This is how Arthur met Eames.
Or, no. This is how he stopped speaking to Eames, three months after they met.
The British have sent enlisted men to work on Project Somnacin; the Americans have sent only officers. This is how Arthur meets Eames: Arthur is learning dream-architecture (a step sideways from naval engineering; but, as it turns out, not that big a step) and Eames is supposed to teach him how to forge.
The higher-ups say a lot about special circumstances and learning essential skill-sets regardless of rank, but the fact remains that Arthur is supposed to take orders, for three hours a day, from a fucking Lance-Corporal. A British one at that.
And also, Arthur is crap at forging. Eames says it’s because he thinks too highly of himself, he can’t imagine anyone else he’d rather be. Arthur thinks Eames is full of shit.
Because Arthur hates being outdone, even though Lance-Corporal Eames is the only forger on the team (he might be the only forger in the world, but the smug bastard doesn’t deserve that honour), he practises. And because he practises, he knows who else practises, who comes into the labs of an evening and has the lab attendant put them under for ten, fifteen, thirty minutes at a time.
Arthur thinks Lance-Corporal Eames has a Somnacin addiction.
There are several things Arthur could do with this suspicion. He could talk to Lance-Corporal Eames about it (out of the question - he’s not Eames’ superior officer, or his friend). He could talk to Lance-Corporal Eames’ superior officer about it. He could talk to his own superior officer about it. He could scrawl ‘Lance-Corporal Eames has a Somnacin addiction’ in permanent marker on the wall above the urinal in the men’s bathrooms.
What he most definitely should not do is go up to Eames’ PASIV unit, attach another IV line, and put himself under. This is, however, precisely what he does.
He expects to find Eames doing... Eames-ish things. Murdering projections. Lifting weights. Forging James Bond.
He finds himself in a dark, smoky bar. There’s no immediate sign of Eames, although a few nearby projections give Arthur curious looks. He assumes they’re projections, because Eames, no matter what face he’s wearing or in which dream, vehemently dislikes Arthur. These blank-faced people aren’t swearing at him, or punching him, or telling him to get the fuck out of here; ergo, they are not Eames.
Unless of course one of them is Eames, and he’s only pretending. Arthur’s spine crawls, and he makes at once for the back wall, putting his back to it and hovering his hand over his firearm.
The room goes quiet - quieter - and Arthur becomes aware of a stage, at the far end of the bar from him. There’s a pole set up on it, and he has to laugh. Somnacin addiction, maybe; cheap thrills, more like. Lance-Corporal Eames is dreaming up his own personal strip club. He still doesn’t know where Eames is, but he’s willing to bet that one of the heads he can see down by the stage belongs to him.
Music starts up, and Jesus Christ, Eames has cheap taste - I Touch Myself, honestly. Unless of course the music is an unwilled product of Eames’ subconscious by way of commentary on his choice of dream scenario, in which case, well played, Eames’ subconscious. You’re a wanker and you know it.
A woman comes sashaying out from behind the bar. She’s wearing ridiculously tall platform shoes, a glitzy, tacky blue mini-skirt and a sparkly silver top with cleavage down to nowhere. Her hips sway as she walks and she has very, very improbably sized breasts. Arthur studies her closely and feels smug: Eames has such plebeian tastes, obviously fueled by too much cheap porn (and over-exposure to the Spice Girls, if the platform shoes are anything to go by, but any exposure to the Spice Girls is too much exposure). He wonders if Eames has ever had his hands on a real woman. If he has, Arthur’s opinion of British women will have to go down substantially.
Eames’ personal wank fodder steps up onto the stage, flashing a generous amount of thigh as she does. She has a good sense of rhythm, Arthur will grant that. She wraps one hand around the pole, like it’s an old friend; and then leans in and licks a stripe up it, causing shouts and applause from the projections watching her. As the Divinyls hit their chorus - I don’t want anybody else, when I think about you I touch myself - she plants one foot at the base of the pole and leans back on her arm, swinging around to face the audience and making obscene motions with her free hand, beckoning toward someone in the audience.
Then her face is in the light, and Arthur knows, he just knows. Holy shit, Eames, you kinky fucker. Eames continues making love to the pole, and Arthur amends that thought. You sick fuck, he thinks viciously. You absolute pussy. You utter fucking bastard, getting off down here on the US military’s time and money, do you have any idea what they’d do to you if they knew?
Three things occur to Arthur in quick succession: one, he’s half hard and his breath is coming quick and scarce. Two, he has to get the fuck out of here right the hell now, because three, he’s fucking jealous. He needs to get right-side-up again where he’ll know that this is about the fact that Eames is a fucking genius at forging, and nothing to do with how much fun Eames is having right now, molesting that fucking pole.
There are only two ways out of a dream, and one of them involves waiting down here until he and Eames wake up together, which Arthur has no intention of doing. He draws his weapon, but maybe he’s not as stealthy as he ought to be. Eames is a trained soldier, just the same as he is, and the movement catches Eames’ attention. Suddenly Eames is staring at him and every projection in the room is staring at him, and Arthur is in so much shit.
