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It’s almost four in the afternoon and Arthur is staring at the clock. Five more minutes and he’s going to go home. He’ll make coffee, eat pizza from yesterday and stare at the television for a few hours. He’ll also think about calling his mother, but he won’t, because he already knows how that conversation would go:

“How are you, Arthur?”

“I’m fine, Mom.”

“Have you been eating properly?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“How’s work?”

“Fine.”

“Have you found yourself a girlfriend yet?”

“No.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“But, Arthur, you’re thirty-two years old.”

“I’m aware.”

“Your brother is two years younger than you and he’s been married for eleven years.”

“I know, Mom.”

“I’m just worried about you.”

“I know, but –“

“But aren’t you lonely?”

And what is he supposed to answer to that, then? It’s a trick question. If he says that he’s not, in fact, lonely, his mother is going to think that A) he’s lying and B) he actually should be lonely and maybe there’s something wrong with him if he’s not. And his mother would be right at all accounts. He’s lonely and there’s something wrong with him. But he can’t possibly tell her that he’s lonely, because if he does, she’s going to set him up for a blind date, and the last time was bad enough.

He blinks at the clock. So, he’s not going to call his mother today. But in two minutes, he’s going to walk out of the office, take his coat, take the elevator down, walk to -

“Arthur?”

He bites his lip. “Yes?”

Ariadne opens the door to his office. She looks apologetic, but not apologetic enough, which is a good clue about what she’s going to say next. Besides, Arthur is a private detective. He can pick up clues.

“He’s here,” Ariadne says. She’s clearly trying not to smile.

“Tell him I already went home,” Arthur says and looks around. “I’ll climb out of the window.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Ariadne says, and then there’s a familiar chuckle coming from behind her.

“Hello, Arthur,” the client says in his stupid British accent.

“Fine,” Arthur says to Ariadne. “Fine. Tell him he can come in.”

“Thank you, darling,” the client says and walks into the room. Ariadne closes the door, leaving Arthur alone with the client, which is fine, by the way. It’s perfectly fine, even if the client takes the chair in front of Arthur’s desk, drags it at least ten inches closer to Arthur, sits down and leans over the desk so that Arthur can smell his cologne. “So, the client says. “My wife.”

Arthur clears his throat. Last week, the client walked in and asked Arthur to find out with whom his wife is cheating on him. “Yes,” Arthur says. “Your wife.

“So,” the client asks, crossing his hands on Arthur’s desk, “did you find out who she’s sleeping with?”

“Mr. Eames,” Arthur says slowly, “you don’t have a wife.”

Mr. Eames doesn’t look surprised. Or Eames. Arthur doesn’t know if Eames is the man’s first or last name. That’s a bit regrettable, probably, since Arthur is a private detective and he spent considerable amount of time trying to figure out that detail.

“Oh,” Mr. Eames says. He sounds very calm for someone who hired a private detective to spy on his non-existent wife. Also, he still sounds very British, which is absolutely unfair. “And how long did it take for you to find that out?”

Arthur presses his lips together. It took him two days, and he was working over-time.

“You could have called me,” Mr. Eames says, “as soon as you figured it out. You have my number.”

That’s true. Arthur has Mr. Eames’ number. He has also promised himself that he will not call Mr. Eames unless he absolutely has to. “I thought that this case probably wasn’t too urgent,” he says. “The case of your cheating wife, I mean, since you don’t have one.”

“Well,” Mr. Eames says, “the last time, you made your secretary call me as soon as you figured out my dog was in the pet hotel.”

“But you came here anyway,” Arthur says, clenching and unclenching his fists under the table. It had been a long day of sitting behind his desk and waiting for a client to walk in. Any client. Anyone except Mr. Eames. And just when he had decided to call it a day, Mr. Eames had walked in, bringing pictures of his dog. He had spent almost fifteen minutes showing pictures to Arthur, and for some reason Arthur hadn’t thrown him out.

“And before that, you called me yourself and asked me to come in,” Mr. Eames says. “That was nice.”

“It wasn’t nice,” Arthur says, “it was standard protocol.”

Standard protocol,” Mr. Eames says. He’s obviously mocking Arthur, and his accent only makes it worse. In a complicated and nuanced way.

Arthur shifts in his chair. “This is my job.”

“I’m well aware,” Mr. Eames says, takes a pen from Arthur’s desk and starts chewing on it. It should be disgusting. “And you’re very good at it. You found my mother.”

