kiyala.livejournal.com posting in shannys_corner
Title: Even If This Ship Sinks
Word Count: 6,892
Rating: R (non-explicit sex)
Notes: This is actually a really old fic that I never got around to posting here. Titanic AU written for some kind of exchange, last year. Beta-read by the lovely bofish :)
Word Count: 6,892
Rating: R (non-explicit sex)
Notes: This is actually a really old fic that I never got around to posting here. Titanic AU written for some kind of exchange, last year. Beta-read by the lovely bofish :)
It won’t leave his mind. He’s not even sure he wants it to. All he knows is that he can’t stop thinking about it: the cool night air, the clear sea, and a man.
The man. The rest is meaningless, just unimportant context. Arthur knows this as he lies awake, warm in his nightshirt, under a heavy, quilted blanket. This isn’t about where he is, who he is, or anything like that.
This is about the man he’d met barely an hour ago. A devastatingly handsome man, who had introduced himself as Eames. Eames, he mouths at the ceiling of his luxuriously decorated room, with expensive furniture and intricately patterned wood, all of which he ignores, lost in thought. They’d barely spent more than thirty minutes in each other’s company and yet…
And yet, nobody had ever looked at him like that before. Never, in his twenty years, has anybody looked at him like they actually understood.
“You’re bored,” the man had said. He still remembers the words in that voice, that accent. “I can see it in your eyes, you know. If you weren’t, you’d be up there, where you belong. Not down here. Not with me.”
It is all true, he knows. But he hadn’t walked away. It had surprised them both, but he’d stayed. Just another five minutes; not nearly as long as either of them had wanted, but just long enough for this night. Long enough that when they’d turned to part ways, they did so with the knowledge they’d see each other again.
The man had smiled at him. Nobody else was there to see, so he’d taken one slender hand in his own, and raised it to his full lips, kissing it briefly.
“Sleep well, Arthur.”
Arthur can still feel those lips against his skin. The back of his hand tingles; he presses his own lips over the same place, as he has several times since returning to the privacy of his own room. Each and every time, a jolt of pure electricity shoots through him. He thinks of his own lips against that beautiful mouth. He craves it, and at the back of his mind, he wonders why he cannot bring himself to feel guilty for this.
After all, Arthur is twenty years old, unmarried, and has never wanted a wife.
This is the first time he’s wanted a man. This is the first time he’s wanted anyone.
It is April 11th, 1912, and the ship is named Titanic. True to its name, it is immense. There are more than two thousand people aboard and of all the passengers, most are from third class. More than seven hundred, in fact.
Arthur is good at remembering numbers, and even better at manipulating them; a skill he’d quickly learned from taking care of the family business, and then cultivated with his discrete indulgences in gambling. He paces the deck and considers the likelihood of finding one man among this multitude.
Arthur doesn’t believe in Fate, but will occasionally attribute things to luck.
He steps down from the first class deck, descends past second, and locks gazes with a man he recognises immediately. Even if they’ve only seen each other once before, and in the dark, there is something within him that awakens, responds, reaches out.
“Arthur.” He says Arthur’s name as though it is something precious.
They come together like corresponding pieces of the same puzzle, and they click into place. They look at each other like they need each other’s company almost like they need to breathe—Arthur doesn’t know what it is that draws him in like this, but there’s a look in Eames’ eyes that says he’s hardly thought of anything but their conversation since last night. Arthur decides that provided he isn’t the only one being affected this way, he doesn’t mind all that much.
They walk, weaving amongst the other passengers. Arthur looks clearly out of place, but the way he carries himself makes it look like he belongs right where he is. Eames hums, low and appreciative, and leads the way to the stern of the ship where it is at least quiet enough for conversation.
Eames lives an extremely interesting life, much of which is cheerfully spent on the wrong side of the law. Arthur wonders if he should be repulsed, or at least offended by this, but the stories are fascinating, and he can’t quite bring himself to care past this point.
They smoke as they talk, and Arthur finds himself momentarily distracted by the sight of Eames exhaling smoke; open-mouthed, with his eyes half-lidded, and the smoke caressing his lips before it dissipates in the gentle wind that blows past them, cooled by the sea. It brings back the desire to kiss him, and Arthur shivers, folding his arms against the cold, as he tries to imagine what it would be like, to kiss someone. He tries to imagine the taste of Eames’ mouth, wonders what he would taste other than the bitter aftertaste left behind by the cigar, and he only realises that his mind has wandered when Eames grins at him.
