now."
"Awww," Ariadne says, so high-pitched only dogs should be able to hear it. "Awww, Arthur, you only pretend to be an automaton! You totally have a marshmallow center!"
Arthur turns away from Bethany long enough to glare at Ariadne and say, "I will kill you all, I swear," just as Eames jumps in with, "Shut up, shut up both of you, they will never find your bodies."
"Oh," Cobb says again, because he could never heed a fucking warning. That's always been his problem. "Oh my god, I see it all so clearly now." He raises his hand and smiles like an asshole. "I still want to give away the bride."
Arthur obviously should have let him die a terrible and bloody death at the hands of Cobol. "Whatever, asshole, you owe me so many at this point that I practically own you. I could sell you, right now, to the highest bidder. I bet I could get a great vacation package out of the deal." He gives Cobb a thumbs down again, still cursing his lack of fingers. "Anyway," he adds, turning back toward Bethany, "I can't be the bride; I'm a boy."
"Boys can't be brides?" Bethany asks, her eyebrows drawn in by confusion.
Eames make a sound of distress, throwing his arms over his eyes. And Arthur really, really doesn't want to know.
"This boy can't be," Arthur says firmly, tugging the tiara off of his head and handing it to her.
"Okay," Bethany answers reluctantly, undoing the makeshift tie from around Ariadne's neck to tie it around Arthur's. "You can switch."
Eames starts trying to climb his way up the dresser. "He's also going to need to switch partners, Bethany. He can't marry Ariadne."
"Oops," Bethany says when she tugs Arthur's tie too tight. She pauses in trying to fix it. "Because he's a boy?"
Ariadne and Cobb both snort, loud and inelegant and fiercely amused.
"Because he's Arthur, " Eames answers, tugging on his foot when it gets caught in the handle of the drawer. He doesn't even look up. "And because bigamy is illegal."
Cobb helps shove Eames' foot out of where it's been stuck, and snorts. "We've been over this, Eames, you can't tease Ariadne about how much she wants to jump Yusuf. It makes for a very stressful work environment."
Arthur sits down on the edge of the dresser, so he can kick at Eames' head lazily when he gets close enough. Plus, Ariadne looks all geared up to throw things at him, and that always makes for a really good show. She's collecting brightly colored rubber hair bands.
"Besides," Eames huffs, slightly out of breath from the exertion and probably getting his foot caught again, "they aren't even aesthetically pleasing as a pairing. Their colors don't go together at all."
"Wait, wait." Arthur kicks out, and Eames dodges him easily. "Are you basing an objection on the fact that we would clash." He kicks again, and gets Eames' ear. Ariadne flips him with a purple rubber band, and Arthur frowns.
"Your face isn't even aesthetically pleasing," Ariadne says, and flips a green one.
"It really is." Eames flinches when a pink one hits. "Don't be bitter, Ariadne."
Bethany giggles, and finally picks Eames up to sit him on the other side of Arthur. Eames immediately grabs his hand, and Arthur rolls his eyes.
"Arthur," Eames says, clinging, "Arthur, I will buy you a ring, I swear to god."
"I don't have fingers," Arthur says, flatly. He slaps at Eames' belly with his free hand. "And don't threaten me, asshole."
Bethany laughs again, and pokes Arthur in the nose. "That's a mean word, silly. Now you have to say sorry."
"What?" Arthur asks, dumbly, while Eames smirks and says, "Yeah, Arthur, say you're sorry."
Bethany and Cobb both cross their arms.
Arthur—not for the first time—has a startling moment where all he can think is what the actual fuck is my life. "Sorry?" he chokes out, more incredulous than apologetic, but Bethany seems to accept it just fine.
"Now kiss it better," she says, just to prove that she is, in fact, a child of Satan. When Arthur just stares, she throws her hands up in exasperation. "You hurt him, now you have to kiss it better."
"Oh my god," Ariadne says, "oh my god, you guys, this is the best day ever. I wish I had some film. Arthur and Eames' First Kiss. I could make a fortune."
