the question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you ever heard me treat anyone else better
“You rang; I came.”
Arthur leans against the door frame of his hotel room at The Wynn and gives his guest a brief once-over. Eames’ expression of delight is hazily familiar. It’s been a while. “I didn’t ring,” Arthur points out.
Eames drops his traveling bag on the garish floral carpeting in the hall and rests his elbow on the wall by Arthur’s head.
They haven’t been this close in quite some time. “Semantics,” Eames says dismissively.
He looks good. He’s put on a few pounds. His hair has grown out a little.
He’s wearing a simple white shirt that hugs his biceps intimately and dark jeans that clearly don’t require that brown leather belt to stay on his hips.
And he’s got stubble.
Arthur’s brain gets stuck on the stubble.
Arthur straightens his perfectly starched collar. “I sent you an email.”
“And here I am.”
“And it had nothing to do with me being in Las Vegas, the Gambling Capital of the World.”
“Las Vegas. Duluth. Athens. In cases such as this a good memory is unpardonable.”
Arthur can feel his mouth twitching. “Are you really quoting Austen?”
Eames leans in. “If it gets me that smile I’d be happy to quote Austen, Shakespeare, Tennyson and my great-grandfather, Tzar Nicholas II. Do you have any requests?”
“Eames, you are not related to Nicholas the Second.”
“I’m not, but I could be; they have yet to account for Anastasia.”
Arthur shakes his head at the door frame. Down the hall a businessman in a drab brown suit is letting a young blond woman in glaring purple spandex into his suite. At three in the afternoon on a Tuesday.
How quintessentially Vegas.
Arthur’s brief glance belies the attention he pays to the mark: Jose Rubio.
“Sorry to see you’re as fit as ever; it makes me feel deprived.” Eames’ mouth is moving glibly, but Arthur can feel the tableau being studied intimately: Rubio, himself. Arthur can feel his clothing being picked apart and his expressions cataloged. “I was sure after that incident at the Waffle House that you’d never speak to me again.”
Arthur gives Eames a sharp look. “You accosted me in the bathroom.”
He’s almost surprised it took Eames this long to address their last meeting.
“I did no such thing,” Eames protests. “You spilled coffee on your shirt; I merely followed you into the loo to make sure the coffee hadn’t done irreparable damage to your lovely skin.” A pause. “And, Arthur, it really is flawless.”
Arthur stands upright. “The military has this policy called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Eames frowns. “Yes, the colonies have always been terrifically repressed.”
“You groped me in the Waffle House bathroom.”
“Would you have preferred I do it in front of the squadron? I was attempting some semblance of restraint for your sake –- those mixed messages of yours were frightfully confusing.”
Arthur can feel the tendons tightening in his neck. “And then you got on a plane back to Hereford.”
“I was there when that happened, too -– or did you forget?”
“I did not forget,” Arthur says through clenched teeth. What was he thinking contacting Eames after all this time?
Arthur can feel the vexation etched into his forehead ebb away at the expression on Eames’ face. Eames seems almost distressed, yet his voice is deceptively light when he says, “Then again these things do seem to happen when you work for Her Majesty.”
Arthur looks somewhere over Eames’ left shoulder. He’s fighting a rather exhausting battle at the moment: to punch Eames in the mouth or slam the door in his face. Or something considerably less violent. He hasn’t felt this conflicted in three years.
He rolls back his shoulders and gets himself together. Special forces soldiers do not fall apart when encountering their exes. Especially when they’re not exes. “Williams told me you’d left the service,” Arthur says at last.
“Well, that’s what I told him to tell you –- should you ever bother to ask.”
“You couldn’t just tell me that yourself?”
“I didn’t think you wanted to hear from me.”
“Like that ever stopped you before.”
Arthur feels this overwhelming need to run his fingers through his hair in exasperation. He settles for shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Eames cocks his head to the right. “I have missed Condescending Expression Number Four, I must say.”
Arthur can feel a momentary sense of disorientation in his features. It passes, but not soon enough. “Number Four,” he repeats
“You have a very expressive face.”
“I do not.”
“Of course you don’t to people who haven’t studied you extensively, but you don’t spend a year training with someone in the wilds of North Carolina and not learn at least one or two of their facial expressions.”
Eames’ smile would make a lesser man feel marginally –- exceedingly -– concerned. Arthur rubs his jaw. “So, what are you doing now?”
“Well, I assume you know or I wouldn’t be here. Unless this is, in fact, the long hoped for reunion where you declare your undying affection for me and ask me to live with you in Pemberley. Shall I call you Darcy — or would you prefer Fitzwilliam?”
“You are not worth this aggravation,” Arthur says flatly.
“Of course I am.” Eames picks up his bag. “So are you going to let me in or will we continue with the Spanish Inquisition in the hall? Shall I pull up a chair and torch for you to shine into my eyes?”
“You can’t pull up a flashlight.”
“Still as literal as ever.”
“I didn’t invite you here to be insulted.”
“And still unable to accept a compliment.”
There’s a shared moment of silence. It may be the last one Arthur enjoys for some time.
“”I suppose you can come in,” he says eventually.
“Well, since I did fly five-thousand, two-hundred and thirty-five miles to see you, it seems like the polite thing to do.” Eames’ eyelashes are far too long. Arthur remembers Eames’ eyes being greener when they were outside; under the fluorescent lighting they look more blue. Arthur cannot believe he’s noticing these things. There are least eighteen inches between them. “And you are nothing if not polite, aren’t you?” Eames says.
Arthur rolls his eyes and steps back to let Eames into his suite.
Eames’ hand brushes along Arthur’s exposed forearm as he sweeps by. “I missed you, too.”
** Continued… **