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"You're going to fuck me," Arthur says. "You're going to rip off my clothes, tear the seam of my pants, throw me to the bed, and fuck me to disaster. You're going to slide your cock in me, and you're going to ride me hard, use me every way you like." He looks over at Eames. "But after the job is over," he adds.

It's quite possible that he's stunned Eames to silence. If so, Arthur counts it as a victory. The only time before this that he stunned Eames to silence was when he said there was no more beer in the fridge.

"I hate to question your professionalism and dedication to the job," Eames says slowly, "as it makes you the wonder that you are. But you do realize that this Sylvester job could take months. Reconnaissance alone on this bastard is going to be a time waster."

Arthur flicks imaginary lint off his pants. "I don't fuck my coworkers when they're my coworkers," he says.

"I could quit the team," Eames suggests.

"I don't fuck quitters," Arthur says, and Eames groans into his hands.

"You are the bloody devil himself," he accuses. Arthur pats him congenially on the arm, but then stops in case it sends Eames into an unyielding fit of lust. He retracts his hands and puts them in his pockets.

"We can wait," he promises. "I'll make it worth your time."

 


 

As much as Arthur appreciates the fine nuances of advanced technology, when it comes to jobs, he likes to do it old school. He likes pen, paper, post-it notes, and the good old-fashioned ubiquitous manila folder. He keeps his research for the job in the folder, and he keeps the folder on him at all times. It's in the bathroom when he showers. It's under his pillow when he sleeps. Arthur would never let research get stolen from him -- the only person who tried once got a mouth full of buckshot for his efforts.

He goes over the prep work for the Sylvester job when he and Eames are grabbing lunch together. Throughout lunch Eames is staring at him with the hungry look of a supermodel faced with a piece of cheesecake. It's a flattering look, really, and Arthur might return it any other time. However, he's working right now, and Arthur is excellent at nothing if not compartmentalization (and blowjobs, and flower arrangement, and predicting his callers even without checking caller I.D).

Arthur opens the file while Eames is sipping moodily on his tea. Arthur has a turkey sandwich and a Mandarin orange salad, both outrageously overpriced and neither of which he has touched. He looks down at the file. "These are the facts," he declares, and after checking their surroundings to make sure they're not being spied on, he prepares to read them. His mouth is just about to shape the first sound when Eames interrupts him.

"Please stop talking. It's only giving me an erection," he says.

Arthur eyes him.

"I was born with the curse of finding American accents sexy," Eames says. "I know, I know, weep for me. And never mention again the time when I almost had phone sex with Cobb."

"You--"

"He was talking about very big guns and very big explosions," Eames replies, and smiles with white teeth and sharkish intent. Arthur decides that this tangent in the conversation needs to stop, now.

"These are the facts," Arthur repeats. "The mark is Alfred Sylvester, CEO of Squeezee Juice Co. We've been hired by his competitor, Ronald Lee Hewett, CEO of Farmland Juice Co. to find out the ingredients of the very popular, very secretive Melon Berry Blast juice." Arthur prides himself on his mobility of expression, particularly the ability to have zero expression when talking about such grand matters as juice wars. Contrary to popular belief, being a dream thief criminal type element is not all glamour and jazz, and Arthur has taken odder jobs before, including one where he was tasked to find someone's dog. Granted, that someone had been a millionaire and Arthur had vacationed in the Bahamas for half a year on those earnings, but still. Juice, dogs, pinwheels -- the only question Arthur asks anymore is if it will involve seashells. Arthur hates seashells.

"There are two openings in the higher echelons of Squeezee Juice," Arthur continues, flipping through the colour-coordinated file. "For us to infiltrate and gather intel on Sylvester, our best choice is to put you as Sylvester's new personal assistant."

"All standard procedure," Eames agrees, cutting him short. "I don't understand why we're going through all of this in such detail. Just type the file up, email it to me, and we can get on with it." He pauses. "And by on with it, I mean us fucking."

"Your eagerness is exactly why I'm going through it," Arthur says patiently. "I don't want you to fuck up a detail because you're too busy thinking about my legs around your head."

Eames doesn't even pretend to be unaffected by that. "Really?" he asks, beaming. "It sounds like you've given this a lot of thought, Arthur. A lot of--"

"We're each getting a cool million for this job," Arthur says. "Hewett really, really cares about juice. Think about that. It'll be the million dollar fuck." He puts down the folder and tugs a finger at the loose fold of his collar, running it round and round.

"I'm thinking," Eames says without taking his eyes off Arthur.

"Think harder," Arthur suggests.

Eames' laugh is short and amused. Arthur savours it before picking up the file again. He'd be lying if he says he doesn't enjoy this part, the part of acting like a total cocktease. He figures he's earned it. Wanting Eames has at times been a frustrating, agonizing, slide two fingers into himself under the dinner table because he can't stop thinking about it affair. But now that he knows he's going to get what he wants, that it's a sure thing, Arthur finds he likes the waiting. The hum of it, the slow summer burn.

And because he knows that if he lets Eames fuck him, that'll be the end of it. Arthur will never want Eames to stop. He'll corner Eames in the hall, he'll accost him in the bathroom, he'll trail him into boardrooms with a coffee and a false pretence. Arthur knows himself that well. If he lets Eames fuck him on the job, there will be no job.

If there's no job, there's no reputation. And eventually, because thieves are gossipers first and foremost, Cobb will hear about it. Cobb will hear about it and then Cobb will ask about it. And Arthur doesn't relish the idea of having to explain to Cobb why, despite Arthur being the best in the business, even he can't perform an extraction while being pounded hard into a mattress. It's just a lot to ask of a man.

 


 

As it turns out, Eames is nobody's idea of a desirable personal assistant, not even Alfred Sylvester's.

As it turns out, Arthur is.

"This," Arthur says, "is not part of the plan."

Eames can't stop laughing. He's gripping the wall and Arthur wants to punch him and give him a blowjob, perhaps not in that order. He quashes down the feeling as he tries to gather the remains of his personal dignity.

"We should have seen this," Eames says, snorting inelegantly as tears squeeze out of his eyes. "Sylvester is as fruity as they come, and you are exactly, exactly his type. We should have seen it coming a mile away."

"There was no way to predict this," Arthur insists. He regrets having shown up with Eames at the interview at all, except that he'd wanted to take some candid photos of the inside of the building. He'd introduced himself as Eames' cousin and that he was just going to sit outside the office, all right, and not be a trouble at all. He had in no way anticipated Sylvester inviting him in for a drink and ignoring Eames completely, because apparently Arthur has hips that no gay man could resist.

"It's definitely the hips," Eames informs him. "He was staring at your hips the entire time, probably thinking about how his hands will fit around them. Or maybe it's the mouth. Your smile is adorable when you're trying to act innocent." He thinks about it. "Or actually it's your arse. I bet it's your arse. The moment you walked in, he started thinking about how he wanted to sink his teeth into your luscious peach cheeks."

"In ten seconds you are going to experience pain. So much pain," Arthur says.

"And starting next week you're going to be Sylvester's personal assistant slash boytoy," Eames says. "Life, it is so accommodating." He smirks at Arthur. "Be sure to bring back plenty of intel from the, ah, field."

"My desire to have sex with you is decreasingly rapidly, you asshole," Arthur says.

"Look me in the eye and say that," Eames retorts.

"Damn it," says Arthur.

"I bet he's in love with you already," Eames says fondly.

 


 

Arthur has had 152 orgasms over Eames. He knows this because he keeps count.

At first it was out of vengeance, a sort of infuriated desire that Arthur could channel into numerical value. He could say to himself, I've had 101 orgasms over the thought of Eames, this is getting ridiculous, I need to stop. He could use the number to pace himself. But inevitably, as he was spilling into his hand with orgasm #102, all he would think about was the possibility of orgasm #103 being a real one -- of being an orgasm from Eames, by Eames.

Orgasm #1 happened a year after he first met Eames. It'd been sort of an accident. After a long, sweaty day where Arthur had fallen off a building, broken a nail, and arm-wrestled a three hundred pound man into the ground, he'd decided to relax with some porn. Classy porn, mind you, because Arthur has exacting standards in all things. As he had been watching the porn, which had been so classy it had French and Italian subtitles, he'd stroked his cock and idly thought, Huh, one of those men looks like Eames.

Almost immediately after he'd thought this, his body had tightened in one long clench, and Arthur had been horrified to realize that he was coming.

Over Eames. Over scruffy, smug, wishy-washy Eames, who, on his Facebook profile, listed Dan Brown as his favourite writer of all time, and Eurotrip as his favourite movie.

Arthur was determined for there to never be an orgasm #2.

Except there was a job, and Eames had shown up with the biggest gun Arthur had ever seen, and he'd proceeded to use said gun with the deadly accuracy he'd accumulated from his years in the British intelligence, which made Arthur's mouth go dry because damn, those were some fine skills.

Orgasm #3 came as a bit of surprise. There was a doorknob involved.

By orgasm #15, Arthur knew he was a lost cause. His preexisting tendency to develop professionally inappropriate crushes (Cobb, for the longest time, and Mal, and even, when he'd been drugged, Nash) was only exacerbated by Eames' Eamesness. Once Arthur started looking, it was all he could see. The slow insouciant way he sidled up to Arthur when Arthur was working. The pensive expression on his face when he thought no one was looking. The ease with grenades. The dullness in his voice when Arthur told him Mal was dead. The one time when they'd gotten soaked and were forced to change in front of each other, the sight of Eames' thighs and ass fueling orgasms #73, #74, and #75.

Mal had once told Arthur that love lurked in unexpected places. Arthur had accepted this piece of wisdom as one must accept all advice on the affairs of the heart when it comes from a Frenchwoman, but he hadn't thought love would actually be lurking in his bushes (Eames in San Francisco, on the lam), in his closet (Eames in Beijing, when he thought Arthur had stolen the van Gogh that Eames had rightfully stolen first), or in his soup (Eames' bug in Bogota).

This being in love business keeps Arthur on his toes.

(Eames' toes, on the other hand, were the sole cause of orgasm #99).

And when he started noticing that his stares were being returned, that Eames always angled himself so that he could look at Arthur from the corner of his eye, that he had started asking Arthur for fashion advice, Arthur knew he was fucked.

("You don't even know what that means right now," Eames had said when Arthur'd mentioned it. "But you will.")

 


 

Alfred Sylvester is an emperor of juice. Having risen from humble origins as marketing director in the 70s and 80s, he now gazes upon his juice empire from his office on the fifteenth floor, a sleek menace of a room with vintage posters of Squeezee Juice's previous campaigns. Eames had called him fruity and Arthur can see it -- there's the faintest suggestion of fruitiness in Sylvester's immaculately groomed suits and in his fondness for listening to the great divas when he needs to think -- but he is a pineapple. A fruit with spikes, matched with a steely gaze and silver at his temples. A fruit who looks at Arthur with appreciation and desire, yes, but also firm unyielding resolve.

Arthur knows that this is going to be a long, long con. Everything he has gathered up until now suggests that Sylvester will be tough to crack. People have tried to find out the secret ingredients in Squeezee Melon Berry Blast before. People have ended up floating under bridges.

Or so Arthur hears. He has not actually tried Melon Berry Blast yet, and cannot confirm if it is indeed, the elixir of youth, because that's the only drink Arthur can imagine someone paying millions of dollars to discover. But the corporate world, he imagines, is a very strange place.

"Arthur," Sylvester says sharply, and Arthur turns his attention to him.

"Yes, sir," he says, his military training making the words come easily. Arthur's never had trouble following orders, and there's a quality to Sylvester and his majestic bearing that makes it doubly easy to do what he says. Not that this is going to end up with him as Sylvester's g-string clad pool boy, mind.

"You received all the necessary information from your predecessor?" Sylvester says, because apparently he is the sort of man to throw around words like 'predecessor' with the weight of medieval gauntlets. "The details of my schedule, my diet, my contact list, my habits and preferences?"

"I received all of it," Arthur confirms.

"Good." Sylvester taps his pen against his desk and a sheaf of cream writing paper with the Squeezee logo on top -- for special occasions, presumably, only the ones of greatest importance to juice box vitality. "That reminds me. I was thinking about your cousin the other day."

"My cousin?" Arthur makes his voice bland.

"His name was Eames, correct?" Sylvester purses his lips. He never smiles, Arthur notices. "He seemed like he was down on his luck."

"The clothes, you mean?" Arthur asks.

"The clothes, the unshaven face...well, I don't mean to be insulting your family," Sylvester continues while Arthur looks at him mildly, dressed in his favourite grey pinstripe suit, the one he knows brings out his legs and the curves of his wrists. Sylvester looks back and his iron will seems to dislodge a bit; he swallows. "He was completely unsuitable as my personal assistant but I can offer him a job still. You will need a chauffeur to take you around the city when you run errands for me. Driving yourself would waste time with trying to find parking. Can Eames drive?"

Through flaming buildings and crumbling roads and raining bullets.

"He's passable," Arthur says dryly.

"Then consider it done," Sylvester replies. He looks at Arthur, and then quickly looks away, his face settling into sternness once more. Arthur decides to test a hypothesis. He walks over to the other side of the room, turning his back briefly to Sylvester. Sylvester's eyes trail him discreetly.

My god, Arthur thinks, my ass is magic.

 


 

The chauffeur cap is not strictly necessary, but Eames delights in all things perverse and kitsch, so he wears it cheekily. Arthur can't see his face because Arthur is in the backseat being driven to the laundromat where he is supposed to pick up Sylvester's dry cleaning. But he can imagine Eames' slight curl of a smile, and thinking about that smile -- and what it might feel like on Arthur's skin when all this is over -- makes Arthur stretch out languidly.

