Status of work: Complete
Characters and/or pairings: Arthur/Eames, past Mal/Cobb
Warnings, kinks & contents: Sexual activity described in detail. Domestic violence alluded to a few times.
Length: About 7,300 words.
Author's note: I thought it would be romantic if Eames kept doing sleight of hand with Arthur and managed to charm him that way. Of course, that doesn't mean the story is free of angst. I had a difficult time finding a suitable ending for the story, so I'd welcome feedback on it and other scenes.
Summary: Arthur does eventually fall for Eames, but in getting to know one another, they're finding differences that may be irreconcilable with the compatibility that they experience in dream work.
“I have such fun working with you, Cobb,” Eames said conversationally after he finished puking. He dry heaved a few more times before adding apologetically, “Not that I’m unaware of your handsome presence, Arthur.”
“This is insane. What the hell were we thinking to do this?” Jen grimaced as she wiped vomit from her chin.
Cobb tossed back some Pepto-Bismol tablets and passed around the bottle. “The client warned us that his daughter had a strong phobia of rabbits. We underestimated how much she loathes even the mention of them.”
Jen glared at no one in particular. “Pepto-Bismol isn’t going to help me forget being keel-hauled in the beach.”
Arthur was pissed. He brushed desperately at his legs. God, he could still feel the stings from the jellyfish. “Why does Kloppmann care whether his daughter likes rabbits anyway? She’s eighteen years old!”
“Because being afraid of Mr. Fluffy Tail is a bad sign for the future heiress of a major textiles company,” Eames reminded him with a sour look that indicated his own disapproval of the situation.
Despite her earlier anger, Jen looked disgusted on the girl’s behalf. “Her father’s a complete bastard. I did surveillance with Eames, and you know what we saw? He took potshots at her weakness literally every half hour. Once he actually shoved a rabbit into her face!”
Eames shrugged. “With great inheritance comes great emotional abuse.” His voice held a certain something that made Arthur look at him sharply.
“We’ll have to come up with a new plan,” Cobb said wearily. “But let’s wait until tomorrow. I’m guessing everyone needs some time to process.”
They all mumbled in agreement before heading for their respective hotels. Arthur packed his files for further review that night and waited for Eames to choose from his myriad notebooks.
“Want to come and look at my passport collection?” Eames flirted.
Arthur laughed. “Your what?”
“Well, you wouldn’t want me to lie to you. I haven’t got any etchings, sorry.”
“Hm, okay, as long as I get to, uh, handle your passports.” Arthur smiled back.
Arthur pulled away, panting, to slide his card key through and yanked Eames with him into the room and onto the bed. They kissed and kissed, hands starting to roam around rather personal areas. Arthur tilted his head back and let Eames nibble up his neck and along his jaw, careful not to leave any marks. Arthur moved his hands up to Eames’ neck and felt him flinch. He started rubbing firmly in circles, looking for the sore spots.
“Mmm, Arthur, yes,” Eames murmured gratefully. “Ugh, I still feel the whiplash.”
“Turn over.” Arthur helped him pull off his shirts and gently pushed him to lie on his stomach.
Arthur smoothed a hand over Eames’ back, enjoying the feel of warm skin and compact muscles against his palm, as he laid soft kisses down the spine. He dug through his luggage for a tube of lotion and coated his hands. He went back to Eames’ neck and rubbed, careful of the throat, until his lover’s eyes blinked closed. He moved on and kneaded the shoulders hard, knowing that Eames liked a firm touch for those strained muscles.
Eames tensed and grunted at the first couple of pushes until the pain dissipated into a pleasant soreness. He relaxed further into the covers.
Arthur continued with the shoulders, pushing his thumbs firmly above and below the blades, alternating with whole-handed squeezes. Eames was nicely broad, but Arthur had long enough hands to give him a decent massage.
Eames hummed softly, and one eye slid open, so Arthur could tell he wasn’t asleep, but it looked like he was getting there.
He traced Eames’ spine to the lower back and, making a fist with one hand, dug sharply into the curve.
“Uh,” Eames inhaled sharply.
Arthur stopped short. “Too rough?” he asked.
“No, it’s good. Lost a lot of tension there.” Eames sighed softly, as Arthur repeated the motion a few times before moving back to his shoulders, kneading all around. He did one more pass down Eames’ back and ended by leaning some of his weight against Eames and pressing the heels of his palm up and down.
