When Eames gets arrested, he calls Arthur in the midst of the best night’s sleep he’s had in years, because even when he isn’t trying, he’s remarkably good at ruining Arthur’s day.
“This better be an emergency,” Arthur says when he picks up the phone, already alert and trying to cling to the tendrils of unassisted dreams.
“It is, duckling,” Eames says. “I may be in a spot of trouble.”
“If they want ransom, they’re not getting it,” Arthur says. “They can have you.”
“It’s more along the lines of bail,” Eames says. “Except for the matter of me being a flight risk.”
Arthur pauses. “You’re stateside,” he says.
“I am,” Eames says.
“You’re fucked,” Arthur says.
“I am,” Eames says agreeably.
“What’d you do?” Arthur asks.
“Well,” Eames says. “Your speed limits are so pedestrian, really, that I couldn’t be bothered to pay attention.”
“You’re going to jail for a speeding ticket?” Arthur says incredulously.
“No, darling, keep up,” Eames says. “I got stopped for a speeding ticket. I got arrested for the warrant I have in Illinois, and I’m going to rot for the multiple federal crimes they’ve been searching for me for years for, not the least of which being me snatching a PASIV from your little military’s fingers.”
“You’re the one who did that?” Arthur asks, impressed.
“Keep on topic,” Eames says. “Can you call me a lawyer?”
“Did you use me as your one phone call?” Arthur asks.
“I did,” Eames says. “Aren’t you terribly pleased?”
Despite himself, Arthur is. Just for that, Arthur calls him a good lawyer, instead of the schmuck Eames probably deserves.
Somehow, Arthur remains Eames’ one phone call. Or, to be precise, once a week Arthur gets a collect call from a nasty maximum security penitentiary. Far more than once a week, Arthur fields calls from Eames’ lawyer, and proceeds to yell at him for being incompetent. Eames has been in three weeks, his trial not even set, when Arthur gets the first phone call. Eames sounds cheery.
“I am making friends,” he says, without bothering with hello.
Arthur closes his eyes. “Do not make friends,” Arthur says.
“They’re lovely people, really,” Eames says. “They play cards with me. Sometimes I let them win.”
“Don’t cheat at poker,” Arthur says.
There’s an ominous silence.
“Don’t play poker,” Arthur says, getting nervous.”Don’t touch a deck of cards with your grubby little fingers anymore. For your own sake. Please.”
“Everyone is bad at it,” Eames says, sulky. “It’s too easy anyway.”
“They will kill you,” Arthur says. “Kill you dead. Permanently.”
“Will you miss me if I get shanked in the back?” Eames asks. “I’m touched.”
“Don’t get too happy about it,” Arthur mumbles, and runs a hand through his hair.
There’s an outburst in the background.
“Oh,” Eames says. “A potential riot. I must be going love, ta!”
“Don’t get shanked!” Arthur yells, but Eames has already hung up.
“Have you stopped playing poker?” Arthur asks, the next week.
There’s a sulky silence which Arthur interprets as a yes.
“Watch yourself,” Arthur says. “I bet everyone’s bigger than you.”
“I’m in shape,” Eames says, sounding miffed, and Arthur hates that he’s nodding along to that, because he’s noticed.
“You’re sort of,” Arthur stops. “And then your mouth—“
He did not mean to say that.
“You were about to say things about my cocksucking mouth, weren’t you?” Eames asks, delighted.
“I wasn’t,” Arthur mumbles.
He was. It’s a very noticeable mouth.
“Don’t worry about my virtue,” Eames says.
“What virtue?” Arthur asks.
“Hush, you,” Eames says. “I’m saving myself for when you rescue me from prison and I repay you.”
“So you’re saying you’re waiting to prostitute yourself for me?” Arthur asks.
“Something like that,” Eames says, and Arthur’s cheeks heat, a little, but if asked, he’ll deny that to his grave.
“I’ve shaved my head,” Eames says.