“All right, Arthur?”
There’s a knowing look in his eyes that makes Arthur’s face heat up. He swallows hard, and nods. He thinks he has himself back under control, when Eames casually brushes their hands together and his thoughts scatter once again.
“Mr. Eames—” He inhales sharply, unsure of what he wants to say. He’s never considered himself a good conversationalist, but Eames has given no indication of boredom. He’s never cared for the more flamboyant fashion items, preferring his clothing to be simple, but even now, he catches Eames watching him with a look of appraisal. He doesn’t know what he’s done to capture this man’s attention, but he knows he doesn’t want to let go.
“Eames,” he says, exhaling his own thin stream of smoke. “What do you want of me?”
The answer is simple; one word spoken against Arthur’s ear, somehow more intimate than the kiss on the hand.
Arthur has to remind himself to breathe. He inhales shakily, and his mind feebly suggests that he be reasonable, logical.
Eames is a con man and has told him as much. What would a con man do with a first-class passenger, unattached, inexperienced, and obviously charmed? Of all things Arthur can feel, somehow it is relief. Just my money, he thinks, not my heart.
“Tell me,” he says, and he finds it easier to stay calm now, to be rational. “What con do you plan to pull on me? Just so I can tell you it’ll never work, you can succeed anyway, and then say that you warned me.”
Eames frowns. “Con? You, Arthur? Is that what you think I want to do with you? You think that’s what matters to me?”
Arthur looks away, and struggles to hold onto his mask of cool composure. “It’s the only logical conclusion. You—you’re an… an attractive man, Mr. Eames, and you happen to realise I’m…”
“You’re what, Arthur?” he asks quietly. There’s a soft look in his eyes, and it looks sincere.
“Drawn to you,” he snaps, eyebrows drawing together in a scowl, curling his lips and baring his teeth at the very thought. “This is the part where you realise that I can’t stop thinking about last night on this deck, about you, as if nothing else matters—and you realise just how easy it will be to use me.”
Eames blinks and then, he looks so hurt that Arthur hates himself for it.
“You’re a con man, Eames. You’ve said it yourself—“
“And why would I tell my mark this fact?” Eames asks, his voice tight.
“To lull me into a false sense of security. To make me think I’m too clever to fall for one of your tricks. To judge my ability to see through your cons so you’ll know how easy I’ll be—”
“Arthur,” Eames interrupts, and while he is still frowning, there is a touch of amusement to his voice. “Arthur, come with me.”
His hand closes around Arthur’s wrist, tugging, but then lets go. He can walk away, if he wants. He can always walk away.
Arthur follows him.
They walk inside, down the stairs, and through the narrow corridors of the third class cabins. Eames rounds a corner and opens a door.
“Come here,” he says, and his voice is gentle again—low, patient. Arthur cannot help but walk closer, following him into the small room.
There are two double-bunks and an assortment of personal items in the room. That is all Arthur has the chance to see before Eames shuts the door and pushes him against it.
He stiffens, but doesn’t try to push him away. Eames’ mouth is near his, eyes looking deep into his own.
“Your money,” he says, slow and clear, “doesn’t matter to you. So it doesn’t matter to me. You’re bored, my darling. So bored, in your suits and all those stiff little trappings of high society. I could read it in your eyes, last night, in the dark. You need to escape. Do something for yourself.”
“And that’s why you approached me last night,” Arthur says quietly. “Because you thought there’d only be one reason a young man from first class would be wandering the third class deck, rather than talking stocks and politics with his peers.”
“No,” Eames breathes. “No. I spoke to you because even in the poor lighting last night, you were still easily the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”
“Liar,” Arthur says, turning his face away.
“I do lie,” Eames admits, moving closer still, speaking with his breath warm against Arthur’s neck. “But not about this, Arthur. I could never.”
Despite his best efforts, Arthur cannot stop himself from turning back. His hand moves of its own accord, settling on Eames’ chest.
“I can’t lie to you. That much has been abundantly clear to me since we first spoke. You’re too clever by half, Arthur. I don’t want to steal anything of yours…”
“You want me,” Arthur whispers, and it isn’t so hard to believe, with the way Eames is watching him—the way they stand so close that their noses are almost touching. They both want each other, and it’s a comforting realisation; it makes the entire day’s worth of desperate wanting bearable, because he isn’t the only one.
