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A Very Special Halloween Episode

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“They want a special Halloween episode,” says Saito.

“It’s August,” Arthur points out.

“They need you to have time to get ready, and then it needs to be filmed, and then it needs to be edited.”

“But we don’t celebrate Halloween in August,” says Arthur, because Saito seems to be missing this point.

“Yes, but you could,” Saito explains. “For the good of the show.”

Arthur sighs. It’s just him and Saito on this call, because Eames is in L.A. for the week cycling through celebrity clients. He’d asked Arthur to go with him and Arthur had said no because he had work of his own to do but now he’s cursing that he’s the only one dealing with Saito. “I’ll ask Eames,” Arthur says.

“Quickly, if you please. It would be good publicity for the show, Arthur. Keep the two of you in the public eye.”

“We’re on a break from the public eye right now,” Arthur says, because they are, one of their carefully cherished filming breaks.

“I know. I’m not saying you have to do it. I will defend you if you don’t want to. But you’ve always given me the impression of wanting to be careful with your brand. So I am doing you the courtesy of being honest with you.”

Arthur knows he asked for that, so he can’t fault Saito for it. “Thanks,” he says.

***

“I. Fucking. Hate. L.A.,” says Eames furiously, flinging clothing around the hotel room.

Arthur is watching on a computer screen but he still feels like he should be ducking from the onslaught of cloth coming at him.

“Fucking hate it,” Eames continues. “Everything here is fucking hot, all the time. So. Hot. And celebrities are fucking impossible to deal with. Are we celebrities? Are we this impossible to deal with?”

“What are you doing with your clothes?” Arthur asks, bewildered.

“I hate all of it,” Eames proclaims.

“Is it my birthday?” deadpans Arthur. “Is this a birthday gift to me?”

“Haha,” says Eames. “It’s all too hot.” He collapses backward onto the bed. “Have I mentioned it’s hot here?”

“You’ve mentioned. Is all of L.A.’s air conditioning broken?”

“I had to do hot yoga,” Eames says.

“Hot yoga? You had to do hot yoga?” Arthur finds himself biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.

“I’m telling you, celebrities are insane. Wait. Why do you say it like that? I’m very flexible!”

Arthur gives up, indulging the laughter. “Hot yoga. You complain if sex is too athletic.”

“Well, I mean, you don’t want it to feel like work,” grumbles Eames.

“Hot yoga. Did the instructor want to murder you by the end?”

“I almost fainted, I will have you know. Human beings are not supposed to be doing whatever the fuck that was at a thousand degrees.”

“I don’t think it was a thousand degrees.”

“You weren’t there,” says Eames wisely. “You don’t know.”

“You’re right. I don’t know. Did you actually faint? Have you had enough water? You probably got dehydrated.”

“When we got out I was basically forced to drink six gallons of water. All the while having to pretend that that got rid of all my toxins or whatever. What are toxins? Do I have them? Are they related to your bacteria army?”

“Julia would tell you that vodka gets rid of toxins just as well.”

“That’s why I love Julia. I didn’t actually faint. I’m fine. I’m just really bad at being a celebrity, was what I was told. Like there’s a certain way to do it and I’m fucking it up.”

“You’re my favorite celebrity, if it means anything to you.”

“Thank you, darling.”

“After Sebastian Stan.”

Eames sighs. “Who, by the way, really does seem to be under the impression that I’m the go-to sex club designer for the celebrity set.”

Arthur says after a beat, “But you are.”

Eames also considers. “Yeah, fair enough. Sorry, darling, it was a fussy day, as my mum would say. How are you?”

“I talked to Saito.”

“About work stuff, or about how your mum is in bed?”

“Eames,” says Arthur.

“Well, you know, I had to do hot yoga today, so.”

“He wants us to have Halloween.”

“Halloween? What?”

“The network wants us to do a special Halloween episode. Only, of course, we’d have to film it soon, so that it can be ready for Halloween.”

“A special Halloween episode? Of what?”

Arthur blinks at Eames, who looks completely confused. “Of our show. We have a show. You remember this, right? Was hot yoga that bad that you forgot we have a show?”

“I remember our show but we have a show about our jobs.”

“That show is only ostensibly about our jobs and you know it. It’s mostly about how we banter. It’s our special thing, you know that.”

“So they want us to banter about Halloween?”

“I guess so.”

“What do they think we do for Halloween?”

“I don’t know.”

“Because we do absolutely nothing for Halloween. We barely even get trick-or-treaters. We don’t live in a residential area.”

“I especially don’t know what we would do for a fake Halloween.”

