Many people, Eames would find out later, assumed Eames had wanted Arthur from the moment they'd met. It was true Arthur was devestatingly attractive, but in all honesty, the first thing Eames had thought when he'd met Arthur was, Why did Cobb bring his son?
The year was 2004, and Eames was meeting Cobb and Mrs Cobb at a tucked-away bar in central Moscow. It was February, and Eames had just gotten out of prison in Dagestan, so he was lacking a decent coat and thus freezing his arse off; the thin one he had he'd lifted from a sleeping patron on the train. Cobb, on the other hand, was wearing a thick parka and one of those silly furry Russian hats, and Mrs Cobb looked lovely in a long peacoat and scarlet muffler. The third person at their table was a fair, pointy-chinned young man -- a very young man, Eames thought, surely no older than fifteen -- with dark eyes and equally dark hair. He kept brushing his fringe out of his eyes with a scowl.
Mrs Cobb saw Eames and waved him over. "Lawrence," she greeted as he pulled up a chair, mispronouncing his name with that lucious accent, "it is so wonderful to see you again."
Cobb gave Eames what he must have thought was a smile, but it came out more like a grimace. "We heard you had some problems in Makhachkala."
Eames waved a vague hand. "You know how it is," he said, "you speak flawless Chechen, and suddenly the police are asking you about your terrorist connections."
"Terrorist connections?" the kid piped up. He sounded horrified.
Eames gave him a long look. Up close, he realized the boy was older than he'd assumed; he was probably eighteen, not fifteen, from the faint lining around his eyes and the way his mouth was curled into a small frown. He was also incredibly good-looking. Eames felt a little sick at the thought. "Didn't your mother ever tell you your face might stick like that, son?" he asked. While the kid's jaw dropped in outrage, Eames looked at the Cobbs. "What is this, bring your child to work day?"
Cobb barked out a laugh. He laid a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Don't let his appearance fool you. Arthur's older than he looks."
"I'm twenty-three," the kid -- Arthur -- bit out. When Eames couldn't hide his shock, Arthur pointedly looked Eames up and down, and he clearly found him wanting. "How old are you?"
"Twenty-seven," Eames replied.
"Oh," Arthur said, eyes rounding in surprise.
Eames glared. "How old'd you think I was?"
"I don't know, forty? When was the last time you shaved?"
Eames let out an indignant sound, and Mal threw her head back and laughed. "This is going to be so much fun, don't you think, Dom?" she asked, and she quickly ordered shots of vodka and pints of Baltika for everyone.
Several hours later, Eames was pleasantly warm and pissed, and somewhere along the way, he had accepted a job for what Mrs Cobb called an "extraction." He wasn't the only one drunk, though; both Cobbs was clearly laggered, and Cobb was whispering something in his misses' ear that was no doubt disgusting. Everyone had shed their coats long ago, but Cobb was still wearing that ridiculous hat, and Eames laughed every time he glanced over at him.
Young Arthur, on the other hand, seemed sober, except his cheeks were tinged pink and he had stopped looking like he was worried everyone in the bar was going to kill them. Eames couldn't stop looking at him, at the line of his jaw and the curves of his lips, at the lean shape of his torso still evident despite the oxford that was slightly too big for him, at the way his fringe fell over his forehead in tousled curls. He looked so young and innocent, but he was legal and clearly trained in the dreamshare field if he was traveling with the Cobbs. Eames's dick was confused.
"Stop staring at me," Arthur said, tipping his head back to down another shot. Eames eyed the long line of his neck.
"Why, darling?" Eames asked. "Am I making you uncomfortable?"
In response, Arthur propped his chin up on one hand and gazed back evenly. "Why would it make me uncomfortable, Mr Eames?" he asked, a challenge in his tone.
If Eames's first important thought regarding Arthur was, Why did Cobb bring his son?, his second important one was, I'm in so much trouble.
By the time the Fischer job came round, Mrs Cobb was long dead, Cobb was out of his mind, Eames was starting to feel the downside of being in his thirties, and Arthur had learned to make himself appear ageless rather than merely pubescent. Eames had watched over the years as Arthur had filled out some, his body morphing from skinny to athletic, and as he started hiding his curls underneath gobs of pomade. Yet he was still gorgeous -- that would never change; Eames couldn't imagine a scenario in which Arthur would not be the best-looking person in the room -- and every time Eames saw him he wanted to fuck the smugness right out of him. He wanted to grab Arthur and mess up his hair; he wanted to hide all Arthur's posh clothes and dress him in jeans and t-shirts and trainers, or maybe a football jersey (but only if it was West Ham).
