Ariadne coolly sipped her coffee, pointedly ignoring the heat that rose to her face as Yusuf sputtered uncontrollably on the other side of the patio table. Focus on the breeze, focus on Paris, don’t focus on the prat of a friend in front of you.
“It’s not that funny,” Ariadne snapped.
The chemist gulped her offered bottle of water. “Oh but it is. You’re putting too much stock in sexual tension.”
Ariadne frowned, her cheeks still flushed. “Arthur and Eames are a couple. It’s obvious.”
“It really isn’t,” Yusuf said. “I’ve known them for years—”
“You have not.”
Yusuf held up his hands placatingly. “Alright, I’ve known Eames for years, but I’ve observed Arthur too. You’re too caught up in the flirtation.”
“Their flirting is kind of hard to miss. But that’s not why I’m saying they’re a couple. Even though Eames flirts differently with Arthur...”
“Eames flirts with everybody—”
“How many people does he call darling?” Ariadne challenged.
“He’s British,” Yusuf dismissed. “He calls everyone by pet names.”
“He doesn’t call anyone else on the team pet names.”
A surge of satisfaction went through her at Yusuf’s momentary considering gaze. “I’ve heard him call other people pet names,” he said petulantly.
“Were those people he had sex with?”
“Alright, Eames and Arthur might have slept together,” Yusuf admitted, “but that doesn’t make them a couple. One, Eames’ advances are rarely serious and even if they were he has commitment issues longer than his list of felonies. Two, Arthur is Arthur. And three, neither one would risk a serious relationship in the dream-sharing world. They both are very diligent at covering their weak spots.”
“Arthur is Arthur?” Ariadne scoffed, waving her coffee cup indignantly. Yusuf eyed it warily. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Arthur barely tolerates Eames’ presence and doesn’t have a personal life.”
“Oh my God,” Ariadne groaned, cracking Yusuf’s patronizing expression. “Why did I come to you? I should’ve recruited Cobb.”
“Arthur is secretive, not actively avoiding personal relationships. Also, do you really think Arthur doesn’t care about Eames? Not even a little bit?”
Yusuf glanced at the milling Parisian passerbys uncertainly. “Uh...”
Ariadne scooted her chair away from the table. “You know what? Suit yourself. I’ll prove Arthur and Eames are together since you’re uselessly unobservant.”
“You’re being harsh, Ariadne,” Yusuf said, hastily throwing money on the table to scamper after the brunette. “I’m not that unobservant.”
“Even Cobb knows something is going on.”
“You’re making that up.”
“Am I?” Ariadne taunted. “Just open your eyes, Yusuf. Look past the obvious flirting. I swear they’re worse than an old married couple.”
Ariadne had never been so thankful for a dinner break. The pulsing behind her right eyebrow was becoming a depressingly routine part of the job preparation.
“I brought Mexican, my lovelies,” Eames hollered as the warehouse door shut behind him. Yusuf shot her a smirk at Eames’ endearment. Ariadne rolled her eyes. “I hope everyone likes fajitas.”
Ariadne inhaled the spicy aroma. Her mouth watered. “Eames, you’re a saint. I didn’t know how much I craved fajitas until now.”
Eames winked at her. “It’s a skill I have. People assume I’m good at reading people. The truth is I’m psychic.”
“I feel so violated,” Yusuf said. “Have you been reading our minds this entire time?”
“Ah, you’re assuming your mind has something interesting to offer,” Eames mused. His gaze flickered to Arthur, who hunched over his table, leafing through files and otherwise giving no acknowledgment of Eames’ presence. “Darling, the food smell indicates it’s time to stop and eat.”
‘Darling’ Ariadne mouthed to Yusuf, grabbing a plate of fajitas. Yusuf mockingly gasped. Cobb frowned heavily at the two of them before snatching his fajita plate and scurrying back to his work area.
“Some of us actually have work to do. A foreign concept for you, I’m sure,” Arthur drawled. Despite his words, he closed the folder he was examining and strode towards the food.
