Marcus is sitting, he's talking about his latest business deal to Sarah, she hangs on his every word, when Marcus catches her out on her lack of understanding she takes his hateful insults, seemingly doesn't understand them, or think Marcus is so funny. She's gorgeous, long legs, stiletto heels, a skirt that is so short it almost shows more than it covers. Sarah puts her cheek to his shoulder, listens to him, Eames filters it out. He barely registers the pawing, the proprietary grabs, the kissing, his mind is elsewhere. He's trying to read between lines he hadn't known existed, his heart isn't in this. But Sarah is not the most passionate of people, she giggles, bats hands away, looks sultry when needed.
When the time skip happens, Marcus doesn't know what hit him. Sarah is at his side, looking every bit the perfect shoulder-candy wife. A cream colored dress, hugging all the right places, her breasts perfect, covered enough to be tasteful, leaving only a little to the imagination. They stand at the top of a grand staircase, arm in arm, it is a party, filled with people. It is an engagement party, Sarah and Marcus are getting married, because Sarah is the perfect opposite of Cynthia, and Marcus wants to rub it in his sister's face, what he thinks she should be. Vapid, vague, beautiful. Eames sees Cobb first, leaning in toward another man, he focuses further, it's Arthur, camera in hands.
Eames wants to go to him, instead he turns them around, leading Marcus gently. "Look Marc, there is your uncle, would you introduce me to him?" Sarah breathes out against Marcus' neck, watches Cobb and Arthur turn down a corridor.
For the next few hours he runs resistance for the Extractor and his Point-man, is degraded, looked down on, felt up, pushed around. He's seething by the time the shots ring out, angry enough to kill. He breaks Marcus' arm in three places instead, leans over him as guards struggle to get into the locked study. He's waiting for Cobb to come in the far door, the one leading to the balcony. "You are a disgusting individual Marcus, your sister is right to cut down your allowance, you need to be put over someone's knee and spanked." He's himself again, except Marcus doesn't know him, only knows John.
Marcus looks terrified, doesn't know where Sarah has gone, only that this shade from his past is here now. Cobb steps down onto the balcony, calls something up to Arthur above, Eames hears the shots, watches Cobb's gaze go wide in surprise, then narrow. The Extractor steps back, Arthur falls to the deck below, broken like a rag doll, shot in the back, his breathing labored. Fucking shades, had to be Mal, had to be, the guards wouldn't have taken their eyes off of him that fast after he'd caught their attention. Eames has to look away when Cobb takes aim, they've lost Arthur, no way he can walk, no way he can work.
Cobb gets down to work searching the room for a safe, for something, Marcus is terrified, staring at Eames, holding his broken arm. Eames isn't having a good day, he leans in to Marcus slowly. "Where is it you pansy little fucker?" He whispers harshly, pulls every alpha wolf trick in the book, John is pushing Marcus into the wall. "This is just a dream!" Marcus blurts out, finally with the program. "Yes it is, but... I can still hurt you." Eames wants to hurt, wants to twist and bruise, Arthur's body is lifeless behind him, he knows it's not that way in the waking world. But he cannot get the sight of labored breathing out of his head, the way Arthur was broken, spent, how much that had to hurt.
When Marcus tries to look superior, Eames slams him into the wall hard, gets up in his face, puts a hand hard to his collar, bruises. "So much pain Marcus, and I can do it too, you know I can. I know where to hurt you, I know you Marc." His eyes narrow, he knows the exact moment Wake breaks. Eames does know him, and Marcus gives a stiff shudder, it's a testament to his trainers that he lasted this long, Marcus is a weak man.
They get out, leave the back room of the club, leave Marcus to nightmares. Eames cannot help but put a hand on Arthur's shoulder as they are packing up the warehouse, he needs to know, needs to be sure that Arthur is alright. When Arthur looks up at him, there is quiet confusion there, and then a brief smile. He doesn't touch Arthur again that night, feels a little like he's been burned. "The room is paid up one more night." Arthur gives him the key-card. "I have a flight to catch in two hours, pay should hit your account by noon." The night is still young, Eames bids Arthur goodbye with a kiss to the air, cheeky as always.