“Is prison getting to you?” Arthur asks.
“And I’m growing a moustache,” Eames continues gleefully, as if Arthur had never spoken. “I think I shall look rather intimidating.”
“If you grow it, I won’t rescue you,” Arthur says. “I swear.”
“You will,” Eames says.
“No,” Arthur says, “I will save a serial killer instead, because that’s better than unleashing you with a moustache upon the world.”
“You say the sweetest things,” Eames says delightedly.
It’s in the second month that things give. They’re not making any headway, haven’t even reached trial, and Eames could be up for espionage on top of theft, because the US Military is sort of bitchy when people steal from them, and a total bitch when those people are foreign.
“Hey, on the bright side, it’s not Guantanamo,” Eames says, when he calls.
Eames sounds tired. Eames sounds tired, and there’s nothing Arthur can do about it. He’s been making connections with everyone he can, because lawyers aren’t enough, the law isn’t enough. He has someone working their way up as a guard, but the place is shut up tighter than Fort Knox, and Arthur isn’t sure, entirely, what he can do.
Three months in, Eames doesn’t call on the day he always does, and Arthur thinks fuck dignity and calls in every favour he has.
It takes two months, five scrapped plans and a lot of new favours owed, but in the end, there’s something workable nailed into the wall, and Arthur can’t ignore the thrill that goes through him when he thinks that the heist will be real, won’t be left in a dreamer’s imagination, will land Eames, whole, in front of him. That is, if it doesn’t kill him first.
Arthur can’t do anything on the night of the jailbreak. He’d like to, he’d love to be there, but the last thing he needs is another warrant out on him, the last thing Eames needs is Arthur getting in the way of a beautiful plan.
Three guards die that night, plan gone messy, but Arthur can’t bring himself to care, because by the end of it, Arthur’s guard contact brings Eames to him with the bloom of a bruise under his eye, still in a horrible jumpsuit. He looks thinner under it, paler. The look doesn’t suit him, but at least there’s no moustache in sight.
“I knew you’d come,” Eames says, beaming, as Arthur opens the door of the motel room twenty miles out from the prison.
“I didn’t come,” Arthur points out, hauling him inside. “Take that off. We have to get moving.”
“Aha,” Eames says. “Your secret crush on me has come to light.”
“You’re exceptionally dense,” Arthur informs him, and throws a handful of Eames’ old clothes at him, things he’d snatched up on a visit to London, breaking into the jumble of Eames’ flat. He doesn’t even know if they’ll fit anymore, but it’s better than Eames wandering around with a target drawn upon his back.
“What, because I considered your crush on me secret?” Eames asks, and starts stripping. Arthur politely averts his eyes.
“Are we in grade school?” Arthur says. “Stop calling it a crush.”
“It?” Eames says, and his voice sounds closer. Arthur looks up, and Eames is stripped to a pair of briefs, giving him a considering look. He is thinner.
“You’re too thin,” Arthur says.
“What’s it, Arthur?” Eames asks.
“I got you out of prison,” Arthur says dumbly.
“You do like a challenge,” Eames says.
“I called in every favour I had to get you out of prison,” Arthur says.
Eames is watching him, and it looks casual, but Arthur can feel the intent string of observation beneath it. “How long have you been in love with me?” he asks.
Arthur closes his eyes.
“For me,” Eames says. “I could lie and say it was the first time I saw your grim little face, but it probably took a few years after that.”
“Eames,” Arthur says, can’t open his eyes, can’t deal with him, close and present in a way he hasn’t been since he’d been locked up, since before that.
“You got me out of prison,” Eames says, and he’s shifted closer since Arthur’s shut him out. Arthur can feel Eames’ breath ghosting hot over his cheek.
Arthur opens his eyes.
“Thank you,” Eames says, and he’s so close that Arthur can see the flecks that break the blue of his eyes.
“It was no big deal,” Arthur says, and Eames just grins, crooked, and pulls him into a kiss.