‘The hell are you doing here?’ Eames shouts at him, and he jumps down from the stage, landing square on those platform heels like he does it every night, and maybe he does. He strides across the room, and he doesn’t look ladylike at all. He looks angry.
‘The hell do you think you’re doing?’ Arthur shouts back. ‘What the fuck is this, Eames?’
‘None of your fucking business,’ Eames snaps, and he goes for Arthur, in a movement that would have pinned him to the wall by the neck if Eames had in his own body, if his hand had been bigger and he had more weight behind it.
Arthur knocks his arm out of the way easily. ‘You fucking pussy,’ he grits out, and somewhere he thinks I’m normally politer than this, but he’s angry, and this is Lance-Corporal Fucking Perfect Eames. ‘You utter... piece of shit, do you have any idea what’s going to happen to you when I tell your superior officers - and I am going to tell them, make no mistake. What a fucking waste of resources; I knew the Brits were getting soft but I didn’t know they were letting any old faggot in these days - ungh.’ It is at this point that Eames knees him in the balls. Arthur supposes that he deserved that, but right now he doesn’t care.
One moment he’s being kneed in the balls by a tart in a mini-skirt, and the next Eames is back, and Eames punches him in the solar plexus, and then shoves him to the floor and punches him in the face for good measure.
Pain is all in the mind, Arthur thinks, and claws at Eames’ eyes with his fingers. Neither of them goes for a gun - Arthur dropped his when Eames kneed him, anyway. They scuffle on the floor, and eventually Eames gets Arthur pinned down, one hand on either side of his head. Eames has a black eye by that point, but so does Arthur.
‘Firstly,’ Eames grits out, ‘we are letting faggots in these days, hadn’t you heard?’ And Arthur had heard something about that, last year or the year before, but he honestly hadn’t cared. Good for the British, or not, it didn’t have anything to do with him. ‘Secondly,’ Eames says, ‘what part of none of your fucking business don’t you understand?’
‘I understand you’re misusing US government resources in order to get your cross-dressing rocks off,’ Arthur spits back, and Eames’ fingers tighten painfully on Arthur’s wrists.
Eames doesn’t say anything.
‘I’ll fucking report you,’ Arthur repeats. He’s faintly aware that Eames is straddling his waist, and that Eames is a fag, or maybe a fag, and two minutes ago Eames was a girl with impressive tits, and this is possibly a compromising position.
‘I’ll have you court-martialled to hell and back,’ Arthur repeats. ‘And what are you going to do when your little corporal friends find out what you’re doing down here, tarting about in tiny skirts and huge tits?’
‘Why, what about my tits?’ Eames demands. ‘Did you like ‘em? Took me bloody ages to get them right.’
‘They look ridiculous,’ Arthur says, flatly. Eames actually looks hurt. ‘Jesus Christ, the British military’s golden boy forger can’t even get a pair of tits right.’
Eames glowers down at him. ‘What, you want me to do something else, huh? Whaddya want to see?’
And Arthur shouldn’t, he really shouldn’t. But he says it anyway.
‘What’s going to happen when I report you, Eames?’
‘Fine,’ Eames says, and he lets go of Arthur’s wrists in order to fold his arms across his chest. Arthur is still pinned to the floor by Eames’ thighs, which are... massive, actually. ‘Fine. I’ll face disciplinary action for misuse of military resources, happy?’
‘And when everyone finds out you’re down here pretending to be a fucking girl, Eames?’
Eames looks away. ‘You know bloody well what will happen, Lieutenant.’
Arthur rests one hand, gentle now, on Eames’ knee. ‘What if I don’t tell anyone, then?’
Eames sighs. ‘That would be nice,’ he says. And then he adds, in a bitter tone, ‘sir.’
‘I’m going to want you to do something for me, first,’ Arthur says, and fuck but he’s going to hate himself for this later. Right now... he has to know.
Eames looks him straight in the eye and says ‘You want to fuck me,’ just like that, flat and unquestioning.
Arthur wants to put him off-kilter again. ‘No,’ he says, and there’s his reward, the flicker of surprise in Eames’ eyes. ‘I want to eat you out, Eames. I want to lick your pussy until you’re begging for more, and maybe I’ll let you come for me.’ He doesn’t miss the twitch of Eames’ cock where Eames is pressed against him. He finds he doesn’t mind.
‘Fine,’ Eames says. ‘And if you tell anyone about this, then I’ll tell them you fucked me down here. And your lot don’t allow faggots in the military.’
Arthur’s not a faggot. Not - well. He’s never been a fag before, but he’s more than half-hard right now, so there’s evidence against him.
Eames gets up. ‘I need a mirror,’ he says, and Arthur knows that. He scrambles to his own feet, prodding gingerly at the bruise on his cheek as he does. Eames can punch like nobody’s business. He follows Eames across the room, under the creepy stares of Eames’ projections, and over to a long mirror set into he wall by the bar.
Eames peers closely at his own face, and it starts to shift, gaining rounder features and stupid red lipstick (the lips are the same; Eames has girls’ lips to begin with).
