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we were once cinema gods in the night

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There are exactly four people who know the address of Arthur's Cannes apartment; one of them knows out of necessity, one of them knows because he's an obnoxious ass, and one of them knows because she's his mother.

The fourth, then, is probably to blame for the courier knocking on his goddamn door. Arthur sighs heavily and signs for the package, knowing exactly what it is and not particularly wanting to know. He put it down on the coffee table, folds back into his couch, and goes back to his paper.

"Dom," he answers his phone sixty seconds later, not bothering to check who it is, "why the fuck are you sending me screenplays?"

"Screenplay, singular. Because it's brilliant," Cobb says. He sounds tinny and tired and excited; Arthur can hear the kids screaming in the background. He checks his watch--7:30 AM L.A. time. What a bitch that has to be.

"I don't care how brilliant it is, we're not doing this again," Arthur says, flipping his paper closed. "I told you last time, you can send as many as you like, it doesn't matter. Even if I did want to work with you again--and I'm sorry, Dom, but I really don't--you'll never get a studio to finance you."

"So we'll go independent," Cobb says, like that's so easy. Like he doesn't have a reputation for making the most expensive fucking movies in Hollywood. Like Arthur can pull money out of his ass.


"Look, Arthur, just read it, alright? You're on vacation anyway, it's not like you have anything better to do. If you don't like it, you don't have to bother calling me back."

"I'm not on vacation. I have a lunch meeting with--"

"Arthur," Cobb says, in his business voice. In the voice that makes him sound competent and brilliant, worth trusting. In the voice that had launched Arthur's career. "Just fucking read it."

Arthur looks at his watch again, sighs heavily, and unwraps the brown paper packaging. "Ten pages," he warns. "I have time for ten pages, and then I'm going to my lunch, and if it hasn't gripped me by then, you stop trying. I don't want any of those bullshit 4AM calls, Cobb, I have a life to lead."

"Ten pages," Cobb agrees, sounding like the cat who got the canary. "You won't regret it." And then, the shameless bastard, he hangs up.

Arthur flips the first page over and starts reading.

He turns the page.

He turns the page.

"Well, fuck me," he mutters twenty pages in, and cancels his lunch.


It takes Arthur forty-five minutes to read it the first time, skimming over everything but the basic dialogue. It takes him three hours to read it the second time, with a red pen held between his teeth and his phone off, a beer getting warm between his legs.

He calls Cobb back.

"I knew you'd like it," he answers.

"Fuck you," Arthur replies. "We'd never get it financed."

"You said 'we,'" Cobb says, his tone sly. "I knew you'd like it."

"I said 'we'd,'" Arthur corrects. "As in, we would, if I agreed to do it, which I haven't--"

"Oh, spare me the grammar lesson, Arthur. You know you're in. You know it needs to be done as much as you know I won't work with another producer. It's probably already covered with your notes; you've probably got that stupid pen behind your ear. Don't toy with me."

Arthur does have the stupid pen behind his ear. He decides, all things considered, that it's probably best not to toy with Cobb.

"Fine," he sighs. "Fine, you've got me, it's fucking brilliant. But--"

"I've got a line on the financing," Cobb says quickly. "Japanese billionaire, wants to impress his fourth wife--"

"Dom," Arthur says quietly, "we need to talk about last time." There is a silence on the other end of the line. Arthur sighs. "Goddamnit--"

"There's nothing to talk about," Cobb says brusquely. "I haven't used in over a year, I'm clean, it's not like last time--"

"When you tanked your own career and nearly took everyone else down with you?"

"It was a mistake!" Cobb snaps. "I was grieving for Mal, alright? You think I haven't suffered enough for that?"

Arthur sighs again and turns the thing over in his mind. The last time had been three years ago; Mal had died three weeks into pre-production, of a brain tumor that had taken them all by surprise. Arthur had dealt with his grief by working later hours and drinking too much, by trying to keep the entire production from imploding as Cobb made bad executive decision after bad executive decision.

Cobb had dealt with the grief by developing a spiraling heroin addiction. The press fallout--not to mention the film's flop--had been brutal.

"If we're going to work together again," Arthur says, "then I'm assigning you a fucking detail. No clubs, no late-night rendezvous--"

"I'm clean, damn it," Cobb growls. "I made a mistake, Arthur. You can assign whoever the fuck you want to me if you'll do it; you're the best, and this could save my career. This could save me."

Privately, Arthur thinks Dom's career is well past saving, but he knows better than to mention it. "Look," he says instead. "The other thing--you know he's the only person who can play this part, don't you?"

"Of course I do," Cobb says. "It's like it was written for him. Where is he?"

"In Mombasa shooting that Scorsese thing," Arthur says automatically, and then winces. It's not smart, to let on that he knows shit like that, to let it slip that he keeps track. "At least, according to TMZ. Should wrap in a couple of weeks."

"So what's the problem?" Cobb says.

"He said he'd never work with you again," Arthur reminds him. "Loudly, and while breaking a considerable amount of equipment. Do you not remember?"

"He'll change his mind when he reads the script."

"I don't think--"

"Just go get him, Arthur," Cobb says firmly. "If anyone can do it, you can."

"I'm not a fucking casting director," Arthur mutters, but he's already emailing his secretary about flights.


If Arthur were to make a list of things he fucking hated--and, admittedly, it would be a pretty long list--it would start with Lindsay Lohan and end with badly made pizza, and somewhere in between would be "flying halfway around the world for a one night stay." Because, just, seriously, this is a waste of his fucking time, and if Cobb wants this so badly he should do it himself, and the guy next to him on the plane had been grinding his teeth loud enough that Arthur could hear it, and--

"You're just irritable because you're seeing Eames," his assistant, Amanda, tells him.

"I come closer to firing you every day," Arthur replies, holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder as he gets out of the cab. "You're watering my plants, right?"

"Yes, Arthur."


"Your flight to Japan leaves tomorrow at ten," she tells him smoothly. "Legal will have the contracts faxed to your hotel by two this afternoon, and yes, I did tell them you'd have their balls surgically removed if it was late, so don't bother asking. There will be a car waiting for you at 6:15 tomorrow morning, because I know how you are about getting to the airport early."

"You go out of your way to be too competent to fire, don't you?"

"Always, Arthur. Why do you think you've kept me around for so long? I've outlasted three goldfish, your vacation home in the Hamptons, every other P.A. you've ever hired and your original Dom Cobb heyday. In fact, the only person I've yet to beat is Mr. Ea--"

"Goodbye, Amanda," Arthur snaps, and hangs up on her.

He slips onto set easily, getting friendly, familiar nods from the people milling around, because one of the advantages of being Arthur is being Arthur. He'd considered setting up an appointment with Eames, and then he'd remembered that giving Eames more of an advantage than you could help was never a good idea if you didn't want to end up in the papers.

Arthur already has a headache. Already. He should never have answered the damn door.

Still, he leans up against a convenient wall and watches the milieu of humanity with a faint smile. It only takes Eames' assistant three minutes to spot him.

"Arthur," she says, coming over and giving him a quick peck on the cheek, "you're supposed to be in Paris." Julie's in her late twenties, impossible to pull anything over on, and the only person Arthur's ever seen be completely immune to Eames' considerable charm. He's always been incredibly fond of her.

"So he does still have you keep a running tab on me, then," Arthur says. "That's not creepy at all."

"Amanda and I just call each other now," she replies, raising an eyebrow. "It seemed easier. You really want to pursue insulting my boss?"

Arthur feels himself color and forcibly ignores it. "Not when I could do it to his face. Where is he?"

"Krafty, last I saw him. You picked a good day to come."

"Good mood, then?"

Julie grins at him, her expression approaching malicious. "Just the opposite."

"Fan-fucking-tastic," Arthur mutters, and follows her pointed finger to to the kraft services truck, where he finds Eames chastising an intern.

"Look, love," he's saying, "it's not that I don't understand how these things happen, but all I'm asking for is a cup of Earl Grey. Earl fucking Grey, it's not hard, is it? You can do better than this, hmm?"

"I, I, I," the poor girl babbles, clearly torn between awe of him and disappointment in herself. "I know, but this was all they--"

"Tormenting the staff?" Arthur cuts in, stepping up to them. Eames wrenches around in one movement and blinks, astonished, at him. "Not that it's not your usual fare, Mr. Eames, but this one looks a little green. Might want to try someone your own size, unless you're actually trying to motivate a bitter tell-all book."

The intern takes one look between them--at Arthur's self-satisfied smirk, Eames' open-mouthed gape--and flees. It takes Eames less than a minute to get himself together.

Then: "Arthur Levine," he says, raking his eyes up and back down Arthur's body, "as I live and breathe."

"Spare me," Arthur replies, as Eames leers and gets all up in his personal space. Not that hadn't been expecting it, but the man really is impossible.

"You're supposed to be in Paris," he says, practically into Arthur's cheek. "Missed me, then?"

Arthur takes a smooth step backwards, out of Eames' reach. "This is business, Eames, not pleasure."

"It's never pleasure with you," Eames sighs. "Always business, despite my repeated assurances that all work and no play--"

"Could you try not to sexually harass me for five minutes?" Arthur asks, biting back a completely unwelcome smile. "I want to get lunch. There's a job."

"You're early," Eames says, looking like he regrets it. "I'm scheduled on-set 'til at least four, and I can't exactly slip out on Martin, he'll have a coronary."

Arthur shrugs. "I'll wait, if you'll get someone to snatch me a chair. I have shit to get done anyway, and I haven't seen you work in ages."

"The great Arthur Levine admits to enjoying my work," Eames says, very dry. "This is better than the Oscar, darling, why didn't you come sooner?"

"Probably because you're a pain in my ass," Arthur replies. "And I didn't say I enjoy your work. And that shirt is fucking hideous, Eames, do you do these things just to get in the papers?"

Eames grins at him. "This is wardrobe," he says. "Wait till you see what I wear to lunch."


Lunch ends up being dinner, because the head grip and the sound guy get into a screaming match about where they're putting the boom pole, and then Scorsese has a melt-down about the goddamn lighting, and then Eames fucks off to smoke four cigarettes because he's irritable and he feels like it. Arthur makes fifteen phone calls, sends thirty two emails, and tries not to let his fingers twitch with annoyance while the producer--an up-and-comer Scorsese seems to be taking a chance on--lets all this shit happen instead of getting it under control.

Arthur's sense of control is…fine-tuned, to say the least. It's what makes him the best.

Once they're actually shooting--fucking finally--Arthur shoves his phone into his jacket pocket and watches. He'd never admit it, but there's something almost transcendent about watching Eames in front of the camera. He's always known the man had talent (he could never have gotten famous if he didn't, not with his ridiculous insistence on going by "Eames" professionally, not with his careful too-glib silence about his private life), but it floors him to see it in action every time.

It's like he's different people. That's the only way Arthur knows how to explain it, even after almost fifteen years in the business; it's like he's different people, like he can just put on someone else's skin and walk around in it. Which, Arthur supposes, is the whole point of acting--but no one should be that good at it, no one should be that convincing.

Eames has six Golden Globes, four SAG awards, and a chip on his shoulder about the Academy. In Arthur's strictly professional opinion, he's right to.

They wrap for the day at seven out of sheer frustration, and Eames is in such a foul mood that he breezes by Arthur and into his trailer without a word. Sighing, Arthur waits ten minutes--fifteen--twenty--before Eames comes back out, all makeup gone, wearing a shirt that is indeed more hideous than the one he'd had on previously.

"Jesus Christ," Arthur says, "I think it's going to blind me."

"How do you feel about Moroccan, darling?" Eames replies, ignoring his comment except for a pleased, if preoccupied, half-smile. "There's an out of the way little restaurant up the street, and I'd just as soon not be mobbed by the press tonight."

"But I thought you lived to be mobbed by the press," Arthur deadpans, admittedly teasing just a little. Eames' smile tilts upward a bit more, and he turns to Arthur, a hint of light dancing behind his eyes.

"Ah, Arthur," he says, "if I thought for one second you'd help me put on the show they deserve, I'd let them tear me limb from limb."

"Moroccan it is," Arthur sighs, rolling his eyes, but he's gratified by the way Eames' smile firms up as they fall into step together.

It takes them three drinks each and several plates of food to get around to talking about the job, because Eames clearly needs to wind down and Arthur's always been good at letting him vent. The up-and-comer, as expected, is indeed the problem, and Eames rails on about him--how he'd thought a Scorsese picture would spare him this kind of bleeding incompetence--until finally he pauses for breath.

A man who knows his moments and when to take them, Arthur says, "Maybe you just miss working with me, Mr. Eames. Professionally speaking, of course."

"Unprofessionally speaking," Eames purrs, leaning across the table, "I've missed working with you very much, Arthur."

"Then let's talk about Dom's new project," Arthur says. The invitation, the opened door of Eames' face, slams closed at once. He blinks at Arthur, stunned, like Arthur's punched him in the stomach, and Arthur winces internally. He'd thought the direct approach was the best way to go, but he'd clearly miscalculated.

