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Arthur wants to hate Eames; wants to very, very badly.

There's something about the man which, to Arthur's sensibilities, should be inherently offensive. How he dresses, how he talks, every single thing about his body language. All of it should set Arthur's teeth on edge.

None of it does.


"So, the mark's illegitimate daughter," Chen says.

"No, that's not it." Eames leans back in his chair. "You're barking up the wrong tree. What you need is something he genuinely want to hide."

"As opposed to a daughter from his mistress of twenty years," Arthur says, dryly.

"My point precisely." Eames waves the toothpick he's been chewing at Arthur. "His wife balances his checkbooks, darling. He's been paying alimony for years and she knows it."

"So, what? We go for the embarrassing fetish angle?" Arthur asks, trying for disdainful.

Eames' eyes glint. "Almost."

As Eames unrolls his plan, it takes Arthur ten minutes to realize what Eames called him, and even that only happens after he sees Chen's vaguely horrified expression.


Chen had good reason to be horrified. Arthur had worked with her before, a few months before Mal's death, when he felt the ground figuratively shaking beneath his feet whenever he visited the Cobb household.

The architect they'd worked with was relatively new to the business. Daya had all the tiresome energy of someone fresh out of school, and she spent almost as much of it hitting on Arthur as she did designing levels.

Arthur was not in the best of moods; one of his best friends was going slowly insane, the other (as far as he could tell) was fast following in her footsteps. The job was not exactly simple, and Arthur was pretty much constantly stressed, overworked, and in need of a drink.

He didn't think he'd snapped too badly at Daya when she called him "Honey". Especially since all she did was grin at him like she knew something he didn't.

Arthur didn't like that.

He liked it even less when she walked behind him quietly (too quiet, she really hadn't been in the business very long) and put her hands on his shoulders.

Even so, it wasn't like Arthur meant to pin her to the wall and press his knife to her stomach.

Behind them, Chen delicately cleared her throat.

Arthur stepped back immediately. He sheathed his knife and raised his hands, empty. "Sorry," he said.

Daya stared at him, wide-eyed. "You fucking maniac."

Arthur narrowed his eyes at her and stepped closer again. "This," he gestured between them, "is my personal space. The next time you enter it, there will be blood."

Arthur turned away sharply. He could still hear Daya behind him, panting.

The look Chen gave him was almost admiring. "This was the best anti-harassment office talk I've ever seen."


Which accounts for Chen's muffled gasp when Eames walks behind Arthur and puts a heavy hand on Arthur's shoulder. Except that Eames has been carefully making noise as he walked, and Arthur's nowhere near as tightly wound as he was during that job three years ago.

Also, Eames is bearing coffee, which earns him a reprieve from the lesser crime of broaching Arthur's personal space.

"Yes?" he says, not looking up at Eames as he plunks the cup down next to Arthur's hand.

"You should probably take a break," Eames says, not unkindly. "You've been muttering at the same page for an hour now, and I know you're a quicker reader than that."

Arthur rolls his eyes because yes, he can speed read, thank you very much. "So you tell me where the money's going," the if you're so clever unspoken but nevertheless clearly heard.

Eames grins at him. "Let me take a look." He grabs the file and steals a sip from Arthur's coffee, grimacing as he puts the cup down. "Oh, that's vile. I can never fathom why you drink it."

Arthur, grateful for the opportunity to think about anything other than what the mark does with his paychecks, says, "Why do you keep stealing it, then?" Because this isn't remotely the first time Eames had done it.

Eames stares at the numbers. "It does smell good. And it seems so popular. There must be something to it. I keep thinking, maybe this time." He sighs with much more melodrama than is warranted.

Arthur pokes him, mainly to get his cup back. Eames hands it over with a smile.

"And besides," he says, "it's yours. However could I stay away?"

From across the room, Chen snorts. "You two are so full of shit."


It's like there's an Eames-shaped hole in Arthur's defenses.

