Author Notes: So this basically wrote itself, partly because Inception is incredible, and partly because I am in love with Eames/Arthur. Needless to say it's slash. Please enjoy!
As anyone in the dreaming business could tell you, there is never any place for emotions. To have emotions is for people to know you, and that opens a whole myriad of dangers. Relationships in this game will go one of two ways – all or nothing, and nothing is by far the safest. It's self-preservation, every time.
Of course, equally, as everyone knows, but no-one will ever admit, if you're not known, then you're as good as dead.
Over the years of working with Arthur, Eames perfected the art of knowing. It helped that they had entered the business around the same time, with Eames having only a year or two's edge over the other man. Back then, in a time when you're only just learning, and emotions are much harder to mask. Eames can remember, in stark detail, how Arthur had reacted the first time he had 'died'. For the Arthur everyone knew now, it was a positive breakdown, but even then, the reaction had been considered mild when put up against the standard norm.
Eames knew from experience that Mal's projections were sadistic little bastards, so he knew that whatever had happened had likely not been pleasant. Arthur had come awake in gasping breaths, limbs scrambling as his lithe form had bent, fists clenched tight, his arms folded tightly over his stomach as he fought not to let the mental shadows manifest into a more physical reaction. Eames remembered standing over him, fingers digging tightly into Arthur's shoulder and collarbone, silently grounding him as Mal and Cobb checked him over, reassured him, and brought him fully back to reality.
Of course, that was all back then, at the beginning. It had not taken long before Eames' impressive skills as a forger guided him into a much more freelance business, while Arthur stuck with Cobb and Mal, in a team. Eames was unsure, then, whether it was because he had not watched Arthur's experience grow in a steady succession, or because he was so good at reading people, that he became the only person to actually know Arthur. Maybe it helped that the two of them had always kept up a healthy side of banter in their relationship.
But both Mal and Cobb – and then just Cobb, but that was a sore subject Eames still disliked to touch – seemed to stop noticing. They didn't understand how everyone's reactions did not stop, as they became engrained into the lifestyle, cold to the dying, but rather, that they faded to a dull echo of what they had once been.
If Eames had stopped to pause, during the time in which they worked the Fischer job, then he might have also noted that there had definitely been a rather large dose of obsession in there too, but as it was Eames, he didn't really care.
And so he knew, whenever Arthur woke from dreams and made eye contact with them all, that this was a sign that everything went well; the window for teasing was a given.
He knew that when Arthur woke and rubbed his neck, as if working out a knotted muscle, that he was frustrated by how the dreaming was progressing. It also meant you should approach with caution.
He knew that if Arthur took his shoes off before dreaming in the warehouse, then he was confident, and if he didn't, that he expected things to go wrong.
Eames knew that when Arthur jumped up as soon as he woke, it did not mean he was pumped with adrenaline and ready to dive into whatever needed doing – it meant that he wanted to bolt. Eames always upped the darlings whenever that happened.
Most telling, perhaps, he knew that when Arthur died in a dream, he awoke with an unconscious tick. Rather than the clenched fists of before, it had long dissolved into a twitch, an inability to get his right index finger to stay still.
While he knows that it was definitely after the Fischer job, Eames is not sure when he began responding to this twitch by squeezing Arthur's hand when he woke up, an action so quick that for the first few times, he's not even sure if either of them registered it, let alone the others.
Perhaps it had started ten kicks before that job that had ended with them on the other side of the dream complex, trapped by an onslaught of knife-wielding projections; the distraction for the extractor. The job that had ended with them each knowing, and yet completely unsure, without time to check their totems, each man's gun pressed at the other's temple, a blank, fearless terror mirrored in their eyes. The job where Eames had pulled Arthur into a searing, desperate kiss, one second before their trigger fingers initiated the kick, two seconds before the projections attacked, and three seconds before Eames' hand stilled Arthur's twitching finger.
There had been a few weak attempts to blame adrenaline, the dreamstate, and the general lack of control required to kill in a dream, but they had quickly moved past this.
Eames' arms grounded Arthur as they snaked tightly around his waist.
Arthur's gaze washed away all doubt of identity, because they never saw anyone but Eames.
Pressure, heat, breathe, twist, and how could this be anything but reality? Why would anyone chose the dream over this?
So even when the twitch died to such a small flicker of a spark, hidden within Arthur's avoiding gaze, because he would still never make eye contact unless all was well, Eames still knew.
When to avoid, when to touch, when to kiss, when to press.
Yes, everyone knew that knowing was forbidden. Everyone knew that relationships would go one of two ways, and that nothing was always the safest option.
But when a job was done, and Eames lay awake in their hotel room, arms secure around Arthur's still naked form, their breathing matching in an even tandem, he found that he didn't like safe.
He knew Arthur, and Arthur knew him. Each knew the twitches, the flickers, the twists and the tells.
He would rather have more danger in a dream, he would rather know, than not know, and lose this reality, lose this perfect body pressed to him, lose these emotions.
He would rather know, than lose their souls to the world of forgery, dreams and lies.
Even if it meant that, somewhere down the line, it all ended with a kick.
Because everyone knew that you should never let yourself be known.
Author Notes: So, what did you think? I'd love to know your thoughts! I'm still rather new at writing slash, so I hope it turned out believable.