Written for the 2011 inception_bang.

Warning: The end of this chapter is rated M, but the rest of the story is T, hence the overall rating on the story.

It's been five years since Dublin, and Arthur needs a drink.

It's a lavish hotel, one he would never choose for himself, and there's mahogany and red drapery everywhere. It's very Mal, he thinks, a weary smile painting itself onto his lips as he thinks about Cobb, about how he finally did something everyone else managed to a long time ago. He knows he shouldn't judge, but a bullet to the head often offends, and as much as they all loved her, Mal the projection wasn't [and was never going to be] the same as Mal the person. He throws a nod at the concierge, and collapses into a seat at the mostly empty bar, resting his head in his arms until a drink arrives at his elbow. He looks up, but the bartender is already at the other end of the bar, pouring drinks for an impatient couple that take the glasses and retire to the shadowy corner of the duskily-lit room. He takes a slow sip, the burn spreading through him, and he realises just how much he needed it. He cups the glass in long fingers, and glances around, the drive to map out the room, the exits, count the people, evaluate the danger too deep to shake off with a single drink.

It's upmarket, this hotel, on the outskirts of L.A., far enough that he can forget about the busy city, not too far should the team need him, should Eames need him...

He pauses, clattering the ice around the bottom of his empty glass. Working again with Eames, after the years building up like a wall between him-now and him-then had been... telling. The casual gestures, the pet names [so called], they all reeked of a man poking fun. Only Arthur heard the bite, the barely disguised poison seeping into every dear, every sweetheart, every darling. The thinly veiled malice hiding behind every good natured kick. The unconscious loathing shielded by flirting and faux-groping. He didn't think seeing Eames again would be like... this. He knew it would be different between them, of course he did [how could it not be?]. He just wasn't expecting that Eames would be so much the same as he was last year, two years ago, five years ago.

Looking up, he leaves memories melting with discarded ice cubes and gazes around the bar with heavy lids. Mostly couples, some single people, drinking to forget, or to remember. He doesn't know which. [Which applies to him again?] He pinches at the bridge of his nose before signalling for another drink. The bartender is tall, handsome, with unruly hair that falls in his face no matter how many times he slicks it back with his hands. Arthur orders a drink quietly and the guy slides it to him with an easy smile that looks to close to an Eames' brand grin. Something in his stomach twists and the tilted corners of his lips warp into a grimace as raw nerves sizzle. He hides it with a swallow of scotch and smiles again, emotions locked away once more, but the bartender has already wandered down to the other end of the bar to serve an older gentleman who sips from an almost empty brandy glass. He has a pale line where a wedding ring should sit, and his eyes are open, but unseeing, blank, and Arthur is struck by the thought that this is what he looks like now, lost in his thought-memories, fuzzy photographs of the past running through his head. He glances over his drink, cradling it in a hand as he pretends not to watch the man, as lost in his own world as Arthur was in his.

He looks older than Arthur suspects he is, aged by whatever experience erased the wedding band from his finger. He looks fifty, but moves with the ease of a much younger man as he finishes his drink and tosses a handful of notes on the polished mahogany bar top and leaving, throwing a nod in the bartender's direction. Arthur watches him leave idly, taking another swallow. Crunching on an ice cube [a bad habit, but one he can't seem to shake, even after fifteen years], he scans the room again, turning back round when he hears someone sliding onto the seat next to him.


With a level of professionalism that surprises even himself, he puts the glass down and swivels in his seat to face the bar, back ramrod straight. 'What do you want, Mr. Eames?' he asked, clipped tones giving nothing away.

'Nothing at all, darling. Can't a man enjoy a drink at-' he checks his watch. 'two thirteen? PM.'

'What I do on my own time is nothing to do with you, Eames. Certainly not my drinking habits, when and where they may occur.'

'Be that as it may, I have a proposition for you, and as much as I love uninhibited Arthur, I would very much like for you to remember this conversation. For future reference, of course.' Eames' hand curls around the half finished drink, tugging it gently away from Arthur and sliding it down the bar, curving it between his propped elbows and waving the bartender away suavely.

