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Fic: The Way Our Chemicals Collide (Arthur/Eames - NC-17) 
25th-Apr-2011 09:56 pm
[.] arthur chair
hello, lovelies! It's i_reversebang  time! BANG! This grad student AU was based on this gorgeous prompt! You can find the rest of the art throughout the fic, and also all together here - make sure you go tell distracterisey  how amazing she is!

Title: The Way Our Chemicals Collide (or... Caught in a Lab Romance)
Pairing(s): Arthur/Eames
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: ~17k
Warnings: None.
Summary: When Eames meets Arthur in their introductory lab course, he immediately wants to get into those well-fitted trousers. Of course, to seduce Arthur is to think like Arthur which explains why Eames ends up creating an experiment on his favourite subject after cheese (he's already written many a lab report on the bacterial properties of cheese) - Arthur.

Authors notes: Endless, undying gratitude to cmonkatiekatie for reading through scenes as they were created bit by bit and THEN doing a whole readthrough. Your comments honestly kept me going. Many thanks also to beanarie for reminding me what commas were and whipping this into some sort of grammatical shape. Finally, all the thanks in the world must go to distracterisey whose art was the inspiration for all this and whose helpful comments shaped this fic into the masterpiece (har!) you see before you. If you click on the art in the fic, you can make it bigger and see all the gorgeousness in its full glory <3 
 
See the last part for more sciencey stuff, credits, youtube vids, etc. You want to see magnesium explode? Of course you do! There's also links in the fic to some helpful things for you non-sciencey people but I promise this fic isn't like high school chemistry class which gave you (maybe just me?) nightmares.

(why are my author's notes so loooooong today? let's get to the good stuff!)



The first time Eames saw Arthur was the first day of their Introduction to Laboratory Techniques class. It seemed a bit unnecessary to have to take an introductory lab course after already getting his undergraduate degree in science, but apparently there had been an accident last year – very hush hush – and now all students in the science program, regardless of background, had to take it.

Eames supposed it might be a good idea if students were new to the lab, as the student sitting across the aisle from him clearly was. He was wearing an actual sweater vest and what seemed to be, after Eames casually checked, nice leather shoes.

“Eames,” Eames said, holding out his hand, since the lab hadn’t technically started yet and sweater vest was sort of gorgeous.

Sweater vest seemed surprised to be spoken to but dutifully replied, “Arthur,” and shook Eames’ hand while giving him a half-smile. He had a nice handshake, firm and gripping and Eames was almost sad to let it go. They didn’t have much of a chance to chat after that, as the instructor started handing out syllabuses and going over laboratory rules. Eames listened with one ear and mainly watched Arthur’s careful hands as he put on safety goggles and measured out chemicals using the pipette.

Not a novice then, Eames thought with grudging respect. Eames himself got to work using the pipette to dilute the solvent and tried to put Arthur out of his mind. This was easier said than done when a voice behind him said, “Are you seriously pipetting by mouth?”

Eames turned to see Arthur behind him. “... Yes? It’s only water, Arthur.”

Arthur made an aborted gesture to his hair as if he was going to pull it out. Eames slowly put down his pipette.

“Were you not listening at all?” Arthur said, clearly leaning toward exasperated.

“Hm?” Eames said while thinking, ‘No, I was watching your bum in those trousers.’

“Rule One,” Arthur said, indicating the large laminated rule sheet near the door. “Don’t pipette by mouth. There could be anything in those pipettes.”

“Like the water I just added,” Eames said slowly. “We used to pipette by mouth all the time in my last lab.”

“How do you even know it’s been cleaned?” Arthur said, and Eames would be a bit concerned about Arthur’s adherence to the rules if it wasn’t also a bit arousing to see Arthur so interested in what he was doing after only knowing him for seventeen minutes.

“It’s a disposable pipette,” Eames said and then when he could see Arthur wasn’t going to let it go, “Would it make you feel better if I stop?”

“If you pipette kerosene accidentally it’s not my problem,” Arthur said, even though he was clearly making it his problem, “But people get hospitalized every year.”

“Okay thank you, Arthur, for the safety lesson,” Eames said, and turned back to his experiment. God, what a tight ass, Eames thought, and then as he turned to watch Arthur walk back to his bench, but what an ass it is.

Eames meant to write Arthur off as another useless know-it-all, except he couldn’t help but watch Arthur that first lab. He saw that Arthur didn’t mind wearing his best clothing to lab because there was absolutely no chance of him spilling, tipping, or splashing anything remotely near his shoes. Arthur was competent to the point of sexiness. As for Eames, he saved the dreadful shirts that his Aunt Penny sent him every Christmas for intro lab days in the hopes that hydrochloric acid might burn through one of them and he could put it in the bin guilt-free. So far it hadn’t happened, but Eames was an eternal optimist.

Which would explain why three weeks into the term he was trying to figure out how to get Arthur to go out with him.