"I'm having a good day," he says.

"Is that so?" Eames replies, taking the left turn smoothly. He's wearing gloves too, and Arthur's eyelashes feel heavy the more he looks at them, lowering over his eyes as he takes in the sight.

"Sylvester's an easy boss. He likes me."

A pause.

"Yes, Arthur, I know. It's that special kind of liking we were all taught about in kindergarten. He wants to share his crayons with you and play with your balls during recess."

"As if you ever went to grade school," Arthur says. "I seem to remember you telling me about your unconventional upbringing. Something about lions and circuses?"

"You listened," Eames says with pleasure.

"I don't even know if you were telling the truth or not." Arthur hooks his leg onto the back of the passenger seat. He bends his knee, sending the rest of his leg into a lazy arch. Eames' eyes flick to the rear-view mirror. Arthur smiles at him and then finds a reason to touch his own mouth, licking his fingers one by one.

"What are you doing?" Eames asks. "You slut."

"I'm stretching," Arthur says. "Sylvester works me hard."

"Just a minute ago you said he liked you," Eames says. His knuckles are decidedly tighter on the steering wheel. They come to a slow stop at an intersection, and Eames turns fully around to stare at Arthur.

"Sorry, what, I forgot what we were talking about. There's something on my fingers that I can taste but I don't know what it is." Arthur licks his thumb, followed by his index finger, and then he bridges the two of them with one indulgent swipe. The light is still red and Eames is still craning his neck to look at Arthur. Eames' eyes are wide, which is a good look on him. Arthur plans to put that look on his face many, many times in the future.

"I think I've figured out what it tastes like," Arthur says. "It tastes like--"

The light turns green.

"I suppose you'll have to wait to find out," Arthur finishes. "We'll have to put it on the list."

"Fuck," Eames breathes as the cars behind them start honking. Arthur's gaze flicks to the road pointedly, and Eames turns back around with great effort. "Fuck, Arthur, you are so fucking--"

Arthur sprawls back against the leather seats, and laughs and laughs. "Surprise, you don't get to be the only asshole," he says.

"If we're going to play that game," Eames says, taking the next turn with less finesse than normal, poor man, "and with all that writhing you're doing in the backseat, we are definitely playing that game -- you should know that I never lose."

The rasp of Eames' voice is fodder for Orgasm #153. Arthur loves him best like this, in control but barely so, trembling slightly around the edges. And that Arthur put that there is something he's never going to get over. "Keep talking," Arthur says, because Eames might never lose but Arthur always wins.

 


 

Working for Sylvester is probably the easiest job Arthur has ever had, even if it only convinces him that it'll lead to one of the hardest extractions they will ever perform. Sylvester is extremely tight-lipped and tending towards stoic, with no daddy issues to speak of. True, his eyes have a language of their own, especially when they slide towards Arthur as Arthur works, but he rarely speaks if he doesn't absolutely have to, and there are times when Arthur can't get a read on him at all. With all that said, however, Sylvester has the sort of obsession with detail that makes Arthur's job mostly straightforward. The instructions given to him are perfectly clear, and he can carry them out without too much effort.

This may be a problem, because easy jobs give Arthur a lot of thinking time and his thoughts veer towards Eames. Or more specifically, Eames' mouth.

"You know," Eames' mouth says on the third day, after he chauffers Arthur to and from one of the company stakeholders' house. "We might as well make this interesting."

"I didn't know you were bored," Arthur replies. He steps out of the car. Eames follows him, but whereas Arthur is in the practice of standing, Eames at times seems completely unfamiliar with the idea, because he slouches. He leans his body against the car with his hands in his pockets and his cap tilts downwards to shadow over his eyes. The shadow doesn't quite conceal his smirk. Arthur feels a jump in his pulse at Eames' mocking mouth, forcing him to reconsider his previously held stance on not being attracted to obnoxious bastards who wear red reindeer socks when it's not Christmas.

"You're right. Being in a constant state of blue balls isn't boring," Eames says.

"So what do you want?" Arthur asks. "Besides the obvious."

"I want to make a bet," Eames says. His eyes rest on Arthur's face, but Arthur stares back unblinkingly. "You think we shouldn't fuck until after the job, but I bet I can make you come before the heist is over."

Arthur looks at Eames lounging against the car with a look of utter superiority, and he thinks about the crush he had on the bus driver when he was seventeen and given to writing bad poetry where he rhymed wheels with the luscious curve of your masculine heels. This was really, he thinks, wholly inevitable.

Also, Eames is wrong.

"I was once trapped in a whorehouse for twelve days with a limitless supply of condoms," Arthur informs him. "If I can resist the most tempting young men and women of Amsterdam, I think I can resist you."

"I can't believe you pulled the Amsterdam argument," Eames complains. "How am I supposed to compete against all of Amsterdam?"

"Exactly," Arthur says, adjusting his cuff links. But Eames surprises him by suddenly pushing away from the car. Arthur's body reacts. If Eames were an enemy, he'd have had his gun out now. Never mind that Arthur's suit is so form-fitting, there's no room to hide a gun. There has never been a clothing-related problem that Arthur could not solve. He also knows how to duck from Eames' arm when Eames reaches out for him. "What are you doing?" Arthur asks. "Are you trying to punch me because I suggested you can't fuck like a Dutchman?"

"I was trying," Eames says, "to prove a point. And I fuck like a king."

There's a shiver that curls at the base of Arthur's spine. Eames' eyes are very bright. "The Burger King maybe," Arthur says, stepping aside again.

"I can make you come, Arthur," Eames reminds him.

And Arthur says, "I bet I can make you beg me for it before the end."

Arthur has never made Eames beg before.

Well, this is not strictly true. There was that one time recently when they were in the car together and Arthur had put on the appropriate music to gear him up for running over projections, repeatedly. Ten minutes in, Eames had turned around with his SIG-Sauer P232 and said, "I'm begging you, no more," which got them started on an argument about whether Kanye West really did have a beautiful dark twisted fantasy and what exactly this fantasy entailed. During which Arthur ran over two projections, Eames shot three, and Arthur's bomb went off in the nearby office building, taking out the rest.

It was, in Arthur's opinion, one of those moments that should have clued him in to Eames' insatiable lust for him, because Arthur had certainly been burning for it, keyed up with adrenaline and want, Eames' dislike of Kanye be damned. He'd been tempted afterward to crawl over to Eames, lick the sweat from his temples, and rip the buttons off Eames' blazer.

He still feels that urge now, because Eames is gorgeous. Eames has arms like a bruiser and a smile like he just strolled out of the bed of a saint.

And Arthur thinks he would look even better, begging.

"You shouldn't gamble on what you can't win," Arthur says with his eyebrows raised, as his phone buzzes in his pocket. It's Sylvester with another request, but Arthur is a bad employee at this moment because he lets it go to voice mail. He'll tell Sylvester he was in the washroom later. His attention right now is all for Eames.

"I think this one will be a piece of cake," Eames says. "Because I don't know if you've noticed this, darling, but you're a filthy cockslut if I've ever seen one. I bet your pert little arse twitches every time you look at me. You feel it right now, don't you? The emptiness where my fingers should be, followed by my tongue and then my cock."

Arthur takes a breath. "A week in a whorehouse--"

"But none of them were me," Eames says.

 


 

Arthur doesn't know yet the best way to extract the ingredients of the Melon Berry Blast from Sylvester. He will eventually, because Arthur is the best investigator in the business and knows the answer to four of the world's unsolved mysteries, including what happened to the last of the Romanovs. But Arthur doesn't know, at this moment in the juncture, how to complete their job. As the first week winds down, he continues to keep his eyes open. Being Sylvester's personal assistant gives him access to Sylvester's daily life. Arthur pays very close attention to the people Sylvester interacts with, and he examines each one, trying to decide if they are the right fit for Eames' forgery, if they should be the one used to get Sylvester to crack. Apparently in the thirty plus years Sylvester has been in the juice business, he has not told one person the holy recipe, but Arthur's job at this point is to see if there is the potential to break that record.

"You're making this unnecessarily complicated," Eames says. "Why forge anyone that Sylvester has a personal investment in? Why not just create a dream where Sylvester is dying, and he has to pass on the recipe to his successor? Corporate necessity can be just as powerful as soppy emotion, even more powerful sometimes."

"Sylvester's subconscious is militarized," Arthur says.

"Really?" Eames asks wryly. "A CEO of a juice company has military-level subconscious security? Wait, why am I even surprised at this point?"

"You really shouldn't be," Arthur says, not for the first time. "Sylvester is militarized, not to mention extremely canny. It would have to be a pitch perfect scenario for him to buy it. In any case, his will explains that the recipe is broken into two parts, and each part falls under the jurisdiction of a different lawyer. In the event of his death, his heir will receive the two files from the two lawyers."

"So we just break into the law firms and steal it that way," Eames remarks. "There's no need to go into dream thievery for this."

"We know the identity of one of the lawyers, but not the other," Arthur says. "It's a complicated setup that he's engineered, and to crack it, it always ends up requiring us to extract information straight from Sylvester. Which leads us back to the original problem: how do we convince Sylvester to tell us this secret he tells no one? There must be someone that he's willing to drop his guard around. That, and a liberal application of alcohol." Arthur thinks about it for a moment and adds, "Sylvester was extremely close to his mother."

"True, but she's dead, and it's always hard to forge dead people. Not enough information on them to do it convincingly," Eames says. "Unless of course they're historical figures. Then it's fair game. My Abraham Lincoln is the best in the business, if I might say so."

"I know. I've seen it," Arthur says. "I wish I hadn't."

"Because it sent you into a tizzy of lust?"

"No," Arthur says. "Ew, no."

"That's funny," Eames replies. "I've always been told that Americans are quite fond of their patriotic figures. I think you yourself mentioned it once, during the Yarrow job."

"I also told you once that your tie made you look charming, and that Cobb knows how to do math without counting on his fingers," Arthur said. "Guess what, I lied."

"I am heartsick over your deceptions," Eames says, except it comes out low and husky, distracting Arthur briefly because no one to his knowledge has ever been heartsick over him, unless you count Barry Singh in the fourth grade because Arthur wouldn't share his lunch. He looks at Eames, and Eames has a small, affectionate smile on his face that makes Arthur want to bend him over the table more than any of his lewd remarks.

Arthur clears his throat. "Sylvester," he repeats. "We need to figure out who Sylvester loves most. It's not apparent from his schedule. He keeps to himself after work. He has no friends and no living family."

"How sad," Eames says. "Though I can't say I feel too sorry for him when he gets to order you around all day. Some men would sacrifice much for that opportunity."

"He was in love once," Arthur says suddenly.

"Was he?" Eames asks. "How do you know that?"

"He has a photo in his desk. I found it when I broke into his office last night," Arthur says matter-of-factly. "Given all the surrounding evidence, and taking into consideration that Sylvester is an otherwise unsentimental man, I'd have to say that there are some deep feelings involved."

"Do you recognize the photo?"

"Sort of," Arthur says.

"Is this because of your failing eyesight?" Eames asks.

"My eyesight is fucking perfect," Arthur snaps. "That wasn't a squint that you saw the other day, okay. I just had a piece of pollen stuck in my eye."

"Yes, pollen, nasty buggers," Eames says without believing him at all. "All right. I'm all ears. Tell me what about this photo was 'sort of' recognizable."

"I don't know who the man in the photo is," Arthur says. "I've been trying to figure it out. I've run the photo through multiple databases and there are no hits as of yet. But the thing about the picture is...the thing that explains a lot about this whole situation, actually, is that the man in the photo, he looks like me."

 


 

After Eames looks at the photo, he turns around to Arthur and says, very seriously, "It breaks my heart to know that you aren't the best-looking man in the entire world anymore."

"You are on crack," Arthur says, offended. "You really need to stop being on crack. This man is not more attractive than I am. He's wearing bell bottoms."

Eames starts fumbling into his bag.

"What are you looking for?" Arthur asks, a part of him terrified that Eames actually has a pair of bell bottoms on him because that may be the deal breaker of this entire relationship, but his question is answered when Eames pulls out a Squeezee juice box instead. "This is not snack time," Arthur says, secretly relieved that he doesn't have to break up with Eames. "Jesus Christ, do you really need to stick something in your mouth at all times--" He stops when Eames grins and unwraps the straw. "Don't answer that question," Arthur says. "Just, just don't."

"Is this the part where you're in a tizzy of lust?" Eames wonders.

"Eames, the last time I found someone drinking a juice box attractive was when I was six years old."

Eames touches the straw to the hole in the juice box and nudges. "Oh look at that. It's not going in. I think this hole is very tight."

Arthur attempts to kill Eames with the force of his glare.

"It's so tight I think I'm going to have to loosen it first," Eames says, and then he's actually doing it. He's actually working the straw into the hole slowly and incrementally, grinding it in with the motions of his wrists. Arthur watches the straw disappear into the box inch by inch, and when it's all the way in, when the straw hits the bottom, Arthur realizes that the heavy breathing in the room is his and that Eames hasn't touched him for eight days.

Eames takes a tentative sip, his lips wrapping around the straw.

"Oh, it's so good," he says after two sucks. "I could drink this all day. Over and over and over again."

"I need to...water Sylvester's plants," Arthur says.

"By which you mean jerk off in the staff washroom," Eames says. "But that would be going against our bet, wouldn't it? I'm not supposed to make you come. At all."

