my secret santa gift for smugrobotics!! College AU where Eames hosts a segment on the uni radio show and Arthur is drunk on his voice. also on ao3
“That’s it for tonight; thanks for listening. Don’t forget to follow my journey to self-discovery as documented in my blog—links are listed in the official website. Have a lovely night, all.” The voice is warm and low; Arthur can just imagine the speaker smiling, even if he’s never seen Eames, whoever he is. Eames just has a really nice voice with a really nice accent, no, Ariadne, he is not infatuated with this guy.
Arthur just happens to like Eames’ radio show, that’s all. The segment, part of the university’s radio program, starts at seven in the evening every night. Eames’ program is an advice show, but it often turns into something of a missed connections program—callers complaining about being too shy to talk to the guy from the library or the girl who dropped her books in the quad, if you’re listening to this, can you please call me at this number?
Eames’ voice aside, Arthur genuinely finds Eames to be pleasant. He’s kind and thoughtful and always gives great advice, making sure to give out hotline numbers for questions that he thinks are more than he should be handling. From the show, Arthur has only been able to gather that Eames is a sophomore whose least favorite class is physics.
Which, yeah. Arthur can definitely relate to that sentiment.
All Arthur wants is for Eames to slip up about his romantic life—single? Crushing? Committed? He’s been listening for months, but Eames really does his best to make sure his segments are never about him.
Which is why Arthur finds himself googling the university’s radio show, going on the site, and searching for Eames’ blog. The link takes him to Eames’ tumblr, and Arthur clicks Follow before even reading any of Eames’ posts.
This was written as a belated birthday present for the lovely creator of the Demon!Arthur AU, @ectoimp / @ecto-rp. (Sorry it’s so late) I didn’t have a prompt to work from so this is more or less a mad ramble than it is cohesive story.
Author’s maunderings are at the end of the story where you need not read them if you don’t wish to. Thanks to @phantoms-lair for a second opinion on the readability of it.
When Cobb found himself in Yusuf’s pouring-rain cityscape of a dream, he went in search of Arthur first, because it wasn’t like anything could get done until he got Arthur.
Arthur had his face scrunched up with displeasure. He was almost squinting. Which was stupid because what did Arthur have to be squint about? It wasn’t like he was being mind-stalked by the wife he’d driven to jump off of a building, leaving him separated from his children. Arthur was probably just worried about his leather jacket.
“Why would Yusuf put me in a leather jacket and also have it be raining?” complained Arthur as he got in.
Yup, leather jacket. “We have bigger things to worry about than your jacket, Arthur,” Cobb reminded him. “We’re trying to pull off inception. We need your head in the game.”
Cobb wasn’t sure Arthur looked suitably impressed over Cobb’s speech. Maybe Cobb should draw him a diagram about the importance of what they were doing. A nice exclamation point, and then an arrow pointing to it. That would probably help.
Arthur said, “We should pick up Eames next.”
“Oh, no,” said Cobb. “We definitely don’t have time for this.”
“Time for what?” asked Arthur, as if he wasn’t so obvious.
“Your Eames thing,” Cobb said.
Arthur looked comically offended. “What would that even be? ‘My Eames thing’?”
“Yes,” said Cobb. “Your thing for him. And his penis.”
“I don’t have a–What? I don’t have a thing for his penis. What? I said we should pick him up next because he’s the forger and important and he’s come up with this whole fucking plan and–what? I don’t have a thing for Eames’s penis. I never even think about Eames’s penis.”
“It’s in your dreams.”
“I DO NOT DREAM ABOUT EAMES’S PENIS.”
“Why are you yelling?”
“I’m not yelling.”
“I haven’t seen Eames’s penis in your dreams,” said Cobb.
“BECAUSE IT’S NOT THERE,” yelled Arthur, definitely yelling.
“But you put up paintings of British thieves in your dreams.”
“That was…That was a Francis Bacon painting! He’s an artist! That wasn’t Eames’s penis!”
“There’s Eames,” said Cobb, spotting him on the sidewalk waiting, looking much less frownier than Arthur had.
“Do not talk about his penis,” Arthur threatened darkly, still very frowny, as Eames got into the car.
“Hello,” said Eames cheerfully. “Pleasant weather, eh?” Nobody said anything. “Does Yusuf have you in leather, Arthur? Excellent.” Still nobody said anything, although Arthur looked like he wanted his gun. “Is there a reason everybody’s so dour and gloomy in this car? Has the job gone to hell already?”
“Arthur said we can’t talk about your penis,” explained Cobb.
“COBB!” yelled Arthur, still definitely yelling. “Oh. My. Fucking. God.” He punctuated each word with a shove at Cobb.
“Stop!” Cobb said. “I’m trying to drive. We’re doing a very important job here, Arthur. You’re jeopardizing this very important job.”
