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the birds all sing as if they knew

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A shrill noise pierced the air, startling Arthur out of sleep. He listened to Eames’ hand slap around on the nightstand before finally managing to silence the sound.

“‘lo?” Eames mumbled into his phone.

Arthur’s spine tingled at the low, husky way he sounded in the morning. He hoped he never got used to it. Hooking and ankle around Eames’ leg, Arthur shifted and sighed into his pillow. He tried to will himself back to sleep but the next words out of Eames’ mouth ruined that idea.

Saito,” Eames greeted, sounding much more alert.

Arthur tensed, already lamenting the idea of getting out of their warm bed and having to leave at Saito’s say-so. Eames hit a button and Saito’s voice filled the otherwise quiet room.

“--hear congratulations are in order.” His voice was tinny from the speaker of the ancient technology Eames considered a cellphone.

Arthur’s eyes popped open. He looked at Eames who seemed equally surprised. Saito, most likely perfectly aware of their shock and not caring one bit about it, continued speaking.

“If I were an honest man, I’d say that I never thought I would see the day either one of you would settle down. Much less together.”

Eames mouthed ‘settle down’ at Arthur, wrinkling his nose in distaste. Arthur frowned and shook his head, pushing himself into an upright position.

“Mr. Eames, have I caught you at a bad moment?” Saito asked, noticing the silence on their end of the line. Arthur got the impression that Saito knew exactly how he had caught them.

“Ah, no, no. Not at all,” Eames lied. “Thank you for your felicitations. It’s a bit hard for me to wrap my head around as well.”

“I can imagine so!” Saito said happily. “I’ll admit I was somewhat dismayed to find out that I had not been informed of your upcoming nuptials, but then again I imagine this is the type of thing you’d prefer kept quiet.”

“Oh, you know Arthur,” Eames said with a smirk. Lying on his back with an arm behind his head he looked straight at him. “Such a romantic. Woke up one morning to a wedding license sitting on the breakfast table with his signature already on it. Not much of a ceremony to be had, you see. Let me sign my own name though, the gentleman.”

“I’m no good at forging signatures, that’s why I have you,” Arthur said without thinking, looking down at Eames fondly.

“Arthur! Good morning,” Saito said, his smile audible. Eames laughed quietly at Arthur’s expression. “I see now that this might be a bad time indeed. I wont keep you long, I just wanted to ask you to stay put for the day. I’ve sent something your way that should be there this afternoon. A gift.”

“A gift?” Eames asked.

“It is only polite when your friends get married to send a gift, Mr. Eames,” Saito chided. “Now I must be off. Enjoy your honeymoon.”

The line went dead before either of them could respond. Eames set his phone down looking shell-shocked.

“Should we be concerned that Saito considers us friends?” He asked.

“Probably,” Arthur said. “I’m more concerned that he already knew. It was only yesterday.”

Eames hummed in response before turning over to his side and looking up at Arthur.

“Quite frightening, but I can’t say I mind getting a wedding gift from one of the richest men in the world,” he said with bright eyes.

Arthur nodded absently. Eames certainly had a point.

“Now what do you say we do exactly as his says and stay put for the day,” Eames said, his hand tracing lightly up the inside of Arthur’s thigh.

“I knew I married you for a reason.” Arthur said.

He moved over Eames, placing a hand on the other side of his head. Eames smiled up at him. Arthur leaned down.

They stayed put for the next two days.


 

Cobb smiled at Arthur as he sat across from him, beer in hand.

"So," Cobb started.

An awkward pause followed, making Arthur laugh.

"Weird, isn't it?" Arthur said, knowing he didn't have to elaborate. It was strange sitting in front of Cobb, not strategizing or planning. They weren't waiting out a mark or doing intel. Tonight they were just two friends having a beer, catching up.

Cobb smiled ruefully.

“How have you been?” Arthur asked, genuinely curious.