“Eames,” he says, and then they’re moving closer, pressing their lips against each other, and the feeling of Eames’ full lips on his own is even better than anything he could have imagined.
Eames’ hands are on his shoulders, holding him right where he is, against the door, and Arthur can’t even bring himself to mind the fact that he can barely move. He doesn’t care about anything right now but the taste of Eames’ mouth and the feel of their tongues cautiously sliding against each other.
Arthur moans softly, and Eames pulls away, stepping back, with a light chuckle. Their eyes meet and Arthur follows him, holding the front of his shirt and kissing him again. Eames’ hands come up to hold the sides of Arthur’s face, his thumbs stroking over his cheeks, gentle and soft, a contrast to the scratch and tickle of his stubble.
“God, Arthur,” he sighs, his hands dropping to Arthur’s sides, his lips moving down to his neck. “You aren’t the only one who couldn’t stop thinking about last night. All morning, I was just thinking of what my chances were of finding you among the hundreds of people onboard…”
“Well, you found me,” Arthur gives him a small grin, his dimples showing. Eames makes a low sound at the back of his throat and kisses him again.
Eames’ arms wind around Arthur, holding him close even after they kiss, and they rest their foreheads together. It’s amazing, Arthur thinks, and a little terrifying. He’s never been this affectionate with anybody in his life—he’s never wanted to be this affectionate before—and if he’s already falling this hard…
“I can see the gears turning in that wonderful mind of yours,” Eames murmurs, and his smile is warm, affectionate, and utterly charming. “Don’t think so hard, Arthur. Matters of the heart are far too complex for that mind. Even yours.”
“Won’t your roommates return?” Arthur asks quietly, moving his head back far enough to look into Eames’ eyes. “I wouldn’t know how to explain my way out of being in your cabin when I’m expected to be…”
“A little higher up?” Eames suggests with a small smile. “I’m sure I could come up with something if I needed to, but don’t you worry—no one will be returning here in a hurry when there’s a whole ship to be exploring. We have a little privacy.”
Arthur smiles, and holds Eames by the shoulders, pulling him into another kiss. They kiss until it’s no longer enough and their hands begin to wander, tentatively exploring each other. Arthur shivers at the feeling of Eames’ hands sliding down his sides and leans into the touch, against the solid body against him. Their hips meet and Arthur makes a rough, low, sound at the back of his throat when he feels Eames, hot and hard against him.
“Don’t, Arthur.” With a gasp, Eames pushes him back, getting some space between them. Arthur frowns in confusion, his mind still reeling, and Eames shakes his head. "Don’t be mistaken. I want you—desperately—but I won’t rush this. Definitely not here.”
Arthur takes a deep breath, letting the haze of pleasure clear, and nods. “Of course.” He touches Eames’ hand, thumb stroking the soft skin of his wrist. “Shall we return to the deck?”
The sun is bright outside and they squint against the light, retreating to the shade. Arthur considers inviting Eames into the library in first class, but before he can even suggest it, he hears his name being called.
They both tense, turning to find a couple walking towards them.
“Dom,” Arthur greets the man and then smiles and takes the woman’s hand in his own, kissing it. “Mal.”
“We were wondering why you were down here, Arthur,” Mal says, giving Eames a curious look. “Who is this? A friend?”
“Mal,” Dom laughs uncomfortably and lowers his voice, “he’s third class.”
“He is a friend,” Arthur says, squaring his shoulders and giving Dom a warning look. “We met the other day.”
Eames offers his hand to Dom with a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “Eames. Pleased to meet you. Arthur happened to find me yesterday on the deck—managed to see right through the clothes and realise I’m travelling third class out of curiosity, would you believe it. Almost regret not going first class now, though—you seem like a fun bunch.”
Arthur hides his smile at the way Eames’ voice has changed; his accent thicker and his words more clearly enunciated. He feels a thrill from the knowledge that Eames is lying, that he is acting and showing off just how good he is at conning people.
Arthur wonders what it says about him as a person that he finds this exciting; that it only makes him like Eames more.
It must be true: he is bored. Eames is the embodiment of everything he craves in his rigid life of high class functions and bespoke suits. He is unpredictable, sharp-minded and Arthur needs more of this.