"Dom," Eames repeats flatly. "Dom Cobb."

"I know you two didn't leave things on the best of terms…"

Eames snorts out a harsh laugh. "That's one way to put it. Tell me, is he still fucking about with pins and needles, or can we get a picture made this time?"

Arthur sighs. "Eames--"

"No, no, darling, don't you Eames me. You show up on my set and you make me spend my day wondering what in the hell could possibly be good enough to bring you of all people out here, and then you tell me it's a bloody Dom Cobb--"

"Here," Arthur says, slamming the script down in front of him. Eames raises a furious eyebrow. "Ten pages. Just read ten pages, and then I swear to god I will fuck off if you're still against this. Give me ten pages. I'll get you another drink. Ten fucking pages, Eames."

"I should make you blow me for this," he spits, but he picks the thing up. "If it were anyone but you asking, Arthur--"

"I know," Arthur says, even as he feels something tighten almost pleasurably in his chest at the implications there. "Ten pages."

Eames sighs, flips the script open, and starts to read.

He turns the page.

He turns the page.

"Oh, bloody hell," he sighs, and lets Arthur order him another drink.

--, February 22, 2010

TMZ has learned…. Eames, notorious for his privacy about his personal life, was spotted in Mombasa last night with none other than producer Arthur Levine. Once rumored--though never confirmed--to be an item, the two were seen sharing an private booth in a secluded restaurant. Business or pleasure? Well, recalling Eames' very public denouncement of the Dom Cobb franchise, he's probably not signing on for Cobb's new independent picture, which Levine's said to be working…we're just saying.


Arthur hadn't meant to get into the movie business.

He'd been an accounting major, for fuck's sake. A scrawny Jewish accounting major from Brooklyn, whose life-plan extended as far as graduating and becoming a CPA. He was 19, bored, and far too smart for his world. He met Dom Cobb at a frat party.

Even that first time, there had been something…oddly ethereal about Dom. The room parted for him, listened to him, never mind that he was 23 and fresh out of school. He was one of those people that rumors floated around, that was more in legend than he was in person. He was one of those people everyone gravitated towards, and Arthur, despite himself, had been drawn.

"Who's this?" Dom said, flicking an inquisitive gaze Arthur's way. Jeff, the guy who'd brought--well, dragged--Arthur to the party, snorted.

"This is Arthur," he said. "He's supposed to be our pledge-master this year, but he's kind of a stick in the mud, aren't you, Arthur?"

"You know full well," Arthur said calmly, "that I could drink you under this table, Jeff."

Jeff scowled. "I'd like to see you try."

Arthur had, then, proceeded to drink him under the table. When Jeff broke off to hurl, Arthur walked out to the back door on mostly steady legs and bummed a cigarette from one of the other smokers. It didn't take Cobb long to come after him.

"You ever lose your cool," he asked, "or are you always like that?"

"I lose my cool when it needs losing," Arthur replied, shrugging. "I don't really like these parties, and I certainly wasn't going to come to one and then be insulted for my trouble."

"You don't like these parties," Dom repeated. Arthur nodded, unmoved. "And yet they've made you pledge-master?"

Arthur grinned then, a here-and-gone thing. "I get things done," he said. "Those freshmen will never know what hit them."

"Hmmm," said Cobb. Then, to Arthur's immense surprise, he asked for Arthur's number.

"Uh," Arthur said, badly shaken. He hadn't thought things were going that direction at all. "Look, I'm not--well, it's not that I'm not--you're just really not my--"

"It's Arthur, right?" Dom said, ignoring this.

Arthur nodded mutely, and Dom gave him a sliver of a smile.

"You feel like making movies?" he asked.

Arthur had thought he was out of his mind. He'd thought that up until he'd showed up on Dom's set, which had recently been abandoned by their previous producer. It was a shitty, low budget set, with a shitty, low budget crew, but it was more than anyone Dom's age should have been able to get his hands on.

Arthur didn't know anything about filmmaking, but he'd read the script and Dom had talked to him, three days of near-constant talking, filling him up with details. He was, Arthur realized, brilliant. Crazy, but brilliant.

In a bit of a daze, Arthur watched as they set up for the shot, filing away the names people were shouting, the places things went. Then Dom leaned over to him, his voice conspiratorial, low.

"Call quiet on the set," he said.

"What," Arthur said, "me?"

"Yeah, you," Dom hissed. "You want to establish some authority, Arthur. Tell these assholes to calm down. Go on."

Arthur stood up. "Quiet on the set," he said, and was completely ignored. "Quiet on the set," he repeated, louder, and was brushed off again. And then, suddenly, something snapped in him--some part of him that had always been there, lurking under the surface, under all that quick, competent efficiency--

"HEY!" Arthur screamed, standing on his chair and looking around, "If I don't have quiet on this fucking set in forty-five seconds I will staple your mouths shut. We. Are. On. A. Schedule."

The room went dead quiet, and Dom smiled.

It took Arthur less than three months to drop out of college. Dom made them famous in ten.


Japan is….interesting.

What files he'd been able to pull on Saito had made Arthur expect your typical private investor--shallow, more than a little stupid, and completely ignorant of the actual process behind making movies. He walks into the meeting prepared to make a soft sell, and then he actually sees Saito.

The man is a study in sharp-eyed, well-researched terror. He's got the screenplay open on his desk, strategically placed so that Arthur will see it. There is a member of what Arthur can only imagine in his legal team sitting in the corner.

"Mr. Levine," he says, glancing at the massive portfolio Arthur has clutched in his left hand, "I am not the kind of man who is likely to be swayed by hastily done storyboards and boyish enthusiasm."

It's a sign of what a skilled producer Arthur is that it only takes him a second to reinvent.

"And I'm not the kind of man who keeps up a useless charade," he replies smoothly. "Let's get down to business, Mr. Saito."

The way Saito smiles at him tells Arthur he's already won.


Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, February 22, 2010, 4:30 PM JST
darling come back here. this tosser martins got producing will b the death of me, and then how will i carry your latext project? ill make them give you a creative credit an everything

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, February 22, 2010, 4:41PM JST
You're the only one swayed by creative credits lately, Eames. Dom's going to have a shit fit about that, by the way, but I'll make it happen. If I fax the contracts over tomorrow will you sign?

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, February 22, 2010, 4:42 PM JST
always business

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, February 22, 2010, 4:43 PM JST
Well, I did tell Saito you'd already agreed. Financing's in place, by the way. And, if it makes you feel better, I'm terribly sorry about your fuckwad of a producer

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, February 22, 2010, 4:50 PM JST
your condescensions always appreciated. you see the tmz thing this a.m.?

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, February 22, 2010, 4:52 PM JST
Yeah. You've got to get Nash to stop following you, that little fuck is beyond irritating. Will you sign?

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, February 22, 2010, 4:55 PM JST
of course i will darling. but if you walk i walk. now do shut up im shooting


Arthur met Eames by accident.

He'd been in L.A. for three years. After the unholy meteoric rise of Dom's first film--from Cannes to limited release to wide release to the goddamn Oscars--Arthur had started getting calls. He stuck close to Cobb at first, didn't want to burn himself out, but the allure of working with other directors had proved too strong in the end. When Eames wandered into his life he was halfway through shooting Dom's third movie, in post-production for his second, and had somehow managed to sign on
with Baz Luhrmann for a futuristic remake of, of all things, Gone With the Wind.

"You can't just fire Leonardo DiCaprio!" he screamed into the phone at 11:30 on a Tuesday night, veering off his path home to head for the nearest bar. "You love working with him! Don't you remember Romeo & Juliet?"

"He's not right for it," Baz insisted. "We need someone younger, unknown, and less--Leo's the wrong kind of attractive. Someone British, maybe."

"You can't make Rhett Butler British," Arthur snapped, turning the heads of several passersby.

"I can do whatever I want, Arthur," Baz responded, his voice going a few shades harder, and that's when Arthur remembered that this wasn't Dom Cobb, and he couldn't just berate him into the ground. "Make this happen."

"I--" Arthur started, but Baz had already hung up.

"Fan-fucking-tastic," Arthur said. He reached the bar and slipped inside, sitting in the far corner and ordering a double shot of whiskey. He took it cleanly, and asked for another, and then--

"Bad night?" someone purred, too close to him. The voice was British (of course, Arthur thought, irritated with the universe) and low, a little raspy. He turned in his chair, fully prepared to tell the guy to buzz off, but his brain short-circuited a little when he actually saw who he was talking to.

"Yeah," he said, looking the man up and down, "you could say that."

Stubble. Full lips. Broad shoulders. Tattoo peeking out of the bottom of his left sleeve. Grinning like an asshole. This guy was definitely Arthur's type.

"Why don't you tell me about it?" he said, sliding up onto the closest stool.

"I probably shouldn't," Arthur said, angling his body towards the stranger's a little. He was frustrated, and the idea of relieving some tension with this guy had considerable appeal. "I'm sure there are better things we could talk about."

"Oh, I don't know," the man said, cocking his head and grinning slightly. "Seems like an interesting story to me."

"Does it?"

"Oh, yes," he said. "But then again, that could just be how very Hollywood you look."

"I bet you say that to all the guys," Arthur deadpanned, rolling his eyes. "Does it make people think you're smooth?"

"No, love, they think that all on their own," the man said, and Arthur snorted. He narrowed his eyes--not curious, just inquisitive--and continued, "So, in the name of proving myself more than just a cheeky twat, let me make a few guesses. I'd say you do work in the industry, but something behind the scenes--AD, or a producer, maybe. You like your job but feel superior to the people you work with, and you've got no personal life to speak of, excepting maybe a dying houseplant. Am I close?"

Arthur thought of the brownish fern adoring the windowsill of his apartment and swallowed. "Well, you're either a very opportunistic stalker or one of those bastards they set up at carnivals. Gonna guess my weight next?"

The man threw back his head and laughed. "And here I was expecting the requisite Sherlock Holmes joke."

"What, because you're British and observant? Too easy."

"Don't you want to know how I figured you out?"

"I never said you did," Arthur pointed out. "And anyway, maybe I like a little bit of mystery."

"You're just circling the Holmes business now," the man said. "I can see you waiting to drop it at any moment."

"You don't think I've got better things to do than strategize the placement of a tired joke?"

Instead of replying, he laughed again, sticking out his hand. "Well, you are a bit of all right, aren't you? I'm Eames."

"Arthur," Arthur replied, shaking. When he went to pull back, Eames held him there, running his thumb along Arthur's palm. Arthur tried hard not to shudder.

"I'm going to need my hand back," he said, admittedly not with much force behind it, "if I'm going to take my shot."

"To be quite frank, darling," Eames replied, licking his lips ever-so-slightly, "I don't give a damn about your shot."

The split second following that statement was one of the most conflicted of Arthur's life. Excitement was first, excitement because fuck, Luhrmann would go nuts for the idea of finding someone in a bar, that was just his kind of thing, and he'd sounded fucking brilliant saying that, and Arthur knew by now to trust his instincts. Excitement, because he would solve at least one of Arthur's problems.

The other emotion was something not unlike disappointment; this man was something he wanted. But Arthur was a professional. He withdrew his hand.

"Say that again," he commanded.

Eames raised his eyebrows. "You're not one of those blokes who gets off on accents, are you?"

Maybe in your case, Arthur thought, and immediately attempted to unthink. "No, just--please. I'll explain in a second."

Eames gave him a strange look but then sighed. "Frankly, darling, I don't give a damn about your shot?"

"Mr. Eames," Arthur said, feeling the thrill of discovery peaking deep in his chest. "You feel like making movies?"

It was a Hollywood story: found in a bar, no classical training, skyrocketing to fame in two pictures. But that's the thing about Hollywood--everyone has a Hollywood story.


Arthur had almost let himself forget what a fucking trial pre-production for a Dom Cobb film can be. It isn't just that he has unrealistic expectations of what money can buy (though he does) and it's not just that he blatantly disregards basic human needs like eating and sleeping (though he really, really does).

Mostly it's that he never fucking mentions gigantic glaring pitfalls until Arthur's already completely ensnared in the project.

"You can't ask Eames to do this stunt himself!" Arthur yells, completely ignoring the glares from the other restaurant patrons. "Oh my fucking god, the insurance issues alone--"

"Look, I know you and Eames have a complicated relationship, but you can't let it get in the way of your work," Cobb says, smug and superior and such a complete bastard that Arthur could hit him.

"There is nothing complicated about my relationship with Eames," Arthur hisses, stabbing at his steak vengefully. "I am a consummate professional."

"That's not what TMZ says," Cobb tells him, grinning.

"TMZ is full of shit," Arthur returns. "Can we get back to the matter at hand? The matter at hand being that I can't just indulge all of your insane fucking whims."

"Of course you can," Cobb says demurely, sipping at his water. "That's what makes you the best."

