"I'm going to die," Eames tells him, sprawled on his living room sofa like a Victorian maiden with the vapors, complete with one arm flung over his eyes. His laptop is sitting on the coffee table, and the cursor does not appear to have moved in Arthur's absence.
"You can die after you finish this draft," Arthur says, and places a cup of coffee on the table that he picked up from the shop down the street.
"Have mercy, darling," Eames moans, and then cracks open an eye. "You brought me coffee?"
"Drink it, stop whining, and finish that draft, or I swear to god, Mr. Eames, I will strangle you and enjoy it thoroughly."
Eames sits up and sips obediently at the coffee, and then smiles at Arthur. "You remembered the sugar," he says happily.
"Of course I remembered," Arthur bites out. "It is, in fact, my job to pay attention to details."
"It's why you're the best," Eames says with casual confidence.
Arthur sets down his own cup of coffee (cream, no sugar). "Mr. Eames, I cannot do my job unless you do yours. What, precisely, is your problem?"
"I would let you strangle me in a sexy kind of way if that's what you're into," Eames says.
Arthur grits his teeth. "Mr. Eames."
Eames goes serious then, in the blink of an eye, and it still startles Arthur after all this time. "The middle doesn't seem to be sitting right," he says.
Arthur has a photographic memory, and scans through the text in his head. "Well, think about this..."
Arthur has, on occasion, described Eames to other people as Mr. Super Genius Novelist. They invariably laugh, assuming Arthur is being sarcastic.
Eames, in fact, is the kind of person that should only exist in a story -- an extremely ridiculous, self-indulgent story. Eames is an unquestionably brilliant writer, who has managed the impossible tasks of making literary critics salivate over each successive work and charming the general public into handing over a lot of money to buy many copies. He grew up stupidly wealthy, and has only become more so since his debut.
Arthur has been his editor from the beginning. Eames says he won't work with anyone else, and what Arthur will never tell him is that he would cut anyone who tried.
"What is this?' Arthur says a few weeks later.
Eames taps his cigarette in the ashtray. "I understand, of course, that I'd have to publish it under a nom de plume."
"Of course you would. That's not the issue," Arthur says faintly, paging down through the document file and feeling his eyes widen. "Mr. Eames, this is pornography. This is unbridled, unapologetic, filthy smut."
Eames waggles his eyebrows. "You have a problem with that, darling?"
"I have a problem with my name being in this!" Arthur bursts out.
Eames just drinks his coffee calmly. "Well, once I decided on the character's name, it practically wrote itself."
Arthur takes a deep breath. "If you intend on publishing this, you are changing the damn name. And the whole scene with the buttplug needs to be rewritten."
Eames frowns at that. "What's wrong with it?"
"The dialogue makes me want to retch," Arthur says flatly. "For instance -- Arthur looked up at him, eyes glazed and desperate. 'Give it to me, I need it so bad, put your enormous prick in me right now--'"
"You'd prefer 'cock'?" Eames asks seriously.
"I'm going to publish this, and then I'm going to kill you," Arthur informs him.
Eames claps his hands together in delight. "I knew I could depend on you, pet."
The porn sells terribly well. Arthur doesn't know why he's remotely surprised -- it's not like Eames hasn't already demonstrated a remarkable ability to tap into the mentality of this generation. Tapping into their id apparently isn't much of a stretch.
Arthur keeps himself buttoned up and thoroughly professional, even while editing a manuscript that is basically sex every ten pages. Still, there is some plot, and Eames has structured it like a romance -- and Arthur will admit (but only to himself) that the relationship between fake Arthur and Stephen is rather moving. The only moment of danger is when he's going over final edits with Eames, and Eames is leaning over the coffee table, chin in his hand and face covered with three-day old stubble, and Arthur knows that he's barely slept. His voice is a low rasp when he says, "Do you think it's too much?"
The roughness of his voice, combined with the scene they're looking at, almost threatens to make Arthur betray himself, but instead he says, "What, exactly?"
"The end bit, with all the love confessions."
"Stephen has spent this entire book making Arthur have an improbable number of orgasms. I don't think an 'I love you' or two is out of the question," Arthur says.
"Is that your personal opinion, or professional one?" Eames asks.
"My professional opinion is the only one that matters," Arthur says firmly, and then, more coaxingly, "The sooner we finish, the sooner you can sleep."
"The things I do for your deadlines, Arthur darling," Eames says, and musters an exhausted smile for him.
"I didn't twist your arm and make you write porn, if you'll recall," Arthur says. "Come on, just a little more."
Eames yawns then, a jaw-cracking affair that nearly makes Arthur yawn in sympathy. "All right, then," he says, and they turn to the last of the edits.
Before Arthur had met Eames, someone had broken Eames' heart.
Eames has never spoken of it, and Arthur has never asked. Their relationship is a professional one, and it's one that Arthur intends to protect, no matter what. The first meeting he had with Eames in his penthouse apartment, Eames had grabbed a single key off his kitchen counter, and pressed it in Arthur's hand.
"What's this for?" Arthur had asked.
Eames' face is quiet and still, and he says casually, "It's for the front door. I write when I can and sleep when I'm not, so it'll be more convenient for you if you just take it."
Arthur had placed it carefully in his jacket pocket -- it was by no means normal, but he was prepared to put up with quite a lot for the brilliance he saw in Eames' first novel.