He was sure Arthur knew. Arthur had to know, from the way he smirked when he caught Eames looking at him and the way he wore his trousers so indecently. But Arthur never made a move, and neither did Eames. The whole thing was a stalemate, really. It wasn't that he was scared Arthur would maim him (except Arthur so would; they'd worked, once, with an architect who'd slapped Arthur on the arse on the last day, and Arthur had dislocated the man's shoulder), but he was worried Arthur would never speak to him again. And although Eames was loathe to admit it, Arthur was clever and funny and interesting, and Eames was, in the end, a coward.
He didn't know what Arthur's excuse was.
Since that fateful day in 2004, Arthur and Eames had worked together fifteen times. Fischer was the sixteenth. With Cobb out of the game, however, Eames didn't know if there would ever be a seventeenth. He had never known Arthur to work with anyone except Cobb or Mal, although he must have, at some point, and Arthur hardly seemed like the kind of bloke to call to chat. Most likely, Arthur would disappear somewhere and Eames would never see him again. He'd only have his memories of all those years of enjoyable bickering and late-night arguments over pints and the way Arthur looked in his suits and jumpers.
He was amazed, then, when they ran into each other by accident in the LAX international terminal after everyone had parted ways. Eames was headed to Mombasa, where he would meet up with Yusuf and help him clear out his laboratory; Arthur was waiting outside a gate for Montreal, reading Details magazine. When he looked up and saw Eames, he stared with an unreadable expression. Eames made a beeline for him.
"Ea--" Arthur glanced over his shoulder, as if worried Fischer was following them. "Uh, Lawrence. Where are you going?"
Eames took the empty seat next to him. "You know, Lawrence isn't actually my name. Neither is Eames."
Arthur's brow furrowed. "Oh," he said, like the thought had never occured to him. He had probably never even imagined Eames would need an alias, the poor lad. "What is it, then?"
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," Eames replied, lowering his voice conspiringly.
Arthur smiled slightly, and one cheek dimpled. He set his magazine aside. "I hate to break it to you, but Arthur's my real name. I was using a pseudonym when I first started out, but Cobb and Mal kept forgetting it. It was John, but they kept calling me Billy. Cobb said I looked like a Billy, but he stopped when I said he looked like a Milhouse."
Eames laughed. "Surname, then."
"I don't get your real first name first?" Arthur asked.
After an exaggerated glance around, as if he was telling some terrible secret no one in the terminal was fit to hear, Eames leaned close. "Rupert," he whispered in Arthur's ear.
Arthur pulled back with a suspicious look. "You're lying."
"I'm afraid not," Eames said, shaking his head. "It was a very popular name in the late seventies. It's partially why I use an alias."
"With a name like that, I would, too," Arthur said.
He was smiling fully now, and Eames wondered if Arthur would let him take a picture of that smile and those adorably dimpled cheeks. You know, some wanking material to have on hand in case he was left to a lonely, Arthur-less existence. At that moment, Arthur was looking at Eames fondly, as if he genuinely liked him, the same way he'd looked when he'd said, "Go to sleep, Mr Eames," only a few short hours ago.
But Eames ruined it when he asked, "Aren't you going to tell me your surname, dear?"
Arthur's smile dropped, and Eames felt him closing off as if slamming a door shut. "I don't think that's a good idea," he said. "I have things connected to that name."
"And you don't trust me," Eames said flatly. Arthur didn't answer. "We've only known each other for six years, Arthur. I think by now I've proven I haven't been running off and selling your secrets to the highest bidder."
With a disbelieving huff, Arthur stood and made to leave. But Eames caught his wrist and stopped him. "Wait."
"What do you want?" Arthur demanded. "It's not like you trust me."
Angry now, Eames pulled him down until their faces were level, and this time he pushed his face so close his lips were touching the curve of Arthur's ear. Arthur smelled like expensive cologne, something clean and light, and Eames could see a muscle in his jaw jump. "My surname's Shaw. Rupert Jonathan Shaw, born in Surrey on the twenty-sixth of March, 1977."
Arthur's face went still with shock, and Eames took his carry on and left.
Six weeks and several episodes of binge drinking later, including one time when he got Yusuf bladdered and managed to get him arrested for stealing a copper's hat like they were gentlemen in some sort of Edwardian drama, Eames got a call in the middle of the night. He threw a hand out and grabbed his mobile off the nightstand. A. calling, the screen said. Arthur.
"Are you in London?"
Eames squinted at the clock and groaned. "Do you know what bloody time it is, love?"
