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Next Big Thing

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On their second-to-last night in the Virgin Islands, Eames says suddenly, “Do you want to go and see the house I’ve been working on here?”

This is the first mention Eames has made of his Virgin Islands client. Arthur had honestly forgotten there was one. He sits up where he’d been reclining on a lounge chair in the setting sun, doing a book of maze puzzles. “Eames!” he exclaims.

Eames lifts his eyebrows. “You sound alarmed.”

“I forgot about your client!”

“It’s okay. Paul has taken exquisite care. I’ve been monitoring from afar while you’ve been sleeping twenty hours a day.”

“I haven’t been sleeping twenty hours a day,” grumbles Arthur.

“Like a cat,” says Eames.

“Do you want me to go see your project, or don’t you?” says Arthur.

Eames smiles. “I want you to see it. I’m proud of it.”

Which, of course, means that Arthur wouldn’t miss it.

“We’ll go out to dinner, maybe,” Eames suggests.

Arthur doesn’t miss Eames’s effort at nonchalance. He inwardly muses and thinks of the proposal and outwardly says, “My, what a novel suggestion. Does this mean I should put clothes on?”

“Sadly, yes. Unless you want to start that nudist trend finally—”

“Again: No,” says Arthur, and goes to get dressed. He wears the blue blazer he bought in New York City, and Eames wolf-whistles when he sees it and tries to pin Arthur against the wall and Arthur says, “I bought this so I could be seen in public in it,” and Eames says, “Well, that was bloody foolish on your part, darling,” and Arthur says, “Isn’t your client waiting for us?” and Eames sighs and says, “Yes, I guess.”

The house turns out to have a gorgeous location up on one of the hillsides, and Arthur can imagine that it has spectacular views. From the front it isn’t much to look at, though. In fact, it looks a bit small, much smaller than Arthur had expected, smaller than Eames’s clients’ houses usually are.

Eames says, confirming what Arthur suspected, “The views on the other side of this house are to die for. Wait until you see.” Then he takes Arthur’s hand and practically tumbles him through the elaborate wrought-iron gate that guards a courtyard brimming over with bougainvillea. Arthur likes it. It’s all sweet and unassuming and charming.

Eames fishes out a key to open the front door, saying, “Hand-carved,” as he raps a knuckle against it, and it is a pretty door, with a swirling pattern reminiscent of the paisley Eames likes so much.

The front door opens into one gigantic room that sweeps to a huge expanse of glass that looks out at the bay, and the room would be stunning on its own, with that view, and with the way it moves effortlessly from kitchen to dining to living, its blends of formal and informal. But what stops Arthur in his tracks is how the room is decorated. Arthur is used to being floored by Eames’s designs but this is…not Eames’s design. This is every design Arthur said he liked during Next Big Thing. There are fleece and feather boa couches, there’s a cushion pit for reading, there’s an entire plant wall, there are bits of stained glass for the light to shine through, there’s even an alcove done in Sunny’s dramatic gift-wrap motif. And Arthur is pretty sure that Eames has positioned mirrors around the main chandelier in such a way as to create the Versailles endless mirror effect.

Arthur stops with one foot through the door and stares and then says on a desperate breath, “Eames.”

“Do you like it?” Eames asks.

Arthur doesn’t even know what to say. Arthur just stares.

Eames smiles and says, “Come in and properly see it,” and tugs Arthur in. “I mean, this room’s a showstopper but you should see the bathroom in this place. And let’s not even get started on the closets. One of them has a gorgeous sculpture of a coatrack that I have it on good authority you’re going to love.” Eames winks.

“Eames, what is…” Arthur digs his heels in a little bit on the floor—travertine? Or limestone, possibly—and stops Eames’s progress. “Is your client a big Next Big Thing fan?”

“More of a fan of these particular designs,” says Eames.

“But…” Arthur looks around them, then back at Eames. “These are all my favorites, too.”

“Yes,” says Eames, still smiling, and then he steps closer to Arthur. “That’s because you’re the client, darling.”

“I’m the client?” Arthur says dumbly.

“This is your house.”

Arthur thinks. “I…don’t remember buying this house.”

Eames laughs. “You didn’t. I bought it for you, ages ago. I was going to tell you. Actually, I was going to talk it through with you before I bought it, whether we should splurge on a holiday cottage for the two of us, somewhere for us to get away and not worry, not run point, just sleep and laugh and fuck and all of the cameras would be an ocean away. Then this place came on the market and I hadn’t discussed it with you yet but I really wanted this place, I loved it at first sight, it just needed tons of work, and I needed to move fast and I thought maybe I’d surprise you with it. I really wanted to surprise you. Are you angry?”

“Why would I be angry?” Arthur asks in astonishment.

“I don’t know. I just...You like it here. You’re really happy here. We could be happy here all the time. Here. In this house.”

“In this house that you bought for me and you designed for me and, Eames, the only thing I’m angry about is that you should have bought it and designed it for us.” Arthur launches himself on top of Eames, forcing him to take his full weight but Eames does it easily.

“Well, I rather thought that was understood,” Eames manages under the onslaught of Arthur’s kisses.

“I love you,” Arthur says, and stops kissing him to just hug him, face pressed against his neck. “I really, really love you.”