He had been about to leave, when he said, "The novel's dedication -- you left it blank. Who did you want to dedicate it to?"
Eames had smiled then, without joy. "I had someone in mind, but circumstances have made that quite impossible, I'm afraid."
When Arthur had looked at the proofs and seen his name there, he'd thought it was a joke. A joke that left him with a heavy feeling in his throat, but a joke nonetheless.
"You have an odd sense of humor," he'd told Eames, afterward.
"I assure you, darling, it was sincerely meant. You did take a chance on me, after all."
Arthur scoffed. "Only an idiot would have passed you up."
Eames' eyes were warm and rueful. "You'd be surprised."
Arthur uses his key to open the front door to Eames' penthouse, and juggles the coffee carrier in his hands with the bakery box and a bag of reference books before hip-checking the door open. Eames doesn't call out a greeting when Arthur walks over to the kitchen, which means that Eames is either gone, or he's asleep.
From the lump on the couch under a truly hideous afghan, Arthur is going with "asleep."
He puts coffee on the table in front of the couch, and settles down in his usual armchair. They were supposed to have a meeting now, but there is a short stack of paper on the table with a post-it that says, "DARLING," so Arthur takes it up and reads through it.
Eames doesn't write outlines for his novels, per se -- he writes these stream of consciousness things that are frequently not in complete sentences, routinely abuse capslock, and contain direct questions to Arthur:
i don't know, i don't want this to be some fucking space opera, not that space operas can't be good but then youre just going to start asking me questions about physics which are pretty interesting but i cant be fucked to really deal with it, so maybe it shouldnt be set in the future after all but in new york in 1880, what do you know about new york in 1880? did the metro exist then, check that will you darling
It's a terrible assault on grammar and punctuation, but Arthur loves them beyond all reason. They're for an audience of one, and no one but Arthur will ever see them. It's a part of Eames that he doesn't have to share with the world, and he hoards them jealously.
"You have the loveliest smile," Eames says, and Arthur jumps in his seat. "Pity I don't get to see it more often."
"I'd smile more if you'd quit blowing your deadlines," Arthur says, but his heart's not really in it.
"It's not my deadlines I want to blow, pet," Eames says, giving him the easy innuendo that he expects at this point in their relationship.
Arthur rolls his eyes. "I'm not done reading this yet. Go back to sleep."
"Mmm, if you say so," Eames says, and his eyes slide shut again.
Arthur's boss, Dominic Cobb, gives him an astounding amount of leeway. Then again, Dom knows what side his bread is buttered on, and his mantra regarding Eames is, "Keep him happy, keep him writing."
Arthur endeavors to do both, and for the most part, he is quite successful. Of course he has other authors he works with, but Eames is always his first priority, and Arthur has no compunctions about electronically bitchslapping lesser writers into doing what he wants. He saves the home visits and face time for Eames, who tends to start having crises about dialect or planning unscheduled getaway trips to Marseilles if Arthur doesn't drop by every three days or so.
"What do you think of Munich?" Eames asks one day.
Arthur looks up from his Blackberry. "Do you need reference materials? I can go to the library."
"No, darling, I meant: what do you think about Munich? As a travel destination," Eames says, looking at Arthur intently.
"As I am not going to Munich, and you are most certainly not going anywhere until this story is finished, I don't see what it matters."
Eames actually pouts, and it looks disturbingly appealing on him. "Don't you ever take a break? We've known each other for years, pet, and I can't think that you've been out of reach for more than a handful of days at a time."
"Not all of us have trust funds," Arthur reminds him.
Eames looks upset. "But you do get holidays, surely?"
Arthur sighs. "I do, I just use them here and there instead of going on big trips. I don't like coming back to find all the work that's piled up when I've been away."
Eames gets a look on his face that Arthur just knows is trouble. "But darling, I'm your work, am I not? So if I wanted to go somewhere for research, and I took you with me, it'd be like a business trip, yeah?"
Arthur feels his face heat at the possessive note in Eames' voice. Nothing good comes from spoiling writers, he tells himself. "I don't just edit your work, you know," he tells Eames. "I have other authors."
Eames leans forward into Arthur's space. "A week," he says, nearly a croon. "We'll research locations for the novel, look at some very nice architecture, drink Riesling and maybe even relax a little."
Arthur is nearly seduced by the thought of all that baroque and rococo architecture. "I can't," he makes himself say.
Eames sits back, but he doesn't look any less determined. Arthur should have known that just because he shut up about it didn't mean that he'd stopped thinking about it. This is the unfortunate part about working with people born into stupid amounts of wealth -- they are really, really accustomed to getting their way, and Eames is no different.
"So, Arthur," Dom says, poking his head into Arthur's office the next day. "I had an interesting phone call from Mr. Eames."
"Oh god," Arthur says, and puts his head down on his desk. "What did he want?"
He can practically hear Dom's obnoxious smile. "It seems Mr. Eames wants you for his very own."
"What," Arthur says faintly. He turns his head to see Dom squinting at him.
"He didn't actually mean -- well, maybe he did, but he was pretty explicit about wanting you to edit only his projects."
"You told him no, right?"
"Arthur," Dom says seriously, "How many awards did his last two novels win? How many books has he sold? You and I both know that his next novel could damn well win the Pulitzer. I told him yes."