"We're getting a stunt guy," Arthur tells him. "I'll even get a British one if that's what you want, I'll get a henna artist to paint the damned tattoos, but don't even think about mentioning it to Eames."

"Yeah, yeah," Cobb says, waving a hand. He moves on, starting in about DP choices, and Arthur narrows his eyes but lets it drop.


The DP ends up being a this guy named Yusuf, who Eames recommends and Cobb balks about until he sees his reel. He's a relative newcomer to the business, but he's got skills with the camera that are un-fucking-believable, and he's worked with Eames before. Dom wants to try for someone with more of a name--which is ridiculous, considering his own persona non gratis status in the business--so Arthur stops arguing.

He has Yusuf flown in for a private meeting instead.

"Sharp, no?" Yusuf says, when the lights click back on. They've watched twenty minutes of his more avant-garde stuff, the shit he doesn't put on his reel but whips out for meetings like this. Arthur has liked him since he walked through the door--he's calm, rational, none of that self-aggrandizing bullshit that's so fucking prevalent these days.

He likes him more now, though, for the steady, unintimidated way he looks at Dom.

"Yeah," says Dom, "that's--yeah."

Arthur bites down on a smirk and mentally pats himself on the back. He had, of course, previewed the clips before the meeting--he would have found a different tactic if it wasn't going to work. As it was, he'd recognized in Yusuf's stuff the kind of hard hitting shit Dom tended to love--the quick cuts, the slow build of angled shots. He's perfect.

"Well," Dom says, "I think we've found our DP," and Arthur allows himself a smile.


Eames, because he's impossible and insufferable and Eames, is forty-five minutes late to the first table read. He's playing the central role, the lynchpin of the entire film, and it's not like they can get started without him. Arthur considers sending him a text, thinks better of it, and gets Amanda to text Julie instead.

"They're on their way up," Amanda says. "Julie's sorry and Eames isn't, because--"

"Yeah, I really don't need the explanation there," Arthur says, pinching the bridge of his noise. At the front of the room, Cobb's already looking furious, which is exactly what Arthur needs right now.

"I don't know what you were expecting," Amanda says, shrugging. "And don't look at me like that--you hired him."

"I know," Arthur groans. "God, do you have to rub it in?"

"Keeping your ego in check is part of my job description," Amanda tells him cheerily, and goes back to her Blackberry.

"Is he worth it?" a voice says, on Arthur's other side. Arthur glances over to find Ariadne, the AD Cobb had handpicked. Arthur'd had his doubts about her--she wouldn't be the first kid fresh out of college to bite off more than she could chew--but the fact that she's asking the question is actually encouraging.

"Yeah," Arthur says, "but don't you fucking dare tell him I said that."

It's at this moment that Eames breezes through the doors, Julie hot on his heels and mouthing apologies in Arthur's direction over his shoulder.

"'Allo, lovelies," he says, because he always plays up the fucking British thing, god, he's so irritating, "terribly good to see you--oh, my. Am I late?"

"Yes," Cobb snaps, "you know you're fucking--"

"Can it, Dom," Arthur says, stepping in. "We're off schedule already, let's not push it."


"Sit down and shut up, Mr. Eames," Arthur growls. "We're going around the table and introducing ourselves and then we're fucking starting, is that clear?"

"And here I thought I'd get a proper tongue-lashing," Eames says, leering. A few of the younger cast members titter, but Arthur knows better than to fall into that trap.

"You always do think too highly of your own importance," he says, and the way Eames' eyes flash, the sudden drive he has to fucking focus, is really very satisfying.


This is the thing about starting a shoot with Eames: he's a complete fucking dick all the fucking time, and it's so easy to get so absorbed in what an irritating shit he is that Arthur forget to pay attention to other things. Things like how he's nailing the scenes nine times out of ten. Things like the way he never needs a line cue. Things like the fact that he's charmed half of the crew in the first week and suddenly Arthur is mostly alone in fucking hating him, even though, of course, Arthur doesn't really hate him at all.

Complicated is the wrong word for their relationship, but, to be entirely fair, Arthur can't exactly think of a more suitable adjective.

That said, aside from the level of distraction Arthur has to forcibly ignore, the shoot isn't going terribly. Dom and Eames still don't get along--they never did, really, even before everything went sour--and they're always an inch from killing each other, but they're not snapping too often. Ariadne turns out to be stunningly efficient, with call sheets that are a thing to behold, and Yusuf is as brilliant as Arthur had known he would be. The press isn't being too impossible, and Saito hasn't yet made good on his threat to drop by the set, though he is far, far more on top of the expense reports Arthur's sending him than any private financier Arthur's ever worked with.

But even Arthur can't keep Dom from being Dom, and even Arthur can't keep that from rubbing Eames the wrong way, and so of course some things are bound to go wrong.

"Striking!" comes from the back of the set, and the scene lighting flickers on even as Ariadne is calling "Mark: scene 11, take 18, and--action!"

Dom's got one headphone held to his ear, and he's staring at the screen as Eames steps out onto the balcony they've constructed. Yusuf and the camera drift in slowly on the dolly, closing in on his face, and he starts speaking. He's wearing the climbing gear and the harness that his stunt double will don when they shoot the next half of this scene, rigged to the ceiling for continuity' sake, and he's reciting his lines.

Arthur isn't really paying attention to what he's saying, though, because this is their eighteenth fucking take and they're an hour off schedule. He's watching Dom's face instead.

It's…not encouraging.

"Cut!" Dom yells, interrupting Eames mid-line. Arthur bites back a groan and gestures for Amanda as Dom continues, "Fucking hell, Eames, is it so hard to put a little emotion into it? What do I have to do, get the press in here?"

"Oh, I'll give you emotion," Eames says, dangerous. "Someone get me out of this bloody rigging--I swear to god--"

"Amanda," Arthur says, low, "get everyone with a cell phone off this set right now. The interns, all the extras, the crew, right fucking now."


"Because we're going to have a Christian Bale situation on our hands in--" he stops, glances up to where Eames is trying to wrestle himself out of his harness, and continues, "three minutes, and I don't want Eames all over Youtube looking like a fucking lunatic."

"Oh," Amanda says, and she's grinning knowingly, and Arthur glares.

"For the sake of the film, not for him," he hisses. "Go, go, why are you still standing here, get Ariadne to help--and snatch a pack of cigarettes from one of the gaffers, will you?"

"On it," she says, and she's off, and Arthur moves to be at the bottom of the stairs when Eames clatters down them, his face twisted in fury.

"Wait," Arthur says, "I know you're pissed but just hold on for three fucking seconds, Eames, let me get the set clear so you don't end up on the goddamn internet."

"Bloody tosser--"

"Shut the fuck up," Arthur snaps. "Just wait for--"

"Clear!" Amanda calls, and Eames pushes past Arthur only to stalk over to Dom, get far, far too close.

"I want to clarify," he growls, "just exactly who is doing whom the fucking favor of being on this set, because I'm pretty sodding sure it isn't you."

"It's not my fucking fault you can't act the lines," Dom snaps. Eames blinks at him incredulously, and Amanda's pressing the pack of cigarettes into Arthur's hands. He lights one, eyes never straying from the argument.

"I can't act the lines?" Eames yells. "What the bloody buggering shit is that, what the fuck--"

"Oh, aren't you a fucking stereotype, the ego-driven actor who just can't handle--"

"Fuck you, at least I'm not a bloody drug addict--"

"What the fuck is wrong with you, how fucking dare you throw that back in my--"

"Well maybe if you hadn't done your sodding best to take my career down with you--"

"Enough," Arthur snaps, stepping between them, because there's only so far he can let them air their grievances before they actually start hitting each other. It's a delicate art, allowing them to blow off enough steam to continue working together without letting it come to blows.

He hands Eames the lit cigarette. "Go back to your trailer, now."

"Don't even try to--"

"I will be there in three minutes," Arthur growls, "swallow your goddamn pride and just do it, you know better than let your emotions get the best of you like this."

"Oh, piss right off, Arthur--"

"This is not up for fucking debate," Arthur snaps. "You are not a kid on a playground and you can't throw your temper tantrums on everyone else's time and this isn't the fucking Cobol set, so get your head out of your ass and go. "

Eames blinks at him for a second. Then, always one for dramatics, he turns on his heel and stalks off to his trailer, smoking the cigarette and muttering under his breath.

"I knew you'd side with me," Dom says, smug. Arthur wheels on him, glaring.

"I don't have a side here, asshole," he growls, "except the side of actually getting this film produced, and maybe you don't give a fuck about that, maybe you've forgotten whose career it is on the line, but it's not Eames' and it's sure as hell not mine. What the fuck are you thinking about?"

"He isn't holding the scene--"

"Then you deal with it like you would with any other actor," Arthur snaps. "You don't play on his weaknesses and jibe him about the fucking press, what is wrong with you? I know it pisses you off that his rep didn't take a hit just because yours did--"

"Screw you, Arthur, I'm not that petty--"

"Really?" Arthur asks. "Are you sure? Because from where I'm sitting, it took him 18 fucking takes to snap and I agree that he needs to put a little more emotion behind it and his fucking blocking's off, but yours would be too if your director couldn't stop insulting you."

"Oh, so you're defending him? Because you want in his pants?"

"When did you get this fucking unprofessional?" Arthur hisses. Dom leans away from him, stung. "Jesus, even when you were strung out you weren't like this. I don't care what the fuck your problem is, we're on a schedule and you of all people know how actors are and you need to get it the fuck together, are we clear?"

"I could fire you," Dom points out. Arthur holds his ground, glaring.

"Go ahead," he snaps. "Go the fuck ahead, Dom. I'd be happy to be done with this shit, and Eames would walk with me, and frankly right at this moment I'd kind of love to see what a shitshow you'd make of this movie without us. Go on, do it. Fire me. I dare you."

Dom stares at him for a second, face red, shoulders set. Then he deflates, sagging, and runs a hand over his face.

"Jesus," he says.

"No shit," says Arthur.

"Sorry, I just--it's a lot of pressure, I'd forgotten--"

"You should go take a break," Arthur instructs, and his voice isn't kind, but it's not as harsh as it had been. "Video-chat your kids or something, I don't know, just calm the fuck down before we start again. I'll deal with Eames."

"Yeah," Dom says, "yeah, okay."

He heads off, head down, hands in his pockets. Arthur nods to the detail he had actually gone ahead and assigned to Dom as a condition of taking the job, watches to make sure he follows, and then sighs.

He goes over to Eames' trailer and knocks.

"If you're not Arthur you can piss off," Eames yells.

"I am Arthur," Arthur calls back. "Door's locked, jackass, who are you, Britney Spears?"

Eames wrenches the door open, glaring. "It's not that I don't understand that you're trying to do your job, but I don't appreciate being sent to my room like a child."

"Well, I don't appreciate you losing your shit on Saito's dime," Arthur says. He holds up a hand when Eames opens his mouth to argue. "But I do get it. I know you're pissed. You're not wrong."

"So what are you going to do about it?"

"I talked to Dom," Arthur says. "I'll talk to him again if I have to. Anything else you have to say, you can say to me."

"Oh, come on," Eames says, "what is this, some kind of--you're not a bloody therapist, Arthur, I can't just--"

"You have grievances," Arthur says, shrugging. "I'm not unhinged, and I can take anything you dish out and then some without it pushing me towards some kind of backslide, and I'd rather have you yell at me then delay the fucking day any more. Jesus Christ, we were supposed to have hit the martini half an hour ago, the crew is going to revolt. "

Eames quirks a small smile--a little contrite, a little sad. "Always business," he sighs, and Arthur rolls his eyes.

"Fine," he says, "I also don't enjoy seeing you all freaked out and pissed off, okay?"

"Now, darling," Eames says, and it's almost a purr, "how am I supposed to stay angry when you're dropping sweet nothings like that?"

"Nice try," Arthur says, because he knows Eames a lot better than either of them like to admit. This is not the first time he's stood in Eames' trailer coaxing some honesty out of him, and he's sure it won't be the last . "You're not that good an actor."

"Christ," Eames mutters. "Remind me again why I ever agreed to work with you?"

"Because I don't take your shit," Arthur returns at once. "Could you just tell me what's wrong, please? It's obviously more than just the press crack, and I can't actually read minds."

"If anyone could--"

"Eames," Arthur says. "I can't deal with it if you don't tell me what it is. Come on."

"I just," Eames says, running a hand through his hair. "I just don't particularly enjoy it, alright? Working with him--working with both of you, no offense meant. It feels too much like the old days. Makes me miss her, and then I can't, you know, I need to be in the character's headspace, not my own."

Arthur sighs; he'd figured it was something like that, and hoped he was wrong. Mal had been Eames'…something, back before she ever met Dom--a costume designer he'd gotten close to on the Gone With the Wind set. They'd had a brief, casual showmance, a with-benefits kind of thing that fizzled out when filming ended; it had driven Arthur crazy at the time, he'd fucking hated Mal for it, but that had ebbed when she and Eames split amicably enough and stayed friends.

