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The Cat and The Fiddle

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It starts, as these things so often do, with one of Yusuf’s experiments.

“What the actual fucking fuck.”

It’s Arthur’s voice Eames hears as he drifts back to wakefulness, and he opens his eyes to Arthur pacing the floor just in front of the semi-circle of old lawn chairs. Pacing the floor, and rubbing at the cat ears that most definitely had not been on his head when they went under.

Eames closes his eyes. Opens them again.

“No, seriously. This is fucked, Yusuf. These are fucking.... fucking ears.”

Arthur’s still pacing, and his new ears are still there, pretty silver-black tabby markings and all. He’s squeezing his die in his hand hard enough to turn his knuckles white, so Eames doesn’t bother checking his totem. If there’s anybody whose grip on reality he trusts more than his own, it’s Arthur’s.

He coughs when Arthur wheels around and stalks away again. “You’ve got quite the lovely tail, too, Arthur. Charming.”

“What the... oh my god.”

Eames watches as Arthur grabs his new tail, running his hands along the tabby fur, and he wonders if Arthur’s pupils have always dilated quite so much when he was surprised. He’s pretty sure they haven’t. He’s also pretty sure they were never so far on the amber side of brown, but all things considered the colour of his eyes is probably moot right now.

Yusuf’s mouth is hanging open, which isn’t a particularly promising reaction. “I... wow. Just... well. Okay.”

He watches Arthur handling his tail, stroking and twisting, and the words slip out before he can help himself. “Can I touch it?”

“Fuck you, Mr Eames,” he hisses.

Eames just grins. Arthur angry had always equalled Arthur at his most mind-meltingly attractive, and he’s never, ever been this angry before.

“It’s okay,” Yusuf is saying. “We can fix this. Whatever this is.”

Eames’s eye is drawn to the agitated flick of Arthur’s cat ears, the furious swish of his tail, and he hopes it can’t be fixed too quickly.

*

Arthur literally hisses when Eames tries to hover too close while Yusuf tests the extent of the changes, showing off sharp incisors, so he chain smokes in the alley for half an hour before heading back in.

Arthur’s sitting as his desk, pupils slit narrow as he glares at the scattered maps and dossiers for their current job. There’s haphazard blue and orange highlighter across the sheets, and Arthur has a green one poised over the closest folder.

“How did it go?” Eames asks, walking over to lean against the corner of the desk.

A slight hiss escapes. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Did Yusuf at least work out how to fix it?”

“No.” The syllable is clipped, cat-ears laying back flat against his hair. The fur is glossy under the overhead lights and it’s all Eames can do not to just reach out and stroke them, see if they’re as soft as they look.

“They look good on you,” he says instead, tilting his head to indicate the ears.

Arthur’s fingers tighten around the highlighter, delicate claws extending from beneath his nails at the flexion. “Shut. Up.”

Eames has never been more turned on in his life, and he doesn’t want to examine the fact that Arthur acquiring cat traits was enough to destroy the indifference he’d cocooned himself in over the years. There’s something just a little bit fucked up about that.

He watches him in silence for a few minutes, fascinated by the way his cat-ears slowly relax, sitting forward naturally instead of pulled back tense and tight. Arthur can’t control the ears and tail the same way he can his face, not yet at least. It’s like having a sudden secret window into how Arthur is really feeling. “What are you going to do?” He asks finally.

Arthur doesn’t look up. “Stay here for the moment. Work on the job as planned. Get the fuck on with it.”

He’s tempted to ask ‘what if it’s permanent?’. Instead he says, “I can bring you your things from the hotel, if you like.”

Those soft ears shift, and Eames wishes he was as well-versed in the body language of cats as is in the body language of humans. Arthur looks up. “You would?”

Eames nods, and Arthur considers him carefully. They’re the colour of strong coffee, his eyes, Eames decides. Not so amber as a cat’s, they’re still far too brown for that. The pupils pulse rapidly, but Eames holds his gaze.

“Alright.” Arthur leans over to rummage in his satchel, propped against the desk on the floor. His shirt rides up in the back as he bends, exposing a strip of pale skin and the point where his tail joins his spine. It curls gracefully in the air over his shoulder and god, it’s a sucker punch to the groin seeing him all lithe and stretched out like that, tail swaying provocatively.

He straightens up with a hotel keycard in his hand and grabs a loose piece of paper. “I’m fine for tonight. But if you bring these things with you in the morning, that’d be great.” Arthur writes a list of items, before folding the paper in half and handing it over with the keycard. “Thanks.”

“Not a problem.” Eames slips the paper and key into his pocket with his cigarettes. “Night, Arthur.”

Arthur’s barely paying attention anymore. “Good night.”

*

It takes far too long to get back to the hotel they’re all staying at. Eames is stripping off his shirt before the door even clicks shut behind him, pants not far behind. In less than three steps he’s on the bed, wrapping his hand around his cock and squeezing hard. He’s doomed and he knows it; the simple image of that little bit of back and that swaying tail was enough to have him half-hard the entire taxi ride back. He drags his hand up, releases, starts again from the bottom. It’s a slow rhythm, but it already has him arching into his hand and biting his bottom lip to keep from coming all over himself in less than fifteen seconds like some sixteen year-old. He can’t help it... he closes his eyes and sees Arthur bent over again, naked this time, all lean muscle and perfect skin. Arthur has a scar just below his right shoulder blade, Eames knows because it was his own shoddy field stitching that caused it, and he’d kiss it as he fucks slowly into him, one hand braced on his hip and the other just above his tail.

Eames jerks himself off faster, breathing staccato as he imagines how that glossy fur would feel against his chest and shoulder when Arthur thrashes his tail about as he comes, body clenching tight around his cock.

The thought of Arthur’s orgasm is enough, and warmth splatters his hand as he comes with a low cry, hips jerking up, searching for the full-body friction that only exists in his mind.

He lies still for a few minutes, breathing slowly returning to normal. His heart doesn’t stop pounding, though; it’s not like he hasn’t jerked off to thoughts of Arthur before, but... god. Something about those soft ears and that sinuous tail and the claws, the underlying growl to his voice, all of it. It’s driving him insane, and it’s only been a couple of hours.

Eames gets up slowly, still a little shaky in the legs, and showers before putting on his boxer shorts and settling with his laptop in bed.

He spends the rest of the night researching feline body language.

*
“Morning,” Eames calls as he bumps the door closed with his hip.

“Good morning,” Yusuf says, attention still mostly focused on the whiteboard filled with equations and scrawled molecular diagrams.

Eames puts the milk crate full of Arthur’s things down on the side table and stands next to Yusuf, considering the board. Even if he had the same understanding of chemistry and physics, Yusuf’s handwriting is literally illegible. “How is he today?”