“As usual, pet, your condescension gives me life.”
“I live to serve,” Arthur said dryly.
“You hide that purpose so well,” Eames said, placing Arthur’s plate on the table. Ariadne elbowed Yusuf hard when Eames began scooping Arthur’s sour cream onto his plate. Arthur’s scowl remained firmly in place but not at all directed at his food nor Eames’ actions.
“One of us should actually practice the art of subtly,” Arthur said, spearing the giant tomato slice on Eames’ plate and transferring it to his own.
“Darling, you couldn’t possibly be referring to my shirts?” Eames asked in horror. Arthur rolled his eyes (Ariadne would later tell Yusuf it was tampered with fondness. Yusuf would proceed to throw a pillow at her, but sacrifices had to be made in the grand scheme of things). “I thought you enjoyed my fashion sense! You need to be more upfront about your feelings in the future.”
“You’re not as amusing as you think you are.”
Eames finished taking the last of Arthur’s guacamole before handing over his plate. “Darling, I’m hilarious.”
“You’re delusional,” Arthur called over his shoulder, retreating back to his table. Eames leered, obviously checking him out and then winked at a gaping Ariadne. Ariadne felt her face heat up (twice in one day, damn it), but decided it was worth it to turn to Yusuf’s wide eyes.
“They just...swapped food,” Yusuf murmured, “without acknowledging anything.”
“Couples tend to do that.”
“Eames doesn’t even like tomato,” Yusuf fretted. “Why didn’t he just get one with no tomato?”
“Because Eames likes Arthur and Arthur likes tomato,” Ariadne goaded, biting into her fajita victoriously.
“So we’ll kidnap Theo Nelson in two weeks,” Cobb lectured. Arthur sat off to Cobb’s right, occasionally making notes in his notebook. Yusuf nodded like he was paying attention while Ariadne actually paid attention. And Eames should offer a suggestion or sarcastic comment in 3...2...1...
“Two weeks? Wouldn’t three be better?”
Ariadne blinked when Eames didn’t offer a follow-up explanation. “Why do you want to extend the job?”
“Yes, your suggestions usually make sense,” Cobb reprimanded. “We don’t extend jobs on a whim.”
Ariadne glanced at Arthur, whose pen hovered above his notebook as he frowned at Eames.
“Cobb, I really feel like we should wait to do the job until the week of Memorial Day,” Eames said. “It makes more sense all around.”
Cobb sneered, but Ariadne tuned out his scoffing tone to watch Arthur’s face light with sudden realization.
“As much as it pains me to admit,” Arthur interrupted Cobb, “Eames has a point. If we extend the job a week, we can gather Theo during the Memorial Day Bar-B-Ques. Right now our window to grab him is very precarious.”
“No, we’ve—” Cobb began.
“He’s a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. People will notice when he goes missing,” Arthur said, raising an eyebrow patronizingly. “We can’t assume we’ll catch him at the tennis court locker room all by his lonesome. Dom, I know you have enough experience to know we need a kidnap plan that has multiple alternatives, especially with someone so high-profile. When better than when he’s expected at several places at once? Everyone will assume he’s either late or somewhere else. Either way, they won’t miss him for an hour. I honestly don’t know why that wasn’t our original plan.”
“Also, Eames is impersonating his adoptive mother,” Arthur continued, “who is probably the closet person to him. Honestly, the more time and surveillance done on her the better.”
Arthur studied Cobb carefully. Ariadne squirmed and Arthur wasn’t even looking at her. “Unless you have something that takes priority over the job’s success.”
“What? No,” Cobb said hastily. “We’ll just rework the kidnap. We need a few more planned dream practice runs anyway. Yusuf’s serum isn’t as consistent as I would like.”
Cobb continued murmuring to himself before he hauled off Yusuf. Unofficial debrief over, apparently. Arthur and Eames hovered next to the bulletin board with the job outline.