"Dom," Arthur moans, "how could you do this to me?"
"Make him take you to Paris," Mal says, having slowed to a stop in the doorway.
"I hate both of you," Arthur says.
"If you must," Mal says, her mouth curved in a knowing smile. "But you will love Paris, Arthur."
"Ugh," Arthur says feelingly.
Arthur unlocks Eames' front door and throws it open. "Are you actually crazy?" he demands.
Eames is in the kitchen, poking at a skillet and wearing -- Jesus Christ -- an eye-searing bathrobe over some thankfully inoffensive pajama pants. "I thought you said a little bit of crazy helped sell books."
"Fake crazy," Arthur says. "People like eccentric authors. That's not the point. The point is, I can't believe you called Dom."
Eames lifts two eggs out of the pan and puts them on a plate in front of Arthur at the counter. "Toast?" he inquires.
"I -- what? I'm not eating breakfast, Mr. Eames, I'm in the middle of yelling at you."
"Yell away, darling, but eat something -- and you have the temerity to complain about how I run myself ragged. Your trousers are a little loose around the bum these days."
Arthu opens his mouth to complain about Eames noticing the fit of his pants, but Eames just puts two pieces of toast on his plate, and Arthur's stomach lets out an embarrassing gurgle.
"Go on, then," Eames says coaxingly. "Don't worry, the eggs are over hard -- I know you've a horror of runny yolk, even though it really is delicious, darling, and the chances of salmonella poisoning aren't all that high."
Arthur picks up his fork then, and takes a hesitant bite. It's perfectly fine, and he is hungry, and it's right in front of him, so he may as well.
Eames cracks two more eggs into the pan, and says, "Here's the thing, darling. I've an idea, and I need you."
"The not-space opera thing?" Arthur asks, confused.
"No," Eames says. "I want to write a heist novel."
"Okay," Arthur says slowly. "What brought this on?"
"After I got off the phone with Mr. Cobb -- who was quite gracious, by the way, about surrendering you entirely to me -- I thought of something. I want to write about people stealing ideas."
Arthur is about to yell at him about how he hasn't been surrendered, when his mind ticks through the rest of the sentence. "Stealing ideas? Like corporate espionage?"
"A bit," Eames says, and leans forward on the counter to brush two fingers against Arthur's temple. "But from people's minds."
"I need a pen. And some paper," Arthur says, and unearths both from a fruit dish not being used for its intended purpose. "Tell me everything," he says, and Eames' smile could make Arthur move mountains.
"I don't really understand what your problem is," Dom says on the phone, and then hollers something at Yusuf.
Arthur jerks his ear back from the phone at Dom's bellow, and then cautiously puts it back again. "Mr. Eames wants me to go with him to Europe."
"For research, I heard you. Well, it's not like you have to babysit Takahashi and that fuckface Nash anymore -- Ariadne's got it pretty much in hand. You should have heard her yell at Nash the other day, it was pretty good for me on a spiritual level. You might as well go."
"And you're not worried about Eames essentially kidnapping me for an unspecified period of time and taking me out of the country," Arthur says.
"I've already basically prostituted my best editor to him, so kidnapping's not really fazing me at this point. Plus as long as he's paying for it, I say, enjoy your vacation."
"It's a business trip," Arthur enunciates.
"As long as you come back with a draft, you can call it whatever you want," Dom says, and then cruelly hangs up.
"Well, that's sorted," Eames says cheerfully. "Pack your things, pet -- a good friend of mine has offered his private jet to us for the occasion."
Arthur stares at him in horror. "You know that is absolutely not normal, right?"
Eames grins at him. "Only the best for you, darling."
"Are you telling me that this jet belongs to Saito? The Saito?" Arthur says faintly.
"He's an old family friend," Eames says dismissively.
"It's like you come from another planet," Arthur says in utter disbelief. Even on actual business trips, Cobb makes him fly coach, and he's only upgraded a few times. Arthur knows that the flight isn't going to last forever, and it seems impractical and rather wasteful to spend so much money on a little extra leg room. He'd much rather have a new suit or a pair of shoes -- Arthur's finances, after all, are not inexhaustive, and he has priorities.
Still, he'll admit the private jet is rather nice, even if Eames is rather shamelessly trying to get him drunk. "It's going to make me fall asleep," Arthur accuses.
Eames taps the cover of Arthur's laptop. "Go to sleep, then, pet. You can have a nice long nap before we land."
Arthur frowns at him. "What about you?"
Eames looks over the rims of his reading glasses, and the sight is so familiar and intimate that Arthur feels a dangerous rush of affection. "I'm in the middle of something," he says, fingers tapping steadily at his laptop. "Sleep well, darling, and if you can arrange to dream of me -- well, tell me about it when you wake."
"Oh, please," Arthur says, and settles back in his seat and closes his eyes.
Munich is bright and beautiful and appealingly tidy, and Arthur thinks he's a little bit in love.
The cab deposits them in front of a hotel, and Eames has the gall to guide him inside with a hand hovering at the small of his back, but Arthur is too busy trying to take everything in to really care.
He revises that opinion when they reach their hotel room, which only has one bed.
"Right or left side?" Eames says.
"Are you absolutely serious?" Arthur demands.