"Hurt his what, exactly?" Arthur asks, ignoring Ariadne in favor of not having to commit a violent stuffed animal death in front of a still impressionable child.
"His feelings," Bethany says, like duh.
"Yeah, Arthur, the damage to my feelings can only be—"
"I will push you off of this dresser, you know that right?"
Ariadne claps, seal-like in her evil, demented glee. "Cobb, Cobb, are you watching? Arthur and Eames' first kiss!"
"I know," Cobb says from the floor, sounding—disturbingly enough—nearly as excited.
Arthur rolls his eyes, and Eames is beaming like a kid who's just been told Christmas is coming twice this year. He kisses Eames on his stupid fuzzy cheek, then interrupts another drawn out "awww" from Ariadne to say, "We're married, by the way," over his shoulder, "in real life. Did you guys not know that?"
Bethany is the only one to clap into the stunned silence to follow. Arthur beams.
"Wait. Wait, what?" Cobb asks finally, his mouth dropped open and his eyes stupidly wide. "What? What? What? Wha—"
"When?" Ariadne asks, and flips a rubber band at Cobb, to knock him out of his loop. "I don't believe you. You are lying. Why wouldn't you have told us?"
"About five years ago," Arthur says dryly, Eames still gripping his stupid fucking paw so hard that he'd lose circulation if he had any. "And, obviously, it's been a secret because I was so very ashamed."
"That is a filthy lie," Eames says sniffing disdainfully. "Arthur has never been ashamed. He loves me desperately."
"I sometimes don't hate everything about you," Arthur corrects. "Let's not get carried away."
"Desperately," Eames insists. "It's just that we don't care enough for you two to bother sharing the news of our bliss. Yusuf knows."
"He gets us wedding gifts." Arthur smirks, and kicks his feet out. He gets one caught on the pocket of Bethany's dress. She giggles and starts trying to comb Eames'… fur to the side. "He got us a waffle iron, obviously he's my favorite."
"Second favorite," Eames says.
"Sure, if that makes you feel better."
"I would've bought you a waffle iron," Cobb says, squinting, "if I had known you were getting married."
Eames says, very seriously, "Yusuf doesn't give you orgasms, Arthur. Remember that."
"What's that?" Bethany asks, prompting all of them to freeze and choke on their own tongues. Ariadne sounds like she may actually kick out.
"It's a special type of candy," Eames answers, smoothly, running a hand down Arthur's back to calm him. "Either way, you can see now why Arthur can't possibly marry Ariadne, yes?"
"Because Eames will cut her," Arthur mutters, apparently loud enough for Ariadne to hear, because she sets off in another fit of laughter.
"That's okay," Bethany says, grabbing for the scarf under Ariadne and tumbling her over when she pulls it. Ariadne pounds the dresser with her fists while she laughs. "You can be the bride. Yellow is so your color anyway."
"Thank you, Bethany, that's very kind of you to say." Eames smiles wide enough to scare small children. At least the ones that didn't come from the womb of the devil. "And thank you for letting me borrow your very pretty tiara. I think it will make this day even more special."
"Seriously," Cobb says, and tugging on Bethany's skirt so she'll lift him up with the rest of them. Lazy bastard. She ignores him until she's finished with Eames' veil. It's covering his eyes, and Arthur peeks at him underneath it and smiles. "Seriously, guys, you're married? When did you get married? You were both working nonstop five years ago."
Arthur sighs heavily, the way he can't help but do when he has to bring up a mistake he's made. "The Murphy job."
"Oh," Cobb says, drawing it out to six times the length it should be. He nods in understanding. "Vegas."
"Vegas," they confirm together, Arthur grim and Eames grinning so, so wide it has to hurt something.
"Oh my god," Ariadne says, her voice thick with amusement. "Oh my god, are there pictures?"
"Yes," Eames says, right as Arthur glowers and says, "No."
The corner of Eames' mouth twitches, and Arthur puts his thumb there to pull it back down. "Then there was the Dudley job."