It wasn’t just Arthur’s steady hands or the way he made Eames realize that competency could be a turn on. It was the way he smiled slightly when something was done to his satisfaction. It was the way Eames could tell how an experiment was going by the state of Arthur’s hair – the messier, the more frustrated he was, and the more likely he was to bite Eames’ head off.

He liked Arthur’s handwriting and had once skipped lab to get a copy of Arthur’s notes. Arthur’s handwriting was blocky and precise and seemed more at home on an architect’s blueprint than a chemistry lab. (Eames may have learned to forge Arthur’s handwriting when he was bored). He even liked Arthur’s sweater vests which Eames had been pleased to learn hadn’t been a first day of class fluke. He’d never jerked off to sweater vests before, but he’d never really fallen for anyone like Arthur before either. He wasn’t sure how to proceed.

Eames finally decided that to get into Arthur’s gloriously perfectly-fitting trousers, he had to think like Arthur. This meant that instead of marking his first year chemistry papers, a task that always filled him with a sense of hopelessness for the future, Eames was instead writing up his own scientific paper. The subject was his favourite subject after cheese (he’d already written many a paper on the bacterial components of cheese) – Arthur.

Introduction

A good introduction addresses two questions: What has been done in this area by other researchers? and, What is the point of the present study?

Eames bit on the end of his pen. The point of the study was simple – to get into Arthur’s pants. Maybe even to get Arthur to feel a little of the ridiculous sensations Eames got lately in his stomach whenever Arthur appeared. Hell, why not dream a little bigger – to get Arthur to fall madly in love with him.

Eames was convinced that given one date he could make Arthur see the sparks that flew between them. It would only take one outing to convince Arthur to go for another, and another and well, you get the point.

Of course Eames was getting ahead of himself – he wasn’t even sure of Arthur’s type. In the lab Arthur would have him believe he was as asexual as the microorganisms they studied – he didn’t let his gaze linger on anyone else in the room. He was singularly focused in a way that was a little sexy, if Eames was honest. More than a little, really.

First things first, then. Eames needed to find out what had been done by other researchers.

-o-

“Ariadne,” Eames purred as he pushed the coffee across the table. “Tell me about Arthur.”

Ariadne wasn’t an ex of Arthur’s that Eames knew of, but she was the next best thing which was a sort-of, maybe friend. Her eyes narrowed at his statement but she took the proffered coffee anyway. Eames shared a Monday morning class with her. He knew her price.

“Why are you asking?” she asked before taking a sip of the coffee. Her eyes closed briefly in an expression of what Eames could only describe as pure ecstasy.

“Let’s call it collegial interest.”

Ariadne raised an eyebrow in scepticism.

“Okay, let’s call in personal interest. You two seem chummy.” Eames had seen Ariadne in the small cubby that passed for Arthur’s office. He didn’t think there was anything going on there but he hoped she might have some insight.

“We TA the same first year chemistry section. We’re not exactly friends.” Ariadne shrugged and took another sip of her coffee. She had that same expression – the one that Eames wished Arthur would turn on him.

“So you don’t know if he’s, oh I don’t know, seeing anyone?”

Ariadne gave a small laugh at that. “Arthur? I don’t think so.”

“Why are you laughing?”

“Come on, it’s Arthur we’re talking about here. When he’s not in the lab, he’s thinking about the lab or marking papers or doing research from home. I have a feeling his closest relationship is with his mass spectrometer.”

“He has a – “ Eames started excitedly.

Ariadne levelled him with a gaze.

“Right. Besides the point. So you’re saying he hasn’t talked about anyone that he might have been dating.”

“No, sorry.”

“Nobody back home?”

Ariadne shook her head. “Are you even sure he’s gay?”

Eames sighed miserably and Ariadne took another contented sip of her coffee.

It wasn’t that Eames hadn’t tried to ask Arthur himself in their weekly labs together but Arthur either changed the topic or ignored him (or one memorable time, told Eames to fuck off. It was almost like Arthur knew that Eames got hard when he cursed). He had tried being blunt – “If you were a number on the Kinsey scale...” – but more recently he had tried tricking Arthur into telling him any clues about his dating history or even sexual preference.

"Arthur," Eames said, sidling up to Arthur at the lab bench. "If you had to be stuck on a desert island with someone, who would it be?"

Arthur didn't look up from where he was carefully pipetting some sort of clear liquid but he did answer for once, as if he'd learned that delaying his answer wouldn't actually make Eames go away. "A helicopter pilot with a helicopter to fly us away from the desert island."

Eames rolled his eyes. Of course Arthur was practical like that. No matter, Eames could adjust his approach. "Okay, well would you want the pilot to be male or female?"

That did make Arthur look up and set the pipette down. "How is gender relevant?"

"Well," Eames hedged, "You're going to be spending a lot of time with them, getting back to shore. Who would you rather be ogling? A male or a female?"

Arthur gave a small sigh of exasperation and Eames had a feeling his ruse was up. "I wouldn't be ogling them. I would be navigating or looking for other survivors or somehow being useful."

Eames sighed. "You're no fun."