“The same.” Yusuf taps the end of the marker against his chin. “I don’t know. I really don’t even know. The changes are psychosocial as well as physical. Psychosocial would make sense, I could explain that. But the physical changes...” He turns to look at Eames. “I don’t know what to do.”

Eames wishes he wasn’t as excited by the prospect of cat Arthur remaining as he is. So he forces himself to ask, “Do you know anybody who could help?”

“I’ve made a few phone calls, yes.”

“Are those my things? I smell my things. God fucking dammit, I could never smell myself like this, not even after that month in Thailand.”

Eames turns as Arthur stalks into the room, tail twitching at the tip in a way that he now knew could mean interest or irritation, but probably meant a bit of both. “In the milk crate there. Morning.”

He gets a brief growl in response. The sound settles low in his stomach and he’s so bloody glad he wore loose pants today, especially when the tip of that silky tail brushes his wrist as Arthur walks past him to the table.

The fur really is as soft as it looks.

Arthur’s ears prick forward, and he sniffs. “There’s something else here,” he says, tail thrashing.

Yusuf shrugs, but Eames steps closer to the table and picks up the Styrofoam takeaway container on top of the blankets and toiletries in the crate. “I thought you might like some real food instead of the instant crap we keep in the cupboard here.” He holds out the container to Arthur.

He takes it, eyebrow raised, but the delicate twitch of his nose is curious rather than annoyed, and so fucking adorable Eames can barely stand it. Arthur opens the container, looks at the contents, and looks back up at Eames with narrow eyes. “I am not actually a fucking cat.”

“It’s just grilled trout,” replies mildly, as Arthur sniffs at the fish. “I made too much last night.” And sure, he made too much on purpose, but Arthur doesn’t need to know that.

The suspicious cast to his coffee-cat eyes suggest he probably has a decent idea, anyway. “Oh really.” He closes the container and sets it back on top of his things, picking up the crate. “Thanks.”Arthur heads back out to the side room where he must have chosen to bunker down, silver-black tail still flicking at the tip.

It’s hypnotising, and when Eames shakes his head and returns his attention to the whiteboard Yusuf is looking at him with a ‘really? really?’ look on his face. He doesn’t care. Yusuf knows full well how he feels about Arthur, how he’s always felt about Arthur. “Don’t even say anything.”

Yusuf holds up his hands defensively. “Nothing. I said nothing.”

*

The day proceeds pretty much like normal, or as normal as it can be when Arthur is punctuating his speech with his ears and tail and the occasional cat-like vocalisation. He doesn’t always catch himself doing it but when he does, he swears, and it’s terribly endearing.

Eames knocks on the doorframe into the side room as he gets ready to leave for the day, poking his head in. It’s not a big room, but it’s enough for the fat old couch that had been in the middle of the warehouse when they moved in and the little T.V Yusuf had brought so he could watch the cricket while he worked, now sitting on the empty milk crate in front of the couch.

“Yes?” There’s a distinct purr in the word, and it reminds Eames that he’s been fighting the urge to go jerk off in the bathroom all day.

Arthur’s curled up in the corner behind the couch, piles of blankets and pillows arranged into what can only be called a nest. He’s got a red marker tucked behind his ear and papers propped on his knees, hair soft and mussed and tangled around his cat-ears. They tilt forward, interested, unafraid.

For the first time, Eames is forced to reassess his evaluation of angry Arthur as the most mind-meltingly attractive Arthur ever. “I’m off. Call me if you need anything, okay? I’m not far away.”

Arthur’s tail curls slowly back and forth, head slightly tilted. Without the physical tells Eames would have thought he was being dismissive from his expression. “Okay. See you tomorrow.”

He looks back down at his work, and Eames lets himself just stare for a few seconds, taking in the ears and the rolled up sleeves and bare feet. Bare feet, he’s never even seen Arthur’s toes before. As he watches the cat tail drifts, curling loosely around Arthur’s left ankle.

Eames stops at the fish market on the way back to the hotel.
*
Three days later when Eames turns up to the warehouse with yet another offering of seafood (he’d had a great chat in the hotel kitchen with the head chef about the best way prepare pollock), Arthur hisses the moment he walks in the door.

“I can smell that!” He calls from his desk. “Fuck off Eames, I’m not your pet. I’m sick of fish now anyway.”

“Good, because this is my lunch,” Eames hollers back. A lie, but that’s okay. Having watched Arthur’s behaviour carefully over the last few days, he’s reasonably sure he can predict the outcome of this battle of wills.

Sure enough, come lunch time when he heats up the crumbed fish balls in the microwave, Arthur is stalking around the break room, tail rippling and nose twitching. He watches as Eames sits down at the little round camping table, pupils blown wide like saucers.

Eames holds out the bowl. “You can have some, you know.”

Arthur’s ears are flat back against his head again, betraying his internal conflict. “This is such bullshit,” he mutters as sits down and grabs one of the balls. “If you bring anything fish related tomorrow, I am going to break your fucking neck.”

Arthur eats most of the fish, and Eames doesn’t mind. He watches Arthur lick his fingers clean when he’s done, pink tongue working in rough little strokes. He could tease him, draw attention to what he’s doing, but he’s enjoying watching far, far too much.

“Seriously,” Arthur says as he stands up, murder in his eyes. “No fish tomorrow.”

*

“You have to stop this,” Yusuf tells him the next day, as Arthur gets worse and worse at hiding his agitation that nobody brought him fish. “It’s really hard to tell if his condition is changing or not, when you keep playing games with him.”

“He told me to stop it. I did stop it,” Eames says, shifting an ink pot away from his hand so he has more room to manoeuvre while putting together some spare identities for emergencies. “But now he’s...” he waves a hand helplessly in Arthur’s direction, where he keeps stopping and sniffing and glaring in Eames’s direction.

“Obviously four days is long enough for the cat part of him to come to expect the treat, even if the human part finds it offensive,” Yusuf says. “Interesting. The cognitive dissonance must be really unsettling.”

They talk while they work for the rest of the morning, Arthur occasionally wandering over, sometimes to ask questions or join in on the conversation and sometimes just to slink past with accusing eyes, poking at papers on the desk when he doesn’t think Eames is looking. Every time he’s tempted to tell him no, he hasn’t hidden any fish under there since he last walked past, but he bites his tongue.

*

When he walks back into the warehouse just after lunchtime, he sees Arthur’s head immediately jerk up, ears at attention, nose scrunching. His eyes focus on the paper-wrapped package under Eames’s arm. “I told you not to bring fish, asshole.”

Eames rolls his eyes, heading the kitchenette. Arthur follows, catching up quickly. “It smells good though.”