‘No, stop,’ Arthur says, as Eames’ hair drops suddenly to below his shoulders in blonde waves. ‘Stop.’
Eames turns to look at him. ‘You can’t eat my pussy until I have a pussy,’ he points out.
Arthur shakes his head, and for a moment he wants his gun, wants to pull the trigger and bang out of her and never know. ‘I want,’ he says, and stops. Eames raises his eyebrows. ‘I want you to do me,’ Arthur says, more clearly this time.
Eames’ eyebrows shoot right up, and his features snap suddenly back to his own. ‘I’m sorry,’ Eames says, ‘did you just say you want me to fuck you?’
‘No!’ Arthur’s face goes bright red, he can feel it. ‘I want you to... forge me. As a woman.’
Eames just looks at him. Eames despises him, he can see that. ‘You twisted bastard,’ Eames says, and that hurts. It hurts, but Arthur just said as much to Eames and worse. And it doesn’t matter if Eames despises him, Eames is a smug fucking British wanker, and Arthur needs to see.
‘Just do it,’ Arthur grinds out.
Eames grabs him by the shoulders, and manhandles him, slams him up against the wall next to the mirror. And then Eames just stares at him for what feels like an age but is probably only a minute or two of dream time. Eames stares at him and Arthur’s heart races and his cock fucking aches in his pants.
Then Eames’ eyes are darting from the mirror to Arthur’s face and back again, and his height drops by half a foot and his hips spread and his waist shrinks and his face narrows and his hair drops into a dark brown bob. The mini-skirt and silver top reappear, except Eames hasn’t given Arthur fucking great gazongas like his own forgery has, Eames has given him perfect tits, smallish and round perfect.
‘Like what you see?’ Eames asks, lifting one of Arthur’s eyebrows. His voice - his voice, Arthur realises, Arthur’s own voice, his own accent and inflection in a woman’s pitch - is husky, breathy, as if maybe this is turning him on too. Fuck, Arthur hopes so.
Arthur reaches out to touch, to cup those fucking gorgeous breasts in his hands and just allow himself to want. Just for a few minutes, down here.
Eames slaps his hand away. ‘I didn’t say you could touch,’ he chides.
‘Eames, I...’ Arthur has no words here, no words for why he really, really needs to touch, to get his hands on every inch of that body, just this once.
‘You wanted to eat me out,’ Eames says, stepping back toward the nearest table, ‘and that’s what you get to do.’
His ass hits the table and he hikes himself up on to it, leans back on his arms and spreads his legs.
Arthur... Fuck. Arthur wants.
Arthur goes to him, dimly aware that Eames’ projections have disappeared off to somewhere, thank god, and drops to his knees. He stops there for a moment, inhaling the smell of his cunt and thinking this could have been me.
‘Get the hell on with it,’ Eames snaps, and Arthur comes out of his reverie. He runs his hands up Eames’ thighs, and they’re smooth and flawless and Eames lets him have that much, at least. He pushes the blue skirt out of the way, runs his fingers through the curls at his pubis, and spreads the lips of his pussy apart with his thumbs.
And then he buries his face in it, in the smell and taste and flesh of it, and he’s dimly aware that Eames is making noises somewhere above him, but those aren’t his noises, so he doesn’t care. He just pushes closer in, licking up and down and pushing his tongue inside of him. He’s good at this, really good, he knows he is, but he’s never done this before, never eaten someone out because he needed to consume every inch of them. He’s never needed to know exactly how they taste and smell and spasm around him because he needs to know this in order to know who else he could be.
His cock aches and throbs and his head spins with it, but to touch himself he would have to take his hands away from Eames and his cock is just not important right now. Not compared to the clit under his tongue and the pussy clenched around his fingers.
Eames comes with a roar and fists his hand in Arthur’s hair, pulling him off. Arthur comes back to himself in a rush, and Eames is still tipping his head back by the hair when Arthur shoves a hand down to his own crotch. He comes with a strangled sob, just the heel of his palm against his cock in his uniform pants.
‘Arthur,’ Eames says, dropping off the table to stand with one perfect, perfect foot on either side of Arthur’s knees. ‘You are a right bastard.’
Hot shame rushes in, and Arthur can only nod. He’s a bastard and a fuckup and, Jesus Christ, what has he just done to Eames?
‘You’re a bastard,’ Eames repeats, ‘and I don’t like you at all. But bloody hell, mate, I am so sorry.’ It’s not an apology - there’s genuine sympathy there, and it runs deep.
Arthur is still blinking from that when Eames shakes himself gently and his own body reappears.
‘I’m going to shoot you now,’ Eames says, drawing his gun. ‘I want you out of the lab before I wake up, am I clear?’
Arthur nods his agreement. Eames puts the barrel of his gun to Arthur’s temple.
‘Wait,’ Arthur says, and Eames glowers at him, but he waits.
‘I’m sorry.’ And it’s an apology; he’s got no reason to feel sorry for Eames, except for what he’s just done.
Eames shoots him in the head, and Arthur feels like a coward as he flees the lab.
Eames goes AWOL the next week. Arthur lasts two more years.