“Yes,” Arthur says, trying not to look at Mr. Eames’ mouth. That was the first job Mr. Eames hired him to do: to find his mother. Arthur spent a week trying to find her, and when he finally did, she was having tea with Mr. Eames.

“Anyway,” Mr. Eames says, “I didn’t only come here to ask you about my wife. I also came because I have another job for you.”

“Absolutely not,” Arthur says. That’s not what he’s thinking, though.

“I’m paying you well.”

“I know. But I don’t want to spend time trying to find your, I don’t know, imaginary friend.”

“I know where my imaginary friend is, thank you very much,” Mr. Eames says and puts Arthur’s pen back on the desk. “But I have mislocated my car keys.”

Arthur shakes his head.

“Yeah, I have,” Mr. Eames says, shrugging. “I don’t know how. Sometimes I’m a bit sloppy.”

“I don’t want this job,” Arthur says and takes a deep breath. He wants this job. Oh, god, he’s lost his mind.

“Are you sure?” Mr. Eames asks, leaning closer. “Because I could just ask someone else. You aren’t the only private detective in Chicago. I know, I googled. Just say so and I’ll go ask someone else.”

Arthur bites his lip. “Fine. Just… fine. But if I’m going to find out that your car keys are on your bedside table –”

“Great,” Mr. Eames says and smiles widely like a man who knows he’s hot and isn’t exactly wrong. He stands up, puts his hand into his pocket, pulls something out and throws it on the table.

It’s a key.

“To my house,” Mr. Eames says. “So that you can check my bedside table.”

Arthur doesn’t take the key. This is crazy.

“I’m not going to tell you where my house is, though,” Mr. Eames says and actually winks at him like a total idiot. Hot, British idiot. “You can figure that out for yourself, since you’re a private detective.” And then he winks again and walks out of the room.

Arthur stares at the closed door for a few seconds. Then he takes the pen and starts chewing on it.


**


The weird thing is that it’s very hard to find out anything about Mr. Eames. Arthur doesn’t know the man’s name. his age or his occupation. Arthur doesn’t know anything about the man’s history, hobbies or family relationships, except that he has a mother and that he doesn’t have a wife, and that his dog is very cute.

It’s almost as if Mr. Eames doesn’t exist.

It takes Arthur four days to find out Mr. Eames’ address. Arthur spends another day doing another job, and while he’s hiding in his car, trying to get a good picture of a cheating husband, he thinks about what he’s going to do next. He can’t possibly just go to Eames’ house, even if he now knows where it is. But then again, Eames gave him the key. If he doesn’t go to Eames’ house, it’s going to look like he doesn’t want to go to Eames’ house, which is going to look like he cares, which is going to look like maybe he wants to go to Eames’ house after all. Which he doesn’t. But when he goes to the office the next morning, he spends at least five minutes staring at the pen that was in Eames’ mouth.

“Where’re you going?” Ariadne asks, when Arthur leaves his room and grabs his coat. “And can you bring me a sandwich?”

“I don’t know if I’m going to come back,” Arthur says and then pauses, because Ariadne looks a bit concerned. “I mean, I don’t know when I’m going to come back.”

“Oh,” Ariadne says, nodding. She doesn’t look concerned anymore. “You’re going to Eames’ house, then.”

Arthur clears his throat. “What?”

“He texted me the address,” Ariadne says. “Just in case you wouldn’t find it. But you obviously did, so that’s fine.”

“…he texted you the address?”

“He’s surprisingly nice,” Ariadne says. “And handsome. And British.”

“I’m going now,” Arthur says and leaves so quickly he forgets his phone and has to go back for it. Thankfully Ariadne doesn’t say anything, only looks at him as if she knows something he doesn’t.

He drives to Mr. Eames’ house, parks at the driveway and walks to the front door. Then he just stands there for a moment, staring at the lock and the key in his hand. Maybe this is a joke. Maybe Mr. Eames has got Arthur to try to break into somebody else’s house. But then again, maybe this isn’t a joke. Maybe this is something else, something that Arthur isn’t going to think about now.

He fits the key in the lock. The lock opens, and so does the door, when he tries the door handle.

“Hello?” he asks, hovering at the doorway. But nobody answers, so maybe Mr. Eames isn’t at home. Which is fine. Arthur wasn’t hoping he would be. This is going to be impossibly awkward anyway. But it’s Arthur’s job. He’s going to find the lost car keys.

