Pairing: Eames/Arthur, Mal/Cobb
Disclaimer: Quick, look over there! It's a document saying they're not mine!
Word Count: 4,769
Summary: Arthur teaches English at Saito Prep and life would be so much easier without resident drama teacher, Mr. Eames. It would also be far less fun and involve far less wooing.
Notes: Written for this prompt on the Inception Kink Meme!
At Saito Preparatory Academy – so named after the headmaster himself – there are multiple reasons for why Mr. Eames, the drama teacher, is the subject of school gossip and also the man with the highest number of class enrollments. There had been the time he took his entire class out to get stoned, citing to Saito later that the whole class had a terrible bout of glaucoma and they needed healing inspiration. There had been the time he took his class on a field trip to the rather seedy part of downtown after hours in order to ‘research’ for Chicago. And the less said about the days in which he plays his acoustic guitar over the PA in the morning, the better.
--half the girls are in love with him for it. A quarter of the boys feel the very same. The rest just think that he’s sort of a douchebag, but acknowledge that getting high under the sycamores out back isn’t the worst way to spend the day.
Today, however, Eames is doing a favour and thus cannot be called names without having justice reigned down upon them.
“Why are you in a dress?” hisses Arthur. “I just asked you to come read, I didn’t ask you to wear a dress.” Especially not since said dress is calling attention to how tapered and thin Eames’ waist is, especially compared to the bulk of him. Arthur wishes that he could say this is a first, but they both attended the same high school and when Eames was a senior and Arthur a sophomore, they had been in the all-male play of Romeo and Juliet.
Eames had been his Juliet.
Eames smirks and ignores the titters of the students in the classroom. “Why, Mr. Smith, honestly,” he drawls. “Whyever would I read Beatrice without a dress?” He flicks the hem of it and stands tall and proud. “Good morning, class, you all know me. Spencer,” he winks at one of the boys in the back row. “Ashton,” he sing-songs to one of the girls. “Stop laughing or I will make you cross-dress later on when we do our rousing edition of Comedy of Errors and I do intend to make you wear Elizabethan period wear.” That quiets two of the students, at least, but the rest are still snorting and snickering.
Arthur sighs. As much as he enjoys it when Eames suffers, he despises the chaos that is ensuing under his classroom’s roof. “Okay, okay, Mr. Eames is an idiot, we know,” he assures, perching on the edge of his desk. “But I didn’t bring him here just so we could all get a good laugh. He’s here because of the absolutely pathetic number of boys refusing to read Shakespeare monologues, just because they’re…Spencer?”
“Fruity as fuck, sir,” Spencer helpfully provides.
“Language,” Eames says, but he’s grinning approvingly.
God, Arthur doesn’t even want to think about what the drama class must look like. He imagines that it must be absolute terror, possibly with certain objects being flung.
“Yes, that,” Arthur echoes with disdain, the corner of his lip curving up with condescension. “Mr. Eames is a very good actor. He was trained overseas at the London Shakespeare Company before he came back to US soil to teach. And he’s here today to read for you and prove that you don’t have to be ‘fruity’ in order to capably perform a monologue from the Bard.” Arthur shuffles his papers as he rounds his desk and sits down to watch the performance. “And if he’s not entirely convincing, try this. I’m adding five points extra credit to any male or female reading a part in the opposite gender.”
He gives the cue for Eames to begin.
Arthur would like to ignore the fact that Eames is one of the best. Sometimes he wonders what he’s doing stuck in a high school in Los Angeles when he can recite the Bard’s words with such conviction that for a moment, Arthur forgets the dress and Eames and believes, just for a moment, that this is Beatrice.
Eames hops into a pair of jeans as he rambles on to the class about iambic pentameter and then launches into one of Hamlet’s soliloquies.
The standing ovation at the end of class may be a bit much, but not by far.
