Author's Note: (Yes, I KNOW this isn't my fandom, but I've been INCEPTED by certain people *stares at them* and I do have a FUCKTON of H/D fics coming soon, I swear, so please don't yowl that this isn't H/D because they are still my OTP FOREVER AND EVER, OKAY?) :D
Their differences were obvious. Arthur was quiet; Eames was generally not. Arthur was serious; Eames refused to be serious unless absolutely necessary. Arthur was meticulous and probably had numbered hooks just inside his door on which to hang his (colour-coded) keys. Eames could not find his keys half the time without ransacking his flat. Arthur was always impeccably dressed. Eames sometimes couldn't bother to do more than pick up his rumpled shirt from the floor and shrug into it. Arthur's face was close-shaven and smooth as a baby's bottom (or so Eames assumed, never having actually touched the nether parts of an infant and having absolutely no desire ever to do so), while Eames had misplaced his razor sometime in 2006 and never got round to replacing it.
Eames spent the first month cataloguing their differences, doing what Eames did best, which was studying people, learning their habits, watching for ways to get under their skin. He learned almost immediately that Arthur was a tough nut to crack.
It only made Eames more determined.
Arthur drank coffee, black. Eames drank tea diluted with enough milk and sugar to nearly lose the tea flavour. Arthur barely drank. Eames would toss back alcohol until he was sloshingly, blissfully drunk, whereupon he would sing, loudly and badly, to anyone within range. Arthur would stop drinking the moment his cheeks began to turn pink and his mouth softened into something that almost resembled a smile, except when he looked at Eames.
Eames was warm and flirtatious and cheerful. Arthur was cold and stodgy. Eames was determined to get to the bottom of it, or to the bottom of Arthur, and the analogy caused him to smile in a shark-like fashion and earned a glare from Arthur.
"You don't like me," Eames said bluntly one day in the warehouse as he lounged casually in his chair watching Arthur peck away at his laptop. Arthur's lips were set in their usual thin line and his gaze did not so much as flicker in Eames' direction.
"I don't like you," Arthur agreed.
Eames grinned broadly. "Everyone likes me."
Eames watched Arthur. There was, he supposed, a slender chance that Arthur spoke truthfully. Perhaps Arthur really didn't like him. He knew he rubbed Arthur the wrong way, usually on purpose, but Eames worked hard to be likeable. Most of the time it was his bloody job.
Arthur's fingers moved over the keys, which were nearly silent, only a tiny crackle of sound indicating that he was touching the keys. His fingers were long and graceful, not at all like Eames' blunt, strong digits. Eames got to his feet and walked over to lean down close to Arthur's ear. Arthur's fingers faltered on the keys for only a moment before they returned to their rapid tap-tap-tap. Eames considered the hesitation a victory, minute though it was. Arthur was emailing Cobb, he noticed.
"You've got to dig a little deeper, darling," Eames murmured into Arthur's ear, allowing his lips to just brush the shell, half-expecting Arthur to jerk away.
"Or," said Arthur as he hit the SEND button, "I can continue to dislike you." With that, he closed the laptop and slipped it into the case, leaning away from Eames in the process.
"You wound me," Eames complained as he straightened.
"I doubt that. Go flirt with Ariadne. Or Yusuf."
Eames sifted through the words, looking for something beneath them. Jealousy? Amusement? But there was nothing.
Arthur zipped his case, got to his feet, and left.
Eames stopped looking for differences. Arthur, it seemed, saw only the disparity, but Eames knew they had to have something in common. Of course he cheated.
Ariadne was fond of cinnamon. Eames brought her a package of chewy red sweets in the form of misshapen bears. She moaned almost pornographically as she chewed, and then dug between her teeth with a finger. "Thticky," she mumbled.
Eames refrained from making a moue of disgust. Apart from the sugar in his tea, he did not often indulge in sweets. His eyes flicked to Arthur, who sipped his black coffee from a Styrofoam cup and talked with Yusuf, ignoring Eames, as usual. Eames had not seen Arthur eat sweets. Not ever. Perhaps it was a preference they shared? Unless it was simply a front for Arthur, who went home and indulged in cakes and tarts and bon-bons. The very idea made Eames smile.
Ariadne smiled back at him with a sliver of red jelly stuck to the gum line of one front tooth.
"Have you ever been to Arthur's?" Eames asked, trying to sound as if he, himself, were a regular visitor to Arthur's flat, or hotel, or whatever abode Arthur existed in while they all made theoretical plans and tried to account for every potential cock-up.
"Sure," Ariadne said and popped another revolting bear into her mouth.
Eames squashed a sudden flare of emotion, suppressed with the mental reminder that he liked Ariadne, mainly because with her around Cobb spent less time wondering what Eames was up to and more time trying to rein in her impulsive nature. Frankly, Ariadne made Eames look sedate.
"Revoltingly neat, isn't it?" Eames asked, striving for conspiratorial.
Ariadne snorted. "I'll say. Can you believe he colour codes his coffee mugs?"
Eames threw a self-satisfied smirk toward Arthur, pleased to be vindicated even as he felt yet another surge of something that felt like jealousy. Ariadne had seen Arthur's bloody coffee mugs! What had she been doing there at an hour when coffee mugs were a necessary item?
To Eames' surprise, Arthur was looking straight at him.
"Wow," Ariadne said, voice slightly muffled by the sweet in her mouth. "That look was daggers. What did you do to him this time?"