“You,” Eames says against him in a whoosh of air. “Darling, you, you, you.”

There is something about Eames’s tone. Arthur’s heart stops beating. Arthur holds tight to Eames in this house Eames has designed for him and concentrates on breathing.

Eames pulls back, cups his hands around Arthur’s cheeks, brushes his hands through Arthur’s waving hair. “The thing about you,” Eames says, “is I’m not just in love with you. I’m in love with everything about you. I’m in love with the way you make me feel, like I could conquer the world but you wouldn’t give a fuck either way, as long as I was happy, like our lives are endless possibility, anything we want. I’m in love with how you are on sleepy Sunday mornings, when your hair is a mess and you curl into me, and I’m in love with how you are on workday mornings, when you roll out of bed and into the shower on a schedule. I’m in love with you when we’re working together and in love with you when we’re apart but I have your texts on my phone to look forward to. I’m in love with how you are in the evenings, whether we banter over dinner or sit in the same room without saying a word. I’m in love with you when you’re serious and I’m in love with you when you’re silly and I’m in love with how frequently you’re both. And I’m in love with the way you love me, the way you love us, your total dedication to making this work, the way I always know I have you to worry about me, to have my back, to encourage me in all of my endeavors and catch me when I fail at defying laws of physics. I have you, and that’s let me be more me, and I have never found an adequate way to thank you for that. I want to spend the rest of our lives trying. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and I want you to spend the rest of yours with me, and I want us to be who we are, as a team, for all of it, for every mad thing that lurks around the corner. There is no one I want to slay dragons with more than you, no one I want to laugh with more than you, no one I want to crawl to at the end of bad days more than you.” Eames smiles, a wide, fond smile. “No one I want to dream bigger with more than you.”

They are old words between them, emotionally laden words, words that Arthur initially used on a very different night in circumstances that were both very different and somehow very similar to these, standing on the cusp of an enormous and wondrous beginning again, and he can’t handle them being said back to him in this context. “Eames,” says Arthur, to say, stop, it’s too much because he meant to behave with dignity but he’s fearful that he’s just a weepy, blubbering mess at the moment.

“Let me say it, darling,” Eames says, his eyes very solemn as they gaze at him. “Let me say it so you know, so you never doubt it. I don’t want to promise you the world—I could never deliver—but I promise you our own little corner of it, gorgeous and happy and I will do ridiculous things and you will laugh and roll your eyes and sigh. I promise to help give you a life of extravagant joy and happiness and laughter, a life we build together, kiss by kiss. I promise you my eternal devotion, and to shower you with things of beauty, and to cherish a constant gratitude that you exist on this planet and have chosen to share a sliver of it with me. I promise to always remind you to dream bigger, and I promise to always rely on you to be running point if my dreaming gets a bit too big. And I promise you that I will never allow you to forget that enormous fucking messes can be beautiful things sometimes, and there’s always a chance to get it right, and being everything all at once is the best thing ever, and even a perfect move-in ready home can benefit from a little fixing-up.”

Arthur chokes out a laugh, shocked and amazed. “How?” he manages. “How did you remember all of that?”

“The same way you knew immediately what I was referencing. Because it was the best night of my life that you showed up and said yes to me. Say yes to me again. I promise you everything, here, now, just the two of us in this room. Let me promise it in front of the whole world, too.” Then Eames slides easily to one knee, clasping Arthur’s hand, and Arthur’s sure this would all present a very pretty tableau—Eames in this gorgeous room with the sun setting over the ocean beyond him—if Arthur had eyes for anything other than Eames. Eames with a smile on his lips and his eyes light with love. Eames the way he always looks when he looks at Arthur. “Banter with me, my darling kitten, for the rest of our lives. Will you marry me?”

Arthur nods, because he doesn’t think he can get anything else out, which is a shame because he had a whole thing planned for this.

Eames smiles more and fishes into his pocket and holds out a small velvet box that he offers to Arthur.

Arthur finds he can speak. “How can you have gotten me something else? You just bought me a fucking house.” But he takes the box and opens it on a set of cufflinks, inscribed with their initials swirled together.

“That’s for you to torture me with at inopportune moments. Or opportune moments. Depends on your perspective.”

“I look forward to it,” Arthur says, and means every syllable of it. He closes the box and kneels down in front of Eames and places the box carefully on the floor next to him and frames Eames’s face with his hands. “I so look forward to it. I look forward to everything. I look forward to every crazy remodel in our future, to every insane adventure you can dream up. Yes,” he says solemnly, taking a deep breath to gather himself. “My answer is yes. It was yes that night and it’s yes now and it will always be yes, whenever you ask me, for the rest of our lives. Just…yes.”

Eames surges forward and kisses the tears on Arthur’s cheek and he’s murmuring something but Arthur can’t even understand what it is through his haze of thrilled happiness. Instead Arthur just leans forward and into Eames, hugging him closely.

“Eames,” he says, just as he planned, “do you know what happens to the man who suddenly gets everything he ever wanted?”

Eames stills. Then he demands, “Oh, my God, are you quoting Willy Wonka at me?”

Arthur moves backwards enough so he can kiss Eames and say, “He lives happily ever after.”



The end. (or the beginning)