“Oh God, why don’t we just install a fucking dictatorship already,” Arthur demands in the middle of August as the days limp feebly past. The thermometer seems to be the only thing in Florida with any energy, leaping upward without any regard whatsoever for the laziness this kind of humidity ought to engender.
Grouchy!Arthur is my favorite! Also, another recurring theme in my writing: how humid Florida is. I've had bad experiences with Florida weather, guys.
“That would require organizing a coup,” Dom points out from where he is slumping against his headboard, hair drooping into his eyes. “It’s not even close to worth the effort.”
“I’m trying to think of something encouraging and energetic to say,” he explains to the room at large, “but I’m failing.”
Eames cannot seem to stop staring at Arthur’s wrists. They are sharp and slender and the crisp white cuffs of his shirt settle onto them beautifully. So Eames is staring.
This state of affairs would probably have gone on indefinitely if Ariadne had not burst into the room at that precise moment and said, “Oh my fucking God, you people are so useless, hello, get on the internet, what are you even doing.”
Fun fact: At the start of writing up this commentary, I copied the font color tag so I could just paste it whenever I wanted to write commentary. Clever time-saving device, eh? Except for how I just copied this entire post so far in a sudden fit of worry that the internet would eat it, and then forgot I'd done so, and copied the entire post into the middle of the post. WOW, WHAT A WILDLY EXCITING AND DIVERSIONARY ANECDOTE YOU GUYS.
Anyway. What I wanted to say: that line of Ariadne's up there is probably one of my favorite bits of dialogue I've ever written. Can't help it.
Eames pauses for a beat to wonder when he grew fond enough of this woman to let that slide without comment, and then pulls out his phone and does as instructed. Yusuf and Arthur are doing the same thing, but Arthur must be a few keystrokes ahead of them both because he is the first to let loose a string of admirably imaginative invective.
More useless head canon: Arthur types approximately a gazillion and two words a minute. The guy is a PROFESSIONAL.
“...What?” Dom says after a minute, pushing himself upright.
“I’m going to kill him,” Arthur announces in a rather concerning voice. “I’m going to kill him for being an unprofessional idiot, and then I’m going to resurrect him and kill him again, for fun.”
Ariadne is still standing in the doorway looking a bit like chaos incarnate and hardly at all like a vice-presidential candidate, and Arthur is turning the air blue in a genuinely lethal tone, and Yusuf is drawing a very deep, very slow breath in through his nose, and this is when, for Eames, Google finally provides. The headline is blaring something about elitism and irrelevancy, but it’s one paragraph in particular, perhaps halfway down the first page, which stands out.
“No, no, you’ve got it all wrong,” Nash told me conversationally, leaning back in his chair, “it’s not that Dom isn’t passionate, it’s just that he’s passionate about stuff nobody gives a shit about.
“Jesus Christ,” Eames says, “I thought we had all learned our lessons about being conversational with reporters from Rolling Stone?”
This was right around the time the whole Stanley McChrystal thing happened. Good times, eh?
Arthur lets out a puff of air that was probably laughter in a former life.
A-a-and, I'm about to shamelessly enjoy my own writing again. Ho hum. I just really like that description, I just dooooo.
“Did you get to the part about being ‘withdrawn and elusive’ yet?” Ariadne asks, sinking onto the couch. Yusuf makes a sound like someone has stabbed him in the foot.
In the foot, specifically. Not in the heart, not in the back, no. Definitely in the foot.
“It’s not like we didn’t know that was the prevailing opinion,” Dom points out. He honestly looks the least concerned out of everyone present.
Oh Dom. Be better. :[
“Yes, well, it’s not a prevailing opinion we’re particularly fond of,” Yusuf says. Dom shrugs. Arthur is frowning.
“You can’t tell me you’re fine with this,” Ariadne says. “Really? You haven’t even read it, and you’re fine with it. How about the part where they call you cold and unemotional, you’re fine with that? And the paragraph where they discuss what they’ve termed your ‘issues with repression,’ that’s a good one.”
Eames can, to be honest, sort of see where ‘cold and unemotional’ might have come from, because at the moment Dom’s face is nearly as expressive as a brick wall.
“Ariadne,” Arthur warns, but she pays him exactly no attention.
