Dream of Me

Disclaimer: I do not own Inception or the characters

Warnings: M/M pairing, dream sex, sexual experimentation (not explicit)

Rating: M

Pairing: Arthur/Eames

Notes: I would recommend subscribing to my AO3 profile where I post all my uncensored stories: archiveofourown(dot-org)/users/OneWhoSitsWithTurtles

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Summary: Arthur and Eames met in dreams long before they met in reality.


The first time it happened Arthur was too young to really understand what was going on. It was the night after his seventh birthday party. He was exhausted as he brushed his teeth and slipped on his PJs. Mommy and daddy tucked him in, kissed him on the forehead, said 'happy birthday, our special boy' and turned out the lights. It had taken Arthur a while to relax enough to sleep, excited from the party during the day.

When he did finally fall asleep it felt as though his eyes were closed for only an instant. Then he blinked his eyes open again and gave a squeak of nervous confusion when he saw that the ceiling was dark and not lit up by his glow-in-the-dark stars. Arthur gave a louder yell when he felt something shift beside him on the bed, under the covers while Arthur found himself above the sheets.

"What are you doing in my bed?" The voice was curious and a little nervous and Arthur jumped.

He spun to see another boy around his size sitting up against the pillows, his face illuminated by a nightlight of a smiley moon in the corner. "I don't know!" Arthur wailed, biting his bottom lip when he felt tears fill his eyes and begin trickling down his face. He swiped at his face but they wouldn't stop, and he began to cry quietly. "I don't know where I am."

Warm arms encircled him and Arthur wrapped his arms around the boy in return, comforted by the hug and warmth. Arthur remembered mommy and daddy's lessons about strangers, but he allowed the mystery boy to pull him back down until they were both curled up on the bed. "It's okay," the boy promised him bravely, patting Arthur's hair. "You'll be okay."

"I want to go home," Arthur sniffled.

He felt the other boy move him slightly and tug the sheets over them both. The warmth engulfing Arthur immediately soothed him and with a sad hiccup he fell silent. "Stay here tonight," the mystery boy told him, hugging him close again. "I'll protect you from the dark and then mom and dad will find your home tomorrow."

Arthur nodded and hugged the boy in return, and fell asleep before another tear could fall. When he opened his eyes to sunlight the next morning he found himself back in his room, alone.

#

Arthur told mommy and daddy about his saviour the next day but they told him that he had been dreaming. Arthur tried to tell them that it wasn't a dream, that dreaming was when there were dragons and quests and castles to explore, but they wouldn't listen. They insisted that he had imagined the mystery boy, though they had no explanation when Arthur said the boy talked like mommy's favourite shows. The ones she called 'British'.

When he was supposed to be drawing in class later that day Arthur wrote out what he remembered of the dream using his favourite green crayon. Miss Leeds was unhappy with him for not doing what he was supposed to but she let him fold up the two sheets of paper and take them home. Arthur showed mommy and daddy and they said 'keep that somewhere special' and then talked about something else.

Arthur took the words to heart and tucked the folded paper into his top drawer by his bed. When he was older his parents would get him a dream journal at his request for Arthur's twelfth birthday he would slip those two folded sheets of paper between the pages. But even then, and from then on, Arthur would always keep his story of the mystery boy at his bedside.

#

Arthur was nine when mommy got very sick. She was away a lot, staying at the hospital for tests daddy said he probably wouldn't understand. Daddy wasn't home much either, and when he was he was too busy taking care of mommy. Arthur understood and did what he could to help. The lady daddy who visited to take care of Arthur and cook dinners wasn't very nice to Arthur, though she was always really polite to daddy. Arthur didn't like her much but he didn't want to cause trouble.

He knew mommy was going to get better because he needed her to get better, but Arthur got scared when daddy took him out of school one day to go to the hospital. Mommy was there and she looked tired. Everything was white, including mommy. She looked like an angel as Arthur stood by her bed, even though her long black hair was gone.

Mommy hugged him close but Arthur was scared, because she started talking very seriously. She said 'I love you' a lot and said 'no matter what' a lot too. When she finally stopped speaking Arthur hugged onto her and wouldn't let go. Even though daddy promised they could visit again tomorrow after mommy's surgery, Arthur didn't believe him. It felt like goodbye when mommy kissed him on the forehead and got him to promise to 'be good'.

His pillow was wet with tears as Arthur tried to sleep. He was positive he could never sleep again, but he must've at some point because dreams only visited with sleep. Arthur lifted his head and saw a smiley moon nightlight he had forgotten until he saw it again. Arthur began to sob just as his mystery boy sat up against the pillows and saw him, eyes going wide.

It felt natural to rush into his arms again, and the boy welcomed him and hugged him close. "What's wrong?" the boy asked, pulling Arthur a little closer until he was sitting in his lap.

"I think mommy is going to die," Arthur cried against the boy's shoulder.

The boy didn't say anything. Arthur wanted him to, but he didn't think anything would make him feel better. So he just kept crying and crying and crying until his mystery boy put a warm hand on Arthur's back and began to rub circles there. Arthur felt himself shudder and quieten, soothed.

He kept his face against the boy's skin, tears still streaming from his eyes but slower. "Your mommy is going to be just fine," the boy finally promised.

"I don't believe you." Arthur began crying loudly again.