"You're not...that doesn't count as..."

Eames slurps on the juice box.

"Fuck!" Arthur yells.

 


 

It becomes apparent very quickly that Arthur has made a critical mistake. Not in their reconnaissance on Sylvester and the Melon Berry Blast, no, because there was so little data on that front that there wasn't room for progress, much less mistakes. For the most part Arthur doesn't mind. He had anticipated this to be a long con, and Hewett, their client, might feel very strongly about the Melon Berry Blast ingredients but he doesn't breathe down Arthur's neck the way previous clients did when he wasn't performing his jobs by their timeline. He's received two emails from Hewett, both perfunctory and professional, one ending with an adage that even juice could not be rushed in order to reach perfection, whatever that meant. Arthur is not up to date with his juice proverbs, sadly.

The mistake Arthur has made is in regard to Eames. Here it's tempting to say that anything to do with Eames is a huge, colossal mistake, which was the sort of thing he would have said in the early years of their acquaintance, when Eames would show up with his plans, his mockery, and his sinful mouth just to see how far he could push Arthur to distraction. These days Arthur has...warmer feelings towards Eames, which unfortunately means the number of strategic mistakes he makes is higher. Clouded judgment and all that.

He shouldn't have let Eames suck on the juice box.

It had been poor planning on Arthur's part to let Eames indulge in his oral fixation in any way, shape, or form. Because Eames does have one. An oral fixation, that is, and if Arthur doesn't rein him in, Eames will put all sorts of objects into his mouth, ranging from pens to lollipops to straws, and he will roll his tongue around their smooth surface and then run it over his lips, which he will part ever so slowly, allowing Arthur to imagine what his cock might feel like fitted into that obnoxious mouth.

It's bad. Just...bad. It's the sort of warning label Eames should have really come with, professionally. Attention all extractors: if you hire this man, you will think about nothing except cocksucking. And maybe rimming. Or felching. Take your pick, goddamnit.

Arthur, in fact, will make it a point to attach this warning to Eames' prospects in the future, though he hopes no one will ever have need to come across it, because he will cut them and then toss their body into the Thames.

"Arthur," Eames remarks as he drives Arthur through the traffic on the way to the manufacturers. "I'm beginning to see why Hewett wants the Melon Berry Blast ingredients so much. It's fucking amazing."

"You lie," Arthur says, slouching in the backseat. "It's just a bunch of chemicals and preservatives. It cannot be worth what your mouth is doing to it right now."

"My mouth?" Eames smiles into the rear-view mirror. "My mouth isn't doing anything out of the ordinary. It's just trying to suck up every last bit of delicious juice, that's all." He punctuates the statement with a slurp. "Just because it's the same sound I would make sucking your cock has nothing to do with anything, sweetheart."

"Eyes on the road," Arthur barks.

"And when I poke my tongue around the hole in the juice box, it has nothing to do with the way I'm going to lick my way into your arse," Eames continues conversationally, one hand strong on the wheel as he takes the next corner. "It's just because I enjoy licking the hole. Of the juice box, I mean. I enjoy licking it until it's wet and loose, and then I enjoy seeing how much of my tongue I can fit inside. Which isn't much, I have to say, because it's so small and tight. You ever come across experiences with small, tight holes?"

"I wish your mouth was a small, tight hole," Arthur said, "because then maybe you could shut up."

"Arthur, you do want my mouth to be tight, but it's not for the reasons that you're suggesting." Eames sips on the juice box again and finishes it. Then he reaches for another one in the passenger seat, where there is a small tower of Melon Berry Blast juice boxes. Arthur hopes maliciously that Eames will explode his kidneys with the amount of sugary crap that he's drinking, because that will serve him right. Then Arthur can donate him a kidney and Eames will never be able to go against him again. He'll have to live the rest of his life in gratitude to Arthur. Arthur wants this so bad.

Because Eames is sitting in the front seat of the car and Arthur in the back, he doesn't actually get a good look at the juice box, nor does he want to. The next day, however, when Eames is leading him to the car for another errand, Arthur steps briefly into a patch of bright light. He freezes.

"What the hell is that on your juice box?" he asks, because there is a note stuck on it and big bold writing that says ARTHUR JUICE.

"I have no idea what you mean," Eames says, which is what he says the next day when Arthur sees ARTHUR JUICE replaced by JUICY JUICY ARTHUR.

And the next day where it's THIS COULD BE YOUR ARSE, ARTHUR.

And the next: I WOULD SUCK YOU ALL DAY.

Arthur's kidneys ache with anger.

 


 

A stroke of good fortune falls into their laps, and it is not Eames' penis or his exploded kidneys. It is Sylvester looking Arthur up and down and saying, "It might be easier if you just move into my penthouse. You wouldn't have to commute that long distance every day."

Arthur very casually pretends to examine his cuff links and think about this decision before he says, "That would be lovely, thank you. But I live with Eames right now, and I couldn't leave him."

"Bring him along," Sylvester said. "I have a huge penthouse and no one else there but me and a few staff." Arthur can detect a sort of loneliness when he says it, and Arthur feels sympathetic for him because, well, Arthur understands loneliness. Until Eames came along, Arthur was quite aware of what loneliness felt like and what empty apartments with too much furniture and too much silence could do to a person.

"Now we'll have intimate access of his living quarters," Arthur says in satisfaction, when he meets up with Eames. "We can search his things even in our off hours. We'll have to draw up a schematic of the penthouse, though, with all the security cameras napped out, and he has other staff there during the day, so we'll have to plot their schedules against our--"

"Way ahead of you," Eames says. "I've already done all that."

Arthur stops and stares.

"I've also written it out in that colour-coordinated, numbered system you like so much," Eames replies.

Arthur scoffs. "I doubt it. No one knows that system but me. That's the whole point."

Eames hands the notebook over. Arthur opens it and at first he sees that the system appears perfect, but he's sure it's just a ruse. Eames is great at the shallow forgeries, after all, but given deeper examination Arthur can usually pick out a mistake or two. He flips through Eames' charts and diagrams, looking for a hiccup. He doesn't find any. It's laid out exactly the way Arthur would do it.

Arthur looks back at Eames and something travels up his spine, something like desire and admiration and also something deeper. He manages to give Eames a brief smile before Sylvester is paging him back into his office and saying, "Would you like to join me for dinner tonight?"

Dinner with Sylvester is a somber affair, heavy with red meat and potatoes. Arthur sits at one end of the table while Sylvester sits at the other, and the hired staff pour the wine and freshen their water. Sylvester cuts into his steak precisely -- Arthur can't help but think he might wield a sword just as well. Arthur examines him with his wine glass held up to the light, and then he says lightly, "The Melon Berry Blast is your most popular flavour, right?"

"It's the flavour that's built our company's name," Sylvester replies.

"Strange, to think that one flavour could do so much," Arthur says.

"Not especially," Sylvester says. "Look at Coca-Cola. They rose on the prominence of their default taste, before they rolled out the special versions like Vanilla Coke or Cherry Coke, neither of which can compete against the original." He peers at Arthur with the thick-rimmed glasses he wears at home when he takes out his contacts. "Have you tried the Melon Berry Blast, might I ask?"

"Yes," Arthur lies. "It's quite good."

"It's better than that," Sylvester says. "I developed the flavour when I was in college to impress a...friend." His voice places the most subtle of pressures on that last word. Arthur snaps to attention, though his demeanor doesn't show it; he remains smiling and charming, showing his dimples.

"Was that friend impressed?" Arthur asks.

"Oh yes," Sylvester says. "I made it for him the day before a stressful exam, as a sort of gift, and because I knew even then I liked mixing things." He gives the slightest of smiles. "I might have been a great bartender, you know. Sometimes I think I should have done that instead."

"Why do you say that?" Arthur gestures at the table, laden down with food, and at the walls, where there are rows of paintings. "Going into juice has made you rich and powerful. You have everything a man could want."

"I don't," Sylvester says. He looks at Arthur then and Arthur prepares himself for the weight of Sylvester's want. It's there, yes, he can see it, but Sylvester's gaze is also unfocused, more like he's staring through Arthur than at him. Arthur knows then that he's thinking about the man in the photo, the man who looks like Arthur. He considers his next words and how to get an answer from Sylvester, but then Sylvester's cell phone rings.

"I need to take that," Sylvester says.

Arthur nods, his mind at work.

 


 

That night, he comes up with two plans. One for Sylvester and one for Eames.

The latter is more urgent than the first, so Arthur arrives at Eames' window at half past two in the morning, crouching on the slim platform that separates him from a quick drop to the cement twenty stories below. He raps his knuckles on Eames' window, and Eames throws open the curtains, smiling when he sees Arthur. He opens the window and lets him in.

"You could have just used the door," he says.

"Where would be the excitement in that?" Arthur asks. Eames pokes his head out of the window and sees how far Arthur had run, jumped, and crawled. He has a juice box in his hand. Arthur is in a good mood, so he doesn't shoot the box like he wants to and could. Instead he simply whacks it out of Eames' hand and sends it flying across the room.

"What was that for?" Eames begins, but Arthur shuts his mouth with a kiss.

Kissing is not against the bet. Kissing is neither begging nor coming, though Arthur can easily see how it would lead to both. He puts his hand on the small of Eames' back and uses it to tug Eames closer, kissing him hard and deep and wet, letting Eames feel the moisture on Arthur's lashes from where it was raining outside. Eames' mouth is warm, and he tastes like melons and strawberries, and there's a bead of juice on his chin that Arthur laps up with his tongue.

When Arthur pulls away, Eames reaches to tug him back, but Arthur walks over to the other side of the room where there is a chair. He starts stripping.

"Giving in so soon?" Eames asks.

"Not yet," Arthur says. He takes off his coat and then unbuttons his shirt. He folds them neatly and puts them on the dresser surface, followed by his pants. Eames' eyes are fixed on him as Arthur slips out of his briefs and presents him with a view of his ass.

"I can't wait to see what this is about," Eames says.

Arthur smiles at him filthily, and then puts one foot on top of the chair, widening his stance as his hand reaches between his ass and pulls out the dildo.

Eames is speechless.

Arthur is slick and wet inside. He knows this because he spent time preparing himself, and also because he slides two fingers inside of him now and groans. His fingers aren't as wide as the dildo, and he's not full in the same way, but Eames makes a choking sound as Arthur pulls the two fingers out and then thrusts them back in. "You're not supposed to come," Eames says haltingly, his voice tearing at the seams when Arthur adds a third finger.

"I'm not going to come," Arthur tells him, though his body shakes when he presses the third finger against his prostate. "Oh god, that's good."

He finger fucks himself slowly. Eames sits down on the bed; it's not as graceful a collapse as he might have liked. Arthur pushes his fingers in and out of his hole, looking down to see the gleaming wetness of the lube coat his fingertips when they pull out. He looks over at Eames and smiles at the telltale bulge in Eames' pants. Arthur lets out another groan, a genuine one as his fingers move over his prostate, and he pushes against his own tightness, scissoring himself lewdly.

Then, without another word, he is removing his fingers, sliding the dildo back in -- trembling only the slightest as he feels himself plugged up again -- and putting on his clothes.

Eames watches him wordlessly as Arthur straightens his sleeves and says, "Sweet dreams, Mr. Eames." He checks his reflection in the mirror, wipes his fingers on a towel lying by the bed, and exits through the door.

 


 

"Arthur, love of my life. Sharpshooting Arthur. Mad as a hatter with too much tea to drink Arthur. We need to talk about the dildo."

Arthur looks up from his planner. He's just finished making a call to book Sylvester's twice-annual dental cleaning, and Eames is leaning over him, all broad shoulders and faint whiff of aftershave. That he had bothered to shave at all today is a bonus to his record, and Arthur tries not to take in deep breaths of the very Eames-like scent -- subtle, but with noticeable woodsy notes here and there. "What's there to talk about?" Arthur asks. "I thought my demonstration was perfectly satisfactory."

"Satisfactory implies satisfaction," Eames says.

"So you didn't like it?"

"I didn't say that," Eames says. "A man can like a lot of things without being satisfied by any. A movie that's run too short, a gun that's out of ammo, a beautiful man stealing into his room in the middle of the night with his arse plugged and no desire for me to let him come."

"You thought there wasn't desire?" Arthur looks at Eames, lowering his planner.

"Was there?" Eames muses.

They're in the garage in the basement of the Squeezee central office. There's no one else around; there's been no one else around since the time they've started working for Sylvester. The garage, it appears, is their own personal domain. Arthur sets his planner on the hood of the car and grabs Eames' hand. He places it over his groin and arches upwards, grinding himself gently against Eames' open palm. He closes his eyes, taking in a deep breath as his nerves begin that familiar burning sensation that tends to accompany any touch of Eames. Then he opens his eyes halfway and looks at Eames.

"There's desire," he says.

Eames squeezes Arthur gently, and Arthur groans.

"Mmm, looks like it." Eames leans forward and brushes a kiss over Arthur's ear. "Tell me, do you still have the dildo inside you right now? Is it still filling up your pretty, fuckable arse?"

Arthur thrusts his hips against Eames' hand. "I'm not going to tell you that."

"I think you do," Eames says. "I think you're feeling it right now, tightening down on it because you want me so much. You want me inside of you. Both here--" he strokes the front of Arthur's slacks lovingly "—and in there. Isn't that right?"

"You're never going to know until the job is over," Arthur says.

Eames bites Arthur's ear. "Tease."

"You're very fond of calling me that."