He closes the door behind himself and walks to what must be a living room, keeping his steps as light as he can. Then he starts to wonder why and stomps a little. He’s not sneaking around. He’s just standing in a stranger’s living room, which by the way is nothing that he thought it would be. Not that he’s been thinking about Mr. Eames’ home, because he hasn’t. But if he had been thinking about it, he would have imagined something different than this.

This is a room that’s both full of stuff and quite aesthetically pleasing in an odd way. It’s as if there are two well-decorated living rooms stuffed inside one living room. Some things match perfectly and others don’t. Everything looks like it’s been selected carefully but for unfathomable reasons.

Arthur blinks and reminds himself that he’s here to look for car keys, not to evaluate Mr. Eames’ decoration. He goes through the living room and looks everywhere he can think of, but he only finds books and napkins and a half-eaten chocolate bar. He goes to another room, which is the kitchen. There’s coffee in the coffee machine, which is unsettling, but he decides not to think about it. It’s not his business. But the car keys don’t seem to be in the kitchen either, so he goes to the next room, and to the next room, and upstairs, and there he finds himself in Mr. Eames’ bedroom. It’s a nice bedroom. The bed seems big and comfortable. The sheets are dark blue. There are a lot of pillows. And on the bedside table, there are -

“Well, hello,” somebody says with a stupid British accent.

Arthur turns around. Mr. Eames is standing at the doorway of the ensuite. He’s only wearing a towel wrapped around his waist. He has a lot of tattoos and they are terrible. That makes Arthur feel slightly better.

“So, you found my car keys,” Mr. Eames says, nodding at the bedside table. “Well done.”

“I don’t like you,” Arthur says, staring at the man.

“Too bad,” Mr. Eames says and then smiles at him. “Do you want coffee?”

He opens his mouth to say that no, he doesn’t want coffee. He wants his paycheck and then he wants to leave. “Yeah,” he says.

“Great,” Mr. Eames says. “I’m just going to put on some clothes. I just had a shower, you know. So, unless you want to watch, maybe you could go to the living room and wait for me.”

Arthur turns around and flees. But he only gets to the living room, and there he sits down on the orange couch and waits until first Mr. Eames’ dog and then Mr. Eames find him. The dog is still very cute.


**


“Mr. Eames –“

“Please, darling, call me Eames,” Mr. Eames says.

Arthur clears his throat. “Eames –“

“Yeah?” Eames asks and passes him a cup of coffee. “Sugar?”

“No, thanks.” He sips the coffee. It’s too hot to drink. That’s too bad, because he needs to do something, or else he’s going to start asking unfortunate questions. “Why are you doing this?”

“Drinking coffee?” Eames asks. “Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve tried to quit, but I just end up starting again. I suppose it’s some kind of an addiction. But much less inconvenient than my gambling problem.”

Arthur bites his lip. “No, I meant… Gambling problem?”

“Don’t worry,” Eames says. “It’s almost under control.”

Arthur opens his mouth and then closes it again. It’s not his business what Eames does with his money, except when he pays Arthur to do things he doesn’t need done. “Why did you hire me to find your car keys?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Eames says. “I had forgotten I had them on my bedside table.”

Arthur stares at him.

“Alright,” Eames says, “I had forgotten that. I wasn’t lying. But I have to admit I found them a couple of times before you did. I just didn’t have time to inform you. And besides, you were busy trying to find out where I live.”

“Eames,” Arthur says, trying to sound like an adult who knows what’s happening, both here at this exact moment and generally in life. “Just tell me. Is this a joke?”

Eames frowns at him. “A joke? No, this isn’t a joke, Arthur.”

“…are you sure?”

“Yes,” Eames says, looking at him. He likes Eames’ eyes. He likes the rest of Eames’ face, too. But it’s nothing personal. Some people just are like that, nice and charming and good-looking and intriguing. Some people just make you want to sit in their kitchen and drink coffee even if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing there, except drinking coffee.

Arthur tries to think. So, he obviously isn’t here for the car keys, and Eames seems genuine enough about this not being a joke. On the other hand, Eames seemed genuine when he asked Arthur to spy on his wife.

Arthur opens his mouth -

“So,” Eames says and stands up abruptly, “I have biscuits. Or are you hungry? Because we could order something. Or go to the restaurant.”

“I’m working,” Arthur says.

“I’m a client,” Eames says.