“You did well,” Eames said softly.
Arthur snorted. “Better than you. And you call yourself a great conman. ‘Oh we should change the job date because I said so.’”
“I don’t sound like that.” Eames sounded vaguely offended.
“I got us an excuse not to go to Mindy’s party,” Arthur said.
“It was my idea to push the job date back,” Eames protested.
“And who actually succeeded in convincing Cobb to extend the job?”
“You should be worshipping me.”
“Valid point, darling.”
Ariadne grinned and waited for an ideal time to tell Yusuf (who claimed she made it up. So she swatted him in the arm...with her fist. Ariadne was apparently more invested in this investigation than Yusuf was).
Arthur was every architect’s dream. He would listen to every antagonizing detail and then proceed to offer fifteen more or he would painstakingly help her identify a peculiar smell or texture. Arthur’s abundance of dream-building experience would often have him leading her through the finesse of a particular technique.
“Just think of Escher,” Arthur stated. “Many paradoxes utilized in dreams were inspired by Escher.”
Ariadne felt the beginning of a pulse behind her right eyebrow. Her gaze flicked to the clock. They’ve been talking about the dreamscape for almost two hours. “I’ve only looked at the material you gave me last week. Do you think something like Escher’s Relativity would—”
“Arthur, you need to answer my phone,” Eames said, holding a phone playing Reflection from Mulan like it held the plague.
“The phone is in your hand,” Arthur snapped, always irritated when forcibly pulled out of a brainstorm session. “Unless some miracle occurred, you’re still able to talk.”
“I know, I know,” Eames said as the phone sang louder. “I just ignored it the first time, but it’s like she knew.”
“Ariadne, did my title shift from Point Man to Secretary without anyone informing me?”
Ariadne’s eyes widened. Was Eames pouting? She glanced at Arthur, who scowled to cover the fact he was wavering under Eames’ pathetic-ness. Oh. My. God. She’d seen Arthur stare down a gun barrel unflinchingly. She’d seen Eames confidently manipulate a mark after mark with no hesitation. She couldn’t wrap her head around the frantic Eames and quickly swayed Arthur.
“You know you’ll have to talk to her eventually,” Arthur said, grudgingly taking Eames’ blaring cell phone.
“I will, but you know what she does...”
“Oh trust me, I know,” Arthur said. He nodded towards Ariadne and walked away with a cheerful, “Hello, Mindy.”
Arthur pulls ridiculous hours on a job. They all put in a lot of hours, but Arthur often doesn’t leave unless Eames unsubtly drags him out of the warehouse (such an usual occurrence both Yusuf and Ariadne didn’t know if it qualified as proof of Eames and Arthur’s relationship—or Armes, as Yusuf insisted to nickname it) because Arthur refused to be so easily influenced by something as droll as sleep and nutrients. However, Arthur deftly ignored other group member’s attempts to make him leave the warehouse (which Ariadne felt supported the Armes theory, but Yusuf was an irritatingly stubborn bastard). So by the time Eames came back from his three day surveillance, Arthur hadn’t slept in 31 hours.
“Eames!” Ariadne called in greeting. “How did it go?”
“Splendid,” Eames said. “It was very informative. I’m so glad we decided to push back the original job date. Otherwise—”
“Cobb isn’t here,” Ariadne interrupted.
“Shame,” Eames said. “But it was nice. I stayed at an apartment near their family gathering. Picked up more motherly quirks and how Helen and Theo interact with each other, along with his other family relationships. You could really tell how much—”
Ariadne cleared her throat and stared meaningfully at Arthur.
Eames hummed. “How long has he been up?”
“I’m not deaf,” Arthur snapped.
“How long have you been up, darling?” Eames repeated, sauntering over and leaning against Arthur’s table.
“Not that long. I just wanted to go over more files. We might have a possible angle Dom can take...”
“Does he know you’re looking into it?”