“It’s salmon. I’ll cook it for lunch tomorrow.” He leans over to shuffle cans of red bull and coke and a few bottles of beer to make space for the fish.

“It does smell good.”

Arthur’s warmth is suddenly very close, and Eames straightens up just in time to feel a hot tongue swipe across the back of his neck, the soft touch of Arthur’s breath as he exhales against the nape.

Eames turns around, breathing hard. “Fuck, Arthur,” he says, looking at the tilted head and quizzical ears. He’s good with controlling his body, his reactions, but he’s not a fucking machine, and Arthur’s tongue on his skin... fuck.

“You smell good too. Same as the fish does,” Arthur says by way of explanation, a content smile on his face. But even as the words slip out, realisation dawns and his expression becomes blank.

“Wait,” Eames says, reaching out to grab his wrist.

Arthur is already gone.

Eames finds him fifteen minutes later, perched precariously on the railing of the fire escape and smoking like the nicotine is going to save his life. “Fuck off,” he mutters, but there’s no heart in it.

Eames leans on the railing beside him. Arthur’s tail is swishing angrily, hitting him in the shoulder every few flicks. “It’s okay. It’s not your—“

“Don’t treat me like that,” Arthur snaps, exhaling hard enough for Eames to hear it. The drifting smoke makes him want a fag too, but he left his on his table. “I’m not five. I know it’s not my fault, but it’s still shit, and I’m allowed to be pissed off about it.”

Eames watches his profile as he lifts the cigarette to his lips and takes another drag, ears laid back apprehensively against his head. “And you know what? Right now, I don’t want a pep talk. I just really fucking want you to pet me.”

It takes him a second to register that Arthur had, in fact, just said those words. “Pardon?”

“You heard me. Just rub behind my ears or something,” Arthur says through clenched teeth. “I think it’ll make me feel better.”

He wants to. Oh God, he wants to. But... “You don’t sound like you want me to,” he says carefully, hating himself for every syllable.

There’s silence for a few seconds, until Arthur crushes the cigarette out on the railing and hops down. “Fine.”

He only gets one step away this time before Eames gets a hand around his wrist. “No, wait.”

Arthur stops, angling his body back towards Eames. They’re practically the same height, but the cat ears make Arthur look slightly bigger, even when they’re splayed parallel to the floor like that.

They just look at each other for a minute, blue eyes on brown. Then Eames lifts his free hand and rests it gently against the back of Arthur’s head. His hair is soft, and Eames rubs gently.

Arthur goes still, ears relaxing.

His heart is in his throat but Eames works his hand higher, massaging the back of Arthur’s head until his fingers brush the tabby ears. They’re so fucking soft, silky fur and pliant skin, and it’s too easy to get lost stroking them and rubbing just behind them until Arthur’s eyes flicker shut and his mouth falls open a little. He’s leaning closer, butting his head against the touch.

Arthur’s purring, and Eames is sure he could do this forever.

He’s not sure how long they stand together like that, but it’s Arthur who extricates himself first, with a non-too-subtle cough. “Thanks,” he says as he steps back. “The... cat... needed that, I guess.”

Just the cat? Eames isn’t convinced; Arthur hasn’t looked so relaxed or natural in months. “Well. Anytime you need petting, you know where to find me.”

“If you don’t bring that salmon tomorrow, you will be found in a ditch in the woods. I can make it look like bears did it.”

He really can.

*

A few hours later Eames has one forearm braced against the stark white shower tile as he fucks his other hand, memories of Arthur’s blissed-out petting face running through his mind on repeat like the water running the same paths down his back over and over until he’s coming, shaking, biting down on his own wrist.

Fifteen minutes after that he turns the radio on and starts opening and closing cupboards in the kitchenette, humming to himself as he finds the utensils he needs to make the salmon croquettes.

*

They finish a couple of practice runs through the maze on Friday afternoon. Arthur had been flawless, as he so often was on the job, but he was sprawled out on the warehouse floor in a spot of dusky red sunlight now. Every few minutes his foot or hand twitches and Eames watches from the corner of his eye as he helps Yusuf cold pack fluid and tissue samples.

“I’ll try to be back by Monday, but I’ll stay longer if it looks like we’re getting somewhere,” Yusuf says, holding out his hand for another layer of insulated packing foam.

“Job’s Thursday,” Eames says, mainly because Arthur is too busy napping to point it out himself.

“I know.”

“What if he starts getting worse?”

Yusuf settles the lid on the sample box. “I don’t think he will. I think perhaps he’s not fighting the feline urges as much as he was earlier in the week, but his condition seems stable. Call me though, if anything drastic changes.”

“What would you consider drastic?” Eames is watching Arthur stretch and yawn as he says it.

“If he brings you a dead mouse in his mouth, I’d consider that pretty drastic.”

The image that flashes through his mind, Arthur laying a mangled mouse at his feet, must have dragged more of a grimace to his face than he thought it had, because Yusuf laughs.

 

“I don’t think he will, but if he does...” Yusuf lifts the cold box by the strap. “You know where to find me.”

Eames sees him off. The contact that had called him back about Arthur’s condition had a lab five hours away but couldn’t leave his own work unsupervised to come see Arthur in person, so Yusuf was driving down to spend the weekend going over the samples.

When he walked back inside Arthur was still napping soundly in the rectangle of light from the window. That alone was proof that he was letting the cat have freer rein; Eames had caught him yawning and sprawling on the couch to work during the week, but never flat-out sleeping. Maybe the Somnacin was just taking longer to work through his altered system. Who knew.

He locks up quickly and leaves him sleeping.

*

Eames showers and changes at the hotel, packing a small bag. They’ve laid low together in close quarters often enough over the years that it’s easy to pick some movies and Arthur’s favourite takeaway on the way back to the warehouse.

Arthur’s not on the main floor anymore, so Eames puts his bag down on one of the tables and looks into the side room. Arthur’s not there either, but he sits down on the couch with the food anyway and starts flicking channels on the T.V.

“Dammit, Eames.”

He looks up when he hears the familiar voice in the doorway. Arthur’s standing there, gun held low and at the ready. Damp hair is curling across his forehead and he’s wearing a washed out Lost Boys tshirt and some shorts, tail swishing furiously, ears laid back. It doesn’t surprise him that Arthur could have shot him before he even realised Arthur was there, but he’s too busy adamantly not licking his lips to care that he probably would have lost his head to a jumpier gunman. “Evening to you too, Arthur,” he says, as Arthur slides the safety back on and lets the gun hang loose in his hand. “How was your nap?”

“Shut the fuck up. What are you doing here?” He sniffs, stepping further into the room. “Is that sambal beef?”

“No peppers, thin rice noodles. And I’m staying the weekend.”

