They meet in a small knick-knack shop in one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it side streets. Eames is straightening one of the canvasses he’d just hung and Arthur is pink-faced from the chilly weather outside. Their eyes meet across the room, across the silver jewellery on stands and the sculpture of two liquid-like entwined bodies and the wheelbarrow full of tea towels, and Eames smiles as Arthur’s blush deepens the rose-red across his cheekbones.
As Eames picks his way through the displays, Arthur carefully unwinds his woolly scarf and carefully looks at everything except for Eames.
“How can I help you?” Eames asks and from the moment Arthur hears his English accent in that husky voice, he’s totally gone.
They end up talking for two hours. Arthur buys a set of delicate bone china mugs and Eames asks him to dinner.
After eating a copious amount of sushi and then stuffing themselves with ice cream (Eames gets vanilla, Arthur gets a scoop of hazelnut and a scoop of caramel-sesame), Eames walks Arthur back to his apartment. They stand at the door, Eames with his hands in his pockets and a small smile on his face, and Arthur twisting the napkin from his ice cream around his fingers.
“I had a really good time tonight,” Arthur says, biting his lip. He tries to prepare himself for what he has to say, tries to prepare himself for the inevitable rejection.
“I did too, darling.” Eames is smiling a little brighter.
“I just, I have to tell you something.” He takes a deep breath. “I’m asexual.” (It shouldn’t be this hard, after all those times before, but he likes Eames more than he’s liked anyone else.)
Eames freezes. “As in no sex?” Arthur nods. “Just…kissing and cuddling?”
“Not so much the kissing, but definitely the cuddling,” Arthur says. “And no sharing beds, I hate other people in my space.” The napkin is in shreds that flutter to the pavement. “I’m sorry if I led you on, or…”
“No, Arthur, no!” Arthur looks up and Eames is grinning, reaching towards him, pulling him into a warm embrace. “I didn’t think I’d ever find – Arthur, I’m just like you.”
And this is the moment when - if they were different - they would kiss passionately, and Arthur would drag Eames upstairs by his collar, and Eames would fuck Arthur through his mattress and they'd grope each other with lazy hands in the remnants of the afterglow - but instead they embrace on the street until Arthur starts to shiver, then they go upstairs and wrap themselves around each other on Arthur's sinfully soft sofa. They watch the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring and Eames loves all the bits Arthur loves, and has read the books as well, which makes him even more perfect. By the time it's late, Arthur wonders whether Eames is even real.
It's past midnight when Arthur offers the spare bedroom, but Eames hates wearing unclean clothing and "there's no way I'd get my rugged, manly shoulders into any of your things, darling," so he gives Arthur a kiss on the lips, then nuzzles his neck and they say goodnight.
Arthur sends text to Eames after he's left.
Bring some of your clothes next time.