Word Count: 2,114
Pairings: Arthur/Eames (with a side of Dom/Mal)
Summary: Arthur and Eames are comic book geeks that have been in love for years. Mal points out that perhaps it's time that Eames proposed.
Notes: This is a years-later sequel to Preference, but you don't need to have read it to know what's going on here.
Thank you to cthonical for beta-reading this for me!
Eames can’t find his cufflinks. He’s searched everywhere for them and he has no idea where they are. This is bad. This is extremely bad because of all the cufflinks he has, these are his favourites. These are the ones that Arthur gave him—his first ever pair—when they’d graduated high school. He still remembers the wry grin on Arthur’s face, the fond look in his eyes, and the despair hits him hard.
“Arthur,” he calls as he searches through his underwear drawer, just in case. “Arthur, have you seen—?”
“Right here.” Arthur enters their bedroom with a knowing look in his eyes, his fingers carefully curled around something. “You asked me to hold onto them so you wouldn’t lose them.”
Arthur opens his hand and Eames sighs with relief, pressing their foreheads together.
“Oh, thank god. What would I do without you, Arthur?”
“I shudder to think,” Arthur replies with a soft smile. He reaches for Eames’ wrist, attaching one cufflink and then the other. “There you go. Happy?”
“Very. Thank you.” Eames kisses Arthur lightly before pulling his jacket on. The sleeves are just short enough to leave the cufflinks visible: smooth, stainless steel in the shape of the Super symbol.
“You’re nervous,” Arthur says, because he knows Eames well enough to be able to read the meaning in even the most subtle of expressions. He smoothes the lapels of Eames’ jacket and leaves his hands there as he leans in for a kiss. “There’s nothing to be nervous about.”
“Of course not,” Eames snorts quietly, his nose brushing over Arthur’s cheek. “We’re just groomsmen for our best friends’ wedding. Nothing to be nervous about at all.”
“We’ll be fine,” Arthur says confidently. “Do you have Dom’s ring?”
Eames takes it out of his pocket, holding it up before tucking it safely away again. “Do you have Mal’s?”
Arthur pats his jacket’s pocket and smiles. “Let’s go.”
Before Arthur can turn away, Eames takes hold of his hand, fingers stroking along the back of his partner’s hand and to his sleeves. He fingers the cufflinks that Arthur is wearing; a present from Eames that had shortly followed the Super symbols. Bat symbols, sleek against the black shirt that the groomsmen are wearing.
Mal has pointed out that there’s nothing conventional about their group of friends, and so there’s no need to make their wedding conventional either. There is no maid of honour, because Eames is her best man, as Arthur is Dom’s. And at this moment, Mal is no doubt helping Dom into his wedding suit, not caring the least that tradition dictates that they don’t see each other until she walks down the aisle. Mal insists that the important part of the wedding is to have everyone staying true to who they are. If this means that Eames and Arthur are wearing their favourite pairs of cufflinks, walking down the aisle behind Mal with their arms linked, well, Eames is certainly not complaining.
“I love you,” Eames murmurs against Arthur’s lips, feeling him smile.
Arthur takes his hand, his reply written into the gentle curl of his fingers around Eames’, in the soft, content look in his eyes.
Mal and Dom only have eyes for each other at their reception, arms wrapped around each other as they dance. The toasts are done, everyone’s eaten, and Eames is resting his chin on Arthur’s shoulder, hand in hand as they watch the dance floor.
“I liked your speech,” Arthur murmurs, tilting his head a little so their foreheads are resting against each other. “Equal measures of sweet and embarrassing.”
“Like a good best man’s speech should be?” Eames chuckles. “It helps that we’ve known them for so long.”
In actual fact, Arthur and Eames have been together for longer than Mal and Dom. Most people look at them and assume that Mal must have brought them together, made them see their true feelings through all the bickering and competing, and to be fair, she had tried taking them aside to point this out to them. The only difference is that when she’d told them that clearly, all of this meant that they were mad about each other, they’d already known.
“Dance?” Arthur suggests, at some length, giving Eames’ hand a gentle squeeze. He sounds unsure as if, despite all the overt displays of affection they’ve already indulged in tonight, Eames would possibly turn him down.
Eames stands in reply, pulling Arthur to his feet and leading him to the dance floor. He slides an arm around Arthur’s waist, holding him close. With their heads bowed together and small, private smiles on each other’s lips, it’s easy to get lost in their own world.
Mal dances Dom over, laughing and declaring that they’re stealing the show, even though they’re just in the corner. She smiles at Eames, taking his hand and demanding that he dance with her, leaving Dom and Arthur by the edge of the dance floor.
“You think I was joking, but it’s true you know,” Mal says to him as they sway in time to the music. “The way you look at each other, it’s so obvious that you’re in love. Possibly even more than Dom and I.”
Eames laughs, shaking his head. “I don’t think that’s even possible.”
“And yet.” Mal raises an eyebrow. “You’ve been together for… how long, now?”
“Eleven years,” Eames answers immediately.
“Mal,” Eames says patiently. “That isn’t actually legal—”
“Because the law has always stopped you doing things you want, hm?” she asks, and she’s got a point.
Sighing, Eames glances at Arthur, who is deep in conversation with Dom. “I just don’t know—”
“Do you love him?”
That’s an easy question that Eames can answer in a heartbeat. “More than anything.”
Mal smiles at him, her beautiful blue eyes brimming with happiness, her gloved hand soft on Eames’ cheek. “There you go.”