"Nothing," Eames replied. For once it was the truth.
Arthur's long fingers lightly held Eames' wrist, barely touching him as he inserted the needle into Eames' vein. Soon they would all start to look like junkies.
"Perhaps you should wear gloves?" Eames suggested and tried not to think about Arthur in gloves. For some reason, the image was curiously erotic.
Arthur said nothing, but their eyes met for long moments and then Arthur moved away to connect Ariadne to the PASIV device.
Eames lay back and closed his eyes. They were entering Arthur's dream to test the second level of Ariadne's maze. Eames wanted to memorize the layout of the hotel before being plunged into the centre of it. One more forgery of Fischer's godfather wouldn't hurt, either.
He slipped under and woke up in the bar. Eames always enjoyed being inside of Arthur's head; everything was very orderly and precise. Lines were straight; surfaces were polished. The glasses behind the bar were stacked according to size and shape and function. Even the projections behaved in a rational, easily predictable fashion—until they attacked, of course.
Arthur and Ariadne appeared beside him just when Eames debated ordering a drink. The bartender glanced at him curiously, but he shook his head and the man turned away. Arthur and Ariadne were already arguing.
"Cobb will meet Fischer here and convince him to go up to the room in order to enter Browning's mind and find out what he knows. Hopefully, Fischer's own subconscious will provide Browning, but in case it doesn't, Eames will step in."
Eames saluted Arthur with a smirk. "At your service, darling."
"Right, so what's the problem?" Ariadne asked.
"The problem is the route to the elevator. It's too direct. If the projections catch on, they'll beat us to the doors and we won't even make it to the room in order to put Fischer under. You need to make a less obvious method of reaching the elevator without making it seem out of the ordinary to Fischer."
Ariadne nodded and they delved into a discussion about doorways, hallways, and optical illusions. Eames turned back to the bar and ordered a drink after all. Plans were well and good, but when it came to dreamspace, the ability to think on one's feet was vital, since something always seemed to go wrong.
"Eames, are you here as a tourist, or do you plan to contribute?" Arthur's voice was mild and yet he managed not to sound the least bit teasing.
"I'm sorry, love, are you finished with your technical discussion?" Eames cocked a brow at him and lifted his drink in a salute before downing it in one swallow. It burned pleasantly on the way down and left a warm glow in his stomach. Arthur's dream whiskey was always top-notch, like everything else in Arthur's world.
"Please tell me you do not plan to wear that suit at any time during the assignment," Arthur said.
Ariadne sat at a nearby table, sketching furiously while sending occasional glances toward the projections drinking and chatting at the small polished tables. They did not seem to be suspicious yet, probably because none of them were acting out of the ordinary for their surroundings.
Eames pouted, even though he had chosen his clothing with full knowledge that it would grate upon Arthur's sensibilities. "There is nothing wrong with this suit."
"There is everything wrong with that suit," Arthur countered, stepping closer and pitching his voice low to avoid projecting. "For one thing, it is purple."
"It is not purple. It is plum. And this is a very expensive suit, darling."
"An outrageous price tag does not make something good."
Eames stabbed a finger into Arthur's breastbone. "That's exactly what I said to that girl in Dusseldorf."
Arthur's eyes narrowed and the brown therein seemed to chill into permafrost. "You paid for sex in Dusseldorf?"
"No, she wanted to pay me. I am good, but I would have felt guilty accepting her offer." Eames smiled beatifically.
Arthur made a choking sound and then Eames caught an amazing flash of his dimples. Bloody hell, I've startled a smile out of him. It felt like a warm spring day after a cold grey winter. Arthur turned away with an exasperated huff and muttered, "You're impossible."
Similarities, thought Eames as he watched Arthur's fingers fly over the laptop keys. He wrinkled his nose. Technical aptitude certainly was not one of them. Eames owned a computer, but it acted as more of a dust collector than an information or communication device. On the rare occasions he was even home, that was.
Arthur had a gift for digging into people's lives. In that regard, Eames realized, they were quite similar, except that Arthur found peoples' secrets by searching through their informational debris. He could determine their shopping habits, their taste in food and drink, their preferred travel destinations, and locate their secrets through emails and telephone records. Eames could decipher much of the same simply by studying the person.
"Why are you staring at me?" Arthur asked.
"This warehouse is dreadfully dull. You are the only thing worth watching."
Arthur snorted. "You can watch Ariadne or Cobb." Ariadne was playing with the machining tools and Cobb was off brooding over details that he would likely change the moment they entered the dream. Eames knew Cobb. His ability to improvise was one of the things Eames enjoyed about working with him.
"Ariadne is an open book and Cobb's secrets are so well-buried that even he refuses to examine them. You, Arthur, are far more interesting."
Arthur's fingers faltered on the keys. "Why?"
Eames smiled. Arthur's defences seemed positively unbreachable, at times, and when a crack appeared it felt like every childhood holiday rolled into one to Eames. It was almost disturbing how obsessed he had become with locating more. "Do you remember when we first met, Arthur?"
Arthur made a noncommittal sound and resumed typing. "St Petersburg."
"Yes. I thought you were uptight and no fun at all."
"You still think I'm uptight and no fun at all."
"Incorrect," Eames said without a hint of mockery. Arthur's fingers twitched minutely, to Eames' satisfaction—surely twice in one day was a new record? It was, however, the truth, because Eames had been thinking that Arthur might be very fun indeed, if Eames could only persuade him to drop his palpable air of patronization.