'The last proposition of yours I accepted ended up lasting three years and was the single most soul destroying experience of my life. I have no desire to repeat that, Mr. Eames.' Arthur fires back, sounding in control when in reality everything he feels is fraying at the edges.

There's a long silence from Eames as he stares into the glass under his chin, the confiscated scotch drawing his gaze just as it drew Arthur's. 'We were good together though, weren't we?' he said, sounding both childlike and grown up at the same time, a trait Arthur has yet to master. He sounds both boastful and lost, looking at Arthur with a strange emotion clinging to the edges of his expression.

Arthur thinks for a too-short second and acquiesces before he can dwell more on his less than savoury past. Eames smirks properly at that. 'We were fucking amazing, sweetheart,' he says, wistful.

Rain rattles the window, and Arthur knows it's a cliché, even as he thinks it, but it's true, the age old windowsill rotting and loosening the clasp of the pane, producing a reed thin whistle that went straight through him, and a clatter just loud enough for him to hear over the noise of the 'pub' downstairs. Interspersed with the pitter patter of the rain, and the fact that the noise downstairs just swelled as the door banged open, Arthur knows he isn't going to get any sleep tonight. He pulls his dress pants back on and his button up shirt, slipping his feet into his shoes and padding out of the room, buttoning his shirt on the way. The stairs creak as he descends, as always, and he's been here long enough to navigate round the stair that sags as it's stepped on, screaming protest at the weight.

He's been in Dublin for three weeks, and while everyone else thinks New York is the city that never sleeps, Arthur knows Dublin must be running a close second, as no matter what day of the week it is, the business underneath is room is always open, and always full. The Irish really do believe in 'It's 2AM somewhere,' Arthur reflects, as he waves a greeting to Declan, the kid behind the bar and Molly, his mother, collecting glasses and flirting with patrons with an easy smile on her face. Folding himself into his usual, miraculously empty table, he smiles thanks at Molly, who slides a glass of something cold and alcoholic across the table to him. Vodka and coke, like always. 'No problem, darlin',' she replies in her thick, Irish brogue, and she's off, skirting around tables, snagging empty glasses and dodging stray hands.

'Darling?' A voice behind him, cultured, smooth, makes him turn. Lounging at the table behind him is, Arthur assumes, the source of the question. 'It suits you,' the man continues. His eyes are glassy with alcohol, but his voice is steady and his balance impeccable. Arthur looks him up and down once, subtly. His hair is slightly mussed and dark, falling across his forehead the same way Arthur's used to, and the aforementioned glassy eyes are hazel, light brown filled with flecks of green, bronze and even gold. There's maybe two days of stubble on his face, and it gives him a rugged look. Arthur's never made any secret of his... preferences, and it's been a long time since Tom. He smiles, and raises an eyebrow, tilting his chair slightly.
'Maybe so. And you would be?'

The stranger's lips curve as he smiles round the neck of his beer bottle. He takes a long, slow drink, angling the bottle upwards as Arthur stares at the long, perfect line of his throat. He swallows, and puts the empty bottle on the table in front of him, before twisting his chair and clacking it down on the stone floor at Arthur's table gracefully, more graceful almost than Arthur is stone cold sober.

A bead of condensation runs down Arthur's glass. The stranger watches the slow trickle with suddenly sharp eyes. He looks up, meeting Arthur's brown eyes with his own multicoloured irises. One side of his mouth tilts into a lopsided smirk. 'I'm Eames. Do you have a real name, darling?'

Arthur swallows down his drink, nodding at Declan as he waves another glass his direction. He runs his hand through his hair, still not used to the length. Just after arriving in the city, Arthur had sought out a barber and had his hair sheared off, leaving maybe two inches of the previously too-long curly hair that hung in his face. It bristles, and he combs it back with both hands, rubbing at the nape of his neck, tired. He smiles wearily at Eames. 'Mark.' The false name falls easily off his tongue, and he wishes for more to drink, to wet his suddenly too-dry mouth.

Eames tilts his head, squinting slightly. 'I think I like darling better.'