Arthur swallows. He could go to a restaurant with Eames, sit at the table across from Eames, maybe accidentally brush his fingers against Eames’, as if they were on a… “I really can’t,” he says. “Actually, I think I should go now.”

“…okay.”

Arthur sips his coffee. He’s going to leave. In a minute.

Eames puts a box of biscuits on the table and sits down again. “So, do you like it? Being a private detective, I mean?”

Arthur stares at him. This feels like a trap.

“It’s not a trap,” Eames says. “I’m just curious.”

“Well,” Arthur says slowly and takes a biscuit, “sure, I like it. I like finding things out. And I’m good at it. Or…” Or he thought he was good at it, but he’s having doubts now. He still hasn’t even found out Eames’ name. “What do you do?” he asks before he can stop himself.

“What do you mean, what do I do?” Eames asks. He sounds intrigued.

“I mean,” Arthur says, “do you have a… job? Or something? You never said.”

Eames rubs his chin. “Sure, I have a job. Sometimes.”

“Sometimes?”

“It’s a bit difficult to explain. Would you like more coffee?”

Arthur shakes his head, but then he starts to think that if he’s not drinking coffee, he doesn’t have a reason to stay in Eames’ house. “Or yeah. Sure. Thank you.”

Eames pours him more coffee. “I like your secretary.”

“You… what?

“Not like that,” Eames says, looking at Arthur. He sounds like he’s trying not to laugh. “I meant that I like her as a human being. I’m not going to fall in love with her or anything.”

“You aren’t?”

“No,” Eames says, “no, absolutely not. I can promise you that.”

“Good,” Arthur says and then bites his lip. “I mean…”

Now Eames is definitely laughing at him. He realizes he doesn’t mind. He smiles at Eames and then reaches for a carton of milk over the table. His fingers brush against Eames’.

He pulls his hand away and stands up. “I really should go.”

“You don’t have to,” Eames says.

“Yeah, I do,” Arthur says. Two more minutes, and he would… he’s pretty sure he’d do something absolutely crazy, like try to hold Eames’ hand or something. So, he leaves Eames in the kitchen and walks out of the house, gets into his car and drives back to his office, where Ariadne asks him if he brought her a sandwich.

It’s only later that he realizes he still has Eames’ house key in his pocket.


**


Arthur decides he’s going to find out what’s going on. He’s a private detective, after all. He should be able to figure out why a hot British man with a cute dog keeps hiring him to do absurd jobs.

He stays in the office after working hours, assures Ariadne that he’s alright and nothing weird is going on, locks the front door, and gets to work. But no matter how much thought he puts into it and how many Excel documents he creates, he still doesn’t understand. There’s no explanation that would make sense.

“You look tired,” Ariadne says the next morning, when Arthur comes to the office. He’s late, because he’s tired, because barely slept, because he couldn’t stop thinking about Eames. “Did you sleep well?” Ariadne asks.

“Yeah,” Arthur says and tries to hang his coat but misses. The coat falls onto the floor. He stares at it.

“Arthur,” Ariadne says, “sit down and tell me what’s wrong.”

So, he tells Ariadne. He doesn’t mean to, but he does it anyway. She gives him coffee and he begins to feel somewhat awake, and still he doesn’t stop talking about Eames.

“That’s easy,” Ariadne says finally, when Arthur takes a break to drink more coffee. “He likes you.”

“What? No.”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No,” Arthur says and sips his coffee. It can’t be. It certainly feels like that would be the answer, but it can’t be, because if Arthur starts to think that Eames might like him, he’s going to be wrong, and it’s going to be embarrassing and also a little sad, and he doesn’t want that. He can’t deal with that.

“Don’t you like him, then?” Ariadne asks.

Arthur shakes his head very slowly. He’s always felt bad about lying to Ariadne.

“Are you sure?” Ariadne asks, leaning closer. “Because you kind of look like you might.”

“I don’t look like that,” Arthur says.

“Sure, you do,” Ariadne says. “You’re looking at me as if you want me to say that I think he likes you and wants to ask you on a date but doesn’t know how.”

Arthur swallows. “…really?”

“Yeah,” Ariadne says, “yeah, that’s what I think. But you should ask him.”

“I can’t just ask him.”

“Why not?”

“Maybe I’m wrong.”

“Arthur,” Ariadne says, smiling at him, “I’m terribly sorry, but you’re going to have to take that risk. Maybe you could text him and ask him to come over.”

“That’d be weird,” Arthur says and then thinks about something. “But I still have his house key.”

“…you still have his house key.”