He should call a car to pick him up, but he needs to get his head clear, decides to walk instead. He should know better, should have used his fucking head. It's too late, they come up from behind, the drugs work swift, Eames is down before he can see his attackers, is kind of glad it's him and not Arthur at least. Arthur safe on his plane, safe away from this, where Eames cannot see his body laying broken on a balcony.
When he comes to he's groggy, on his side, the bed is soft, and everything is fuzzy. He cannot tell whether it's a dream or drugs, it hits him that hard. When the older man leans over him, bright blue eyes glinting, terror wars with confusion, he hopes to god it's just a dream. "Howard, didn't I teach you better then to get caught?" The man's voice is gravelly, too many cigarettes, too many years undercover, just as Eames remembered it. "I must be slipping." Eames feels the fear curling up his spine, feels his pulse race. "Mate, this is going to hurt me more than you. You were my star student you know, best in the business. Tell me what you took." Eames hadn't been aware Jackson had gone into the private sector.
If he'd known he was the trainer, was Marcus' trainer, he never would have accepted the job. It does hurt, Eames doesn't know it's a dream till he dies, Jackson's blade buried deep in his gut. Doesn't know it's a dream till they put him back under, till it happens all over again. His voice goes raw from the screaming, when he awakens next, thinks he's awake at least, there are hands gripping through his hair. It's a matter of pride not to break, the job means shit, Cobb means shit to him now, but pride is bone-deep. He was taught not to break, by this very man, he isn't going to be doing it now. "You know I never told you this." Jackson is preparing a syringe, Eames doesn't know what is in it, but knows it will probably hurt going in. "You became like my own son Howard, I'm proud of you. You far surpassed our expectations."
The needle does hurt going in, whatever is in it works fast. Colors blur together, pain is numbed, this is a different type of torture, when he hits the dream it's like drowning. He sobs, coming up on an ocean, he tries to move his hands but they are bound. Cold water smacks his face, he's forced awake, the world is blurry disjointed, Jackson's grin is a cold leer, a pale-moon. "Fuck your expectations." Eames' words are slurred, he gets backhanded, but doesn't feel it, another needle and he goes down again.
There are stars above him, they are beautiful, Arthur looks down at him, moves, whispers something into his ear, he feels himself bleeding away, when Jackson wakes him next, the room is filled with morning light. "You're so resilient Howard." He always used his first name, no one else, no one in the whole fucking unit had used his first name, no one since school had called him Howard. They are running through a maze, he's being trained to find information that has been hidden. Jackson is following along, watching him avoid traps, use masks to twist the reality of the subject he is infiltrating. Eames has a niggling feeling there is something he is supposed to remember, but it's not coming.
"The subject hid their secrets deep, I want you to find them." Jackson always sounds so fucking smug, always so quick to point out when Eames is faltering. There is rumor that the trainer was a former Military Intelligence Psychologist, worked in propaganda, subliminal messaging to drive the enemy insane. Eames works deeper into the practice maze, breaks through locks, mirrors, false doors, he manipulates, he will be the fucking best at this. He blends into the corners of rooms filled with projections, goes unnoticed because he is a master of the mask, the fucking best. "Don't get too cocky." Jackson berates him, a man with a gun turns on him, he narrowly misses, the room turns on him, he has to run.
Chased, he goes through door after door, putting distance and then rooms between them, Jackson is still there, following along, unseen, but Eames can feel him, watching, waiting for him to fail. He grits his teeth, anger driving him forward, the need to prove himself, he finds the safe, but it's locked, his wrist is broken from a near fatal fall down a staircase that ends abruptly, he doesn't know why but it's so familiar. "So what is the combination Howard?" Jackson asks him, right by his side, he can see him now, looking at him, taunting him because Eames hadn't found a combination. "How the bloody fuck should I know?" He snaps, so young, so full of ire and the need to prove himself, angry when he cant. Behind Jackson, in the hallway, he can see a snap of shadows, something races by the door.