'I'm sure you do, Mr Eames,' Arthur says easily, accepting the glasses and the bottle from a smirking Molly, her knowing smile splitting her face in two.

'So...Mark.,' Eames begins, snagging a glass and the bottle of spirits, pouring a generous measure of some amber liquid into the tumbler. 'You're American.'
'Very astute.' Arthur smiles wryly, accepting the drink and taking a long swallow.
Eames shoots him a look, lips morphing into something that can only be called a pout. Arthur hides a fond smile [too fond for someone he's only met, but feels like he's known forever, and what's with that, anyway?] behind the scotch. The Englishman takes a drink and closes his eyes in bliss. 'The Irish are rowdy bastards, but they do know their vices.' He chuckles to himself, before opening his eyes and focusing them on Arthur. 'You,' he says, pointing lazily at Arthur. 'are not nearly drunk enough.'

Arthur shakes his head. 'I don't get drunk. It wouldn't be... conducive.'

'Conducive... to what?'

'My job.' Scotch on an empty stomach is probably making him more loose-lipped than normal. 'I work for the government. Sort of.' He's saying way more than he meant to at the start of this sentence, but as Eames shifts his chair ever so slightly closer, Arthur just can't bring himself to care.

Eames raises an eyebrow, plying Arthur with more alcohol. And they drink together, talking, not about anything in particular, or at least nothing important. Eames was already drunk when they met, but Arthur finds himself being matched drink for drink until well into the early hours of the morning, and realises that had he wanted to, Eames could have drunk Arthur so far under the table he'd be lying on Eames' shoes, drooling. Possibly with severe alcohol poisoning. Somewhere along the way, Eames retrieves a poker chip, battered and chipped, from his pocket and begins tapping it off the already scuffed and marked table top. 'Good luck charm,' is the only answer Arthur gets regarding it, and he dismisses it, drawing no parallels between that and the lighter that nestles in his pocket, the butane inside long since used up.

Somewhere between one bottle of scotch and another of tequila [the little voice telling Arthur never to mix drinks long since silenced], they end up back in the same room Arthur had vacated some hours earlier. It's so early the soft lines of dawn are peering through the thin curtains, and Arthur just knows that sleep won't be forthcoming tonight [this morning, technically].

He's lounging on the bed, knocking back another shot, and somewhere along the way he lost his shoes and socks, and the buttons on his shirt are slowly creeping open. Eames, to contrast, is reclined in the chair that accompanied the desk in the corner, looking perfectly composed and fully clothed. Or, as fully clothed as he had been when Arthur had first encountered him, the top three or four buttons of his admittedly hideous teal shirt undone to frame a smooth, lightly tanned expanse of chest that Arthur had unashamedly been admiring for at least the last forty five minutes.

Eames passes the bottle, and Arthur takes a long drink of whatever-the-hell-it-is, slopping a little onto his previously pristine [if rumpled] white shirt.

Eames positively radiates smugness. 'Is this you not getting drunk, darling?'
Arthur frowns. 'This isn't drunk,' he says, only slurring his words a little. He gestures to himself, and more liquid spills over the lip of the bottle, running down his wrist. Eames takes it upon himself to rescue it.

'Oh no?' he raises an eyebrow, the bottle safely on the desk in the corner, out of easy reach.

Arthur shakes his head. 'This is intoxicated,' he says, making it through the sentence without stuttering, and feeling abnormally proud of that fact.

A fond chuckle and shake of the head from Eames, and suddenly he's on the bed next to Arthur, an arm slung around his shoulders. 'I think not, darling.'

'Stop calling me that,' Arthur grumbles, shifting slightly, but making no move to wriggle out from under Eames' arm.

'Why?' Eames asks, smiling that infuriating smile that Arthur shouldn't be able to consider familiar after only hours, but he still does.

Arthur gives the matter some serious thought, his brow furrowing. 'It's annoying,' he settles on, finally.