"Please try not to be so American about it, darling," Eames says.
Arthur raises an incredulous eyebrow.
"What if I wake up in the middle of the night and urgently need to discuss an idea with you?" Eames tries again.
"Wake me up for that and die," Arthur says, and puts his bags down on the right side of the bed.
"Does that mean I can wake you up for other things, pet?" Eames asks, and his voice drops down to something sinful and warm and Arthur has to mentally shake himself.
"You can wake me up if you win the Booker Prize," Arthur says, which is admittedly a little mean since Eames was shortlisted last year and is still extremely upset about it.
Eames dumps his luggage on the left side of the bed. "I'm going to win it this year, darling. Fucking Salman Rushdie, must he win everything?" he mutters, and stalks off to the bathroom.
Arthur gives Eames exactly zero choice about their destination that afternoon, and drags him off to a cafe on the Marienplatz.
"Okay," Arthur says. "People stealing ideas. How?"
"Mmm," Eames says, taking a sip of coffee. "What if you could share dreams?"
Arthur frowns and looks off at the direction of the Neues Rathaus, with brilliant red blossoms hanging like clouds off the facade. "Intentionally? Like going into someone's head?"
"Don't go all X-Files on me, darling."
"You're the one who's talking about dream-sharing," Arthur huffs, because he still regrets letting it slip to Eames that he's seen the entire series, even the last season. "Anyway, how would it work?"
Eames appears to be looking at Arthur's hands where they are cradling his coffee cup, but Arthur can tell from the unfocused look in his eyes that he's a million miles away. "If the mind hid secrets like people hide valuables in vaults, couldn't you break in and steal them?"
"But how would you know where to find them? Couldn't anything happen in a dream?" Arthur counters, brow furrowed. His eyes are drawn back to the Mariensäule, with its golden Madonna and Child crowning the column, soaring far above the winged putti battling beasts at the base, and the thought of creating architecture like that spurs him on to say, "What if -- what if the thieves could somehow -- I don't know, what if the thieves could construct the dream?"
Eames' head snaps up at that, and he says thoughtfully, "As though the thieves are the only ones with the blueprints, and the mark can only inhabit the dream they create."
Arthur tries to sip his coffee calmly, but he can't deny the frisson of excitement running down his spine. It's a measure of how long and how well they've worked together, Arthur's bitching notwithstanding, that Eames feels comfortable using Arthur as a sounding board. Arthur wonders who Eames talked to before he came along, but maybe he didn't talk to anyone. His first manuscript came to Arthur as a completed draft, so Arthur didn't actually go through the genesis of a story with Eames until his second novel.
Eames had been hesitant then, at least until Arthur had told him in no uncertain terms that if he was having trouble writing, then he needed to sit the hell down and walk Arthur through it. Eames fleshed out the story as he talked, and Arthur course-corrected with questions and suggestions until Eames disappeared into his office to write.
He doesn't have to pry anything out of Eames now, and hasn't in years. Eames sends his not-outlines to Arthur, and emails him with an overabundance of exclamation points and truly obnoxious emoticons, and keeps Arthur in his penthouse well into the night as he wanders around, thinking aloud.
"Blueprints," Arthur says thoughtfully, still looking at the Mariensäule. "An architect. Someone builds the dream, and then the others are pulled in."
Eames' fingers are tapping on the table, like he needs his laptop right now. Sure enough, he says, "Stay if you like, pet, but I need to--"
"Go on," Arthur says. "I'll bring dinner."
Eames stands, then, and gently touches Arthur's shoulder as he leaves to cross the expanse of the Marienplatz on the way back to their hotel.
Arthur goes to Peterskirche and spends some time looking at the Zimmerman ceiling fresco and the Gothic paintings by Polack, before forking over a number of Euros at a small store for bread and cheese and fruit. Eames will eat while he writes, so long as he doesn't have to spare his attention from his laptop to do it. Arthur feels very sure that Eames would have starved to death during his third novel if Arthur hadn't come by on an extremely regular basis to feed him.
When he gets back to the hotel, Eames is sitting at the desk, glasses on, and his fingers are flying over the keys. Arthur has worked with a number of authors, but he is still astonished by how quickly Eames writes when he puts his mind to it.
Arthur piles pillows against the headboard and settles on the bed with his own laptop to go through some proofs of an article Eames wrote a few months ago, and when he takes a break to put some food on plates for the both of them, Eames acknowledges the food at his elbow with an absent-minded, "Thank you, darling," before returning to rapid-fire typing.
The typing halts, eventually, and Eames commences staring out the window. Arthur knows to leave him be, and reads part of a manuscript before sending it Yusuf's way, since Yusuf is all over this werecreature bullshit. Even if Arthur were not tied entirely to Eames, he would still rather stab himself then spend his waking hours forcing the author to at least develop an internally-consistent worldview about scent-marking, for Christ's sake.
He changes into a t-shirt and worn pajama bottoms before going to bed. Eames will sleep when he sleeps, and Arthur has stayed up long enough in the attempt to reset his internal clock to local time.
Eames is still staring on the window into the night when Arthur's eyes close.
He wakes up with his face basically mashed into Eames' hip. Eames is sitting up in bed, computer on his lap, and he appears to be reading a Wikipedia article about the kakapo bird.