"Will you please go away?" Arthur asked.
"That's the last thing you need, darling."
Unfortunately, Cobb came out and ordered them into Ariadne's latest maze.
Eames had a bad feeling about the Fischer case. Still, it was a paycheque and his last few gambles had not paid off the way he'd planned, and so far Cobb had not steered him wrong. He kept his silence.
Arthur sat down on the plane opposite Eames, ignoring him. He seemed relaxed, but Eames recognized the tiny line between his eyebrows as a mark of worry. Arthur kept his attention on Cobb. If he even noticed Eames' existence, it was an afterthought.
So unflattering, Eames thought as he lifted Fischer's wallet with a thumb and forefinger. He tossed Cobb the wallet and took his seat. He glanced at the others as he did so. Cobb was acting oddly, and had been since the unexpected inclusion of Ariadne. She looked placid, as always. She seemed good, Eames had to admit. He just hoped to fuck she didn't have any buried issues that would erupt into projections when they least expected it. They didn't need any surprises, especially surprises who knew the maze layouts.
Yusuf grinned at him. Whether he was excited or had merely consumed too much champagne was anyone's guess. Saito was composed; Eames hoped he managed to stay that way.
It did not take long for the sedative to incapacitate Fischer and the faux flight attendant sprang into motion. Eames studied her carefully. He never quite trusted the people left behind to guard their sleeping bodies, regardless of the amount of cash changing hands.
At this juncture he had little choice, however, so he inserted the needle into his wrist. He glanced at Arthur before Yusuf's sedative took effect. To his surprise, Arthur was watching him. Arthur's lips twitched in a fake smile and Eames gave him a thumb's up in return. Whatever happened, at least he would be with Arthur.
Yusuf's dream was a cock-up from the start. The weather was dismal thanks to Yusuf half incapacitating himself with alcohol prior to the job. It was likely Yusuf had no idea how such a quantity of alcohol would react with the sedative. Eames supposed that was Yusuf's problem.
Still, it was bloody fucking wet.
Fischer entered the cab and Eames raced over to leap into the left rear door, getting half-soaked in the process. Fischer went through the expected protests and everything was going according to plan until Arthur slammed on the brakes, sending Eames' forehead into the back of the seat. He was about to complain until Arthur threw it into reverse.
Gunfire erupted around them and glass sprayed across Eames' neck. He shoved Fischer to the floor and drew his gun, shooting at the projections as Arthur struggled to extract the cab from the tangled jumble of cars around them.
Bugger. He knew something would go wrong, he just hadn't expected it so soon. A shot took out the window closest to Eames. Arthur drew his gun and popped the projection with a quick shot. Eames chose to see it as a lovely gesture. He would have expressed his appreciation, but rapid fire peppered the cab, quelling all conversation.
Eames shot through the shattered rear window at a projection, but the pouring rain made his hands slippery on the trigger. He missed. Thankfully, the car Cobb was driving appeared at that moment and slammed into the shooter. Another appeared straight behind the cab and Arthur backed up, crushing the man between the bumper and the car behind them. The tenacious bastard lifted his rifle, anyway.
"EAMES!" Arthur yelled, surprising him because Arthur never yelled, not ever. Eames lifted his gun and shot the man as the car behind them pulled away, leaving a clear space for Arthur to get their vehicle clear with a spinning manoeuvre, finally escaping the wreckage.
"Are you all right?" Arthur demanded, still shouting as he righted the car and stepped on the gas.
"Yeah, I'm… I'm okay. I'm okay." Eames bent down to check on the mark. "Fischer's okay, unless he gets car sick."
"Saito?" Arthur asked. Fuck it all, Saito was hit.
Eames sighed heavily. They probably wouldn't need Saito, but it would be a pain in the arse to lose one of them so early in the game. And where the fuck had militarized projections come from? None of them spoke during the short drive to the warehouse. Eames reluctantly left the car to open the doors, getting even more drenched.
Yusuf hustled Fischer into the back room while Arthur dragged Saito out of the cab. Cobb had an immediate fit of rage and Eames felt a wrench when Arthur apologized for his inability to uncover Fischer's extraction training. Eames frowned, knowing Arthur lived for the accuracy of his information. The failure would haunt him; Eames was certain of it.
Still, Cobb's reaction seemed disproportionately vitriolic. Arthur couldn't possibly know everything and extractors did not exactly go around advertising their business. Ferreting out Fischer's trainers would have been next to impossible in the time frame they had worked with, plus Arthur had been playing nursemaid to Ariadne's first-time architecture; he couldn't bloody well be expected to do everything.
Rather than try to rationalize with Cobb—never an easy task—Eames marched forward to take care of Saito, drawing his gun, which was when Cobb dropped an even bigger bomb. Thanks to the sedative, dying in the dream would send them straight to limbo for an inexplicable length of time.
Fucking Cobb and his fucking secrets! Eames felt like popping a cap in his forehead and sending him straight back to limbo. Arthur's rage was something to behold. Cobb took it all in stride, the bloody bastard. Left with no choice at all, Eames assumed Peter Browning's identity and continued with the plan.
Arthur's tension was palpable, but his excess of emotion was back under wraps. Eames almost missed it.