Eames had introduced her to Dom at a party by accident, and at least part of the tension between them was based on that fact--Dom couldn't forgive Eames for dating her first, and Eames couldn't forgive Dom for being what she wanted, never mind that he'd never really loved her that way. She used to laugh about it, before she died--usually with Arthur, because Dom's sense of humor was clipped even at the best of times, and Eames always wound further into a caricature of himself when stressed.

There are moments, generally after he's had several drinks too many, when Arthur wonders it was Mal that made them great together, and nothing more. It makes his gut twist, so generally he tries not to think about it.

"Yeah," he says to Eames, "yeah, I thought maybe that was it."

"Bloody hell," Eames says on an exhale. He lights a cigarette, one from his own pack, and throws himself across the small couch he has tucked into one corner of the trailer. "I was a bit of a prat, wasn't I?"

"You're an actor, it's only to be expected," Arthur says. Eames tosses a pillow at him, laughing a little.

"Do you ever wonder…" Eames says. "If she'd lived, I mean. Whether we would have--"

"Define we," Arthur says, too quickly. Eames just looks at him, eyes hooded and probing and suddenly Arthur can't be in this fucking trailer anymore.

"Right," he says, "back on set in fifteen, let me know if you need anything, bye."

He tears outside, and there's Amanda with his coffee and the latest rundown of the set schedules and yesterday's dailies, and he doesn't have to think about the look on Eames' face anymore.


It's a week later when Arthur's phone rings. He blinks awake and looks at it blearily; it's Eames' number, but he can't imagine what the fuck Eames wants at 2 AM.


There's nothing but noise for a second, noise enough that Eames is either at a party or a club, and Arthur is going to hang up on what is obviously a pocket dial when he hears the sound of Eames' voice, distant, saying "Hold on a tick, have to take this, it's my producer," and then:

"Arthur!" Eames cries, "darling, what are you doing awake?"

"You called me, Eames," Arthur says, stifling a yawn. "What the hell--"

"No," Eames says, ignoring him, "don't be ridiculous, of course I'm not at Proclus, I told you I wouldn't go, I do recall that we're shooting tomorrow."

Proclus. The club? Eames is calling him from a club and pretending that Arthur has called him, which means--

"Oh, god, is this a rescue call?" Arthur demands. He's already out of bed and casting around for clothes, but contrives to sound irritated all the same. "Jesus, Eames, aren't you old enough to get out of your own messes?"

"Apparently not," Eames says. "But honestly, Arthur, it's the television--Jude, no, not that one--"

Oh, god, and Jude Law is there. Eames hates Jude Law.

"Right," Arthur says, "give me twenty minutes."

"Of course, of course, in the morning, right-o!" Eames says, and hangs up on him.

Arthur shakes his head at the phone in disbelief, pulls on a pair of jeans and a black sweater, and really fucking hopes he isn't about to make a complete fool of himself.


This is one of those things only Arthur knows about Eames: he doesn't dance in public unless he's really fucking drunk.

It's not that he can't dance--far from it. There's a scene in one his early pictures, one of the independents, that always goes up against John Travolta's role in Grease in internet vote-offs, and sometimes he cuts loose at wrap parties, to the delight of the other guests. When Arthur had found him in that bar all those years ago, he'd been a cashier at a drugstore, but in his spare time he was hitting up auditions for bit parts in dance crews; the man can move.

He just doesn't, generally, mostly because of the press. He tries harder with his public image than anyone Arthur's even met, plays the papers with more panache than is even fair, and considering their line of work, that's saying something. His goal, always, is to come off as just enough of a party boy and just enough of a good guy--dangerous to the point of appeal, but not actually threatening. He carries it off well, and it makes the paparazzi crazy. They're always looking for him to slip up, to catch him out at something decadent and overdone, to transform him into the coked-up, drugged-out nutcase they've always wanted him to be.

That kind of shit sells more papers, after all.

In any case, Eames only dances in public when he's got no other choice, when the alternative is being photographed passed out across a table. Arthur knows this, has known for years, and it's the first thing he thinks about when he seems Eames in the middle of the room. I didn't misinterpret that phone call after all, he realizes, and then Eames starts moving, and Arthur's train of thought…derails a little.

It's not that he's not a professional. He is, he is, he's good at his goddamn job and he knows it, it's just. Well, it's just that there's something a little inhuman about Eames dancing, isn't there? The way he drags himself up and back down, working every part of his body, and he's not even--he's surrounded by people but dancing alone, he's dancing alone, because he's like that when he's drunk, too. Sends off this cloud of solitude, because he doesn't trust himself not to do something wrong, something that could make him look bad.

Eames is a sad story, really, if you're willing to peer past all his ridiculous luck.

Arthur takes a deep breath and presses in the through the crowd. This isn't the first time he's come out to pluck a cast member from the middle of a party; he has a reputation for being a hardass when it comes to his actors. It'll raise some eyebrows, but not too many, if they're lucky.

"Well, well, Mr. Eames," he says, letting his voice carry, "hell of a television show you're watching, huh?"

"Oh, bloody hell, that sounds far too much like my producer," Eames slurs to his group, turning around. He's the picture of caught-out sheepishness, except for the carefully hidden relief in his eyes. "Damn, I thought I'd gotten away with it, too."

"This is not an episode of Scooby Doo," Arthur deadpans, mostly to gauge how drunk Eames is. Eames raises his eyebrows in amusement, so he's at least mostly with it.

"Quoting Eddie at me?" he asks, stepping close and putting a hand on his shoulder. "And here I thought I was in trouble."

"You are in trouble," Arthur says, not bothering to push off Eames' hand. "You're supposed to be on set in six hours, what the hell are you doing--"

"Don't be too hard on him," someone purrs; Arthur turns his head and, oh, god, it's an Olsen twin, what kind of club is this? "He wants to stay, right, Eames?"

"Of course I do!" Eames cries, to riotous cheers. Then he grinds against Arthur, pressing too close to him, and whispers, "For the love of god, get me out of here."

"Jesus, you're an obnoxious drunk," Arthur says, at full volume, for the benefit of the crowd. Then, lower, just for Eames: "Seriously, you can't get out of this one yourself?"

"I think they're going to spike my drinkif I'm not careful, too many paparazzi out front, you know how I am with the press when I'm trashed, Arthur, come on, I need a proper excuse."

He's still dancing, and Arthur's moving with him almost against his will, and god, this is such a bad idea, this is such a bad plan, there are going to be photos in the morning. And Arthur would suspect Eames of plotting this, of doing anything and everything to get Arthur onto the dance floor with him…except that Eames isn't actually like that when you really get to know him, and he sounds far, far too desperate.

"Okay," Arthur sighs, "okay, relax, my car's outside, I'll get you out. Play along, yeah?"

At once, Eames raises his voice. "Don't be like that, Arthur, aren't we all having fun here?"

"Did you think I was kidding about pulling you from this film?" Arthur asks, stepping cleanly away. "When I say we need you rested, I mean we need you fucking rested."

"Don't be a wanker, Arthur," says Jude Law, and Arthur actually has to grip Eames' arm to keep him from taking a swing, drunken belligerent idiot that he is.

"Don't project, Jude," Arthur returns easily, elbowing Eames subtly to remind him to play his fucking part. "Unless I'm very much mistaken, it was you that forced me to learn to pluck actors from the middle of parties, so let's not get in each other's way here, okay?"

"You never change, do you?"

"Universal constant, that's me," Arthur says, letting something a little dangerous slip into his voice. "Incidentally, I hear you want in on Soderbergh's new project. That true?"

"It might be," Jude says, looking suddenly uncomfortable. Arthur smiles.

"Steven's a good guy," he says. "He'll want Clooney for it, whatever it is, but I could put in a good word for you. Or…not."

They stare at each other for a second, but really Arthur's got all the power in almost any situation he wanders into, and they both know it.

"Right," Jude says, "have a good night."

"Let's go," Arthur says to Eames, who is leaning on him heavily enough to betray that he's really fucking shitfaced, and leads him out of the bar. They're met with a number of people who protest to his leaving, but Arthur's reputation for being ruthless is decidedly based on fact, and there's no one who won't back off. He's got Eames in the passenger seat of his Rover in under ten minutes.

They go to Arthur's apartment, because the paparazzi will be camped outside Eames' hotel. They'd watched Eames get into the Rover, after all, shouting questions--Arthur had seen Nash in the crowd, and taken a roundabout route home to shake any tails, just in case--and he pushes Eames towards the couch when they get in, grabbing a blanket and a pillow from the hall closet.

"Fucking Jude Law," Eames growls, kicking off his shoes. "Overrated pushy little tosser."

"You're not really going to try to blame Jude Law for the fact that you're an idiot, right?" Arthur asks, handing over a pillow. "Honestly, Eames, not that I wouldn't rather you call me than end up doing something stupid, but what the fucking shit?"

"The amount of cocaine in that club, Arthur," Eames sighs, lying down. "It doesn't bear mentioning. And that little--the little blonde one--"

"The Olsen girl?"

"No, the other one," Eames sighs. "Fuck if I know who. Christ, I'm sick of Hollywood."

"Is it Hollywood's fault you're trashed?"

"No," Eames slurs, "no, that's on you, darling."

"Oh, I'm sure this is going to be fascinating," Arthur mutters. "Did I damage your precious ego? Do you need a hug?"

Eames laughs. "You're such an arse," he says, but it's fond, amused. "Always liked that about you."

"So this is my fault," Arthur says, because he doesn't dare acknowledge the rest of it. "Explain, or I'll kick you out right now."

"You would never," Eames protests, still chuckling. "The interviews I'd give about you would put you off your lunch for a month."


"Well," Eames says, "made me take this part, didn't you? Haven't been here since Cobol, not for long, anyway. I'd forgotten, you know. What it's like."

"Your fragility is so fucking irritating," Arthur mutters, only half-kidding. Eames snorts.

"I'm not fragile," he mutters. "I'm--Christ, Arthur, I spend my life being other people, what do you want from me?"

"Oh, I see," Arthur says. He sits on the couch because he can't really help himself, next to Eames' knees. "So you're playing the tragic actor now? How poignant."

"That's the worst thing about acting, right there," Eames mumbles, glaring up at the ceiling. "Got it in one."

"What is?"


"What's the worst thing about acting," Arthur prompts, nudging Eames' leg a little. Eames blinks and shakes his head.

"Oh," he says. "Easy question, isn't it? It's that everyone always thinks you are."

"Everyone always thinks you're what?"

"Acting," Eames sighs, closing his eyes.

"Eames," Arthur says, suddenly unsure of how to proceed.

"Oh, don't," Eames says. "Don't, just don't, I'm here because you asked me to be and I'm in this business because you asked me to be, and I don't resent you for it, but don't look at me like that."

He's not making all that much sense, but Arthur does a pretty good job, in general, with stitching together insanity. "So, what, do you--is this your way of telling me you want to retire?

"No," Eames says vehemently, "no, fuck, I just--could you just listen to what I'm saying and not what I'm--I love it, I love this business. I just want to feel like myself, some of the time, I just want to feel less like I'm--"

And Arthur leans forward then, because Eames' eyes are wide and confused and thick with some kind of need, and Arthur's made a life of picking up loose pieces and making them work. He leans forward and meets Eames' lips with a choked, hungry kind of noise, and Eames drags himself up toward Arthur's mouth, and for a minute everything is completely silent except for the faint shudder of the air conditioning, the hum of the refrigerator in the background. For a minute, it's just as fucking good as he remembers it being.

Arthur pulls away too soon, sooner than he wants to, because this is stupid and Eames is drunk and they have a fucking history. He pulls back and Eames' hand is curled around the side of his neck, heat radiating out from his palm, and his eyes are wide.

"Why not?" he asks, before Arthur even has the chance to say that they can't do this.

"Eames," Arthur sighs, "don't ask questions you already know the answer to."

There is a second--a split second--when he thinks Eames is going to completely lose it. Something panicked and terrified flares in his eyes, and then it's gone just as quickly, and Arthur blinks at him, trying to make sense of it. Eames just runs the back of his hand down Arthur's cheek, a frown tugging at the edges of his mouth.

"You know," he says, and it's so gentle, so fucking soft, "sometimes I think you're the worst thing that ever happened to me."

"Your flair for the dramatic is commendable," Arthur says, but it falls flat. It just sounds sad, they both just sound sad, because at the end of the day that's what this whole thing is--it's sad. It's sad and it's pathetic and Arthur had forgotten too, what it was like to be here, to work with Eames again. What it was like to miss something you never even had.

"Go to sleep, Mr. Eames," he says, and walks to his bedroom, and flips out the light.


Arthur and Eames fucked once, and only once, on the Cobol set.

