Word count: 2,764
Warnings: Mildly bad language and mentions of sex
This is the sequel to a fic I wrote before this challenge began -- Don't Come to Paris -- and you should probably read that for this to make the most sense, because this jumps right in where that left off.
Arthur's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
The photograph that Arthur had shown Eames was a lie. That was all Eames could think. Eames had wanted to see what he was up against, so Arthur had shown him the picture of himself and his father. General Andrew Collins, Army, retired, was wearing a friendly smile and a neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper beard. He was a little broader than Arthur and about the same height, with a heavier jaw, higher cheekbones, and a straight but broad nose. Their coloring was similar, same skin tone, same dark hair, but Arthur’s features were finer and he had darker eyes.
“Milkman, then?” Eames had asked.
“One: We do not have milkmen in the States. Two: Don’t accuse my mother of cheating. Three: I take after my mother.”
Eames recalled that conversation very clearly now. “I take after my mother,” was swirling around in his head along with the picture that showed that Arthur and his father were about the same size.
“Why is he so tall?” was all that Eames could say as he caught his first glimpse of the general. “I mean, the two of you, you were the same height in the photograph.”
Arthur smirked. “Dad was sitting down when we took that picture.”
“I’m going to run away now. Please don’t think any less of me, darling.”
Arthur put his arm around Eames’ waist and held on tightly. Arthur’s father finally caught sight of them and smiled at Arthur. “He’s seen you now,” Arthur told Eames. “You can run, but he’ll find you.”
“Your ass is not worth this,” Eames said petulantly.
“Yes, it is.”
“Yes, it is,” Eames agreed.
As the general approached, Arthur let go of Eames and hugged his father. Eames watched the embrace, hoping that if he just kept his eyes on them, he might find something that he could use or mimic or exploit to keep himself safe. That was his job, after all. Arthur and Andrew were close, hugging each other tightly, not completely losing contact as they backed up to speak to each other.
“Dad!” Arthur exclaimed, face bright and more open than Eames had ever seen. Eames knew that he and Arthur had a contentious relationship, he knew that Arthur kept all the important things close, but he had thought that Arthur was comfortable with letting Eames in. Obviously, Arthur kept more to himself than Eames knew.
“Arthur,” Andrew said, ruffling Arthur’s hair affectionately. “How are you?”
“Good. Great. Safe. All of it. You didn’t have to come out here to check on me.” And there was the Arthur Eames knew, adorably defensive.
Andrew smiled at Arthur, and Eames recognized it instantly. “I didn’t come out her to check on you, son. I came out here to check on him,” he said the last sentence in the familiar calm, threatening tone that Arthur often used on Eames.
Eames froze on the spot, body tensing automatically. He slowly extended his hand when Andrew held out his for a shake.
“Andrew Collins,” he said, and Eames was surprised to find that the other man wasn’t trying to intimidate him by squeezing his hand painfully. “But you will call me sir, general, or Mr. Collins.”
“Dad,” Arthur complained.
“Eames, sir,” Eames said.
“Eames? You have a first name?” Andrew asked.
“Um…” Eames looked at Arthur for help. Eames didn’t like sharing too much information, especially with strangers. He was in a very secretive business. He hadn’t even known Arthur’s last name was Collins before yesterday.
“What? You expect me to let you date someone and I don’t even know his name?”
“It’s Felix,” Arthur said. “But he goes by his last name.”
Felix was a lie, but Eames went along with it. As they led Andrew out of the airport, Arthur whispered, “It’s because you’re lucky to be alive right now. You should have seen how he treated my sister Agatha’s boyfriends.”
The ride to Arthur’s apartment was tense. Eames had a good feel for Andrew and his relationship with Arthur already, but there was nothing that he could use to influence Andrew. The only thing he could come up with was kidnapping Arthur and holding him for ransom, but what sort of ransom? And there was the fact that it was a desperately stupid idea, considering it would only make matters worse and Eames doubted that Arthur actually could be kidnapped. Desperately stupid.
Andrew had insisted on taking a shower and changing into fresh clothes before Arthur could take him to dinner. Eames drank coffee to steady his nerves. It would have been something stronger, like whiskey, but Eames was sure that would be a fatal mistake in dealing with General Collins. He needed to think clearly, and coffee would help.
Eames and Arthur scarcely said a word to one another. They seemed to have no idea what to say. When the shower shut off and Eames heard the bathroom door open, he managed, “Got to pee.” It was the coffee. Arthur had a two-bedroom apartment, and Eames had to pass the extra bedroom to get to the bathroom. The door was ajar, and Eames saw Andrew putting on his shirt. The man was old sex god, as far as Eames could tell. He was well-built, though his muscles had softened with age, just hairy enough to excite Eames – like Arthur – and his biceps held several military-related tattoos. Eames turned around and walked back to Arthur, slipping his arms around the other man’s slender waist.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, darling, but your father is gorgeous.”
