After they left the warehouse, Eames drove them both back to the hotel that he was staying in for the time. Eames drove, reclining slightly, one hand on the wheel and the other one the gear shift—automatic, Arthur? You insult me. Beside him, Arthur stared out the window with a pensive expression on his face. Light classical music drifted from the sound system and the fingers of Arthur's left hand twitched against the leg of his dress pants. To an outsider, the scene inside Eames' car wouldn't appear to be much different from any other time the two drove together, but there was a marked difference, an almost palpable electricity in the air, and Eames was buzzing with it.
Eames set the stage the moment the door was open when he made it a point to enter the hotel room before Arthur. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Arthur standing in the entryway, his feet planted shoulder width apart and his hands clasped behind his back. Eames could see the tension in his shoulders which belied his relaxed stance. Being in the presence of Arthur when he was like this usually meant that someone should be very worried but fear was not the cause of Eames' thundering heart. Arthur's downcast eyes changed things completely. It wasn't cool calculation in the tense lines of Arthur's body. It was anticipation.
Arthur wasn't biding his time.
He was waiting for instructions.
"Go and put it on."
Eames knew he didn't need to specify. It was sitting on the dresser by the television. It had sit like a ticking bomb in the backseat of the car on the drive over and he'd seen Arthur's eyes dart to it more than once. Now Eames watched Arthur nod jerkily before catching himself and opening his mouth to respond properly. Eames was pleased with his presence of mind but he wanted to play and he cut Arthur off anyway, putting on his most condescending tone.
"I didn't ask you a question and I didn't say you could speak."
Eames watched in amusement as Arthur struggled not to snap back in response to Eames' tone, his jaw tensing for a moment before relaxing. Satisfied, Eames turned away and began unbuttoning his suit jacket, smiling in spite of himself at the sound of the bathroom door clicking shut. Only Arthur could make a closing door sound so insolent without actually slamming it.
Draping his suit jacket over the back of the hotel armchair, Eames knelt down by the bed and retrieved the parcel he had put there the previous day. He hadn't been able to give Arthur his gift in front of the team. It wasn't for their eyes to see.
Next he opened the bedside table drawer and retrieved a smaller box. Lifting the lid, Eames considered this second gift. It was perfect. The jeweler had fashioned it exactly the way Eames had instructed him and he knew it would suit Arthur.
If he accepts it.
Eames had garnered immense pleasure out of watching Arthur's reaction to Ariadne's gift. It was just the kind of coincidence that amused him to no end. But it had also made him think seriously about his relationship with Arthur and the plans that he had for them. He knew what he wanted from Arthur but he'd had plans to wait until he was absolutely sure. However, seeing Arthur struggle with thinking they'd been found out and still coming home with Eames anyway made him realize how eager he was to make Arthur his, properly and formally marked.
Snapping the lid shut on the box, Eames set it on the bed beside the other gift and then sat down in the armchair. He'd just removed his cufflinks and was beginning to roll up his sleeves when Arthur returned from the bathroom, eyes still downcast.
"What took you so long," Eames asked mildly, letting a hint of displeasure bleed into his tone, pleased when he saw Arthur tense slightly, unsure of whether he should actually answer this time.
"You may speak," Eames said, leaning back in the armchair and raking his gaze over Arthur. The shirt was much too big for him, obviously meant for sleeping in, falling to brush Arthur's knees. He looked like a child playing dress-up and it shouldn't have look nearly as wanton as it did.
"I had to fold my clothes properly," Arthur replied. His voice was not timid or mild. Eames never wanted him like that and made a point of saying so from the very beginning. He didn't just want submission—he wanted Arthur, obedient and respectful, but never a doormat.
Eames chuckled at his response. "Of course. Your precious clothes. How could I forget?"
Eames' laughter did its job. The tension bled out of Arthur's body and he gave a soft smile.
"Come to me," Eames said, spreading his legs so that Arthur could kneel between them. Eames gripped the back of Arthur's neck softly and Arthur melted into his touch. His hands flexed behind his back.
"Look at me, Arthur."
Arthur's gaze was sharp and pleading and Eames let himself give in to it.
"You must stay on your knees but you may touch me."