Normally Arthur can't stand for anyone to even come near him when he's drunk. He's ended more than a few promising work-and-otherwise relationships like that.

And yet, when Eames presses up behind Arthur, his reflexes fail to come up with any remotely lethal action. Instead his head lolls back, bumping gently into Eames' shoulder.

"You're wasted," Eames says directly into Arthur's ear.

Arthur nods tiredly, or tries to do the closest equivalent while still retaining contact with Eames' shoulder.

Eames is warm, and Arthur's traitorous body wants to press closer against him. He forces himself to sit straight. Eames lingers for a moment, but melts back into the crowd when he apparently realizes Arthur's resolute intention to ignore him now.

Arthur's reflexes serve him better when the man next to him says, "Buy you a drink?" But he's not completely drunk yet, so he manages to control them well enough to accept the drink gracefully. He even manages not to flinch when the guy puts a casual hand on his thigh.

He's still high on adrenaline, and while his mind is screaming potential risks at him, Arthur's body is languid with heat and drink and fatigue, and the prospect of being fucked out of his mind is incredibly tempting.

So he ignores his instincts and follows the guy to the back alley, where Arthur leans against the wall and lets the guy bite his throat and hump his thigh.

"You're so fucking gorgeous," the guy mumbles in his ear. "I bet you'd fucking scream when I fuck you. I bet I could make you beg."

Through the haze of alcohol, Arthur is starting to feel distinctly uncomfortable.

"You'll start out saying no, but you'll be so good to me in the end, so fucking good." The guy's more than a bit drunk himself, it appears. He tries to lick at Arthur's ear and fails, getting his cheek instead. "What's your safeword?" he says, trying for sexy and missing that, too.

Arthur pushes him away. "I don't do that."

The guy blinks at him for a moment then flushes deep red. "Oh, shit, I'm sorry." He takes a step back and half-drops against the opposite wall. "Fuck, I'm drunk," he moans.

"Yeah, I can tell," Arthur says, and finds his way back into the club. He doesn't even know why he fucking came here. This shit always happens to him, always.

Suddenly, Eames is beside him, as if he's been there all along. "Where's your admirer?" It's incredible how filthy Eames can make that word sound.

"Left," Arthur says, because he does not fucking feel like getting into details right now.

"Did he, now." Eames' voice is dark, rich with promise, and Arthur's instincts should have been telling him to run by now.

Instead, all he feels is an impulse to say, "Come home with me," and he doesn't realize he'd said it out loud until Eames says, "Of course."

The rest of that night is a jumbled mess of memories. Clinging to Eames through the ride back. Kissing and kissing for what feels like hours in Arthur's hotel room, until Arthur loses all semblance of dignity and begs Eames to fuck him.

Eames' fingers inside him, pushing hard and relentless until Arthur comes all over both of them, while Eames' other hand pushes the hair back from Arthur's forehead. Eames' voice as Arthur comes, close and intimate: "Just like that, darling, yes," as Arthur struggles to put himself back together and fails miserably.

He doesn't remember Eames getting his turn, but he supposes it must have ended up all right because when he wakes up, Eames is making him pancakes.

That seems to seal something between them. Eames stays at Arthur's hotel room for the rest of the job, and when it's done and Arthur's leaving for his own apartment in New York, it doesn't even occur to him not to order a ticket for Eames, too. He panics about that, briefly, on the way to the airport, but Eames shuts him up with a kiss because apparently he's allowed to do that now.


It's perfect. Or it would be, except for the smallest possible details. Nobody in his right mind would even notice them, but Arthur is a dreamsharer and not in his right mind by any definition. Nitpicking is part of his fucking job. Arthur notices things.

Things like how Eames initiates sex often, eagerly, but his cock never comes into the equation unless Arthur reaches for it. Even then – it has taken Arthur weeks to realize this, for which he's furious with himself – Eames does his level best to evade Arthur. Without, of course, Arthur noticing.

