Word count: 1484words.
Warnings: implied infidelity.
It’s his third job in as many months and Arthur’s spent the better part of this one wading through copious amounts of misinformation trying to make heads and tails of the mark; a particularly nasty sort of con artist who’s had the bad fortune to cross his equally nasty sort of ex-partner.
The worst part of this job, Arthur thinks to himself, stretching his body out in a languid arch he’s confident no one will witness at past two in the morning, is that the nasty ex-partner of their mark also happens to be his employer.
Arthur grimaces, thinking of the balding, rat of a man who insists on peering over his shoulder every minute of the day. His wheezy questioning of everything enough to crack even Arthur’s usually impenetrable defences these days.
It’s one thing having an employer who’s generally interested in what his team is doing, Arthur supposes, but it’s quite another having one who can barely grasp the concept of Dreamsharing and Extraction, but who still insists that they know best and everything should be done their way.
Not for the first time, Arthur wonders why he’s still here, working for a man he cannot stand for a payoff that’s barely mentionable compared to some of the jobs he’s been pulling since he helped to perform Inception.
He quirks a smile in remembrance of that job. Though fright with complications as it had been, it had also been a huge success. In more than one way, he muses with a smile, absently reaching for his phone and keying in his password.
The screensaver clears and he finds himself unable to resist another smile- perhaps more of a grin, if the showing of dimples is anything to go by- as he sees the picture of Eames he’d snapped no more than a few weeks ago.
It shows Eames all sleep mussed and pouty in bed, body naked to the waist where it cuts off. His kiss-swollen lips are twisting into a smile despite his best efforts to scowl at the camera, at Arthur for daring to wake him to take a picture.
Arthur bites his lip at the memory, allows himself a moment only to bask in the happiness it brings him before shaking his head and placing the phone down beside his laptop.
He rubs distractedly at his eyes before turning his attention back to the screen, but the words blur before his eyes and he presses them closed for a moment. He rolls his shoulders and wonders momentarily if there’s someplace nearby still serving coffee at this time of night.
He doubts it.
Mores the pity, he thinks, because it’s late enough now that he’s seriously considering forgoing sleep altogether and having coffee would at least have kept him from feeling the exhaustion he’s been holding at bay.
He thinks of Eames then, again. Of the jobs they’d worked together after the Inception job. How things had changed between them. Subtly at first, with Eames joining him on his late night research splurges: oftentimes just to offer silent company; other times to actually help out with suggestions or hot, late night coffee miraculously procured from some secret shop he refused to share; and sometimes, when Arthur was feeling the strain, muscles protesting from sitting hunched over a desk for hours on end, Eames would slip up behind him and massage the ache from his shoulders and neck.
It seemed to happen so seamlessly, their acquaintanceship blossoming into friendship before slipping so easily into something more… intimate. Something he hadn’t realised he’d wanted from Eames until he’d found himself spread out beneath him, writhing and wanton, begging shamelessly for every touch Eames gave him.
They’ve spent so much time together since, more than they’d ever done in the years they’d known each other before. It makes Arthur grin to think of it.
He could really do with that now, he thinks, he could really do with Eames. It’s the company he misses the most, he decides, peering into the shadowy darkness of the office floor they’re working out of. His is the only desk still lit, the rest of the room plunged into a darkness that bleeds seamlessly into what he can see of the night sky.
He spares a glance to his phone once more, the screen gone blank with disuse, and briefly he considers calling Eames; just to hear his voice, though Arthur’s sure he can come up with a more plausible explanation if pressed. He doesn’t give a thought to the time difference, of course. They know each other well enough for something like that not to matter any longer.
He’s dialled the number before he’s properly thought about doing so, hesitating only when it takes more than a few rings to be answered. He’s just thinking of hanging up- maybe Eames is in too deep a sleep, or out and unable to answer,- when the call connects with a fumble that makes Arthur’s lips quirk, knowing he’s woken him.
“’lo?” the word is a husky whisper, thick and gruff with sleep. Arthur frowns. It is not Eames’ voice.
“Eames?” he calls, wondering, worriedly, if he’s somehow managed to dial the wrong number.
He hears the rustling of sheets, a grunt and a then that same voice, fainter now as the phone moves away. “’s for you.”
There comes more sounds of fumbling as the phone is passed over. Hissing voices, whispers muffled as the mouthpiece is covered then: “Hello?”
It is Eames’ voice for sure this time and Arthur goes to answer him only to find his throat has frozen up. He finds his mind working a mile a minute, trying to process where Eames is and, more importantly he thinks, who he is there with.
He hears Eames breathing down the line, waiting. He calls out again and still Arthur cannot find it in himself to answer. His mouth seems to have dried up at the mere thought of speaking.
There’s a crackle in the line and more fumbling. He hears the rustle of sheets once more and then Eames curses faintly before he calls out again, his voice hesitant this time: “Arthur? Arthur is that you?”
He jerks the phone from his ear then, staring at it in horror before hitting the end call button and dropping it to the desk before him as if it has burnt him.
He hasn’t a moment to think, however, before his phone begins buzzing across his desk, Eames’ name and pouting face lighting his screen and Arthur finds himself staring at his phone as if it is some foreign entity.
He jabs at the end call button once more, the gesture sharp and quick. Arthur finds he cannot bear to touch it after hearing… what, exactly? He knows what he thinks he heard but…
His stomach feels sick and he he’s begun to shiver- not through cold, but something equally as numbing. Betrayal, he thinks, then shakes his head to dismiss the thought. For all that they were together, Arthur realises they’ve never actually promised each other anything. They were separated for weeks, sometimes months, at a time… did he really expect…
Yes, Arthur thinks, feeling deflated, defeated. He did expect.
He jumps as his phone begins to buzz once more, Eames’ smiling face all but taunting him from the screen. Childish perhaps, but Arthur ends the call again. He doesn’t think he can form anything coherent right now. He can’t deal with this tonight. Not when he’s still got hours of research ahead of him for a job his pride won’t let him abandon.
His phone keeps buzzing, relentless. His hand is shaking as he reaches for it, flipping it over and prying the battery out with clawing fingers. The phone subsides then into quick silence.
He lets the parts slip from his hands, staring sightlessly as they land upon his desk. He doesn’t want to think about this. He can’t think about this. He slumps forward despite himself, closing his eyes and allowing his head to fall into his hands.
He doesn’t notice the time as it passes; the sky outside lightening from the deepest of blacks to a pastel coloured dawn. He just sits, unthinking, unseeing, until morning has broken and stubborn pride finally rouses him from his stupor.
He doesn’t think as he picks up the pieces of his phone and drops them into the trashcan at his side. He refuses to acknowledge the reason behind the hours he’s wasted trying not to think (of excuses and explanations and any other sort of conclusion he could possibly jump to.).
Arthur scrubs at his eyes, hunches his shoulders, and turns back to his laptop and the never ending scrawl of information he still has to sort through.
He has a job to do. He doesn’t have anymore time to waste thinking about anything (anyone) else.