They'd been building up to it for years, of course, flirting, drawing closer and pulling away; Eames would be (purposefully) photographed making out with some hot young model and Arthur had his pick of guys, and he took advantage of it when he had time. They got to know each other anyway, over too many late nights and too few beers, via ridiculous emails, on the cutting room floor and the dance floor but never, never, the actual floor, and then Mal died and everything went to hell.

Dom wouldn't shut down production, which was the second basically insurmountable hurdle Arthur was trying to vault, if you counted Mal's death as the first. Arthur certainly did, when he considered it at all; he was mostly trying not to, for the sake of not losing focus. Because someone had to be focused, someone had to keep it together, someone had to keep track of the money Dom was spending willy-nilly and the completely wrecked set schedule and the way Eames couldn't hold character. Someone had to keep the crew from striking and someone had to appease the studio and someone had to keep their head above water.

Arthur wasn't used to problems he couldn't solve with the right amount of backbreaking effort. Arthur wasn't used to mountains he couldn't just pony up and climb.

He was working late, going over the dailies and trying to work out the most effective way to confront a grieving widower/boss/friend about the drug problem he was visibly developing, when Eames walked in. And even that, even that was another problem, because Eames was just shy of shattered, edging away from being himself in favor of being everyone but his fucking character, and Arthur lifted his head, steeling himself for the inevitable rant.

But Eames just looked tired, sick and heavy with the weight that they were all carrying, and maybe a little concerned. He sat down on the table in front of Arthur, looking down at him as he fiddled with a poker chip he'd snatched from Props.

"What is it?" Arthur asked, and his voice sounded so dragged out that even he was a little surprised. "What do you need?"

"Nothing in particular. Let's get you some dinner, yeah?" Eames said, reaching out to--to do something, straighten Arthur's collar or something--and then visibly thinking better of it. "A man cannot subsist on krafty alone."

"I'm too fucking busy for dinner," Arthur muttered, and Eames sighed.

"Indulge me," he said, and somehow they ended up back at Eames' apartment with Chinese, because Eames had always been possessed of a strange ability to get exactly what he wanted.

They ate mostly in silence; all the things they could have talked about were either as unpleasant or as trite as each other. Eames tried once or twice anyway, small-talk about various extras, but inevitably that led to the sketchy-looking strangers that Arthur had seen going in and out of Dom's trailer, and after that he didn't bother. They ate, and when they finished Arthur shut himself in Eames' bathroom and splashed water on his face, trying to ignore how absolutely fucking terrible he looked.

And then he came out again, and Eames was standing by the window with a joint caught between two fingers, and Arthur suddenly didn't have any control anymore.

It was just pot, which was what made the whole thing so stupid. It was just pot, Arthur had smoked pot with Eames a hundred times, at parties and outside of clubs and once, inadvisably, in his trailer. It was just pot and Arthur didn't have a problem with pot, but Eames was standing there in the window with circles under his eyes and drugs in his hand and Dom was using and everything was falling to pieces, and it wasn't even really a choice.

He crossed the room in three strides, ripped the joint from Eames' hand, threw it out the window, and snapped, "What the fuck are you doing?"

"Bloody hell!" Eames cried, leaning out the window and fruitlessly attempting to snatch the joint from midair. "Oi, that was some quality dank, what are you--"

"Is professionalism some kind of fucking lost art?" Arthur demanded. "Jesus, did it sink with Atlantis while I wasn't paying attention? How fucking stupid can you possibly get? God, what if they ran a drug test--"

"What if who ran a drug test?" Eames asked, honestly confused. "The studio? Even if they did, this is Hollywood, love, I doubt they'd care about a little--"

"You don't know that!" Arthur snapped. "You don't know that and anyway that isn't the fucking point, the point is that just because you're sad doesn't mean you can just go ahead and make terrible fucking decisions--"

"Ah," Eames said, and suddenly he looked as angry as Arthur had ever seen him. "So it's like that, is it?"

"Like what?"

"I'll play Dom fucking Cobb for you if you want me to, darling," Eames said, his eyes narrowed into thin, dangerous slits, "but I think the least you could do is bloody ask."

And what Arthur could have done--what Arthur should have done--is corrected him then and there. He should have said, "Fucking hell, that's not what I'm doing," or even "Fucking hell, that's not what I meant to be doing," which was less absolving but more true.

But he was frustrated, and he was tired, and it had been a long time since he'd just gone ahead and taken something solely for himself, and so what Arthur did do was lean forward and snarl directly into Eames' mouth.

"Fuck you," he hissed, biting Eames' lower lip and drawing it in, "fuck you," and then Eames was grabbing him around the waist and hauling him forward, crushing their mouths together.

Eames was bigger than him, empirically--Arthur had always known that, since that bar they'd met in, but it was especially true in that moment. He'd bulked up for Cobol, put on enough muscle that when he tightened his fingers and fucking threw Arthur into the wall, Arthur went, hitting it too hard. And even as he felt the sting, sharp and aching, where bruises would probably form in the morning, even then he was shoving a hand down into Eames' pants to cup his balls just a shade too tight.

"Don't fuck with me," he snapped, and Eames smiled and winced at once.

"Just fuck you, right?" he said, voice thick, and it wasn't really a question, but Arthur tightened his grip for half a second anyway. Eames let out a noise that was something between a keen and a growl and captured his mouth again.

They shoved each other to the bedroom, tearing their clothes and biting, snapping. Eames' lips were swollen and bruised by the time Arthur body-checked him onto the bed, impossibly bigger then they'd fucking been already, and Arthur bore down on them. Nine-odd years of flirting and not-flirting, of purposefully missing the point, will do things to you, will make you desperate and too rough the same way grief and fury and stress will, and between it all they were violent with each other, far too hard.

"Arthur, Arthur," Eames mocked, straddled over him, the full length of his cock buried in Arthur's ass, "never figured you for the type to spread your legs, always business with you, isn't it--"

"What part of shut up and fuck me is so fucking complicated?" Arthur demanded, breathless.

"You never actually gave me that instruction," Eames said, nipping his collarbone with too much teeth. "You implied it, but you never specifically said--"

"Shut the fuck up and fuck me, Mr. Eames," Arthur hissed, "right fucking now, I swear to god."

And Eames did, pounding into him until the last dregs of orgasm had been rung from him. Arthur lasted longer, and when he pulled himself off he made a point to come all over Eames' stupid hideous comforter, thinking about all the models he'd probably had in here, all the people who'd touched him before. Eames' mouth curled up in a smirk, watching him.

"Depraved little thing, aren't you?" he asked, his eyes slightly narrowed. And Arthur could have said a hundred things, but the weight of this decision was already setting over him, and with it the warm, familiar blanket of exhaustion. He moved anyway, to stand up, to get some air and clear his head and handle this like an adult, but then Eames was throwing an arm across him, trapping him.

"Let me have this," he said, and his eyes were still narrowed, but there was a slightly bitter twist to his mouth now. Arthur felt something like guilt twinge at the base of his spine. "Just, Christ, I know you're a fucking asshole, but let me have this one little bloody thing, alright?"

"Fine," Arthur said, "fine, just don't--"

"I'm not trying to sodding spoon you, Arthur, for fuck's sake," Eames growled, his voice going dangerously tense again. "If you could just--just don't go, I just don't want to--"

"Yeah," Arthur said, because he was exhausted and Eames' voice, strung up and wired like that, made his head hurt, "yeah, okay, fine, that's fine, I'll stay. Jesus, calm down."

Eames didn't get any closer, but he did relax, so his arm was draped loose and heavy across Arthur's waist. There was space between them, enough that they weren't touching except for that carefully held spot, but Arthur felt some of the tension seep out of his own shoulders anyway.

And then he was waking up, the soft light of dawn filtering in, Eames snoring next to him.

Arthur was facing the wall, in the exact spot he'd been in when he'd passed out the previous night--he tended not to move much in his sleep, as a general rule, and even less in strange beds. Eames, on the other hand, was splayed across the bed on his stomach, his face tilted towards Arthur on the pillow.

His hand, predictably, had migrated to rest on Arthur's ass in his sleep.

Arthur shifted a little, out from under the grip, mostly to see if Eames would wake. He didn't, and Arthur winced up at the ceiling, feeling the exertion of the previous nights manifest itself in a dull, relentless ache. He was sleep-riddled, still, and so if he allowed himself a moment to just look, it wasn't necessarily as fucking humiliating as it would have been if his wits were entirely about him.

The thing is, he'd never seen Eames asleep before, not in all the time they'd known each other. It was…Arthur hadn't realized, not fully, the degree to which Eames was playing a role all the time, not until he saw him without any way to play one. He just looked tired, lines on his face that didn't show when he was awake, his mouth open slightly.

Arthur found himself wondering, suddenly, how many people Eames had allowed this close, how many people Eames had let in this far. Because while he was sure Eames had had his share of scores up here, trails of gorgeous girls and starry-eyed boys tumbling over each other to get a hand on him, he was equally sure he rarely let them stay. Discretion wasn't something you could afford to be lax about when you were a media darling, and anyway Eames was one of the most guarded people Arthur had ever met--and he'd spent a nearly a third of his life in Hollywood, for fuck's sake.

And then Arthur was thinking, oddly, of the Cannes apartment, three years his at that point. He was thinking about how he'd texted Eames the address, not even really considering it, when he'd texted Dom--a place four people knew was his, and Eames was one of them. Why? Arthur hadn't expected him to come, hadn't even wanted him to come, but he'd shot it off anyway.

Tell no one, that text had said, the same to Dom and Eames, but in case you need to find me when I'm gone.

He'd had scores of men up there, Arthur had, taking advantage of his infrequent and well-deserved vacations. He let them stay the night, usually, because it wasn't worth his time to go through the rigmarole of kicking them to the curb when he was done with them. He'd fucked and been fucked there, and in the morning he'd padded around absently, more or less oblivious to the presence of his assorted guests, knowing he wasn't visible enough to be recognized or followed by the press--how long had it been for Eames, since he'd been afforded that luxury? The ease of not having to think about it?

It was stupid. Arthur knew it was stupid, to cast Eames as some kind of--well, to cast him as anything, really, because that was the trouble with Eames. He was always sliding into these roles people made for him, these roles he made for himself. Of everyone in his life, professionally speaking, Arthur had known him the longest, the best--Mal was dead and Cobb hadn't met him until he was already over the wide-eyed wonder of his first film, until he was already shifting into someone harder.

Arthur stared at Eames, face slack with sleep, and remembered his trailer on the Gone With The Wind set. He'd spent a ridiculous amount of his first big paycheck outfitting it, and they'd sat in there one night, beers resting on the floor by their feet. Arthur had been so fucking young then, twenty-two and damnably fresh-faced, and he'd tried harder, because he'd had more to prove. He wouldn't have touched Eames for anything, because he needed to be taken fucking seriously, but he'd been in that trailer anyway and Eames had showed him the record player, the vintage copy of The White Album Arthur had laughed and laughed about. And then Eames had started screwing around with Mal and Arthur had just gotten more uptight, had driven that stick of professionalism further up his own ass.

They were a study in misfire, the two of them, even then, and Arthur reached out a hand and let it rest on Eames' cheek almost absently, angry and sorry and unsure, for once in his life.

Eames smiled and butted up against the touch, rubbing against Arthur's palm in his sleep, unguarded and tender, more tender than Arthur would have imagined possible.

Arthur is a man of few regrets; there's no business like show business, and it's not prudent in a world where everyone is watching for mistakes to linger on the shit you've done wrong. He only allows himself to mourn a decision when he knows, decisively and without argument, that it was the wrong one, and getting out of that bed that morning was one of those bad choices. It would have been so easy to press his thumb a little harder, to fucking say something, to wake him up on that note instead of alone--he should have considered Eames' stupid ego, the way he always put more weight on things than was necessary, his tendency toward dramatic and ill-thought-out.

But he didn't, which is why Eames stumbled into the kitchen twenty minutes later to find him showered, dressed, and making coffee.

"Oh, love," he said, condescending and rife with pity, looking over the kitchen with that terrible smirk curling his mouth again, "you've got the wrong end of the stick."

"Have I?" Arthur asked. "Do tell."

"You can't be…" Eames paused, sighed, and gestured broadly. "Not that it wasn't lovely, of course, but I can't have you making me coffee. This isn't--"

"Oh," Arthur said, catching on. And really, the anger bubbling up under his surface, erasing his desire to explain that this had been about a lot of things but none of them were Dominic fucking Cobb, was entirely unjustified.

"Terribly sorry," Eames said, not sounding it, "but I just, you know, I can't be--I have a career to think of."

"I know," Arthur replied, pouring himself a cup of coffee. "So do I, for that matter. You're right."

"I am?" Eames said, startled. Somewhere, distantly, Arthur registered that he was seeing Eames break character, knew what that meant, and dismissed it anyway.