Eames let out a shuddering breath and then turned round to rest on his back. He smiled sleepily at Arthur before cupping the back of his neck to draw him into a deep kiss.
Arthur could feel Eames soft and calm against his thigh. Eames kissed his nose and asked playfully, “So, what can I do for you, Arthur?”
“You could let me get us a bit more naked,” Arthur suggested as his hands trailed down to Eames’ belt. They finished undressing, and Eames pulled Arthur back down against him. He snagged the lotion off the nightstand and smoothed a handful onto Arthur’s cock, his fingers playing and teasing. Arthur groaned with pleasure and need, and smiling hotly at him, Eames lay back invitingly.
Arthur moved between his lover’s strong thighs and eagerly thrust back and forth in the tight space. His movements became smoother as the lotion rubbed into Eames’ skin and made it softer and silkier.
Eames tipped his head up and kissed him lightly and briefly each time their faces came close. Arthur tried to deepen the kiss, but Eames kept dodging with a smirk. His eyes dared Arthur to do something about it.
Eames was still soft against him, and he probably wouldn’t get hard, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy himself too. Arthur encouraged Eames to wrap his legs loosely around his waist, and he changed the angle of his thrusts, letting him rub more firmly against his lover’s cock and balls, especially the rather sensitive area just behind them.
They both moaned breathlessly, and their hips moved together quickly, trying to find a good rhythm despite the sweat making their limbs slip and slide.
Arthur thumbed a nipple and watched it harden as Eames’ eyes darkened with lust before moving onto the other one and favoring it with a kiss as well. Eames jerked slightly with the pleasure and held Arthur’s head to his chest for a moment before letting go.
Eames ran his fingers through Arthur’s hair and combed it away from his face, so he could explore Arthur’s mouth thoroughly.
The kiss hit Arthur’s system with a jolt, and his breathing grew heavier as he thrust faster and harder. Eames pressed his thighs closer together around Arthur’s cock and watched as the extra pressure pushed him close to climax.
“Oh, yes,” Arthur breathed, mouthing the clavicle below his lips. He licked up to the throat and kissed a nicely curved jaw.
“Come on, you’re close,” Eames said lowly into his ear, one hand still playing with his hair.
Arthur’s body stiffened with one last push, and he collapsed onto Eames as the pleasure shook his body forcefully, leaving him limp with little tremors still running through him. He blinked the sweat out of his eyes and rested his head against Eames’ neck.
Eames relaxed his legs, letting them fall back to the bed with a satisfied sigh. He continued to hold onto Arthur tightly.
“You’re all mine,” he said softly to the top of Arthur’s head.
They cleaned up perfunctorily, tossed off the sheets, and slept.
“No.” Eames’ voice was cold. He shut his phone and tossed it at the desk but missed, and it fell onto the floor with a clack.
Arthur furrowed his brow at the technology being abused. “What’s wrong?”
“Dazik, that bloody woman won’t take no for an answer.”
“You haven’t liked her since that Mudwerk job,” Arthur commented. Dazik was a brilliant extractor who could give Cobb a run for his money, but she was also known to be difficult. Not that Eames didn’t have his moments.
“No, I’m just not tempted. I’ve done three jobs in a row. Time for me to live in reality for a while and enjoy its perks.” Eames’ mood seemed to improve, and he rolled onto the bed with Arthur, their faces close together.
When he blinked, his eyelashes brushed against Arthur’s cheek. Arthur pulled Eames’ head onto his shoulder and began scratching gently with his nails.
It wasn’t the best time to bring it up, but Arthur had to leave in two days. “Cobb has another job lined up—more corporate espionage. The target’s a senior project manager. We’ll need at least five months.”
“Oh?” Eames seemed unconcerned, and Arthur relaxed. “Well, I’ll keep myself busy. I have a new con I want to try out in Monte Carlo. If it’s successful, I’ll show it to you. I know you like to watch.” Eyes hooded, Eames guided Arthur’s head closer for a kiss.
“Where should I pick you up?” Eames added suddenly, back to domesticity.
Arthur tensed. “We have another job after that. Corporate espionage again. With the poor economy, all the companies can use a leg up. Legal or otherwise.”
Eames was silent.