The break room where they all take their lunch contains a broken espresso machine, a whining fridge, and a secret stash of alcohol – Eames’ fault. It’s always Eames’ fault. Ariadne, the shop teacher, has helped by giving them a lazy-susan spice-rack that they’ve converted into a cup-of-soup holder that spins.
Fischer, the business teacher, is on the phone with his father about some stock deal that’s going to make them a fortune – Fischer is very keen on not having his father make his success and seems to be shouting that over the phone.
Mal Cobb, the philosophy teacher, is tending to her husband, who teaches mathematics and geometry. He’s just suffered one of the many casualties of the year when one of inevitably many students get so frustrated they throw something in anger and it inevitably lands on the teacher’s face.
Yusuf, their erstwhile chemistry teacher, is currently in the field. Something about compounds. Arthur has the sneaking suspicion that it’s no coincidence Burning Man has just started.
Arthur is currently trying to figure out how to fill his cup of noodles with hot water when the tea tower gives out lukewarm water and the microwave is broken.
“Just use the hot plate, darling,” is Eames’ frustrated huff from across the room. He seems to be making it his goal to sink into the lime-green coloured sofa that’s somehow escaped from the seventies and took safe haven there.
He stares at the hot plate with disdain and despair, not sure he wants to use anything with that much build-up to help him with his lunch. Maybe he should just start eating raw fruits and vegetables all the time. He’ll be less likely to contract a foodborne illness, in any case. Besides the mold, he’s not sure he wants to give Eames the satisfaction of accepting his advice.
In the known world, there are many things that people do with each other, especially when there’s a history of physical attraction. Sometimes, people go out on dates. Sometimes, they are flirted with.
Eames just restarts a harassment campaign that he put on hold when they were eighteen. It’s probably titled ‘how to get Arthur to kill me one day’. That or ‘how to get Arthur to screw me so hard against a kitchen counter that I get a permanent bruise on my cock’, because Eames’ success rate is roughly fifty-fifty when it comes to turning Arthur on versus infuriating him. His little show in English class today had been on the successful side. The fact that Eames has yet to change out of his dress greatly diminishes the weight of said success.
He takes the uncooked noodles with him to settle down in the heaping chair that looks fit to devour him. Fischer is still on the phone, but Ariadne is playing her turn in the months-old game of Monopoly the teachers have got going on. “Apparently I’m going to starve,” Arthur remarks curtly. “And then the students are going to eat me as if I’m a plane crash in the Andes.”
He sighs and he’s so depressed about the lack of food that he doesn’t even complain about the warm and heavy set of hands that come to rest on his neck and shoulders, digging in and giving him one of the best massages he’s ever had.
He should have known it was Eames. Drama teachers have sinful hands and Eames is just all over sinful – their students are never to know that while Eames was in London, he might have learned some grifting ways, which apparently ‘helped his craft’. Arthur doesn’t ask, even if all the postcards Eames sent beg to differ in regards to his interest.
Arthur really shouldn’t moan, but he can’t help it. He’s exhausted, he’s had to grade twenty papers about To Kill A Mockingbird, and five actually tried to convince him of a real mockingbird’s presence in the novel.
Besides, the moan just seems to encourage Eames to rub harder.
“I knew you’d give into me someday,” Eames purrs in his ear.
Arthur sits forward sharply, glaring over his shoulder. “Eames, goddammit…” He huffs and sighs, knows that a straight-out denial will be ignored and if he protests too much, Ariadne is going to start reciting Much Ado About Nothing at him, again. So instead, he stares straight forward, keeps his posture impeccable, and gestures to the board. “It’s your turn.”
“Thought I’ve been taking my turn all along,” Eames says cheerfully, but moves along the horse after he rolls. “Ah, finally. Boardwalk.”
That’s the other thing. Eames has always been a lucky, lucky bastard. Arthur has no idea what he’s done to deserve such a thing, but he’s not about to play into the notion that Eames can have anything he wants if he wishes hard enough.
Spencer has been an absolute prat. Do get some revenge on him in class today? I’m thinking that you ought to make him stand up and read a riveting passage from Ms. Meyer’s vampire opis.