"Trust me," the boy said. Arthur felt warm lips against his temple and he cried harder because it reminded him of mommy, but he nodded. The boy let him keep crying, holding him quietly and rubbing his back. Arthur didn't even lie down; he fell asleep right there in his mystery boy's arms.

#

The next day daddy took Arthur to the hospital. Mommy was there, and her smile was brighter than the sun. Daddy had reminded Arthur not to hug mommy too tightly so Arthur walked up to the bed slowly, and hugged her carefully. But mommy hugged him back so tightly it almost hurt and Arthur let himself cry.

Mommy came home a little while after that and she got better and better. She could play with Arthur again, and cook his favourite dinners, and take him to the park after school. Mommy started singing again and every day seemed to be filled with sunshine and smiles.

The next time Arthur woke up in his mystery boy's bed Arthur flung his arms around the boy and whispered against his neck again and again. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

#

Arthur was eleven when the dreams became a constant in his life. He didn't know what the significance of being eleven was, or why he suddenly started seeing his mystery boy more frequently, but Arthur wouldn't complain. Arthur had written down the few other scattered dreams he had had of the boy and kept all of the pages in the top drawer by his bed, but it was when he was eleven that he began scrounging for paper all around the house, and inevitably asked for a dream journal for his upcoming twelfth birthday.

He knew something had changed because when he blinked his eyes open, he was standing in a green field that went on as far as he could see. The grass tickled his bare feet as he looked around, and felt warm when he saw his mystery boy a few feet away. It felt like Arthur had found something he hadn't realized was missing when the boy looked up and grinned at him.

When he was younger Arthur thought he and the boy were the same age, but now his mystery boy looked slightly older. He looked like the boys a few grades higher than Arthur at school, a little taller than Arthur with a few pimples on his forehead. The slight age difference didn't stop Arthur's racing heart and they ran towards each other and hugged in the middle of the tall grass and wildflowers.

Although he had dreamt of this boy a few times before, Arthur realized he had forgotten something every other time. When they finally stopped hugging, Arthur tried to catch his breath as he smiled. "I'm Arthur." Names hadn't been necessary before but now he suddenly wanted to know this boy's name, know everything. It didn't matter to Arthur that this was only a figment of his subconscious.

The boy laughed and held out a hand in offering. "I'm Eames!" he pronounced, beaming as Arthur shook his hand.

And from then on Arthur dreamed of Eames at least once a week. Arthur would find Eames in the fields and they would talk, first about themselves and then about their lives. It was like having a friend that Arthur met after school, except instead they met after Arthur went to sleep. Arthur always wondered how and why his subconscious created Eames for him, especially with such detail, but he cherished the dreams and wrote details down every morning when he woke up.

Over time he found himself missing Eames on the nights he had normal dreams, though on rare occasion Arthur would find Eames stumbling into one of his average dreams. The dreams about Eames always felt sharp and vibrant while Arthur's other dreams always seemed a bit hazy and distant, as though he was going through the motions instead of choosing to do or say anything.

The first time it happened Arthur was panicking, halfway through a test he had forgotten to study for when he realized he was at school in his boxers. Right before he could fully comprehend the horror of his situation Eames stepped into the classroom, waved, and ran back out into the hallway. "Come along, Arthur! There are adventures to be had!"

"But I forgot my pants!" Arthur complained as he stood from his desk, abandoned his test and ran out into the hallway after Eames. He stumbled to a stop when he passed through the doorframe, finding himself on the shoreline of the ocean instead of the hallway of his school.

Eames stood beside him, wearing boxers and nothing else. "You don't need pants to have an adventure," Eames informed him. Then with a happy cheer, Eames ran into the water and Arthur chased after him, his attire already matching the new dream.

#

Eames was angry one time when Arthur blinked his eyes open and looked around, finding them stranded on a sandy desert island in the middle of the ocean. Arthur was thirteen at the time, and Eames – who claimed to be three years Arthur's senior – was halfway through puberty. "Mum and dad are sending me to a counsellor," Eames explained when Arthur asked. Eames laughed and tried to look nonchalant but Arthur could tell how upset he was. "They think I'm crazy."

"Why?" Arthur wondered.

"Because I talk about you more than my school friends," Eames said. "And I guess it doesn't help that they found me kissing a boy in my backyard and they think they can cure me being gay."

Arthur didn't know what to say. He was busy wondering what it meant when your subconscious – which had become your best friend – proclaimed itself gay. Luckily he was excused from saying anything when Eames perked up and grabbed his hand, dragging him across the sand to a glittering treasure chest in the distance, both of them eager for a distraction.

#

"Mom's cancer came back," Arthur told Eames quietly, as though speaking the words any louder would speed up the illness.

He was sitting beside Eames in the grass, their bodies close together. Arthur didn't fight it when Eames wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him even closer. "I'm sorry."

Arthur bowed his head as the tears came. For some reason he hadn't been able to cry in reality when he saw his mom begin to fade away again, faster this time as the cancer attacked her. But here, in his dream with Eames, it seemed almost too easy to let the tears spill free. "Me too."

Eames was silent as he hugged Arthur close.

#

It seemed too clichéd for Arthur as he stood over his mother's grave, black umbrella over his head as rain pelted down. It was only supposed to rain at funerals in the movies.