It was a relief to be back in Arthur's dream, especially after the wet, chaotic madness of Yusuf's. Eames sat in the bar, dressed in the blonde girl's familiar body, and regarded Fischer. He repressed a smile, but he could not contain the feeling of satisfaction. There was nothing like forging. Eames' poker chip token was more symbolic than useful. In the real world he could not forge, it was as simple as that. In dreams he could become whoever he wanted. It was really quite liberating, but what he had discovered over the years was that he actually preferred to be himself. He really didn't care if it was egocentric.
He left Fischer and Cobb at the bar and walked past Arthur and Ariadne, ignoring them both except for a brief stare at Arthur. Sometimes he wondered if there was anything between Arthur and Ariadne. It was possible, he supposed, despite Arthur's love for beautiful things, that he was a straight arrow and not the slightest bit gay.
Eames sighed when he reached the lift. It would be such a pity.
Saito looked better, bearing only a phantom pain from his chest wound in the level above. They followed Browning's projection to the hotel room where Cobb talked Fischer into setting up his own inception. It was a thing of beauty, honestly.
Eames sprawled on the floor, readying himself for the next dream level. To his surprise, Arthur knelt beside him and took his wrist in a firm grip to apply the needle.
"Security is going to run you down hard," Eames said softly.
"And I will lead them on a merry chase," Arthur replied and allowed Eames a brief glimpse of his dimples.
Eames smiled through a sudden spike of fear. If Arthur should be killed before the kick, the lot of them could be trapped. And Eames would spend the whole of eternity searching for Arthur in limbo, if necessary.
"Just be back before the kick," Eames said instead of vocalizing the sentiment.
"Go to sleep, Mr Eames," Arthur said softly and it sounded almost affectionate. His fingers squeezed Eames' wrist once. Eames woke on a snow-covered slope with the memory of it still warm upon his skin.
The fortress was a nightmare. Saito lasted longer than expected, but Mal's unfortunate attack on Fischer nearly ended it for all of them. Eames indulged in a moment of maudlin remorse when everything seemed lost, but then Ariadne had the bright idea to send herself and Cobb to limbo to find Fischer. Eames gave it a snowball's chance in hell of working, but in lieu of other options, he hooked them up and then fought off projections until the music started.
Incredibly, the bloody thing worked. Everything worked, including Cobb locating Saito, whose brain, astonishingly, hadn't turned to porridge after his time in limbo. When the plane landed at LAX, Cobb was not arrested and bid them all a subdued goodbye before accompanying Miles to his waiting car. Eames would have found it all very touching if he hadn't been utterly exhausted.
He smiled wryly at Arthur, who actually smiled back with a small shake of his head. "What's with the dark suit, Mr Eames? Where is your paisley, your plaid, your plum? Don't you feel terribly constrained?"
Arthur sounded almost teasing and Eames decided he must be punchy from fatigue. Eames opened his black jacket to show off the dark cashmere shirt beneath. "I chose this especially for you, Arthur. You are always complaining that I offend your… sensibilities."
"I'm flattered, Eames. And I need a drink. Would you care to join me?"
Eames thought he probably imagined the glint in Arthur's eyes. Despite the fact that Eames wanted nothing more than to find a bed and sleep for a week—well, almost nothing more, since he definitely wanted Arthur more than that—he nodded and opened the door to the nearest taxi.
Arthur climbed inside. Eames slid in after him and shut the door while the cabbie tossed their bags into the boot. When the driver returned, Arthur said, "L'Ermitage Hotel." He looked at Eames and leaned his head back against the seat tiredly. "Saito made reservations."
Eames nodded. He remembered the reservations, although not the name of the hotel. He stared out the window at the view of Los Angeles and remembered why it was one of the ugliest cities he'd ever seen. It was squat and grey and seemed almost completely lifeless. He checked his watch. It was just past 7am local time, far too early for a drink, but it was likely the hotel bar could wrestle one up for them. They should eat, as well, but the residual effects of the sedative tended to induce nausea with food consumption unless sufficient time had passed.
He and Arthur said nothing at all as the taxi navigated the freeway traffic. Eames' thoughts felt sluggish, drained of energy after the events of the long, long day spent in an age of dream space. One drink, he thought. One drink with Arthur and then straight to bed to sleep (hopefully without dreaming) for as long as possible.
When they finally reached the hotel, Eames was dozing and Arthur nudged him awake with an elbow. Once inside, they checked in at the large desk. Eames accepted two plastic key cards and tucked one into his wallet. He handed the other to Arthur with a smirk.
"In case you get lonely," he said suggestively.
To his surprise, Arthur took it. "Come on," he said. They walked to the lift and entered when the doors swung open.
"By the way, that was impressive work with the lift today, Arthur," Eames said when the doors closed. "Your ability to improvise is inspiring."
"That sounds almost sincere," Arthur replied in a dry tone.
"I am very sincere, Arthur," Eames said seriously. Their eyes met and something seemed to thicken and grow between them. Eames had no idea what it was, but he did not think he imagined the heightened colour in Arthur's cheeks when his gaze dropped. For a moment, Eames thought about reaching for his totem, but he shook it off.
The doors opened and Arthur strode out, walking quickly. He stopped before the door to Eames' room and used the card to open the door, holding it open for Eames to enter. Once inside, Arthur walked straight to the bar while Eames went to the window to see if the pool was visible. Perhaps with some luck, he would be able to coax Arthur into having a swim later. He grinned at his own fantasy. Not likely.
