Word count: 2,003
Summary: It’s a combination of gratefulness and the Pride footage showing on one of the café’s televisions that has Arthur announcing, “I could marry you so hard right now.”
Notes: Also inspired by this prompt on the kink meme. Title stolen from Lady Gaga's "Americano." I regret nothing, even though I think a cupcake tree sprouted in my backyard while I was writing this. SO MUCH FLUFF.
Two months, in Arthur’s completely unbiased opinion, is much too long.
He’s been off the job less than a day and the jet lag has him a little lightheaded, but he’s also had a good long time to celibately come to this conclusion which therefore means he has no intention of revising it. A resilient little voice in the back of his mind suggests maybe the lightheadedness is also from finally getting to sleep with Eames and wake up with him and the smell of him and the taste of him and getting to actually touch him instead of just staring at him on the webcam and wishing with all his heart while Eames promises him all sorts of things, some dirty and some sentimental, for after he wraps the job and makes it back.
Arthur doesn’t foresee himself disproving that hypothesis either. Being able to let his guard down is a glorious thing, not that he makes a habit of saying so, and it really is good to be home.
He still isn’t sure when they started referring to it as home, but it rolls off the tongue so easily now, too natural to bear much thinking about.
They’ve finally dragged themselves out for a late breakfast, during which Arthur inhales his coffee with the gusto of a caffeine aficionado who’s been living on shitty instant brands for the past nine weeks and melts blissfully into his seat. He’s aware that he’s probably disturbingly close to purring from the joy of it, but Eames doesn’t bat an eye about fetching him a much-needed refill. It’s a combination of gratefulness and the Pride footage showing on one of the café’s televisions that has Arthur announcing, “I could marry you so hard right now.”
Eames does bat an eye at that, more than once. “Funny you should say that, since I happen to have this ring that’s been burning a hole in my pocket.”
Arthur sets down his mug. “I thought we agreed on no petty theft between jobs.”
“Please,” Eames says dismissively, “I had to hide it somewhere once you flew back in. You’re a devil of a person to keep anything from, but even you would never think to pick a pickpocket’s pockets.”
He has a point. Eames’s pockets tend to be many and cavernous and he enjoys filling them with all manner of trinkets. Usually, he’s punctilious about keeping his wallet on a chain so at least he never loses track of that, but everything else is another story. Arthur’s seen him unearth a small rubber ball, a butterfly knife, two prepaid phones, a shoelace, and three lollipops from his jacket before finally discovering the lighter he was rummaging for in the first place.
“There we are,” Eames declares at last. “Neither petty nor theft, incidentally, but thank you so much for your confidence in me.”
He produces a squat red box and then it dawns on Arthur, all at once, but he can’t utter a word.
“This one was my granddad’s,” Eames goes on, completely offhand. “The nice one, mind you, not the one who smelled like Grey Flannel and camphor and threatened to disown me when I got expelled from university.” He’s grinning, crooked and endearing, and sounds so genuinely pleased that Arthur feels himself melt a little more for reasons entirely unrelated to coffee.
“Digressing, I know.” And he gets on one knee, not missing a beat. “Arthur, my love, will you marry me as hard as you possibly can?”
The sound Arthur makes isn’t anything close to English. Or any other language he’s aware of.
He needs to make an excuse and flee to the bathroom, that’s the most face-saving response he can think of, but then Eames will think he’s only going to escape through the window, assuming there is a window, and it’s too late because he can feel it already—his eyes are welling up, but surely that’s from the jet lag. Jet lag and the fact that this is almost certainly a dream, it has to be, because Eames can whip up the papers and protocol needed to marry anyone he wants, as many times as he wants, in any jurisdiction he wants without standing on any kind of ceremony. But when he opens his eyes, Eames is still there on the floor in front of him with the box looking so fragile in his hands, a small patch of satin with a simple silver band in the center of it. Just the fact that Eames has that, wants that, instead of doing the work himself, that…
Arthur isn’t sentimental, he fucking isn’t, unless he happens to be chopping onions or watching the opening scene of Up! or at his sister’s wedding where he cried like a baby and she still hasn’t let him forget it. He has a few weaknesses just like anyone else, and maybe one of them could possibly be for all the emotional elements it takes for two people to come together and stay together and be able to grow old together, some deep-seated idealism he buried good and hard after seeing how gruesomely wrong that went for Cobb.
Eames has a tendency to coax secrets to the surface.
And now Arthur has one hand pressed to his face and the other one clutching at Eames’s wrist, too hard. “You can’t just whip something like that out in public.”
Here, in some hole-in-the-wall café with the Americanos Arthur loves and the comfortable mismatched chairs and Eames knows he adores this place and Arthur sounds like he’s accusing Eames of dropping his pants instead of just dropping to one knee and, shit, he must seem like such a maudlin asshole right now. “Crap, I’m sorry, I just need…” He lets go of Eames to grab a fistful of napkins, just as hard.