He never meant to give Eames a hard time for, well, not getting hard all the time – they're both guys and equipment failure, sad as it is, is a fact of life. But it happens with an alarming frequency, and even when Eames does get hard it takes him eons to get off.

Arthur finds himself watching Eames from the corner of his eye, anxious. This, he can tell, makes Eames snappish, bordering on downright belligerent at times. Arthur can't exactly have a problem with confrontations, given his line of work, but it's something he prefers to keep out of personal relationships.

If that's what this even is.

"Are we in a relationship?" Arthur asks one morning as he's flipping his eggs over.

"No," Eames says, not looking up from his newspaper. "Which is why I'm in London spending my latest paycheck and not here where you're making me breakfast. Except – oh wait! – here I am." He looks up. Arthur notes with relief that he mainly looks amused. "There's a contradiction somewhere in there, I'm sure."

Arthur snorts.

After a minute, Eames asks, "Are you trying to pick a fight?" He sounds curious, almost careful.

"Me? No." Arthur turns his full attention to the eggs, because it's easier. "Just making sure."

"What brought it up, then?" Eames rises to stand behind Arthur.

Arthur shudders when Eames noses at the back of his neck. "Just – thinking. You know."

"Mmm." Eames licks over the top of Arthur's spine. His hands close around Arthur's waist. "You think too much."

Arthur drops the spatula. Eames chuckles, approving, until Arthur turns around to face him. Arthur's not sure what expression he's wearing, but it makes Eames back off, fast. "Somebody should," Arthur all but snarls.

Eames blinks. "I thought you weren't trying to start a fight."

Arthur forces himself to take a deep breath. "Sorry. Fuck. That wasn't what I meant."

"What did you mean, then?" Eames isn't standing any closer, but he's not keeping himself away as obviously as he did a moment ago.

"I don't know. Fuck." Arthur rakes a hand through his hair. "Just – I don't know. It's nothing. Forget it."

"I would," and Eames' tone is so fucking patient, "except that every time I tried to get close to you in the last week you tried to bite my head off. That does not seem promising."

Not for the first time, Arthur wishes Eames didn't look so fucking good. He's leaning against the counter, wearing a faded t-shirt and sweatpants slung low on his hips. He ought to look ridiculous. Instead, he makes Arthur want to lick his lips.

This is what makes Arthur quietly furious.

"What I don't understand," Arthur says, quiet but not soft, "is what you think you're going to get out of this."

Eames' expression is pained, and – as far as Arthur can tell – completely void of theatrics. "What kind of fucking question is that?"

Arthur has sharp answers for that, but – luckily – brains enough not use them. "A fucking stupid one," he says and looks away. "Never mind, just—"

Suddenly, Arthur is pinned to the wall. "I will not bloody forget it!" Eames is yelling, Arthur notices with something like numbness. "For Christ’s sake, could you give me a fucking answer?"

No. No, Arthur can't, because he's been circling around whatever this is for weeks and he's not even sure he knows what the question is.

But Arthur is a point man, and – bizarre as that is – something in him responds positively to people yelling questions at him. "Fact," he says, in his most professional voice. "You never let me touch your dick if you can help it. Fact: if I try to grab your ass, you cringe. You hide it well enough, but you may recall being observant is my fucking job. Fact: when I do touch your cock, you have to close your eyes and, I don't know, think of fucking England before you get hard."

Arthur is breathing fast. His voice, he realizes belatedly, has been rising steadily since he began talking. He tames it, and in his normal tone says, "Conclusion: I'm not what you fucking want."

He wants to close his eyes against the look on Eames' face, because if that was pained, this is hurt.

"Arthur." Eames sounds like he's pleading.

Arthur's throat hurts. "What do you fucking want." He says it as flat as he can.

"You, you bloody arsehole," Eames chokes out. He lets go of Arthur, abruptly. Arthur leans against the wall. This is him, watching Eames go. He waits for it, with the kind of bleak satisfaction he gets from watching a job he'd known would go bad spontaneously combust around him.