"Because it's what you are. You're a dreadful, terrifying cocktease." Eames slides his fingers along the seam of Arthur's pants, following the stitching up his thigh. Arthur closes his eyes.

"But you can wait for me," Arthur says.

Eames makes a noise against Arthur's throat that Arthur can't quite decipher. Arthur says again, more firmly, "You'll wait for me, right?"

"You need to ask?" Eames rests his fingers on the line where Arthur's thigh meets his hip. "Was there ever any doubt?"

 


 

As talented as he is, being a professional cocktease is not Arthur's vocation in life. First, it would make his mother cry. Secondly, he wouldn't want to put anyone else out of business. It's not everyone who can possess an ass that's a get out of jail free card, so to speak. He and Eames – and Ariadne waiting for architectural instructions in France – actually do have a job to pull off. When he and Eames grab another moment together, which is after Sylvester sends Arthur to deliver a get well card to an ailing employee's house, he takes Eames and pulls him inside of the car where it's dark and there are no bugs.

"I think I have a lead on the man in the photo," Arthur says, squeezing with Eames into the backseat. He and Eames bump shoulders until Eames manages to settle himself properly, tucked beside Arthur in the absurdly small space.

"Sylvester talked about developing the Melon Berry Blast for a college classmate. A friend, he said. I suspect there's some history there that we can use," Arthur says. He can feel Eames' breathing against his neck and it's reminiscent of the moment they shared just a few hours ago, when he was pressed against Eames' hand and Eames was touching him, touching him boldly. Arthur shakes the memory out of his head. He needs to focus on the job right now.

Eames beats him to the punch. "If Sylvester made the Melon Berry Blast for this friend once, there's a decent chance he'll make it for him again. Or at least there's a decent chance he'll be more open to talking to the friend about the mixture, especially since there seems to be, as you say, sentimental reasons." Eames runs his fingers over his mouth thoughtfully.

Not helpful, Arthur thinks. The mouth business, that is. The observations are accurate.

"I can set up a program," Arthur says. "If we get Sylvester's college yearbook, we can scan the photos into the program and see if there's a match for bell bottom man."

"It shouldn't be too hard, considering he looks an awful lot like you," Eames remarks. "But don't worry about the program. I'll set it up."

Arthur narrows his eyes.

"I am the better programmer," Eames says.

"That's not true, you asshole," Arthur says, though he's remembering with a lurch in his stomach the events of Prague, Oslo, and Vancouver, in that order. Eames, for all that he specializes in physical forgeries – bodies, handwriting, artwork – can whip up a sleek computer program, not that Arthur wants to admit it because Arthur's computer skills are hard-won. He came into the dream trade with nothing and he built them from the ground up, mostly with Mal's help.

"I studied computer programming in university. Trust me, I can design this program without a sweat," Eames says.

"You studied what?" Arthur asks.

"Didn't I ever tell you? That's how I got recruited," Eames says. "You should have seen me then. Big glasses, oversized sweater, programming manuals all over my dorm room."

"Eames," Arthur says. "Eames. That's so cute."

"I didn't get laid much then," Eames remarks. "So that hasn't changed at all, it seems."

"Fuck you," Arthur says affectionately. "Fine, Mr. Computer Geek. You can design the program. I'll get my hands on Sylvester's yearbook."

"Remember to grab the years cushioning his as well," Eames says. "We don't know if mystery man was an upperclassman, an underclassman, or the same year as Sylvester."

"Of course I know that," Arthur scoffs.

Eames sets up the computer and the program in his room; his because it's less likely for Sylvester to visit his room over Arthur's. Even the cleaning staff don't visit Eames' room, an arrangement that Eames announced to Arthur one day while wearing leather-studded gloves and holding a bucket of sand. So they have privacy there, as well as a decent place to stash weapons and incriminating evidence.

Arthur visits him in his room at one point, watching the bending of Eames' back over the computer and the quick motion of Eames' fingers over the pad as he codes. There's still a lot he doesn't know about Eames, Arthur thinks, but it's no longer the frightening thought it used to be when he didn't know if Eames was friend or enemy and had to decide based on the flimsiest of facts and Cobb's trust. Now, it's a comfort even to know that Eames has a history that stretches beyond Arthur's knowledge of him, because that makes him realer and more worthwhile for it.

Eames looks up. "Hey," he says.

"Hey," says Arthur.

"I'm running the photos through the matching program right now," Eames says. Arthur takes a seat on the bed and watches as the screen shifts and transforms. "We should get a result in about an hour or so."

"Good," Arthur says and leans back on the bed. Eames's gaze follows him like a magnet. Arthur knows that this would be the perfect opportunity to do some stretching, some wriggling, maybe some helpless gasps. But Arthur is tired, actually, from a long day running after Sylvester's errands, and all he wants is to nap. Eames' bed is comfortable. His pillows smell like him. It's a lot warmer in Eames' room than in Arthur's because Eames keeps the thermostat so high, and it feels welcoming. Not a word he would have ever associated with Eames in the beginning, but they're no longer at the beginning, thank god.

"I'll keep watch," Eames says.

Arthur nods and pulls the blankets over him.

When he wakes up, however, Eames is frowning at the screen and Arthur says, "What? Who is it?" while rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

Eames moves aside so that Arthur can see.

NO MATCH FOUND.

 


 

Arthur likes to punch people when he's angry. This goes without saying and is probably not a condition unique to him. But Arthur likes to punch people hard, and while this was never too complicated when he was sixteen and scrawny, getting his ass wiped at the boxing ring but still getting up for more, these days there aren't a lot of people who can take Arthur's punches and keep on going.

Maybe that's why Eames works so well for him, because he can block Arthur's punches and then throw him over his shoulder, sending Arthur crashing onto the mat where his breath storms out of his chest.

Sylvester has a gym in his penthouse, and Arthur and Eames are its regular users.

Arthur is fast and slippery, and his right hook comes out of nowhere. Eames, on the other hand, is a fucking con man's con man, and he dodges Arthur's blow, weaving around him to grab Arthur by the waist and flip him over.

Arthur is a puncher, a kicker. Eames fights like a wrestler.

Arthur punches Eames in the face. He sends him crashing to the mats with a sweep of a kick.

Eames tackles Arthur down and pins him.

Eames is a lot heavier than Arthur, but Arthur has spent most of his life fighting heavier, bigger men. He digs his elbow into Eames' ribs and pushes upwards, using the sinewy strength of his arms. Eames pushes back down, and Arthur feels his elbows shake, dangerous with the pressure. But one of Eames' hands lets go of his grasp on Arthur and cups his ass.

"What," Arthur gasps, sweat stinging his eyes near blind. "This isn't sparring, Eames."

"Shhh," Eames says. "I want to tell you something, and since I have you like this, in my mercy, you're going to listen."

Arthur isn't in Eames' mercy because he has no other choice. Eames only has one hand keeping him down. That's nothing. Arthur is in Eames' mercy because he chooses to be, and so he stops struggling. He lets Eames hold him down against the mat with the strength of his body, breathing heavily as Eames' hand moves over the curve of Arthur's ass, hungry.

"It's going to be so good when it happens," Eames says. "I'm going to keep you on the edge of orgasm for hours. I already have the perfect little cock ring for you."

"...not...little..." Arthur breathes.

Eames shoves him down harder. "My apologies, love. Not a little cock ring, but it'll be tight and firm, and I'll use it so you can't come until I tell you to. You'll be huge and swollen in my hand, and you'll be begging for it, but I'll do so many filthy things to you first. I'll blow you. I'll eat you out. I'll fuck you with my fingers. I'll slide right into you and keep you on that edge, for as long as I can, and you'll whimper because you'll feel me in you, stretching you wide."

Arthur shudders.

"I'll let myself come first," Eames says. "I won't be wearing a condom. I won't need to. You'll feel my come inside of you, and when I pull out, you'll drip with it. You'll feel so empty then, but you won't have any choice. You'll have to lie there and wait while I get it up again, though for you I'm sure it won't take too long." He strokes Arthur's ass, runs his hand over the firmness of it. "I'll be in you again before you know it, and it'll be harder and rougher the second time around. No gentleness."

"I don't ever want you to be gentle," Arthur bites out.

"Perfect, because I won't be," says Eames, and then he's shifting his hold on Arthur and moving down so that his mouth hovers over Arthur's ass. He kisses it then. Arthur shakes in his arms. He can feel Eames' smile against the smooth fabric of his gym shorts, and it's not long after before he can feel the bite of Eames' teeth, scraping him. Eames slips a finger up the opening and touches a bruise on Arthur's thigh.

"Oh Christ," Arthur groans. He snaps his hips forward.

"Are you ready to beg yet?" Eames asks.

"Fuck no," Arthur says.

"I'll just have to try this then," Eames says, but either the fates must really love Arthur or really hate him because it's at that moment they hear footsteps outside of the gym. Eames lets go of Arthur and they scramble to their feet just as Sylvester comes in, towel around his shoulders, ready to work out.

 


 

They're both breathing hard and fast, but as they head back to their rooms, Eames says quietly, "There is one option we didn't look into with the yearbooks."

Arthur doesn't know how Eames can think straight. This is why they shouldn't touch each other on a job.

"Not all the students have a photo," Eames says. "Not all of them showed to up to have their pictures taken."

"You're right," Arthur says. "I haven't had a chance to skim over those names yet."

That's what he does that night, because it's more productive than lying in bed thinking about Eames' mouth on his ass, and because it keeps him from jerking off to the memory and losing the bet. Arthur sits at his desk and goes through the missing photos section of the yearbook, reading names until his vision grows spotty. He stops when he gets to the Hs, because there it is, the man who hired them:

RONALD L. HEWETT.

 


 

The fact of the matter is, they have never actually met Ronald L. Hewett. Then again, Arthur has performed many heists without ever actually meeting his clients, so he didn't think anything of it initially when Hewett's go-between contacted him with the job offer. There are numerous reasons why a client might not want to meet face to face, least among them the possibility of exposure. Hewett as CEO of Farmland Juice Co. isn't quite so much a public figure that he needs to be excessively cautious, but people are eccentric. This is the guiding rule of Arthur's professional life. People are eccentric and sometimes he has to accommodate that. As long as the instructions are clear and the money is wired, the first half before the job and the second half after the job, and his expense accounts paid neatly, Arthur doesn't care if his client is Shamu.

He knows enough about Hewett. He's seen photos. But the Hewett in the photos is an older man, tired-looking and gaunt-faced, hollowed out like the inside of a squeezed juice box. If there is a resemblance to Arthur, it's the faded sort of resemblance that can connect grandfathers to grandsons. And Arthur knows about Hewett's finances (diminishing), about his subconscious security (mildly effective) and about his personal life (a live-in partner of indeterminate gender, possibly male). He didn't bother to examine Hewett's educational background because he hadn't thought at the time that it mattered, but now that he sees the yearbook, he's singing a different tune.

"Hmm," says Eames. "Interesting." It's the only opinion he offers about the whole matter, and Arthur is suddenly irrationally annoyed.

"Hewett is paying us to extract a recipe from a man who created the recipe for him to begin with," Arthur repeats.

"It's somewhat absurd but not beyond the realm of possibility," Eames replies. "Just because Sylvester created the Melon Berry Blast for Hewett doesn't mean he ever gave Hewett the recipe."

"But that in itself brings up a thousand other questions," Arthur points out. "They were clearly friends during college, and Sylvester clearly had feelings for Hewett. What happened? When did they become rivals -- was it after the establishment of separate juice companies or before? And why does Hewett want the recipe now, decades after the fact? Why didn't he ask Sylvester for the recipe when they were still amicable?"

Eames watches Arthur curiously. "Are you going to call him?"

Arthur is already hitting the numbers on his cell phone. "I'm calling Jones, the go-between."

"He's going to say what they always say: that they gave as much information to us as they felt was necessary. They're paying us to dig up dirt on Sylvester, not the other way around."

"This is information that could potentially compromise us," Arthur says shortly as the phone begins ringing. "I'm not going to risk you for--" He shuts up as Jones answers on the other end.

"You're not risking me," Eames murmurs. "What risk is there in a juice job?"

But Arthur is already talking to Jones and telling him, in no uncertain terms, that he wants to talk out a few facts with his employer. Jones is apologetic ("no, I didn't know that there was a personal connection between Mr. Hewett and Mr. Sylvester") but he tells Arthur that Hewett is otherwise unavailable, which by the subtle menacing insistence in his answer means that Hewett doesn't want to talk to Arthur at all.

Fine. Arthur hangs up.

"What are we going to do now?" Eames asks easily.

Arthur walks over to his bags. "Hewett doesn't want to talk to us? We can work around that." He rifles through his bags and takes out his hunting rifle. "We're going to arrange our own meeting with Hewett."

"I love it when you get nasty," Eames says, and pulls a grenade out of his pants.

 


 

Hewett is asleep in his bed with his twenty-two-year-old boyfriend when Arthur and Eames show up through his window and wake him up. He blinks confusedly at the shadowy figures, and then he freezes. His boyfriend scrambles out of the bed and makes a run for the door, but Eames stops him with one arm. "Don't worry," he says, "we're not here to do any harm. We're just here to ask a few questions."

"Mr. Arthur," Hewett says after his shaking hands reach for his glasses on the nightstand. "I suppose I should have been expecting this visit. Jones told me you demanded to see me." He seems a thin man, watery and a bit weak, but his voice is firm and not unlike Sylvester's. He adjusts his glasses on his face. "It's all right, Yves. Come back to bed," he says to his boyfriend, who is very, very attractive, and also, in Arthur's quick estimate of the situation, somewhat stupid. Probably a model.