"Of course you are," Arthur said, taking a long pull from his cup and checking his watch. "Shit, I've got to get out of here. I'll see you on set, right? We've got--"

"So that's it?" Eames said, and oh, god, he was careening wildly through his options now, wrong-footed and still not quite awake, and Arthur wanted to push him into the wall and demand a little bit of fucking honestly.

But he'd always had more control than that.

"What's it?" he said, instead.

"You're just going to--we're just going to go back to business as usual, then? Just like that it?"

"I don't see why we shouldn't," Arthur said. "Wasn't that your point?"

"You," Eames said, his voice tight, and then, sounding completely impassive about it, "right, well, you've always been a bit of a chilly bastard, haven't you? Have a lovely morning."

And then he turned around and went back into the bedroom, letting the door snick shut behind him as Arthur let himself out.

--, December 17, 2010

Eames and producer Arthur Levine were spotted at Proclus last night, partying with the likes of Jude Law and Mary-Kate Olsen. Though both parties' camps have declined comment, onlookers say the meet-up was more than strictly professional…and then there's the shots of Eames getting into Levine's car, below. Are these two at it again? Keep watching TMZ for updates.


"Good morning, sunshine," Amanda says, and Arthur can hear her damn grin over the phone.

"I saw it already," he informs he, forcing himself up out of bed and shutting his laptop. "I'm sure there will be more in a few hours, and nothing happened, he slept on my couch. Thanks for fielding the calls, by the way."

"Not a problem. You know I never sleep."

"I'm really starting to think that's true," Arthur says, heading toward the kitchen. He stops, staring at Eames sprawled across the couch, and sighs. "Hold on."

"Eames," he says, holding the phone to his shoulder and bending down to poke him, "Eames, wake the fuck up, we've got forty five minutes to get to set."

"Piss off," Eames groans, "I'm dying."

"You're hungover," Arthur says, amused. "Get in the shower, I'll find you some Tylenol or something, we've got shit to do."

"Oh, Christ, light, why," Eames groans, throwing a hand over his face. "You're going to have to rewrite the whole script, I'm not fit for anything save horror films today."

"That's always been true," Arthur agrees cheerfully, "and yet. Up, you lazy shit, come on."

"I loathe you," Eames says, pulling himself upright. "I despise you with every fibre of my being."

"Also, we've made TMZ," says Arthur, "again. Thanks for that."

"I need Julie," Eames moans. "And a sledgehammer. And immediate death."

"Shower," Arthur says firmly, pushing him in the general direction of the bathroom, and picks up the phone to address Amanda again. "Not a fucking word."

"You never let me have any fun," she complains, even as Eames calls out "And what kind of poofter shampoo is this?" over the sound of running water. Arthur goes out onto his porch, shutting the glass door to drown out at least one of his problems.

"How bad is it?"

"Not bad, on the scale of things," Amanda says; he can hear the shrug in her voice. "You're not really news compared to him, no offense, and it's not like there haven't been rumors for years. It's mostly Nash trying to push the angle."

"Why, exactly, haven't I ruined that guy's fucking life yet?"

"Because you're a good person, somewhere very very deep down inside," Amanda says promptly, "and also because he toes the line between stretching the truth and actually committing libel pretty well."

"I hate this fucking town," Arthur sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Okay, can you just--run me through the schedule for today again, and then…"

He gets lost in the conversation for a couple minutes, going back and forth on the shit he has to get done, and when he comes in off the porch to grab his laptop Eames is freshly showered and on the phone with Julie. Arthur half listens to him planning a few different interviews as he flips through the documents Amanda's forwarded to him, and they kind of avoid awkwardness by not speaking to each other at all.

It's comfortable, though, the way Eames rolls his eyes at Arthur when Julie's said something particularly amusing, the way Arthur tosses him an apple and makes a disapproving face when he digs around in Arthur's cupboards for something more substantial. Neither one of them hangs up until they're in the car, and Eames demands they stop for coffee, and then they're so close to set that it's easy enough to slip into discussion of the day's work ahead.

Amanda and Julie are waiting for them together when they get in, both with their Blackberries in hand, laughing about something.

"Well," Eames says, "that's the most terrifying thing I've seen in some time."

"Do you ever think they're engineering our downfall?" Arthur asks. "I mean, between the two of them--"

"Please," Julie says, rolling her eyes. "If we wanted to bring you two down we would have done it ages ago, it's not like either one of you is particularly bright."

"I resent that," Eames says.

"I don't," Arthur says, shrugging. "I fully contend that Amanda is smarter than me."

"See, that's why my boss is better than your boss," Amanda tells Julie, grinning. "At least mine is willing to admit that he's a moron."

"I didn't say that," Arthur points out. "Now, trade coffee with me."

"Why?" Amanda asks, even as she's handing it over. "Starbucks out of soy again?"

"I don't understand why it's so fucking hard to keep it in stock," Arthur grumbles. "It's not like it's hard to find."

Amanda takes a sip of his cup and makes a face. "Goddamn it, Arthur, you've ruined me for regular milk."

"You've trained her to take her coffee with soy?" Eames asks, his eyebrows up.

"No," Amanda snaps, before Arthur can, "I'm not his dog. It was just easier then listening to him bitch and kvetch and try to convince me to get him a line on shutting down entire corporations every time he couldn't get--"

"Jesus, let's move on," Arthur snaps, because Eames is laughing at him now. "Eames, you need to get to hair and make-up, Blaine is going to have a fit and a half about the circles under your eyes."

"I warned him already," Julie says, scrolling through some list on her phone. "But Arthur's right, you'd better get down there, you're shooting in half an hour and and Access Hollywood will be here for the onset stills at four--"

"Arthur, you're meeting with Yusuf and Jacob--Jacob Hendrickson, the stunt guy, why don't you ever read my emails--before the first shot to go over the blocking for next week, Yusuf wants to change up the angle and Jacob says it's not in his contract, they're waiting for you in--"

"Have a good morning, love," Eames calls over his shoulder, as Julie leads him away. She smacks him for not paying attention, and Arthur waves him off, listening to Amanda; if he's smiling, it's obviously just a trick of the damn light.

--, January 3, 2007

Sources report that actor Eames spent several hours in police custody today, though there is no official arrest report on record as of yet. According to bystanders, Eames had "a complete breakdown," on the set of The Cobol Job, going so far as to threaten director Dominic Cobb and break several thousand dollars worth of equipment.

"Any tension on set today has been resolved," said producer Arthur Levine. "This is a non-story."

Somehow, TMZ doesn't think so…

--, October 25, 2007

A TMZ EXCLUSIVE: Dominic Cobb Arrested For Drug Possession at Cobol Premiere

The premiere of The Cobol Job was thrown into chaos earlier this evening when director Dominic Cobb was removed from the premises in handcuffs, following an attempted fist-fight with his lead actor, Eames, whose discontent with the film is widely known. Why the police chose to disrupt the premiere in this way is unknown as of yet, though TMZ can report that they were called to the scene following the altercation with Eames. The initial arrest report indicates that Cobb was in possession of both cocaine and heroin; as of yet, Eames is not in custody.

No one from either camp could be reached for comment, but check back for updates…

--, November 18, 2007, Review: The Cobol Job (Excerpt)

Some advice on The Cobol Job: don't see it.

No, seriously. If you're looking for entertainment, you might check out the controversy surround director Dominic Cobb's arrest at the film's premiere; you might also consider watching paint dry, it would probably be more interesting. We're not sure if it's Cobb's meandering, strange directorial choices, a far cry from his usual visceral filmmaking, or Eames' lackluster performance…

…no, we're sure. It's Eames.

Aside from the fact that the script itself leaves something to be desired on the originality front (angry mobsters chasing down a criminal who's crossed them? Really? Haven't we been to this movie?), Eames' performance is frankly off-putting. Maybe it's just that we've come to expect too much from him, that we've taken for granted the way he can fall into a character; maybe we've all given him too much credit. Whatever the reason, he's odd here, unconvincing, and seems to be focused nearly constantly on something beyond the camera...


The night of the Cobol premiere was, easily, the worst night of Arthur's life.

There was of course the fact that the film was fucking terrible; Arthur knew the film was fucking terrible. He'd seen it in its entirety and tried in vain, repeatedly, to get Dom to pull the plug; it was going to get panned, and it was going to lose money. There really wasn't any way for it not to lose money, considering how much they'd spent on set, holding locations, shooting and reshooting scenes--any way Dom could burn cash, he did. It was a disaster, of course it was a disaster, and so that was the first problem.

The second problem was that Dom showed up high as a fucking kite, fighting Arthur when he tried to drag him past the cameras waiting outside, and the third problem was Eames, because Eames was always a problem.

Things had been uncomfortable between them after their…whatever it was….to say the least, and the tension there had only increased when Eames pitched his little on-set fit. And then he'd walked onto the red carpet with a Victoria's Secret model on his arm, looking every inch the impeccable movie star while Arthur struggled to drag Dom inside, and something in him had snapped.

It some ways--in many ways--Arthur blames himself for what ended up happening that night. If he'd been less distracted, if he'd been focusing his attention on Dom and not on his own stupid, petty jealously, he might have been able to stem the tide of the inevitable.

Probably not, though.

"Amanda," he said, waving her over from where she'd been chatting with some reporter. "Get me everything you can on Eames' date."

"Are you going to tell me what happened between you two?" Amanda asked, raising her eyebrows. She looked lovely--in a dark blue dress with her hair coiffed, not a trace of the nervousness she used to show at these things--and irritated at having been interrupted. Arthur made a mental note to give her a nice long vacation when all of this was over.

"No," he barked, "just do it, and get me some kind of--a Xanax or something for Dom, Jesus Christ."

"Yeah, okay, I'm on it," she sighed, and vanished into the crowd again.

Arthur installed Dom in a chair--first mistake, what the fuck had he been thinking, leaving him alone--and went to get a drink. And it so happened that Eames was at the bar at the same time, and Arthur couldn't exactly not speak to him because he'd brought someone with him to the premiere; that wasn't even an acceptable impulse.

"Arthur," Eames said, smiling sharply at him. "Still having fun fighting losing battles?"

"I'm surprised you even showed," Arthur snapped. "Going to try to drum up some more bad press for this film?"

"Actually," Eames drawled, "my being here is a favor to you. Or would you rather have dealt with the fallout of the star not bothering to stop by?"

"Don't fucking start," Arthur said, throwing back the shot that the bartender dropped and signaling for another. "You've got your own game here, you always do."

"Have I told you how sick I am," Eames said, narrowing his eyes, "of you misappropriating my profession into everything else I do? If I wanted to con you I would bloody con you, it's not like it would be hard."

"So you're not playing games," Arthur said, looking pointedly at the drinks that had just been set down in front of Eames' hand--a whiskey and soda, Eames' preferred beverage, and something pink and fruity. "Then the arm candy is, what, an accessory?"

Eames smiled, but it was dark, twisted. "Ah, Arthur," he said, "that's your game, not mine. You know full well that we don't have to play."

"Are you going to try to make this about me now?" Arthur growled. He glanced around, made sure no one was in earshot, and continued, "I thought you had a career to think of, Mr. Eames."

"Well I rather thought I deserved more than being a stand-in for your director du jour," Eames said, and he wasn't smiling anymore. "But as you didn't seem particularly bothered about that--"

"Fuck you," Arthur said, "you go straight to fucking hell, Jesus, this is exactly why I never wanted to get involved with you to begin with. The level of unprofessional bullshit--"

"You're the one that's made this unprofessional," Eames snapped. "I would have been perfectly content to let it alone--"

"That's a fucking lie and you know it," Arthur hissed. "Do you think I'm blind, do you think I didn't notice the way you stared at me on set, do you think I don't see what you're doing, bringing someone like that here--"

"Why, darling," Eames said, mocking, his mouth curling up in a sneer, "don't tell me I've made you jealous."

"Even if you had," Arthur said, because one bad turn deserved another, "it's not like she'll still be interested in you after she sees your performance tonight."

That had been a low blow; Arthur regretted it the second it came out of his mouth, regretted it from the moment Eames blinked and leaned back a fraction of an inch, the closest he'd come to reeling in shock in the public eye.

He regretted it considerably more ten minutes later, when Dom made a stoned, snide comment about Eames' acting skills and Eames jumped at it; Arthur had to pull them off of each other and pull them off of each other again, and in the process revealed the gram bag of heroin Dom'd had concealed in his pocket.

"Christ," Eames said, staring at it.

"Fuck," Arthur breathed, because there were photographers and someone, in the middle of the brawl, someone must have called the police. And they were coming in now, just a few of them but enough, and that was the photo--Arthur with one hand on Dom's chest and one hand on Eames', the three of them staring at the bag at their feet as the officers pulled out the handcuffs.


Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, March 3, 2008, 2:15 AM PST
saw about cobb. you okay

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, March 3, 2008, 2:16 AM PST
what do you even care

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, March 3, 2008, 2:18 AM PST
are you drunk?