But Eames only goes as far as his pack of cigarettes, lighting one with shaking hands. He takes a few drags, lets out the smoke with something like a sigh. "You're a piece of work, darling."

"You knew that." Arthur stares at the cigarette until Eames offers it to him. He inhales and blows the smoke out.

Cautiously, Eames comes to lean back next to Arthur. Arthur closes his eyes and allows his head to tilt just a little, just enough to brush against Eames' shoulder.

He feels Eames' muscles ripple. "What next?"

Arthur lets out a long, humorless laugh. "Fuck me if I know."


Fucking, actually, is precisely what doesn't happen.

Arthur keeps expecting Eames to walk out. Eames keeps... not walking out. He still does the shopping and snipes at Arthur for using all the hot water and brings Arthur coffee when he's working late, dropping an absent kiss on the top of Arthur's head as he sets down the cup.

At night, Eames pulls Arthur to him as soon as he comes into bed, arms tightening around Arthur's torso nearly to the point where it's painful. In the morning he kisses Arthur before they're both properly awake, and again before Arthur leaves to meet clients or do surveillance, and again when Arthur comes back.

He doesn't initiate anything remotely like sex. He doesn't pin Arthur to the wall or pounce on him on the couch.

Arthur would almost appreciate it, except that he misses the sex like crazy. If Eames' sudden celibacy feels like a concession, it also feels like he's mocking Arthur for wanting him so much.

And besides, he knows something is bound to break soon.


Arthur's eyes are half-open. Eames is snoring softly next to him.

Arthur is almost bitter about this, about Eames' smell and the texture of his skin. How in spite of all this goddamned tension between them the first thing he thinks on seeing Eames is fuck, I want him.

Wanting is not something Arthur particularly enjoys.

He’s woken up half-hard, which isn't uncommon for him, especially considering the way Eames sleeps wrapped around him nowadays. For the same reason Arthur hasn't been doing much about his morning erections recently, but today he thinks, fuck it; Eames isn't supposed to be up for a while yet and Arthur's, well, horny.

He untangles himself from Eames' arms, lies on his back and looks firmly at the ceiling. Not that it matters. As soon as he touches himself, his eyes close involuntarily and he can smell Eames next to him, feel the heat of him, hear him breathing—

As Arthur arches into his hand, trying not to gasp, Eames stops snoring.

Arthur freezes, feeling absurdly guilty, embarrassed, like he’s been caught doing something wrong. Like this isn't his fucking bed to jerk off in.

But Eames is leaning over him, and his voice, raspy from sleep, is somehow urgent as he says, "Darling, let me—"

When it comes to it, there are some things about which Arthur just isn't a strong man. He lets Eames.

Eames shifts Arthur onto his side, sliding behind him, and Arthur gasps from the heat of Eames' skin all along his back, down the backs of his legs. Eames' hand closes around his cock, and Arthur has to bite the sound that wants to come out.

Fuck, he’s missed this.

He can feel that Eames is soft, but right now Arthur doesn't give a fuck about that. It's ugly and selfish but Eames has finally, finally put his hands on him and Arthur just wants to fucking come.

That happens... rather embarrassingly fast.

Arthur can't really feel bad about it, though, because Eames' other hand is in Arthur's hair, scratching gently just above the back of his neck, and Arthur can't form complex thoughts when Eames is doing that.

Eames sucks a kiss into Arthur's shoulder. "Does that mean you're not mad anymore?" he asks, just a little too lightly.

He's not sure about that, but Arthur doesn't think he can get mad right now. "Well, you still don't make any sense to me," he says, because honesty is easy when he's still so post-coital he almost feels drugged.

"Arthur," Eames says with nearly a groan, "Darling. Light of my life. Are you really going to start that again?"

"No, really." Arthur turns around so they're both lying on their sides, looking at each other. "We should do this while I'm still too happy to start yelling."