"You're supposed to be on the west coast with Al," Hewett says slowly. "How did you get to New Jersey so quickly?"

"I pulled in a few favours," Arthur says. "Which you owe me for, because I shouldn't have had to come by at all. Not if you were forthright about your history with Sylvester."

Hewett shrugs. "And what good would it have done, boy?"

"Ah," Eames says, "you don't want to do that."

"I'm sixty goddamn years old. I can call you boy if I want to," Hewett says, pressing his lips together. "Is that a grenade you have in your hand there?"

"Yes," Eames says helpfully.

"Criminals these days, you don't know the meaning of subtlety anymore," Hewett mutters, with all the hypocritical indignity of a man who once wore tie dye and bell bottoms.

Arthur taps his gun against the nightstand.

"Well, what?" Hewett asks. "What does it matter if Al and I were old college roommates? I want the money-making Melon Berry Blast recipe from him and that's what I hired you to do. If I thought I was capable of getting it myself, I would have done that. Saved myself a couple million dollars and from being woken up in the middle of the night at gunpoint."

"And we might have run the risk of getting into Sylvester's head, casually dropping your name or, god forbid, impersonating you, and we would have been caught off guard by the mess that would have followed," Arthur says shortly. "Do you know what it's like to be the sudden focus of a crowd of projections, Mr. Hewett? Do you know what it's like to have them suddenly turn on you because you said the wrong thing? Have them pull out their guns and put their bullets through your soft, unprepared body?" He leans forward when he says the last part, and he watches Yves scoot further away, except further means towards Eames. Yves hurriedly scoots to the safe middle distance on the bed. "Tell us what we need to know," Arthur finishes. "And then add another two million on our contract for this...inconvenient detour."

"Al's projections won't care if you mention me," Hewett says. "I didn't tell you because I didn't think it mattered that Al and I used to fuck when we were both still hippies. He doesn't give a shit about me anymore, so do name drop me all you want. Tell him I jumped off a cliff and got eaten by piranhas for all the difference it'll make. Now can I go back to sleep?" he demands. "I've got an early morning meeting tomorrow, and Yves has an acting audition."

"Oh?" Eames smiles at Yves. "What's the project?"

"Boys on Bears 4," Yves says.

"Boys on Bears 3 was a masterpiece," Eames says approvingly.

"Cancel your early meeting," Arthur tells Hewett. "We'll stay for breakfast and we'll have a more thorough discussion." With that, he grabs Eames and pulls him out of the bedroom.

"Boys on Bears 3, really?" Arthur asks.

"I have to do something when you're not giving me the tender loving I deserve," Eames says. He looks around the interior of Hewett's hallways and notes the modern art on the walls. "Hey, what say you and I loot this place before we leave?"

"Show some class," says Arthur.

"Just one painting. Just one."

"As long as it's not of a fucking juice box," Arthur says.

"Darling, you just made the ghost of Warhol cry," Eames replies.

 


 

Hewett hasn't exactly extended them a warm welcome into his home, but Arthur wants to make sure Hewett doesn't run. Or put more realistically, he wants to make sure Hewett doesn't grab his cane and hobble towards the nearest laxative. So after he sets up some security precautions, he and Eames grab the guest bedroom down the hall from Hewett's master bedroom, and there they catch some much needed sleep before the arrival of morning.

Except Arthur manages to sleep a grand total of two hours. Two. Cross-country flights don't give him jet leg. Instead they make him restless, and he wakes up at three in the morning. He slides out of Eames' embrace and goes to the bathroom. When he comes out, he finds Eames sitting up on the bed, his hair wildly rumpled, his eyes alert.

"Can't sleep?" Eames asks sympathetically.

"Doesn't mean you need to be up," Arthur says. "Go back to sleep. I've got my laptop. I can try to get a wireless signal and finish some work before we need to be up for Hewett."

"I doubt it," Eames says. "The grinding of your teeth will keep me up." He looks up at Arthur and grins. "By the way, what did you tell Sylvester about us being gone?"

"I left him a message about a dying aunt," Arthur says dismissively.

"He'll be crestfallen," Eames observes. "How will he get through the day without the sight of your enticing scowl or the sight of my mouth-watering muscles? We were all the joy in that poor man's life, we were."

"You're delusional," Arthur says.

"I brought juice," Eames says.

"I'm going to punch you if that's a juice box," Arthur informs him.

"It's not," Eames replies. He goes through his bags and pulls out a bottled version of the Melon Berry Blast. "I was also wondering, Arthur, king of my most impressive loins, what exactly happened at the airport that your suitcase got lost?"

Arthur's shoulders square at the memory. "I have no idea," he says. "But all my things were inside. My toothbrush, my extra ammo, my spare changes of clothing."

"You had to sleep in the clothes you wore on the plane," Eames says. "That's awful, love."

"I'm barely surviving, it's true," Arthur says dryly.

"You could always wear my clothes," Eames offers.

Arthur shudders.

"All right then," Eames says, and then proceeds to open the bottle of Melon Berry Blast and pour it all over Arthur's lap.

Arthur jumps up. "What the hell!"

"Oh no, how clumsy I am," Eames says, deadpan. "Now you'll have to take off your wet clothes, and you have nothing to change into, so I suppose you'll have to go naked."

Arthur's pants and half of his shirt are soaking wet. "Eames, this outfit cost more than your head is worth on the black market," he hisses as the juice seeps through the cloth and onto his skin, an uncomfortable sugary wetness.

"My head, maybe," Eames says, "but my head is hardly the most attractive part of my body, if you catch my drift." He reaches out for Arthur. "Here, let me help you out of those ruined clothes." He starts pulling at Arthur's blazer and once he gets it off, he goes for Arthur's shirt. Arthur wants to push his hands away. He wants to sock Eames in the jaw. But more than that, he wants to lean into Eames' warm hands as they travel over his skin and Eames' breath skates over his shoulder. Arthur's warring impulses leave him standing stock still as Eames divests him of his shirt and starts working on his pants.

Arthur's briefs are wet too, Jesus Christ. Eames eyes them with a self-satisfied smirk that Arthur wants to slap off his face, but then Arthur doesn't get a good look at Eames' face at all because Eames is leaning forward and running his tongue along the inside of Arthur's juice-covered thigh.

"Fuck," Arthur says.

"Tastes good," Eames says, lapping up the spilled juice.

Arthur's thighs shake as Eames starts running his tongue over him for real, bold and thirsty. Eames' hands grasp the back of his thighs tightly, holding him in place. Arthur looks up at the ceiling, his lashes shadowing his eyes as Eames licks him, and he breathes a name. Eames' name.

"Do you want me to take off your pants?" Eames asks.

"You already have," Arthur says throatily.

"Damn Americanisms." Eames corrects himself. "Your underwear, I mean. Do you want me to take it off you?" He runs a finger over Arthur's bulge. "If I'm to get you all nice and clean, you want me to be thorough, don't you? You want me to take your cock in my mouth and suck out all the last bits of juice that I poured over you, isn't that right? Get every -- last --- drop." He rubs Arthur appreciatively.

Arthur feels tense and hot. His blood is thrumming in his ears, and so he does the only thing he can do to save his part of the bet. He grabs Eames by the shoulders, hauls him up, and kisses him hard.

Kissing is good. Kissing is distracting. Kissing will keep Eames from removing Arthur's last piece of clothing and blowing him to orgasm, which would be a disaster. Yes, a disaster, Arthur thinks, though as he presses Eames against the wall and kisses him, it's starting to become less clear why a blowjob from Eames would be a disaster. In fact, a blowjob from Eames would feel pretty damn good, and it would lead to other things with Eames; screwing, fucking, skin on skin, Eames' bright eyes when he comes. Arthur's starting to forget why he doesn't want those things right now.

But then Eames bites down on Arthur's lip, and Arthur remembers what a rotten bastard Eames is. Let Eames get one over him and Arthur will be fucked for the rest of his life, and not the good kind of fucking either. So he bites Eames back, and then he digs Eames' collar down and kisses him on his neck, leaving marks that he knows Eames won't bother to hide in the morning because Eames is capable of presidential-level discretion, but only when he wants to, and when it comes to Arthur, Eames rarely seems to want to.

They're kissing against the wall, and then Arthur is pulling Eames towards the bed. They fall down on it, and Arthur feels the heavy sprawl of Eames' body on his, burning him up. They both have stubble, and it's rough when it scrapes against Arthur's chin and against his jaw. Arthur's never been excited by kissing guys with stubble, but with Eames it's all different. It makes his body feel sensitive and alive every time Eames' beard rubs his skin. Hot pressure grows behind his eyes, turning his vision spotty. He curls his hand around the back of Eames' neck, drawing him in even closer so that there's not much technique anymore, just messy desire.

Eames grinds against Arthur's naked body, his belt leaving a mark on Arthur's white thigh, and then he's grinning, like he has another idea, a filthy terrible idea that'll probably drive Arthur up the wall and make him see stars. And Arthur could show Eames a thing or two; he's been curious to see what Eames will look like, wrecked against the sheets as Arthur goes down on him. Eames likes to talk during sex, or so Arthur has heard, but Arthur bets that he can make Eames sob with incoherency. It wouldn't be that hard. Just a matter of--

And that's when Hewett walks into the room. He and Sylvester, in addition to being college friends, also apparently share the same mastery of the art of cockblocking.

Arthur's betting virtue is saved.

Arthur's others parts are...less than happy.

"If I wanted more porn stars, I would have called in Yves' friends," Hewett mutters. "Get dressed, you two. I'm ready to talk."

 


 

Arthur doesn't believe in love stories. In his opinion, they are carefully constructed pieces of fiction that stretch the credulity of anybody who has lived ten minutes in the real world. Which doesn't mean, as some people seem to think, that he doesn't believe in love. Arthur believes in love. He believes in ordinary, everyday passion, like the kind his parents used to have before the government got wind of his father's experiments and sent agents to wipe the names off files and replace the photos in the frames. Arthur grew up in the presence of love, a long time ago, but he doesn't believe in the mythology of love, in the idea of caring for someone so much that decades later, you still think about him, still grind your teeth over him, still hire criminals to infiltrate his company and tear him apart. Humans are fickle. It's a survival mechanism from evolutionary days.

This is something he should ask Saito about, probably. Because Arthur has loved before, but whenever it hasn't worked out, he's always been the type to shrug and move on. Those are the instincts honed from a life of uncertainty, and maybe that was the problem all along; to never expect certainty, because that's a luxury that belongs to those who have never hooked themselves up to a dream machine and gone deep, so deep that there are places where you can never be recovered.

What Hewett tells them, however, is definitely a love story. He doesn't seem to think so -- aside from a similar face when he was young, he shares with Arthur a healthy skepticism about romance --, but it's what comes out of his mouth nonetheless. Two boys in college, well-bred, white bread, a bit reckless in their independence, a bit in love.

"Or a lot in love," Hewett says dryly. "I'm sure you two know what that's like."

Eames' smile is edged and mysterious. Arthur says nothing. They're sitting on the couch across from Hewett, so close that Arthur can feel Eames' kneecap bump against his. His fingers feel tight from where they rest two inches from Eames' thigh; he doesn't know if he should move them or not. He decides against it.

"And he made the Melon Berry Blast for you," Eames prompts.

"He made a lot of things for me back then," Hewett says, rubbing his eyes as if trying to recapture the visceral sensation of the memory. "But yes. He was fond of cocktails, Al was. He was fond of juice. I was the one whose father owned a juice company -- Farmland Juice is an old, old institution, I'm sure you know -- but Al, he was the one with the vision. He wasn't afraid to try new things, to use exotic ingredients, to play with chemicals."

Which was why, after graduation, Hewett's father hired Sylvester for the company immediately, and Sylvester quickly worked through the ranks to become Hewett Sr.'s chief idea man, the titan behind the taste.

"It sounds perfect," Eames says. "You and your boyfriend--"

"--it wasn't as simple as that," Hewett interrupts. "Those were older days, remember. It's not like we could go around holding hands down Main Street."

Eames acknowledges the point. His thigh moves one inch closer to Arthur's hand. Arthur keeps on staring ahead.

"But they were as good as they could be," Eames says.

"That's what we thought too," Hewett replies. "But Al was ambitious. That's what got us in the end. He was ambitious, and it was part of why I loved him -- part of why we all loved him, really, everyone in my entire goddamn family. But he was so ambitious that when it mattered, he clashed with my father so badly that he left the company to start his own. It was a nasty exit. It really shook my old man up. He'd started to think of Al like his own son."

Arthur snorts.

"Did he ask you to go with him?" Eames wonders.

"Of course he did," Hewett says. "And of course I said no. This was my father. I wasn't going to go and break his heart, not even for Al." He chuckles darkly. "Al never had a father. He didn't understand. He went...he went nuts when I told him no. Like seriously unhinged. I think he started crying too, but maybe I'm just imagining that." He sounds thoughtful. "Maybe it's more like I wanted him to cry, because I begged him not to leave. I told him he could make it up with my father if only he'd swallow his damn pride. But he didn't. He wouldn't bend for anyone. So he left."

"And what's your relationship been like since then?" Arthur asks.

"Non-existent," Hewett shrugs. "I tried, in the beginning. I was a fool and I was a romantic, so I tried to show up at Al's new place and get him to see reason. But he locked the door on me, he hung up the phone on me, he told me flat out that I'd betrayed him. So that was that. That was the entire nasty mess ended, and I didn't know what to do, so I stopped trying." He smiles with serpentine sharpness. "I haven't told this story to anybody. I wonder why I'm telling it to you two. Nostalgia, I suppose, and because you seem to think it'll make a difference in getting the recipe out of Al."