"Fine, who would you have with you on a desert island?"

"You," Eames said immediately like it was the most obvious thing in the world, because it was. The whole point of the desert island scenario was that you were going to die, no matter how slowly, and if he was going to die, he wanted to make sure that he had a good chance of getting into Arthur's tight pants before that happened.

Arthur looked at him with an expression of disbelief and something else that Eames couldn't quite identify. "You're ridiculous," he said. "I think I would be pretty useless on a desert island."

"Oh, I don't know," Eames mused. "You're one of the smartest people I know. I bet you were a boy scout."

Eames smiled cheerily but Arthur only glared and said, "Aren't you supposed to be, I don't know, completing an experiment?"

Eames looked over to his lab bench. "I still have three minutes and twenty-three, twenty-two seconds before it's at the right temperature."

"You're on step seven?" Arthur asked without looking at the lab instructions, frustration tingeing his tone though Eames didn't know why.

Eames leaned over to look at Arthur's lab instructions. "I guess so, yeah." He'd only glanced at them before they started. In general he could work out what product they were supposed to obtain and how to get there in his head. He refrained from telling Arthur this as he might actually explode and instead merely wandered back to his lab bench and settled for watching Arthur across the room. When he leaned over to double-check measurements, it was such a lovely view.


“So there’s this bloke, Arthur,” Eames said and fired shots off into the distance, trying to avoid killing his own men. It was Friday and Friday meant Halo night with Yusuf. Yusuf was in his program and they had bonded orientation week over their love of first-person shooters and mass-spectrometry. He was a good guy, if a bit off kilter the way all geniuses were. They weren’t exactly close – they’d only known each other for a month – but he was basically Eames’ only friend in the program, which is why Eames found himself telling Yusuf about Arthur.

“Yeah?” Yusuf said and fired off shots with his assault rifle. Triple Kill. Killing Spree, announced the game.

“He’s in my intro lab,” Eames said and Yusuf scoffed. They all did when Intro Lab came up. It was somewhat of a joke amongst the graduate students. “He’s pretty fit,” Eames ventured.

“In shape?” Yusuf asked and glanced at him. Eames switched to his grenade launcher and fired. Part of the building exploded in an extremely satisfying way. “Nice,” Yusuf said absently.

“No, like –“ Eames paused. “Hot. He’s attractive.”

Yusuf’s hand faltered on the controls and Eames cringed slightly and fired another grenade. It’s not that he wasn’t out, theoretically. His parents and brothers knew that he was gay, hypothetically. They liked to keep it hypothetical though and never asked who he was seeing and Eames never volunteered the information. It had been a while since he’d actually tried to talk to someone about a man he was interested in.

Lost the lead, the game said and Eames glanced away from Yusuf’s face – carefully blank – to see that his character had been killed.

“So, Arthur?” Yusuf finally said and Eames let out a breath and fired another grenade.

“Yeah, Arthur,” Eames said and told Yusuf about Arthur’s predilection for rules and the way he wore fucking sweater vests as they killed the enemy.

“You going to ask him out?” Yusuf asked. “That’s how it works, right? With guys too?”

Eames laughed and said, “Sometimes,” and then told him about his Arthur study. When he was done, Yusuf shook his head and said, “This sounds complicated. I hope he’s worth it.”

Eames smiled. “I think he is.”

“Then good luck,” Yusuf said and proceeded to kick Eames’ ass.

After Yusuf had gone home, Eames idly chewed on the end of his pen as he read over his observations so far in his Arthur study. He had rather hoped he would be a bit further along. No matter. He wasn’t discouraged; he would just have to move on from the introduction to the next section – the actual methods.

State your hypothesis explicitly toward the end of the introduction.

If, Eames wrote, Arthur goes on one date with me, it will lead to other dates and he will fall madly in love.

If you have made predictions about the outcome of the study, say so.

Eames smiled before writing, V. positive, with a flourish.

Method

This section must be very detailed and clear. It tells the reader that someone else can repeat the experiment just by reading your method section. The method section generally consists of three subsections: participants, apparatus (or materials), and procedure.

Participants


The age, sex, and any other relevant demographic data are presented here.

Eames fished out Arthur’s license from his pocket, where he had put it when he had lifted it from Arthur’s wallet earlier. He knew Arthur biked to campus and so wasn’t likely to need it for driving. If Ariadne was right about Arthur’s pastimes, he wasn’t likely to need it for ID at a bar either. Eames figured he’d slip into Arthur’s office and replace it tomorrow without Arthur being any the wiser.

Eames started by making point form notes:

- Arthur Levine
- Sex: Very male
- DOB: February 17, 1983
- Height: 1. 78 m
- Hair colour: brown
- Eye colour: brown
- No visual impairments

Eames set the license aside. It didn’t tell him much that he didn’t already know or could have guessed. He knew that Arthur was studying something in biochemistry... maybe something to do with antibiotics? He really wasn’t sure. Some quick clicking around on the biochemistry departmental website came up with Arthur’s latest seminar: Characterization of the Molecular Mechanisms of Bcl-XL Anti-Apoptotic Function. Right. Eames wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but it sure sounded like it had a certain kind of specificity Eames had come to expect from Arthur.