“Babe?” Arthur prompted softly, feeling uneasy at the eyes that suddenly refused to meet his.
“You just came back from a job a week ago,” Eames noted, almost neutrally.
“Cobb wants to support Phillipa and James the only way he can right now—financially. Anyway, being busy keeps him from obsessing over Mal and turning into a mess,” Arthur said quietly.
“Cobb.” Eames rolled onto his back. He reached an arm out and began tapping on the dresser, one of his few tells and one he only showed in front of Arthur.
“Hey,” Arthur leaned over him and tried to meet his eyes. “I like my job.”
“Of course you like your job,” Eames said irritably. “I like my job too. But I have a life outside of it. I haven’t doomed myself as someone’s eternal shadow.”
Anger flared up in Arthur, and he tried to tame it, but damn it, he hated when Eames suggested that he had a limited mind. Eames seemed intent on equating the point man role to that of a stooge: someone who was needed but not to be respected.
“Some people have responsibilities,” Arthur said tightly. He moved to the edge of the bed and sat up. He smoothed back his hair. He couldn’t hide his growing resentment. “Dom needs me.”
Dom respects me. Dom appreciates me. Dom never made fun of me for being organized.
“Some people,” Eames repeated with a sneer twisted into the words. “I can tell you think I don’t belong in that category of mature responsible people.”
Arthur pinched the bridge of his nose. He hadn’t meant to phrase it that way, but he couldn’t honestly say that Eames didn’t seem immature now and then. What grown man could read a recipe and then decide to completely disregard it?
They sat without talking, and the silence stretched out. Finally, Eames left for the kitchen, and his toneless voice echoed back to Arthur, “I’ll order some takeout.”
“Cobb is insane, and you’re joining him on his trip to hell,” Eames said flatly. He didn’t even have the courtesy of waiting until they were out of earshot.
“Kenneth Darbin has a lot of influence. A favor from him would be very useful.”
“Favor’s only valuable so long as you’re actually alive to use it,” Eames snapped.
He continued edgily, “The surveillance shows that Daniel Kim suffers from psychosis. He may have the schematics in his mind somewhere, but Darbin should have gotten them out of him before he suffered an irreparable breakdown.”
Arthur felt a bit exasperated. Eames was the one who always proclaimed that there was a way. “People suffering from psychosis are prone to hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder, not violence. Granted, things will be more complicated since his dreaming mind will be even more nonsensical than the usual person’s.”
Arthur tried to lighten things up. “Maybe it’ll feel a little like Alice in Wonderland.”
Eames stared at him in disbelief. “You’ve already agreed to do this. You didn’t even bother to talk to me first?”
“Eames, if you want to take a break, then go ahead. Cobb knows we’re not a package deal.”
“That’s not the point, Arthur. Maybe Kim’s mind won’t be violent, but think about this: you’re going to be in the same dream as him. You’re going to share the same consciousness, and he’s not right in the head. Something could happen to your mind.” Eames’s lips were pinched.
“Babe,” Arthur said, touched at the concern. “We’ll be careful. I just got started on the research component. I have resources. Elisa might be able to help me find a neuroleptic that can stabilize his mind for the dream.”
Eames pulled away from him. “You’re still doing it then.” He shook his head with a bared teeth smile that didn’t touch his eyes. “You’re a loyal man, Arthur.”
When Arthur came back from the job (unsuccessful since Kim’s psychosis completely disrupted his ability to access the part of his mind responsible for the schematics), Eames had packed his belongings and left without a note.
Arthur opened a new bottle of Merlot and asked himself why he wasn’t hurt.
Eames didn’t seem all that different. He seemed cool and amused as he always had been, and he showed no signs that they used to have a relationship.
“I know we haven’t worked with Eames in a while,” Cobb had said, bemused, “But it hasn’t been that long. He sounded—well, never mind.”
“What?” Arthur hated himself for wanting to know.
“He just commented on the fact that I was still working with you.” Cobb shrugged and then laughed a bit awkwardly. “Like he hasn’t seen you or talked to you since the last job we all had together.”
Ariadne’s presence helped prevent most of the awkwardness. Arthur explained totems and demonstrated some tricks for dream architecture.
Eames explained kicks and entertained Ariadne with his enthusiasm for Yusuf’s sedative tests, which landed Arthur onto the floor on a regular basis.