Eames laughs, quiet and fond. Arthur really wants to smile at him so he does.

"Look, let's just say it." He tries to make his voice as gentle as he can. "You're not attracted to me. For some inexplicable reason, you like having me around enough that you have sex with me anyway. Yes or no?"

Eames stirs, uneasy. "It's more complicated than that."

"No, it isn't." Arthur is almost surprised at the lack of anger in his voice. "Yes or no?"

"Yes," Eames bites out. "But look –"

"I," Arthur interrupts him, "like you, also for inexplicable reasons."

"I resent that."

"Resent away. In addition, you're so hot I sometimes can't breathe around you." He looks Eames straight in the eye, daring him to treat the last statement as anything other than the brutal fucking honesty it is.

Eames preens for half a second before he remembers to look chagrined.

"Therefore, I want to have sex with you," Arthur concludes. "So what do we do?"

Eames looks at Arthur as if he's suddenly developed brain-damage. "We go on exactly like we did before you got this silly chip on your shoulder?"

"Option one," Arthur says, gracefully ignoring this. "You can find someone else—"

"Not a bloody option." Eames' voice is heavy, rock-solid. His arms tighten around Arthur.

"It's not like I want you to," Arthur bites out. "Fuck, the thought alone—" He can't even finish that sentence. "But God knows this can't last. You're going to find someone you do want and I'd just as soon finish this before that happens."

Eames is silent for a long time before he says, "It's not going to happen."

"Statistically speaking," Arthur starts, but Eames doesn't let him finish.

"Statistically speaking, love," and his voice is almost a cruel imitation of Arthur's, "if it hasn't happened in thirty-three years, it's not likely to happen now."

Arthur blinks, opens his mouth and closes it. He feels like someone rearranged his brain without informing him in advance. "What, you're telling me you're asexual now?"

He means it as a joke, but Eames' voice is sober when he says, "That's exactly what I'm telling you."

Arthur lies there, helpless, but as Eames starts pulling away Arthur grabs his arm in a hold he knows Eames can't easily break. "That doesn't make any sense." His voice is small. He knows Eames isn't lying to him, can hear it in his voice, feel it in his posture. But Arthur can't make the knowledge fit. "You, I've seen you seduce marks. You have a porn collection."

"Is that an accusation?" The tension in Eames' arms belies the lightness of his voice. "But if you must know, attraction was the first thing I learned how to fake."

Arthur winces. Eames chuckles and kisses the tip of his ear, absently. "It's not that bad, love. It's all just skin, isn't it? I never particularly minded."

"Porn collection," Arthur repeats, a bit weakly. Then he rethinks. "Wait. It's like the thing with the coffee, isn't it?"

"I was just going to say it's for research." Eames squeezes him and lets go. "But you have to be so smart, don't you?"

Arthur tries in vain to find something ugly in Eames' voice, some sinister implication. He comes up with nothing.

Then he says, "Shit," and scrambles to get dressed because it's almost nine o'clock and he's late. He hears Eames laughing behind him as he shuts the door.

All told, he's had days that have started worse.


"There's Benson," Eames says one day when they're heading back to their hotel room. "He wants to fuck you," he elaborates at Arthur's questioning look. "You could go for that."

Arthur's on the verge of snapping something inexcusable before he realizes Eames isn't being vicious. Eames sounds entirely matter-of-fact, actually, and Arthur can't find the merest hint of an act about it.

"If I did," Arthur says, although it's purely fucking hypothetical, "wouldn't you mind?"

"'Course not." Eames actually smiles at him, warm and sweet. "I mean, I'd expect you to use protection. But I’d like you to enjoy yourself."

Arthur shakes his head, exasperated. "Yeah, that's not gonna happen. The guy's a headcase."

"Really," Eames drawls. "I'd say I'm better qualified than you to say otherwise, love."

"Oh, he'll be fine in a professional setting," Arthur amends. "Mostly. But trust me, I know the type. I'm not letting him near me when I'm not armed."