He tried googling Arthur’s name but there were too many Arthur Levines, including a publishing house, so that avenue was pretty much a dead end.

Eames sighed and tapped his pen against his mouth. He knew plenty of qualitative things about Arthur – the curve of his back when he was hunched over a beaker, the way he tapped his pinky when he was thinking, the crease of his forehead when he turned to glare at Eames; Eames loved all these things. They weren’t exactly relevant demographic data though, so he moved on, but not without taking a moment to dwell on each and every one of Arthur’s details.

Apparatus or Materials

A description of the apparatus used is given here.

Eames frowned thoughtfully. He hadn’t quite thought of how exactly he was going to convince Arthur to go out with him or what sort of tools he would need. Money was no object – his parents had practically thrown money at him to get him to attend school and stay out of trouble. They were all the happier when he decided to attend school across the pond, if the BMW was anything to go by. Something told him Arthur wouldn’t be impressed by money, though. If there was one thing Arthur seemed to be impressed by, it was research, so Eames steeled himself for finding out what else made Arthur tick.

-o-

Arthur was in A Mood. The frustration was practically coming off him in waves. He set down beakers unnecessarily hard on the lab table and moved in short, efficient movements as if he was trying to get out of there as fast as humanly possible.

Eames measured out magnesium for their latest experiment while trying to watch Arthur out of the corner of his eye. That was proving difficult as he was wearing safety goggles. He finally just gave up on the experiment and instead gave Arthur his full attention, resting his head on his upturned palm as he idly sipped orange juice through a straw out of an extra beaker. His juice box had all but exploded earlier and Eames had done what he did best – improvised. Luckily the supervising prof was more interested in flirting with the pretty red head in the first row than what the rest of the class was doing.

Arthur finally turned and noticed him as Eames was doodling an angry face on an extra latex glove.

“You know this whole introduction class is complete bullshit, right?” Arthur spat at him.

Eames gaped. Never had he known Arthur to be anything but professional. The fact that he hadn’t yet remarked on how spectacularly Eames was breaking Lab Rule Number Four was particularly worrisome. Eames took off his safety goggles – might as well break all the rules while he was at it- and sidled up to Arthur’s bench.

“What’s going on?” he asked gently as he leaned on Arthur’s lab bench. He blew up the latex glove – which now resembled Arthur, at least in facial expression: grumpy. Arthur was unimpressed.

“Come on, why are you so irritated?” Eames prompted. He let his glove deflate at Arthur’s glare.

“I have a billion papers due – “Arthur started and ran a harried hand through his hair. Eames frowned. Arthur exaggerating? Unheard of. Specificity was practically Arthur’s middle name. “I should be working on them right now,” he went on, “But instead I have to do a lab on the properties of fucking magnesium and yes I did pass high school chemistry. This is fucking ridiculous.”

Eames shifted. Arthur swearing did interesting things in his pants.

“Well, yes,” Eames had to agree. “But all the labs have been ridiculous. I’m fairly certain I did some of them when I was in nappies.”

“Nappies?” Arthur repeated, the hint of a smile around his lips.

Eames nodded. “Nappies. And at least they’re letting us use blow torches.”

“I can’t believe they’re letting you near fire,” Arthur admitted.

“I know!” Eames said, grinning. “That’s the thing about magnesium, though.”

“What’s that?”

“It seems so ordinary but it’s so pretty when it burns.”

Arthur conceded with a tilt of his head.

“We’ve only got an hour left,” Eames said, “And this part is only going to take forty minutes tops. Why don’t you grab a fizzy drink?”

Arthur stared at him.

“A – fuck – soda. You know what I mean!”

Arthur made token protests but Eames sent him along his way. Of course as soon as he was out of the room Eames was rustling through his rucksack in the name of research and coming up with Arthur’s iPod.

“What have we here...” Eames murmured and flicked it on. He flipped through the artists but didn’t recognize many of them. That probably had less to do with Arthur’s taste and more to do with the fact that Eames mostly listened to 80’s pop. He made a mental note of a few artists and was only on B when Arthur appeared in the doorway. Eames hastily stuffed his iPod away and grabbed his orange juice.

“Better?” Eames asked once Arthur was settled again on his lab stool.

“Yeah... why were you in my bag?”

“That’s a bit of a long story – “

“Don’t touch my stuff,” Arthur interrupted, but it wasn’t very convincing and Eames ended up smiling as he headed back over to his lab bench. He had chemicals to burn.

Later, when all the magnesium oxide was cleaned up and Arthur was shrugging on his jacket, Eames attempted to stall him. The campus was large enough that Eames rarely if ever saw Arthur outside of their weekly labs. As grumpy as Arthur had been today, Eames still didn’t relish the thought of letting him go without wishing him a good weekend at the very least.