“Hmm?” Arthur mumbled, staring at the tangle of color on the spreadsheet in front of him. “Oh, no I thought I’d tell him when I had something more substantial.”
“Lovely,” Eames said, “so let’s go to the hotel, yes?”
Arthur breathed in deeply, probably in irritation, but then frowned. “You ended up staying in the apartment?”
Ariadne slammed down her sudden wave of hope. The apartment did not mean our apartment. No matter how much she supported Armes.
“Yes, darling, it was close to the Nelsons.”
“So did you pick up my dry cleaning?”
Ariadne had never seen Eames switch so quickly from pacifying to panicked.
Arthur’s eyes flew open. “I dropped it off before the job and he said they’d be ready this week.”
“Oh yes, I remember that now.”
“I even texted you to remind you since you were in the area. You replied with those God-awful emoticons.”
Arthur glowered. “They donate abandoned clothes to a homeless shelter.”
“Darling, I think you’re overreacting.”
“It’s an Armani!” Arthur yelled. “Do you have any idea how much that cost? It’s specifically tailored for me. It won’t correctly fit on anyone else.”
“We’ll just call the dry cleaners and apologize for not picking up the suits on time. They’ll put them on hold and we’ll pick them up later.”
“You never pick up the dry cleaning,” Arthur muttered.
“I don’t need the dry cleaners.”
Arthur gave Eames an obvious once over. “Trust me, I know.”
“Then I don’t see how it’s such a shock when I forget to pick up the dry cleaning.”
“It’s common courtesy,” Arthur snapped. “Like how I make sure your disgusting tea is in stock.”
They were so domestically aggressive Ariadne thought her grin was going to crack her face. Not together her ass...
“I’m sorry I forgot the dry cleaning,” Eames murmured.
“It’s an Armani,” Arthur repeated dejectedly.
“I know, love,” Eames said. “The lack of sleep is making the love for your suits more apparent and almost unhealthy.”
“There’s that Arthurian cunning and wit,” Eames said. “Let’s go to the hotel.”
“I’m not tired,” Arthur yawned, but allowed Eames to put his folders down and snatch his coat.
“Of course not, darling.”
“You’re mocking me.”
“Would I do that?”
“Yes. You claim you’re a fantastic—”
“Good-bye, Ariadne!” Eames shouted suddenly over his shoulder. She waved dazedly back. She glanced at the pile of notes Arthur gave her an hour ago. To trust sleep-deprived Arthur logic or ignore the notes. The notes sounded read in the typical Arthur style—knowledgeable and concise. But now...
“—but I know the truth,” Arthur continued.
“Which is?” Eames prompted (fondly, God damn it).
“You abandon my suits because you don’t want me to have any clothes.”
“That is precisely what motivates my every action.”
Ariadne opened a text message as soon as the duo trudged out of the warehouse. Yusuf would not believe what just happened.
“Fuck,” Ariadne swore. “We’re surrounded. I thought that Yusuf’s serum was supposed to dull the militarized projection’s reflexes.”
Arthur shot a projection as the car drifted around a curve. “Maybe their reflexes are dulled.”
Ariadne looked at Arthur with something akin to horror.
“I’ve got it!” Eames exclaimed. “We need to bust out our roof.”
Arthur shot him a withering glare. “We’re not busting out the roof.”
“That’s a terrible idea!” Ariadne yelled. God knows what the projections would do if a car roof wasn’t shielding them from falling debris and projectiles. She shuddered just thinking about it.
“Not this roof,” Eames corrected. “Our roof, darling.”
“Your roof?” Ariadne shouted startled (because hello Eames we’re in the middle of a warzone. Some context would be appreciated) before reminding herself to act like a detective. “Do you live together?”
“I knew which roof you were talking about,” Arthur retorted, hissing when a black SUV cut in front of them. “We’re not busting out our roof.”
“Most married couples do,” Eames answered her, ignoring a now cursing Arthur.
I fucking knew they were together Ariadne thought triumphantly. “Wait, did you say married?”