“Yeah,” Arthur says. “I went into his house yesterday, but I forgot to give him the key.”

“Right,” Ariadne says slowly. “And that’s not weird at all.”

“I could text him and ask him if he wants his key back,” Arthur says. He doesn’t think he’s not going to do that. Ariadne’s right, having Eames’ house key is weird. Arthur should wait until Eames asks him about the key, and then he could pretend that he hadn’t known he had it. That’s a good plan, and not a weird one.

He finishes his coffee and goes to sit in his own room, behind his desk, staring at the closed door and waiting for clients, and all he can think about is the key in his pocket. And Eames. It must be the accent.


**


He doesn’t text Eames. Instead, he decides he’s going to go back to Eames’ house. It’ll be more convenient for Eames that way. Arthur will drop by, leave him the key and get the fuck out of there. That’s a good plan. That’s a very good plan, and Arthur thinks about it until right before four in the afternoon, Ariadne knocks on his door.

“He’s here,” Ariadne says and then frowns. “Why are you looking so shocked? You asked him to come, didn’t you?”

Arthur shakes his head. “No, I –“

“Darling,” Eames says from behind Ariadne’s back, then walks past her and into the room, sits down on Arthur’s desk and starts fiddling with Arthur’s pen. Ariadne slowly backs away from the door. “I have a job for you,” Eames says.

Arthur breathes out. “Hello, Eames.”

“Hi,” Eames says and smiles at Arthur. Then he frowns. “So, the job. I need you to… Well, I can’t remember at the moment, but it’s going to come back to me. How was your day?”

Arthur tries to smile. It probably doesn’t go well.

“You look a little exhausted,” Eames says, watching him. “Not that you don’t look good. You always look good. But today, you look good in an exhausted way. Did you sleep well?”

“Not really.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not actually your fault,” Arthur says, even though it is Eames’ fault.

“Of course it isn’t my fault,” Eames says and takes a deep breath. “So, about this… job. Do you want come back to my place and talk about it?”

Arthur stares at the man. It sounds like a date. An odd kind of a date. And it certainly sounds like Eames might like him, which would be both terrifying and kind of fantastic, because at the moment he’s a bit too tired not to like Eames. Of course he likes Eames. He likes the accent and the face and the fingers fiddling with his pen, even though he kind of wants to save the pen. He likes Eames’ house, too, and Eames’ dog, and he likes the way Eames looks at him.

“Okay,” he says.


**


“So,” Arthur says two hours later, after three slices of pizza and one episode of Game of Thrones, “you said you wanted to talk about the job.”

“Oh,” Eames says, “right. Do you want coffee?”

“…I just had coffee.”

“Tea, then?”

Arthur tries to shift on the sofa but can’t, because Eames’ dog is sleeping in his lap and she’s surprisingly heavy. “No, thanks. Should we talk about the –“

“I have to go to Lisbon for a few weeks,” Eames says, glances at him and then doesn’t turn away. They’re sitting very close to each other. Also, Eames has his arm stretched on the back of the sofa, behind Arthur’s shoulders.

“Lisbon?” Arthur asks.

“Yeah,” Eames says. He doesn’t sound glad. “It’s for my work. But I’ll come back. If things go well.”

“…what things?”

“I can’t really tell you.”

“Okay,” Arthur says slowly. Eames is leaning closer to him, making it very hard for him to concentrate. “But you aren’t… you aren’t implying that you’re a criminal or something, are you?”

“What kind of an idiot would tell a lovely private detective that he’s a criminal?” Eames asks and places his hand on the back of Arthur’s neck. “Can I do this?”

Arthur swallows. “…sure. About your job –“

“How about this?” Eames asks and touches Arthur’s chin with his thumb.

“Yeah,” Arthur says, “yeah, you can do that.” He didn’t shave this morning, because he was so tired he couldn’t keep both of his eyes open, and holding a razor against his throat seemed somewhat hazardous. Now, he can feel Eames’ thumb poking gently at the stubble.

He closes his eyes and opens them again.

“Eames,” he says and clears his throat, “Eames, I need to ask you something.”

“Alright,” Eames says, looking slightly worried.

Arthur is worried too. He’s so worried that he almost gives up, but he can’t back away, not now, not when he has a feeling that Eames might actually like him. “Why’re we doing this?” he asks. “All of this, the absurd jobs, the house key, the… sitting on the sofa and watching Games of Thrones. What is this for?”