Arthur stared at his mother's casket, unblinking. The white lilies on top were beautiful, though it made Arthur ridiculously sad to see that the petals were already beginning to wilt at the edges. He felt guilty, like he should have made certain that the flowers were perfect and fresh. Even though it didn't really matter since they would soon be beneath the dirt.

He wasn't crying, even though he felt he should be. Nor was Arthur listening to the words the eulogist was speaking, voice filled with practiced emotion. Arthur could only think of two things as he watched the casket being lowered into the ground.

The first was Eames, who he hoped he would dream of tonight, or whenever he next managed to sleep.

The second was the memory of his mother's smile and warm embrace when they had last spoken at the hospital. She had said 'I love you no matter what' and 'be good' as she had said before. But this time she said one more thing.

'Be strong'.

#

"How's your dad doing?" Eames asked.

"Not good." Arthur picked thoughtlessly at the blades of grass surrounding him.

"How are you doing?"

Eames' arm was around his shoulders and the warmth steadied Arthur but it could only do so much. It couldn't bring his mom back. "Not much better."

#

Talking to Eames helped and Arthur felt himself growing even closer to the boy. Arthur began finding himself more physically aware of Eames' proximity, looking for reasons to touch Eames or stand close to him. It didn't help that Eames – now eighteen – looked more attractive every time Arthur dreamed of him.

The pimples were going away and Eames had finally cut his hair shorter. His jaw seemed stronger, though maybe that was just the scruff that often dusted his jaw line. Eames' voice was deeper, his laughter rich and doing something weird to Arthur's insides that made them twist into knots.

Arthur had never been with someone before, girl or boy; no one at school had ever really seemed that appealing. But Arthur decided that it was fundamentally wrong to desire your subconscious over people in reality and never pursued anything. That was, of course, until Arthur blinked his eyes open and found himself on Eames' bed instead of out in nature.

He hadn't dreamed of Eames' bed for years, though he hadn't really thought about why that was. However, when he found himself on Eames' bed – the smiley moon nightlight gone now – Arthur lay back against the soft sheets, feeling at home. Then Eames was above him, eyes dark and lips parted slightly as his warm breath caressed Arthur's face.

"Have you ever done this before?" Eames questioned, voice a hushed whisper.

Arthur shook his head, nervous enough that his heart was stumbling but suddenly wanting this more than anything in the world. He reached up and wrapped his arms around Eames' shoulders, hands sliding over his back and arms and taking in the muscle that had grown more defined recently. "I want to," he confessed.

The first kiss set the world on fire. Arthur didn't know what he was doing and felt awkward but Eames knew and was patient as he slowly brushed his lips against Arthur's. It didn't take long for Arthur to pick up the rhythm, kissing Eames back and digging his fingers into dark blond hair. Arthur's favourite was when Eames' lips found his neck and began to suck, tender but possessive.

When a larger hand than Arthur's own slipped below his waistband Arthur threw his head back and gasped. His hips lifted on instinct as he sought more pleasure, Eames saying the most perfect things to him that had Arthur groaning and squirming. Eames knew just how to move his hand, stroking and twisting, and it wasn't long before Arthur was begging, needing, arching and...

Arthur panted against his pillow as his eyes flashed open. The sweat coating his skin had the blankets sticking to him, his boxers wet and sticky when Arthur pulled them off. It was still dark as Arthur struggled to catch his breath, and even though Eames was just his dream boy – his subconscious dressed up in a gorgeous body with a perfect smile – Arthur was willing to admit it to himself.

He wanted to do that again.

#

Eames made love to Arthur under the stars in their field. It was slow and glorious, and when they were finished Eames stayed on top of Arthur for a long time, kissing his breath away for what felt like hours. Because in dreams, breathing was a choice.

After that Eames started calling Arthur 'darling'. Arthur didn't know where his subconscious had picked up the term of endearment but he decided that he liked it very much.

#

It was Arthur's eighteenth birthday. It wasn't a bad birthday, as far as birthdays went. Arthur's homeroom teacher – his favourite teacher in high school – had the whole class sing Arthur 'Happy Birthday', effectively embarrassing him into a noticeable blush. But then Mister Walker produced a cake in apology and the class spent all of homeroom devouring cake and chatting.

In the evening Arthur and his dad had a quiet celebration alone. Arthur didn't mind; he rarely got to spend much time with his dad these days. His dad had thrown himself into work, leaving Arthur to become independent at an early age. That didn't mean Arthur didn't enjoy the evening, or the present that had him gaping at the cheque slipped into his birthday card.

"Dad, this is too much," Arthur argued, setting the card and cheque down lest he accidentally rip it.

"You've always been obsessed with England. It would be a great opportunity for you to spend a summer there doing some travel before you start college in September," his dad reminded him with a smile. "Your mom and I agreed on this as your eighteenth birthday present years ago."

"You're sure?" Arthur asked, scared to believe.

His dad put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "We're sure." Arthur felt his throat tighten at the word 'we' and it looked like his dad might be getting a little choked up too so they cleaned up and sought out distractions.

They had Arthur's favourite type of pasta and more cake for dessert and then they sat down to watch movies that were old family favourites. Three years later and it still hurt to see the empty spot on the couch where Arthur's mom had always curled up with her books, but it was a familiar, manageable heartache now.

What Arthur was really excited for was to go to sleep.

Eames was there waiting for him, Arthur's head in his lap as he blinked his eyes open. Eames greeted him with a smile and leaned forward, kissing him softly. "Happy birthday, Arthur."