“And live together,” Eames reiterated. He was obviously mocking. Ariadne didn’t care. She theorized they were a couple, but marriage was a bit more than she was anticipating.
“For tax purposes,” Arthur grunted, shooting a couple times at the SUV in front of them.
Eames frowned. “We don’t pay taxes.”
“I do,” Arthur snapped. “I don’t want our aliases to be flagged. Besides, the income our aliases make compared to our actual income makes the taxes owed pocket change.”
“See how thorough he is? It’s part of his appeal. He also glares at all the idiots in the world.”
Ariadne continued to impersonate a goldfish.
“I glare at you the most,” Arthur reminded.
“I know, love,” Eames said. “Cover me, won’t you?”
“I’m driving,” Arthur retorted, but swung his Glock out Eames’ window and began firing at the projections while the forger grabbed a bazooka out of thin air.
“Think about the natural light,” Eames said, leaning out the window and leveling the bazooka. The SUV exploded moments later. “Skylights in the living room would be divine. We just need to bust out those pesky shingles. You mustn’t be afraid of dreaming a little bigger, darling.”
“You can’t use that line for everything,” Arthur grumbled, swerving around the flaming wreckage.
“But I think of it as such an ‘us’ thing,” Eames said.
Arthur took a torturous second to give Eames a vicious glare. “You’ve been saying it for more than a decade. I’m starting to doubt your creativity.”
“Only now, darling?” Eames asked. “Well then keep faith for a tad longer and tell me what you think about my creativity after we put in the skylights.”
“There’s a helicopter!” Ariadne shouted. Eames almost looked startled that she was still in the car. Arthur merely raised an eyebrow and turned into a tunnel that suddenly appeared on their left.
“New plan,” Arthur said. “Eames, disguise yourself as Helen now. His mind is in chaos but Theo should be safe with Cobb. The projections wouldn’t attack his adoptive mother. Ariadne, we’re going to distract the projections for the next fifteen minutes then you’ll join Cobb.”
“What about you?” Ariadne asked.
“I’ll keep them occupied,” Arthur said. “We need to act now or all of our work will be for nothing. Eames—”
“I’ll drop out here,” Eames said.
Arthur braked the car, hauling Eames close by the shirt. “We’ll get the skylight if we succeed.”
Eames’ face broke out in a grin. “If? As if you’d allow this job to fail.” He winked to Ariadne in the backseat before closing in the last few inches and capturing Arthur’s lips with his own. Ariadne may have gasped. “I’ll see you topside, love.”
Arthur immediately sped through the tunnel once Eames left the car and shifted into Helen in a blink of an eye.
His eyes flickered to the review mirror warily. “What?”
Arthur snorted, tension easing off his face. “Eames’ twin sister. She manipulates him like no other, I swear. She always throws the biggest parties and puts us on babysitting duty. Do you have any idea how many children Eames is related to?”
“No, I’m not you,” Ariadne teased.
She was rewarded with dimples. “It’s a terrifying amount. She says she’ll take us off it as soon as we have kids of our own. But that leads to another conversation that we tend to avoid unless it’s in private.” Arthur’s expression hardened as they came towards the end of the tunnel. “Now Ariadne, how comfortable are you flying a jet?”
“To another job well done!” Eames cheered, thrusting his beer in the air. The warehouse maintained its former glory—the original starkness left no trace of the dreamsharers except for a small card table pressed against the heavy walls and an empty pizza box that lay neatly next to Arthur’s PASIV briefcase. He had long ago taken over the last minute cleaning duties after she accidentally left old Chinese takeout boxes in Madrid seven months ago.
“No, no,” Yusuf protested, “Don’t ‘to another job well done’ us. You can’t just say you and Arthur have been married for seven years and act like nothing happened.”
“To be fair,” Arthur said, clinking his beer against an unwavering Eames’, “I thought it was fairly obvious we were a couple.”
Yusuf sputtered. “I thought you would want to hide you relationship.”