“Heading home to work on those billion papers?” Eames asked as he stuffed his lab notebook into his bag.

Arthur nodded. “I have to be in the bio lab all weekend checking on Petri dishes. I have no idea when they’re going to get written to be honest.”

Eames felt his heart sink even though he could relate. His own schedule was starting to ramp up into hectic all-nighter territory. “So I guess a coffee’s out of the question...”

Arthur paused in picking up his bag and Eames’ heart beat stuttered and picked up before Arthur said, “It’s not a good idea.”

“Right, with all your work,” Eames agreed, trying not to show that he was disappointed.

“No, I mean it’s not a good idea,” Arthur said, levelling Eames with an unreadable look.

“Ah,” Eames said softly. He was still struggling to find something else to say when Arthur swung his bag over his shoulder and left.

“That went well,” Eames muttered into his bag before fastening the straps and pulling it over his shoulder.

It was a relief to come home to his slobbery Boston terrier who never turned down a chance to hang out with him.

“Hey, Charlie,” Eames murmured and bent down to rub his dog between the ears and, when he rolled over, his belly. It was enough to get Eames out of his sour mood and by the time he and Charlie had eaten, he was ready to pull out his notebook and get back to work on Project Arthur.

In the case of standard laboratory equipment, rather than describing the entire apparatus, the company name and model and/or serial number is sufficient. If this is not possible, the equipment should be described in detail.

- One (1) Venti (20 fl. oz) Caffè Verona, black. Obtained from the Starbucks on campus. According to the Starbucks website, If Cupid used coffee instead of arrows, this blend might well be his weapon of choice.
- One (1) Venti (20 fl. oz) Caffè Verona, two packets of sugar added. Also obtained from the Starbucks on campus.

The school was eerily quiet on Saturday mornings – most students were sleeping off a hangover or hoping to sleep in before getting to their schoolwork. The biology building was locked and virtually deserted but Eames’ pass was able to get him access easily. He juggled the two coffees in his hand and pocketed his pass again. He wandered down the empty halls, his sandals slapping against the tiled floor. It may have been October but that didn’t stop him from wearing sandals whenever he could.

He glanced in doors as he passed them but they were all empty. He was beginning to think that Arthur was having him on when he glanced in a window and saw a familiar dark head bent down over something on a lab bench. Bingo.

Eames smiled to himself and eased the door open, careful not to spill the coffee in his hand.
Arthur turned immediately when he came in and his features settled instantly into a familiar glare.

“What’s that?” he asked, gesturing to the coffee which Eames had set down on the corner of his lab bench.

“Er, coffee?” Eames said, eyebrows raised. He knew Arthur’s powers of deduction weren’t quite this limited. "I didn't know how you take it,” Eames went on, “because we haven’t yet gone out for coffee so it's black although I'm sure we can rustle up some sucrose around here somewhere..."

“Eames,” Arthur interrupted. "We do not have food and drink in the lab."

Eames smiled in spite of himself. Of course Arthur was concerned about the rules when there was no one else even in the lab. He turned toward the door where without fail all the rules were posted in their full laminated glory. “Ah, yes. That’s what? Rule – “

"Four," Arthur finished. "I see you've already brought it upon yourself to break rule two - appropriate footwear."

Eames looked down in spite of himself to where his feet were resting in well-worn Birkenstocks before looking back up, his amusement fading. “Arthur, look. I'm not even staying. I just came to bring you coffee, because I thought you might be needing one - "

Arthur opened his mouth to interrupt but Eames went on. "I know it breaks one of those useless lab rules - " He fluttered his hand toward the list - "but you're the most meticulous person I know. I wouldn't have given it to a bloody freshman."

Arthur’s features shifted into something that would have looked like jealousy on anyone else, but Eames knew better.

“Now, I'm on my way to grade all those bloody lab reports from last week,” Eames said, which was unfortunately the truth. “Good luck here."

Eames turned to leave when it was clear that Arthur wasn’t actually going to thank him for bringing him coffee.

"You know," Eames said, turning back at the doorway, "If you'd let me take you out for coffee, I wouldn't have to resort to dire measures like breaking lab rules."

He smiled, hoping to coax a smile out of Arthur but Arthur just stared at him with a strange, almost bemused expression on his face. Eames could feel his smile fade before he turned, closing the door gently behind him.

“Well,” he said to his coffee as he made his way out of the biology building, “That gesture went unnoticed.”



Eames spent the rest of the weekend marking chemistry labs, banging his head against his desk as a result of said labs, and trying desperately not to think of Arthur.

By all rights at this point he should have been fed up or at the very least discouraged, but it was almost as if Arthur’s pseudo-rejection constituted a challenge. Eames had always loved a challenge.

He set aside the last of his chemistry labs and opened his notebook to the section for Arthur. As far as procedures and methods go, asking someone out for coffee was pretty basic. Amateur stuff, really. He was barely getting started and he had until Thursday to up his game.