Eames easily lies his way through a conversation with Dom, spinning a tale of a rich businessman researching the conditions his workers live in, to better understand them.
Mal smiles at him, utterly charmed. “You must join us for dinner tonight, Mr. Eames. Surely, it will be more comfortable to be dining in the manner you are used to.”
With that decided, she declares that they need to find the smoking room, and leads the way back up to first class. Eames smirks at Arthur as he follows.
“Your friends seem interesting enough,” he murmurs quietly, leaning closer than strictly necessary.
“You say that now,” Arthur says darkly. “Just you wait until dinner.”
Dinner, unsurprisingly, is just as boring as Arthur has come to expect.
Mal and her younger sister Ariadne are interesting enough, but even that is drowned out in the talk of business, politics and gossip that goes around the table. There’s Robert Fischer and his uncle Peter, who speak of their family business and the way it’s been moving in a new direction since the death of Robert’s father. Nobody is particularly interested, because the newspapers cover this in great detail on a regular basis, but they all listen politely anyway. Then Nash begins telling the table about his newest business venture—for the fifth time that night—and Arthur has to suppress a groan, feeling far too self-conscious, worried that if he finds this boring, Eames must think even worse.
“You, young man,” Peter addresses Eames across the table, “You said your name was Eames? Not the son of Gregory Eames, from Yorkshire?”
“No, sir,” Eames replies, and then his eyes narrow as he smiles in amusement. “…At least, I don’t think so.”
Some of the people at the table look scandalised by the implication in Eames’ words, and Arthur grins into his wine glass.
However, even with Eames being a constant source of amusement—first with back-handed compliments and then with stories that make everyone at the table laugh and immediately feel guilty for finding them amusing—Arthur is not eager to stay for long. Like the previous night, he nods politely after he’s finished and invents an excuse to leave. He’s surprised and pleased when Eames stands as well. Mal loudly declares that Eames is welcome among them as often as he’d like, and then giggles, slightly tipsy, when Eames blows her a kiss as thanks. Dom looks ready to murder him, just for that; Arthur quickly leads the way out.
“There, was that so boring?” Eames asks quietly as they climb the grand staircase, having made the unspoken agreement to retreat to Arthur’s room.
“It was bearable, thanks entirely to you,” Arthur glances at Eames and gives him a small grin. “If I had my way, I’d take you everywhere with me.”
“If I had my way, Arthur,” Eames says in a low voice, and then smirks. “No. I don’t think I can tell you what I’d do. Not in public, at least.”
A shiver runs through Arthur and he opens his door, holding it for Eames before following him in.
“Perhaps you could show me, instead. If you’d like.”
Eames gives him a wicked grin and bolts the lock shut before taking Arthur’s face in his hands and pulling him in for a kiss.
“Mm. I’d like that very much.”
Eames is wearing Arthur’s cologne; a scent that Arthur likes well enough, but has learned to ignore out of frequent use. When he drops his head to run his tongue over the dip of Eames’ collarbone, visible from beneath his shirt, he can smell it and it feels like he’s only come across it for the first time, far richer and headier than anything he’s smelled from a bottle. He inhales deeply and Eames chuckles, trailing off in a soft gasp when Arthur bites down.
“I’ve wanted to do that,” Arthur murmurs, voice husky, “Ever since you refused to wear a goddamn tie.”
“I hope you didn’t intend for it to be punishment,” Eames says, hot against his ear. “Because it only encourages me.”
“You do seem like the kind of man who would enjoy being punished, Mr. Eames. Tied down and reduced to a pleading mess, perhaps.”
Eames looks surprised, and then very pleased. “Is that what you’d like to do to me, Arthur? My, you little minx, here I’d assumed this was all new to you.”
“It is.” Arthur pushes Eames backwards, to sit on the edge of the bed, and climbs into his lap. “But that doesn’t mean I lack an imagination.”
“Oh, love,” Eames kisses along Arthur’s jaw. “I’ll never underestimate you again.”
“Tell me what you want, Eames,” Arthur whispers against his ear, rocking forward in his lap and even through their trousers, they can feel their erections rubbing against each other.
“Arthur,” Eames’ breath hitches and his hands settle on Arthur’s sides, holding him close. “I want—this, Arthur. God, if I could have you on top of me like this forever, I would. I want you just the way you are now; holding nothing back. Everything you want written on your face, as easy to read as a book.”