“We do hide our relationship,” Eames said, waving a slice of pizza in the air with one hand while the other was flung around Arthur’s shoulders as if to defy his words, “quite well. It’s a lovely reputation we built up. We can flirt, I can ogle, and no one is the wiser.”
“We don’t bother with the façade around our friends,” Arthur said, loose like he was after every job, but Ariadne noted how he obviously relaxed into Eames. The forger kept grinning at Arthur and then the table.
“I feel like I should aww,” Ariadne said, “but laughing at Yusuf seems like the better option.”
“Laughing at Yusuf is always the better option,” Eames confided.
Yusuf scowled. “Cobb didn’t know you were together either.”
“I was Best Man at the wedding,” Cobb mumbled through a mouth full of pizza.
“You’re not very supportive of our love,” Eames said mildly, his smirk widening at Yusuf’s sudden panicked expression.
“Oh no, I’m supportive,” Yusuf said. “It makes you less pathetic now that I know why you mope whenever you work with another point man.”
“He should mope,” Arthur said, pressed against Eames. “All the other point men are incompetent.”
“Don’t forget the pining,” Eames said. “There’s a lot of mutual pining.”
“I don’t pine,” Arthur retorted. “You don’t either. People only pine for something they don’t have.”
“But I always pine for you when you’re not with me,” Eames purred. Arthur attempted a deadpan stare, but dimples unwillingly surfaced as he gazed at Eames fondly. It suddenly struck Ariadne how much they constantly hid their relationship. Even when they ‘dropped the façade’ around the team, they were never open about their affections. They were probably grateful for a place they could casually acknowledge their relationship without worrying about the consequences.
“Stellar lines,” Ariadne drawled, interrupting whatever Yusuf was going to say (which would probably be insensitive and rude. Ignoring, of course, her own sarcastic comment. She just assumed hers was the lesser of the two evils). “I see what attracted you to him.”
“I’m also devastatingly handsome,” Eames reminded.
“Don’t forget his accent,” Arthur added dryly. “His accent is one of his better qualities.”
“The only better quality is a bit more...oral.” Eames waggled his eyebrows.
Arthur rolled his eyes, reaching across the table to pat a coughing Ariadne on the back. “On that note, we should probably go and catch our flight.”
“Do you guys always share a flight after a job?” Yusuf demanded.
“Generally,” Eames said. “We even share a taxi. You’re just astonishingly oblivious.”
Yusuf muttered under his breath.
“So now that we know your deep dark secret,” Ariadne said.
“Our marriage isn’t dark,” Arthur objected.
“Well it is at the moment,” Eames countered, kissing Arthur’s frown lines (Ariadne pretended she didn’t find the action absolutely adorable. Yusuf’s scoff informed her of her failure), “which is why we’re putting in a skylight.”
Arthur snorted. “I’m hiring the construction crew.”
“I expected nothing less,” Eames grinned.
Arthur’s mouth spread into an easy smile.
“Do we get to hear embarrassing dating stories now?” Ariadne asked.
“What time was our flight, darling?” Eames asked.
Arthur made a show of checking his watch. “We should probably leave now.”
Yusuf and Ariadne met each other’s gazes.
“We know what you’re doing,” the chemist said.
“We’ll force the stories out of you,” Ariadne warned. “Haven’t they been kept quiet long enough? It’s time to share them with the world.”
“Or just us,” Yusuf said.
“Would if we could,” Eames said. “Alas, we must be going and I really shouldn’t start divulging on how Arthur shot me on our second date.”
“Only in the leg,” Arthur said. “You were fine. Besides, I’m not the one who—”
“Let’s not turn this into a competition, darling.”
“You made this a competition.”
“Until next time!” Eames hollered over his shoulder, dragging a protesting Arthur behind him.
“We’re getting a lot of Eames blackmail next job, aren’t we?” Yusuf asked.
Ariadne snorted. “I’ll be surprised if we don’t get an email full of it in the next hour.”