One – no. Two – no. Three – it’s opus. Four – no. And five – you’re a teacher and an adult. Please pretend you are and remember that your students are not simply vessels upon which you can enact revenge. I’m sure I’ll regret asking, but what has Spencer done?
Terrible things, darling. His notes for today’s lesson on Uta Hagen are utterly destroyed with love poems. And they’re all addressed to you. Honestly. Don’t Americans suggest suspension for cockblocking their teachers?
Arthur? Reply to me.
Arthur, reply to Eames. I cannot take this many interruptions in my lesson. Math is hard enough to teach as is without Eames at my door distracting all the girls with the fact that he’s wearing lipstick today.
Why is he wearing lipstick today?
Cobb, why do you always assume I know?
Incidentally, the theatre company has sent over their tickets for The Tempest. Be my date?
No. And for another thing, it’s unfair to your students that you build up the impression you’re the most easygoing teacher at this school and then grade like the worst. I had three of your students near tears today because they got D’s.
Well, then, Arthur, they should have done a better job of their scene-beat assignments. Really. Giving me the same motivation for four beats may be passable elsewhere, but not in my class. And half of them couldn’t give a shit today in improv. I’ll start grading kindly when they start working for it.
And that’s the other thing. Just every once in a while, Eames does something that reminds him of how he could love the man for being an intelligent, caring, nurturing teacher who wants the best of his students.
I’ll go with you to see Tempest on one condition.
And what’s that, love?
You audition this summer like you keep saying you will and never do.
The school is small. It’s small enough that word travels quickly and the word that Arthur is going to The Tempest with Eames has apparently hit shop class, because Ariadne arrives at his door during free period when Arthur is just trying to get some marking done on the grammar pop quiz he gave today.
“You look angry,” she says warily. “Should I be here?”
“Their and they’re. I’m going to start a war over this,” Arthur warns. “Someone will be shot.”
“Just leave me out of the crossfire,” she insists forcefully, taking a seat in the front row. “So what’s this I hear about you taking Eames to go see Shakespeare out of town? Are you going to stay the night at a hotel? Is this a date?”
Arthur is just glad he’s not drinking from his lukewarm mug of coffee at that moment, because he might have done a spit-take all over the papers on his desk – not that they’re treated with much more care, but he doesn’t want to start setting precedents. He groans and sets the pile aside, turning to stare at Ariadne with despair lurking around his eyes, looking like dark bags. “Is the whole school saying I’ve given in to his charms?”
“There’s a rumour you two fucked in the prop room while he held onto the sword from last fall’s production of Antony and Cleopatra,” she supplies helpfully.
“…am I Cleopatra in this rumour?” Arthur asks worriedly.
The nod of assent from Ariadne is all he needs to want to call off his tentative agreement. He’s sure that if he says no, Eames will charm Mal. Even if she is a married woman, she’s French, and does love her culture. And she has a soft spot for Eames. That or he’ll take Saito. He has to be wooing the man on the side to be getting away with half the crap he does.
That, or Arthur may be forced to admit how good Eames actually is at teaching. Arthur’s seen some of the shyest students come alive with Eames’ direction and some of the plays they’ve taken to competition for display have won the school some high awards.
Arthur groans and wishes that he’d stolen some of the Kahlua from the teacher-kit to spike his coffee. He’s done teaching after one more period, he can start ten minutes from the bell.
“Arthur,” she says warningly, even as he’s grabbing his cell phone. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“When have I ever done anything stupid in my entire life?”
He still calls the date off.
He hears on Monday morning that Eames still went and he took Saito. They were, apparently, resplendent in their suits and went out to a fancy French restaurant before-hand, meeting up with Mal and Dominic there. Arthur tries to push through the halls and ignore the students’ whisper of ‘double-date’ and asking if this means that Eames is going to pick up a share in the school.