“I’m going to jeopardize your ass,” Arthur muttered, and then turned to Eames. “We weren’t talking about your penis.”
Cobb glanced in Eames’s direction. He was looking at Arthur in something like amazement. “It’s okay. We can talk about my penis if you want to.”
“I don’t want to,” said Arthur. “I do not want to talk about your penis. Okay?”
There was a moment of silence. “Okay,” Eames agreed gravely.
“Let’s all just sit in this car and not think about Eames’s penis,” suggested Cobb.
“Oh, my God,” groaned Arthur.
“Oh, look,” said Eames. “There’s Ariadne. She can come in the car and not think about my penis, too.”
“Eames,” complained Arthur, as Ariadne opened the door.
“Welcome,” said Eames. “We are all not thinking about my penis.”
“Does this have something to do with the dream?” asked Ariadne.
“NO,” yelled Arthur. “NOBODY DREAMS ABOUT EAMES’S PENIS.”
“Why are you yelling?” asked Eames.
“See?” Cobb said. “You are yelling.”
“I was just thinking that I guess the skyscrapers are phallic but you asked me for a city,” said Ariadne. “I really wasn’t thinking about Eames’s penis when I made all the skyscrapers.”
“Nevertheless, Ariadne, I am flattered,” said Eames.
“Can I die already?” Arthur asked.
“No, you’re my cab driver,” said Eames. “You’re going to drive a cab around for me. And, apparently, not think about my penis.”
“I really never think about your penis,” Arthur said.
“How can you not be thinking about his penis?” Ariadne asked. “Now his penis is the only thing I can think about.”
“Which is generally how I prefer things to be,” said Eames pleasantly.
“Everyone needs to be serious,” said Cobb, to refocus them all, “because we have a very important job to do here.”
“Serious?” said Arthur. “This is all your fault, you know.”
“I have everything under control,” Cobb said defensively. “Everyone just needs to stop thinking about Eames’s penis.”
“If only we had to incept Fischer with my penis,” mused Eames, “we’d have already done a smashing job.”
“You’re not incepting Fischer with your penis,” said Arthur.
“Jealous?” asked Eames.
“No. Fine. Incept whatever the fuck you want with your penis.”
“No,” said Cobb. “No incepting with penises. This is a very important job. This job is getting me home to my family. You need to be serious and stop screwing around.”
There was a moment of silence.
“I think,” Eames ventured, “Arthur would tell you that he absolutely never thinks about us screwing–”
“Shut up,” said Arthur. “I hope a fucking projection fucking shoots you and you bleed out in the back seat of my cab and I will not care, I will just let you bleed back there and just…not care.”
“Yes,” said Eames, sounding oddly amused and fond in the face of a death threat from Arthur. Cobb had surrounded himself with idiots for this very important job, thought Cobb sadly. “That sounds exactly like you,” Eames said, still all amused and fond and soft.
“And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?” demanded Arthur. “Why would you say it like that? That definitely is something I would do. I am a really horrible and mean person, Eames. I am awful. I would not care at all if you died.”
“But would you care if my penis died?” asked Eames mildly.
“I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR PENIS.”
“Yes, Arthur, we know,” Cobb said. “You don’t like Eames’s penis.”
“I didn’t say I don’t like it.”
“So you like it?” asked Ariadne.
“I don’t…I don’t have an opinion on it. I mean, I am neutral on the subject of Eames’s penis. Because of how little I think about Eames’s penis. I neither like nor dislike Eames’s penis. And that is my final word on the subject of Eames’s penis.”
There was a moment of silence.
“For the record,” said Eames, “can we just make note of the fact that it is a very nice penis and if you thought about it at all–which you don’t–you would probably like it?”
“No,” said Arthur. “No, we can’t make note of that fact.”
“We just did,” said Ariadne.
“No,” said Arthur. “That’s not an official note.”
“What would an official note be?” asked Ariadne blankly.
“The official note from this conversation is that I do not want to have sex with Eames, okay? Has everyone made a note of that?”
“Honestly, Arthur,” said Eames, “who said anything about sex? Oh, look, there’s Yusuf.”
“You can do this, just be cool,” Alfred reassured his reflection. “It’s just Arthur.”
The back of his throat was waxy and his stomach like it was bubbling. He couldn’t fathom a previous time in his life where he’d been this nervous. Alfred got nervous, of course, but he wasn’t predisposed to anxiousness. Especially to the point of feeling queasy.
It’s only natural, his brother had said.
The American regarded his reflection once more. His pupils were wildly dilated and his shoulders were taut and corded from gripping the rim of the sink but his uneasiness wasn’t too obvious. Regardless, Arthur knew Alfred’s tells and tics better than anyone and he would know something was up instantly.
“Get it together or you’re gonna give the game away.”