“Are you now.” Arthur steps across Eames’s legs, tail brushing feather-light across his shins as he sits down on the couch and reaches for the white carton.

It’s less protest than Eames was expecting. “I am,” he says, passing Arthur a pair of chopsticks.

The couch is an overstuffed two-seater, small enough that there’s only a hand span of space between their thighs. Less, by the time they both settle into a comfortable sprawl, noodle boxes on their laps. Eames pretends not to notice they way Arthur’s tail is drifting back and forth, brushing his elbow on every pass.

“You brought movies, too,” Arthur says, picking the greens out of his carton and putting them on a napkin. Eames makes a mental note, because Arthur has always eaten them before. It’s not exactly drastic, but it’s different enough to make him pay attention. “Did you break the PASIV while I was slee— busy, or something? You’re trying to soften me up.”

The observation is accurate, even if Arthur’s idea of his motives isn’t. “No such thing. I just know I wouldn’t want to be stuck here for two days by myself.”

“You didn’t have to.”

“No.” Eames wonders if Arthur can hear the but I wanted to that he leaves unsaid.

“You’ve got Fido there. And Dark City.”

Eames makes a vague noise of affirmation around a mouthful of nasi goreng.

The tip of Arthur’s tail flicks rapidly. “You’ve definitely broken something.”

He resists the urge to say only my brain, by thinking too hard about exactly what I want to do to you. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no. The question you should be asking yourself is, what do you want to watch first?”

It only takes a few minutes of deliberation, ears pointed intently forward, for Arthur to choose Drag Me To Hell and set up the DVD player Eames had liberated from his hotel room, turning off the light before sitting back down.

Eames stretches his arm across the back of the couch after the empty noodle cartons are laid aside. He can feel the warmth emanating from Arthur’s skin, the barely-there brush of his hair, and he’d feel juvenile and high-school if it weren’t for the fact it really was just a comfortable place to rest his arm. And if it put his fingers within flexing distance of Arthur’s tabby ears, well, that was just a bonus.

Arthur is involved in the movie which is just as well, because Eames spends more time watching him out of the corner of his eye than he does with his attention on the screen. The pulsing light from the T.V draws changing shadows across his face, but it’s the ears that are most interesting. Arthur likes horror movies, and the few times they’ve watched them together before Eames was always impressed by how utterly steady Arthur was. Not even the sudden shock scares seemed to faze him, even if he hadn’t seen the movie before and couldn’t have known what was coming. This time though... this time, the cat ears tell Eames what a fucking lie the steadfast face is. They twitch and quiver at every little jump, every time the music ratchets into the tense foreshadowing beat.

Eames is almost more impressed that Arthur can hide the fact it does faze him so well.

Every time the tabby ears pin back in surprise, Eames can feel their soft edges against his fingertips. By the time the movie is three-quarters done he’s inched his hand forward enough that he can stroke the backs of the ears nonchalantly, and yeah, it does feel juvenile and highschool; an arm over the back of the couch and a horror movie, but Arthur isn’t protesting and they’ve never really been this close before. He rubs the little bald patch on the back of the left ear where Yusuf had shaved off some of the fur to take blood and skin samples with his thumb, and smiles when Arthur tips his head back a little more.

“Smoke?” Arthur asks when the movie ends, standing up casually as if they haven’t just spent the last hour and a half leaning against each other in the dark .

Eames follows.

Only a flicker of neon light reaches the fire escape from the street. Arthur tucks a cigarette between his lips and lights it with deft efficiency before passing it to Eames, who stares at it like it might bite him for a few seconds before accepting. The hot smoke feels good in his lungs as he watches Arthur light another cigarette, eyes drawn down to slits by the bright flash of the flame.

Arthur smoking is a particularly special form of torture. He never fidgets, perfectly controlled like only years on high-stakes picket could have taught him to be, so it’s the only time Eames sees him with his hands suggestively close to his mouth. Even in the near dark, the elegant line of his fingers next to the pout of his lips as he blows smoke into the air is enough to make Eames’s skin feel too warm beneath his collar.

He’s so engrossed in the precise shape of Arthur’s mouth around the cigarette that the sudden clatter and yowl of a feral cat in the alleyway makes him drop his, ash and embers skittering across the grate. A sharp hissing sound hits his ears and it’s a few seconds before he realises it’s coming from Arthur. His fingers are clenched on the railing, lips pulled back in a snarl to reveal the sharp glint of his incisors.

“Arthur,” Eames says gently, in his very best I-am-good-with-animals-and-small-children voice.

Arthur spins, dragging in a breath to snarl and hiss again. His tail is puffed up, huge, like the blown pupils of his eyes. There’s a delicious arch to the length of his spine as he crouches, but Eames isn’t stupid enough to reach out his hand to touch it.

“Arthur,” he snaps, throwing all the military weight he can behind it. The blood rushing in his ears isn’t entirely from the nicotine and the night air. “Arthur, it alright. You’re alright.”

The hiss tapers off slowly, and humanity flickers in Arthur’s eyes. “Fuck,” he says, low and guttural, like he’s still fighting it. “Just... fuck.”

Want twists Eames’s insides, and oh god, what he wouldn’t give to hear Arthur say ‘fuck’ in that voice in a slightly different context. Preferably one that involved them both being naked. “I’m going to pet you,” he says, hand inching forward slowly. Not just because he wants to touch him, but because it might genuinely calm Arthur down.

Which is exactly how they end up back on the couch, Arthur sprawled face first over Eames’s lap purring like a finely-tuned engine and nudging his thigh with his nose. Eames, to his credit, keeps his hand mostly steady as he combs through dark hair and rubs behind the flicking cat ears, lets his fingers linger just a little on the warm skin at the nape of Arthur’s neck.

“God, Eames,” Arthur groans, kneading the arm of the couch with his fingertips. “This is so many shades of fucked up.”

Eames stills his hand just behind Arthur’s tabby ears. “I can stop if you—“

“Fuck no. Don’t stop.”

Eames bites at his lower lip. It’d be bad enough if Arthur was just saying things like ‘God, Eames’ and ‘don’t stop’, but combined with the warm weight and steady vibrating purr on his lap... he hopes Arthur doesn’t move too much, because trying to explain why he suddenly has a hard-on pressed against his cheek is not a conversation Eames is particularly keen to have.

So he tries to pay attention to the movie best he can, but not even the mental gymnastics required to follow ExistenZ can distract him from the fact there is a warm, vibrating Arthur in his lap.

“Yusuf...” Arthur says with a little yawn, about half-way through the movie when all Eames can really think about is how it would feel if Arthur did the purring thing while his cock was down Arthur’s throat. “Yusuf better find a way to fix this this weekend.”