Arthur gives him a crooked smile and runs his fingers through Eames’ hair, leaving it ruffled. “You make me like this.”
Eames looks pleased by this fact. He rolls his hips against Arthur’s and they both moan softly as he undoes both of their trousers. Eames pauses for a moment, unbuttoning his own shirt and then Arthur's, dropping them on the floor, quickly followed by their pants.
Arthur gasps quietly when Eames wraps his hand around the head of his cock, sliding it down the length and pushing the cotton briefs out of the way as he goes. He shuts his eyes and lets his head fall back against the sheets as Eames strokes slowly and carefully, watching him closely.
“No one’s ever touched you like this,” he says, awed and reverent. “Oh, Arthur, Arthur, you have no idea what you do to me.”
Arthur wants to reply that yes, he does, because Eames is doing the same to him, but the only thing that escapes his throat is a choked whimper at the way Eames presses his thumb against Arthur’s slit, wetting it with the drops of precome that leak out.
“Eames,” he finally gasps, reaching out because he doesn’t want to be the only one reduced to incoherency, and he knows that if he feels this good, he should be able to make Eames feel the same.
He copies every movement Eames makes, sliding his fingers over the length of the man’s erection, running his thumb over the vein along the underside of his penis, moving his hand down to cup Eames’ balls, exploring everything he can and relishing the breathy sounds he receives in response.
They bring each other to climax soon enough and Arthur releases first, with a muffled gasp against Eames’ neck and continues stroking until he feels Eames tense against him before coming with a low moan right against Arthur’s ear.
“There,” Eames says, once they’ve cleaned themselves up and he’s stretched out on his side, chest to chest with Arthur on the bed once again. “Much more interesting than talking about business plans over dinner, don’t you agree?”
Arthur simply smiles, pulling Eames closer. When he drifts off to sleep, with Eames’ head tucked under his chin, the smile is still on his lips.
He wakes up to find Eames gone, with a note on the pillow explaining he’s returned to his own cabin to avoid the awkwardness that would come from being found in Arthur’s room.
Still, even if he’s alone in the morning, Arthur is in an extremely good mood and cannot stop thinking of the previous night. He thinks about it through the entirety of the morning prayer, and cannot quite bring himself to feel guilty for it.
Eames finds him an hour before lunch, or more accurately, Mal leads him into the library, where Arthur is sitting trying to focus on a book.
“Arthur,” she calls, though they’ve had his attention since walking through the door, “look who I found.”
“Mr. Eames,” he greets, closing his novel, and the look they share is warm and affectionate, if brief. “Good morning.”
Eames returns the greeting and takes the seat beside Arthur. “Found anything good to read?”
Arthur eagerly begins listing his favourites, thrilled to find that Eames has read quite a few of them. Mal slips away, amused and unnoticed, and they spend the entire hour discussing novels. When it’s time for lunch, there isn’t even any question about Eames joining him. Mal looks unsurprised to see them approach the table together, just as she doesn’t even bat an eyelid at the fact that they have borrowed two books each. They use the books as an excuse to retreat to Arthur’s room after they eat and they sit beside each other, leaning into their shared warmth as they read.
As he’s nearing the end of his first book, Eames begins telling Arthur his own story, of stealing books, leaning as much about people from what he’s read as he has from observation. He’s telling the story of how he stole a first edition of his favourite novel from a private collector when Arthur leans in and kisses him mid-sentence.
“Sorry,” he says, not sounding the slightest bit sincere. “I can’t help it when you talk about stealing things. It should concern me that my primary reaction is the sudden urge to kiss you senseless.”
“But it doesn’t,” Eames murmurs against Arthur’s lips, meaning for it to sound like a question, but far too distracted by the fingers curling against the nape of his neck. “Oh Arthur, you were most certainly born for a much more interesting life. I promise you now, the moment we dock in New York, I am whisking you away with me. That is, of course, if you’ll come.”
“You don’t even need to ask,” Arthur says and kisses him hard once more. “Stay with me tonight, Eames. Until morning.”
“And if someone finds us in bed together?”
“Well, I couldn’t make you sleep on the floor when there’s ample room in bed, could I?”
“Undressed?” Eames asks, his lips curving into a smile.
“You… didn’t have any night clothes with you. Out of consideration, I took mine off so you wouldn’t feel underdressed.”