“What I think you’ll really enjoy is the page and a half they spend talking about Mal, and your children, especially the bit where they suggest that you’re ignoring your kids in favor of your ‘thirst for power,’ that’s really enjoyable--”
“That’s enough,” Dom says. He doesn’t raise his voice, really, but his eyes certainly convey volume.
Ariadne freezes, looking guilty. She probably ought to, but Eames feels sorry for her anyway. She’s probably given up her chance at reelection to be a part of this campaign, and it looks to her-- and to Eames, as well-- as if Dom is willing to open his hands and let it all go. He isn’t even trying to hold on any longer.
In a rewrite, I would lose that last sentence. Don't need it! This commentary is scintillating, bahahaha.
The silence is, undeniably, one into which no one has any idea what to say, so perhaps it is lucky for all of them that Dom gets up and walks out of his own hotel room.
“Oh fucking fucking fuck,” Arthur says, which is disappointingly uninventive, and then he springs up and follows him.
“Well,” Yusuf says, the hands he has put over his face muffling his voice somewhat, “this is going well, isn’t it?”
“You,” he says, pointing at Yusuf, “figure out a brilliant, sly, and masterful way of fixing this. And you, darling, come with me. It’s disgustingly hot. We’re going to get ice cream.”
Ariadne stares at him for a minute, and then says, “Yes please,” and uses his offered hand to pull herself to her feet.
He's looking out for her! She needs some ice cream, it is VERY IMPORTANT. Doing this commentary is kind of making me miss this 'verse. EVERYBODY IS FRIENDS, I JUST LOVE THAT EVERYBODY IS FRIENDS.
“My personal policy,” Eames informs her as they make their way to the elevator, “is as follows: when things go horribly wrong, go elsewhere.”
Excellent personal policy, keep it up Eames.
“I like it,” Ariadne says wearily, and jabs the button for the lobby.
When they return to the hotel Ariadne excuses herself and heads for her own room with a look in her eyes that communicates impressively precisely that she has absolutely no interest in seeing Dom again unless he has developed some form of amnesia. Eames wanders down the hall to Yusuf’s door and knocks. A noise emerges from within which might be generously interpreted to mean, “Come in,” and so Eames does.
“Been brilliant yet?” He inquires.
“I’m always brilliant,” Yusuf says. He is slumped on the sofa, his head dangling over the back.
“So that’s a no, is it?” Eames asks. Yusuf flips him off.
“And eloquent and, admittedly, appropriate response,” Eames says, and joins him on the couch.
Stories I would love to tell about these people but currently seem to be incapable of telling: how, in the wide, wonderful world of politics, did these two meet?
They sit there in silence for a few minutes as the Florida heat seeps in through the walls. Eames can hear the air conditioner humming, and yet somehow the outside is managing to get in.
“I’m going to make the speech,” Dom’s voice says suddenly. Yusuf drags his head around so suddenly that Eames gets sympathetic whiplash, and himself turns around with considerably more care.
Dom walks out of the room as suddenly as he had appeared, leaving behind a weary looking Arthur, who takes a few steps forward to lean against the arm of the couch.
“What in God’s name did you say to him?” Yusuf asks.
“I told him that he had to fight back, that people didn’t win presidential races by watching everyone else campaign,” Arthur says. “I told him he was acting like a four-year-old who’s just had his teddy bear taken away. And when that didn’t work, I told him Mal would’ve been ashamed to be married to a man who didn’t have the balls to talk about his own dead wife.”
Yusuf stares at Arthur. Eames stares at Arthur. The bland hotel wallpaper, shocked out of its usual state of blaring disinterest, stares at Arthur.
“No you didn’t. Did you? Oh my God, you did. You absolutely fucking did, didn’t you? You did,” Yusuf says.
“Jesus,” Eames says, “have you developed a death wish?”
“I’m clearly not dead,” Arthur says dryly. “Nor am I here to listen to you speculate about my mental health. I’ve got to polish the speech, I’ll see you two later.”
“The Speech,” Eames corrects him. Arthur pauses in the doorway.
“That’s what I said,” he says.
“No it isn’t,” Eames says. “You said ‘the speech.’ It’s ‘The Speech.’”
“Have you contracted some kind of disease?” Arthur asks.
“You don’t sound very concerned about the possibility,” Eames says reproachfully.
“I’m quaking in my boots,” Arthur says, deadpan, and completes his exit from the room. Eames sighs.
I love this exchange, I really do. I realize it would only work vocally if you had people reading it who could really work those vocal capitals.
