Author: Keira Marcos
Challenge: Fluff Bingo (Kissing in the Rain)
Genre: Romance, Established Relationship
Warnings: No Beta, discussion of minor character death
Word Count: 1,421
Author’s Note: I honestly don’t like Dom Cobb.
Summary: Arthur comes home.
Arthur dropped the leather duffle he’d been carrying for three years by the door of the house and set the PASIV down against the wall. It was a favored property, but he hadn’t set foot in it since Mal had committed suicide. He’d packed a bag and left while Eames had been on a job. His lover of nearly a decade hadn’t had a problem with that part, but everything that had come after that left a big gaping hole in what Arthur had always considered to be the most dependable thing he had in his life.
He wasn’t entirely sure of his welcome, but he knew Eames had returned to Mombasa almost immediately after landing in Los Angeles. A month had passed since they’d succeeded at inception, and Arthur had used that time to do some long-overdue cleanup both in his life and in Dom Cobb’s. Selfishly, he’d cleared the board for the man he could no longer consider a friend so that he could walk away without a Mal-shaped projection following him for the rest of his life. Dom had cost him a lot over the years, but he was done making sacrifices for a selfish prick who’d had not a single bit of hesitation about the possibility of dropping them all in limbo to save his own skin.
Arthur knew that Dom would claim he’d done everything he’d done for his children, but the fact was that at the end of the day, the kids would’ve been better off with Mal’s parents. He didn’t know if Dom could give up dreamshare—it was a strange addiction they all shared, but Arthur had made it clear that he’d never work with him again. He rubbed his face with both hands as he found himself looking in a painting in the hall. A painting he’d sent to Eames six months after Mal had died. He’d found it in a small gallery in Rome and had fallen in love with it. It wasn’t anything all that special, he knew, and he’d only paid 100 euros for it, but it had reminded him of Eames and the lovely dreams they’d used to share before Cobb had lumbered back into his life.
His relationship with Eames had been his most closely guarded secret. They’d always been so careful to rarely work jobs together, to only come together intimately in spaces that one of them owned and could control, and to avoid acting like they even liked each other when they did have to be in the same room together with other people. But he was tired of that life. Arthur never wanted to dream again without Eames at his side, and if that meant his PASIV gathered dust in a closet in Mombasa, Kenya for the rest of this life, then so be it.
He put his keys in the bowl he’d sent home from Paris just four months ago. Arthur ran one finger along the rim of it. He’d pictured it just in that spot when he’d wrapped it so carefully all those months ago and mailed it, but he hadn’t included that thought. In fact, he hadn’t included a message of any sort. Since he’d procrastinated quite enough, he shed his jacket and hung it in the coat closet before he went in search of his partner. He wasn’t sure they were that anymore, but he was prepared to fight for it if Eames would allow it.
The double doors leading out to the balcony were open despite the gentle rain that was starting to fall, and Eames was braced against the railing staring out over their million-euro view. He’d actually been on the fence about the outright purchase of the house at first, but Eames had fallen in love with it, and the privacy it afforded them was priceless. Arthur paused for a long moment and just watched Eames’ T-shirt dampen and start to go transparent in places.
Eames’ broad back offered him no clues regarding his welcome, so Arthur walked out onto the balcony and curled both hands around the railing.
“Let’s work together from now on,” Arthur said. “Or not at all, if that’s what you’d prefer.”
Eames took a deep breath.
“I let my feelings for Mal get in the way,” he confessed. “I loved her—like someone would love a rare and expensive wine. She was thrilling to be around and so lovely in all the ways that worldly, sophisticated women are. I wasn’t ever in love with her, thank fuck, because I think she’d have ruined me while Cobb was destroying her. Their love was destructive and ultimately so deeply selfish that discovering the full breadth of it left me sick to my stomach.
“Had I known what he’d done—how in the most base way he certainly did murder her—I’d have put a bullet in his head and walked away after her funeral without a second thought. He destroyed her reality, and he nearly destroyed ours as well, trying to reclaim a life he had no right to. I told him before I left LA that I’d never dream with him again, and I took the PASIV. I’d have been here sooner, but I had to do some maintenance—for him and me both so I could come home to you as free of all that bullshit as possible.” He cleared his throat. “If that’s okay?”
Eames lowered his head and took in a ragged breath.
“Should I go?” Arthur asked.
It was the last thing Arthur wanted to do ever in his life, but he would because he’d hurt Eames enough. He started to move away from the railing, and Eames’ hand slid over top his and clenched gently. The other man continued to stare out into the garden. It had been the selling point for Eames as it was lush and borderline wild. He’d adored it from the start and had just laughed when Arthur had demanded a very high, sturdy fence be erected as he’d rather not find a herd of wildebeest in his backyard, ever.
“I thought you’d stay with him,” Eames murmured. “It felt like you’d given up everything we had and wanted to protect him. I nearly murdered him on the spot when he showed up here—injecting himself into my space as if he had the right. I only said yes, so I could see you for what I figured was the last time. I didn’t expect us to succeed—to achieve what I believed to be nothing more than a myth. I stayed on the job because I wanted to see you free of Cobb’s mess, even if it meant you walked away from me, too.”
“I am free.”
“Until he calls again?” Eames questioned.
“I closed all the email accounts he knew and destroyed both of my cellphones. I’ll need to pick up another tomorrow. Dom Cobb has no way, whatsoever, to reach me. He’d have to hunt for me physically, and he doesn’t know my full name. I never told Mal either so…” He trailed off. “The only dangling potential issues between Cobb and us are Yusuf and Ariadne. She doesn’t have any connections to dreamshare outside of Cobb and Mal’s father, so I don’t consider her a problem.”
“Saito took care of Yusuf,” Eames said. “I don’t expect Cobb to live long either—they’re both equally responsible for dropping the man into limbo.”
“Will he come for us?”
“We’re resources he can use again,” Eames said. “There’s safety in that.” He turned as he lifted his hand off Arthur’s and smiled. “I’ve missed you.”
“I missed you, too,” Arthur confessed as he moved closer. “I—”
Eames covered his mouth with his own, and Arthur cupped the back of his lover’s neck with one hand as the rain started to pour down on them. He felt desperate and ridiculous all at once as he clutched at Eames with every bit of strength he had. Eames’ hands fisted in his shirt, and the knot of nerves Arthur had carried in his gut since he’d landed in Kenya slowly unraveled.
Eames brushed his lips along Arthur’s jaw with a nearly inaudible groan. “Darling.”