“Dad,” Fischer is snapping into his phone as Arthur approaches. “Dad! I don’t care how many times you say you’re disappointed in me, we’re not investing in that money pit of a stock!” He sighs and presses the mouth of the phone to his vest, offering Arthur an apologetic smile. “Morning.”
“Did you hear that Eames and Saito went to see a play?”
“Eames wouldn’t stop texting me pictures all night,” Fischer replies, lifting the phone again. “Dad, if this is…Dad, don’t bring Uncle Peter into this…” He rolls his eyes and covers the mouthpiece again. “I’d show you, but I don’t think I’ll be done here for a while. Just think about that pose teenage girls do and replace Eames and Mr. Saito there. It gives you a good idea.”
Arthur grimaces and pinches the bridge of his nose, heading to class where he deals with three periods of students asking about Mr. Eames and not about their homework to analyze the themes of Odysseus’ journey.
By lunch, Arthur has lost all sanity.
Did you at least have a nice time?
He gets no response slipped under the classroom door, no note pressed in between the pages of his personal textbook, and no messages sent along with Mal, Cobb, Ariadne, or Yusuf – who’s back from his leave with bloodshot eyes and a supposedly fantastic new compound that he wants to test out in class.
Arthur has the feeling that he’s desperately fucked up.
At least, he feels that way until he excuses himself to the washroom and when he sits down inside the stall, sees in large loopy writing:
ARTHUR, KISSES, YOU’RE STILL THE ONE TO CALL FOR A GOOD TIME. LOVE, YOUR DARLING
It’s followed by Arthur’s home phone number. Arthur takes back any feelings of guilt, sympathy or pity. He’s back to feeling as though he’s ready to kill Eames.
Dom, is there a reason Arthur is looking so terribly worn? And why Monsieur Eames will not talk to me?
S’il y a un probleme, nous pouvons parler avec les garçons?
Mal, let’s not interfere.
Ceci c’est un très mauvaise idée, cherie.
Please tell Mal to stop baking me cookies. The kids in my class are starting to worry I’ve become the witch in Hansel and Gretel. And it’s giving me bad ideas of how to deal with the troublemakers.
I…look, I. Why do you have to be such an asshole sometimes?
He doesn’t know why it irritates him so much that he doesn’t get a reply. He’s doubly unsure why it hurts so much to get the news that Eames has taken off two weeks and is flying to London. The rumour is that no one’s sure if he’s coming back. Arthur wishes he didn’t bear the brunt of responsibility for that.
Two weeks pass faster than Arthur expects them to and when he trudges home from another long day at the school in which they all found out there would be further budget cuts, he finds a bouquet of flowers waiting for him on the doormat outside his place.
The card simply reads:
Arthur fumbles with his phone, aware that this may be a cryptic message to the rest of the world, but Arthur knows exactly what it means and that Eames didn’t go off to London after all – or if he did, it wasn’t for that long.
“Eames,” he gets out, barely able to hold in his excitement. “Are you serious?”
“When am I not?”
“Always, Eames. Always,” Arthur replies sharply. “Do you mean it?”
“I do. Starting in August for a two-week run, darling,” Eames all-but-purrs on his end of the phone. “I thought I’d send you the flowers in thanks for daring me to do something so absolutely insane as auditioning. Of course it’s only at a sad and defunct theatre with a maximum capacity of a hundred, but…well, here’s to making a storm.”
Arthur holds his breath, not sure what he’s waiting for until it hits him that maybe he wants Eames to ask him to this Tempest, to be his date for this one.
But the question never comes.
Shit, has Arthur ever fucked up.
“Congratulations, Eames,” Arthur finally speaks, trying to work around the lump in his throat that’s currently making him feel like he could choke. “I’m sure all your kids are going to be ecstatic to hear. Don’t be too horrifying, now. You need to feed the dream that one day it’ll be them on the stage.”
“Not if they don’t learn the difference between upstage and downstage,” is the last thing he says before hanging up and Arthur hates Eames for making him laugh when he feels like he’s having a heart attack of grief.