Arthur poured two drinks and brought one to Eames. He took it with a smirk. "To similarities," Eames said and clinked his glass against Arthur's.
Arthur raised a brow, but took a healthy swallow of the whiskey. Eames did the same.
"Similarities," Arthur said. "That's rather cryptic." Arthur moved across the room and placed his drink on a low table before sprawling in a dark leather chair in order to take off his shoes. He also removed his suit coat and draped it carefully over the arm of the chair next to him.
Eames toed off his loafers but stayed where he was, unwilling to get too close to Arthur. He knew it was a bad idea to add alcohol to exhaustion, but the liquor was smooth and went down with a pleasant burn. Eames did not bother to turn back to the window. Instead he watched Arthur.
"Similarities," Eames said magnanimously, "are very important."
"Why?" Arthur asked. He picked up his drink again and leaned back in the chair, stretching out his long legs and causing Eames to swallow heavily as his eyes travelled up the length of Arthur's trousers.
"Because similarities connect people. We inherently dislike, or fear, that which is different. Take the two of us, for example. On the exterior we are vastly dissimilar. You dress for success. You are focussed, driven, organized, precise, and take yourself far too seriously. I doubt you would apply any of those qualities to me."
Arthur opened his mouth to speak, but Eames lifted his glass and poked a finger toward Arthur to hush him.
"But if you look below the surface, you will find commonalities that cannot be refuted. We are both resourceful, intelligent, stubborn, and have trust issues that probably originate somewhere in our wretched childhoods." Eames paused and realized he was basically cataloguing all the things he liked about Arthur. "We are confident, well-learned, a bit vain—yes, me more than you, Arthur, I am aware—and we have a shared fondness for classical music, fine liquor, archaic languages, obscure literature, and the beauty of both the male and female form. We also have a terrible fear of commitment. We should probably work on that last one. Perhaps together."
Eames words were flippant, but it was possible he had revealed too much with his last words. Or maybe just enough, because Arthur stood with one fluid movement and banged his glass down on the tabletop. In two steps he stood between Eames' legs, looming over him, face serious.
Almost as though in a dream, Arthur leaned forward and pressed his lips lightly to Eames', who held his breath, hardly daring to move other than to tip his head slightly and part his lips, inviting Arthur in. The taste of whiskey mingled between them, growing stronger when Arthur's tongue lightly brushed over Eames' upper lip.
Eames pressed forward, suddenly greedy, needing more—so much more—but this was Arthur's show, so he only clenched his hand more tightly around the glass and dug the fingers of the other into the chair leather, resisting the urge to touch even though the effort left him trembling.
Arthur seemed to appreciate his control. He deepened the kiss, licking at Eames' tongue and tracing the ridges of his gums and sending flickers of lust shuddering through his blood when he lapped at the sensitive roof of Eames' mouth.
When Arthur pulled away, his lips gleamed and his pupils looked huge and blown. Eames wanted nothing more than to drag him back in, but he only swallowed heavily, losing himself in Arthur's eyes.
"What brought on this change of heart, darling?" Eames asked when Arthur didn't move.
Arthur shook his head. "Not a change. Acceptance of heart, maybe. Just… things."
Arthur's breath huffed over Eames' face as he spoke, remaining only inches away. "Yes, inception. We steal information all the time. Papers, emails, faxes, bits and bytes. It's all the same. Extraction is just stealing information that's buried deeper. A lot deeper. But this, what we did to Fischer…"
Eames smiled without humour. "Felt wrong," he finished for Arthur. "Thus we chart the levels of morally reprehensible behaviour."
"And find our limits. I never want to do that again." Arthur still hovered over Eames, hands planted on the seat of the chair on either side of Eames' hips.
"Not only because we were nearly lost in limbo?"
Arthur grimaced. "Too close for comfort."
"I would very much like to unwrap you, Arthur," Eames said softly. "I think about it quite a lot."
"I know. It's one reason I wrap so carefully," Arthur replied. He took Eames' glass and set it on the table behind him before turning back to face Eames. Eames reached up and loosened the black tie at Arthur's throat, sliding the knot gently through itself, slowly unwinding it until it fell free. Eames didn't bother to pull it out; instead he started on the buttons below Arthur's Adam's apple.
One button, then two, then three. Eames paused with three buttons open, strangely humbled by the sight of Arthur's bare throat. He lifted one finger and traced the smooth skin, dropping a fingertip into the dip between the ridges of Arthur's collarbone.
Arthur's throat worked as he swallowed and Eames took a deep breath and unbuttoned the rest, moving to the waistcoat buttons when he reached them, and then finishing with the shirt. He tugged the material open and exposed Arthur's chest. Eames was not at all surprised to find Arthur possessed of the most perfect nipples ever to grace a torso.
"Arthur," he breathed, aching to touch them, needing to put his mouth on them and memorize the sounds Arthur would make when he suckled them into hard peaks.
Arthur shrugged out of the shirt and waistcoat together and then yanked the tie away. The silk and wool fell to the floor in a heap. The gesture was all the more erotic because Eames knew Arthur was the sort to fold every piece carefully and stack it on a tabletop.
Arthur rose to his feet and Eames leaned forward to grasp the buckle of Arthur's exotic belt. He unfastened it and then pushed the single button on his trousers through the hole before lowering the zipper with a whisper of sound.