Arthur let himself be kissed for a long time and then finally sat up. They were seated near the end of a pier, wood soggy and rough under Arthur as they both moved to dangle their feet over the edge. The waves were inky black as they roiled below Arthur and Eames, the horizon a pale gray at the hint of sunrise.

Arthur took Eames' hand. "Eames, I'm coming to England. Dad gave me a cheque to pay for a summer trip there."

Eames looked over at him quickly, shock melting slowly into glee. "We should try to meet up!" Arthur's grin faltered, his eyebrows furrowing. He knew he let these dreams go too far, let himself get swept up in them. But how could he justify his subconscious asking him to meet up in England? There was such a thing as too much blind hope. Eames seemed to realize he had said something wrong and his eyebrows knit together as well in confusion. "I meant..." he thought. "There's just this little cafe I'd love to show you."

Desperate to avoid a sad dream on his birthday, Arthur held Eames' hand tighter. "Tell me about it, please."

Eames smiled a little shyly and told him every detail about the little cafe that looked out on a small park that was always lush with flowers. Eames even slipped an address in his details, and even though Arthur didn't comment on it aloud, he silently repeated the address again and again to ensure it was burned into his memory.

He woke up as the first rays of the dawn crept over the horizon, and in his sleepy haze Arthur fumbled for his dream journal on his bedside table. He wrote down the address that was just beginning to fade from his memory, though he wouldn't let himself look up the address online. He was too scared of finding the address leading to something other than a cafe, proving once and for all that he had begun to fall in love with nothing more than a dream.

#

One month before Arthur's flight to England he found Eames on a little sailboat, crying. Arthur closed the few steps of space between them and sat down, wrapping his arms around Eames to share whatever comfort he could. Eames cried harder and hugged Arthur too tightly, though Arthur couldn't mind.

Arthur didn't say anything at first, watching the distant shore drift in and out of a bank of fog as the sailboat bobbed on the waves. Eames couldn't seem to cry himself out so Arthur began rubbing his back, whispering soothing words until Eames finally calmed, only sniffling as he looked over at Arthur with red-rimmed eyes.

"I'm moving."

"What do you mean?" Arthur asked, confused. How could his subconscious claim to be moving? More importantly, why would it be mean enough to say it was leaving England right when Arthur was arriving?

"I got a scholarship to attend an eight-month drama program in Vancouver," Eames told him, sounding guilty and excited at the same time.

After years of talking to Eames in his dreams, Arthur knew that this would be a great opportunity. Eames loved to act and had wanted to pursue drama in college but had lacked the money. Despite the fact that Arthur felt heavy with disappointment, he tried to remind himself that there was actually no Eames to visit in England anyway.

"Eames, it's going to be great," Arthur said, leaning forward to kiss Eames' cheek.

Eames had his knees against his chest with his arms hugging them close. His face dropped down to rest against his crossed forearms as Arthur heard Eames begin to cry anew. "It's not fair," Eames whispered.

"What's not fair?"

"Everything," Eames sobbed.

In that moment Arthur had never been surer that Eames was his subconscious, because he couldn't agree more with that statement.

#

Arthur told himself he would restrain himself, but he couldn't. A week after arriving in London Arthur bought some internet time on one of the computers his current hostel had set up for rent. He spent a few minutes writing an email to his dad and then opened up Google. His fingers hovered over the keys, begging him not to do it, and then he typed in the address that had never fully left him.

Imagine his surprise when the address led to a little cafe right by a park that had beautiful flowers splashing every colour across the green grass. Arthur wondered if he had seen this cafe in a movie or something and had remembered the details and address somewhere in the back of his mind to have it come up in his dream.

His feet carried him to an outdoor table where he ordered some tea and a sandwich. It tasted great but the longer Arthur sat there alone, looking around a cafe he had somehow led himself to – a cafe Eames had led him to – the more choked up Arthur got. Eventually he had to pay for his food and leave his sandwich only half-eaten, Arthur leaving the cafe before he could do something embarrassing like cry.

#

Arthur didn't dream of Eames the entire time he was in England, and even though he hadn't gone there for Eames – because Eames didn't exist – the fact still left Arthur feeling depressed. Arthur loved the country and enjoyed his six weeks of travel thoroughly, but he missed Eames terribly. He had wanted to talk to Eames about England, somehow, and just missing his companion left Arthur feeling like there was a hole in his chest.

Then Arthur flew home to the States. He collapsed into bed as soon as he got home, promising his dad they would talk in the morning beyond the brief details Arthur had given in the car ride home from the airport. Jetlag dragged at him and Arthur slid under the covers without even changing out of his jeans, eyes drifting closed in relief.

And there was Eames, waiting for him. They collided with a kiss and tore at clothing, baring familiar skin and promptly ending up on the floor of a dorm room Arthur didn't recognize. Eames claimed him with demanding, steady thrusts, their limbs twined and skin sticking together. Everything felt a little fuzzy and Arthur swore the points where his skin met Eames' were turning into mist, their bodies melding together as they rocked.

Arthur didn't think it could get any better as he held Eames against him, inciting him on. But then Eames groaned against Arthur's neck and thrust in one final time before stiffening, warmth pooling in Arthur. And as Eames groaned, three words escaped. "I love you."