The words are muffled against Eames’s thigh and he makes a soft noise of agreement, because fuck, as entertaining and okay, sure, as much of a fucking turn-on as it is, if this goes on much longer he’s not convinced even his impeccable impulse control can stop him pinning Arthur up against a wall and kissing him stupid, pushing him down into the soft nest of blankets and fucking him while he says things like fuck and God Eames don’t stop in that low growl.

Of course that little fantasy would end in reality at the wall, probably with Arthur’s knee connecting hard with his balls, so. He definitely hopes Yusuf works something out soon.

For now he shifts subtly, keeps stroking those soft tabby ears, and tries not to think too hard about how he could get used to this.

*

‘Arthur sleep mussed’ takes a big leap up the ladder of Arthur at his most mind-meltingly attractive the next morning when Eames finds him already at his laptop, eyes still owlish and hair tangled, cat ears drooping sleepily. He’s holding a bowl, and as Eames watches he lifts it, pink tongue darting out to lap at...

“Is that milk?” Eames chokes out.

Arthur almost drops the bowl with a hiss, ears dropping flat against his skull. “Don’t fucking sneak up on me like that, god.”

“That is milk,” he says, leaning over the desk to look in the bowl. “Arthur, you’re—“

“I couldn’t find a spoon, Eames,” Arthur says testily. “Not one that I could trust hadn’t been in a chemistry beaker, at least. And a fork is good for fishing out the cereal but not milk and I wasn’t about to waste it.” He stands up, bowl still in hand. “There’s still some in the bar fridge, just don’t grab something Yusuf put there by accident.”

Eames honestly hadn’t given much thought to what a lazy Saturday morning with Arthur would be like. Arthur’s switched on the T.V by the time he’s gotten his own cereal and seems to have settled on flicking between the world news and cartoons. It’d be annoying if it wasn’t such an interesting demonstration of the odd dichotomy that was Arthur.

Arthur’s tail curls around his wrist a few seconds after he sits down, soft warm fur against thin skin. Eames glances across at him. If Arthur’s aware of what he’s doing, he’s playing dumb.

“I figure we can go over some of the layouts later if you like,” he says, flicking channels again. “I don’t know. I didn’t really have any plans for the weekend.”

“Neither.” Eames drops his arm across the back of the couch again, and this time Arthur leans back to put his ears in reach, tail flexing back and forth over his thigh.

They do work on the layouts a little later, after dressing and brushing teeth and Arthur rinses the bowls in the hand basin. And it shouldn’t feel so different from how they normally work together, but it does... sprawled on the floor with the maps and blueprints pretending not to notice the way Arthur moves with the beams of sunlight or just how close Arthur is lying to him, a tempting line of warmth near his left side. It’d be almost painfully easy to turn his head and kiss him, and the thought of it stops Eames from looking Arthur in the eye all morning.

He calls Yusuf at lunchtime from the fish and chip shop and gets his voicemail. He hopes that’s a good sign, and Yusuf is busy with a solution, because another few days of Arthur bumping his head against Eames’s hand and wanting to sprawl all over him and be petted is going to destroy him.

They sit on the floor and eat lunch right off the butcher paper while talking about the mazes in 13 Ghosts and The Cell, and god, Eames wants to have ridiculous conversations like this every day. He’d always been attracted to Arthur on more than a purely physical level, but this just drove home exactly what he was missing out on.

In the end the day passes too quickly and too slowly all at the same time. Arthur’s heating up leftover salmon in the microwave for dinner, and Eames knows as he showers that they’re going to sit on that couch and eat leftovers and cuddle in everything but fucking name and it’s so fucking domestic that it hurts, and he’s pretty sure that deciding to spend the weekend with him is the worst idea he’s ever had in his life. He’d been hoping a nice, hot shower would do something to beat the tension out of him, but the warehouse’s excuse for a shower is a cold chemical rinse station that isn’t even conducive to jerking off.

He shuts off the water with a sigh, only half-heartedly towelling his hair before pulling on his track pants and following the smell of the fish back into the little side room.

“Yours is just there,” Arthur says, barely looking up from the salmon.

Eames picks up the plate, sitting down beside him. “Thanks.”

“You’re...”

The sentence hangs, until Eames looks across at him. Arthur is staring, ears pricked up high and tail flicking, pupils impossibly wide.

He’s looking at Eames like he was looking at the salmon in the fridge earlier, and Eames isn’t sure whether it’s unsettling or not.

“What?” He says carefully.

Arthur’s nose twitches, just a little. “You’re not wearing a shirt.”

“A scintillating observation, Arthur,” he replies dryly.

And really, it would be, except that Eames can’t tell what that look Arthur is giving him actually means. “I can get one,” he adds.

“No,” Arthur says, turning nonchalantly back to the T.V and picking up a piece of fish. “Not necessary.”

Eames starts in on his own dinner, watching Arthur with sidelong glances. His silver-black ears are laid low, twitchy, just like the tip of his tail is. The rapid movements are at odds with how perfectly stoic Arthur is.

“I called Yusuf today,” Eames says after the plates have been laid aside and they’ve decided on a movie.

Arthur has a sketchbook balanced across his knees. Eames tries to pretend his interest in those long fingers this time is purely intellectual; he’s a forger in every sense of the word, after all, and observing the way other people hold pencils, the subtle directional shifts of their muscles and the order they lay down lines on the page, it all helps with his art. “Has he worked anything out yet?” Arthur says, shading in a few scales on the dinosaur he’s working on.

“Got his voicemail.” Eames strokes the tabby tail lying across his lap absently, without really thinking about it. He can feel the twitch of muscle beneath the skin and fur with every pass. “Is this ticklish, Arthur?”

“No,” he says sharply. “Yusuf will call when he’s ready, I guess.” He sighs, and his tail curls back and forth under Eames’s hand. The tip drags across his stomach with each inward curl, soft fur against the sensitive skin just above his waistband, and it’s Eames’s turn to twitch even though it’s far too early in the evening to be getting this flustered by Arthur’s proximity.

He holds the tail still, feels it squirm under his fingers.

“Eames,” Arthur hisses. “Let go.”

It starts drifting again as soon as he does. And he knows he could tell Arthur to stop, to move, to do anything other than tease him with something he can’t fucking have, but he doesn’t. He’s obviously a fucking masochist, and he’ll take what he can get.

They end up passing the sketchbook back and forth long after the credits have run down on the movie, Arthur naming increasingly obscure artists for Eames to mimic on the paper. It feels good to draw, and the concentration on the mimicry distracts him from the way Arthur has one leg thrown comfortably over his knee, leaning against the arm of the couch and laughing as his attempts become more and more bullshit because he has no idea who Arthur is talking about.