No sooner had he spoke than Arthur's hands were buried in his hair, pulling him down and kissing him. Eames let Arthur lead the kiss for the most part, keeping his grip on Arthur's neck light and using his other hand to steady himself on the arm of the chair. He held back slightly, not opening his mouth to the kiss until Arthur made a frustrated pleading sound in his throat. When he let his tongue slip into Arthur's mouth, Arthur practically purred. One of his hands fell away from Eames hair and Eames opened his eyes to see it disappear under Arthur's baggy shirt. Tightening his grip on Arthur's neck harshly until Arthur cried out, Eames wrenched his lips away from Arthur's.
"Where is your other hand," Eames asked evenly, pinning Arthur with a look. Arthur looked like he wouldn't answer but Eames knew that he knew better than to press his luck again.
"On my cock," Arthur said, lowering his gaze and gasping sharply when Eames tightened his grip again.
"I didn't say you could look away," Eames said, "and I didn't say you could touch yourself."
"Sorry," Arthur gasped out, placing the offending hand on Eames thigh.
"You're a good boy, Arthur," Eames said, gripping Arthur's chin with his other hand and kissing him deeply. Arthur's hand clenched in the fabric of Eames' pants and he whimpered. Pulling away, Eames pulled Arthur closer until his lips brushed Arthur's ear. "I have something for you. Go to the bed."
Eames released Arthur and watched him shuffle, on his knees, over to the bed. Arthur looked back at him, asking for permission, and Eames nodded at him.
"The smaller one first."
Eames' stomach was in knots as he watched Arthur raise the lid on the jewelry box and it plummeted to the soles of his feet when Arthur gasped and dropped the box with a clatter.
"You don't want it."
Eames felt like someone had his heart in a vice. He'd told himself that Arthur might not accept but the reality of the rejection was too much. Getting up from the chair, Eames snatched up the box and snapped it shut.
"It's fine," Eames said roughly, "it's too much. I understand. I apologize."
He turned to put the box back in the bedside table drawer, only to freeze when Arthur clasped his shoulder.
"Wait. Stop," Arthur called out, sounding like he'd just taken two flights of stairs at a dead sprint, "I was just shocked."
He worked the box out of Eames' grip and opened it. He stared at the contents for a long while. Then he knelt beside the bed and offered the box to Eames.
"Put it on me."
Eames willed his hands not to shake as he fitted the collar around Arthur's neck. He felt Arthur's intake of breath at the sound of the lock clicking shut and had to remind himself to breathe.
The silver was the perfect complement to Arthur's pale skin and the lock rested snugly in the hollow of his throat. Eames pressed down on it slightly and Arthur's head dropped forward onto his forearm.
Eames didn't know how long they stayed like that, Arthur on his knees and him trying to keep his own from giving way, but he knew the moment was broken when Arthur started trembling lightly and uttered a sob, poorly disguised as an exhalation. Then Eames gathered Arthur up in his arms and laid him in the bed, shifting the other gift onto the bedside table. That can wait, he thought as he stepped out of his shoes and slid into the bed beside Arthur.
Arthur was trembling in earnest now and Eames drew the stiff hotel comforter over them both, even though he was positive that Arthur wasn't cold. He wrapped his arms around Arthur's shuddering form and pressed a kiss to the crown of his head when Arthur turned into him. Eames didn't say anything. He just held Arthur like that until he wore himself out restraining his sobs and fell asleep pressed against Eames' chest.
Eames had read everything he could about what might happen during this situation, how to deal with a partner who wasn't ready yet or how to respond to a flat out rejection, but it hadn't occurred to him that Arthur might react this way. Luckily, it was Eames' job was to respond quickly and aptly to delicate changes in people's behavior but for one small moment, he'd felt like a fish on dry land.
Eames was glad that Arthur was sleeping. It gave him time to sort himself out, to figure out this huge pressing feeling in his chest that had replaced the anxiety he'd felt before. He was elated and terrified and felt like he was going to fly apart at any second. He'd wanted this so much but now he wasn't so sure that he could do it. It was all well and good when it was just a game they played sometimes, when it wasn't laid out right there in the silver shining against Arthur's neck and the tears glistening on his cheeks, and now it was huge and real and Eames just couldn't swan off to Cairo or Kurdistan at a moment's notice.
It was them now and Eames was two seconds away from pissing himself at the sheer immense weight of all of it.
And then Arthur shifted in his arms and Eames remembered exactly why he wanted this, why he needed this, had to make this man his because they were good together, more than good, and in it together for however long this lasted.
So Eames just settled in, stroking Arthur's arms and waiting for him to wake up.