He wished they could have done this sooner, but it had been for the best to lay low and for Cobb to stay far away from anyone in dreamsharing for the time being. As it stood, Arthur had spoken to him a handful of times on the phone and hadn’t seen him since they dispersed from LAX shortly over a year earlier.

Arthur listened and watched as Cobb talked about his family, filling Arthur in on the details Saito’s arrangements and sharing anecdotes about James and Phillipa that had Arthur laughing. Domesticity suited Cobb far better than their mutual life of crime had. He looked content. More than that, he looked happy.

“How have you been, Arthur?” Cobb asked once he had run out of his own stories to share. “You look different.”

Arthur raised an eyebrow. Cobb tilted his head slightly.

“You look,” he paused. “I don’t know. Relaxed, maybe?”

Arthur smothered a grin and refused to acknowledge the jitter of nerves in his stomach.

“I--Well,” Arthur started, faltering. “I got married,” he said, the three words rushing out together. It sounded more like a question than he had intended. Arthur frowned at himself.

Cobb blinked owlishly as he took a moment to parse what Arthur had said. Arthur fought the instinct to fiddle with his ring. Cobb squinted at him.

“Married?”

“Yes.”

“You.”

“Yes.”

Cobb leaned into the back of his chair, looking at Arthur with no small amount of confusion.

“To who?”

Arthur opened his mouth to reply but felt a warm presence at his back. A quick brush of lips and stubble against the side of Arthur’s neck and Eames was sliding smoothly into one of the open chairs. Arthur’s mouth snapped shut.

“Good evening, love,” Eames said, resting a hand on Arthur’s knee and squeezing.

The table fell into silence as Cobb’s eyes flickered back and forth between them. Arthur bit back a laugh when he saw realization dawn on Cobb’s face. Eames had no such restraint, laughing loud enough to catch the attention of surrounding tables.

No.” Cobb said, horrified.

Eames smile faded into a smirk, giving Cobb a challenging stare. Things may have turned out well for all involved, but Arthur knew there was no love lost between Eames and Cobb regarding the Fischer job. Eames’ trust was hard-earned and once lost was almost impossible to get back. Arthur quickly covered Eames’ hand with his own before Eames could say anything that would turn the night sour.

“Yes.” Arthur confirmed.

Cobb looked between them again.

“But when?” He asked.

“Five months ago,” Arthur said, turning to Eames for confirmation. Eames nodded.

“Closer to six now.” Eames added.

Arthur’s stomach did a little flip, realizing that Eames had been keeping track. It still managed to sneak up on Arthur at times, just how much he loved Eames. Arthur gave him a small grin that Eames returned in kind.

Cobb cleared his throat, breaking their moment.

“Were you guys together during the Fischer job?” He asked.

“No.” Arthur said.

Cobb looked even more confused.

“We were before, though.” Arthur added.

“Sometimes.” Eames amended.

“Sometimes.” Arthur agreed.

“Let’s just say we gave Ross and Rachel a run for their money.” Eames said.

Arthur gave a slightly embarrassing snort but couldn’t regret it once he saw the pleased look on Eames face.

Cobb shook his head and Arthur could sympathize, knowing the reputation he and Eames held in the business together, even if most people misunderstood their interactions. Arthur almost for sorry for Cobb. Almost.

“Well, I guess… Congratulations,” Cobb said with a disbelieving smile.

“Sorry, mate,” Eames said. “It was a very private ceremony. Just us and some family. We figured not a lot of people would feel comfortable on a nude beach--”

“A nude beach.” Cobb repeated.

Arthur hid his smile.

“Very beautiful ceremony, really,” Eames nodded. “How could it not be with our dear Arthur standing in front of me completely stark--”

“Okay! Okay, that’s fine, I don’t need to know,” Cobb said, waving a hand in front of him as if to ward off the thought of Arthur naked.

This time it was Arthur’s laughter that made everyone stare.