Eames snorts quietly. “No one will believe that.”
“Does it matter?” Arthur asks. “Stay.”
“You’ll get sick of me if I’m around all the time.”
This time, Arthur puts his book down and climbs into Eames’ lap. “Highly unlikely.”
Eames knows better than to argue. He happily allows Arthur to do as he pleases, finding it impossible to mind when Arthur drops to his knees right where he is, and undoes Eames’ pants.
He returns the favour that night, his lips stretched around Arthur’s cock and his thumb gently stroking over his balls and across his perineum.
“Eames,” Arthur sobs against the hand he’s clamped over his mouth to muffle his own moans. “Oh—oh. Yes, yes, yes.”
They collapse back into bed, sated, languid and content to curl against each other and fall asleep. If Arthur’s grip is a little too possessive, Eames doesn’t complain. And if Eames murmurs a breathless love you against Arthur’s forehead… well, Arthur simply smiles and repeats it back.
When Arthur wakes the next morning, he blinks his eyes open to see Eames still sleeping beside him. He presses a kiss to his lover’s forehead before slipping out of bed.
He can feel it; today will be a good day.
With a quiet grunt, Eames wakes and sits up, taking a moment to remember where he is. He smiles sleepily at Arthur, rubbing the grit out of his eyes before crossing the room.
“Morning, love,” he murmurs, wrapping his arms around Arthur’s waist. “Sleep well?”
Arthur has never slept better in his entire life, but he doesn’t admit this aloud. Instead, he simply smiles and leans against Eames and it’s answer enough.
“I could get used to this,” Eames says, his voice rumbling from deep in his chest. “Waking up to you every day. I’ve always considered myself to be an all-or-nothing type of man, admittedly, but I’ve never fallen this hard, before. I hope you realise how special that makes you.”
Arthur laughs, because Eames knows that he’s the only one Arthur has ever fallen for. Instead of pointing this out, he simply leads the way to the bathroom. They bathe and get dressed for breakfast, and as they leave Arthur’s room, they run into Mal.
“Arthur,” she says, and her eyebrows are raised even if she doesn’t look particularly shocked. “Mr. Eames. Good morning.”
Arthur clears his throat and nods in greeting, keeping his expression calm and acting as though nothing is amiss. “Good morning, Mal.”
Eames makes his excuses to return to third class after breakfast, whispering to Arthur that they’ll meet again after lunch. Mal takes Arthur by the elbow, the moment Eames is gone, and declares they’re going for a walk on the deck.
“Eames slept in your room last night,” she says without preamble, once she makes sure that they won’t be overheard. “And you’ve spent all of your time together. I wonder if I’ve somehow come to the wrong conclusion…”
Arthur takes a deep breath and looks his friend in the eye. “I don’t think you have. I think you’re—correct. In whatever you’re thinking.”
To his surprise, her expression softens. She looks happy.
“You’ve found someone. Oh, Arthur, I was so worried you wouldn’t. I’m glad.”
Arthur frowns in confusion, “You… you knew.”
“I could think of only a few explanations as to why you aren’t interested in my younger sister, and I knew that it couldn’t be because you’re an idiot, because you aren’t.”
“And you aren’t going to lecture me…” Arthur says disbelievingly, looking out at the sea, “About how inappropriate it is when we’re both men—”
“Arthur,” she says reassuringly. “I know you. If I feel the need to warn you about anything, then it’s highly likely you would have thought of it yourself. Perhaps most people would not respond very well if the two of you announced yourselves as a couple, but you’re also clever enough to know that yourself. I’ve seen myself that you’re much happier when he is with you, and that’s what matters to me.”
Arthur turns back to Mal and smiles. “Thank you.”
She smiles back. “Now, can I threaten him within an inch of his life if he ever hurts you? I’ve been wanting to ever since you said it to Dom when I first introduced you to each other.”
She corners Eames for this exact purpose, when he walks into the library after lunch to look for Arthur. He gives her a look of pretend horror and then laughs, kissing her cheek and replying, “I would never,” loud enough for Arthur to hear.
“I’ll leave the two of you alone. Dom is waiting for me,” she says and smiles warmly at them. “I’ll see you both at dinner.”