"So that shouldn't be a problem, then," Eames says. When Arthur laughs, it's at least half in relief.

Unfortunately, the universe has a way of proving Arthur right in the worst fucking way possible.

The projections were supposed to catch up to Arthur. He was the goddamned decoy, that was to be expected. He also figured they were going to try to kill him in the most painful way that occurred to them. That was par for the course.

What was not supposed to happen, and does, is Arthur losing his gun and being unable to kick himself out of the dream.

He finally hears gunshots and groans in the anticipation of relief, but it's the projections being shot, not him. Arthur tries to yell at whoever it is that this is fucking inefficient when the last of the projections falls and Benson is crouched down next to him.

Well, fuck.

He can't really move, being as most his limbs are broken in at least one place. He can whisper "Fucking kill me already, Jesus," and he does. He might as well not have, for all the good that does him.

Benson isn't saying or doing anything, just looking at Arthur and breathing hard. Arthur knows better than to look at the man's crotch, if only because he's pretty sure turning his head will cause at least one open scalp wound to rub against the asphalt.

They stay like that, Arthur trying to will his body to die already, Benson obviously restraining himself from taking his dick out and jerking off all over Arthur's bloody face, until Arthur hears Eames growl "Fucking hell," and finally, finally everything goes black.

Arthur starts the cleaning-and-packing parts of the job as soon as he's awake, but he manages to catch the deeply disturbed looks Eames gives Benson as soon he wakes up.

They finish clean-up and leave. Arthur hands Benson his part of the pay, successfully avoiding any kind of physical contact.

"So," Benson says.

"We'll call you if anything comes up," Arthur says, perfunctory and final.

Of course, Arthur's 'This conversation is over' tone doesn't work. It never does, on the likes of Benson.

"I wanted to ask." Benson shifts awkwardly. "How do you feel about going out for a drink?"

"About the same as I feel about bloody, painful death," Arthur says. "Which is to say, no fucking way," he adds, because Benson has the audacity to look hopeful.

"The sad thing is, I would have fucked him," Arthur says later. They're in their hotel room, and Arthur is leaning on Eames, feeling considerably better. Also considerably more drunk, which might have something to do with it. "When I was younger. He looks like he'll treat you right in the morning. Make you coffee, call the ambulance for you, that type."

"I dread to ask." Eames' voice rumbles in his chest. Arthur can feel the vibrations of it under his ears. "But are you talking from experience?"

"Not really," Arthur admits. "Close, though. Oh, fuck, there was my first girlfriend." He raises his voice to a terrible falsetto, mostly because it makes Eames laugh. "Pain can be part of a loving relationship, Arthur, you just have to find the right Domme. Don't you love me, Arthur?"

In a feminine voice much more convincing than anything Arthur might have accomplished, Eames says, "Can't you just let me take care of you?"

Arthur has to flop down on the couch, he's laughing so hard. He looks through his eyelashes at Eames and is suddenly seized by affection, so full of it he can't move. Because Eames gets this, Eames can joke about this, Eames had let Arthur crawl next to him in their cab and hadn't said anything about how Arthur couldn't stop shaking, just kissed Arthur's temple and put an arm around him.

Eames is safe.

"Hey," Arthur says. "Hey, come on." He gets up and gives Eames a hand up. Eames raises his eyebrows but follows without question.

Arthur shoves him down on the bed. Eames goes with an 'oof', pliant when Arthur takes his shirt off.

"What is it, darling?" Eames asks.

"Shut up and get your back rubbed," Arthur says, rubbing his hands against each other to warm them.

The thing is, he really wants to do something for Eames for a change, and at first it looks like he's succeeding. Arthur knows for a fact he has good hands, and even drunk he can spot the best places to push. He's learned about anatomy for violent reasons, but it has its pleasurable applications.

But Eames' skin is warm and soft under his hands, his muscles hard underneath, and the noises Eames makes are practically pornographic, and so Arthur can't help but react.