 

After two years, Arthur would admit to feeling a small bit of pleasure at seeing Ariadne again. He smiled as he watched Eames sweep her up off her feet into an embrace and swing her around dramatically. She looked dazed once set back upon her feet and Arthur couldn't blame her one bit. Eames had that effect on people. Still, Arthur rolled his eyes at her as both an apology and a show of solidarity and she grinned back as he swooped in to kiss her cheek.

"Ariadne," he said in greeting.

"Arthur. Still rocking the three piece, I see." She replied.

Arthur smiled.

"Some things will never change, Ariadne," Eames said. "And that includes Arthur's fondness for well-fitted trousers. Not that I mind that, of course. I’m always appreciative of a good view."

Ariadne laughed but ultimately ignored him and started in on the details of the job. Arthur could appreciate that about her.

A few hours later they sat at the table discussing the preliminaries when Ariadne's eyes caught on Arthur's hand, he spotted the exact moment she realized what she was looking at.

"Is that a wedding ring?" She asked, effectively cutting Eames off from his take on the mark’s relationship with her husband.

Eames abruptly cleared his throat. At first, Arthur thought it was a gentle rebuke for being interrupted, then he glanced over and saw Eames conspicuously scratching his cheek with his left hand. Ariadne's eyes flickered over at the noise before doing a double-take, her jaw dropping open.

"What the fuck," she said. "You guys both get married and I wasn't invited to either wedding?"

Arthur exchanged a brief look with Eames.

"To be fair," Arthur said. "There was only one wedding."

Ariadne's eyes grew wide.

"You know how things go in Vegas." Eames added.

"Yeah... sure," Ariadne said quietly, staring off at some point in the distance between them.

A long moment passed. Eames leaned over into Arthur's space.

"I think we've broken her, darling." He said in a stage-whisper.

Ariadne shook her head and began to laugh.

"You might be right." Arthur replied.


 

Arthur walked into the hotel, thankful to be out of the rain and writing his hair off as a lost cause as it dripped onto his forehead. His clothes, sadly, weren’t much better. He couldn’t wait for a hot shower, a dry towel, and a clean bed. Not to mention--ah, there he was.

Eames stood at the desk, chatting with the pretty women behind it. She was positively beaming at him. Arthur shook his head and made his way over.

“There he is, the light of my life,” Eames said, spotting Arthur.

The woman’s eyes grew wide as she took him in.

“You’re Arthur?” She asked with a smile.

Arthur’s brow furrowed but he gave her a nod after a quick glance at Eames.

“Oh my god, you are so lucky.” She said.

Arthur shot a confused look at Eames.

“I was just telling her about my proposal, darling.” He said.

“And the wedding,” she added. “It all sounded so romantic! The moonlit walk on the beach, the doves, the string quartet.” She was positively gushing at Arthur

“Right,” Arthur said, hoping to nip the conversation in the bud. His thoughts swirled around the soft sheets he knew were waiting for him. “Very romantic. Very lucky.”

“Don’t mind him,” Eames said. “Jet lag and rain, not a good combination.”

“Oh, of course not. I’m sure you two would prefer to get upstairs now that you’re both here anyway.” She smiled at the both of them and grabbed their keycards. “Here you are. Honeymoon suite. We’ve got you booked through next week, give us a call if there’s anything you need!”

They gave their thanks and walked over to the elevator bank. Once inside and heading up to their room, Arthur glanced at Eames.

“Honeymoon suite?”

Eames shrugged.

“You do know we’ve been married for over two years, right?”

“Two years and five months, actually,” Eames corrected. Arthur smiled to himself.

“Be that as it may,” Arthur said.

“Do you realize we never actually had a honeymoon? We spent a few days cooped up in your flat and then spent the next month on a job in Iowa.”

Arthur was silent for a moment.

“There’s no job here, is there?” He asked.

“The only job here, Arthur, is the kind that involves my mouth around your cock.” Eames said with a grin.

“Eames.” Arthur chided.

“Or vice versa.” Eames amended.

Arthur laughed. He had, of course, already known better. His suitcase lacked his normal stash of deadly accoutrements and was particularly light on clothing, having checked the forecast and packed accordingly.