"Morning, pet," Eames says, and the rumble of his voice makes Arthur want to do something wildly inappropriate, like nuzzle Eames' hip and close his eyes again. It's stupid and dangerous, because to the best of Arthur's knowledge, there has been no one for Eames since they started working together. Arthur sometimes catches himself fruitlessly wondering who the love of Eames' life was, and how they could burn and salt the earth of his heart and leave him behind. He wonders what kind of person could inspire the dizzying, wide-eyed wonder of Eames' first novel and the gut-wrenching heartache of the second, and though he knows he has never loved as Eames has loved, he can't imagine it's the sort of love one just gets over.
Eames sinks his fingers into Arthur's hair, one thumb rubbing against his temple. "Are you truly awake, I wonder?" he asks, teasing.
Arthur closes his eyes for just a moment then, luxuriating in the gentle scratch of Eames' fingernails against his scalp. Then he sighs, rolls over, and levers himself out of bed, because he really shouldn't do this to himself.
Obviously, Arthur has been entangled in Eames' creative process before, but he's never been quite so intimately entwined. The hotel room should feel claustrophobic, since Eames seems to permeate and dominate the space, shuffling between the desk and the bed with his laptop never out of reach. But Arthur has had years of exposure to Eames, and he sincerely doubts that he's in danger of overdosing now.
Arthur goes out into the city and walks around, retrieving coffee and foraging for food, drinking in the sight of extraordinary rococo architecture and the everyday newspaper stands. When he comes back, Eames has passed out on the bed, face-first. Arthur allows himself the small indulgence of flipping the half of the bedspread that Eames isn't lying on over him, but Eames doesn't stir and just sleeps on. He's going to completely fuck his sleep schedule, at this rate, but since Eames can do that while writing without the excuse of a different time zone, Arthur doesn't think it much matters.
Arthur goes back to reading a not-outline of Eames' next foray into wretchedly filthy pornography, which -- how is this his life? He shifts uncomfortably in the desk chair, because Eames has put a lot of very explicit thought into this, and Arthur isn't to be blamed if his brain starts to run together all the things that Eames wants Arthur the character to do, and the things he actually asks Arthur, although the latter seems nearly as salacious as the former:
the first round should be feverish and fast, they're both wound up from jealousy and fucking desperate for it, and afterward, when arthur is all fucked out and sprawled on the bed, stephen tells him there's no one else and then they should fuck again, bareback and messy and slow and hard, arthur lying on his side and gasping every time stephen bottoms out and wait back up, there should really be some quality rimming in there, maybe after round one when arthur is still quivering after having come against the wall, and stephen can push him down on the bed and eat his arse out -- if you make me write ass instead of arse, darling, i suppose i will live but i really think this is an important question of artistic integrity--
Arthur should really stop reading it because he's painfully hard, and the only place he can jack off is the bathroom and he's pretty sure Eames would hear.
As if on cue, Eames makes a soft sound and surfaces from sleep. He cranes his neck around to find Arthur, and then, apparently satisfied that Arthur's been accounted for, wrestles himself out of the bedspread and staggers off to use the bathroom.
Arthur hears the shower start running and has a very serious conversation with himself about how he is a professional and therefore is absolutely not going to furtively get himself off while Eames is busy being naked and wet in the next room. He's not.
"I am so fucked," he mutters to himself, and pulls his cock out of his pants and comes in a few short strokes, biting his lip as he spills into a tissue. By the time Eames emerges from the shower in his hideous bathrobe, Arthur is perfectly put together again. If Eames notices his flushed face, he doesn't say anything about it.
He is literally wrapped up in Eames' work now, and he's not sure how the actual fuck this happened.
"You have your own computer," Arthur reminds Eames.
Eames is a heavy weight against his back, his chin tucked over Arthur's shoulder as he reads Arthur's laptop screen. "Shush, pet, I'm researching."
"Which, again, you could do on your own computer," Arthur says, and he's surprised his voice sounds that firm when Eames' breath is tickling his ear, and god, he can smell him, if he just turned his head he could bury his nose behind Eames' ear and just breathe him in.
"We both need to know about this," Eames says reasonably. "I would just have to make you read it anyway so we could talk about it, so we may as well do it together. Click on that link for delta sleep, there's a love."
Arthur clicks on it and tries mightily not to grind his teeth.
"You're very tense," Eames says, and one of his hands comes up to grip the nape of Arthur's neck.
That's it. Arthur abruptly shuts the laptop. "Let's go have dinner. I passed a restaurant earlier -- you can't stay cooped up in here the whole time."
"Oh," Eames says, sounding pleasantly surprised. "Well. My legs could do with a stretch, I suppose. You have the best ideas, darling."
Of course, Eames totally disregards Arthur's choice of restaurant and instead bothers the old man at the front desk, who speaks perfectly passable English and calls a taxi to take them someplace unpronounceable but apparently without peer. Arthur would be annoyed except that it is excellent and Eames keeps the promise he made before their trip, and they drinks a lot of Riesling. Or rather, Arthur drinks a lot of Riesling. He doesn't mean to, but Eames is sneaky and keeps filling up his glass when Arthur turns his head or gets distracted while trying to tell Eames about what he's seen on his walks around the city.