"Darling," Eames says in a conversational tone, then spoils the effect by groaning. "You do realize you're rock-hard, yes?"

"I know," Arthur grinds out. "Excuse me for having a sex-drive, okay?"

Eames pushes him, maneuvers them so that he's pinning Arthur to the bed. He shoves his thigh between Arthur's legs. "You don't need to apologize," he says, exasperated. His expression changes, subtly.

"You'd let me hurt you," he says, softly. "If I wanted to."

There are a thousand glib replies Arthur can make to that. He settles for something defensive. "I have a very high pain threshold."

Eames grimaces. "I know, and trust me, I wish I didn't." He looks Arthur in the eyes. "Were they all like that?"

Arthur's erection is flagging. He wonders if that was the intended effect. "I told one of my girlfriends, once," he finds himself saying. "That, I don't know, maybe I attract sadists. People really like to watch me in pain, for some reason." He giggles, a little hysterically. "She started going on about the sexualization of violence and rape culture.

"When she came out of the closet, I told her she was reinforcing stereotypes." He's laughing outright now, because you have to laugh at shit like that. "Then she hit me, and I told her she was contributing to the cycle of violence in my relationships."

Eames stares at him, agape. "So," he says, wry, "you're saying you have some hang-ups about sexuality."

Arthur raises his hand, index finger nearly touching his thumb: a little.

Eames drops his head to Arthur's shoulder. Arthur pets his hair absently. "Then I suppose," Eames says, "that I should forgive you for being a right prat about this."

"Well, you don't have to," Arthur says, reasonably. "That's a lot of prattitude to forgive."

Eames huffs a laugh, his breath warm against Arthur's neck. "You do realize that's not an actual word."

Arthur hums noncommittally.

Eames rises to lean on his elbows, pinning Arthur with his eyes as well as his weight. "The point I was trying to make, Arthur," he punctuates with a quick kiss to the side of Arthur's mouth, "is that people make compromises for relationships. I like to have sex with you because it makes you happy and I don't actually mind."

"Leaving aside the fact that 'I don't mind' isn't exactly the strongest endorsement," Arthur says, dryly, "you've made your point exactly backwards."

Eames lets his head hang and groans. "I know. You may recall I drank just as much as you did."

Arthur grabs Eames' head to kiss him, a little to shut him up, mostly because he likes to and it's simple, it's the only straight-forward thing about this entire relationship: they want to kiss, they kiss.

He'd be perfectly content to leave it at that, but Eames is making a noise into his mouth, he's saying "Let me" in a husky voice, shoving his hand into Arthur's underwear with an urgency that feels almost like lust.

"I want to touch you," Eames says, and Arthur spreads his legs and looks away because this is just the way, apparently, that this relationship is doomed to be. He already knows he'll hate himself in the morning, but it's not the morning yet.

But Eames refuses to be quiet. "I love your skin," he whispers in Arthur's ear. "You feel so good, I can hardly keep my hands off you." He licks a stripe up Arthur's neck. "I love how you taste, the texture of your skin." He bites down, and Arthur gasps.

"This is a little creepy, actually," Arthur says, and if he's breathless that's only Eames' fault.

"I know." Eames' voice is rueful. His hand smoothes over Arthur's cock, and Arthur fails to hold in a moan. "I used to want to rub myself all over you. That appears to be the one thing people consider stranger when it's not in a sexual connotation."

"Used to?" Arthur says.

Eames chuckles. "Well, past tense may be incorrect in this case." He squirms out of his pants, divests Arthur of his, and pulls Arthur's shirt off while wrapping strong legs around Arthur's waist.

If Arthur would have thought about this he would have expected it to feel like frottage. It doesn't, maybe because Eames seems not to care about how their bodies touch, striving for quantity over what Arthur would consider quality. Their cocks only make contact with one another in passing, but Eames' chest is flush against his, and he's pressing a stubbled cheek against Arthur's collar bone so hard that Arthur can already see the first hints of beard burn.