It’s clear he’s going to need more than just one handful of scratchy paper relief, just as it’s clear they could have done this in any other state or province or country where the law happens to allow it. But, for all his aliases and travel documents, Arthur really is a native-born New Yorker and Eames is well aware of it. Which means Eames wanted this to be legitimate. It’s a concept Arthur can’t quite wrap his brain around at first, given that Eames’s primary concern with legitimacy normally revolves around emulation instead of actuality (unless it involves good tea, good chocolate, or Indiana Jones movies, in which case he swears no imitations whatsoever are acceptable).
And now Eames looks seriously, earnestly concerned for his wellbeing and Arthur realizes he’s wadded up all their napkins and soaked them through. He’s still breathing in great shuddering gulps of air that don’t seem keen on abating any time soon. Eames pockets the jewelry box again and half rises to look at him closely, gently touching his shoulder. Like Arthur’s having some kind of attack and needs to be calmed. Apt enough. “Love, are you—”
“Yes,” Arthur ekes out.
“Sorry?” Now he just looks taken aback and Arthur seriously thinks of kicking himself.
“Yes.” He seizes Eames’s hand a second time, scattering a spill of sodden napkins across the table. “I didn’t think you…”
No, that part doesn’t matter. Arthur grips a little harder, painfully so, and Eames only kneads a thumb over the back of his hand and lets him. “Oh, God, yes.” His voice is all choked and gruff and he sounds like he’s speaking through a throat full of marbles, like he’s ready to throttle Eames instead of throw himself at him and kiss the taste of well-sugared tea right out of his mouth. Which is exactly what he does.
People are staring, he eventually realizes. Everyone probably thinks he’s lost his mind.
Then it occurs to him that there’s fucking applause, which is the last kind of attention Arthur is used to receiving—handshakes and gunshots and streams of faceless job offers, yes, but never applause.
Because with the work they do, things like this just don’t happen. Leading an international life of crime lacks a lot of the glamor the media is so fond of embellishing, even when dreamsharing enters the picture. And Arthur is on the verge of bawling, which hasn’t happened since his…well, since his sister got married. He can get shot to pieces in a dream and take it like a champ, insomuch as one can be a champ under those circumstances, but weddings…it’s different. They flip some sort of switch in him even though he knows marriage is just a social construct that’s not actually needed to solidify a commitment or express love, and besides, these days weddings are really more like capitalist conspiracies and triple-decker anxiety attacks than anything else, but he can’t make excuses for it.
Still, he has to make sure Eames doesn’t think he’s a sellout.
“You don’t need to be married to be happy, you know that, right?”
Quite calmly, Eames plucks a fresh stack of napkins from a neighboring table and slides his chair as close as possible. Their knees are touching. Arthur, who’s had his kneecaps blown out from under him without shedding a tear, can’t bury his face in his hands fast enough. “Of course I know that,” Eames answers, soft. “But I’d like to anyway.”
And Eames is rubbing his back and kissing his cheek, whispering. “You make me happy enough, so a little more can’t hurt, right?”
Arthur is not a discreet crier. His face blotches and he foghorns his way through napkin after napkin before his nose hints that it might stop running sometime in the near future and his body wrings itself dry as if it’s making up for all the stoicism his job demands of him. Eames, impervious to public humiliation, only leans in and wipes his eyes for him. Arthur can feel smirks and sideways glances on them all the while; he doesn’t know if they’re sappy or disapproving or curious, can’t bring himself to check, but Eames is considerate enough to move his chair to hide Arthur from view as much as he can.
He’s going to have to avoid this café for the rest of his life, he realizes, stellar Americanos and all. That or walk back in with his head held high and Eames’s ring on his hand, and that just sets him off again because the only ring he’s ever given Eames isn’t the kind fit for wearing in public and he’s going to have to work on that, really going to have to work on that. Even now, Eames doesn’t get embarrassed or tease him. Eames just kisses his head and lets Arthur work through his emotion, like it doesn’t matter that he’s a grown man having a bit of a meltdown over a proposal and the teenagers at the table across from them are probably snapping his picture with their phones so they can put his humiliation online.
Sometimes, Eames does things that speak all the words Arthur can’t.
“Better?” Eames asks him finally.
Arthur takes a few careful breaths, leaning on Eames’s shoulder when no stray sobs sneak out of him. “Yeah.”
Eames is looking at him seriously, seeming almost shy. “I thought I’d shocked you into an early grave for a minute there.”
“Sorry. I don’t…I’m not…” Under the table, Arthur slips their fingers together and gives up on trying to explain what Eames has no doubt already figured out for himself. “Now what?” he says.
Because this means something, it means everything, and Arthur is going to have to plan for it and think about the consequences and Eames is still looking at him like there’s nobody else in the world. When Arthur kisses him this time, he doesn’t give a damn if there’s staring or applauding or napkins fluttering to the floor.
And because Eames knows him well, too well, perfectly well, he graces Arthur with another of those lopsided smiles and says, “Finish your coffee.”