At the end of dinner, when Arthur is comfortably drunk and Eames is watching him with an expression that Arthur would be tempted to call fond, Arthur's brain does that thing it does sometimes, and he says, "So they steal information from people's minds. Okay. I mean, that's good, but -- what if instead of stealing an idea, you could plant one there instead?"
Eames stares at him for one long moment, and Arthur says uncertainly, "Is that stupid? I mean, you don't have to--"
"Arthur," Eames interrupts him. "Arthur darling, you are so transcendentally brilliant sometimes that it's all I can do not to ravish you on the spot."
It's a joke, Arthur knows it is, Eames has made it a dozen times over, but he blurts out, "I'm okay with that."
Eames actually laughs, and says, "You are brilliant, and also thoroughly drunk. Up we go, darling, I need to get back to work." He leaves some money on the table and helps Arthur outside, keeping a firm hand on his elbow. They wait for what feels like forever for a taxi, and then a very pregnant woman and her friend exit the restaurant just as one pulls up. Eames lets go of Arthur to carefully help the pregnant woman inside, all perfect gentlemanly courtesy, and she smiles in thanks as he gently shuts the door. When he comes back to Arthur, he says, "Next one, love, I promise."
Arthur's heart clenches then and he says, "It's fine," but he thinks he'd wait for a thousand cabs just for the pleasure of seeing Eames be a good person.
Eames does indeed pour Arthur into the next cab that comes, and when they're back at their hotel room, Arthur falls back on the bed. "I think I've had too much to drink," he marvels. "I never have too much to drink."
"It explains the stick up your exceptional arse, darling," Eames says, but his tone is affectionate so Arthur doesn't feel the need to protest. His hand touches Arthur's knee, and he says, "Let's get your shoes off and make you a bit more comfortable."
Arthur leans up on his elbows to watch Eames, who is unlacing his shoes with such a gentle expression that Arthur doesn't know what to do except to say, "I hate whoever broke your heart."
Eames looks up him quickly, surprise and confusion writ large on his face. "What was that?"
"You know what I mean," Arthur insists. "I read your second novel -- oh my god, I begged Dom and I practically climbed over Yusuf and Mal's shoulders to get the manuscript first. And I read it and I knew, and I wish they hadn't hurt you like that, because then maybe you would--"
Eames pulls off one shoe. "Maybe I would what?"
Arthur looks at him mutely, unhappily.
Eames' brow furrows, and then clears. "Darling. You are aware that I write fiction, aren't you?"
Arthur frowns at him. "But it happened to you. I know it did, you told me."
"The heartache was real enough, darling, but not as bad as all that," Eames says, and the twist to his lips is self-deprecating. "Why are we talking about my second novel, anyway? Did you want me to write another love story?"
Arthur wiggles his toes and tries very hard to concentrate. "Not one like that," he says.
Eames pulls off his other shoe. "Wouldn't do to repeat myself," he says agreeably.
"No, you should," Arthur says vehemently.
Eames's hand rests gently on his ankle, his thumb brushing over the top of Arthur's foot, and he's smiling indulgently. "You're not making much sense. And this is why we don't drink and edit, darling."
Arthur scowls at him. "I meant -- I want you to write one. With me."
Eames hoists himself up and puts one knee on the bed while he reaches for Arthur's tie. "Oh, love, haven't I already made perfectly clear that I only want to write with you?"
"No, I mean--" Arthur goes to rub his eyes in frustration and is surprised when he ends up flat on his back.
Eames laughs softly. "Dear, dear Arthur, you are absolutely smashed."
"I'm fucking this all up," Arthur moans. "Can we stop and go back to when we were talking about before?"
Eames finishes unknotting his tie and slides it off. "This is a conversation, not a book," he says, smile still tugging at his mouth. "You can't just go around editing it however you fancy."
"But I want to," Arthur says, feeling like he might break apart any minute.
"All right," Eames says. "Regale me, petal. What would you say differently?"
"I love you," Arthur blurts out.
Eames goes absolutely still.
"I love you," Arthur says again, softly. "And I know that you -- I know I'm just your editor, and I'm happy with that, I'm really happy with that, because you're brilliant, have I ever told you? You're so fucking brilliant, and I couldn't help but just -- I couldn't help wanting you to write something because of me, and I'm not talking about your porn books, because that's still really not funny, not when I feel like this and you're just, you're just--"
"Arthur," Eames says sharply, and then more gently, "You're the best editor anyone could ask for, but not even your eye catches everything."
Eames kisses him. He has the entire English language at his disposal and uses it magnificently, but nothing could be a more perfect answer than this soft, lingering pressure of lips against lips. And then he pulls back just a little, enough to say, "It was your professional opinion that a love confession wasn't out of the question after a prodigious number of orgasms, and while it pains me to acknowledge that I have yet to make you come even once, I hope you will believe me when I say that I love you madly and it is killing me that you're entirely too drunk for me to rectify the situation."
Arthur's brain seizes up at love you madly, and then backtracks. "You have made me come once," he says.
"You're pissed out of your mind, darling, because I promise you that I would remember any such thing. Vividly."
"You wouldn't remember because you were in the shower," Arthur says. "I was out here, reading your notes for the next porn novel."
Rather frustratingly, Eames doesn't look like he's following.