“You may want to consider telling him about the fact that you want to sleep with him,” Yusuf says. “Although of course, if you were going to be perfectly honest, you would have to tell him that you want to sleep with him several times, and probably with several depraved variations each time that innocent minds such as my own cannot even begin to fathom.”
Eames laughs, and then, belatedly, kicks him half-heartedly in the shins.
The next morning, in front of a sold out crowd at the University of Florida, Dom makes The Speech.
It is not the best political speech ever written. It is probably not even in the top ten. It is not filled with soaring rhetoric, or deft turns of phrase. It is not a stirring call to action, or a scathing indictment of politics as usual.
Watch me ratchet down your expectations! I am not, after all, capable of writing the best political speech ever written. And I knew part of The Speech was going to make it into the fic. So I had to point out to everyone that it really wasn't going tob e all that incredible. It seemed only fair.
It is, however, entirely and completely heartbreaking.
Arthur has clearly abandoned formality almost entirely in crafting it, and there are moments when it approaches conversational. That is, in fact, essentially what it is: it is Dom having a conversation with a stadium full of people about what love means, and what it means to let someone go.
It is a masterpiece in ghost writing, and if Eames didn’t know better he would tell you that Dom had written it himself. But then there are the lines that draw him up short, that practically scream Arthur and pain.
“I could never deny-- I would never want to deny-- that I loved my wife. I still do,” Dom says near the end of half an hour with a delivery that has scratched the edge of hoarse for the entire thirty minutes. “Throughout this campaign, I have been hesitant to mention Mal because, to be honest, I couldn’t understand what good it would do. But of course, Mal would never have been content as a silent presence. She was vibrant, and devastatingly perceptive, and she would have had quite a few opinions about my campaign thus far, I assure you, none of which would have gone unvoiced. I miss her more than I can possibly explain to you.”
Eames, because he is something of an idiot, and because he is (probably) in love, and because the weight of Dom’s grief is fierce and oppressive, turns to Arthur and murmurs, “I don’t suppose you were in love with your best friend’s wife?”
Arthur does not do any of the several things he could, which include (but are certainly not limited to) punching Eames in the face. Instead he laughs, just for an instant, his eyes full of something Eames isn’t quite sure how to place.
“She was my best friend,” he says. “And I loved her. I wasn’t in love with her. She might’ve thought I was, to be honest. But believe me, I wasn’t.”
That also falls into the category of things from this 'verse I'd write if I had the inspiration in any way, shape, or form. I dropped a lot of back story hints I am totally intrigued by! Ahahahaha LAME.
“I’m quite pleased to hear you say it,” Eames says before he can think better of it. “And I do. Believe you.”
“Good,” Arthur says. “I’m glad.”
It may or may not be The Speech which pushes Eames over the edge. It could just as easily have been the fact that, on a shrimp boat in New Orleans a week and a half later, Arthur admits to having a shellfish allergy. It could be the affectionately indulgent tone Arthur uses when, two days after that, he tells Eames that he has three Post-It notes stuck to his face. I do not know how this situation arose, but I imagine it involved Eames follow asleep on top of a stack of paperwork. Arthur probably gazed at him amusedly for a while before he woke him up. Just saying. It could even be the way Arthur’s face looks when he is half-asleep on the flight to Arizona, his eyes drowsy and warm. Eames has never claimed that he is not a gigantic sap, after all.
The point is this:
“Right,” Eames says, sitting down across from Arthur at a picnic table. The part of his stomach which is not churning in horrified, gleeful, agonized anticipation is reminding him forcibly that it is wrong not to take advantage of the fact that this campaign stop is also a taco truck.
TACO TRUCKS. My best friend loves 'em. This is a shout out to my best friend, who has no idea I'm involved in fandom and will, the Good Lord willing, never find out.
“Hello,” Arthur says.
“Hello,” Eames says, because it seems like a bad time to ignore pleasantries. Then he says, “Let’s just say, hypothetically, that I was a bit mad about you, and wanted to take you to a five-star restaurant and wine and dine you-- or possibly just take you to a taco truck and wine and dine you-- and then compose slightly cliched and atrocious poetry about the whole experience, not, of course, until after there had been some mutual ravishing.”
Arthur gets a look on his face like a startled cat, which is hardly ever a good thing, and then says, without looking up from his three-cheese burrito, “Speaking hypothetically, that would be absolutely terrible for the campaign.”