Arthur didn't care about what it said about his psyche because those words and the sensation of Eames shuddering above him was enough to send Arthur careening over the edge into oblivion. His back bowed and his nails scored skin as he said the words back, and then Eames was picking Arthur up and settling him on a small bed in the corner.

It was the next night when Arthur and Eames talked. They discussed everything that had happened to them, what they were doing now, and what was coming up. Only when Arthur woke up the next morning did he realize that his dreams with Eames seemed to last for a longer period of time now than they had before. Although time in dreams was never easy to track, Arthur was almost positive he got to talk to Eames about more before inevitably waking up.

Arthur could almost trick himself into believing that his dreams were when he truly woke up.

#

Arthur loved college. His first year was a general year and then during the summer he was accepted into the Psychology program. In his third and fourth year when Arthur began to prepare for and write his thesis Arthur narrowed his focus to dreams. He read endless studies and journals, and helped in the Sleep Lab on campus for volunteer experience whenever he had the time.

For some reason it made him feel incredibly lucky when he never heard of anyone else experiencing the sort of dreams he had.

Arthur's days were filled with classes, studying, and socializing with the few close friends he made. Arthur met Dominic Cobb in his Introduction to Architecture class in his first year and they had gotten along immediately. Arthur then met Mallorie Miles, a French exchange student, in his third year when she signed up as a volunteer for the Sleep Lab.

Even though Arthur was immediately charmed by Mal and they had a lot in common, Arthur didn't regret introducing her to Dom and politely bowing out. He knew true love when he saw it. Besides, he knew he couldn't date either of them. It wasn't that he was against relationships; he had attempted a handful throughout his four years in college. But it was difficult to commit to a relationship when your whole being waited eagerly for sleep to claim you and allow you to return to a loving embrace.

Eames was with Arthur throughout his four years in college. Even when Eames said he was returning to England Arthur continued to dream of him, though the length of the dreams seemed to shrink again. Arthur would cling to what he got though, finding no one in reality that he felt nearly as comfortable with. They made love often, and spoke even more frequently. Sometimes they even went on adventures like they used to when they were kids, seeking repose from their stressful lives.

Then, one day without any explanation, Eames was gone.

#

For months Arthur clung desperately to the hope that Eames would come back. He wondered if maybe whatever had happened when he visited England was happening again and waited impatiently for his dreams to sharpen again. Arthur knew his mood suffered because of it; Mal eventually sat him down one day and tried to talk to him. It was hard to explain though, and Arthur was too defensive for anything productive to come out of the talk.

Over time Arthur's dream journal collected dust. It remained on his desk beside his bed every night, his other three dream journals from prior years tucked away in the drawer below and kept safe, but Arthur never wrote anything down. There was nothing worth writing down anymore. Finally Arthur was forced to stop hoping. He never let go of his memories of Eames, but his thoughts of seeing the man again began to fade as Arthur grew busier with completing his thesis.

Graduation was a month away and Arthur had a big decision ahead of him. He had been offered a job with the government to help them test some new 'dream technology' that was pretty top secret. Even better, Dom and Mal, who had shown significant interest in the Sleep Lab and also real promise in the field, were also offered similar positions.

The problem was that the job was in California and Arthur didn't want to be so far away from his dad. Arthur had also been offered a position to complete his Masters degree back in New York, and that meant Arthur would be close to home. His dad had told him to follow his heart and that he would be proud no matter what. Arthur's dad would never admit to being lonely after Arthur's mom died, but Arthur knew he was.

A week before graduation Arthur got a call. His father had been in a car crash and hadn't survived. It hadn't been anyone's fault, really. It had been pouring rain, the tires skidded and Arthur's dad just happened to be at the corner of a busy intersection. Having no one to blame didn't make Arthur feel better though; it just directed his anger inward. Arthur would never forgive himself for being in too much of a rush to tell his dad 'I love you' the last time they had spoken on the phone.

Arthur never went to his graduation. There was no one to watch him collect his degree, to snap proud pictures and cheer from the crowd. Besides, Arthur had a lot to deal with when the lawyers set up an appointment to sort out Arthur's parents' assets. Arthur promised himself not to cry while in the meeting, and by the time he stepped back into his childhood home and locked the door behind him, Arthur couldn't seem to remember how to cry.

He didn't know what was worse, knowing he was the only person who would ever return to this house, or knowing that he couldn't even look forward to dreaming Eames for some sort of comfort.

Arthur was alone.

He sold the house and pretty much everything he wouldn't need in California, keeping only a few tokens for memories. He was two weeks late for the start of his job with the government but he had spoken to them over the phone and they had understood, holding the job for him. By the time he arrived, Dom and Mal had already set up his room a bit, all of them sharing an apartment for the job. They had been waiting with hugs and the cheesiest movies they could find, and Arthur finally let himself cry in his friends' arms, even though it wasn't the embrace he needed.

#

When Arthur was first introduced to the new dream technology, named PASIV in the labs, he had willingly signed up to test it first. He wasn't suicidal, but Arthur knew everyone could tell Arthur had lost sight of the proper value of his life. They needed a tester though, so the researchers agreed, and Dom and Mal knew he wouldn't listen.

Dreaming with the PASIV was an odd sort of experience after Arthur's years of dreaming Eames. Even though Arthur seemed to have the same sort of control with the PASIV as he did when dreaming Eames, the dreamscape felt hollow, empty. Arthur was beginning to grow accustomed to that feeling though, so he embraced it and took the ability to create for what it was – an escape.