"Are you in London?" Arthur repeated, enunciating each word as if Eames was mentally deficient.
He ran a hand over his face and sat up. "I-- yeah."
"Can you meet me at Liverpool Station at ten?" Arthur asked.
"You mean, ten in the morning?"
There was a frustrated sigh. "Eames."
Had anyone else called at this time with that question, even (okay, especially) Cobb, Eames would have told them to go fuck themselves. But it was Arthur, and even though they had not parted in the best of terms, there was very little Eames could deny him.
"Should I be incognito when I see you?" Eames asked, his higher brain functions kicking in. "Are you in trouble?"
"No," Arthur said. Then he added almost tentatively, "It's just me."
When he got to the train station the following morning, he didn't see Arthur anywhere. He waited twenty minutes, lingering under the time tables, and he would have waited forever if he understood why Arthur was there, but as it was, he was tired and hungry and confused. He was just about to leave when he finally spotted Arthur coming through the gates.
It woke him like a slap in the face. Arthur's hair was loose, and there was a pair of glasses perched on his nose. He was wearing a t-shirt, skinny jeans, and a hoodie with a zip; he had Converse trainers on his feet in a bright and angry shade of red. On one shoulder was a rucksack. He looked like a uni student, young and fresh-faced and unbearably handsome. Eames thrust his hand into his pocket and clenched it around his totem and reminded himself he could remember waking up that morning, he could remember the drive to the station.
When he got to where Eames was standing, Arthur stopped. "Hello, Rupert," he said, as if he walked around looking like that every day.
"Okay, I should not have told you my first name," Eames said.
Arthur held out his hand, and Eames stared down at it. "Arthur Cohen," he said. "Nice to meet you, finally."
Something six years in the making inside Eames broke at that moment. Instead of shaking Arthur's hand -- Arthur Cohen's hand, Arthur Cohen -- Eames pulled him in for a kiss, right there in the middle of the platform, audience be damned. For one long, horrible moment, Arthur didn't move, and then suddenly his mouth was opening under Eames's, his rucksack was dropping to the floor, and he was grabbing Eames's shoulders. Eames put one palm against the smooth curve of Arthur's cheek and the other against Arthur's waist.
They only pulled apart because of the need for oxygen. Arthur was breathing hard and grinning. Eames pressed their foreheads together, the feel of Arthur's fringe against his skin sending a jolt through his body, because Arthur didn't let other people see him like this, but he was letting Eames. He'd given Eames his name. He was letting Eames touch him and kiss him, and soon he was going to let Eames inside him.
"How far is your place from here?" Arthur asked softly.
"Not close enough," Eames breathed, and he grabbed Arthur's rucksack and practically dragged him to the car park.
They didn't even make it to the bed.
As soon as the door to Eames's flat shut, Arthur slammed him up against it and shoved his tongue down his throat; he kissed Eames like he was running out of time, and maybe he knew something Eames didn't, but Eames didn't want this to be fast and dirty. There would be time for that later -- right now he had plans. He took Arthur's face in his hands and pulled back before kissing Arthur's upper lip, and then his lower lip, and then he slowly slid his tongue alongside Arthur's until Arthur made a desperate-sounding noise. But Arthur slowed down, and they kissed each other like that until all the tension in him ebbed away.
Eames undressed him slowly, dropping kisses on his collarbone and the wing of his shoulder and the small of his back, all the places he'd never seen before, until Arthur growled, "Eames, if you don't get naked now, I will end you." It was hardly threatening when his face was red and his hair was sticking up all over the place; he looked so young and edible Eames was halfway-concerned the police -- or worse, Cobb -- would be knocking down his door any minute.
"Your wish is my command, darling," Eames said, stripping off his shirt and dropping his trousers and pants in one go.
Arthur looked at him the same way Eames had seen him eye a particularly juicy sirloin steak, and then suddenly Eames was sitting on the couch as Arthur shoved him down and crawled between his legs. Without so much as a how-do-you-do, Arthur wrapped his lips around Eames's cock, and Eames arched. He couldn't stop himself from thrusting up, but Arthur took it easily, gazing up at Eames through his lashes with the smug look he knew so well, and Eames needed to stop him right now before he came in his mouth.
When Arthur curled his tongue around Eames's cock in a way that made him shudder, he tugged on Arthur's hair until Arthur raised his head. "You need to stop," Eames said, groaning.