“Pierre Gandon engraved postage stamps, lots of cross-hatching,” Arthur gets out, eyes bright with good humour, after Eames flips the pad to show him the flock of surrealist cranes. “Three strikes and you’re out.”

Eames thumbs through the pad, almost full now. “I’d like to see you go one for one as long as I did,” he bounces his knee, feels the solid weight of Arthur’s leg laid across it.

“I’m not stupid. I’ll leave that to the experts.”

“So you agree I’m an expert?”

“I agree you’re a cocky egotist,” Arthur says, leaning back and not commenting when Eames rests his hand on the knee across his lap. “And an expert. So maybe your attitude is justified.”

The silence that falls between them is relaxed, easy. Eames considers stroking the bare knee under his hand, but it’s not exactly a touch that can be rationalised as cat-related. But because they’re relaxed and comfortable, the question slips out a lot more easily than it should have. “So you like it when your ears and tail get petted. Does it feel different being petted in general?”

Arthur raises an eyebrow, shrugs. “I suppose it would. Honestly it’s the biggest fucking pain in the ass, everything feels more intense. Smells and sounds and it’s so fucking hard to concentrate when on top of all that, something in the back of my mind just wants to go wander along the window ledges and try to catch pigeons.”

“You wanted to catch pigeons?”

“The cat wanted to catch pigeons,” he clarifies, stretching his arms above his head. The movement makes his tshirt ride up just enough to show a strip of pale stomach and dark hair just above his shorts.

It’s enough to kill Eames’s verbal filter. “Cats like belly rubs, don’t they.”

“That’s dogs, Eames.”

“Are you sure?” He says, and no, staying the weekend isn’t the worst idea he’s ever had in his life, this is. “Here.” He reaches down, splaying his fingers across the warm skin of Arthur’s stomach, just soaking in the contact for a second before rubbing firmly.

“Eames,” Arthur squirms under his hand. “Fucking... fucking stop.”

Eames does, but from the breathless sounds Arthur’s making, the question of cats and belly rubs has been unequivocally resolved.

“See? Jesus. Being touched is good, don’t get me wrong, but it shouldn’t send me into fucking paroxysms.”

“I’d argue the right kinds of touch still should,” Eames says, and yeah, he’s drawing circles on Arthur’s knee with his fingers, consequences be damned.

Arthur snorts. “Sure. But having my stomach rubbed isn’t one of them.”

“I don’t know,” what is he even saying, this entire situation is making him stupider than a fourteen year old girl with a crush, “maybe you just haven’t ever had your stomach rubbed properly before.”

“And let me guess, you can give a proper stomach rub?”

“Of course,” Eames says, as if Arthur had just asked whether he can forge the mark’s mother-in-law or fake some bail forms and be ready to impersonate a police officer in less than half an hour. As if he can’t taste his heartbeat in his throat or hear the blood rushing in his ears right now.

The look Arthur gives him is raw. “Dammit, Eames,” he says softly. “Just... fuck.” His pupils pulse between slits and saucers, tabby ears straining forward, intense. “You are such an asshole,” the words are growled under his breath, three seconds before he reaches up to grab the back of Eames’s neck and pull him down into a kiss.

It’s no-holds barred, teeth and tongue, breathless sounds in each other’s mouths. He’d thought if this ever happened they’d probably be drunk, the taste of scotch in a dark corner of some club, or maybe desperate and relieved after some rough job. This... Eames slides his hand down the warm curve of Arthur’s side, feels the hands in his hair tighten in response. Half-undressed and panting, it feels like they’ve skipped at least half a dozen steps in the dance and he doesn’t even care, because Arthur is purring under him, kissing him like it’s going to kill him if he doesn’t.

Forever and a second later Arthur does pull back, coffee-cat-eyes wide, pupils blown. There’s a crease to his forehead that Eames wants to ignore, but knows he can’t. “God, Arthur. What?”

Those dark pupils narrow and needle pricks of pain flair along Eames’s shoulders as fingers flex and claws dig in. Arthur hisses at the exact same moment he does, sharing air on the next breath. “I meant it. You’re an asshole.” He digs the claws in harder, uses the leverage to drag his face up to Eames’s throat, punctuating the words with sucking kisses. “Bringing me fish. Fucking stroking me, like you don’t know what it was doing to me. Fuck.”

Arthur wriggles, tail ghosting over Eames’s side, and jesus fucking Christ, he’d forgotten the fucking tail in the sudden rush of having Arthur’s tongue in his mouth. But there it is, silky soft and flicking back and forth along his hip.

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” he gets out, burying a hand in Arthur’s hair, tugging one soft ear as he drags him in for another kiss. And it’s true, but he’d definitely have put in more of an effort if he’d known this was a possible outcome.

“You were thinking it, don’t fucking lie,” Arthur squirms again, freeing his legs to squeeze Eames’s hips with his knees. Eames slips forward, only just catching a hand on the arm of the couch next to Arthur’s head. The couch is too short by far for this, feet hanging off the end and hips crushed together, clinging to each other for balance as much as just to touch. “You’ve always thought it,” Arthur continues, licking Eames’s lower lip.

Eames lets him, even when he shifts and licks lines along his jaw, tongues the pulse just beneath. It feels too good to be true, especially when those firm hands drift from his shoulders to trail warm along his back, kneading tight muscle and settling at the slight dip of his waist.

“Why now then?” he asks, low, face pressed against soft hair and flicking ears as Arthur sucks a dark mark onto his collarbone.

“Because now I can’t stand it.” He arches his spine, pressing them together from ankle to shoulder. The narrow strip of skin to skin contact where Arthur’s shirt has ridden up is oversensitive, almost too much to have that intimate skin between their hips touching, and Eames bites back a groan.

Their mouths come together again, hot and wet and no space for words between them. This time it’s not just a fantasy. This time, even if this is a one-time chance for a one-night stand, Eames knows he can have him. “And you could stand it before?” He grinds down with the words, friction tearing a choked noise from them both.

“Shut up,” Arthur breathes, so close to his ear. Sharp teeth bite down a second later, before a warm tongue soothes the hurt. “Just shut up.”

He does, because kissing is more interesting than talking anyway. They’ve already talked for years. Eames knows every inflection of Arthur’s voice, can mimic him well enough to fool his own mother. What he doesn’t know are all the sounds he makes when he’s turned on, when he’s being sucked off, or fucked. He wants to. By god, he wants to.

It’s utterly artless the way they’re grinding together and raw, clothed friction shouldn’t have him so close to coming. Eames feels it with every slide of Arthur’s tongue against his, though, every thrust of their hips. He presses down harder, pinning Arthur still with his weight. “I want to fuck you,” he says, pushing up on his hands enough to catch Arthur’s eyes.