But the maze is finished, the training has ended, why would they put another enemy there. He is unarmed, perhaps it's just the dream tricking him, or maybe they haven't worked out the balance in their current drug cocktail. "You have already seen it, you know it, recall what it is Howard." Jackson sounds terse with him, the teasing finished it seems. Eames racks his brain, tries to find it, to remember the past few hours, the maze he'd been running through. The shadow passes again, he can make out a little more of the details, it's a man, with a fine-tailored suit. Eames thinks perhaps this projection is a memory, maybe one of the men he'd fucked on leave. His head hurts from trying to remember, the combination is caught up somewhere, wrapped with lean lines, strong looking shoulders, a slender waist.
"Arthur." He whispers, eyes widening a fraction as he watches Jackson's hand fracture, gun dropped as a bullet tears through his skin. Screaming pain, his heart is beating madly, Jackson drops to the ground, but Arthur is still holding the gun at the same angle, Eames isn't expecting it, it doesn't hurt when Arthur shoots him, but he isn't expecting it.
The room is spinning, the lights dance sideways, upside down, he cannot breathe, cannot feel the bed beneath him. He is breaking apart, loosing every bit of himself, memories hit him suddenly, disappear, as his mind struggles to reconcile reality and finds it impossible due to the drugs making it go pear-shaped. He cannot even fight the hands that press to his arms, hold him down, he's thrashing, blind to all but bright lights, when the needle presses to his skin though, he can feel lips against his ear. "I'm sorry, shh, it's alright now, I've got you." and against all knowledge to the opposite Eames relaxes and lets the darkness take him, the shadows are warm.
When he awakens the room smells different, he's been stripped, the sheets feel like ice against his skin, when he moves it's like rolling through an ocean of silk. It isn't the same room, he's been moved. He can only hear a loud hum, a steady rhythm, he doesn't recognize it as rain till his eyes can focus on the window. Neon is reflected in glass and streaked wet, the night is brilliant black, the room is dark. He stretches again, his wrists are raw from being tied, the cold sheets feel good against them. He knows he's tripping out of his mind, but he's not dreaming, it all feels much too real. When fingers card through his hair gently, he breathes out a deep sigh of relief, sobs rack through him, and he hadn't even known he'd been crying. "It's alright, I've got you." Arthur whispers against the back of his neck, wraps his arms around him, holds him tight.
Eames grounds himself in the warmth, the sounds of rain, the feel of Arthur wrapped so tight. He's breaking apart like glass, a thousand tiny pieces, and the drugs make it impossible to know where to put them to make himself whole again. He turns in the circle of Arthur's arms, he thinks vaguely that hurt will help it all go away, pain will ground it, he presses forward, captures a smooth jaw between his hands, when he kisses Arthur he finds no resistance though as he'd expected. Arthur's arms go rigid around him for a moment, before holding him tighter. When Arthur starts kissing back, Eames can read the words between the lines. It's okay, it's all okay, because Arthur has him, no more pain, it's all okay now.
He rolls over, presses Arthur into the bed, straddles his lap, the drugs are wicked, lap at the edges of his conscious. A thrill goes up his spine, he pulls back, looks down at Arthur, at kiss-bruised lips, at unbuttoned dress-shirt. "The drugs should wear off in two more hours, I took the bottle so I could be sure what it was he was using." Arthur's voice is soft, all business, it makes Eames' cock throb like it's been shut in something, it hurts he's so bloody hard. He grinds down against Arthur, lines them up, feels a matching hardness there, grinds against it breathlessly. Arthur's eyes are beautiful, they dilate with pleasure, Eames will never get enough of it.
"How did you find me?" Eames doesn't really care, only knows that Arthur did, there can be no saying other-wise, his dreams have never felt like this, have never felt this good. "My flight was canceled from weather. I wanted to take you to breakfast, you were missing. I tracked your cell." The only inclination Eames has that Arthur is enjoying the steady friction is the way the man's voice hitches on that last word. Eames bites and laps against Arthur's neck, tastes his pulse, feels the world coming undone. "Fuck love, I'm breaking apart." Eames whimpers. "You should leave." He grinds out, after the drugs pass there will just be memories, he can handle those, bury them under liquor, pour them into passion, use someone else as the willing body. He doesn't want to do this to Arthur, doesn't want to ground himself, find himself in Arthur, and loose the other man forever.