Arthur looked at him like he was an idiot. "Why?" he asked, but Eames pulled him up by the arms until Arthur was straddling him, knees pressed into the couch cushions and that spectacular bum resting in his lap. Arthur's cheeks and jaw were starting to go pink from stubble burn, and Eames sucked kisses on his chest until there was series of lovely red marks on that fair skin. Arthur was running his hands through Eames's hair and breathing hard, his pulse pounding beneath Eames's fingertips as Eames slid his thumbs along the hard bones of Arthur's hips. If Arthur let him, he could do this for hours, just stay here and explore Arthur's body with his hands and his lips and his tongue. Maybe he would, later.
"You're so--" he started to say, but he didn't know how to complete that thought. Arthur smiled at him, though, like he knew, and maybe he did, maybe he'd known more than Eames this entire time.
Eames raised his head for another kiss. He ran a finger down the cleft of Arthur's arse, and Arthur gasped into his mouth. But when he fished around in the drawer of the end table and pulled out the lube, Arthur leaned away. "Why do you keep lube in your living room?" he demanded.
"Because this is the only telly in the flat and sometimes I watch porn in here," Eames snapped.
Arthur seemed to find the acceptable. "Oh, okay."
Before Eames could slick up his fingers, however, Arthur grabbed his wrist. He let Eames slide two fingers into his mouth, and Eames moaned as Arthur sucked on them wetly. Six weeks ago, Arthur didn't trust him enough to give him his name; six weeks ago Eames had silently fumed over how Arthur was a prissy, uptight bastard, and now he was letting Eames do this, and in another minute he was going to let Eames finger him and then put his cock in him. Painfully hard now, Eames brought his hand back, coated his fingers with lube, and pushed one into Arthur.
Arthur jumped a little when he did it, but then he relaxed. Inside, he was soft and hot, and he made an encouraging sound when Eames slipped in a second finger and stretched him gently.
"Up," Eames instructed, pulling out, and Arthur raised himself; once Eames slicked up and had them lined up properly, he lowered down, down, down until Eames was in him to the hilt.
A shiver ran up Arthur's spine, and the sensation went straight to Eames's cock. Eames swore and held Arthur in place until he no longer felt like he was going to burst. Arthur was burning hot and gripping Eames's cock like he never wanted to let go, and it felt amazing.
"You're so tight," he panted into Arthur's neck. He licked the line of Arthur's collarbone. "Darling, has anyone ever told you you're beautiful?"
"Eames, I need to," Arthur started, but he didn't finish; he went pliant and dropped his forehead against Eames's, his thighs trembling. Finally, Eames loosened his grip and Arthur started rocking, and then suddenly Eames was lifting his own hips and pushing up into that tight heat as Arthur seemed to find his rhythm. He ran his hands along Arthur's thighs and around to his long, smooth back, and then Arthur began touching himself, looking like he was about to fall apart but remaining completely silent.
That wouldn't do. "Hey," Eames said, grabbed Arthur's face, holding him until his eyes fluttered opened. "Talk to me."
"It feels--" Arthur's breath stuttered, but his eyes were wide and dark, nearly black. "Good, it feels so good, you feel so good, Eames, don't stop."
Eames slid down lower in his seat, and that seemed to hit the spot, because Arthur started saying, "There, oh, fuck, there," and jerking himself off quickly, his arse spasming around Eames's cock. That sent Eames over the edge; he came first with a few more shallow thrusts, muttering words he wouldn't remember later, and then Arthur spilled into his own hand with a cry and collapsed against Eames's chest.
"Good?" Eames asked, gasping for air. His entire body felt boneless; he didn't think he could move if he tried.
"Nnnnng," Arthur told Eames's shoulder.
When he woke up -- and he didn't remember falling asleep, but he must have, since he was lying on the couch like he did when he watched telly -- Arthur was wearing his pants and his t-shirt. He was sitting in the armchair adjacent to the couch, sipping a cup of tea and flipping through Eames's battered copy of Madame Bovary with his glasses perched on the edge of his nose. His bare feet rested on the coffee table, and his hair looked liked he'd been in a wind tunnel. He was the most beautiful thing Eames had ever seen in his life.
"Good afternoon, Mr Cohen," Eames said.
Arthur looked up at him and while he didn't smile, the corners of his eyes creased. "Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr Shaw."
Eames scrubbed his face with his hand. Lord, how he hated his real name. He reached over and closed his fingers around Arthur's foot; Arthur's toes curled. "I'll never tell anyone your name, darling, even under the threat of torture," he said honestly. "I will take your secrets to my grave. But could you please never, ever call me that again?"
"Of course, Rupert," Arthur replied seriously, and Eames whacked him in the face with a throw pillow.