Yusuf approaches him in the teacher’s lounge with a strange vial of blue liquid that has Arthur, quite frankly, actually scared. He stares at it for a long while and then looks up at Yusuf, terrified to ask. Inevitably, the fear must be plain as day because Yusuf studies the vial and looks back to Arthur, as if curious why such a thing could ever be terrifying.
“Ah, this? No! No!” he rushes to insist. “Strong glass cleaner to deal with the terrible marks on the front doors. Is your mind really that deep in the gutter?”
Arthur flushes a furious shade of red and thinks about blaming Eames for putting it there, but that will only start rumours and the last have died down so nicely at this point in time. He takes a deep breath to calm himself and then has to wonder why Yusuf has wandered over to speak to him when he usually spends his lunch period in his lab.
“What is it?”
“It’s just that Eames has been very dejected lately and we…”
“Yes, we,” Yusuf agrees, gesturing to the other teachers in the lounge, who immediately find more interesting things to do the minute that Yusuf gestures to them. Arthur refrains from rolling his eyes when Ariadne decides that a bird-feeder is more interesting than staring at him. “We’ve discussed this and think you need to go talk to him.”
“Eames is doing just fine,” Arthur assures. “And I spoke to him just the other night.”
Yusuf simply regards Arthur with a look on his face that seems to scream ‘you are a terrible idiot’. Arthur can’t, for the life of him, figure out where they all got the idea that something is going awry.
“Fine,” he sighs, taking the bait. “Why does Eames need talking to?”
“Because he wants to put on Titus Andronicus in the fall semester.”
Arthur makes a sound that expresses his deep apology in the matter and realizes that maybe he and Eames really do need to talk. If, if this is his fault. And if it isn’t, he still has to play the voice of reason according to his mutual friends. “Fine,” Arthur says curtly, closing the novel he’s been reading – a six-hundred page summary of the Canadians involvement in the first World War, which is fascinating only to him and Miles, the history teacher. “But if I don’t make it out, do not let Eames be the next English teacher. He’ll let a generation of terrible spellers past him.”
And so, this is how Arthur ends up on an empty and worn stage at four in the afternoon when rehearsals are finished and Eames is going over his notes on the production. Arthur clears his throat, knowing that Eames likes privacy as he makes adjustment into the works, but this is urgent.
Titus Andronicus makes it so.
“Hold on, Arthur,” Eames says dismissively, one hand in the air. “How would you like it if I came to your class and suddenly interrupted you as you prattled on about irony?” He scribbles, signs off on something, and gets up to approach the lighting console. “Move two feet to your right, please,” he requests politely.
There are mirrors all around him – something that Eames had put in when he first started – and Arthur can see the expression of trepidation on his face as he does as Eames asks, only to get suddenly struck by the brightest red light he’s seen in his life.
“Now you look particularly dramatic,” Eames says with a snicker under his breath. “What are you here for? Did Spencer cry in your lap and fondle you? Has Ashton been complaining that I call her British accent crap? Or is this about the children’s inability to sing…?”
“Eames,” Arthur says sharply. “Why won’t you talk to me?”
“What are we doing now if not talking? Is this what teenagers call sex now?” Eames remarks, feigning ignorance. “Is this third base? If you ask me a question, will I have to give you my letterman’s jacket?” He hops the stage without use of the stairs, sneaking into Arthur’s light and literally stealing the spotlight and shading his eyes from the light, peering out into an invisible audience. “To be or not to be, Arthur,” he sighs. “And by this, I mean why the hell aren’t you dating me yet, you idiot!” he rails. “Mal keeps baking me cookies. Do you know that I have to watch my figure? They’ve fitted my costume, I can’t gain weight!”
Of all the ridiculous things for Eames to be complaining about in the red spotlight, this is something that makes Arthur burst out laughing suddenly. Every terrible essay he’s read today and every troublesome student falls by the wayside and Arthur remembers why he’s here.