Alfred had been so busy, well, busying himself that he hadn’t actually thought about the enormity of what he was about to do. Now that he’d finished double-triple-quadruple checking that everything would go according to plan, he was left only with the reality of it.
By no means was he reconsidering or doubting himself, Alfred was irrevocably certain of his decision and the happiness that would accompany it.
But what if Arthur said no?
He desperately wanted Arthur to be his fiancé, his groom and, in turn, his husband. This desire had always been stored in the crooks of Alfred’s mind, ever since he and Arthur had first started dating and Alfred thought ‘I’m going to marry this guy one day’.
Then, about six months ago, Alfred had found himself window-shopping in the ring section of a jewellers’ and knew the time had come.
Alfred told Mattie first. Not so much told as blurted out ‘Can you help me find an engagement ring for Arthur?’ around a mouthful of barbequed pork chop.
The ring sat in its small, pillowed box next to a bottle of pale yellow cologne. The white-gold circlet was undecorated and thin. It was the one. Alfred could envision it on Arthur’s finger; he could see Arthur unconsciously twisting it when he was lost in thought.
Planning how the evening would go had been a long, meticulous process but everything had eventually slotted into place. Arthur was a temperamental being and wouldn’t appreciate a showy evening of clichés and grand gestures. Between the joint efforts of his family, Alfred had orchestrated the evening so it would pan out harmoniously and memorably.
With a skittish exhale, Alfred attempted to breathe out his apprehension.
“Will you marry me, Arthur?”
That was it, that’s all he had to do. One question. It was so easy.
“But what if he says no…”
“He won’t say no.”
Alfred jolted. His heart lurched to the front of his rib cage like it had become too heavy for his body.
From the mirror’s eye, Alfred spotted his boyfriend standing in the centre of the doorway. He was dressed impeccably. He looked amazing.
“I won’t say no,” the Englishman repeated. There was something about his voice, something different.
Alfred groaned and let his head drop. “Did you… did you hear everything?”
“Yes, I heard everything, you idiot, you were supposed to be ready ten minutes ago so I came looking for you,” Arthur informed him, slowly venturing further into the small, downstairs bathroom.
“Oh my god, I’ve ruined it, I’ve completely ruined everything. I am an idiot, I can’t believe –”
“Alfred.” A finger pressed against Alfred’s lips and Arthur’s lovely face filled his line of vision. Alfred realised now what was so different about Arthur’s voice. He was overcome with emotion. Arthur had a reputation for having a bit of a temper and letting his anger get the better of him but it was incredibly rare for Arthur to become emotional in a way that would betray his vulnerability. In that moment, in front of Alfred, though, his eyes were glazed with tears and his lips were touched by bliss.
“Yes,” Arthur whispered into Alfred’s ear, his voice cracked around that one word and Alfred it was taking all of Arthur’s strength not to cry.
“Yes?” Alfred breathed, stunned into stupidity. “You… you will? Marry me? You’ll marry me? Really? Even though I’m an idiot?”
“Yes, even though you’re an idiot.” Arthur was nodding and sniffling and smiling. “Yes, my idiot.”
Alfred’s entire body lightened with the sweetness of that word and his kissed Arthur through both of their smiles. The Englishman returned kisses over and over with a ‘yes’ on his lips. Alfred urged Arthur to wrap his legs around Alfred’s waist and laughed underneath the onslaught of Arthur’s affection.
They decided to pretend the bathroom incident had never happened and they weren’t, in fact, already engaged. The evening went exactly as planned; Alfred proposed on one knee, Arthur was taken aback but said yes, again, and everyone celebrated late into the night.
Alfred couldn’t quite believe they’d gotten away with it and was about to give himself a pat on the back for recovering so well from such an Alfredesque mess-up.
That was until Mattie found him, wearing an expression of exasperated amusement.
“What did I say about practising in the mirror, Al?”
Alfred grinned in reply. Arthur said yes, that was all that mattered.
I was explaining to a friend why I shipped FrUK (and RusAme) instead of US/UK, and she said I should post this for the character/compatibility analysis. This isn’t meant to put down US/UK, as I definitely see their appeal, but rather just to build on how I see everyone’s dynamics with each other.
For me, the best ships are the ones that are equal. And for the sake of a continuous analogy, I’m going to set up Francis and Arthur as the high school sweethearts-turned-old married couple, and Ivan and Alfred as the kids of today (for better or for worse).
DISCLAIMER: Although I am drawing off of canon, and could back up any claim to canon with a comic strip if someone is interested, I do not believe that my opinion holds more weight than anyone else’s. I only am interpreting what has been given to me, and I believe that each relationship has its own virtues and vices - as a shipper, it comes down to priority when deciding what works. For me, complete equality in every aspect is a make-or-break factor. Others could value conventional compatibility more (which a ship I adore for equality could lack) and that is just as valid.
This will be a psychological assessment more than a historical reflection, though there are allusions to events covered in the manga.