"Then the Johansson job," Arthur adds, with a sigh. He tips his chin up, so that Bethany can fiddle with his tie some more.
"Wait," Ariadne says, holding up a hand.
"You guys have been married," Cobb starts, then breaks off to squint at them some more. Bethany starts humming the Wedding March as she digs crayons out from between her mattresses.
"What can I say?" Eames asks, throwing an arm back around Arthur's shoulders and pulling him in tight. Arthur, for the first time since they started this job, goes. "True love makes time."
Arthur snorts, and headbutts him gently. "Also, where most people would collect shot glasses or postcards or tacky keychains, Eames collects marriage licenses. Even when we can't get them legally."
"Especially when we can't get them legally."
Arthur sighs, again, and has no choice but to bump Eames' shoulder with his own.
Cobb looks faintly horrified. "So, how many—"
"I don't like to talk about it," Arthur says, and is saved by Bethany coming back with a rolled up page that'd been torn out of a coloring book. He's not entirely sure how grateful he is.
"What've you got there?" Ariadne asks, pushing Cobb aside to get a better look at the scribbles Bethany has drawn all over the page with a blatant disregard for the lines.
Bethany stops humming long enough to say, "The flowers," with a tone of voice that doesn't suggest she thinks only an idiot would have to ask so much as says it outright and at a high volume. Eames kisses her hand in thanks when she hands him the page.
"Okay," Bethany says, laughing and clapping just once. Arthur wants to punch whoever taught her that. "Okay," she says, and does it again, "places everyone!"
Arthur rolls his eyes, but goes to stand at one end of the dresser, and turns toward the other. Cobb takes a place by his side, and says, "I mean, I'm sure I'm not Yusuf," just petulantly enough that Arthur has to resist the urge to kick him.
"Shut up," Arthur says, "or I'll make you give a speech at the next one. I think Eames has his eyes set on two weeks in Fiji, if we ever actually stop playing and finish this case."
Cobb frowns. "How could you be thinking of work on your wedding day?"
"Practice," Eames calls from the other end of the dresser. "But he makes up for it with single-mindedness on the honeymoon."
Arthur doesn't blush, because he's a fucking Care Bear, currently, but also because he doesn't blush. He just smirks at Eames, because he knows how to get his point across. Also, he doesn't make a habit of denying things about himself that are true.
Cobb coughs, and Ariadne awwws, and Bethany says, "Guys, guys it's time to start."
Bethany starts humming the Wedding March again, and this time Ariadne joins her and she walks the three feet across the dresser. It's almost in tune and everything, which is more than can be said for a few of their weddings.
Eames follows after Ariadne carefully, makeshift veil still almost covering his eyes, and his tiara slipping forward. Somehow, in spite of looking like a Care Bear, Eames still looks the same as always. He's smiling, wide and open-mouthed and happy, and he looks sure.
That may be Arthur's favorite thing, the way that Eames always looks so, so certain that he wants to be exactly where he is. Like he knows it isn't something he's going to regret in six months or a year. Like he and Arthur may have had these ceremonies twenty-seven and a half times, but he would have them a hundred more.
He smiles like he's happy, and holds Arthur's hand like he's never going to let go.
Arthur smiles back.
"Look at you," Eames says, soft and ridiculously fond, "absolutely failing to be Grumpy."
"Shut up, Eames," Arthur says, swinging their hands between them.
"Aww," Ariadne says, peeking around Eames' doodle bouquet to watch them.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife," Bethany says, gleefully.
"Husband and husband," Cobb corrects.
"Husband and husband."
"Wait," Arthur says, "what?"
Bethany puts a hand on both their backs and knocks their faces together. "You may now kiss the… husband," she says, and does it again.
"Wait," Arthur is still saying. "Wait, what?"
"Now time for the dance," Bethany says loudly, high-pitched and laughing. She grabs Arthur and Eames skids on the dresser because Arthur doesn't let go of his hand. Cobb gets knocked to the floor in the shuffle.
"I hate you guys so much," Arthur says, when they crack up and Bethany starts spinning. "So, so much."