They’re still blown, bright, but the line of his mouth is all Arthur at his most serious. “I know,” he says, and the blunt admission is as good as dirty talk.

Eames sits back on his knees between Arthur’s legs, and fuck if him all stretched out, lips moist and hair tousled, ears flicking with that lazy grin isn’t without a fucking doubt the most mind-meltingly attractive Arthur ever. He wishes they had a bed to spread him out properly on instead of this ridiculous couch. But Arthur runs his tongue across his incisors, and none of the matters anymore.

“You need to be more naked for that though,” Eames says, running his fingers across bare skin from one hipbone to the other, feeling Arthur shudder under his weight, the bitten off fuck as he slides his hands underneath the shirt and drags it up as he goes.

“Can’t, anyway,” Arthur hisses, bucks his hips up as Eames’s thumbs brush deliberately over his nipples. The shirt is dragged off and it’s so fucking hard to pay attention to what’s coming out of Arthur’s mouth when he’s so close to naked, straining and hard and under-fucking-neath him. “Unless you were a complete prick and were so sure you were getting laid you... fuck...” Eames drags his tongue over the nipple he just bit, and waits for Arthur to continue. It takes him a second, but he does, “came prepared.”

Eames slides his thumbs down over Arthur’s stomach, dipping beneath the waistband of his shorts. The tabby tail winds around his wrist, and he can feel the hum of Arthur’s purr through his stomach like a vibration through the skin of drum. “I wasn’t,” he says, shifting awkwardly to tug off the shorts.

“Wasn’t what?” the syllables come out on a sharp exhale as Eames closes his hand around Arthur’s cock.

“A complete prick,” he clarifies. And it’s uncomfortable, sitting back on his heels like this, but it’s worth all the discomfort in the world to watch the sinuous line of Arthur’s body as he arches against his hand, head falling back on the arm of the couch.

“Fuck,” Arthur grabs Eames’s wrist. “Fuck.”

Eames lets him dictate the pace, the pressure. As much as he wants to tear him apart, take his time learning what he likes and what he loves and what will make him come in ten seconds flat, if this is a one-off then he wants to see him utterly wrecked like only he would know how to do to himself. And it’s worth it, oh so fucking worth it, as Arthur twines their fingers together around his cock, gets himself off with Eames’s hand. He feels the sharp pressure of claws with every flex of Arthur’s wrist. He’s panting, flushed, cat ears splayed back against tangled hair, and when he comes with a guttural groan and a sharp jerk of his hips, it’s the best fucking orgasm Eames has seen in his life.

There’s nothing but the sound of Arthur’s ragged breathing, punctuated with a rough purr on each breath in. He’s thrown his forearm over his eyes, chest still heaving.

“God, Eames,” he hisses, hips shifting languidly.

Eames just watches him breathe, wanting to fuck him so badly it hurts and knowing he can’t, but figuring it’d be pretty poor form to just hold him down and dry hump him while he’s still coming down from the rush. “I try,” he says instead, trailing his fingers along the underside of his knee.

Arthur lifts his arm then, and there in the serious line of his mouth is the ghost of a smile. “And your attempts are admirable, if not effective.”

Eames smacks him on the thigh, leaning over to grab his shirt from the floor and dump it on his stomach. “Might want to clean up the outcome of my ineffectiveness, then.”

Arthur does, scrambling to sit up when he’s done. He’s silent for a minute while Eames shifts to sit next to him again, awkward with the hard-on he’s still nursing.

Now he feels like he needs to check his totem... but the subtle mental side-step into a forge fails, even though his skin feels too tight.

“You can’t fuck me,” Arthur says beside him. “But I’ll blow you if you like.”

Eames almost chokes on his own tongue. “What?”

“You heard me.”

He’s nodding subconsciously before he can make his throat shape the sounds and fuck, fuck, Arthur gets down on his knees between his legs and he’s not sure he can fucking handle this.

It’s Arthur’s turn to run fingers over hip bones, finally hooking them under the band of Eames’s trackpants. “You’re fucking trembling,” he says, as he tugs hard.

Eames lifts his hips to let them slide off, but he doesn’t even have anything to say to that. So he just watches, air thick and hard to drag into his lungs as Arthur throws his pants aside.

“Spread,” he says, pressing insistent hands against the inside of his knees.

One word, that one fucking word and Eames’s cock twitches. This is almost better than fucking, but at the same time he’s terrified he’s going to last all of five seconds in Arthur’s mouth.

Arthur settles his hands gently on his inner thighs, leaning in to breathe warm, moist air over him.

“You’re a tease,” he says, because the alternative is to grab Arthur’s hair and put his mouth on his cock right fucking now.

“And you’re a hypocrite.” The words come with a gentle bite on his inner thigh, just hard enough to feel the sharp tips of incisors.

He does grab Arthur’s hair then, just behind his ears.

“Think about this whole week,” Arthur continues, and he’s sadistic, mouthing kisses closer to the crease of his thigh, “and all the things you did to me.”

Eames lets out a small, strangled sound at the sudden pain as Arthur bites harder. “Arthur...” he flexes his fingers in dark hair. “Just... now.”

The words are barely out of his mouth when Arthur swallows him down, hot and wet and no fucking preamble. “Fuck fuck fuck,” he gasps, hips jerking up on reflex, and a lesser man would have gagged. But not Arthur. Vaguely, outside the slippery warmth surrounding his cock, he files away the information that Arthur has most definitely sucked dick in the past. Nobody was... god, this fucking good without putting in some decent practice. And he had been right. There was no way this is going to last, not with Arthur doing whatever the fuck that was with his tongue. Warm tension already tugs low in his belly.

“Arthur...” It’s meant as a warning, but it comes out strained and breathless.

Arthur ignores him, splaying his hands on his inner thighs, pushing them further apart, sharp pain threading through the pleasure as he flexes his fingers and those claws dig in.

“Arthur,” he tries again, writhing against him, and the word is as much a groan as it is a name.

Then. He purrs.

“F-fuck.” And yeah, he’s fucking quivering, the solid vibration going all the way to his toes and back to his cock and that is it, everything drawing tight with a shudder before he comes gasping, toes curling against the concrete.

Arthur swallows, sitting back on his haunches, tail curling over Eames’s thigh. The subtle smile is the exact same one he has on his face when he’s feeling particularly pleased with himself, after an impressive shot or the success of a complicated plan and Eames seriously considers never working with him again, because there’s no way he’ll ever be able to see that smile and not think of this. “Arthur,” he says softly, wanting to say more, but not quite sure what.

Arthur just licks his lower lip, a deliberate slide of his tongue. “I try,” he mimics, grabbing his shorts.