As his weekend was pretty much a circle of hell, Eames practically welcomed Monday. Monday meant his Organic Synthesis class and, while it wasn’t as interesting as Mass Spectrometry, it at least had Ariadne going for it. Their first break of the morning she cornered Eames in the line for coffee – or stood behind him really, but it felt strangely ominous.

“So,” she said and Eames turned slightly. “Are you buying all grad students coffee now or just cute ones in sweater vests?”

Eames made a show of looking her up and down. “Well, you’re cute but no sweater vest so, sorry, try again next week.” Then the reality of her statement kicked in and he realized there was only one way she could only know that.

“Arthur talked about me?”

Ariadne shrugged. “What’s in it for me?”

“Whatever ridiculous caffeinated beverage you like,” Eames promised immediately.

“In that case – “ Ariadne stepped past Eames to order something long, frothy and no doubt expensive.

The barista looked expectantly at Eames. “Regular Latte,” Eames said and dutifully paid for both.

“Spill,” he told Ariadne as soon as they both had their beverages.

“Well, I went in Saturday morning around 10:30 and there was a coffee on his desk,” Ariadne said before taking a deep sip of her coffee.

“And?” Eames prompted.

“I’m getting to that. And I asked what was with the coffee since you know Arthur and his rules.”

They shared a conspiratory grin.

“Yeah?”

“And he said that you had brought it,” Ariadne said with an air of finality.

“That’s it? He didn’t say anything else? Nothing about how nice it was or what I was wearing or – nothing?”

“Oh wait, now that you mention it...,” Ariadne said and Eames leaned in closer. “No. Nothing.”

Eames groaned. “Really?”

“He didn’t say anything, but he did drink the coffee,” Ariadne said with a raised eyebrow and took a drink of her coffee.

Eames made a thoughtful noise. Interesting. Arthur broke a rule for him. He quite liked the idea of Arthur breaking rules for him. He was going to have to revisit this idea of Arthur breaking rules when he was in a place that wasn’t so public.

“Come on,” Ariadne said suddenly. “We have to get back to class.”

Eames glanced down at his watch and saw she was right. Fantasizing about Arthur was just going to have to wait for another time.

The next couple of days passed in a blur of meetings with his thesis advisor, whose bushy white hair hid a truly gigantic and disorganized brain that Eames was slightly terrified of. When he finally escaped his latest meeting on Wednesday afternoon, it was to hide at his desk in the room he shared with the other spectroscopy graduate students. It wasn’t very big, as far as workspaces went, or even very quiet – even now music was playing from someone’s computer - but it was nice to have someplace to hide or work (or think about Arthur, as the case may be) that wasn’t his apartment with its plethora of distractions.

Eames still didn’t have a plan for how to impress Arthur and said as much to Yusuf, the only other spectroscopy student in the room. Eames didn’t know what his track record was like with the ladies, but decided it was worth a shot. He certainly couldn’t be doing worse with Arthur.

“Just go over to his place with take-out and flowers. That’s how I got my Kali,” Yusuf said without turning around from where he was scribbling equations on the whiteboard.

“He’d think it was poisoned or something,” Eames muttered and Yusuf turned to look at him.

“Just what kind of relationship do you have?”

“The kind where he doesn’t really trust me,” Eames admitted. “I may have gone through his stuff in the name of research at one point.”

Yusuf shook his head. “You need to find out what he likes and then pretend to like it too. You know how many classical guitar concerts I’ve been to? I almost believe myself when I tell Kali how great they are now.”

Eames hummed and twirled a pen around his fingers. There was something to be said for honesty but there was also something to be said for getting that first date and then building something on honesty. The music switched over to something with piano and drums and Eames tuned in for long enough to decide he liked it.

“Who’s this?” he asked Yusuf, presuming it was his music playing.

“Arcade Fire,” Yusuf replied absently and picked up the eraser brush.

That name sounded familiar, but it took Eames a moment to figure out why – it was one of the bands under ‘A’ on Arthur’s iPod.

“Arthur likes these guys,” Eames said and Yusuf put down the brush after a moment without erasing anything and turned.

“Yeah? They’re playing next weekend. Friday I think. The show’s almost sold out, not that I could have afforded the tickets anyway; Highway robbery these days to see a show.”

Yusuf went on about the ridiculous ticket prices and taxes and processing fees but Eames tuned it out. This seemed perfect. This seemed more than perfect. This seemed like fate or something. He pulled his laptop to him and looked online for tickets. He hadn’t been to a show in a while but forty dollars plus taxes and, oh yes there was that 12.50 processing fee, didn’t seem astronomical. Of course, that was the price before the show had sold out. Eames swore softly and opened a new tab. This was what Craigslist was for. That and finding an escort. Luckily Eames had far more experience finding tickets for things.

A simple search for Arcade Fire and the venue came up with a list of desperate people looking to sell tickets, some at a steep mark-up. Eames clicked through them quickly and found two tickets easy enough. Before he really thought it through, he e-mailed the seller.