Eames laughs, a short, sharp bark of surprise that makes Arthur flinch. 'All the more reason to do it then, darling,' his voice drops as he whispers the last word languidly into Arthur's ear, tongue flickering to kitten-lick at the shell of it.
A puff of shock from Arthur and he turns to face Eames, ask him what in the hell he thought he was doing, and his lips are covered by something warm and soft and wet, and Arthur finds himself kissing back before it registers that this is Eames, a virtual stranger, and Arthur does not do this with strangers. Not ever.
And then it registers that Eames' tongue is pressing insistently against closed lips, and a hand is sneaking along the waistband of Arthur's pants, fingertips dancing along sensitive skin, and the assault is too much for Arthur so he's gasping, and his hips arch, and Eames is smiling into the kiss, swallowing the indecent noise escaping from Arthur. They part momentarily, breathing hard, as Arthur stutters out, 'Fuck, Eames.'

Eames starts pressing hot, open mouthed kisses along Arthur's jaw, punctuating each with a word. 'All in due time,' he pauses, moving back to look Arthur in the eye, mouths millimetres apart. 'Darling.'

Arthur's breath hitches in his throat and he lunges, crushing his mouth on Eames' with a clatter of teeth and tongue and lips, and it's Eames' turn to moan sinfully, splaying his fingers on the bed next to him even as he wraps his free hand around the nape of Arthur's neck, brushing the fine hairs there and making him shiver. Arthur braces his arm and gently rolls the older man, sliding hips over his slowly and grinding against him. He's half-hard already, and the choking, breathy sounds that his movements elicit from Eames mean he's aching, straining against his jeans.

Their lips meet again, and Arthur's is struck by how very right Eames' mouth feels against his, how they fit together so perfectly on the rickety [but thankfully silent] bed. Their legs tangle together, and Arthur's hands grip Eames' hair, tugging ever so slightly as he scrapes his teeth over Eames' bottom lip, yelping as the until now complacent Eames gripped at the dish of Arthur's pelvis and switched them, dropping him back down on the bed face up as Eames smirked. 'Nice try, love.' His hand danced down to Arthur's pants, dipping a thumb under the waistband and stroking the velvet skin there. Arthur keens, and presses his hips up into Eames. 'Now, now, none of that, darling,' he says, somehow having undone most of the buttons on Arthur's shirt, seemingly without using his hands. He scrapes blunt nails down the smooth chest, mixing the perfect amount of pain and pleasure as Arthur whimpers [a manly, totally in control whimper], throwing his head back against the pillow. Eames licks a slow, long line up his neck, pressing a kiss to the hollow under his ear before drawing back, settling on his haunches where he's straddling Arthur's hips, long fingers deftly undoing the remaining buttons on his shirt and shedding it, dropping it on the floor just by the ratty rug partially hidden by the double bed. Arthur paws at his own shirt, undoing the last button and arching, trying to remove it, and Eames shifts backward a little, allowing him to sit up and remove the offending item of clothing.

Now on more equal footing again, Arthur claws eagerly at Eames' hips, belt, the small of his back as his lips work at his collarbone, sharp teeth nibbling tiny red marks into the flesh not covered by the tattoos that swirl and skate across the Englishman's shoulders and biceps, dribbling down one shoulder blade idly. Eames places one hand on Arthur's now bare chest and one on his hip, pushing him gently but firmly down onto his back again, tongue making its way from his Adam's apple down Arthur's chest and across the taut stomach muscles while deft fingers make quick work of the belt and fastenings on his pants. The younger man lifts his hips slightly to shimmy out of the pants and underwear, a shudder running through him as hot air gusts across his cock, bobbing towards his stomach, because it has been a long time since Tom, since anyone looked at him like Eames is looking at him now, already full lips kiss-swollen, blue-green eyes heavy with lust and want and need, the vibrant colour almost completely obscured by blown pupils, no trace of alcohol in them. His lids are hooded, and when he looks up at Arthur, his lips slightly parted, hovering over Arthur's dick, Arthur releases a choking breath, letting his head fall back again, one hand fisted loosely in Eames' hair as his eyes close and his hips arch as Eames opens his mouth and engulfs his cock to the hilt.