"Why do you think it won't make a difference?" Eames asks. "When forging a subconscious scenario on someone, the easiest way to do it is to build on past memories, beloved ghosts."

"Ghost is right," Hewett says. "Our history might have helped you if this was happening thirty years ago, right on the heels of our...whatever it was, a relationship, a tryst, who the hell even knows at this point. But Al's moved on. I've moved on. I mean, have you taken a look at Yves?" He laughs again.

Arthur isn't fooled. He might not believe in love stories, but he can tell when someone else does.

 


 

"You'll have to stay behind," Arthur tells Eames when they're in their room again and Eames is taking off his socks. The bed is still rumpled from where they were lying on top of it rutting. Just looking at it makes Arthur feel slightly feverish, but he drags his gaze away from the bed and from Eames. "You're going to have to stay behind and learn how to forge Hewett."

"It seems so," Eames agrees. "Though are you sure he isn't right? Just because Sylvester keeps his photo doesn't mean Hewett is our key to getting the recipe out of him."

"I've observed Sylvester enough that I think I know his ways pretty well by now," Arthur replies. "And I think this will work. Even if his feelings for Hewett aren't that strong anymore, we can still recreate the original memory of Sylvester making the Melon Berry Blast for Hewett. Get him to move through those recollections."

"I don't think that's such a good idea," Eames says. "Recreating a memory makes it even more obvious that the dream is a dream."

"You think I don't realize that? I've been in this line of work just as long as you have. Sylvester will probably know that it's a dream, but I know that he's a vivid dreamer anyway. We'll create the scenario so perfectly he won't question it as a false dream," Arthur says, stubborn. "That's the key. We'll have to file away all the rough edges. Otherwise, it's too hard to bring Hewett in as they are now. There's too much bad history that we'll have to explain away to earn Sylvester's dream trust."

Eames still looks skeptical, so Arthur crosses over the bed. He kneels in front of Eames, sinking into the mattress, and Eames looks up at him, his eyelashes golden in the afternoon light.

"Trust me," Arthur says.

Eames takes a deep breath.

"All right," he says. "But one more question, Arthur: is it worth it to finish this job?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I can forge Hewett. I can learn enough to reconstruct the original memory. Yusuf and I've been playing with the PASIV. We've toyed a lot with this idea of reconnaissance through bringing someone into limbo and having it grow organically around their thoughts. I can bring Hewett into limbo and have his subconscious recreate the memory, and then use that info for when we go into Sylvester's head. I can do it so damn well, all the other extractors will be jizzing in their pants with jealousy."

Arthur smiles. He loves it when Eames gets arrogant as long as that arrogance isn't directed towards him. Also, he likes the way Eames says 'jizzing in their pants.'

"But it'll take weeks," Eames says. "You'll have to go back to Sylvester while I stay here, and I hate to sound maudlin, you know that, but it doesn't counteract the very essential truth that I'll probably be a miserable bastard without you around."

"You're a miserable bastard when I'm around too," Arthur points out, trying not to smile even more widely and look more deranged than he no doubt already looks.

"Yeah, but at least then I get to suffer exquisite sexual frustration," Eames says. "And hope that one day my saintliness will pay off and I'll actually get to screw you into the ground."

Arthur looks at Eames. His eyes seem faded in the light, so pale and shrewd and brilliant that it's almost difficult to stare at them when he gets like this, tender. Eames being tender makes Arthur uncomfortable, if only because it's not something he's used to yet -- and yet is the operative word, because he can imagine a time in the future when he won't be caught off guard by this, when it'll be as right as reloading an empty gun.

"Eames," Arthur says. His voice sounds strange, almost scratchy. He clears his throat. "Eames, nobody's ever waited for me before."

"Is that what this is all about?"

"What? Fuck. No. Don't perform your amateur psychology bullshit on me," Arthur says. "I just mean -- all I'm trying to say -- stop smirking at me, you asshole, I'm trying to talk to you here."

"Arthur, I'm not smirking; my mouth is just naturally like this," Eames says seriously.

Arthur resists the urge to twist his balls. They're so blue by now they'll probably fall off. Instead he says, "Let's get this straight. I'm not like you or Cobb. I'm cautious. I don't like rushing headlong into things, because that's when you get too excited and trip up. That's when bad things happen."

"Your parents loved you, didn't they?" Eames asks. "They probably built an altar and thanked the powers that be every day for their freakishly well-behaved offspring."

"They did," Arthur says, "and it was a gorgeous altar too. We had a picture of John Travolta at the apex."

Eames laughs.

"If it's important, it's worth waiting for," Arthur finishes.

Eames grabs his wrists and pulls him in close. Arthur can feel his breath against his ear, can feel his whole body respond to the rumble of Eames' chuckle as it passes through that filthy gorgeous mouth -- which, Eames is right, he was probably born like that, probably slid out of the womb ready to wreak beautiful havoc on Arthur's life. "You're right," Eames says. Arthur savours those rare words, regretting only briefly that he doesn't have a voice recorder with him for future payback. "But just so you know, sometimes it's good too, to do it the other way around. Russian roulette, baby. Spin the wheel and throw caution out the fucking window." He palms Arthur's ass, and Arthur shudders. "We'll do it your way this time, but then, when this is over, we'll do it mine."

"Yes," says Arthur, "okay. I promise."

 


 

Arthur goes back to Sylvester alone. It's almost a relief to land at the airport without Eames and to call up the taxi that takes him back to Sylvester's penthouse where the driver is a woman with bright red hair and a friendly smile. Arthur likes her, and they chat about the weather and about the latest news. It's a good conversation, pleasant, and Arthur realizes that he hasn't really talked to anyone other than Sylvester and Eames for the last few weeks, and Sylvester isn't exactly fond of anything that isn't precisely calculated and/or monosyllabic. And Arthur might believe in love, or in his case a very capable British ex-op with a tongue like a fallen Madonna, but he's not exactly a fan of codependency.

When he sees Sylvester again, he apologizes for the family emergency that drew him away. Sylvester is irritated. "My appointments don't book themselves, Mr. Arthur, nor do flowers arrive on my shareholders' wives' doorsteps through mystical, magical means," he says disapprovingly, while Arthur tries to see in him the images that Hewett described of a young man eager and open. But Arthur knows how to play Sylvester by now, and so he smiles and makes sure to walk in front of Sylvester as often as he can, and by the second day Sylvester has stopped looking at him suspiciously.

They resume their usual rhythm. Arthur finds it soothing, actually; if he didn't end up in the job that he did, he probably wouldn't have minded being a secretary. To a decent boss, of course. He likes the rhythmical work and the satisfaction of looking at his to do list and knowing how to tackle each and every item, rather than in his real job where "find out deep, desperate secret" is a lot more vague of an instruction.

(Though maybe Arthur wouldn't like it in the long haul, because Arthur does appreciate a challenge, and ordering Mrs. Andrews her favourite lilies isn't exactly a challenge worthy of his background and education, and also he's more of a petunia person himself).

It's not until the fourth day when he's lying in bed in his boxer-briefs, trying to message Eames with no success, that he really feels the first pang of longing, and it's so startling and strong that Arthur gets up, goes to the gym, and punches something instead.

It's a lot better to bruise his knuckles than to mope for Eames, and bruising his knuckles gets him more respect at Turkish wrestling rings besides.

Except an hour later, his knuckles are blue and swollen, he's applying ice to them with his teeth, looking like such a badass that Sylvester's other hired help walk up to the gym and quickly walk away. And he still feels the urge to buy a plane ticket and fly right back to the east coast, so that whole displacement technique was a bit of a failure, apparently.

I'm fucked, Arthur thinks. Jesus Christ, Eames might as well have won the bet already, because I am emotionally and spiritually fucked.

It's an orgasm of feelings.

Arthur does not approve.

And somewhere along the way Arthur finds a newspaper clipping about Hewett and leaves it on Sylvester's desk -- one of his jobs is to alert Sylvester of any industry news he thinks he might have missed. He experiences a visceral jolt of satisfaction when Sylvester picks up the clipping, reads it, and goes so pale that he looks like Edward Cullen; even his severe hair gel sparkles at the right angle.

"Are you all right?" Arthur asks him.

"I'm fine," Sylvester says. He pushes the clipping aside, and even a generous soul would have described the movement as skittish. Arthur has never seen Sylvester act so inelegant before. "Bring me a juice box. I'm thirsty," Sylvester says, and his throat does sound dry. Arthur ducks his head, hides his smile, and enjoys a second twitch when he brings back a carton of Melon Berry Blast in its retro packaging. Eames will kill him for digging into his collection -- Eames is becoming something of a connoisseur of juice box history -- but this is for a good cause. This is for love, and heartbreak, and for the article's photo of Hewett frowning up at the camera, ignorant. Also because it's one step close to getting Arthur laid.

They're all going down. Might as well do it in style.

 


 

Eames finally picks up his phone on a Thursday.

"I'm going to tie you up to a post and fuck you until you have slivers in your ass," Arthur says.

"Why hello too," Eames drawls.

"I mean it," Arthur says. "I'm going to pin you somewhere and slide right into you and listen to your choked gasps and moans while you writhe on my cock. And there'll be moments when you think you can't bear it, like it's too much. I'm too big and heavy inside of you. But you'll take it because you want to, and when you come, you'll black out, it'll be so good."

"Um," says Eames, and Arthur can already hear a sound like the click of a cuff link. It only turns him on even more, imagining Eames dressed in an elegant suit that Arthur can then proceed to rip off him.

"And then," Arthur says, viciously, "when you come to, you'll see that I'm still inside you, waiting, and you'll break off on a moan when I started to move again, and we'll go a second round that's even better than the first round. You'll be sore and wet inside, slippery from my come, and it'll just make it easier for me to push in and out of you, to bring that edge of burn until you shake with the effort of standing up."

"Arthur--" There's a beeping sound, like Eames is button mashing his cell phone.

"You can imagine it, can't you?" Arthur asks. "Wait, what am I talking about? You have a very good imagination, Mr. Eames. I'm sure you don't need too much prompting from me to imagine how it'll feel, tied down, helpless before me. I bet you don't let yourself be helpless in a lot of situations. But you'll do it for me, won't you? I won't even have to ask; you'll be ready and willing, just spreading yourself open, offering your wrists."

"Arthur, I'm in the middle of a company dinner," Eames chokes. "And I just accidentally hit speakerphone."

"Hi," says Yves.

Arthur can't hang up quickly enough.

 


 


From: arthur357@gmail.com
To: rideoneames@gmail.com
Subject: you've got to be kidding me

I'm going to tie you up to the post and punch you until you die.

- Arthur


From: rideoneames@gmail.com
To: arthur357@gmail.com
Subject: re: you've got to be kidding me

you're supposed to be the cautious one. didn't your mother ever teach you phone sex etiquette?


From: arthur357@gmail.com
To: rideoneames@gmail.com
Subject: re: you've got to be kidding me

I can't believe you're bringing my mother into your depravity.

- Arthur


From: rideoneames@gmail.com
To: arthur357@gmail.com
Subject: re: you've got to be kidding me

well, good news is you livened up a very boring party. who knew porn stars (aka yves) could be so lacklustre to hang around with?

he is v. v. pretty though.


From: arthur357@gmail.com
To: rideoneames@gmail.com
Subject: re: you've got to be kidding me

He can weep over your mangled body then, when I'm done with you.

- Arthur


From: rideoneames@gmail.com
To: arthur357@gmail.com
Subject: re: you've got to be kidding me

your anger is as stunning as a renoir.

jealous????

i put two fingers inside of myself the other day and moaned your name.


From: arthur357@gmail.com
To: rideoneames@gmail.com
Subject: re: you've got to be kidding me

sdfajkh;lagsdkj;l


From: arthur357@gmail.com
To: rideoneames@gmail.com
Subject: re: you've got to be kidding me

Shit, I didn't mean to send that. Ignore it.

- Arthur

From: rideoneames@gmail.com
To: arthur357@gmail.com
Subject: re: you've got to be kidding me

i'm stroking myself right now and pretending it's you.

info-gathering is going smoothly. took hewett into limbo the other day. watched the entire world come alive with his concentrated memory, all the sights and smells and sounds of it. it was gorgeous.

your throat


 


 

Arthur lies face down on his bed and thinks about Eames. It's easy. It's something he does most of his spare time anyway, and he thinks about Eames in a suit, Eames out of a suit, Eames' sun-burnished fingers reaching out for him, trailing along the dip of Arthur's back. Arthur's fresh out of a shower after a long day running after Sylvester. His hair is still wet and he's in his underwear, in his black silk boxers that hang low on his hips. Eames has never seen these boxers before. He suspects he'd like them.

Arthur thinks about Eames and wonders what he might be doing. There's an entire plethora of possibilities; Eames could be coming out of a shower right now. Eames could be having dinner with Hewett. Eames could be chatting with Yves. Eames could be working out, his muscles flexing as he lifts the weights above his head and then brings them back down, seemingly without effort.

Arthur realizes that he's pressing his hips against the mattress.

It feels ridiculously good.

His hair is sticking against his cheek, spiky, and a warm front is blowing through the ventilation. Arthur feels over-sensitized and a bit out of control. He pushes his hips back into the mattress, experimentally, and when he feels the rush that travels through his balls and up his spine, he decides there's no use in hiding it. Eames isn't here to see him.