“Best of luck getting him to sleep with you.”
Eames nuzzled Arthur’s ear with his nose. “I’m serious. This is good news for us. It means you might have inherited a very good aging process. I can’t wait to see you in twenty years. Wonder how much sexier you’ll be.”
“Twenty years? Someone’s optimistic,” Arthur said, giving Eames a tiny smile and pushing him away.
Andrew was fully dressed and waiting when they parted. “So. Dinner?”
Eames excused himself to the bathroom again while Arthur and Andrew talked over the dinner plans. They ended up at a small restaurant that was mostly patronized by locals, but Arthur liked it better than the crowded, noisy tourist restaurants. It was a small building crowded with tables and dim lighting. There was a small, red candle in the center of their table, flickering as the waitress walked by. Arthur charmed her by ordering in flawless French. After she left, they were uncomfortably silent until Andrew spoke.
“Okay. I guess we won’t be bullshitting one another and dancing around the actual issue here. So, Arthur, you’re gay?”
“Yes, Dad,” he said, staring at his wine glass. He was too nervous about this conversation to look up. It was really important that his dad liked Eames.
“And, you Felix, you’re gay too?”
Eames didn’t answer until Arthur kicked his foot and Eames remembered that he was Felix tonight. “Um. Yes. Mostly.”
“What does mostly mean?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah.” Arthur finally looked up from his glass.
Eames shrugged. “Well, I like men. I love men, actually. Though I wouldn’t say I’d never fall in love with a woman, because you never know what might happen, but I don’t think I will, because I’ve been with a lot of men and, well, that didn’t come out right but I have been with men and no women and Arthur please feel free to stop me rambling anytime you’d like.”
Arthur looked back at his glass, a smile threatening to break out.
Andrew looked back and forth between the two younger men, gathering his thoughts. “You’re both gay and you love each other then?”
“Yes,” Eames said.
“I wouldn’t put it exactly like that,” Arthur said at the same time.
“What does that mean?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah,” Eames demanded.
Arthur looked up again, a panicky expression on his face. “I just meant that there are a lot of expectations when you start telling people you’re in love. I like our relationship,” he said to Eames. “It works. Why do we have to call it anything?”
“Because we aren’t idiots who think not calling it what it is will make it anything but what it is,” Eames frowned.
The table was silent again until the waitress came back with their food. The forks and knives clattered against the plates loudly, just emphasizing the fact that they weren’t talking to each other. Andrew was the first to break the silence again. “Let’s back up a bit. How did the two of you meet?”
“At work,” Arthur said cautiously.
Andrew turned to Eames. “So, you and Arthur are both…” he trailed off.
“Dancers,” Eames said, not falling for the fishing expedition.
“Dad, I told you that I signed a contract with a very restrictive secrecy clause.”
“Oh, come now, Arthur. You don’t have to be embarrassed. You’re the best ballerino in France. Why, just yesterday at the airport before the general’s plane landed, you were recognized by fans. They asked him for a photograph,” Eames said to Andrew proudly. “In fact, I don’t know how long you’re staying, but he has a new show opening next week.”
“Shut up, Felix,” Arthur ground out, kicking Eames’ shin.
Eames let out a sharp, “Ow!” and shuffled his chair away from Arthur’s. “How can you expect me to dance if you keep kicking my legs?”
“You’re not a dancer!”
“The next time we do a lift, I’m dropping you,” Eames threatened.
“We don’t do lifts because we are not dancers,” Arthur explained as if to a child.
Eames sat back, crossing his arms. “So, the time I picked you up and sat in you right on my co—”
“NOT IN FRONT OF MY DAD!” Arthur shouted, getting the attention of the entire restaurant.
The waitress came over to check on them, and Arthur assured her that they were fine. The woman was no longer charmed, however, and she glared around the table before leaving.
“Let’s try something else,” Andrew said after a few more bites of food. “How long have the two of you been doing this thing that Arthur doesn’t want to name?” he asked Eames. Arthur seemed least likely to answer him, and though Eames might lie to him, he’d be entertaining.
“Oh, let’s see,” Eames said, patting his mouth delicately with his napkin. “We don’t always dance together, you know,” he said while pushing back from the table to avoid another kick. “But when we are cast in the same ballet, we seem to just come together like gravity. Like the Earth to the Sun. With all the fiery explosions one might expect if the Earth actually met the Sun.”
Arthur was stabbing his fish sullenly with his fork.
“I see,” Andrew said. Andrew gave up on conversation after that. He mulled over everything he had seen and heard since arriving, since the phone call actually.