Arthur sighs then, and slides his hand up Eames' shoulder to wrap around his neck. "I was reading it, all those things you wanted to do to Arthur, and I had to -- I couldn't stand it, I had to--"
Eames' eyes are half-lidded and nearly glazed. "That may be the most scorching thing I've ever heard, and I am taking it out of your hide in the morning when you are not drunk."
"You could do it now," Arthur suggests hopefully.
"As I do not wish for you to have a change of heart in the morning, or worse yet, forget this all transpired and leave me for Salman Rushdie, I think it's safe to say that no, I cannot," Eames says, ten kinds of regret vying for a place in his tone. He actually gets up then, and retrieves a glass of water and puts it on the nightstand. "Go to sleep," he says, and crosses the room.
"What are you doing?" Arthur asks, his eyes already starting to fall shut.
"What I always do when there's not a chance in hell of me sleeping anytime in the near future," Eames says, and Arthur can hear the click of the laptop opening.
He wakes once in the night to use the bathroom, drink a lot of water, and swallow two preemptive painkillers. The room is suffused with the glow from Eames' screen, and he never stops typing. It lulls Arthur back to sleep, wondering what Eames is writing but knowing that he'll see it soon enough.
When he wakes again, it's morning, and he is mercifully, astonishingly not hungover, and Eames is sitting up in bed next to him and staring at his laptop, or out the window, or possibly both, but not actually typing anything.
Arthur tries to think of what to say, his brain helpfully providing all sorts of reminders of what he said last night, and then Eames says suddenly, "I'm trying to come to grips with the cruel fact that I've been effectively cockblocking myself for years now. It's so perfectly tragic, I wonder that I haven't used it as a plot device before."
"Um," Arthur says, and sits up in bed. "Because it's ridiculous?"
"As you are so fond of telling me, I am a ridiculous person," Eames says. "Also, I wrote thirty pages last night."
Arthur stumbles out of bed. "I'll be right back," he says, and shuts himself in the bathroom to use the toilet and brush his teeth. When he reemerges, he nearly flings himself back into bed. "Let me see," he says impatiently.
Eames gives him a look. "Pet, are you absolutely serious?"
"Of course I am," Arthur says, trying to position himself to see Eames' laptop screen.
"Darling, I am dying here," Eames says.
Arthur just sandwiches himself against Eames' side and says, almost absently, "Well, don't die yet. You're going to ravish me as soon as I'm done reading this."
"Why can't I ravish you now?"
"Because we can have sex anytime, but you wrote thirty pages and I need to read them immediately," Arthur says, already moving on to the second page.
Eames huffs but lets him read. He does not, however, let him read undisturbed. Arthur is on page six when Eames curls his arm more comfortably around Arthur, on page ten when Eames' fingertips dip below the waist of his pants and stroke against his hip, and on page eighteen when Eames starts kissing Arthur's neck, sucking at his skin and doing maddening things with his tongue and teeth, and when he ducks in to bite at Arthur's earlobe, that's when Arthur loses all reading comprehension skills and lets his head fall back, giving Eames better access.
And of course Eames takes it -- the laptop gets shoved a little carelessly on the nightstand, and then Eames is planting one knee between Arthur's thighs and kissing him, just as dirty and shameless and all-consuming at Arthur has imagined, if not more. "I know what you want," Eames says, and lets his thigh ride up between Arthur's leg in one slow, nerve-melting rub.
"Don't get cocky," Arthur manages to retort, undoing the buttons of Eames' shirt while he leans up just enough to capture Eames' lower lip between his teeth, sucking on it and tracing it gently with his tongue. When he lets go, Eames just dives back in for another kiss and presses Arthur more firmly into the mattress.
"I don't think I am, at all," Eames says. "I just rewrote that sex scene twelve times until I knew exactly what you wanted."
It takes Arthur a second to place what Eames is talking about, probably because Eames has Arthur's wrists pinned to be the bed as he moves down Arthur's body, breathing warm air across his navel. "I---what? I thought you were just being indecisive--" Eames takes that moment to nose around Arthur's erection through his pants -- "and, and making me crazy."
"I dearly hope so," Eames says, and strips off Arthur's pants and underwear all in one go. "Otherwise, this next bit where I roll you over, hold you down, and put my tongue in your arse until you shake is liable to be somewhat awkward."
"What?" Arthur says just as Eames flips him over. "Oh god," he moans as Eames slides his fingers down his ass to stroke his balls for a few moments, light and teasing before he holds Arthur open, breathes warm air across his skin and then licks him so delicately that Arthur makes a noise high in his throat. "Aren't you -- going a little fast? Shouldn't we--"
Eames drags the flat of his tongue against Arthur's hole, and then -- oh fuck -- flutters it for one long, shudder-inducing moment before sticking it in, and it's like Arthur's spine just liquefies. He fucks Arthur with his tongue until Arthur's shaking, just as Eames had promised, and when Arthur's moaning and in terrible danger of rubbing off against the bedsheets under him, Eames says in a roughened voice, "Darling, would you mind if we shelve you coming on my face for later? Because I really have to fuck you right now."
"Then stop talking and do it," Arthur groans.