ARTHUR IS SO SCARED ABOUT THIS WHOLE THING, YOU GUYS. :[ It could go so wroooong! And he has an excellent imagination, and a flair for hypotheticals, and he can spin out every possible outcome of this situation, and at least half of them are very bad. He cannot help his pragmatism.
Eames expects to feel heartbroken but finds that he is actually just very, very angry.
“Oh fuck you,” he says, and gets up, and walks away.
A-and, Eames can sort of tell that is why he's saying no, and is therefore pissed off. I will also say now, so that I don't end up saying it every two lines, that this text message exchange makes my heart warm and happy, and I am always pleasantly surprised when I'm actually moved by my own writing because that doesn't always happen. But like I've said, I love the friendships in this fic. THEY MAKE ME GRIN. And that is definitely enough gushing about myself, I swear I am done now.
He gets a text from Yusuf an hour later which says, Sorry he was an ass about it. There’s a very good bar two blocks from the hotel, if you want to get smashed. Let me know, obviously. Drinking alone is pathetic.
am not going to get smashed, Eames replies, but i do appreciate the offer. u are a gentleman & a scholar. p.s.: drinking alone=mysterious, alluring. v. humphrey bogart. i carry it off well.
You are a weepy drunk, his phone informs him a few minutes later, and there is nothing alluring about an inability to separate syllables. No drinking alone, you pathetic bastard.
u are a terrible friend, why do i even know u, Eames writes back, leave me 2 my misery.
If you like, I can dock his pay, Yusuf replies, and then drops the subject entirely, which is one excellent reason that he is Eames’ friend, actually.
Because he is a thirty-something professional political operative, and not a teenage girl in a subpar romantic comedy, Eames does not lounge in his hotel bed watching terrible reality television. Instead, he lounges on his hotel bed and does his job. Unfortunately, his job involves looking through pictures from the last few weeks and deciding which ones should go to Yusuf, and at least a third of those pictures are of Arthur, who has turned out to be a a bit shit, considering he is a coward, and who is tragically still ridiculously handsome.
(Besides which, there is one photo of him watching Cobb give The Speech, his fists clenched and his jaw set so tightly that it looks like it may shatter. His eyes are dark and sure, and his eyebrows are drawn together in a way that is passionate, and nervous, and stupidly, implausibly sexy. So clearly there are some things Arthur is willing to stand up for. Some things.)
So that goes well.
:[ :[ :[
Four days pass. Days have a tendency to do this, Eames has discovered. The campaign grinds inexorably onward; this too is hardly surprising. Eames takes three hundred and twenty-six photos. Twelve of them are of Arthur (five happen when Eames is ever-so-slightly drunk, six are of Dom with Arthur somewhere on the periphery being annoyingly handsome, and one is Arthur staring down at a blank sheet of paper, his teeth digging into his lower lip and his fingers curling around a ballpoint pen because, really-- some things just ought to be captured on film, no matter what).
Arthur doing what he does best! You know, this fic was never really meant to be a West Wing!AU, just a Political!AU, but some of the general themes definitely carried over: people in public service being incredibly good at their jobs, and incredibly dedicated, and just that little bit crazy. For example. Also, I think this incarnation of Dom probably owes a lot to President Bartlett.
Then, at eleven oh eight on the evening of the fifth day, someone knocks on the door of Eames’ hotel room.
“Hnrgh?” Eames says, because god damn it people who get up at four in the morning on a regular basis deserve their sleep.
“Oh shit,” says Arthur’s voice from the other side of the door, “I woke you up. Well fuck.”
This is an interesting development and Eames thinks rather groggily.
Oops, accidental "and" in the middle of that sentence! Whoo-hoo, typos!
“I’m just going to assume you’re listening,” Arthur says, “because obviously this is what my life is now. My life is standing in hotel hallways in the middle of the night talking to insufferable British photographers who are probably sleeping. I’m going to get a fucking noise complaint.”
True confessions: I've gotten a noise complaint in a hotel. I was so mortified, you guys, they came and knocked on the door and everything.
“Hmm,” Eames hums noncommittally. There is a whoosh of breath from the other side of the door.
“I, uh, I may have made a mistake,” Arthur says. “I may have been an asshole. Which I normally don’t apologize for but it’s possible you didn’t actually deserve it. I still don’t-- not that wining and dining isn’t perfectly fine, under some circumstances, but you and I aren’t a good idea. But that’s not-- I shouldn’t have said what I did,” Arthur says finally. “It was a bullshit excuse, and you deserve better.”
