“Fuel for the machine?”
Eames’ concentration is broken, but he doesn’t mind. It wasn’t getting him anywhere, anyway, and his favorite barista’s smiling face is always a welcome distraction. It’s only sweetened by the fresh flat white in his hand, which he sets by Eames’ elbow with a porcelain clink.
“You’re a saint,” Eames sighs gratefully. When he goes for his wallet, Arthur waves him off.
“On the house. How’s it coming?”
Eames groans. “The book? Or the convoluted excuse I’m crafting for my editor?”
“Ah.” Arthur slides into the opposite side of the booth.
Eames slumps against the bench. “I might be washed up,” he says mournfully. “Lightning never strikes twice and all that. You don’t happen to be hiring, do you?”
With a sympathetic huff, Arthur shakes his head. “You’ve just hit a wall, that’s all. Relax for a minute. You’ll feel better when you look at it with fresh eyes.” He plucks one of Eames’ notecards from the vast array on the table. “May I?”
“Please,” Eames says, and Arthur sets to reading.
With Arthur engrossed in his outline, Eames lets himself stare. A year ago, Eames had been skeptical of that matter-of-fact affability; it took weeks of hours-long chats and perfectly-pulled espresso shots for him to take Arthur at face-value. In Eames’ world of schmoozers and ulterior motives, Arthur’s candidness is refreshing. If he seems interested in Eames’ novel, it’s because he is. If he acts friendly, like he likes Eames, it’s because he probably does.
Eames likes Arthur. Very much. He sips his coffee and contemplates doing something about it someday. Maybe when he finishes this damned book.
When Arthur returns the last card to the pile, Eames sits up. “Well?”
“It’s amazing,” Arthur says plainly, sending a frisson of pride up Eames’ spine, “but it’s out of order.”
“Of course,” Eames chuckles. “The draft’ll be more organized. But I need to know everything that happens, before I put it all together.”
Arthur nods. “Makes sense. I’d be afraid I’d write the whole novel and never figure out the ending.”
“See, it’s never the endings, for me,” Eames says. “Or the middle bits, honestly. I—ah.” He clears his throat. “I have a harder time with the beginnings. Knowing where to start.”
Arthur studies him intently. “Well,” he says, finally, “I think the best thing is to just...go for it. Get right to the good part.”
“In medias res,” Eames murmurs thoughtfully. He drains his mug, setting it down gingerly before reaching deliberately across the table. He takes Arthur’s hand.
“What time do you get off?”
A grin ghosts Arthur’s mouth, and he glances up at the counter.
“I can probably sneak out around seven-thirty, if I can convince Ari to close for me.”
“Perfect,” Eames says. “You know where I’ll be.” When Arthur retreats, taking his empty cup to the bar, Eames can’t help laughing.
Inspiration. He snatches up a pen, and doesn’t stop writing for the better part of an hour.