“So do you want to do this?” Eames asks.

“Do you want to do it?”

Eames shrugs. “Makes no difference to me, darling.”

“You’re the one who’ll have to decorate the house for it. I just show up and…do whatever I do.”

“Look pretty, darling. And slay us all with your wit. Hmm. I could make our house haunted.” Eames suddenly sits up on the bed. “I could make our house haunted!” he exclaims.

And just like that Arthur knows: they’re definitely doing a special Halloween episode.

***

Eames comes back from L.A. with no fewer than fifteen sketches of potential Halloween decorations. Arthur ordinarily picks Eames up from the airport when he comes back from being away but Arthur had had showings booked in Newport and so when he walks into the kitchen Eames has all fifteen sketches spread out on the dining room table and Luisa, their personal assistant, is looking dazed.

“Uh-oh,” Arthur remarks. “That looks like the face of someone confronting Eames in full-on design mode.”

“You don’t understand,” Luisa says. “It’s impossible. Is he serious?”

Arthur laughs.

Eames comes into the kitchen and says brightly, “Darling. I missed you like a thing that someone misses very, very much,” and kisses him up against the wall, not entirely in a way that’s fit for company.

Arthur missed him, too, so he’s less embarrassed by that than he would be normally. “Hi,” he says, when Eames is done kissing him.

“L.A. is a horrible, Arthur-less place,” says Eames mournfully.

“Fascinating. Worcester was a horrible, Eames-less place. Shockingly quiet, and everybody sought to obey the laws of gravity.”

“I went to see some stand-up in L.A. and none of it was as hilarious as you.”

“I’ll be here all week,” says Arthur. “Tip your waiters and waitresses.”

Eames grins at him and kisses his left dimple, then straightens away from him. “Luisa, did you tell Arthur of my plans?”

“They’re not plans,” says Luisa, “so much as flights of fancy.”

“Luisa is so good at organizing us,” Eames tells Arthur, “but she lacks imagination.”

“Don’t we all, next to you?” says Arthur, as Eames tugs him into the dining room and presents his sketches, beaming.

Arthur glances through them.

“Is this an actual hay ride happening in our hallway?” he asks.

“Yes,” says Eames.

“Pulled by horses?”

“Donkeys, maybe? If horses are too big? I don’t have any sense of how big horses and donkeys are. Maybe we need mules. Can ponies pull a cart?”

Arthur looks up at him. “You have no excuse. You grew up in a tiny village full of horses.”

“I didn’t grow up in a Thomas Hardy novel,” Eames says. “We had cars.”

“I’ve been to your village. You have cars and horses and an awful lot of sheep. And Thomas Hardy? Really? Of all British novelists, you’re going with Thomas Hardy?”

“He wrote a lot about villages.”

“The hayride isn’t going to fit in our house.”

“Not even with—”

“You’d have to go with mice. Or maybe small dogs.”

“People couldn’t ride in a wagon pulled by small dogs. Maybe huskies. Maybe one person. But that’s the Iditarod, not a Halloween hayride. Why hasn’t science made me smaller horses? What has science been doing?”

“I know,” says Arthur. “It’s inexcusable.”

“So you’re nixing the hayride through the hallway idea.”

“In its current form. Are these floating pumpkins?”

“Yes. Because you know what would be amazing? If we could get actual ghosts to hold the pumpkins.”

Arthur looks at Eames. “Actual ghosts?”

Eames nods.

“Wait,” Arthur says. “Do you believe in ghosts?”

“What? Of course. Don’t you?”

“No,” says Arthur amazed. “I can’t believe we’ve never had this conversation before!”

“I can’t believe you don’t believe in ghosts!”

“Now that I’m thinking about it, it makes perfect sense that you do.”

“Darling, I mean this in the best way possible, but I would absolutely haunt you if I die first.”

“I’d want you to,” says Arthur honestly. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, but if they exist, then he wants an Eames one with him always.

“Aw, that’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me,” says Eames, looking pleased.

“I hate to interrupt,” says Luisa behind them, “but do you guys need me anymore?”

Arthur, grinning, glances at Luisa. “No, we’re good, you can take off. Thanks for everything, Luisa.”

“Luisa!” exclaims Eames. “Thank you for pretending to love my designs!”

“Your designs are incredible,” says Luisa. “Except they involved an indoor hayride and actual ghosts.”

“I bet those Ghost Hunters blokes know how to get in touch with some ghosts,” muses Eames.

***

“Hey,” Arthur says, finding Eames lost in a pile of sketches, staring at something on his tablet. “You should come to bed.”

