Arthur had always absently admired the Old World luxury of Monaco. At times, it flirted with that fine edge between the opulent and the ostentatious, but Arthur could appreciate the casual elegance of the Mediterranean coast.
Ariadne had certainly loved the chance to visit Monte-Carlo under the pretense of work, and it showed in her designs for this level. Arthur strolled through the gardens, working his way back to Le Grand Casino. It wasn't a perfect match, for obvious reasons, but her extensive additions of hedges and marble statuary would be useful in delaying projections, if necessary.
Her design for the Casino itself was dazzling. Everything from the positioning of the roulette tables to the winding marble staircases made it a place Arthur could defend almost indefinitely. He had already spent several hours studying the layout, first with her paper models and then her precise visualization of it in a shared dream.
This time, though, he was dreaming alone. Ariadne may be the Architect, but Arthur would be the dreamer for this level during the actual job, and Arthur was not known for a lack of thoroughness. He would dream and re-dream this place until he was completely satisfied with it.
He slipped between the Black Jack tables, quiet and anonymous amongst the laughing, gambling projections. He leaned back against the solid mahogany surface of the bar, surveying the scene and trying to determine the most efficient escape route from this position in the Salle des Amériques, when he spotted him.
Eames. He was headed straight for Arthur, a slightly smug tilt to his lips and a predatory roll to his gait. It would figure that Arthur's projection of Eames would be conjured by the presence of a casino.
He sidled up to the bar and ordered a gin and tonic before turning to Arthur, the light in his eyes already teasing. "Evening, darling. Fancy a drink?"
Arthur decided to just ignore him, turning back to focus on the task at hand. He still saw Eames' full lips form a playful moue out of the corner of his eye. "Tisk tisk, love. You work too hard already. Can't even be bothered to enjoy your own dream?"
Apparently Arthur's subconscious wanted him to relax more, and he supposed it was only fitting that it chose a projection of Eames to convey the message. He didn't know which would have been worse, Eames or his own mother.
Eames cocked his hip against the bar, and leaned forward to murmur into Arthur's ear. "Dearheart, have I ever told you how precious you look when you try to ignore me?" Well, that answers that question.
Arthur turned his head to look Eames in the eye, taking in the mischievous smile he tried to hide at the last minute behind the rim of his glass. After swallowing, he tilted the glass toward Arthur's lips. "Come now, darling. We both know how high-strung you are before a job. Even just a taste of it would do you such good."
Arthur felt his eyes wander from the proffered glass to where Eames had just licked his lips. Arthur has been accused of many things- lack of imagination, lack of joie de vivre, and even a lack of feelings- but in truth, he knew his own mind. For someone who deals with the subconscious for a living, understanding your own wants and needs isn't just healthy; it's essential. He's well aware of how dangerous a repressed or rogue desire can be; Cobb used to be a textbook example just that situation. Perhaps a taste was what he needed after all.
Arthur slowly took the glass of gin from Eames' hand, placed it delicately on the bar, then grabbed Eames' face by both cheeks and promptly licked his way into his mouth. Eames' muffled grunt was one of genuine surprise, but Arthur shifted, forcing Eames back against the bar and pinning him there with his body from shoulder to knee, and the next sound was a very pleased groan.
Eames' large hands gripped his hips, the fingers tightening enough to bruise as Arthur's kisses became sharp nips. Eames' mouth was freed to speak as Arthur began to trail the little bites along his jaw to his ear, and trust Eames not to let such an opportunity be wasted.
"Darling, I..." Arthur could feel Eames' fingers start to wander, rucking up his waistcoat and wrinkling the dress shirt beneath, no doubt searching for bare skin. "...really had no idea..." He found the edge of the shirt and yanked it upwards sharply, both hands now roving over the hot skin of Arthur's belly. He released a rough laugh as Arthur's teeth closed on his ear. "Believe me, love, I would have done this ages ago."
Arthur bit down slightly harder, just to relish the hissed "Arthur, sweet fuck!" that it produced. His hands slid from Eames' broad shoulders to squeeze his powerful biceps, licking and nuzzling Eames' neck all the while. He couldn't help a little bitterness that slipped into his tone. "As if the real you would even take me seriously enough to do this."
He felt every muscle in Eames' body tense, and the hands that had been toying with the button of Arthur's fly were suddenly being used to push him back a step. Eames' lips were rosy and beautifully swollen, but his eyes roamed Arthur's face for a moment before his expression turned stricken. "Oh, darling..." His head dropped forward to study their shoes, leaving Arthur to stare at his flushed ear and the curve of his lowered cheek.
A long moment of silence passed, and he almost missed Eames' low murmur. "You mustn't think badly of me, darling. I wasn't planning for something like this to happen, and I thought you already knew." He released a slow, shaky breath.
"Arthur." When he looked back up to squarely meet Arthur's eyes, he looked as somber as Arthur had ever seen him. "I always take you seriously." He let out a sharp bark of laughter, and ran unsteady fingers through his hair. "Shitting Hell, it's why I'm even here right now. I take you too seriously, and for the very life of me, I can't leave you bloody well alone."
Arthur's attention was still focused on Eames, but he noticed a drinks waitress moving deliberately towards them from his peripheral vision. Eames must have noticed her as well, because he gripped Arthur's elbows and squeezed urgently. "Listen to me, Arthur. I'm going to give you all the time you need. If you want this, come find me."
He had just enough time to tenderly brush Arthur's bottom lip with his thumb before the waitress drove an icepick into his neck.
Arthur quelled his first instinct to give chase. He decided to stay in the dream for several more minutes and reflect. Certain assumptions had just been destroyed; did this shift the ultimate paradigm that they were supporting? Anger was easy in this situation, but what then? What did he really want?
When Arthur woke, the warehouse was as empty as he had left it. But one of the PASIV device's cannulae was missing its disposable needle, and his lips were tingling.