“Why the hell did you write my number on the men’s room wall?”
“What?” Eames asks, completely confused. “That? Oh, Arthur, I was so very drunk with Yusuf and Robbie and I was dared. …have you been getting many calls?”
“Only the occasional one I ignore,” Arthur assures, pleased that he hasn’t been bothered so much at the same time as his ego is slightly wounded. “Eames,” he breathes out. “You got Prospero because you went to an audition that I encouraged you to.” He must be shining, absolutely and wholly. “You did it.”
Eames turns and grins, the warm red light casting shades on his face. “Yes, I did, because of your good sense. You’re always very sensible, Arthur,” he says with a fond smile on his face. “Though, I did always notice your romantic side. My Romeo, ever since you were sixteen and I was eighteen. I never did find another quite so good as you over the pond.”
This is the moment Arthur’s heart decides to skip a beat. He swallows hard, not sure what’s happening here.
“I’m not going anywhere, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Eames says, digging through his pockets until he comes up with a cigarette, toying with it and peeking around as if to check for Saito or anyone else in a position of authority. The ceilings are high enough here that the smoke won’t set anything off.
Arthur immediately replies back with a, “well, I wasn’t.”
“Good. Because I think it’s due time that I ask you out again, properly.” Eames turns and grasps Arthur’s hand in both of his. “Arthur, be my date for Tempest. Be in the front row,” he insists, slowly drawing in closer, fingers creeping slowly up the small of his back and tapping there in a soft melody that Arthur’s sure he could name if he gave it enough thought.
His heart is beating its own melody out and it’s distracting Arthur from speaking.
“I…you have to stop being so insufferable,” Arthur demands, as if he’s in a position to set out such rules.
Eames just grins and leans him over slightly, kissing him in the red spotlight and murmuring a soft, “but you love it,” against his lips.
The quickest way to get the student body talking is to simply arrive in the same car. Everyone has to use the same parking lot and so when Arthur starts carpooling to school in the mornings with Eames in his BMW, the entire staff and population of students begin to whisper about why. Some of the rumours range from “I heard Mr. Eames torched his car” to “They’ve been married for years and they’ve finally agreed to be public.”
It’s the latter one that Arthur’s stuck on as he collapses onto the couch in the theatre room, right atop Eames who is grabbing a nap. He takes pleasure in the ‘oof’ that it elicits and Arthur reaches over to brush away sleep from Eames’ eyes. “If we were married, don’t you think we’d be wearing rings?”
“Whassat? What time is it?” Eames groans.
“Honestly, what hope do half of these kids have if simple logic escapes them?” Arthur is still sitting in Eames’ lap as he stares forward and thinks this through.
Eames groans again, burrowing his face into one of the ancient pillows. “Arthur, maybe they think we take them off so as not to lose them or dirty them or…am I still dreaming?” he asks, yanking Arthur down heavily atop him. “It feels like I’m still dreaming.”
“Sorry,” Arthur deadpans. “This is real life, Prospero.”
“I find it very dirty when you call me that,” Eames remarks, suddenly very awake by the sound of his sinful voice, fingers starting to inch into Arthur’s creased and perfectly pressed trousers, slipping past the suspenders. “Would you like me to start a tempest in your pants, lovely?”
Arthur reaches for one of the pillows and swats Eames with it heavily.
“Ow!” Eames sniffs and sulks. “Yes, I get the point.
“What do you think?” asks Mal, as they watch Arthur and Eames leave for the day in the same car, driving to somewhere that the two have not invited the rest to -- yet. “Did they secretly run to Vermont to get married?”
“There are no rings!” protests Ariadne.
“Yes, but maybe…maybe they don’t wear them because they would get dirty!” Yusuf insists excitedly.
Saito had to wonder, as he departed for the day, overhearing that conversation, if perhaps he had been slightly too lackadaisical in his hiring practices. After all, it didn’t bode very well at all for the students of his school if the teachers were so lacking in simple logic.