They spend the afternoon walking across the entire deck and then back again, talking and sitting in the shade now and then to rest their feet. They’re back where they began in time to watch the sunset, leaning against the railings and squinting against the light as it paints beautiful colours across the darkening sky. Eames glances over at Arthur and touches his wrist.
“I meant what I said last night, you know,” he says, his voice light and casual even though he can’t keep the serious look out of his eyes. “I do love you.”
Arthur smiles, skimming his fingers across the back of Eames’ hand. “I know. I meant it, too.”
“If I could kiss you right now…” Eames says quietly, shifting so they’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
“…I would,” Arthur finishes for him, and they lean against each other, watching as the sun finally slips beneath the horizon. At that moment, warm and content, neither of them even need to spare a thought to whether or not they’ll see the sun again.
Mere hours from now, this will change.
It is late at night, and Eames is reciting poetry. More accurately, he is reciting all the poetry Arthur had been forced to memorise as a school boy, and making it sound either absolutely ridiculous, or absolutely filthy. Sometimes both.
Arthur is sitting on his lounge chair, with a bottle of wine that Eames has stolen from the dining room, laughing so hard that his face is red.
“If I’d known you'd make such a delightfully entertaining drunk, Arthur, I would have done this earlier,” Eames declares, taking the almost-empty bottle from his lover's hands and downing the rest before launching into another poem, this time his favourite and the filthiest yet. He only gets through the first stanza before Arthur pulls him down into a lazy kiss.
Arthur is holds his liquor surprisingly well, and despite the flush on his face, he’s not quite drunk yet. The speed with which he unbuttons Eames’ shirt attests to this fact, and Eames bites back his moan of appreciation at the way Arthur swipes his tongue over all the scars and marks collected from a life far less comfortable than this.
They’re moving towards the bed when the ship suddenly swings, sending them sprawling.
“Are you okay?” Eames asks, helping Arthur up, but before he can reply, there’s another jerk and a terrible scraping sound. Eames winces and looks around. “What the hell was that?”
There’s a scream from outside, and Eames quickly buttons his shirt back up as they go outside to investigate.
“Starboard side!” a man yells, and Arthur turns to his right, looking out of the window, and swears loudly.
The ship lurches as they stare at the iceberg in disbelief, and the crew’s yells to stay calm fall on deaf ears as the panic begins.
“This ship is boasted to be unsinkable,” Arthur says, turning to facts to keep himself calm. “They—they have watertight doors to shut against water. I remember reading about it.”
“Perhaps,” Eames replies, as passengers rush around them, to go up to the deck. “But I’d feel much better if we went onto the deck, too. Come, put a jacket on. It’ll be cold. There’s a good boy.”
“You’re worried, Eames.”
Eames laughs, but there’s an edge to it that makes him sound panicked. “Yes, Arthur. For all the skills I’ve learned over the course of my life, swimming has never been one of them. And we can both count; there aren’t enough lifeboats by half.”
With a grim nod, Arthur pulls another coat out of the dresser in his room and hands it to Eames. “Let’s go, then.”
They join the press of people, and Eames keeps his hand on Arthur’s back, as a source of comfort to them both. It’s impossible to find anyone through the crowd on the deck, with people pushing past each other and as far away from the iceberg as possible, and the thought of losing each other here is terrifying.
They find a space against the wall and Arthur takes Eames’ hand into his own, squeezing down harder than he intends. Eames simply grins and squeezes back.
“I’m not going anywhere, Arthur. You needn’t worry.”
“I’m not worried, Mr. Eames,” Arthur replies smoothly, and they both know it’s a lie.
If they think the panic is bad now, it is nothing compared to the utter chaos when the evacuation order is sent out.
“Woman and children!” an officer announces, and Arthur looks at Eames, despairing. Eames simply steels himself and pulls Arthur with him towards the lifeboats.
“We’ll help,” he says, his voice clear even through the screaming. “It’s the least we can do.”
Arthur nods, barely keeping himself from reaching out when Eames lets go of his hand to begin lifting children into the boat being prepared. Turning, he does the same, helping to steady the women clambering into the lifeboat with their children.
The ropes creak as the boat is lowered and there are still empty spaces in it.
“What are you doing?” he hears Eames yelling, furious, “It wasn’t bloody full yet!”
There aren’t enough boats as it is, Arthur thinks despairingly. This isn’t going to work. The unsinkable ship is sinking.