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, March 3, 2008, 2:21 AM PST
of course i'm fucking drnk, i put dom in rehab this morning, still begs the question of what its to you

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, March 3, 2008, 2:30 AM PST
for what its worth im sorry it happened like it did

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, March 3, 2008, 2:35 AM PST
i'm sorry it happened at all

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, March 3, 2008, 2:35 AM PST
oh fuck i shouldn't have sent that i didn't mean that

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, March 3, 2008, 2:40 AM PST
do you know how hard you make it for me to deal with you sometimes

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, March 3, 2008, 3:13 AM PST


Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, July 22, 2008, 6:06 PM PST
God Jude Law is an asshole.

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, July 22, 2008, 6:10 PM PST
i told you working with him wasn't a good choice

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, July 22, 2008, 6:11 PM PST
No, you told me to cast you instead, and I think we've kind of proved we're better off not working together.

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, July 22, 2008, 6:12 PM PST
must you be so determined to hold onto that

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, July 22, 2008, 6:13 PM PST
I wouldn't be, if you weren't worse.

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, July 22, 2008, 7:02 PM PST
tell me whats gone wrong with jude then


Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, December 8, 2009, 9:00 PM PST
goddamn it arthur i miss you im sorry

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, December 8, 2009, 9:15 PM PST
fuck ignore that last text im a little

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, December 8, 2009, 9:15 PM PST

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, December 8, 2009, 9:22 PM PST
you make no fucking sense to me did you know that darling no bloody sense atall

Text from Eames to Arthur Levine, December 8, 2009, 9:32 PM PST
for fucks sake whatdo i have to do here

Text from Arthur Levine to Eames, December 8, 2009, 9:45 PM PST
Jesus Christ, isn't it like 2AM there? Go to sleep.


Saito does end up coming into town, because luck only goes so far and it was inevitably going to happen at some point. At Dom's urging--"I don't have any place in that meeting, Arthur, god, if anything I'll scare him off, you do it,"--Arthur takes him to lunch. Or, rather, Arthur attempts to take him to lunch; Saito deftly changes the time, the day, and the location of the meeting, not bothering to hide the fact that he's doing it solely to establish control.

Arthur likes him a lot, actually. He's Arthur's kind of guy.

They're talking about the NASDAQ over their salads, both waiting until their meals arrive to get to the more serious discussion, when Arthur's phone rings. It's Ariadne; he silences it and goes back to the conversation, but two seconds later it rings again.

"Please," Saito says, waving a hand toward the phone. "Don't be lax with my investment on my account, Mr. Levine. Take the call."

"It'll just be a second," Arthur says quickly. Then he picks up the phone and barks, "I'm in a meeting. What?"

"You have to get to set right now," Ariadne says. "Dom's rigging Eames up for the stunt--"


"I know," Ariadne says, "I know, I've tried to stop them but--"

"Fucking shit," Arthur snaps, "I'll be there in ten, don't you dare let this happen, set something on fire if you have to," and hangs up the phone.

Saito's eyebrows are at his hairline.

"I was of the impression that my set could spare you for an hour or so," he says. "Apparently I was mistaken."

"Mr. Saito, I apologize," Arthur says, trying not to betray his fury more than he already has. "I do have this under control, but I need to--"

"Go," Saito says, "by all means. But do keep in mind that my participation in the project is not unconditional."

"I'm very aware of that," Arthur says, standing up. "I appreciate this, and I assure you that I--"

"Go," Saito insists, his eyes sharp, and Arthur flees.

"Amanda!" he screams into his phone, all but shoving the valet out of the driver's seat of his Rover and throwing himself in. "Dom's rigging Eames up for the stunt, why the fuck didn't I know about this?"

"Because I didn't know until ten seconds ago," Amanda says, and thank god for her unshakable cool, she really is invaluable. "I've got the restaurant on the other line; they're going to apologize to Saito again and put his meal on our tab, the most recent traffic report is in your email--"

Arthur switches to his Bluetooth and pulls up the traffic report even as he says, "For fuck's sake, this is why he pushed me to take the meeting alone, I can't--is that Julie?"

"She's yelling at Eames," Amanda says. "About, among other things, the stipulations of his contract."

"Good," Arthur says, "great, fuck, okay, do whatever the fuck you can to stall it--god, can you pull Yusuf off the--"

"Dom offered him a 15% raise if he'd shoot it."

"With what fucking money?" Arthur screams, swerving to avoid hitting a slowing taxi and leaning on his horn. "Fucking shit, okay, I have to jump off, call me if there's any--"

"Developments, yeah, of course, I'll send someone out to park your car, bye."

Arthur hangs up and drives like a fucking lunatic, mentally marking all of the traffic cams whose tickets he'll be receiving later. He gets angrier and angrier as he goes, and by the time he pulls into the lot and hands off his keys to a gofer he's never laid eyes on--who might be a fucking thief, Jesus, he doesn't even care--he's as furious as he's ever been in his life.

"Shut this the fuck down," he bellows, crashing onto set. It's chaos--Dom is grinning like the goddamn maniac he is while Julie screams up at Eames, who is fully rigged up. The stunt's a pretty basic zipline run, something that Eames actually could do himself if it weren't for the hairpin turn involved. As it is…and Jesus, the mats that are out are the ones that Jacob specified, Jacob who is actually a trained fucking professional and knows how to take a fall--

"Don't be such a tight ass, Arthur," Dom calls. "It'll be better this way. More real."

"We're not fucking insured for this!" Arthur yells. "You idiot, you asshole, don't you understand we'll be fucked if he does this even if he doesn't fall and break his goddamn neck--"

"I didn't know you cared, darling," Eames calls out, and then Dom calls action and he's jumping and Arthur's running and he sees the cable snap before he even has time to--

It shouldn't be possible, but in that second, that split second while Eames is falling, Arthur has time to think a million things. And what he settles on--and it's so strange, that this should be what comes to mind--what he settles on is a conversation he'd had with Wes Craven at the release party for Dom's fifth movie, when Mal was still alive, before everything went so terribly wrong.

"The thing about horror, as a genre," Wes said, leaning in too close to Arthur, the whiskey heavy on his breath, "is that it's not so much about the content of the film as it is how it makes you feel. Do you see what I'm saying?"

"Not really," Arthur admitted, drunk on satisfaction and gin and the way Eames had smiled at him from across the room a second before. "You'll have to elaborate."

"Well," Wes said, "you know that feeling, when you wake up from a nightmare, and something creaks in your house? And you know that your security hasn't gone off, and your dog isn't barking--but you're still mostly asleep, and so it occurs to you that your dog could be dead, that someone could have turned your security off. And it's completely illogical, and you know that, but for a moment, you can't help but think it."

"Think what?" Arthur asked, and then Wes leaned even closer and grinned like the Chesire Cat. Despite himself, Arthur felt a chill run down the back of his spine. Wes really was a very creepy man.

"Someone is in my house," he said.

And this is what Arthur is thinking as Eames is falling: he is thinking of Wes Craven and the way Eames had brushed his fingers against Arthur's hips that night, thinking of that chill up his spine. He's thinking of how this feeling, this complete fucking panic, is as close to that sensation Wes had described as anything he's ever felt.

Eames is in my house, Arthur thinks, and then there's the sickening crunch of him missing the mats as he hits the ground.

"Call a fucking medic!" someone screams, and it takes Arthur a second to realize it was him. He's on the ground next to Eames, in a crouch, and Eames is unconscious--Jesus, of course he is. The thought crosses Arthur's mind that maybe he's dead, that maybe he's fucking died, and he reaches out to check for a pulse without shutting up.

"You idiot," he yells, relief coursing through him as he feels the pounding of bloodflow against his fingers, "goddamn it, god fucking damn it, what the fuck were you thinking, why the fuck would you do that?" And Eames doesn't answer him, because of course Eames can't hear him, because Eames is unconscious.

"You'd better wake the fuck up so that I can fucking kill you!" Arthur yells, and then the medics are there and pulling him back as they load Eames onto a stretcher.

Arthur is breathing hard as he shakes off the hands that have pulled him to his feet. The set, which had been a hotbed of activity before, is silent but for the wail of the sirens now. Yusuf is staring at his camera, looking sick, and Ariadne's hand is over her mouth, and Julie--it's the first time Arthur's ever seen her look anything less than perfectly composed, but her cheeks are wet, and she's talking to an EMT about allergies and emergency contacts in stunned, hushed tones. It occurs to Arthur, distantly, that ambulances don't just show up, and he wonders kind of idly how long he was on the ground, screaming at Eames, in front of all these people.

And then he sees Dom out of the corner of his eye, and decides he doesn't care.

"You," he hisses. The ambulance is pulling away as Arthur stalks over to where he's standing, stock still, his eyes trained on the dangling, broken cable. "You, this is your fault, how fucking dare you--"

"I didn't think," Dom says, blinking. "Jesus, I didn't think--"

"You never think!" Arthur cries. "You never fucking think, you let me do all your motherfucking thinking for you and you always, always have--"

"Arthur," Dom starts, "Arthur, I'm--"

"No," Arthur growls, advancing, "no, you know what, whatever you want to say you can shut the fuck up about it, because I don't want to fucking hear it. I don't care that you started my career and I don't care how much of my fucking success you're responsible for, you shouldn't have done this."

"I know--"

"You don't," Arthur yells, "you obviously fucking don't, god, shit, I can't even--you didn't deserve your fucking career back before and you definitely don't deserve it now."

Dom opens his mouth--to argue, probably--and it's all Arthur can do not to hit him.

"Don't you dare," he snaps, "don't even, you want to try to reason with me you can think the fuck again. I told you not to do this, I told you fifteen times and you did it anyway--you sent me to have lunch with fucking Saito, goddamn it, how long have you been planning--and if he dies, Dom, you get to fucking live with that. I hope you're proud of yourself."

"Arthur," Dom says, and Arthur's probably gone too far already, so he doesn't see the point in pulling his last punch.

"I should have known better than to work with you again," he hisses. "You trainwreck. You fucking asshole."

Dom steps back from him, like Arthur has actually hit him, which feels about right at the moment. Arthur himself whips around and makes his way toward the edge of the lot, his rage all-consuming and blinding.

"Amanda!" he barks, but she's already next to him, and he doesn't stop to address the open mouthed stares of the rest of the crew as he heads for his car.


The next 24 hours are more or less a blur.

Amanda comes to his apartment with him, and she helps as Arthur runs through as much damage control as humanly possible. Largely she fields shit from the press while Arthur deals with the insurance companies, with trying to keep Saito from pulling his funding.

He keeps asking her to check in with Julie, pushing and pushing for updates, until finally, around two in the morning, she sighs.

"Arthur," she says, "I think she's asleep, and even if she isn't, she's not--she's not answering, I think you're just going to have to wait until--"

"God fucking damn it," Arthur snaps, and he picks up the coffee cup sitting next to his computer and hurls it into the wall. It shatters, and the coffee goes everywhere, and Arthur runs a hand through his hair, yanking on it.

Amanda, fuck it all, doesn't even look fazed. She just sighs and puts her hand on his shoulder, rubbing lightly.

"It's not your fault," she says. "You do know that, right? You can't control everything."

"I can try," Arthur growls. Amanda sighs again, like he's so predictable, and really sometimes Arthur hates her for being so goddamned good at her job.

"Fuck," he says, "fuck, okay, you know what, you should try to get some sleep."

"I don't sleep," Amanda says. "I thought you knew."

"As much as I believe you," Arthur says, trying to smile at her, "it's okay, really. Go ahead."

"You're sure," she says. "Because I can--"

"Go on," Arthur says, waving a hand. "You're still getting a massive raise after this debacle, don't worry."

Amanda rolls her eyes. "If you think I do this job for the money you're even stupider than I thought."

"Oh, Jesus, you're being nice to me," Arthur says. "The apocalypse is here, huh? Did I ever get around to having you pack me a bag?"

"You're an asshole," Amanda says, but fondly, and she bends down to kiss him on the cheek before heading into his living room to crash on his couch.

With nothing else to distract him--even in Los Angeles, there are only so many work calls you can make in the middle of the night--Arthur spends several instructive hours digging up everything he can on Nash and obsessively refreshing TMZ. It's a pre-emptive measure more than anything else, and it's probably pointless, but it makes him feel less like fucking killing someone.

--, January 4, 2011

Actor Eames rushed to hospital after on-set accident; updates will be ongoing as TMZ learns more.


Arthur finally gives in and goes to the hospital the next afternoon, because Julie is still MIA and he's going to lose his fucking mind if he doesn't.

Predictably, he doesn't even make it in the damn doors before he runs into Nash.

He's as slimy as Arthur remembers him being, a camera in his hands, and he's smiling. He's smiling like it's the score of the month, and he snaps a picture of Arthur, scowling and underslept, before he says, "Come to see your boyfriend? How touching."

"Can it, Nash," Arthur growls.

"Of course," Nash continues, "you've missed him by about an hour, if the limo that pulled up before was anything to go by. The rest of the vultures followed him, but I had a hunch you might show up."

