spoilers: none glaring, though there are references
disclaimer: all hail nolan, dreamer extraordinaire.
writer's note: for my birthday peacefuldragon gave me art. i asked for eames/arthur, and told her i'd write fic for it. this is that fic. 1102 words, and i am embedding art at the end plus a link to peacefuldragon's deviantart and drawing journal so you can all tell her how wonderful she is.
summary: There might be a reason Eames doesn't know what Arthur's totem is.
Eames has never really understood the importance of totems.
He has one, of course, has done ever since the first job with Cobb's team, mostly because Mal explained it to him in that soft lilting voice of hers and he couldn't look away, spun around her finger just the way she spun her top. And it's an elegant kind of touchstone, he'll admit, if you need that sort of thing, but for the most part his just sits in his pocket unnoticed, an anonymous chip from a pot he didn't really win, neither the first thing he touches in the morning nor the last he brushes over at night.
After all, it's only in dreams that he can wear a different face, and if that won't keep you aware of reality he doesn't know what will.
Arthur, on the other hand, is devoted to his totem. He keeps it in the pocket of his shirt, closest to his skin, where his heart beats against it and he can pat it down, calm as you please, in the very instant he emerges from drug-induced sleep.
Eames knows, because he's seen it.
The pat-down, not the totem, of course. He has no idea what stick-in-the-mud Arthur could possibly find so personal and important. To be fair, they have never had a civil conversation long enough for the subject to come up.
(This is only partly untrue. They have had at least four civil conversations to date, but that is just Eames' favorite euphemism. It is difficult to compare notes on totems when you're screwing over a sink in the men's.)
Hence why he is absolutely no help at all when Arthur's precious totem goes missing.
"Just, please, if you find it, don't touch it."
"Certainly, darling. You've said that twice already. But as I keep reminding you, I could better refrain from touching it if I knew what it was."
Arthur points a finger at him. "You. Sit down and don't move. I don't have time to explain and I'll take no chances with accidental contact."
"Oh, of course, Father," Eames mocks. "I'll just sit in time-out, shall I?" He salutes with two fingers and wanders off to help Ariadne instead, as if Arthur is less likely to kill him if there are witnesses.
She is pointing at something small under a stack of files Eames knocked over an hour ago, anyway, and Eames smirks, confident he will live to jibe another day.
That is, until he sees exactly what Arthur finds so personal and important as it is being rescued and tucked away, and the ready taunt dies in his throat.
This changes everything.
Arthur looks up, meets Eames' gaze with shuttered eyes, hand grazing the pocket where he has just dropped the small red die. Eames feels his mouth going dry, fuzzy and thick like he's just woken, and for the first time he actually gropes in his trouser pocket for the poker chip, to be sure.
He is not dreaming. And he has seen that die before, so long ago it feels like another life, and certainly another Arthur. He wants to ask—but the words elude him, and Arthur walks away without a backwards glance.
After that, they're not alone in a room together for days. Arthur is always on his way somewhere, or conferring about layouts with Ariadne, or phoning Cobb, saying hello to the children in hushed tones. Eames knows he's hiding and Arthur knows he knows, the same dance they've always done, and it gives him his own time to work out precisely what he wants to say.
Then, suddenly, it's late and they're alone, and the space between them feels like miles. Arthur's face is as closed as it has ever been and Eames knows it's out of fear, but they are ruthless, thieves and killers, and he can't just open his arms like he would to Ariadne, not without fighting first.
"You could've said," he begins instead.
"Bullshit," Arthur bites, like it pains him to speak at all. There's a table and two chairs between them. Eames wants to blow it all up.
"You could have," he persists. "It would have made a lot of things easier."
"Oh, like what," Arthur replies, voice taut with fury. "Tell me, Eames, what exactly would be made easier by telling you that the origin of my totem was the first time we met."
Eames advances, slipping around a chair, one down, two to go. "Handling me, for one," he says, and there's no low pitch of innuendo in his voice, for all he wants there to be. This is just him and Arthur, as honest as they can manage, and a brief look of bewilderment crosses Arthur's face. "I mean it, Arthur, if I had known—well." He opens his hands, palms up, and sidesteps the other chair.
"You didn't even care about them until you saw mine," Arthur accuses, and his voice sounds weary. "What was I supposed to say?"
"Exactly what you said then," Eames breathes, and he's at the edge of the table, and Arthur is looking across at him, and all he wants is to push the table away and push Arthur against the wall.
"As I recall, Jack, I held out my dice and said 'you look lucky, here, blow.' "
"Gladly, darling," Eames says, and this time the innuendo is there, utterly at home in his voice.
Arthur flushes faintly. "Jack," he starts, but Eames is already in motion, shoving the table aside, his hands on Arthur's face, his tongue in Arthur's mouth, unrelenting and unapologetic. The first time they kissed Arthur's suit was grey and Eames' shirt was red, and Arthur had never been so flirtatious in his life. But it's been ten years since then and they are different now, no longer clacking teeth and biting tongues, just strong and deliberate and intentional instead. Arthur's hands are gripping Eames' shirtsleeves and Eames has a hand in Arthur's hair, and they're pushing and pressing and promising with every breath. When the sun rises Eames will think to ask if Arthur was cheating, even then, because a totem is nothing if it's not unique, and Arthur will avoid the question instead of saying yes, because what does it matter if it took him ten years to win. Eames will laugh and Arthur will smile, and a breeze from the window will make them draw closer. But now the moon hasn't even set, and they have hours ahead of them, and Eames palms over Arthur's heart, just to check, and smiles when he feels himself.
At DeviantArt | At Peace's Sketch Journal