Yusuf wandered over just as he pressed send and asked him what he was doing.

“Buying tickets.”

“You think he’ll say yes?” Yusuf sounded more sceptical than Eames would have liked.

“I think he will,” Eames said because he did really think that when confronted to free tickets to a band Arthur liked, Arthur would be the bigger person and just accept the ticket even if it meant spending time with Eames.

“Good luck, friend,” Yusuf said Eames smiled because he didn’t need luck. There was no way Arthur would say no.

-o-

Arthur said no.

“Really?” Eames said, to see if Arthur was just messing with him. “You really don’t want to go?”

“I can’t,” Arthur said. He did look a bit pained as if he did in fact want to go which was slightly encouraging. “My sister is getting some award at school and I really have to go. I’m leaving right after classes on Friday.”

Eames scrutinized him. “You don’t have to go with me,” he said, finally just in case Eames was the factor that was holding Arthur back. “I could just give you the tickets.”

Arthur let out a small scoffing noise. “She’s my only sister, Eames. I really do have to go to this thing. I – I’m sorry I can’t go. I thought the show sold out, actually.”

“Oh did it?” Eames said and he wasn’t sure why he was lying, only that the only thing worse than being rejected was Arthur knowing that he’d had to go to special measures to actually get the tickets – namely meeting someone named Pete in a back alley that smelled of cat piss. “I’ve had the tickets for a while. My friend just bailed on me, so I thought... they seemed like the type of band you’d like.”

“Yeah, people often stop me in the streets and ask if I’m into Canadian indie rock,” Arthur said wryly and he was still watching Eames as if he saw right through it all but he didn’t call him on it and Eames was grateful for that at least.

Eames shrugged. “The scene kids will miss you next weekend.”

Arthur nodded and smiled a bit. “Have a good time at the show. Thanks for thinking of me.”

Eames was glad he was able to stop himself a millisecond before, ‘It’s all I do’ came out of his mouth. That would have been far too dramatic. As it was, he nodded and walked the three feet back to his lab bench.

The text on his lab instructions blurred a bit. Arthur wasn’t supposed to say no. That wasn’t how the script of the universe went – this was fate, damn it. That band on Arthur’s iPod and that band coming to their city and Eames getting tickets in a dirty back alley without getting shanked... Surely these things must mean something! Eames wanted to tear his own hair out, but instead he stared dejectedly at the beaker in front of him until the numbers became clear. Then he took a deep breath and got on with it.

-o-

Yusuf looked up from his laptop when Eames shuffled into their workroom after lab.

“There’s good news and bad news,” Eames said, perching on Yusuf’s desk and ignoring the other students who were blatantly eavesdropping.

“Give me the bad news first,” Yusuf said apprehensively.

“The bad news is that he said no,” Eames told him before taking two tickets out of his pocket. “The good news is that you and Kali now have plans for next weekend.”

Yusuf looked slightly pained. “I’m sorry, friend. I told you, I can’t afford these tickets. Why don’t you take some guy and make Arthur jealous?”

“Because I’ll just be thinking of Arthur and everyone will be miserable,” Eames admitted. “Just take them, consider them an anniversary gift.”

“Our anniversary isn’t for another five months,” Yusuf said but his hand was inching out towards the tickets. Eames handed them over.

“An early gift then.” He patted Yusuf on the shoulder and shuffled toward his desk. He pulled his latest chemistry marking out of his bag. It’s not as if this day could get any worse. Maybe if he banged his head against his desk enough times, all thought of Arthur would get banged out.

-o-

Naturally, as soon as Eames decided that he had embarrassed himself enough in the name of Arthur, Arthur was all he saw. He nearly ran into him in Starbucks, had to change his route across campus, and paid overdue fines simply because Arthur was waiting outside the library.

This was getting ridiculous, Eames thought, as he entered the office where he held office hours. Unfortunately as he paused while entering, the door closed behind him, clipping him in the heel and caused Arthur to look up. Eames’ brain stuttered for a moment, wondering if this was a daydream – Arthur coming to Eames office hours where instead of solving for mole fraction of solvent they would...

“Eames?” Arthur said and Eames snapped his jaw shut from where it was hanging open.

“Arthur,” he said briskly and moved into the room. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”

Arthur shrugged and offered him a rare half-smile. “Construction in the west wing. You know how it is. Miles offered up half of this office for the time being. Hope you don’t mind.”

“No,” Eames said absently and opened his satchel to pull out a pen and notepaper while he wondered how the hell he was supposed to teach undergrads how to work out chemical equations with Arthur so close by. The office was on the small side to begin with, with two desks on opposite sides of the room. When Eames had a line of students around mid-terms, he sometimes set a couple of them up at the other desk to work through problem sets while he helped a third student.

He had a system damn it, and now Arthur was upsetting his system and Eames... Eames didn’t give a fuck. He straightened the notepaper on the desk and swivelled in his office chair to look at Arthur. Arthur, to Eames’ surprise, was already staring at him.