The best part was that when Arthur went to sleep in his bed back at the apartment, he didn't dream at all. And while it left him feeling bereft each morning, it was better than always being disappointed.

#

Arthur was numb. He hadn't planned to end up this way; he had just taken his coping too far. When Arthur had lost his mom, Eames had held his heart together. Then Arthur had lost Eames and it was the thought of his dad that kept Arthur going, because he couldn't leave his father in the world alone. But then his dad had been taken from him too, and while Arthur loved Dom and Mal, their friendship didn't make him feel less alone. So Arthur turned it all off.

It was surprisingly easy, once he got into the habit. He would stifle any sort of emotions, keeping his thoughts and feelings neutral. Over time, emotions barely registered at all. Arthur admitted that it was not ideal to lose all of his positive emotions alongside the negative ones, but he decided that it was a price worth paying to avoid the aching pain and loneliness.

#

Arthur threw himself into his work and the dream technology quickly developed. The military began training people to work with the PASIV and Arthur signed up to be an Architect. The focus it took to build a world was always enough to drown out any lingering thoughts and pestering emotions.

Dom and Mal followed him this time, and for a year they trained and worked with the military. Then Mal came back to the new apartment the three of them shared late one night, in furious tears as she explained the conversation she had overheard in the military library that evening. Some of the higher-ups had decided that the dream technology could be used for more than initially planned, and they were considering using the technology for intelligence gathering and psychological warfare.

Outraged, Mal insisted they not support the technology's development to be used for those means. She convinced Dom before long and Arthur shrugged easily, not particularly loyal either way. They submitted their requests to have their contracts terminated, explaining that they wanted to do some traveling abroad.

It required dodging a lot of red tape considering the confidential work they had been doing, but eventually all three of them got released from their contracts and were free to leave the country. It was only when the three of them were sipping wine in Rome beneath the blazing sun that Mal confessed she had taken pictures of the blueprints for the PASIV device and that they could get another one made.

Dom and Mal had argued for a long time about it while Arthur remained politely uncommitted. After a lot of discussion the three of them finally agreed to get a new PASIV made and create a team, completing their own dream work. Things started out great and then slowly progressed to the morally gray area as they took on jobs that might or might not have the right motives considered.

As always, Arthur focused his work and let Dom and Mal bicker over the morality. Arthur enjoyed the work and he was good at it, and by then his only thoughts of Eames were fleeting memories that occasionally resurfaced when he saw something on the street or on television that reminded Arthur of him. Arthur still brought his dream journals with him wherever they traveled, but he never dared open the pages and let the memories melt his heart.

#

"Arthur, I'd like to introduce you to someone," Dom spoke behind him.

Arthur knew what this was about. Dom had explained that he found a man claiming to be a Forger – someone who could manipulate their appearance and mannerisms to recreate someone else, rather that recreating architecture – and had wanted to bring him in on this job. But Dom had been unwilling to tell him any details about the man – not even a name! – which frustrated Arthur greatly.

"One moment," Arthur demanded shortly, wanting to type the last two sentences of his paragraph before he lost his train of thought.

That plan flew out the window when he heard a smooth British accent behind him. So hesitant. So familiar. "...Darling?"

Arthur's fingers froze above the keyboard and began to tremble. He blinked at the laptop monitor, not allowing himself to hope. Arthur clenched his eyes closed, fighting frantically for control. He wanted to remain numb. He didn't want to feel anymore, to be hurt again. But Dom seemed oblivious to his moment of crisis because he cleared his throat. "This is Mister Eames, the man I was telling you about."

The name echoed in the empty cavity of Arthur's heart.

Eames.

Slowly Arthur stood, still refusing to turn around as he forced his stiff legs to hold him up. He took a few deep breaths and then quickly abandoned that plan when he edged towards hyperventilating. With his last shred of control Arthur spun on his heel, preparing himself to be disappointed one final time.

Instead, Arthur released that thread of control to the wind. And as he let it go, the tears came.

Dom was looking at him with a blend of confusion and horror – no doubt shocked at seeing Arthur displaying his emotions again so openly – but then Eames was there, right there in front of him, and then his arms were around Arthur again. Arthur threw his arms around Eames' neck and held him close, sobbing against the collar of Eames' shirt. It was the first time Arthur had allowed himself to cry so openly in years, let alone this loudly, but he was in Eames' embrace and that was all that mattered.

Eames' arms were wound around Arthur's waist, fingers pulling him tightly against Eames' chest. At the same time Arthur's fingers clutched at Eames' shirt, burying his face as close as he could manage. Arthur couldn't even pinpoint all the reasons he was crying, but it felt like he was crying out all of the anguish and emotions he had bottled up for the last few years.

He cried for his mom and dad, his confusion and disappointment, his loneliness and apathy. More than anything he cried for Eames, remembering the years they had spent together and the years where Eames' presence had been unbearably missing from Arthur's life. Arthur knew this didn't make sense but he didn't care. Eames was here.

They held each other for a long time until Arthur's tears finally began to ebb. Even then Arthur wouldn't let go, keeping one arm around Eames' neck while he dipped his other hand into his pocket to confirm with his totem that this was reality. He felt Eames doing the same, and moaned in relief when they both hugged each other even tighter once they were sure this wouldn't slip away from them.