Today was supposed to be the last of the rain, a string of warm, sunny days were to follow.


 

Arthur was on the other side of the room, writing a few notes on the whiteboard, but he could still hear the conversation clear as a bell.

“I’ve been hearing rumors about you, my friend.” Yusuf said.

“Yeah?” Eames said. “I’d be more concerned if you weren’t hearing rumors about me.”

Arthur grinned to himself, flipping through his notebook, contemplating which parts to copy.

“True. But these rumors are quite persistent. You can forgive me if I’m curious.” Yusuf said.

“Alright, I give. What are people saying about me these days, Yusuf?”

“They’re saying you’re shacked up with a hot young thing--” Yusuf started.

Arthur’s smile grew. He wouldn’t use the term ‘shacked up’ personally, but he couldn’t find fault with the rest of it.

“--I believe the phrase that stuck out to me was ‘jailbait with a penchant for suits’.”

Arthur frowned. Eames laughed.

“I am not jailbait,” Arthur said, interrupting whatever Eames was about to say. “I’m only three years younger than him.”

He didn’t bother turning around, not wanting to see the look on either of their faces.

“So it is true,” Yusuf said, obviously pleased with himself.

“Shacking up isn’t the phrase I’d use,” Eames said ambiguously.

“What phrase would you use?”

“Married would about sum it up.” Eames said.

No,” Yusuf said, disbelieving.

“Would I lie to you?”

“Constantly.”

“True,” Eames laughed. “But would Arthur lie to you. About this.”

Arthur lifted up his left hand, with only his ring finger extended, as he continued to write.

“Oh my god. You’re serious. But how?”

Arthur smiled and waited.

“I took a piss in the alleyway behind a bar a few years ago,” Eames said as if that were explanation enough. After a moment of disbelieving silence, he sighed. “Some places frown on that. Who knew? Anyway, they ran my prints and as luck would have it I had a warrant or three out for my arrest.”

“And where does Arthur come in?” Yusuf asked.

“Arthur here, he was called in to testify against me at the trial,” Eames paused. “Don’t you find that interesting, that an American District Attorney would be able to call Arthur for anything? I’ve always been curious about that myself.”

“I owed her a favor,” Arthur said matter-of-factly.

“Sure you did, sweetcheeks.”

“What have I told you about that name?” Arthur sighed.

“Oh, right. Sorry. I’m only allowed to call you that when we--”

“I believe you were telling Yusuf about our wedding, Mr. Eames.” Arthur stated.

“That I am,” Eames laughed. “Where was I? Arthur was called in to testify against me. But that certainly wouldn’t do, would it? So we got married. Man and wife--well, husband--they can’t testify against one another in the states.”

“Uh huh,” Yusuf said, flatly.

“A prison wedding,” Eames made a tsk-ing sound with his tongue. “My mother, god rest her soul, would be so disappointed. Her only child getting married in an orange jumpsuit with chains around his ankles.”

Arthur rolled his eyes.

“Anyway, it all ended up being for naught. I escaped a month before my trial was set. Very dangerous, very daring, that.”

“You know, I don’t think that’s how any of that actually works,” Yusuf said.

“No?” Eames asked.

“No.”

“Hmm. Isn’t that interesting.”

Yusuf sighed.


 

The truth of the matter was that Eames’ mother was still alive and well, along with his two sisters. All of who had completely and utterly adored Arthur since the moment he met them nearly a decade ago. An only child with parents long since gone, it hadn’t taken much longer for Arthur to consider them his own family, much to Eames’ occasional displeasure.

They were, in fact, the entire reason an actual ceremony was held. Both men would have been perfectly fine with signing a piece of paper and being done with it, but Eames’ mother had other ideas.

“When are you having the wedding?” She asked.

Eames gave a sidelong glance at Arthur. It didn’t go amiss.