“What?” Eames asked, suddenly self-conscious. He resisted the urge to look down to see if he had a stain on his jeans. He was just wearing jeans and a plain black t-shirt that he had technically grown out of, as it was a big snug, but it was soft and worn in and so Eames kept wearing it.

“Nothing,” Arthur said, shaking his head. “I’m just not used to seeing you in such muted clothing.”

Eames smiled. “Do you miss Aunt Penny’s sartorial taste, Arthur?”

Arthur’s brow furrowed. “Aunt...?”

“My aunt sends me the shirts I wear in the lab, Arthur. You didn’t honestly think I – “ From the dull shade of red that Arthur was turning, he did indeed think that Eames had picked out and purchased those himself. Eames didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, and was going to go with, “You know Arthur, if you’d let me take you out you could see me in all sorts of clothes. And out of them too,” along with a healthy leer, but one of Eames’ regulars came in and he lost his chance.

“I’m hopeless,” Bethany moaned as she collapsed into the chair beside Eames, not even acknowledging Arthur.

Eames tutted. “I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that. Let’s see where you are.”

He guided her through an example of this week’s problem set as patiently as possible before sending her on her way, a look of relief gracing her features. When he looked back over at Arthur – because he couldn’t not look at Arthur – Arthur was again looking at him.

“You’re – “ Arthur cleared his throat – “You’re pretty good at that.”

“Well, yes. You may find this hard to believe but I did in fact pass first year Chemistry,” Eames drawled, growing slightly irritated with Arthur’s constant underestimation of him.

“No, I meant – the teaching part,” Arthur said and Eames shrugged. Having never been on the receiving end of a straight-forward compliment from Arthur, he had no idea how to respond.

“More than just a pretty face,” Eames finally responded and then turned back toward his notepaper and doodled in the margin while hopefully managing to look like he was working through a reaction.

Every time that Arthur expressed surprise that Eames was competent at something it only served to remind Eames that Arthur really did think so poorly of him. Arthur thinks poorly of nearly everyone, he reminded himself but it didn’t really help.

What did help was distracting himself by actually doing his job with the next four students that came in. Arthur didn’t get as many students – Eames only counted one – but he busied himself working on his laptop and they didn’t end up talking much except when the hour was almost up.

“How was the concert?” Arthur asked and Eames froze a little, torn between whether to actually tell the truth or not.

“I didn’t end up going,” Eames finally said. “Wasn’t feeling well so I gave the tickets to a friend.” Oh well, he got half-marks for honesty.

“That’s too bad,” Arthur said. “I heard it was an amazing show.”

Eames nodded because Yusuf had texted something to that extent in the middle of the concert. He may have promised Eames an unborn child.

“Next time,” Eames said with a tight smile and started to pack up his things.

“Next time,” Arthur echoed and when Eames turned, it almost seemed like he meant it.

“Well, I’m off,” Eames said when he couldn’t draw out packing up his things any longer.

Arthur stood. “Where are you headed?”

“Um, home,” Eames said.

“No, I meant which way are you headed?” Arthur directed his question into his laptop as he shut things down and Eames took an honest second to consider if by some miracle they were actually walking in the same direction, he even wanted to spend more time with Arthur. It seemed a bit torturous at this point. Delicious, delicious torture, true, but torture nonetheless.

Eames made a broad gesture toward his apartment. “West, down Main.”

“Did you want to – I’m also heading in that direction,” Arthur explained. Eames shrugged and Arthur seemed to take that as permission because he put his laptop bag over his shoulder and followed Eames out the door.

“You never told me,” Eames said, because he wasn’t walking home with Arthur in silence, “What are you researching?”

Arthur gave him the Coles notes version, as he probably did to most people in his program who asked because it was the polite thing to do, but when Eames asked a question, Arthur happily elaborated. When Eames pointed out a weakness in his study, Arthur was quick to defend his research but also quick to nod when Eames offered a solution. They spent the entire twenty minute walk that way, arguing without really arguing back and forth, a kind of intellectual sparring that Eames always enjoyed but rarely found a willing partner for.

He was surprised when they reached the corner where he had to turn down to reach his apartment. He almost wanted to pretend that he didn’t live here and somehow double back, he was having so much fun debating with Arthur, but in the spirit of honesty, he stopped and gestured toward the row of apartments.

“This is me.”

“Oh,” said Arthur, and he seemed just as surprised as if he had also forgotten that they had a destination. It made Eames smile.

“I’ll see you Thursday in lab,” Eames said

“Thursday,” Arthur echoed back and gave a half wave before continuing on his way.

Eames stood at the corner for a second and felt his heart limp along. He hated the way he didn’t want to watch Arthur go. This was the very reason he had decided to give up his study – Arthur had made it clear that he wasn’t interested and now Eames had to go and develop even more of a crush. He was completely hopeless. There was a study: if Arthur continues on at this rate (x), how long (y) before Eames’ heart is completely trampled? Describe graphically.

Eames sighed and adjusted his messenger bag before continuing home.

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