Unfortunately, after years of being numb, this sudden display of emotions had Arthur swaying on his feet with exhaustion. Eames noticed right away and led Arthur over to a lawn chair that had been set out for dream practice before the job. Arthur glanced around the warehouse, suddenly embarrassed, but found that Mal and Dom had vacated.

Arthur was relieved but his embarrassment didn't abate, and as Eames sat him down on the chair Arthur struggled to regain some semblance of control. Maintaining control over his emotions had become habit, and while he had momentarily broken down, Arthur found himself grasping for the frayed threads of that control again. There was comfort in it, in the numbness. He couldn't be hurt when he couldn't feel. But now he had left himself exposed for Eames to hurt him again, to disappear from his life now even though Arthur finally knew he was real...

"Don't hide yourself away from me, please," Eames begged him, kneeling in front of Arthur and cupping Arthur's face with his palm. "Trust me as you once did."

The words reminded Arthur of all the years he had spent with Eames. They had grown up together, had talked through their problems and taken comfort in each other's presence, and had also gone on adventures and explored. This was the first time Arthur was meeting Eames in person, but that didn't mean the man in front of him was not still the best friend and lover he had cherished in his dreams.

Still, Eames had left his life and while Arthur had not allowed himself to dwell on his absence forever, it had left a gaping hole in his chest. Arthur remembered dealing with his dad's death alone, and a few stray tears slid down his face again. "You disappeared," he accused weakly, voice thick from crying. "My dad died and you weren't there!"

Eames' face fell and then he stood. His arms were around Arthur again the way they had cradled him close many times before. When Arthur had woken up in a strange bed when they were kids, and when his mom passed away. "Arthur, I'm so sorry," Eames said.

Arthur had gotten very tired of the word 'sorry' after the funerals for his mom and dad. Everyone always said it with such neutral indifference. But the way Eames said it as tears that were not Arthur's own fell onto his neck made Arthur feel like he might someday be able to say he was okay. Something tight and suffocating in his chest loosened slightly and Arthur wondered if he had finally stumbled upon the path to recovery.

"Where were you?" Arthur wondered brokenly, wishing he had not been alone for so many years.

Eames spoke against Arthur's hair, never breaking their embrace. "I was offered an opportunity to get into dream work and I took it. I wanted even more control over my dreams so I could see you every night..." Eames trailed off and sighed, warm breath tickling Arthur's skin.

"But it took away your natural dreaming," Arthur surmised, remembering his own experience with the dream technology.

Eames nodded and cried softly, and they sat together on the lawn chair for a few minutes, mourning their years alone. "I couldn't get back to you. I cursed discovering dream work until Cobb contacted me. He mentioned your name and all I could do was hope because I couldn't go on without you anymore. At least you seemed to be managing okay."

Arthur swallowed hard, considering his habit of numbness. "I wasn't okay," he confessed.

Eames pulled away just enough to face him, their eyes red-rimmed and puffy. Arthur knew he must look horrible but the look on Eames' face said otherwise and Arthur could understand because he wasn't sure he had ever seen Eames looking more beautiful. His eyes were bright from crying, his cheeks flushed and his lips red from the nervous worrying of his teeth. Arthur could feel strong muscles beneath Eames' shirt and his frame had filled out, and now that Arthur was finally free from his state of numbness he could feel a haze of heat settling over him.

Eames licked his lips and Arthur tracked the small action with his eyes. Then he felt his heart begin to race when Eames' beautiful eyes looked down to Arthur's lips. "Please tell me you're single, darling."

Arthur wasn't sure if the sound that came out of his mouth was a sob or a laugh, but he nodded and then Eames was on him. They ended up sprawled on the chair, Eames' warm weight pinning Arthur down as their lips pressed together. Arthur moaned loudly, feeling his body react immediately to Eames even though it had been years since they were together – and the first time Arthur's physical body had actually felt Eames' exploring fingers, smelled Eames' pleasing musk.

Eames' mouth was claiming and hot and for the first time Arthur found himself truly breathless as they kissed. When they broke apart, both of them panting with their lips brushing – refusing to stray too far – they both laughed. Arthur was elated to know that they couldn't just kiss forever because this was reality. This was real. Arthur would take that over a never-ending kiss any day.

Once they had caught their breaths, Arthur pulled Eames back down. As their lips slotted together and Eames pressed down to deepen the kiss, Arthur could feel Eames' large hands begin to explore his body. Arthur groaned as heat pooled in his belly but he pushed Eames away slightly, just enough to break the kiss. "We should go back to my hotel room," he suggested. Arthur didn't care enough to feel self-conscious; this was Eames and he wanted this to be intimate.

Eames agreed but kissed Arthur for another few long minutes before finally getting off him. Arthur packed away his things with trembling fingers and then took Eames' hand. Their fingers laced together and Arthur smiled as they rushed out onto the street together. They picked up supplies on the way to the hotel, uncaring of the judgemental looks they received as they kissed halfway out the door.

They were both frantic by the time they reached Arthur's hotel room and Arthur found himself halfway up the door as Eames pinned and kissed him. Arthur moaned at the feel of Eames' hands holding his hips and Arthur dug his fingers into Eames' hair, dragging his mouth up to devour it with all the breath he had left, and then continuing on afterward even when his lungs burned for air.