Eames 'hmm's with laughter, and the vibrations travel from his cock to the ball of heat already pooling in Arthur's stomach, and meaningless babble falls from his lips as Eames' head bobs up and down, and Arthur doesn't know what he's doing with his tongue but he never wants him to stop, and he tells him this, Eames' name twisting itself around oh god never stop and I'm gonna come and fuck all melding on Arthur's tongue until Eames pulls almost completely off his cock, leaving just the tip in his mouth as he kitten licks at it for a few seconds, before opening and swallowing his cock until his nose bumps against Arthur's stomach, and Arthur's exploding and imploding at the same time, the burn in his stomach sucking all the heat from his body to the spot just behind his hips as he comes violently down Eames' throat, his eyelids flashing white as he squeezes his eyes shut, and he's sure Eames is leaving thumb shaped bruises on his hipbones. At this moment in time, he can't really bring himself to care.

He opens his eyes and Eames is there, kissing him, and Arthur can taste himself on Eames' tongue, and he can feel himself hardening again already, marvelling at this effect that Eames has on him. Eames' hard-on presses into his hip insistently, and he looks up at Eames, who puts a hand just under his shoulder blade and rolls him so his chest is pressed against the comforter underneath him. Eames' hot breath is on his neck, and his voice is low and rough as he whispers in Arthur's ear. 'Are you sure you wanna do this, babe?' His voice is so heady that Arthur's breath catches in his throat and he nods mutely, pressing backward against where Eames is sitting, denim covered erection pressing against the crease where Arthur's ass meets his thigh. Eames chuckles, and then he's gone, a cool breeze blowing against Arthur's sweat slick skin. He turns his head to watch Eames rummaging through a drawer on the desk, smirking as his hand emerges with a small bottle of lube. There's a look in his eye, and he's just far enough away that Arthur can't see what it is. He wiggles his hips as he escapes from the all too constricting jeans and underwear, standing naked in front of Arthur, cock curving proudly upwards.

Something occurs to Arthur, and he croaks out that he's clean in a lust-drunk voice. Eames grins a predatory smile and parrots it back, voice equally rough.

The bed creaks as he kneels on the edge of it, warming the bottle between large hands. Arthur stills feels the slight chill as it mixes with the burn as Eames' lubed finger breaches the tight ring of muscle without warning. His back arches as another finger is added, and he must have crooked them slightly because he can feel something pressing on that spot inside him that makes his vision explode white stars. He writhes on the bed under capable hands as Eames whispers sweet nothings, endearments falling off his lips as his forearm holds Arthur's hips still, and he adds another finger, scissoring them until Arthur's so stretched he doesn't know when the pleasure-pain became just pure adulterated pleasure and there are sounds escaping from him that he knows Tom never heard from him.

Arthur's hands fist in the now crumpled and sweat-damp sheets, blunt nails dragging precipices across them as he feels the blunt head of Eames' cock at his entrance. He can't push backwards, Eames' arm across the small of his back effectively stilling him, and he's reduced to mewling pathetically as Eames enters him maddeningly slowly, seemingly inching his way in mere millimetres at a time.

He pauses when he's fully sheathed for a few moments, those seconds passing like time in a dream; slow, syrup dribbling through treacle, before he pulls out almost completely, leaving just the barest hint of the head, and Arthur whines as the loss of having Eames skin to skin, having Eames inside him feels cold and lonely before the breath is knocked out of his lungs and his vision blurs with desire as Eames slams back inside him, and all he can feel is the man wrapped around him, on him, inside him. He feels almost too full, and he shifts as Eames sets a rhythm, fast enough to burn, but not slow enough to torture, and it takes one, two, three thrusts before he's coming again, spilling hot and wet over the unsalvageable sheets.
Eames follows him over the edge, moaning sinfully as Arthur's muscles strain and bunch around him, squeezing every last drop of arousal out of the older man until he collapses, elbows and knees buckling until he's draped over Arthur's naked body like a sheet. 'Well, that was fun,' he purrs, panting slightly, puffing hot air into Arthur's ear.