"So fucking good," Eames mumbles against him, squeezing the breath out of Arthur.

Arthur rubs Eames' scalp, scratching it hard because Eames likes that. It makes him close his eyes and go limp from pleasure. Eames rubs his cheek against Arthur's chest, making plaintive noises whenever Arthur stops, pressing kisses against any bit of Arthur's skin that he can reach.

Eventually Arthur's hands get tired. Eames moves to lie on his side, nosing at Arthur's jaw. "You," he says, slurring a little, "are the best thing ever and I never want you to leave."

Arthur's throat goes dry at that, but he manages to say, "Yeah," as he winds himself against Eames and they both fall asleep.


The morning finds Arthur in a lesser state of coherence than most; or this is the excuse he uses to justify the fact that he may or may not have mumbled, "I don't deserve you," into the skin of Eames' neck.

Granted, the fact that he'd woken up to Eames' hand on him may have had something to do with both the mumbling and the general lack of coherence, but. Well.

"Make me breakfast, then," Eames says.

Arthur, too maniacally happy to actually call Eames an asshole, gets dressed, waits until Eames has a decent amount of clothes on, and departs in search of a decent coffee shop.

They find a place, sit down in a booth away from prying eyes. Eames uses his straw to doodle orange juice art on a napkin, which gives Arthur an idea. He pulls out a notebook and a pen and gives Eames a patient look until he pouts and puts his juice down.

"Yes, dear?" Eames says in his very best hen-pecked voice.

"I want to make a list," Arthur says, "of boundaries."

Eames mimes incomprehension.

"You know." Arthur lowers his voice, because he'd honestly rather not talk about his sex life – love life, whatever – in public. "What you're comfortable with me doing. What you'd rather not, what you actually like."

"Haven't we been over that, already?" Eames leans close. His voice, exasperated as it is, carries an unmasked fondness. "I'm yours, darling. Do with me as you will."

"I know that," Arthur says, although it kind of surprises him that he does. "I want to know what you like. What you enjoy."

Eames leers at him. Arthur works very hard not to burst into laughter.

"Seriously, though," he says, holding Eames gaze. "I want cards on the table." At Eames' mutinous expression, he adds, "Come on. You know lists make me happy."

He didn't actually expect that to work, but Eames says, "Hands off my cock, hands off my ass. Otherwise I'm fine."

Eames is very carefully not fidgeting, nor looking away. Arthur sympathizes. "So, like the last couple of weeks," he says, carefully.

Something blazes in Eames' eyes. He takes Arthur's hand in his, not forceful, but in a way that suggests force is entirely possible. "Not like that, no."

Arthur straightens as much as he can when Eames still has hold of his hand. "I'm listening."

Eames leans closer still, so that Arthur can feel his breath on his face as he speaks. "I don't want to have to think before I touch you," Eames says, softly. "I don't want to make diplomatic calculations every time I get near you. You are mine, and I'm allowed." He lets out a shaky breath and lets go of Arthur's hand. "That is," he adds, with a hint of bitter amusement, "if I'm not entirely wrong about this arrangement."

Arthur snatches Eames' hand back without entirely thinking about it. "You're not fucking wrong," he says. Then he blinks and rewinds through what Eames has just said. "Although if it means I have to cede my right to personal space..."

Eames rolls his eyes, and Arthur is relieved when he laughs at him, honest and a bit rueful. "Perhaps I could have put that better."

"Perhaps," Arthur allows, and Eames raises Arthur's hands to his lips and presses a kiss to his knuckles. The look Eames levels at Arthur then is so - affectionate, Arthur thinks, although there might be a better word hovering in the corner of his mind – that Arthur doesn't think before he blurts, "I think you're the best boyfriend ever."

Eames flicks his ear. "Drink your disgusting coffee, already," he says, and Arthur smiles until he thinks his face might split.