“Steady, Arthur.” There’s a hand on his back, and Arthur takes a deep breath. The touch lingers and Eames looks at him with an unreadable expression. “Steady, love, we’ll do what we can.”
Arthur nods and they’re back to back as they wait for the next boat. He hears Eames murmur soothingly to a crying child and he shuts his eyes, letting the words calm him, too, if only for a brief moment.
Boats are lowered, filled, and sent down, and neither Arthur nor Eames move from where they are, helping load people on, speaking meaningless words to calm them, trying as hard as they can to keep themselves from thinking of how cold it is out here, how cold the water must be, and how little time they’ve spent together.
They’re up to the fourth or fifth boat—neither of them are keeping track—when the officer in charge turns to Eames.
“We need oarsmen,” he says, voice loud over the panic. “You—You’d be able to help.”
Arthur’s heart sinks. This is it, he realises, as Eames looks at him, wide-eyed and panicked. This is where they will have to part, and he takes comfort in the fact that Eames is the one who will live.
“No,” Eames says, and Arthur struggles to believe what he’s hearing. “No, I think you should take Arthur instead. Take him.”
Arthur opens his mouth, struggling to find his voice for a moment before replying with a vehement, “No. Go, you idiot. You’re stronger.”
Eames looks like he’s about to protest. The officer rolls his eyes heavenward. “Oh, for god’s sake, just get in. Both of you! Go!”
Arthur hesitates, an are you sure? on his lips, but Eames grabs the back of his jacket and pulls him into the boat. He’s handed an oar and he holds it as he looks up, watching the people still on the deck, as they’re lowered into the water.
It’s freezing down here, closer to the water and away from the warmth of the crowd. He shivers, and the only sound is that of oars breaking the surface of the water and splashing quietly as they row away from the sinking ship.
He wants to collapse against Eames and ask him if this is real, if they’re really off Titanic, really alive, but he can’t. There’s work to do, people to row to safety, and he fixes his gaze on Eames’ back, watching the muscles move beneath his coat, and focuses on staying alive.
The night drags on for eternity. The flares are fired off brighten the sky in unnatural colours, but they’ve run out, now. True to its name, Titanic remains monolithic even at a distance and it’s impossible to judge how far they’ve moved from it.
“Oh god,” Arthur hears Eames say, as they watch the ship list forward, its stern rising out of the water. They hold their breath, waiting for it to come back down, but it rises and continues to rise, as the bow disappears into the sea.
A woman lets out a sob at the sight and Arthur grits his teeth, thinking of the others; Mal, Ariadne, Cobb—even Nash and Robert—and wonders if they’re still alive. The very thought makes something twist in his chest and he pushes it out of his mind for now, focusing on the situation at hand. They may not be on the sinking ship, but there’s only so far they can go in a small lifeboat.
They have no option to row, even as their muscles burn and the fatigue steadily creeps up on them. Arthur is ready to collapse when they see a ship through the dark, its lights bright—a welcome sight in the night. They row with renewed fervour and it feels like an entire lifetime until they reach it, grabbing onto the ropes that are lowered for them.
Arthur collapses against the arms that pull him aboard, and the last thing he remembers is the way he and Eames reach for each other, before losing consciousness.
The sun is up when he wakes. There is a rough blanket thrown over him, coarse wool scratching at his jaw, and a warm, familiar body beside him.
He tries to stay calm and pretend that he’s fine. He can’t.
“Eames,” he gasps, burying his face in his lover’s neck.
He feels the soft, warm lips on his forehead and reaches out, wrapping his arms around Eames and holding on for dear life.
Later, they’ll get up and search for familiar faces. They’ll find Ariadne, huddled against Robert, both looking terrified and devastated.
They’ll learn that Dom and Mal are gone, down with the ship; too deeply in love to be apart. Ariadne will break down sobbing as she explains this, and Robert will hold her shoulders, looking torn, not speaking about his uncle Peter.
Arthur will mourn. Eames will be the one to point out to him that Ariadne and Robert gravitate toward each other, supporting each other, so that Arthur won’t feel guilty about leaving her alone.
They’ll disappear. As promised, Eames will whisk him away once they reach New York. They’ll recover from their trauma, and Eames will show Arthur the thrilling life he believes his lover deserves, and there will be happiness.
But all of that will come later.
For now, they sit in each other’s arms, on Carpathia, alive, together, and nothing else matters.