A week later, after returning from the honeymoon, the first thing Mal does is email Eames a copy of the photos from the wedding shoot. They’re all in an online album that she links him to, but there’s one she attaches in a separate email, of just him and Arthur. It must be candid, because Eames can’t remember when it was taken, but Eames is sitting, Arthur is standing behind him, arms around his shoulders, and they’re looking at each other, mid-conversation.
What strikes Eames about the photo is the way they’re looking at each other. He’s seen it in Arthur’s eyes, of course, but there’s something different about seeing them both look at each other with unguarded affection that makes Eames’ breath catch in his throat.
Aside from the image, Mal has added two words:
The thing about living together is that their comic book collection is massive. It’s a combination of all the comics they’ve both been buying for over a decade, and if it weren’t for Arthur’s fastidious nature, Eames is sure it would all be in disarray.
As it is, they have clearly separated sections for their individual collections. Arthur’s is neatly sorted into file cabinets, marked by year and series, while Eames’ is sorted in an order that makes complete sense to him but confuses Arthur.
Then they have the bookshelf of what they share, because they both read them. These are sorted by arcs, and they’re Eames favourites. These are the ones that one has started and then recommended to the other, the ones that they stay up for hours talking about.
Several things have changed since high school, but one thing that has not is the way that they still like reading their comics together. It’s something of a ritual, to meet after work on a Thursday, go to their local comic book shop and pick up the new issues of whatever they’re reading. They go home, settle on their couch, and order pizza because they’re both too engrossed with their comics to cook dinner.
It’s a nice ritual, and they’re both quite used to it. No sense then, Eames thinks, to disrupt it with a proposal. Just on the off chance that Arthur would be so flustered by the break in routine that he’d say no.
Not that Eames is nervous about this. Not when they’ve been together for so long.
No, that would just be silly.
Eames is doing his best to make sure that Arthur doesn’t suspect a thing, which is difficult when Arthur is so damn attentive to everything that’s going on around him. Still, Arthur seems more pleased than curious about the way Eames is paying special attention to his hands, to the width of his fingers.
Eames ends up buying a simple titanium engagement ring, carrying it in his pocket at all times just in case he finds the right moment. Not that he ever does, because nothing feels romantic enough. It’s possible that Eames is setting an incredibly high standard for himself, but this is Arthur and he deserves the very best.
Mal and Dom invite them over to dinner two weeks after returning from their honeymoon, and Mal raises an eyebrow at Eames, politely asking him to help her in the kitchen.
“You haven’t asked him,” she says, arms folded.
He smiles sheepishly and pulls the ring box out of his pocket to show her, shushing her when she makes a sound of delight.
“Oh Eames, this is gorgeous. He’ll love it. Why haven’t you asked him yet? Are you afraid?”
“It needs to be special,” Eames mumbles, helping her arrange the chips and dip. “Something that he’ll never forget.”
“Oh, come now. You have the rest of your lives for special moments. Don’t be nervous, and don’t stress yourself out. Just ask him. Or I will.”
“You can’t propose to him. You’re married.”
“I meant I’ll ask him for you,” she says, rolling her eyes. “And if you don’t think I’ll do it—”
“Oh, I know you well enough to know better,” Eames grumbles, folding his arms across his chest. “I hate you, by the way.”
With a sweet smile, Mal picks up the tray of chips, bumping her shoulder with Eames’ as she leaves the kitchen. “You’re welcome.”
When Eames finally does pop the question, it’s quite possibly the most awkward thing he’s ever done in his entire life.
They’re on the couch together, Arthur’s head resting on Eames’ chest, fingers interlocked as they watch The Dark Knight on their widescreen television. It’s a Saturday afternoon and they’re both feeling warm and lazy, and the words come out completely unbidden.
“Be my Robin.”
Arthur lifts his head off Eames’ chest and narrows his eyes. “Did you just say…?”
Eames, already wishing the floor would open up and eat him, wordlessly takes the box out of his pocket and flicks it open.
Arthur’s breath hitches and he reaches for it, but he stops halfway and turns back to Eames. “I am not the Tim Drake to your Jason Todd. Actually, I resent the fact that you’d make a parallel between marriage and the Batman-Robin partnership. Besides, we’re on Robin number five now, and—”
Eames laughs, wrapping his arm around Arthur’s waist and pulling him close. “I was actually referring to the fact that they’ve got a strong partnership and that they know that they’ve got each other’s backs. But that’s fine, twist my words. I still love you.”
Arthur laughs, shaking his head, and Eames’ chest tightens when he notices just how happy Arthur looks.
“Can I put my ring on now?”
“You haven’t given me a proper answer yet.”
“Well, you haven’t even asked me a proper question yet,” Arthur points out, still grinning.
“Fine,” Eames sighs, turning Arthur to straddle his lap. He holds the sides of Arthur’s face and with his most solemn expression, he asks, “Will you give me the honour of forging marriage certificates for us?”
Arthur starts laughing again, and this is absolutely not the way Eames had imagined his proposal going.
“I’ll do you one better,” Arthur replies, his arms around Eames’ neck, leaning in so their foreheads are against each other. “That time off we’ve both got in the middle of the year? We’ll fly to New York and get married for real.”
“So that’s a yes,” Eames breathes.
“Yes.” Arthur smiles, leaning in to kiss him.
Eames’ hands come up to rest on Arthur’s back, deepening the kiss until they finally have to break for air, both of them grinning like idiots.
In the background, the movie is still playing and at that moment, the screen brightens with a massive explosion. Eames chuckles, pulling Arthur back in for another kiss. Not bad.