*

The morning light is even better, catching the pale lines of Arthur’s shoulders and picking out the silver fur of his ears as he leans back, bracing his hands on Eames’s thighs and grinding down. “God, fuck. Fuck,” he hisses. It’s the stuff of a thousand wet dreams, looking up at him and the quiver in his muscles, the curve of his throat as he tosses his head back. His tail is thrashing against Eames’s inner thigh and it doesn’t take long before they’re both wrecked and panting and sticky.

Arthur butts his head against Eames’s chin, soft ears tickling, before padding off sated and sweat-streaked for a shower.

It’s business as usual really. They watch morning TV, Eames works on the travel documents that are going to get them out of the country unscathed after this job, Arthur finalises the layouts. It’s loose and warm and easy, all the tension sucked out of the space between them. And it’s enjoyable, being together like this without abrading at the edges.

He’s at the coffee shop, the sun just starting to dip low in the sky, when Yusuf calls.

“We did it,” is all he says when Eames answers.

“Yeah?” It’s not the most eloquent response, but he’s juggling coffee and muffins and his phone.

“Marcus has sent someone to pick Arthur up. Should be there in a few hours.”

Eames stills. “Okay.”

“I’ll see you in a couple of days.”

“Yeah,” he says. “See you.”

He looks down at the phone in his ink stained hand for a long minute, before heading back to the warehouse.

*

Yusuf and Arthur don’t get back until Thursday morning.

“Eames! The car’s waiting, start carrying the cases down there.” It’s Arthur angry, Arthur rushed and rumpled and annoyed, but before he even turns Eames knows it just won’t be able to compare anymore now he’s got the image of him arching back naked, thighs spread over his hips.

He shakes off the thought and turns on his heel, one of the PASIV cases and one of the briefcases already in hand. Arthur’s dressed to the nines for this job, all sharp lines and impressive tailoring, looking all the sharper for the lack of cat ears and tail to ruin his silhouette. It’s all one side of the coin now, without a trace of the t-shirt-toting horror fan who watches cartoons and world news with his cereal.

“Already on it,” he says. And there’s nothing, not a flicker of the pupil in those dark brown eyes to give him any idea what Arthur is thinking.

Arthur checks his watch. “We’ve got less than an hour to be in position.”

“I know.”

The look he gets is unreadable. “Then hurry up and go, dammit.”

Yusuf is waiting with the car. “Morning.”

“Morning,” Eames echoes, stacking the cases into the boot. “Was the trip good?”

“Excellent. Marcus is going to be coming to see my lab in Mombasa, actually.”

“Nice guy then?”

“The best.” Yusuf cocks his head as Eames straightens up from the back of the car, brow furrowing. “I thought you stayed here all weekend.”

“I did?” Of course he did. As if he could forget. And they didn’t have time for this now anway because—

He catches Yusuf’s eyes, and realises what he’s looking at. Eames rubs at the bruised bite mark just under his jaw. It’s too high for his collar to hide, but it’s not as if he particularly cares anyway. “I did,” he repeats, knowing it says nothing and everything all at once.

It’d be impossible for Yusuf’s eyebrows to get any higher. “Ohhh.”

“Oh indeed, my friend. Oh indeed."

*

The job goes off without a hitch, despite the clusterfuck of Yusuf’s experiment. Arthur is cold precision personified, and Eames really does wish he still had those ridiculous ears, if only to give him some kind of cue.

Arthur shoots him out of the dream with a scowl, and Eames figures that’s a cue if ever he’s seen one.

He’s on a flight home an hour after the job ends.

*

It’s a typically cold London night a couple of weeks later when a knock on the door interrupts Eames’s self-indulgent Romero marathon. He mutes the TV, hand sliding across the coffee table for his gun. The weight of it is reassuring as he walks down the hallway, light-footed like so few people believe he can be, and looks through the spyhole. And he’s not sure what he expected at nine on a Friday night, but it’s not Arthur, bundled up in his brown coat, satchel over-stuffed at his hip.

Eames hesitates, but because he’s not a coward and he’s an adult who can handle being professional with someone he’s had sex with, he opens the door. “Arthur. What brings you here?”

“You’re an asshole.” Arthur. Wonderful, blunt, deadpan Arthur.

“So you’ve told me. You could have just sent me a text to remind me, though.”

The tips of his ears and nose are flushed with the cold, and it makes the look he gives less threatening than it usually would be. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but pauses, looking past Eames back down the hallway. “Is that Day of the Dead?”

Eames glances back at the zombies still rampaging silently on his TV. “Yeah.”

They stare at each other long enough for the silence to get awkward, before Arthur speaks again. “Can I come in?”

And he wants to say no, but wants to be that petty even less. “Sure.”

Arthur toes off his shoes and follows Eames to the living room. Eames tosses the gun back onto the coffee table and sits down, acutely aware of how small his lounge is, of how close it makes Arthur, of how reminiscent of a particular other lounge it is. The movie plays silently, throwing flickering shadows across the room.

“So,” Eames says finally, resisting the urge to throw his arm across the back of the lounge behind Arthur’s shoulders. “Did you just show up to insult me and use me for my horror collection?”

Arthur shifts, satchel on his lap, eyes on the screen. “You took off.”

He doesn’t want to assume this conversation is going where he hopes it is. “I got the distinct impression that was the best course of action.”

He’s not expecting the punch when it comes, hitting him hard enough in the shoulder to mean business. “Fuck!” he recoils, staring at Arthur. “What the fuck.”

“It was work, asshole,” Arthur growls. “We were behind and I was still trying to work the last of that fucking cat bullshit out of my system. And even if I hadn’t been... what the fuck do you want? Do you want me to fall at your feet with hearts in my eyes?”

“Of course not.” And it’s true. “But from a hundred to zero in a few days flat isn’t exactly the best way to—“

“Look. Just shut up, okay.” Arthur takes a deep breath when Eames falls silent. “I didn’t really come here to start a fucking fight. I came here to tell you I’m a complete prick.

Eames tilts his head. “Well, I wouldn’t have gone that far.”

“No. I mean...” he drums his fingers on his satchel. “I mean I’m so sure I’m going to get laid—“

Something bright and hot twists in Eames’s chest at the words.

“—that I came prepared.”

It’s impossible to pinpoint which thought comes first... that Arthur is here in his apartment saying he wants to have sex with him, possibly regular sex of an ongoing relationship kind, or that Arthur is in his apartment saying he wants to have sex with him and he has a fucking bed here, a queen-sized double that yeah, he’d really, really like to see Arthur sprawled out naked on.

Eames swallows hard at the thoughts running through his head. “I want to fuck you,” he says, slow and deliberate, every syllable loaded with promise.

Arthur smiles, quiet and sure. “I know.”