"Shh, you're alright, you're right here, with me." Arthur's voice is soft, patient. Eames buries his face against the spot between Arthur's neck and shoulder, tastes the bruise he'd left there from teeth and hard suction. "I need-" Eames breaks off, his voice wavering, he doesn't know what he needs, everything is dark. Arthur looks up at him, blue light makes him ethereal, surreal. "Anything." Arthur tells him, and Eames comes undone. It feels like a blur, even though it all seems to be happening so slow, fingers slick, he presses Arthur apart. He is sitting back against the headboard, Arthur's hands bracing against his shoulders. Arthur is going down on him, so very slow, taking him in, and Eames has to teach himself to breathe again. It's good, better than his dreams ever could be, he just wishes it didn't feel so broken, so disjointed.
The drugs make it hard to focus, but when Arthur moves, he snaps to attention, excruciating delicious attention. His cock throbs, the thin sheath of the condom doing very little to dull the sensation of Arthur rocking down on him. He watches, far away, as his hands go to Arthur's hips, gently guide him. The Point-man lowers his face to Eames' neck, panting breath hot against bare skin. Eames bucks up into Arthur, uses the bed as leverage, listens to the man suck in breath, feels the shudder of pleasure run through him. "Anything." Arthur had said, and Eames takes everything, pushing up into him, thrusting, grounding himself till it gets too much. He pushes Arthur over, pounds into him, bites and laps and rubs his face against Arthur's shoulder. The drugs twist everything, make it last so long, and yet not long enough, he wants to feel this forever, each little gasp Arthur makes, each deep thrust.
But he can't and he bites down on the cry, it comes out a muffled broken sound against Arthur's shoulder, it's painful, so fucking good, his vision goes dark and he cannot help going limp on top of Arthur. Still so deep, buried in him, and it's too fucking much, his cock throbbing every time Arthur breathes, he whimpers. Arthur's arms are around him again, gently rubbing down his back, holding him, and that makes it all bearable. He breathes in deeply, waits till his heart-rate slows before rolling to the side, sliding out. He doesn't notice till he collapses beside him, that Arthur had come too. A fact that warms Eames, puts a cocky smile on his lips, pieces him back together a little more. Arthur turns, cleans himself off with something, then cleans Eames up. At first it's too much, Eames tries to crawl away from Arthur's hands, but then it's over, Arthur is fast, capable. Eames' pulse races a little, thinking of everything those hands could be capable of.
Arthur lays back down, turns with the blanket, wraps them both into it. "Do you still need me here?" He asks, fatigue in his tone, Eames knows that despite that, Arthur would go if asked, if he wasn't prepared to, he would have just told Eames to shove it if it came up. "Always darling." Eames is afraid Arthur will hear the truth under his teasing. He wraps Arthur up into his arms, is comforted by the weight of the Point-man's head against his shoulder. Eames watches the rain fall, he doesn't sleep till the drugs wear off, till he knows the feel of Arthur's body against him without the veil of drugs. It's something he never wants to forget.
In the morning Arthur is gone, but there are plane tickets on the table, a set of keys to a car, a photograph, and his coat. He thumbs the sleeve of his coat, slings it over his shoulder, picks up the photograph. John Perregrin is lit by the club lights, he is leaning into the pretty little thing on his arm, they are sharing something. Eames burns it in the bath, feels a portion of himself burning away with it, cool sheets and a warm body fill the space left behind. Before he burns it he sees the words written on the back, Arthur's ever neat script. "I shot him in the knee." Eames knows this isn't the last time he'll see his old trainer, but it's the last time he'll let himself be burned by him.
He doesn't sleep on the plane, watches São Paulo fade beneath him, he's looking forward to the next job, when it comes. Looking forward to working with Cobb again, and Arthur. The grin he wears isn't a mask, it's all him, oh yes, he's looking forward to seeing Arthur again. Definitely.