I spent a lot more time figuring out Arthur's monologue than I did figuring out the stuff below about him seeing the photographs. I don't know if it shows or not, but it's totally possible it does. :/
Eames silently hoists himself out of bed and opens the door. Arthur is standing there, light from the hallway spilling in around him.
Eames waits. Arthur fidgets, which under most circumstances would be quite amusing. As it is, watching him shift from one foot to the other makes something dig around in Eames’ chest rather painfully.
“I’m just not-- you’re not--” Arthur says.
“This is hardly illuminating so far,” Eames says.
“Oh shut up,” Arthur says. “I’m not-- I can’t figure out how to say this properly.”
“A fairly novel occurrence,” Eames says. Arthur glares, and opens his mouth again only to freeze, his eyes widening almost comically as he stares at something off to Eames’ left.
“Spotted something more interesting than me, have you?” Eames inquires, and turns, and feels the bottom drop out of his stomach.
Arthur moves deftly around him and into the room, and oh well, Eames thinks. He’s already been rather decisively turned down. How much more humiliation can come of this, really?
The thing is that, actually, there is probably a great deal more humiliation to be milked from this situation, and the fact that Eames’ laptop is sitting on his desk, still open to a slide show of his work for the campaign so far, is going to contribute infinitely to the effort.
“That,” Arthur says and then stops. It’s probably quite surreal to watch so many images of himself glide past, one after the other, but Eames is not feeling particularly sympathetic at the moment.
Eames knows himself fairly well. He understands that he has a tendency to make friends a bit too easily, and to eat more pizza in one go than is advisable. He also understands that his photos hide next to nothing. He knows that he always captures Ariadne in cheerful, natural light, and that none of the photographs he has taken of Cobb have been free of shadows. He knows that it is all there to read, and in Arthur’s case each and every picture tells a good deal more than a thousand words’ worth.
“Oh,” Arthur says, and then, “Jesus, why didn’t you say something?”
WORDS. ARTHUR VALUES WORDS. Much like myself.
“I did say something--” Eames begins, but is cut off rather abruptly by Arthur’s mouth on his.
The next morning Eames has the distinct pleasure of seeing what Arthur looks like first thing after waking up. He skirts the edge of adorable, only avoiding full-fledged Jesus-that’s-sweeter-than-a-basket-of-ki
Eames watches as Arthur makes a valiant effort to open his eyes further than three-quarters of the way, and he can actually see the moment when Arthur remembers where he is.
“Good morning,” Eames says cheerfully.
“Oh God, I hate you,” Arthur says. “You’re a morning person. Of course you fucking are. Fuck.”
“Such language,” Eames says, bouncing out of bed. “Goodness. It’s simply shocking. And so early in the morning.”
“Shut up, shut up, you are the worst human being in the world,” Arthur says.
“Thank you darling,” Eames says, “the same to you.”
“I am never sleeping with you again,” Arthur says. “In fact, I may never speak to you again.”
“Of course not,” Eames agrees.
“This is the worst morning of my life,” Arthur mutters, but the beginnings of a smile are pulling at the edges of his mouth, and Eames takes a moment to memorize Arthur just as he is, without the aid of a camera.
“Perhaps I can change your opinion about that, pet,” Eames says.
They are an hour late for the morning strategy meeting, when all is said and done, but Yusuf looks alarmingly pleased when they arrive together and only flays them within an inch of their lives for the offense, so that’s alright.
I don't have anything to say about this part except that I wanted to throw in something light-hearted at the end, and to simultaneously confirm for anyone who was at all in doubt that yes, they did sleep together.
I will also say here that in my future for this 'verse, Dom gets elected President after a truly stellar couple of debate performances, and Eames becomes the official White House photographer much to Yusuf's faux-despair (but everyone KNOWS it's faux-despair because hello, Yusuf's the one that hired him) and he and Arthur spend a lot of late nights in the West Wing together with Arthur working and Eames distracting him (in a variety of ways, some of them not even R-rated!) as much as possible.
Phew! That's a lot of commentary, people. I'm leaving this post public because it's sort of fic, I guess? And since my fic is usually public, it seemed to make sense for this to be. You can still ask me to do commentary for something, right over here!