He starts thrusting against the mattress more readily now, his hands splayed on the side for balance, his face pressed to the pillow. His mouth is open, and he can hear the uneven tenor of his own breath. It's been two weeks, and his wrists tremble as he slides his cock against his boxers, feeling the sleek pressure of it. He wishes it was more. He wishes it was Eames' hand, which would feel so hot and strong. But the mattress is all Arthur has right now, and he works himself against it with little unrepentant gasps, and it's only when he feels that he's on the edge of orgasm that he slows his hips. Comes to a complete stop.

Arthur pants against the pillow, sweat glistening his cheekbones, bringing himself down.

 


 

The next time, Arthur doesn't even have to casually bring up Hewett. Sylvester does it on his own. "The problem with Farmland Juice," he says over dinner, "is that they're afraid to take risks. They've had the exact same product lineup since the sixties, and they claim their strength is traditional goodness. While that works to a certain degree, you don't get new customers by being traditional."

"Mm-hmm," Arthur says, listening attentively.

"They're cowards," Sylvester says. His hand clenches around his wineglass. Arthur doesn't know what's brought about this latest remark; there hasn't been anything else in the news. It must be something someone said, maybe at a board meeting. "They deserve all the bankruptcy that they're heading towards."

"I hear the CEO is selling his house," Arthur replies idly, though he's heard no such thing. "It's probably too big for him and whoever he's living with anyway. Some boy toy, Amanda in accounting told me."

Sylvester's wine sloshes over the sides of the glass.

"Let me wipe that up for you," Arthur says while Sylvester stares at nothing, jaw clenched. He knows that he's being petty and delighting in it, but really. He can't stand love stories.

 


 

And then finally, finally, they do the extraction.

Arthur waits for a moment when Sylvester is vulnerable and Arthur can slip some drugs into his drink to put him unconscious. However, Sylvester is a paranoid bastard and the opportunity does not come up, so after a few aborted attempts Arthur ends up climbing a tree outside Sylvester's window and shooting him with a tranquilizer gun.

"Sorry," Arthur murmurs, and he actually does feel sorry when he sees Sylvester slump over, never knowing what hit him.

Eames is waiting right by the room. He goes in when Sylvester is down and sets up the PASIV, briskly and efficiently. He flew back in this morning, with Ariadne in tow as the architect. Arthur's barely exchanged more than a few words with him. It's better this way, because they're so close to the end that Arthur doesn't want to waste any more time. It's better for Eames too, to be completely focused, and he doesn't even look up at Arthur when he slides the PASIV needle into his own arm. He closes his eyes and relaxes, and it's clear that he just assumes Arthur will follow him.

Arthur does, exchanging a brief smile with Ariadne, and then they are asleep, sliding deep deep down into the dream.

They're on a college campus. It's heavy with the first hints of summer, and everything is sharp and green, almost unreal, but it's a memory and memories are almost never real. Ariadne's done a good job faithfully following the architecture of Hewett's description; that's what she and Eames have been doing for the last week out east while Arthur has stayed in Sylvester's employ. Ariadne doesn't strictly need to be in the dream but she wants some more experience, and Arthur is glad to give it to her. "Just stay out of trouble," he says. "Over there by the library seems like a good place. Don't arouse the projections' suspicions."

"I do know how it goes," she says. They both hide and watch as Sylvester appears. He's not young in this dream. He's exactly the Sylvester he was a few moments ago in the waking world. At first he looks surprised, and then he looks pained. Nothing about him gives the impression of suspicion. So far he seems to believe that this is a real dream. He twists around, staring at the ghosts of former classmates passing him by on the quad, some raising their hands and calling his name.

Then there's a voice, wry, affectionate: "Hey Al." Eames as young Hewett shows up, coming out of a building with two books tucked under his arm and a small smile.

Sylvester looks like he's been punched.

"Hewett really did look a lot like you when he was younger," Ariadne says. Then she laughs. "Does that mean you'll look like him when you're all old and wrinkled?"

Arthur frowns.

"All right, shutting up now," she says, and they both watch from their secluded corner as Eames strikes up a conversation with Hewett, easy and natural. The pinched expression stays on Sylvester's face for the first minute or so, but as Eames continues talking -- and when he rests a hand on Sylvester's shoulder casually -- Arthur can see the tension drain out. Because this is the thing: somewhere deep down, Sylvester may know that this is a dream. He may even know that it's been placed by someone else. But the tricky, easy manipulatable quality of being in love is that if you want it badly enough, it doesn't matter.

Sylvester leans into Eames' touch, and it's like he's finding his place in the world again.

Eames starts leading Sylvester back to the dorms. Arthur waits until they're safely in the distance before he follows. The dorm room is small, so he can't go inside with the two. This is a part of the scenario that Arthur doesn't like, because he can't be present when Eames actually gets Sylvester to make him the Melon Berry Blast and watches what goes inside. It's something he has to deal with.

Once Eames closes the door behind him, Arthur stakes out a spot beside it, watching the passing projections warily for any signs of violence. Sylvester is militarized, and it's Arthur's job to keep the dorm room safe and undisturbed while Eames goes about the extraction.

He doesn't know how long he waits. Time in a dream is hard to measure. He watches the sun through a window, but it doesn't tell him much of anything. Sweat prickles the back of his neck. He can hear Eames using Hewett's voice inside the room, and he can hear Sylvester's occasional response. There's probably some seduction involved, Arthur thinks, and he'd be lying if he claimed that jealousy is not one of his reactions to that. He doesn't want to know if Eames is using the same techniques he once used on Arthur to lure Sylvester in. It's the job. Arthur understands that. It's what he has to do and it doesn't mean anything. Arthur's kissed marks as well. It never means anything. But.

The sun is much lower in the sky when Eames finally steps out the door.

"Hey," Arthur says.

"He's sleeping. I wore him out," Eames says.

"Did you--"

Eames shakes his head. "Not in that way. But, you know, he really misses his best friend." Eames smiles with Hewett's mouth and then he taps his head. "Guess who knows the secret recipe for the Melon Berry Blast now."

"Oh thank god," Arthur says, and then Sylvester chooses that moment to wake up and the projections around them go crazy.

"Fuck," Arthur says. He slams the door shut on Sylvester with one hand, hoping that Sylvester didn't see his face and realize his presence in the memory. Not that it matters at this point, with the recipe divulged, but Arthur likes the man and he'd rather not have him as an enemy.

He uses his other hand to take out his revolver. He shoots the first projection before he can leap onto Arthur the way he's poised to do. Eames' gun is out as well, and he shoots two other feral projections. They tumble out of the dorm, onto the grass. Arthur can see Ariadne in the distance. He gestures to her wildly, hoping she'll get the message that they're done and they need to get out.

They take down eight projections total, and as Arthur watches the next wave of college students across the quad stop, turn angry, and start rushing towards them, he says, "We'll wake Sylvester up from the outside." Then he shoots Eames between the eyes before turning the gun on himself and pulling the trigger, once.

 


 

They're gone by the time Sylvester regains full consciousness. Their bags are already packed and waiting in the car, and Eames gets into the driver's seat while Arthur and Ariadne slide into the back. Then the engine is turned on with a slick twist of the keys and Eames is bringing them out of the garage and into the afternoon light, which spreads across Arthur's skin as he tries to pull the brakes on his grin, but fails. There are moments to be professional, there are moments to be somber -- Cobb reuniting with his children being one of them -- and then there are moments like this. He can see the half-fragmented reflection of his face in the rear view mirror. He can see the wicked curl of his own smile, and when Eames' eyes meet his in the mirror, Arthur licks his lips.

"You beast," Eames says appreciatively.

Ariadne looks between them and rolls her eyes. "Save it, guys," she says, and then leans forward to tap Eames on the shoulder. "You were pretending to be the driver? So drive."

Ariadne, Arthur observes, was already predisposed to be bossy when they first met her. Maturing into her role as an architect and Cobb's successor has not alleviated it. "What were you doing in that half hour while Eames and I were setting up the tranquilizer gun and our positions?" Arthur asks her as Eames turns the corner, on his way to the airport. "You disappeared. I had no idea where you went."

"Bathroom break," she says airily.

"You must think I'm stupid," Arthur says. "You're tiny but your bladder can't be that small."

She looks at Eames. "Should I tell?"

Arthur narrows his eyes. "Is this an affair I have to be worried about?"

Ariadne makes a sound that is a direct insult of Eames' manhood, and Arthur wants to be affronted at the implied insult to his own taste as well, but mostly fails. It's Ariadne, after all, and when Eames says, "oh, whatever, show him," she reaches into one of the bags she has at her feet and unzips it.

Juice boxes. Many, many juice boxes.

"Eames wanted me to raid their entire Melon Berry Blast Special collection," she says. "He got me the key and made sure none of the employees were in the room, so I did it. As a favour while the two of you were busy...ah, setting up the job, though I bet it involved a lot more panting and heaving than was really necessary."

Arthur stares at the bag. He'd wondered why so many extra pieces of luggage were getting loaded into the car, but knew from experience that questioning Ariadne on her inability to pack would lead to universes of pain. He asks anyway. "How many bags total?" he says in a faint voice.

"Fifteen?" Ariadne asks.

"Sixteen," Eames corrects. "Don't give me that look, Arthur. These are the special anniversary versions of the drink; not even the recipe we got for Hewett can tell you how these are made." When Arthur continues to keep his silence, Eames adds, "There was only a limited time frame of production for these. They're collector's items. They're a good investment."

"I am surrounded by losers," Arthur says.

"Hey!" says Ariadne.

"I haven't lost anything yet," Eames replies. "If you'll recall."

They drop Ariadne off at the airport. No longer burdened with sixteen bags of Melon Berry Blast, she easily carries her two floral print suitcases to the security gate as Arthur and Eames wave goodbye. They'll see her again soon enough. Arthur already got a call about another job in Belfast, one that involves a priest. Ariadne is going to have her hands full creating cathedral architecture for the next few months; Arthur can already imagine how spectacular it'll look.

They're supposed to meet Hewett's go-to man in one of the first class lounges, but when they arrive at the appointed rendezvous, it's Hewett himself who's sitting on the couch. He’s flipping calmly through the newspaper, though there's a shakiness to his movements every now and then, barely perceptible unless you know to look.

"Did you get the recipe?" Hewett asks.

"Do you have a pen?" Eames wants to know.

Hewett reaches into his breast pocket and hands over a fountain pen, sharp-toothed and beautiful. Eames reaches into his pockets and pulls out a crumpled sheet of Squeezee Juice letterhead. Hewett frowns at it, but Eames smooths it out over the arm of a couch and starts to write. His memory is perfect and he puts down the ingredients with dazzling confidence, though there aren't, Arthur notices, actually as many ingredients as he might have assumed. Arthur doesn't bother reading the list. He doesn't have any curiosity, not in this.

Eames finishes writing, and then he folds the paper in four and slips it into Hewett's pocket, along with the pen. He pats it. "There," he says. "Have the money wired to us by tomorrow."

"Two hours," Arthur corrects.

"No, I think tomorrow is fine," Eames says. He cocks his head. "Ready to go?"

"In a second," Arthur says. He looks at Hewett, at his shuttered expression, at the weight of regret that fills up the spaces where nothing but victory should be. Hewett succeeded. He got the elusive recipe that he can now recreate to put Squeezee Juice in a competitive corner, which will be meaningful on both a business and a personal level. He should be overjoyed. His company may even be saved. Yet instead Hewett looks like it’s his head that Arthur and Eames ran roughshod over, like it’s his dreams that were brought out in the open, cobweb thin and delicate. Arthur studies his lined, defensively sardonic face and wonders how anyone could ever think they looked alike.

"Now I'm ready," Arthur says. "Goodbye Mr. Hewett. I hope you enjoy your success."

Over by the gate, he puts his hand on Eames' arm, leans in close and asks, "Why did you give him until tomorrow to send the money? We don't do that, usually."

"It's simple," Eames says. "In two hours I plan to be fucking your brains out. Who's going to bother getting out of bed and checking the wire transfer then?"

 


 

It’s Eames who bought the plane tickets. Arthur doesn't even know where they're going. He's barely cognizant of the city they land in an hour and a half later. He feels restless and turned on and made of edges. He feels like he's burning up underneath his own skin. He barely even has time to say, "It's almost two hours now, you liar" before Eames is dragging him off to a hotel that's attached to the airport, getting them a room in such a rushed and desperate way that it's obvious to the entire world what they're planning to do the moment the door closes behind them.

The door closes behind them.

Arthur's heart is lurching forward like the second hand on a clock. He steps towards Eames without hesitation. Eames, however, is the one who hesitates. He puts his hands on Arthur's shoulders and steadies the distance between them. Arthur, when he looks up into his face, sees something that he almost doesn't recognize at first, that Eames rarely shows anyone. But then he realizes what it is, and his breath is a caught cog in his throat. Eames is nervous. This isn't a quick one night stand, a brutal fuck between colleagues before going their way. The stakes wouldn't be so high if that were the case.

"So it doesn't look like either of us won the bet," Eames says, trying for a casual tone. "I didn't beg on the job and you didn't come. It's a stalemate."

Arthur steps into the space between their bodies. "I'd rather be an optimist," he says. He takes another step. "I'd rather call it a mutual victory."

"A good way of thinking about it," Eames agrees, and then Arthur is kissing him. No, that's too nice of a word to describe it. Arthur is throwing himself at Eames, pushing him against the wall so that Eames' head bangs backwards, and Arthur is trying to conquer his mouth while he brings one leg up and slides it around Eames' hip, pulling them groin to groin, chest to chest.