Everyone skipped dessert, and the waitress seemed to be glad to be rid of them, still pissed off at the outburst. Eames tried catching Arthur’s eye, wanting to smile at him for reassurance, wanting to make Arthur smile back. But Arthur just looked miserable. Arthur was wretched, in fact, because he was afraid of what his father was thinking. Arthur was very close to his parents, and if his father didn’t like Eames, Arthur’s life was going to be horrible.
When they arrived back at Arthur’s apartment, Andrew said, “Okay. All of us in the living room for a conference.”
“Shit,” Arthur sighed.
“What was that?” Andrew asked.
“Nothing, sir. Sorry, sir,” Arthur said automatically.
“Have a seat,” Andrew instructed, and Arthur and Eames both sat on the couch stiffly. “I have come to a conclusion about this situation.”
Arthur gritted his teeth, getting angry. If his father didn’t like Eames, Arthur’s temper would get the better of him, he knew it.
“I don’t think this relationship is going to work. I think that Eames needs to leave.”
“What?!” Arthur demanded, jumping up, fists clenched. “You can’t tell my boyfriend to leave. You don’t get to make that decision.”
Andrew put on his best general voice, looming over Arthur. “No. He’s the one that has to make that decision. And I’m surprised he hasn’t left already. So sit down.”
Eames was so absolutely bewildered that he couldn’t think of anything to say. He only got to his feet to pull Arthur back. “It’s okay,” Eames finally said. “I can leave. I don’t want to come between you and your father.”
“No!” Arthur shouted. “You have to stay. Don’t leave. Don’t let him make you leave.”
“Arthur,” Andrew said, “let him go. I’ve seen the way you treat him. You act like you can barely stand him. I don’t think this relationship is healthy for either of you. I mean, Felix here seems to care for you very much, but it’s obvious that you just keep him at arm’s length. I didn’t raise you that way.”
“You–” Arthur began harshly only to change directions. “You are worried about Eames?” he asked, amazed.
“You won’t even say you’re in love with him,” Andrew accused. “You should be ashamed of yourself, stringing him along like this, pushing him away when he gets too close to you. You have been with him for how long but you won’t commit. You haven’t even mentioned him to me or your mother or your sister. If I hadn’t called when I had, I might never have found out about him. You either don’t like him and are just using him for sex, or you’re ashamed of him for reasons I can’t possibly fathom. He’s a delight. And frankly, I’m disappointed in you.”
Arthur relaxed into Eames’ arms like all the air sputtering out of a balloon. “You’re mad at me because you don’t think I love Eames enough?”
“I don’t think you love him at all,” Andrew replied.
“That…that is ridiculous. I love Eames. I’ve loved him since I met him three years ago. I’ve loved him since the first time he smiled at me. We can’t spend a lot of time together, so I don’t want to tie him down with a relationship when we’re apart. And I can’t help it if I’m a private kind of guy. The fact of the matter is that I didn’t know how you would react, and I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
Arthur was immediately engulfed by Eames and Andrew. Eames hugged him tightly. “Oh, darling, I love you too. So much.” Andrew was on the other side, kissing the top of Arthur’s head. “My boy, how could you think I’d be disappointed that you loved someone?”
“I don’t know,” Arthur squeaked, feeling relieved that the argument seemed to be resolved but also distinctly uncomfortable squished between the two men he loved in very different ways. “Can you let me go now?”
Andrew let Arthur go, smiling as he backed away. “Okay, so sit down again. I told your mother I’d text her when I found out what was going on. Sit down so I can take a picture of you two to send her.”
“Yes!” Eames crowed, sitting down and pulling Arthur into his lap. He peaked out from around Arthur, grinning broadly. Arthur sat in Eames’ lap, face in his hands.
“Oh, come on, Arthur. Be a good sport.”
Arthur gave him a scathing look from between his fingers and heard the shutter sound on his dad’s phone. “I hate you both,” he moaned.
Andrew narrated his text as he typed it. “Arthur is fine. This is his boyfriend Felix.”
“Tell her I’ll make sure Arthur visits her soon and I’ll come with him.”
“Felix and Arthur will come to see us soon.”
“We’ve got to tell him my name isn’t Felix,” Eames whispered in Arthur’s ear.
Arthur glared at him. “For this, you’re going to be Felix for the rest of your life.”
A series of beeps caught Arthur’s attention and he turned to see that his father was reading his mother’s reply. “She says she’s going to print it out and put it in the photo album.”
“Photo album?” Eames asked, and Arthur recognized the look on his face. It was as if he had just been handed an invaluable gift. Arthur shook his head slowly, but Eames just called to Andrew, “Please tell Mrs. Collins that I would love for her to show me all the photo albums she has.” Then, turning to Arthur he said, “This visit is going to be so much fun.”