"Did you," Arthur says, flat.

"It must be terrible," Nash purrs, and it's all mockery, and Arthur is actually kind of relieved, because this is a problem he can handle. "Always out of the loop. You don't feel compelled to give me a quote in your moment of need, do you, Arthur?"

And, as it happens, Arthur can act pretty well when he wants to. He purposefully casts his eyes down, takes a shuddering breath, and says, "God, that bastard," and is gratified when he sees Nash's face light up out of the corner of his eye.

"Holy shit," Nash says, "do you feel compelled to--"

"Not here," Arthur says, "not all out in the open, anyone could see, that would be--"

"Follow me," Nash says quickly, because of course he knows all the tucked away places, "come on, there's a little--"

He leads Arthur around the side of the hospital; there's an empty parking lot and a trashcan, and a number of spent cigarette butts. Arthur does a quick scan of the area to make sure no one can see them as Nash says, his voice honey-smooth, "Now, why don't you start from the--"

He's got Nash slammed up against the cement wall before he can get the rest of the sentence out.

"You stupid fuck," Arthur snarls, "that was too fucking easy."

"You gonna hit me?" Nash asks, his eyes wide. "I wish you would, that'd make a great fucking story."

"Do you think I give a shit what you print about me?" Arthur demands. "About your sad little job, following these people around like you're begging for their fucking table scraps? I could ruin you."

"This is assault," Nash says, somewhere between terrified and gleeful. Arthur presses him against wall a little harder, hoping to heighten the terror.

This is wrong. This is a bad decision. But Arthur is very, very angry, and this is a considerably better outlet than some of the others he could choose right now.

"You go ahead and sue me, Nash," Arthur says, his voice low. "You want to see how fast I come back with libel? Stalking? Not to mention the breaking and entering, if some of the shit I've seen is anything to go by, and all the confidential documents you seem to have gotten your hands on over the last few years. I have a fucking dossier on you, so you go right the fuck ahead."

"It'll never stick," Nash says, and it's definitely all panic now. Arthur grins at him.

"You want to bet on that?" he asks. "Because I'm fucking serious. Nothing would thrill me more than to tear your ass limb from goddamn limb."

"Jesus," Nash spits, "Jesus, Arthur, fine, what the fuck do you want?"

"You stay away from me," Arthur snaps, "and you stay the fuck away from Eames. Or give me the excuse, your call. I'd really love the fucking excuse."

Nash swallows hard and nods, and Arthur lets him go.

"You really are a bastard," Nash grunts. "You know that, right?"

"Run along," Arthur says, waving a hand, and Nash doesn't need to be told twice. Arthur allows himself a slight grin, feeling calmer than he has in hours, and pulls out his phone.

"Amanda," he says, when she picks up, "I need you to--"

"Find Eames because he's checked himself out of the hospital?" Amanda finishes for him. "Yeah, I know, I was just about to call you. He's back at his hotel--banged up, bad concussion, and there's a cut on the back of his head, but overall he's apparently mostly okay."

"He always did have ridiculous luck," Arthur says, and if the relief flooding his veins breaks into his voice, leaves him sounding a little choked, Amanda's good enough not to call him on it.

"He's apparently being very pleasant," she continues, and he can hear her eyeroll. "Julie is thrilled."

"I can imagine," Arthur says, almost laughing. "Okay, well, I'm heading over there now. Thanks."

"Anytime," he hears her say, and heads for his car.


All the curtains are drawn in Eames' hotel room, and the lights are out. He's still wearing sunglasses, though, what little ambient light apparently being too much for him, and Julie's face is tense when she lets Arthur in the door.

"You should be in the hospital," he says to Eames over her shoulder. "You're lucky your assistant is so willing to cater to your insane whims."

Eames winces. "Could you talk quieter, please? This is like the worst hangover of my life, but a thousand times more agonizing."

"God, can you babysit him for awhile?" Julie asks, sounding strained. "Murder would look really bad on my resume, but I was starting to think I wouldn't have any other choice."

"I don't require babysitting," Eames mutters.

"Quiet, the adults are talking," Julie says, and Eames scowls.

"I'm on it," Arthur assures her. "Go take a break. If you could do me a favor, though?"

"Anything to get him off my hands," Julie says, to an irritated huff from Eames. Arthur can't help but laugh a little, and if it's more than half based in his stunned, almost sickening relief that Eames is more or less alright, he's not going to admit to it.

"Could you call Amanda and ask her to make sure Nash isn't actually filing assault charges against me right now?"

"Yep, yep, definitely, whatever you say," Julie says, as she grabs her purse and beats a hasty retreat.

This, of course, leaves Arthur and Eames alone in the hotel room, which is more or less the desired result.

"What'd you do to Nash?" Eames asks, and he sounds more tired than anything else. And that's a relief too, really, even if it's only because he's quite literally had all of his bullshit knocked out of him.

"I put the fear of god into him," Arthur says, sitting down on the coffee table across from Eames. "Or, rather, the fear of me."

Eames sighs. "Bloody hell, I was hoping you'd killed him."

"He couldn't have filed assault charges from the grave," Arthur points out. Eames growls low in his throat and rubs the heel of his hand against his forehead.

"If anyone could," he mutters. "Look, if you're here to yell at me about the stunt, I completely understand and I was a prat and everything, I'm fully prepared for my tongue lashing, but if you could maintain a low volume--"

"I'm not here to yell at you about the stunt," Arthur tells him. "I really fucking should be, but I'm not."

"Oh, then it's just the disembowelment?" Eames asks. "Fabulous. If you could be as quick as possible, darling, put me out of my misery--"

"It was never about Dom," Arthur says.

"Wait," says Eames, "wait, what?"

"It was never about fucking Dom," Arthur says, "I can't believe you didn't know that--I mean, honestly, what the fuck is wrong with you--and, look, okay, I won't keep doing this with you anymore. We're going to be honest about this, or I'm fucking leaving and that's it."

"What are we even--"

"Don't," Arthur says. "Don't fuck with me."

"Just fuck you," Eames says, quietly, almost sad, "right?"

Arthur sighs then, because he can't help but sigh. "No, Eames," he says, "no, you're not listening to me, you never listen. It was never about Dom, and it was never about--it was never just about fucking, Jesus Christ."

"Then what was it about?"

"You," Arthur snaps, raising his voice a little. "You and me, you bastard, what the fucking fucking fuck made you think it was ever about anything else--"

"Don't yell," Eames says, wincing, "Christ, bloody hell, don't--"

"You deserve it," Arthur says, but quieter. "You deserve worse, I watched you--I had to watch you--"

"I'm sorry about that," Eames cuts in, "for what it's worth. It was a stupid thing to do."

"That's the understatement of the century," Arthur growls, "but that's not what we're talking about. Jesus, Eames, I'm trying to be honest with you here, and it was--you know, I never wanted to, we fucking work together, and I could never tell how much of any of it was just you being you and how much of it was--"

"I can't help being how I am," Eames points out.

"I know," Arthur sighs. "I know you can't, that's what I'm saying, could you just shut up--"

"I'm just trying," Eames says, "I'm trying to get to your point, here."

"You know what, fuck this," Arthur says, and then he closes the distance between them, swift and sure, to kiss him.

"Oh," Eames says, surprised, against his mouth. And then "Oh," again, but deeper, with more intent, as he threads his fingers through Arthur's hair and pulls him closer. Arthur bites down on his bottom lip, lightly, because he's been wanting to do that for years, and Eames rewards him with a low growl of pleasure.

"Christ," Eames says, pulling back a little, looking ridiculous with that bandage wrapped around his head, with those fucking sunglasses in the dark room, "oh, Christ, I've been a complete arse, haven't I?"

"You have always been," Arthur says, pausing to kiss him swiftly again, "a complete fucking ass. Always."

"Well it's not like you're much better," Eames murmurs, lifting his hand to trace a line down Arthur's cheek. Arthur grins at him, sharp and dangerous and maybe revealing all of the things he's thinking about doing, if the way Eames grabs him by the back of the neck and hauls him in again anything to go by.

"Hey," Arthur says, drawing back, "hey, look, we need to--I'm not asking for--I understand that you've got a career and I've got a career and whatever, but I just want to try this, alright? Because it's gotten pretty fucking obvious that not trying this isn't really working out for us."

"I agree wholeheartedly," Eames says, trying to pull Arthur forward, but Arthur resists.

"But it has to be you," he says. "We need to be clear on that, I'm not going to start--if what you want is someone who falls for your--your lines, or whatever, then you're barking up the wrong fucking tree. I don't want to have to sift through your shit all the damn time."

"In all honesty, I don't particularly want to have to give you shit all the damn time," Eames says, his voice very serious. "So, you know, two way street and all that, I won't have any more of this chilly ridiculous nonsense from your end--"

"Done," Arthur says at once. "You know damn well I don't do anything by halves."

"Well, there's that, then," Eames says, his smile sudden and brilliant under his sunglasses, and Arthur draws his mouth in again with a ragged breath, relieved beyond belief that they can finally stop fucking talking about it.


"We don't have to do this," Arthur says, for the fourth time. It comes out muffled, though, because he's got one of his cufflinks between his teeth, fastening the other side with his left hand.

Eames laughs at him and leans across the backseat of the limo to pull his arm forward and do it himself. "Sorry, what was that? You're not exactly intelligible when your mouth is otherwise occupied."

He accompanies this last with a raised eyebrow and a smirk, for which Arthur hits him. "Dirty fuck."

"Takes one to know one," Eames says, releasing Arthur's sleeve. "Seriously, though, what were you saying?"

"That this is stupid," Arthur sighs. "You should get out first, and then I'll have the driver go around the block or something--"

"Do you really think they'll have that much of a field day over us showing up together?" Eames asks. "I mean, really, it's our movie--"

"It'll just confirm the rumors," Arthur argues. "Which, you know, wouldn't have so much steam if you hadn't--"

"Yes, yes, I know, I'm terrible," Eames says easily. "To be entirely honest, I'm not particularly bothered by what the press says about it."

"Oh, Jesus, you've finally lost your mind," Arthur mutters. "I knew that concussion was going to come back to bite me in the ass--how many fingers am I holding up?"

"You're hilarious," Eames informs him, rolling his eyes. Then his face shifts, just slightly, barely noticeable if you're not looking for it. "But, I mean, of course, if it's your own name you don't want in the papers--"

"Don't even try to pull that shit with me," Arthur growls. "You think I can't tell when you're acting? You know I don't give a fuck about the press. You're the one whose reputation is at stake; it's not my picture midwestern teenagers are hanging on their walls."

"Ew," Eames says, shuddering and looking relieved, all at once. "Don't make me think about that, darling, it's vile."

"Doesn't make it less true," Arthur says. "Not to mention the Academy--"

"Bugger the Academy," Eames says decisively, and there's really no reason at all that should make Arthur's throat constrict a little. Fucking Hollywood.

"We're here," he points out, rather than pushing that little declaration into something even more maudlin. "Last chance to come to your senses."

"Just get out of the bloody car, Arthur, alright?" Eames says, grinning at him, and Arthur sighs and opens the door.

The cacophony starts a second later, when Eames climbs out behind him. Long since used to the red carpet, Arthur ignores the crowd screaming Eames' name to look around. He nods at Dom, who pauses in his conversation with a reporter and smiles guardedly at him; Arthur is pretty sure they're never going to be able to work together again, but he's also beginning to think they may be able to salvage a friendship, so that's alright. Ariadne and Yusuf are probably already inside--Arthur'd had to talk both of them into coming to the damn premiere, busy as they've both been on their new film--and Saito and his wife appear to have just arrived.

Amanda and Julie are nowhere to be seen, which actually suggests that there are fires to be put out, and he's just preparing to go find those fires, actually, when Eames says, "Arthur."

He turns around, and Eames is grinning at him, and Arthur has not gotten to be where he is in this business by being easily surprised. He knows what Eames is going to do a second before he does it, and he's already got one hand in his pocket, curled around his phone in preparation for the damage control he'll have to get on at once, when Eames steps in to kiss him.

There are, despite the circumstances, actually a lot of ways he could play this. He could push Eames back and laugh, say something joking about not wanting to be part of another stunt; he could push Eames back and swear, yell about that gay shit not being funny. He could act drunk, he could make Eames act drunk, he could duck away and hope none of the photographers caught the intent--

--but fuck it, if Eames doesn't care he really doesn't, and anyway he's never been the kind of guy to avoid giving as good as he gets.

Arthur lifts his free hand and cups Eames' jaw, pulls him that last half a centimeter in, raising his eyebrows. And Eames is laughing, delighted, putting his hand on the small of Arthur's back because he's such a fucking glutton for attention, and really, really, this is the stupidest thing he's ever done.

"Asshole," Arthur has time to say, and then their lips are meeting, and Arthur closes his eyes as the cameras go wild.