Arthur is kissing and rubbing, and Eames' tongue licks his bottom lip so Arthur opens his mouth wider and lets Eames in. Eames' deft forger's hands come to rest on Arthur's waist, holding him up, and it's a good thing too, because Arthur's thighs are starting to tremble. It's been so long. Arthur's been so good, so patient.

"Tell me you're wearing the dildo," Eames rasps against Arthur's ear, laughing as their inhibitions -- never too many to begin with -- fall away and Arthur is biting at his mouth. "Tell me--" Eames says between kisses, "tell me. Or maybe it's a plug. A nice thick plug -- flared at the end -- hmm?"

"No," Arthur says, because there are some things he won't do, and compromising himself during a heist is one of them. He licks his way up Eames' throat as Eames runs fingers through his hair, ruining the gel and teasing out the strands. "But I thought about it. While I was waiting for you and Ariadne to show up. I thought about fucking myself in the shower. With my fingers, with the dildo, with anything. I thought about getting myself loose and prepared for you."

Eames' eyes are shipwrecks in open daylight. Arthur groans as Eames kisses his collarbone, loving the rough scratch of his stubble as it works over Arthur's skin. "Did you?" Eames asks, his voice low and baritone.

"I didn't come," Arthur says, jerking his hips against Eames. "I hate losing. But it was – difficult."

"My stubborn Arthur," Eames grins. "My beautiful, wild Arthur."

"Eames," Arthur echoes. "My trigger-happy, mismatched, department store fiend Eames." And then he figures no more talking is the best idea, so he unravels himself from Eames, enjoying Eames' unhappy murmur, which is quickly erased when Arthur gets on his knees and undoes Eames' button fly. Eames' skin is smooth and hot when Arthur works his pants and boxers down roughly. Arthur presses kisses long and wet up his thighs; somewhere on the wall a painting falls from its hook because of Eames' sudden attempt to clutch at something solid.

That Eames can still stand at all is a mistake that needs to be rectified. Arthur leans in and touches the tip of his tongue against Eames' balls, and the sound Eames makes then is embarrassingly high-pitched and undeniably devastated. Arthur's breath comes out funny when he hears it, and Eames says, "Jesus fuck" when Arthur gets his bearings and puts his mouth around Eames' cock.

Arthur loves giving head. The taste of it, the musk, the textures of balls and cock, and the brief feel of wetness against his tongue as Eames starts to pearl -- he could do this for hours under different circumstances. But today he knows he'll be lucky if he lasts ten minutes, Eames even less. Eames rocks against his mouth, breathing curses all the while, and when Arthur looks up he sees that he’s biting down on his fist.

"Eames," Arthur says, awed, and Eames is moving, quicksilver, grabbing Arthur to pull him onto his feet and practically throwing him towards the bed.

Eames is frantic to get Arthur naked. Arthur watches as his clothes get ripped, as buttons fall loose, and he doesn't care. He's all too eager to help Eames, even if it ends up with more writhing and kissing and panting than efficient stripping. Eventually it works out, and Arthur is naked and arching against Eames' hand, rubbing against him shamelessly. Eames' hand is the perfect fit; the curve of his fingers is the intimate groove Arthur's been looking for this entire time. "I don't think I can last," Arthur says, thrusting up, lowering himself down, and then thrusting up again. "I want you to fuck me right now."

"Lube," Eames says wildly. "Condoms."

"What the fuck do you think I was doing in the washroom on the plane?" Arthur bites out. "And I'm clean. There's no one else. Are you--"

"Oh god, Arthur, as if you even need to ask," Eames says, and Arthur spreads his legs and waits to be filled up. But when Eames turns him over onto his stomach and lifts his hips, it's not his cock that touches Arthur's ready hole. It's his tongue, and Arthur gasps into the pillow as Eames circles it around and around before pushing half an inch in.

It's so easy. There's no resistance, and Arthur finds himself making pleading noises while Eames works in and out of him with tongue, leaving Arthur wetter and messier inside than he already was. He's dripping now; he wasn't cautious about applying the lube on the plane, and Eames opening him up makes Arthur's preparations slide out. He's so exposed. There's nothing holding him together but the flat expanse of Eames' tongue, the kiss of his mouth against Arthur's ass.

"You haven't come this entire time, have you?" Eames says when he pulls his mouth away. "That was unfair of our bet. You had it worse than me." He licks his way back in, and Arthur sobs. "You can come now," Eames whispers when he draws back again, and on the next thrust of his tongue Arthur obeys his command, spilling against the sheets as his body shakes and shakes. He feels squeezed out of his own skin, a shuddery mess of pent-up longing.

Eames runs his fingers through Arthur's sweaty, disheveled hair. He turns Arthur back around and kisses the moan off Arthur's lips. "I'm going to fuck you now," he says, and Arthur can only nod, widen the space between his knees, and lift up as Eames pushes inside of him, hard and rough and deep.

Arthur feels it down to his toes. He digs his heels into the mattress and arches up against the slide of Eames' cock, breaching him wide, so wide. Then he's falling back down onto the mattress, choking back another sound as Eames holds him tightly and begins to establish a rhythm, the muscles in his arms flexing with the effort of fucking Arthur. Arthur turns his head and licks Eames' forearm, tracing a bead of sweat as it travels down, and all the while Eames pushes into him, pulls out, pushes in again, so steady and so goddamn slow.

It's languorous at first, firm, the patience of Eames' thrusts telling a different story from the wide-open look on his face. Arthur can feel himself getting hard again, and he tries to kiss Eames' gorgeous face, telling him, "Go faster."

But Eames pulls out.

"What?" Arthur asks, confused. "I don't--"

Eames kisses him. "I'm going to make you work for it. You're so fucking delectable when you've got a mission in mind. I'm going to make you beg to come." Then his face is back between Arthur's thighs and his tongue delving in, making Arthur choke on his own words. And when Arthur feels his body start to work the long and rough road to a second orgasm, Eames stops.

He turns Arthur around and starts leaving kisses all over his ass, his thighs, his hips, waiting for Arthur to come down.

"Fuck," Arthur says, and his voice is ruined, taken apart and put back together haphazardly. "Fuck, how can you stand it?"

"You're not the only one who thought about it. Or googled certain terms on the internet," Eames says, and when he decides Arthur is ready again, he angles his cock against Arthur's hole and pushes in. He fucks Arthur for a minute, maybe two; the moment feels like it stretches on forever, like everything is slowed down and meaningful and calculated precisely to make Arthur lose it. Again, when Arthur feels his toes curl and his breath start to get jagged, Eames stops fucking and just holds himself still, waiting for the sensation to pass; his control is making Arthur both incredibly aroused and incredibly pissed off.

But he'll give this to Eames, because Eames has been waiting just as long, arguably even longer, and Arthur wants to show him that it's worth it, the wait. It'll always be worth it.

Then Eames starts moving again, and Arthur buries his face into the pillow, barely able to form a breath. Okay, so Arthur's motives aren't entirely altruistic either.

Arthur has seen Eames pull cons like this before, patient and rhythmical and all too willing to put every effort into luring the mark in, making the mark melt at his words, making the mark lose their mind before Eames steps in to pull the entire thing through. He's seen it so many times; now he's experiencing it firsthand, his body becoming the tightly wound geography of Eames' considerable skill, of his stuttered forward-and-retreat, his thighs straining with tension underneath Eames' calloused hands.

And then it's too much. Arthur's making sounds that he doesn't recognize, and he doesn't know how much time has passed, but he knows that he needs to come now, that he's put up with the patience and now he's greedy, selfish, all those qualities he tries to keep under the surface and which Eames brings out in him, gloriously unrepentant. "Let me come," he rasps as Eames delivers one long thrust that pushes Arthur up against the headboard. He tilts his head back and groans as his spine melts, but Eames stops after that one thrust and watches him. "Please, I need to -- I need to come."

He screws himself down on Eames. He clenches his ass around Eames' cock.

"Please," Arthur pants, and when his voice breaks, Eames does too. Eames braces his hands on the headboard and surges Arthur against it with one hard push, then another push, and another; soon enough he's fucking Arthur without any patience, without any finesse. Arthur comes as he's being banged against the headboard, pushed up almost to his knees; his orgasm stutters his vision and makes him yell. He's not even done coming when Eames grabs his wrists, pins them above his head, and fucks him so hard that Arthur's body crumples against him, only held up by Eames' hands and Eames' cock.

"Arthur," Eames says nonsensically, pulling him down to stretch back on the bed, and screws into him again. Arthur arches his back and takes it. He lets Eames drive him into the mattress like it's the only thing he wants in the world. "Arthur, Arthur, fuck, fuck, Arthur." Then Eames is coming with a hoarse groan. The first orgasm Arthur's ever given him is spilling hot and fierce and feral into Arthur, with Eames' hips working him through the whole time, and Arthur holding him close.

 


 

In the morning Arthur wakes up; Eames is there beside him, sleeping. Eames had called it on the dot: they never got around to checking the wire transfer after all, and Arthur can't bring himself to feel overly worried about it. The rest of the world is the rest of the world. Right now Arthur gets to look down at Eames, brow softened, mouth lush and red, and Arthur gets to feel that particular jump in his throat that means either that he's too far gone or that he needs to see a doctor.

Another truth: Arthur really, really does love giving head, so he smirks as he crawls down Eames' body and shoves the blanket aside, taking Eames' half-hard dick into his mouth.

Eames wakes up with a groan, a curse, and a long blink as he stares down the length of his chest and figures out what's going on. "Jesus Christ," he says, rocking his hips gently. "You're insatiable."

Arthur would reply to that, but he’d rather not take his mouth off Eames' cock, and he brings Eames to the edge of orgasm as turnabout before slicking up two fingers with lube and carefully sliding them inside Eames' ass.

"Mmmm," Eames says, his voice still thick with sleep, which makes him sound lower and huskier, every word a rumble. He sighs pleasantly when Arthur follows his fingers with his cock. "Yeah, all right, I could get used to this," he confesses, and Arthur grins down at him as he fucks him slowly in the morning light.

Eames comes with a sharp breath and a shudder. Arthur bites his neck after, when it’s his turn to come.

Later, they order room service and eat breakfast in bed. Arthur finally gets around to checking the wire transfer, and there it is: a million for him and a million for Eames. He has no idea how Hewett can afford it when records indicate that Farmland Juice is in their lowest economic slump in decades, but that some desires go beyond rationality, he supposes. He closes the laptop and pads back to bed, where Eames is licking jam off his fingers and getting some, sticky, on the already ruined hotel sheets.

"This orange juice is pretty good, but you know what I could really use right now to wash the toast and eggs down?" Eames asks.

"Say it and I'll punch your dick."

"You'd be screwing yourself there," Eames says. "Literally. You'd have to have sex with your poor lonely self without my dick to service you, and I can't imagine you'd be very happy that way. Now that you know what it could be like with me."

"Your ego," Arthur says. "I can't even."

"Says the man who owns a World's Best Dad mug," Eames retorts. "Only you could brag about an accomplishment you haven't actually yet accomplished."

"It belongs to Cobb," Arthur says weakly.

"I can't imagine Cobb calling himself the World's Best Dad," Eames says. "Surely the universe would object."

"Let's not talk about Cobb," Arthur says.

"Come back with me to Mombasa," Eames says smoothly.

"What?"

"Unless you have a prior engagement?" Eames asks.

"Not immediately," Arthur says.

"I have a new flat. It's near Yusuf's. I think you'd like it." Eames slants Arthur a smile. "It's in an abandoned building with no neighbours. We could blow shit up in the courtyard every Tuesday if you'd like."

"Why Tuesday?" Arthur asks.

"And we could fuck on the porch and no one would notice," Eames says, ignoring his question. "How about it? My satellite gets all the porn channels and the food and home decorating channels. We could watch all the Jamie Oliver your heart desires."

"Well, when you put it that way," Arthur says, "how can I resist?" He pauses. "Just one request."

"Name it."

"When we go to Mombasa, can we not fly your juice boxes first class? I can’t believe you bought a seat just for them yesterday; it's fucking embarrassing, it is."

"Arthur, you ask so much of me," Eames says sadly. "But fine. I can live with that."

 


 

Alfred Sylvester sits alone in an office. His head hurts. There are blotchy spaces in his vision and all he wants is to lie down, but he's already missed a good portion of the day's work, his memory fuzzy for whole chunks of hours. He suspects he knows why this is. It's tied up with the mystery of his missing secretary and the dream he had of college and Lee. He tries to summon the proper anger. He tries to call forth the righteous indignation that would have him put out a message to his contacts and send people after Ronald Lee Hewett, Arthur, and that suspiciously amorous driver cousin of his. The Melon Berry Blast has made him a rich man. He can afford a whole fleet of assassins and nasty pursuers.

But there's a note in his desk in Arthur's distinctive writing, folded over three times and slipped beside the photo Alfred keeps of Lee, his memento of better days.

It's not too late.

Sylvester can't tell if it's meant as joke, a mockery, a helpful hint, or none of the above. He stared at it for a long time earlier. Then he tried to ignore it, but that proved unsuccessful when throughout the day his eyes kept sliding towards the slip of paper, trying to read it first by sight and then by memory alone.

He takes a deep breath. He didn't become the juggernaut of juice by being a coward, he reminds himself. So before he can change his mind, he takes out his phone and dials.

He waits.

Someone picks up.

"Hello," says Hewett.