"Boxers," Eames said and looked at Arthur with a grin. He had been certain of it before, based solely on his dedicated observation of Arthur's incredible arse clad in his perfectly-tailored trousers. As expected, they were silk, but Eames was surprised by the sudden shock of colour. Instead of some dull shade, they were a colour that Eames would only describe as plum. Darker violet paisley chased itself over the boxers, barely visible, but certainly a nod to Eames' eclectic taste. Eames wanted to ease the tension with a clever quip, but the knowledge that Arthur had most certainly planned ahead for this seduction made it impossible for him to speak. Eames had thought it to be a spur of the moment decision for Arthur, an impulse brought on to counter the dangerous risks they had taken and celebrate the fact that they were still alive.
But this was something far different. It was humbling, and perhaps a bit terrifying.
A delicious bulge stretched the fabric of Arthur's boxers. Eames tipped his head forward and placed a kiss there, mouthing the hardness and feeling his own erection strain against his trousers. Arthur made a soft sound and his hand dropped to curl around the back of Eames' neck.
Eames left his task and stood up, feeling more than a little unsteady. "Care to unwrap me now?"
Arthur nodded and then he slipped the black jacket from Eames' shoulders and dropped it onto the vacated seat. He tugged the black cashmere from Eames' waistband next, pulling until it was free and then dragging it over Eames' head with a crackle of static.
Arthur made a small sound Eames took for approval as Arthur's eyes raked over his torso. Eames kept his hands at his sides, itching to touch him, but knowing once he started he'd be unable to stop.
Arthur worked loose the buckle on Eames' belt and then unfastened the trousers. "These look very nice on you, by the way," Arthur admitted.
"Really? How is that I've never caught you ogling me?"
"I'm very subtle."
"You are subtlety personified, apparently. I thought you were absolutely uninterested. I was about to stop flirting with you completely."
Arthur blinked at him as Eames' trousers slipped down to his ankles. "You were?"
Arthur's dimples were brilliant and Eames wanted to taste them, so he did, pressing a kiss first to Arthur's cheek and then the edge of his mouth, and finally to his lips. They kissed breathlessly as Arthur's hands moved over Eames' waist, sliding round to the back and tucking into the waistband of Eames' underwear—also silk, which he preferred merely because he enjoyed the feel of them against his balls, when he bothered to wear pants at all, at any rate.
And he definitely enjoyed the feel of Arthur's hands on his arse, especially when they squeezed like that. Oh god.
Arthur's mouth left Eames' and he pulled away slightly and looked down before bursting into laughter.
"What?" Eames asked in an affronted tone. Surely Arthur wasn't laughing at Eames' package, because he was perfectly proud of it, especially seeing how it could barely be contained by the fabric at the moment.
"I should have known you couldn't maintain it." Arthur chuckled again and Eames realized he was laughing at his pants.
"Those are perfectly legitimate boxer briefs."
"They are red white and blue. Garishly red white and blue."
"I considered the Union Jack."
Arthur dropped his forehead against Eames' shoulder, shaking with mirth. Eames could not resist any longer. He raised his arms and wrapped them around Arthur, enfolding him and pulling him even closer. Arthur's hands tightened on his arse again. Eames couldn't help nuzzling his hair and was nearly overwhelmed with the scent and feel of Arthur.
"Your nod to patriotism is noted. And banished forever," Arthur said and manoeuvred his hands until Eames' colourful pants dropped to the floor atop his trousers. Eames leaned against Arthur as he stepped out of the fabric, one foot at a time.
"Bed?" Eames questioned.
Arthur nodded, head still brushing against Eames' shoulder. He yawned suddenly and the sound of it was loud in the quiet room.
"Am I boring you, darling?" Eames teased as he turned and navigated the clothing in order to guide Arthur to the bed.
"No. Just tired."
"I know. Let's take off your silly sock suspenders, you adorable thing."
Arthur crawled onto the bed and sprawled face-down, still wearing his plum-paisley boxers and a pair of black suspenders that held up his socks. Eames gently unfastened them and drew his hands over each of Arthur's calves to remove them. Arthur sighed in what sounded like utter contentment. Eames stripped off his own socks, as well.
Almost as an afterthought, Eames reached up and tugged down Arthur's boxers to reveal his pert arse. The pale curves were absolutely perfect. He wanted to touch them… and taste them.
Eames flung the material aside and glanced back at the suit jacket that held his totem in a pocket. Arthur was in his bed; it just seemed unreal. Was it possible they were still on the plane and he had fallen asleep?
"Eames?" Arthur asked sleepily, raising his dark head to look back over his shoulder. The sight was mesmerizing, and far more domestic than erotic.
Eames shook off his notion and stepped forward to drag the blankets away from the flat headboard. "Come on, darling, climb up to the pillows for me."
Arthur did, pulling himself up until he lay atop the white sheets instead of the duvet. Eames slipped into the bed next to him and dragged the blankets up over them both. It was possibly too cool in the room, thanks to the air conditioner pumping out cold air, but better too chill than too warm.
Eames spooned against Arthur, curving himself against his back and crossing a possessive arm over Arthur's side. He buried his face in the hair at the base of Arthur's neck and pressed a kiss against the soft skin beneath a curl of hair. Eames didn't move for long minutes, content to hold Arthur close, despite the fact that his erection remained thick and heavy against the delightful curve of Arthur's arse.
"Eames?" Arthur asked again.
"Go to sleep, love. When I have my wicked way with you, I want us both to be awake enough to enjoy it."