“Should I?” asks Eames without looking up. “What time is it?”

“Four a.m.,” says Arthur drily.

Eames does look up at that. “Four a.m.? Is it really? What are you doing up, darling?”

“Looking for you,” says Arthur, and yawns, and drops himself without preamble into Eames’s lap. “It was cold in bed.” He presses himself against Eames’s body.

Eames lifts his arms up to press Arthur closer against him. “Was it? I’m sorry.”

“You’re like a furnace,” Arthur mumbles into Eames’s shoulder.

“Sorry. I got caught up. Do you think it would be prohibitively expensive to dye a bunch of leaves red and yellow?”

“Can’t we just get fake leaves?” asks Arthur.

“You know I hate fake things,” says Eames.

“You’re such a snob,” says Arthur. “Can you come to bed? I leave for New York tomorrow.” Arthur leaves unsaid the rest of that thought: I want to minimize my time in an empty bed.

“Oh, fuck,” says Eames. “I forgot about that trip. Fuck.”

“It’s okay,” says Arthur. “You’re in design mode.”

“Sorry.” Eames’s lips are against Arthur’s scalp, Eames’s nose pressed into his hair. “It’s been a while since I designed entirely for fun, instead of for a crazy client.”

“I know. I know how it goes. I fell in love with Designer Eames before I fell in love with Man Eames.”

“Surely you fell in love with Amazing Body Eames first of all.”

“Mmm,” says Arthur. “I don’t know. It’s been so long since I’ve seen that amazing body. Come to bed and remind me.”

***

Eames designs all over the world these days. Arthur tends to confine his real-estate services to the New England area, because learning real estate all over the world would be exhausting. But he does sometimes take on some New York City clients, because Arthur secretly loves New York real estate. He thinks it’s absolutely insane, and that’s what he loves about it. There’s nothing about the unique challenge of New York: you can find everything the client wants and yet nothing the client wants, all at the same time.

Sometimes Eames tags along when Arthur goes to New York for work, just as sometimes Arthur tags along on Eames’s design trips. But more often these days they’re both too busy to follow each other on trips. Which is okay, really, because they spend a great deal of time together when they are together, much more than other couples, most of the time, so the breaks aren’t so bad and Arthur’s learned to enjoy some bits of them.

What he enjoys the most is when, after a very busy and rewarding day finding two dream homes, he checks his cell phone in the cab back to the hotel and finds a dozen text messages from Eames with photos of increasingly outlandish designs.

Arthur Skypes Eames while he’s taking his tie off, because he knows Eames loves Arthur in various states of undress. Although Eames loves Arthur always.

Eames answers from the living room. And, from the angle, he’s sitting on the floor against the couch. “Hello, darling,” he says brightly. “How was your day? Did you make dreams come true?”

“I did,” says Arthur, satisfied with himself, leaning back against the bed’s headboard and flinging his tie toward the hotel room’s chair.

“That’s what I like to hear,” says Eames. “Tell me all about it.”

So Arthur does, house to house, reaction to reaction. Eames appreciates stories with a great amount of detail and he hangs on Arthur’s every word, interjecting exclamations. When Arthur finishes the story of his day, Eames actually applauds.

“Stop,” says Arthur, aware his ears are pink, aware his dimples are showing, “it’s just my job.”

“But you’re so good at it, and I hate when I don’t get to see you be good at it. Competence is a kink of mine, kitten.” Eames waggles his eyebrows at him.

“Lovely,” says Arthur. “Now. Walk me through this, because this looks like a bookcase filled with skulls.” Arthur holds his phone up, displaying one of Eames’s sketches.

“It’s an apothecary’s chest,” says Eames. “Paul is going to build it for our living room.”

“I bet he’s delighted. Are they real skulls?”

Eames pouts extravagantly. “Paul says no. And I suppose I see his point. But the lack of verisimilitude will hurt.”

“We’ll all cope,” says Arthur. “I’d rather you didn’t go around killing people just to get skulls.”

“They weren’t going to be human skulls,” says Eames. “Be realistic, darling.”

“Oh,” says Arthur. “Sorry. So Paul’s involved now, is he?”

“Yes. He has vetoed a large number of items, but then, that’s Paul for you.”

That’s why I love Paul, thought Arthur and didn’t say. Arthur says, “Have you looped in Ari and Gon?”

“I’m torn on that. They’re on holiday, technically.”

“So are we, technically.”

“We’ll see what the network says. They want to have a call to discuss the Very Special Halloween Episode. That’s what they keep calling it. What makes it very special? It feels like an unnecessary modifier.”