Eames reaches under his pillow and pulls out lube and condoms, which was either a mark of foresight or confidence or both, but Arthur doesn't care as long as it gets Eames inside him. He can hear the noise of the condom wrapper and then Eames is sliding fingers with lube into him, and he was already wet and now he's nearly sloppy with it, and Eames' fingers are long and so goddamn good. "You don't want me to stop talking," Eames says, twisting his fingers in Arthur's ass even as he bears down with one hand gripping Arthur's shoulder, holding him in place. "You want me to tell you that I'm going to shove my prick inside you and you're going to take it, and you're going to ask for harder and more and I'm going to give it to you, darling, I'm going to give it to you so good--"
Arthur gasps when Eames pulls his hips up then, tracing wet fingers down Arthur's spine before pushing his cock inside Arthur, slow and steady and perfect.
He can't think after that -- everything is a jumble of sensation and Eames' filthy, filthy words, and Arthur swears and tries to push back into it, and he does ask for harder, for more, and Eames is as good as his word and gives it to him. Toward the end, he thinks he's honest-to-god whimpering and then Eames closes his hand around Arthur's cock for several short strokes, and he comes so hard that he nearly misses the moment when Eames groans and tightens his hands painfully on Arthur's hips.
They collapse on the bed then, and Eames pets him vaguely, and whispers terribly sentimental things to him, says, "Dear, dear Arthur," and "My god, love," and, most egregiously, "I hope it was good for you, darling boy."
Arthur can't really find it in him to yell at Eames for that last part, which Eames will, of course, take it to mean that he should call Arthur "darling boy" more often. And the thing is -- Arthur's not sure he would be wrong to do so.
There's a little rearranging, an extremely lazy clean-up, and then Arthur is settling his head against Eames' shoulder. He presses a kiss against a swirl of ink there, and it gets him a surprised, pleased noise from Eames before he dozes off.
Eames is actually sleeping when Arthur wakes up again, which stands to reason, since he'd been up for almost twenty-four hours before he fucked Arthur's brains out. Arthur lets him sleep, and carefully retrieves his laptop from the nightstand, and opens up the draft again.
It's smart, and engrossing, and so tightly paced that Arthur gets to the end and wants the next part so badly that he very nearly pokes Eames in the side to demand that he wake up and write more, this very instant.
But he doesn't, because a few spaces under the last paragraph is a sentence:
i wrote them for you. i wrote them all for you
"I have three-quarters of a draft," Arthur says dreamily on the phone to Dom.
"I'm going to assume it's good, because you're sounding pretty post-coital, there," Dom says.
"He is post-coital, and how," Eames says, all wrapped around Arthur and therefore close enough to the phone to contribute to the conversation.
"Oh for Christ's sake," Dom says, but he doesn't sound too upset. "I gave you my best, Mr. Eames -- you'd better return the favor."
"You'll love it," Arthur says. "It's a heist novel. About stealing ideas from people's minds. Except this time, they're trying to put an idea there instead."
There's silence on the other end of the line. "What."
"The middle's a bit weak, and obviously it's not done yet, and there's two chapters that I basically need to rip apart, but I really think it's going to be great," Arthur says enthusiastically.
"Hey," Eames objects, which he shouldn't, he knows the middle is shit because he told Arthur he would fix it later if he could just fuck Arthur against the bathroom counter right then, and that seemed like a good plan at the time.
"Anyway, we're flying back tomorrow," Arthur says, and then yelps when Eames' hands start to wander.
"I won't expect you in until the day after," Dom says dryly, and that's when Eames steals the Blackberry, hangs it up, and optimistically rolls Arthur over for round two.
The most astonishing thing is that nothing really seems to change, aside from the fact that Arthur has learned to leverage sex to make Eames write, which works out pretty well for everyone involved because Eames finds the promise of doing filthy things to Arthur's all-too-willing body a really good motivational tool, and Arthur's always been a fan of delayed gratification. Also, he spends the night at Eames' apartment more often than not, and has reorganized Eames' closet space accordingly.
But other than that: really, pretty much the same.
Arthur goes into the office for a few hours, then comes back to Eames' apartment with coffee, using the same key he's always had to open the door.
Eames is sitting on the sofa, computer on his lap. "I'm writing," he says, in response to Arthur's suspicious gaze.
"Good," Arthur says, putting coffee down on the table in front of the sofa and sitting down next to Eames. "Wait. What are you writing?"
"Well," Eames hedges.
"You had goddamn well better be finishing Inception, or else," Arthur says dangerously, but the brief glance he catches at Eames' screen contains the following unpromising words: Arthur, beg, bareback.
"You shouldn't scold me -- be sensible, darling, I was really on a roll this time, isn't it better that I write something than write nothing?" Eames pleads.
"That depends on just how badly you want to know what I did while you were in the shower this morning," Arthur says coolly, and moves just enough where he sits to feel the plug shift inside him.
Eames' eyes go hot, then, like he knows perfectly well even though he couldn't -- Arthur's taken pains for this to be a surprise. "You're terrible, and you take shameless advantage of the fact that I've been besotted with you for years," he accuses, but obediently closes the porn file and reopens Inception.
"Only because I want you to win the Booker," Arthur says, and sips his coffee companionably.
"I don't even know what I'm writing anymore, this is such shit," Eames says.
Arthur heads that tantrum off at the pass by leaning in for a kiss, and Eames is more than happy to oblige him. Arthur is thinking of everything, their whole future stretched out in front of them when he says, "Trust me, this is going to be good."