“Don’t you like Game of Thrones?” Eames asks. He’s looking at Arthur’s mouth now.

“No,” Arthur says and then breathes out, “yeah, of course I like Game of Thrones. But why are we –“

“I thought,” Eames cuts in, “I thought maybe we would kiss.”


**


“Eames?”

“…yeah?”

“Do you like me?”

Eames looks up at him. “Are you really asking me that now?”

“Yeah,” he says, stroking Eames’ hair. “Yeah. Sorry. Yeah. I just…”

“Don’t say you’re sorry,” Eames says from the floor where he’s sitting on his knees. He pulls back a little and places a kiss on Arthur’s knee. His hands are still on Arthur’s thighs, steady and warm. There’s something glistening on his chin. “Yes, I like you, Arthur. I thought you might’ve picked that up by now.”

Arthur takes a deep breath. “…really?”

“Yes,” Eames says pointedly. “I gave you a few hints.”

“…like what?”

“Like when I kissed you half an hour ago,” Eames says, stroking Arthur’s bare thigh. “Or just now, when I asked you if you’d like a blowjob.”

Arthur bites his lip. “That was nice.”

“It’s going to be nice, as soon as you stop talking and let me get back to it,” Eames says, but he doesn’t sound angry. Actually, he sounds a little worried. “But now that we’re having this discussion already, I’ve got a question for you, too.”

“Okay.”

Eames leans against Arthur’s right knee. “Do you like me?”

Arthur nods.

“Really?” Eames asks. “It’s not just that you like blowjobs?”

“No,” Arthur says and then takes a deep breath, when Eames wraps his fingers around him and tugs once. “Yeah, no, I like blowjobs, but… Eames?”

“Yeah?”

“Is Eames your first name or your surname?”

“You really have a lot of questions,” Eames says and pulls his hand away. That might be for the best. If Arthur gets any more excited, he’s going to fall down from the sofa. “It’s neither.”

“What?”

“It’s a name that I came up with,” Eames says. “But it’s my first name in one of my passports.”

“One of your…”

“I have another question for you as well. Would you like to go on a date with me?”

“Yes,” Arthur says, “yeah, of course. I would like that.”

“Good,” Eames says and then gets back to what he already started, and Arthur doesn’t think about anything else for a while.

Well, alright, Arthur barely thinks about anything else the whole evening. He sleeps in Eames’ bed, and when he wakes up, Eames is gone and there’s a note on the bedside table under the car keys. It says sorry and will be back and please take care of my dog.


**

**

**


It’s almost four in the afternoon and Arthur is staring at the clock. Five more minutes and then he’s going to go home. He needs to feed his dog, take her out for a walk and then call his mother, even though he already knows how that conversation is going to go. She’s going to set him up for another blind date and he doesn’t want that, because the last time he liked somebody, the said somebody was gone in the morning, leaving Arthur a note, a dog and a very expensive car.

Arthur stands up to leave the office.

The phone rings.

“Hello, darling,” someone says in a British accent, someone who is hot and knows it too. “Did you get my postcards?”

Arthur sits down again. “Yeah, I got your postcards. All forty-seven of them.”

“Well, I thought you’d be the kind of a man who’d like a bit of romance.”

“I don’t know if a picture of a tourist beach and a text Welcome to Lisbon written in golden glitter counts as romance.

“Oh, just wait ‘til you see what I can do with golden glitter,” Eames says. “How are you? Are you alright? Are you alive? Is my dog alive?”

“We’re both alive,” Arthur says. “Also, I’m not giving her back.”

“We’re going to have to talk about that. Anyway, the reason why I’m calling is that I’m finally coming back.”

Arthur takes a deep breath and then another. It’s been three fucking months.

“…Arthur? You still there?”

“It’s been three fucking months.

“I know,” Eames says, “I can count. Kind of. And I’m sorry. I didn’t think it’d take so long. But I’m coming back now, and I’ve missed you like hell, and I’ve really missed the way your face looked when I blew you on my couch. So, what’re you doing right now?”

“Talking to you,” Arthur says. His face feels warm. His heart is doing odd things.

“I mean, what’re you doing in an hour?”

“I don’t know. Feeding your dog.”

“Okay,” Eames says, “I’ll help you with that.” And then there’s a sound of the door opening in the other room, and Ariadne’s surprised ‘Mr. Eames!’, and a sound of Arthur dropping his phone onto the floor.

Eames opens the door and steps in. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Arthur says.