“When are we having the call?” asks Arthur, around a yawn.

“After you get home. There isn’t any rush. It’s bloody August. Everyone’s going to think we’re mad, decorating for Halloween already.”

“The stores are already full of Halloween stuff,” Arthur points out. “And this would hardly be the craziest thing we’ve ever done.”

Eames says, “Anyway, what do you say to having actual bats in the house?”

“No,” says Arthur.

“They’re good at catching mosquitoes,” says Eames.

“I haven’t noticed we have a profusion of mosquitoes inside of our house,” Arthur replies. “Did you eat today, or did you spend all day sketching?”

“Luisa made sure I ate. Oh! She also got some dates from Giacomo for you.”

“For what?” asks Arthur quizzically. “I shouldn’t need any new suits for a while.”

“But I assumed you’d want a well-tailored costume. You have to wear a costume, darling.”

“Oh, fuck,” says Arthur.

***

“Hello, my favorite meal tickets,” Kalinda says over the computer screen. “I’ve missed your beautiful faces so much. I hardly know what to do with myself, not spending every day trailing after the two of you.”

“You’re behind this special Halloween episode, aren’t you?” says Eames.

Very special,” Kalinda says, and holds up a stack of papers, the top of which very clearly has typewritten on it Very Special Halloween Episode.

Arthur leans forward to get closer to the screen. “Hang on. What is that?”

“The script for the episode,” says Kalinda.

“We don’t do scripts,” says Arthur, bewildered.

“Yeah, you don’t do scripts. The network still writes them for you.”

“What an incredible waste of time,” remarks Eames. “What does this script have us doing?”

“They have you speak entirely in puns when they write for you,” says Kalinda to Eames.

“I should aspire to such heights of wittiness,” muses Eames.

“No,” says Arthur. “You shouldn’t.”

Kalinda tosses the script aside. “So tell me your plan for this very special episode.”

“Eames is decorating the house,” says Arthur.

“Good. What else?”

Arthur lifts his eyebrows. “That’s…it. Eames is decorating the house.”

“That can’t be the plot of a whole episode.”

“Why not? We did multiple seasons of Love It or List It where that was the plot.”

“The decorating is going to be epic,” adds Eames. “It’s going to involve real-live ghosts.”

“Real-live ghosts?”

“If I can locate any, and convince them to help me out.”

“It seems like poltergeists wouldn’t be keen to make your life easier,” notes Arthur.

“That’s why I’m going to avoid poltergeists. There are all different kinds of ghosts, you know. Some are helpful.”

“Since when are you an authority on ghosts?” asks Kalinda.

“Since always,” says Eames, “it’s just that nobody’s ever asked me about them before.”

“What do you guys normally do on Halloween?” asks Kalinda. “We can just make it ‘A Halloween with Arthur and Eames.’”

“We don’t do any of this stuff,” says Arthur. “We don’t even really decorate.”

“This is an American thing,” says Eames, “this over-the-top affection for Halloween.”

“We don’t live in a residential area,” continues Arthur, “so we don’t get trick-or-treaters. So it’s pretty much just a usual night for us.”

“But this year we are going all out, in honor of our very special episode. Well. We are going all out in August. Maybe we’ll leave it all up until Halloween. I guess it depends on how well all of the jack o’lanterns keep.”

“Are they going to be real pumpkins?” asks Kalinda.

“I’m offended,” says Eames. “Real everything. Except real skulls, for legal reasons.”

Kalinda’s worked with them for so long, she doesn’t even blink at the skull comment. “They won’t keep until Halloween. Fine. The plot of the episode will be Eames decorating for Halloween. Arthur, you’ll be the narrator.”

“I’ll be the what?” says Arthur.

“You’ll be our viewpoint for this episode. The audience proxy. Fond and somewhat frazzled. It’ll be perfect.”

“Fond and somewhat frazzled,” echoes Arthur. “Exactly how I always wanted to be described.”

***

They are, by this time, used to the way cameras descend upon their house. Luisa arranges to make sure it’s deep-cleaned, Timothy sets them up with as much pre-made food as he can handle, Arthur gets a haircut and hides items he doesn’t want all of America analyzing, stashing them in the bedroom, where the cameras aren’t allowed, and Eames perfects his rakish stubble.

Their house runs like clockwork. It doesn’t even faze them.

“Do we have weird jobs?” Arthur asks Eames the first morning, as he’s dressing in a sweater he’s carefully chosen to approximate fall clothing, even though it’s a gazillion degrees and humid outside.

“We have amazing jobs,” says Eames, and kisses his cheek.