Instead of replying, Arthur only sighed once and then went still except for the steady rise and fall of his chest beneath Eames' hand. Eames drifted off to sleep, hoping to hell he hadn't just made a terrible mistake.
Eames was dreaming.
He had to be dreaming, because Arthur was in his bed. Not merely in his bed, but touching him with those long-fingered, extremely competent hands.
"Where…?" Eames blinked and tried again. "Where's my totem?"
A wicked chuckle met his question. "You don't need your totem, Mr Eames. I already checked mine and I am most definitely not dreaming. And if I'm not dreaming, you're not dreaming."
Eames made a huffing sound, which was surprisingly difficult with Arthur's hand wrapped around his cock. "Always so supercilious, Arthur. I am, however—" he gasped as Arthur's thumb stroked over the crown of his prick, slicking through a bead of wetness. His thoughts completely derailed.
"Were you saying something?" Arthur asked with an arched brow.
"Fuck," Eames said. "If I am dreaming, I believe I'll just keep on with it."
"A wise decision," Arthur practically purred and then his mouth fastened on one of Eames' nipples. He pushed Eames onto his back and half-climbed over him, left hand still twisting delightfully over his cock. He straddled Eames' thigh for a moment and then settled himself fully between Eames' legs.
"I believe there was some talk of ravishing, earlier," Arthur said in that calm, conversational tone that always managed to make Eames hot even when Arthur wasn't touching his most prized possession.
"Yes," Eames agreed, gasping. Arthur gave him a look that took his breath away and then kissed a hot path down over Eames' abdomen, slowly moving lower and easing himself downward until his lips hovered over Eames' cock.
Arthur smirked, looking devilish and incredibly sexy. His tongue flicked out and teased at the crown. Eames jolted involuntarily and Arthur's hands curled around his hips to hold him in place. The wicked sparkle in his eyes did not diminish and Eames was amazed that he had never imagined a determined, dominant Arthur before. A terrible oversight on his part, in retrospect.
Arthur's intense stare disappeared behind dark lashes as his lips opened up and he took Eames inside. Eames' hips trembled as his cock was enveloped in brilliant wet heat. Arthur's fingers squeezed warningly against his hipbones, silently advising him to keep still.
Eames' head fell back against the pillows with a guttural sound. Arthur lapped and sucked at him with what he hoped was natural talent, sending near-electric shivers of bliss skating through his veins. His own heartbeat sounded loud in his ears, shocking, considering all the blood in his body seemed to be centred in his groin.
Eames lifted a hand and touched Arthur's hair before slipping it down to rest atop Arthur's hand that pushed against his hip.
"Arthur, god," he said. Just when he felt his testicles begin to seize up Arthur pulled away. He looked even more self-satisfied and Eames would have complained except that Arthur appeared so incredibly debauched with his lips red and dripping wet, and his normally perfect hair hanging over his forehead in a way that made him look almost criminally young…
"I want to fuck you, Mr Eames," Arthur said.
It took a moment for Eames to recover his power of speech, but he finally managed a nod and a flippant, "As you wish, darling" even though he felt anything but facetious.
Arthur levered himself up, wiped his chin with the back of his hand, and reached beneath his vacated pillow to snare a small tube of lubricant and a foil packet. Eames frowned and wondered how long Arthur had been awake before he'd chosen to awaken him. And what was the bloody time, anyway?
Before he could so much as lift his wrist to look at his watch, he was distracted by Arthur's white teeth ripping the packet. The latex dropped onto Eames' abdomen and Arthur tossed the wrapper aside and picked it up. Eames watched intently as Arthur stretched the thin material—which was purple, he noted with wry amusement—and started to roll it over his cock.
"Let me," Eames said and levered himself up in order to brush Arthur's hands away. He had never seen Arthur's cock, much less touched it, and he would very much like to do both. Eames gripped the latex and gave Arthur's prick one gentle stroke with thumb and forefinger, appreciating the beauty of it. Trust Arthur to have a lovely cock. It was long and slender and quite straight. Porn purveyors would have loved to get their hands on it in order to cast it in silicone and mass produce it for eager sex-toy users.
Although if Eames had anything to do with it, no one would ever put their hands on it again. No one but him, and wasn't that a bit of a revelation? His eyes met Arthur's for a moment and something must have showed in his stare, because Arthur looked puzzled until Eames dropped his gaze and focussed on the task at hand. He rolled the purple material down until it met Arthur's dark curls.
Eames let his hand keep moving, dropping down to cup Arthur's testicles and squeeze them gently with his palm. Arthur shifted and made a small noise that was music to Eames' ears. He leaned forward and took Arthur's parted lips in a kiss while his hand stroked and fondled Arthur's balls, which were extremely sensitive, judging by the way Arthur began to thrust into Eames' hand.
Arthur's fingers gripped his shoulders and pushed him away, breaking the kiss. Arthur's eyes were wide and dark, but a grin curved his wet lips as he shook his head. "Stop distracting me," he said and shoved him gently him backward. Eames allowed it, falling back against the pillows and letting his hand slide free of Arthur's bits.
He watched with curious fondness as Arthur popped the cap on the lube and squeezed it generously onto his fingers, keeping an eye on Eames rather than his task. Eames felt surprisingly calm, considering he could not even recall the last time he'd bottomed. He'd been young, and not terribly fond of it, but this was Arthur. Eames had the disturbing feeling he'd allow Arthur to do just about anything without a whimper of protest.