“Coming, Arthur?” Eames asked carelessly.
Arthur slowed on the keyboard, as Eames’ words penetrated his brain. “What?”
Eames gestured to Ariadne, who was holding a brand new digital camera (a gift from Saito, whose flaws did not include parsimony). “Ariadne here needs some additional photos of Fischer Senior’s hospital and the surrounding area. I myself need more long-distance quality time with Browning. And you, I imagine could give us some much needed FYI.”
Try as he might, Arthur couldn’t think of an excuse not to go, not without sounding like he was deliberately trying to avoid Eames.
As they waited in the car for Ariadne, the silence nibbled away at Arthur’s concentration. He resented Eames for calmly and continuously taking notes on Browning’s habits, posture, and gestures, hands alternating among pencil, ink, and pastels. Arthur suspected the latter was just for Eames’ amusement.
Arthur glanced out the window at the park where Browning had taken his lunch and was currently finishing up a pudding cup. He didn’t know why Eames had insisted on staying inside the car.
Irritated by his own discomfort at Eames’ close proximity, Arthur opened his laptop to double-check his interpretation of Fischer Senior’s epic will.
A hand landed on top of his laptop and pushed the cover back down with a gentle clack.
“You don’t have anything to say to me?” Eames asked. His challenging tone ensured that Arthur made eye contact with him.
“I don’t usually have much to say to people after they break up with me,” Arthur responded as evenly.
“Is that what I did?” Eames mused.
“You took everything and left.” Pause. “I think you even washed your share of the breakfast dishes.”
Eames’ eyes darkened, but he spoke lightly. “I can see you have very clear-cut ideas of when a relationship ends, Arthur.”
“I’m not the one who wouldn’t talk it out,” Arthur threw back, the hurt mounting up from the depths from which he had sunk it months ago.
Eames flushed but didn’t back down. “I’m not the one who uses a pet name as a panacea.” He was about to continue when Ariadne knocked on Arthur’s window. Eames reorganized the papers in his lap and cheerfully asked Ariadne whether her time had been well spent.
As they got out of the car, Ariadne went ahead, and Eames pulled Arthur back. He didn’t say anything, just searched Arthur’s face for a long moment, and then let go.
They weren’t finished yet.
Arthur pushed open his apartment door and met total darkness. He’d seen Eames get on and off the same flight home and grab a taxi while Arthur was still waiting for his luggage at the carousel. He must have been mistaken about the near-flirtation in the dream hotel room, or maybe it was the Suspension Bridge Effect.
Arthur thought about having a glass of water and heading to bed. But he had something he wanted to say to Eames. And he didn’t want Eames to think that he really was a stick-in-the-mud, someone who was stuck in a box and unable to find his way out. He grabbed his key ring and headed out.
“Hello, Arthur,” Eames said, and he waited.
“Hey,” Arthur exhaled harshly into the phone. He remembered the first time he fell over a high bridge in a dream. He’d woken up gasping with chills down his spine. He felt that same shaky fear now.
“Would it surprise you if I told you that I do love and respect you, even if you drive me crazy sometimes? Even if I let you go?” After their first date, Arthur had starting keeping track of how long they’d been together and how many things he knew about Eames. Arthur had a whole notebook filled out, and he’d gotten started on a second when things ended. He refused to accept that everything they had together could disappear so easily.
Eames was quiet for a bit. “No. But I needed to hear it.” He laughed humorlessly. “God, we were quite nasty about poking and prodding each other, weren’t we.”
“We were still learning to compromise.” And then you left, Arthur didn’t add.
Eames seemed to hear the sentiment anyway. He sounded shamefaced, as he said, “I don’t want to change you, Arthur. I didn’t slip a sweet into your pocket because I thought you’d be someone different.
“But you frustrate me. Sometimes I just want to go off—not alone, mind you, with you, of course—but sometimes I don’t think you can do that, you can’t be free, with me.” The stumbling words stopped, sounding plaintive in Arthur’s ear.
Arthur didn’t really know what to say. They needed more than just this one conversation in which they both felt like being honest. “I’m outside,” Arthur whispered. “I’ll wait for you.”
“Run away with me.” Spur-of-the moment and nothing to lose.
“Where are we going?” Eames asked, the smile back in his voice.
Eames laughed appreciatively.