Clothes were eventually discarded and Arthur shivered when his bare back came to rest against the duvet. Eames was there a second later though; lowering his body on top of Arthur. The heat was contagious and their kisses turned frenzied as their hips slotted together and began to rock. Arthur brushed his tongue along Eames' swollen bottom lip and then gasped when Eames nibbled his bottom lip in return.

Being with Eames in reality was both different and wonderfully familiar. By now, despite their years apart, Arthur and Eames had their lover's body memorized and knew exactly how to touch to draw out pleased moans, exactly what to say to spur desperate whispers. At the same time, reality forced them to slow down and prepare, unlike in dreams when preparation and lube were a choice.

Arthur couldn't say he minded the change even though he was impatient. They tore open one of the condoms and the bottle of lube they had purchased with barely-contained fervour, but Eames was tenderly careful with him. Feeling Eames' fingers stretching him open had Arthur's eyes fluttering closed as his hips arched up for more.

When Eames finally pressed in it was exactly the same. The pleasant burn as Arthur adjusted to his girth and the sense of wholeness that swept over them both as Eames sunk in and paused. They relished in the physical connection, their eyes locked, and then they moved together. Arthur panted and spread his legs wider, inviting Eames in deeper and smiling with ecstasy when Eames accepted the offer eagerly.

As they moved Arthur arched his back off the bed, and Eames used the opportunity to wrap his arms fully around Arthur's body. Arms bound him to Eames, holding them as close as possible without the melding they had experienced many times in dreams when it had sometimes been difficult to determine who was who. Not that it bothered them; their connection had always run deep.

Eames was panting against Arthur's neck and nipping any skin he could reach, causing Arthur to hiss and buck up more desperately. He could tell Eames was close and Arthur surrendered himself to Eames and the mounting pleasure coiling in his belly. Eames' arms had Arthur's chest against Eames' own, Arthur's length dragging between them as Eames moved them both against the bed with his force.

Between one moment and the next it was over. Eames thrust forward and a strangled whisper of Arthur's name fell from his lips. He stiffened, bucked two more times, and then moaned loudly. As Eames thrust harshly with his orgasm he ground against Arthur's prostate and Arthur was lost, spilling himself across their burning skin as they both shuddered and clutched at each other.

As Eames withdrew Arthur whined and held him closer, scared of the moment ending or the inevitable sensation of emptiness when Eames was no longer buried inside him. Eames was there though, as he had always been when they were together before. His arms embraced Arthur and held him as they slid under the covers, lying together for a long time just listening to the sound of their mingled breathing.

A while later when their hearts stopped racing they fell into conversation. They spoke of the last few years, trying to cover everything that they had missed even though they were no longer in a rush; dawn would not come and snatch their dreams away. It should have been awkward, Arthur with Eames for the first time in years, not to mention this being reality. But it felt normal and comfortable, and Arthur wondered if being numb for years had almost been worth it so that his happiness now felt like floating in sunshine.

At some point Arthur remembered to grab his phone. He texted Mal, too embarrassed about his emotional display to contact Dom right away. Eames lay on the mattress beside him, arm flung over Arthur's stomach and head on the pillow as he watched Arthur with half-lidded eyes.

Remember that guy I always dreamed about? Arthur texted. He felt a bit foolish trying to explain this to his friends, especially since there really was no logical explanation for the life and love Arthur and Eames had already shared.

Yes. Mal texted back.

I can't explain it, but this is him. Arthur said simply.

He remembered why he loved Mal when he received the next text. I won't expect you back today.

Arthur smiled and typed out one final message, sending it before turning off his phone entirely. I may not be in tomorrow either.

When he turned back from setting his phone on the bedside table he found Eames watching him with a fond smile. Arthur knew they had both changed over the last few years but Eames was still the same man who had held him close and protected him from the dark all those years ago. The one who reminded him to always enjoy the journey and the adventure, and who brushed away his tears but promised it was okay to cry more. And although Arthur knew the last few years had hardened him, it was a relief to feel his numb shell begin to thaw in Eames' presence.

Eames led him back down onto the bed and Arthur curled up against Eames' side. Eames was still watching him but he looked a little nervous now. "I know this may be too fast, but I love you so much, darling," Eames murmured softly.

Arthur's heart thrummed in his chest and he pressed his lips to Eames' own. He knew he had been waiting to hear Eames say that again since the night he had gone to bed and found Eames missing. "I love you too."

They shared another languid kiss and then settled more fully. Arthur dozed for a while and lost track of time, his mind hazy with warmth but always remaining half aware of Eames resting beside him. "This feels perfect," Arthur said aloud. "Like..." he struggled to find the words to properly express the warm sense of love and belonging that was enveloping him.

"Like a dream come true?" Eames suggested groggily.

Arthur chuckled. "If you want to be cheesy about it."

"I think this moment warrants a bit of cheesiness," Eames defended, amusement in his voice. "Think about everything we went through to get here together."

Arthur hummed in agreement and caught Eames' lips for a loving kiss. It really was like a dream. They had found each other in dreams so long ago and now finally ended up finding each other to continue their love in reality. And as was often the case when one discussed their dreams, Arthur was wonderfully, irrevocably happy.


A/N: Follow me on Tumblr for story updates and teasers: onewhositswiththeturtles(dot-tumblr-dot-com)