"This might feel cold," Arthur murmured and stroked over Eames' cock with his slick fingertips. It was a bit of a surprise; he had expected Arthur to go straight for the target, but when had Arthur ever been predictable when it came to Eames?
Arthur stroked, alternately long, slow movements and rapid pumping until Eames was close to the edge again, gripping the sheets in his fists and thrusting mindlessly into Arthur's fist. The bloody tease chuckled and backed off again only to immediately stroke his fingers over Eames' testicles and perineum. Eames was so sensitized by then that every touch left him trembling. He mindlessly raised his legs and took his knees in hand, exposing himself to Arthur without a moment of shame.
Arthur spared him one approving glance, hot and heady, and then pushed a single fingertip inside. Eames threw his head back and concentrated on taking Arthur in. There was no pain at all; not even when Arthur pushed in farther and then fucked him gently with the digit.
"More," Eames said and clenched his jaw when Arthur added a second finger. There was a twinge, quickly overcome by Arthur's gentleness. All of his movements were slow and methodical, possibly pre-planned. The thought that Arthur might have thought this out ahead of time with charts and graphs nearly made him laugh, until a third finger pushed everything other than Arthur's fingers out of his mind.
Arthur experimented for a bit, twisting his well-lubed fingers and probing until Eames jerked and gave an involuntary gasp. His cock twitched, surprisingly still rock-hard.
"There it is," Arthur murmured. He stroked Eames' prostate a couple more times and then pulled out and asked, "Ready?"
"More than ready, Arthur, darling." Eames knew his voice was unsteady, but he was beyond caring.
Arthur nodded and then Eames stared up at the ceiling and counted through the burn as Arthur's cock pushed past his still-tight muscles and filled Eames completely. Arthur's hands gripped Eames' thighs, helping him hold them in place.
"All right?" Arthur asked.
"Yes. Better than all right, love."
Eames opened his eyes to meet Arthur's tender stare and he felt his heart flip over as he accepted the fact that he was more than a little bit smitten.
Arthur moved, slowly at first, and increasing his rhythm as Eames rocked up to meet his thrusts, angling each downward motion to graze over Eames' prostate. Arthur was a brilliant top and Eames thought if he'd had such an experience during his first time he might have bottomed forever. He tried not to think about how Arthur had acquired his experience. If any of his former lovers turned up, Eames would simply have to kill them.
Eames realized he was gasping Arthur's name rather pathetically and he let go of his own knees to twist his hands in Arthur's hair, needing an anchor.
"Eames. God, Eames," Arthur said with a moan and leaned down for a sloppy kiss. One of his hands released Eames' thigh and wrapped around his cock, still slick and hard and throbbing. It had leaked all over Eames' abdomen—he couldn't recall that ever happening before. Two quick strokes and he was coming explosively, arching partway off the bed and tightening his fingers in Arthur's hair. His vision went white at the intensity and he quite possibly shouted Arthur's name in the process.
He felt Arthur slam into him several more times, keeping on even though it was obvious he was coming hard. Fuck, the look on his face would give Eames wank material for the rest of his life. Arthur coming undone was something to behold.
Arthur shuddered through it and then collapsed completely, sprawling over Eames as if drained of all energy, although quivers still shook his frame. Eames let go of his hair in order to trail his hands through the sweat on his back, loving the feel of every ripple.
"Arthur," he murmured.
Arthur's lips pressed into his neck and his breathing slowly returned to normal. "Shower?"
"With you?" Eames asked hopefully. Yes, most definitely smitten. He had no intention of allowing Arthur out of reach for the next unforeseeable future.
"Of course." Arthur's amused tone gave him a warm rush and he traced the curve of Arthur's buttocks with one hand. His flaccid cock was still pleasantly buried inside Eames, who was in no hurry to have it gone.
"What time is it?"
"Sometime past four. Hungry?"
"Yeah. Room service?"
Arthur raised his head and looked at him through eyes soft and dark as melted chocolate. "No plans for going out, then?"
"Not for a very long time," Eames assured him, tightening his grip.
Arthur's dimples were fucking brilliant.
They stayed at the hotel for a week, leaving only occasionally. Once they met with Saito to receive their shares from the inception job. Twice they went out to dinner (once to a place of Arthur's choosing, a stuffy French restaurant where Arthur showed off his impeccable language skills and knowledge of fine wine, and once to a greasy burger joint where they played ESPN too loud on the telly and Eames fed Arthur salty fries and plied him with lager until they ended up in the rental car, kissing and groping like teenagers in the parking lot), and once they went to the beach to walk barefoot in the sand.
Eames began to hate Los Angeles a little less. Amazing what Arthur's constant presence could do to one's outlook.
"We should go back to work," Arthur said one morning as they lay in a post-coital haze, wrapped around each other.
"Cobb is out."
Arthur laughed. "Cobb isn't out. He'll be bored in a month. Should we take odd jobs or wait for him?"
Eames swallowed heavily at the "we" because he hadn't dared to mention permanence, or anything at all beyond what they would do that day.
"Whatever you like, darling."
Arthur's teeth sank into his shoulder. "You need to stop doing that."
"Being adorable. It's impossible to hate you."
"You never hated me."
Arthur smiled. "I never hated you."
Eames rolled him over and muttered something about "bloody stick up your arse, making me wait, causing me undue anguish" and set about punishing him for his earlier transgressions.
Arthur didn't seem to mind.