“No. Uh uh. You two are not getting out of this one.” She said. “You both have been utter shits for years, you realize. I’m happy that you’ve finally gotten smart about it, but I will not have you sneak off to Vegas in the middle of the night like a couple of drunk university students. After all I’ve put up with, I deserve to see this through. I’ll plan it myself, if I have to.”

Knowing it would be easier for everyone, they gave her what she wanted. Even so, being who they were, they had quite a few of their own stipulations. They came to an agreement and she began planning a wedding for the following week.

Two days later, Arthur sat in an armchair reading a book, Eames sitting a few feet away at the table. Were he asked now, Arthur wouldn’t be able to say what it was he had seen Eames working on. What he could remember was the way Eames’ glasses (that he only ever wore around Arthur) had slid down to the edge of his nose. He could remember the way Eames’ soft, pink tongue peaked gently through his lips as he concentrated. He could remember the intense look on Eames’ face as he made sure every detail was perfect. Arthur remembered these things because what he remembered most of all was the way his heart clenched in his chest as he looked at Eames and thought, ‘I am so fucking gone for this idiot’.

“Should we write our own vows?” Arthur blurted out, surprised at his own words. The thought had barely entered his mind before it passed his lips.

Eames looked up at Arthur with a shocked expression and the room remained silent as Eames considered his question. Arthur worried for a moment that the state of his absolute adoration was visible on his face until he remembered they were alone and they were getting married in just a handful of days. Fuck it, let him see how much he means to you, he thought.

The warm smile that spread over Eames’ plush lips was worth it.

“Yeah,” Eames said. “I think maybe you’re right.”

They stared at each other for a long moment, until the atmosphere grew so cheesy that Arthur half expected the grandfather clock in the corner to start singing. He cleared his throat.

“Good. I’m sure your mother would like that,” Arthur said.

“Right,” Eames agreed. “My mother.”

In the end, it was a very small ceremony. Arthur stood in a charcoal gray two piece suit with a white shirt and tie. Eames wore a black suit with a black shirt unbuttoned to the third button, revealing the curl of faded tattoos around his collarbone. The only people in attendance were Eames’ family; his mother, his two sisters, and a brother-in-law who had received a certificate in the mail the day before that allowed him to officiate the ceremony.

They stood in the backyard of Eames’ childhood home under an arch that even Arthur would admit to finding both beautiful and tasteful, listening to the outdoor speakers play a quiet playlist Arthur had put together on his iPod as they exchanged vows, rings, and a kiss.

Arthur would be the first to admit that his reputation painted him as a far more severe and stoic figure than he actually was, but even he was surprised at how much his cheeks hurt from smiling when Eames stepped back from the kiss. From the way Eames was looking at him, though, the feeling was (and hopefully always would be) mutual.

Of course, not everything could be perfect. There was a saying, Arthur thought, that every cloud has a silver lining. In his case, the entire cloud was silver but the dark lining remained, a shadow in the shape of a woman. The one person that Arthur most wanted there, the one person that couldn’t be.

The young woman had found Arthur in the back of a random bar staring blankly at the wooden table as he nursed a beer the day after his parents’ funeral. He had only been eighteen at the time but the bartender had taken one look at his face and slid over the bottle without question. She couldn’t have been more than twenty at the time she slid into the booth across from him and asked him to tell her his life story. It was an awkward introduction, but it worked all the same.

Arthur remembered the way she would laugh and chide him, no real heat behind the words, for not having a romantic bone in his body. It only got worse when she met Cobb. They both knew it wasn’t true, he was just far more discerning about those he chose to show affection to, but she was determined to uncover Arthur’s softer side at all costs. It made him smile to think of, even now.

They had been nearly inseparable, for a time. He, charmed by her smile and appetite for life and she-- well, she told him that every dreamer needed her reality check.

He missed her every day.

“I’m married,” Arthur said, still a little disbelieving himself. His hand ran over the grey stone, a pale mockery of her vibrancy in life.

“I wish you could have have been there,” he added. “I think you would have liked it.”